It was the best of times, etc…. 2015 Review

gun in your pocket

Santiago Cabrera as Aramis gets a smooch from Tom Burke as Athos in the BBC’s The Musketeers. My silly edit.

Tis the season of Top 10 Lists and the like, and while I don’t really quite have something like that to offer, I’ve been thinking I could do a little recap about where my mind was narratively speaking in 2015.

The Best: New (to me) TV

In 2015 I discovered four new TV shows that are destined to be shows I watch repeatedly for years to come and will be long-term touchstones when discussing fiction done right. It all began back at the beginning of the year when I discovered The 100. Set in a near post-apocalyptic future, the survivors of a nuclear war still living on a space station need to return to Earth and pray it’s habitable. Well, guess what? It sure is habitable, because there are folks who never left. It’s a thematically challenging, visually remarkable, and well-acted show. If CW, teens, and post-apocalypse usually turn you off, I understand, but if you’re ever going to make an exception, it should be this show.

Then at the end of May I found The Musketeers. Sigh! The BBC’s take on Dumas’s classic adventure tale is pretty much my favorite thing in the world right now. Which, of course, means 2016’s Season 3 is to be the show’s last. There’s simply nothing I don’t adore about this show: it looks great, I love the soundtrack, the stories are exciting, and I couldn’t love the cast more. Tom Burke’s Athos is destined to go down as one of my favorite TV characters ever.

Then once J could convince me to watch something other than The Musketeers endlessly, we found Halt and Catch Fire and Manhattan. For anyone who thinks I’ve sold my soul to the CW (which, frankly, has better programming than a lot of people give it credit for) and other lighter fare, here are two grown up period drams with complex characters and relationships. Watching the ever-changing dynamics between Joe, Cameron, Gordon, and Donna on Halt as they navigate the tech industry of the 1980s has been a treat, the characters each growing, changing, receding as individuals and as part of groups. The relationships on Manhattan, a fictionalized account of the invention of the atomic bomb, are equally complex, and the intensely character-driven plot is constantly surprising. (I once referred to Manhattan as the “Imelda Marcos of TV–there’s always another shoe to drop.”)

The Worst: Movies

I am a notorious movie buff. But guess where I haven’t been all year? To be honest, what’s playing at the theater hasn’t interested me on the whole for the past two years. I’ll probably go see In the Heart of the Sea later this month, because I love a good nautical story, but that will be the first film I’ll have seen in the theater since, I think, American Sniper. I’ve caught up on some things on DVD, but I just can’t convince myself to go to the theater when there’s so much good TV to watch.

The Best: Fanfic

2015 will go down in history as the year I sold my soul to fanfic (not the CW). I started reading it, and as J predicted, I started writing it, and I freaking love it. I also love the crazy women at Twitter who first gave me fanfics. I think it started with SG (@wedsandsatnight) giving me what isn’t quite typical fanfic, rather one of R.A. Steffan’s wonderful The Queen’s Musketeers stories. And then somehow I fell in with Carrie (@Snowglory) and Canadian Garrison (@CdnGarrison) and the world of Archive of Our Own was opened to me, and well, let’s just say that wonderful writers like breathtaken, Teland, uena, and too many others to name, have made my reading life decidedly more interesting!

The Neglected: Traditional novels and nonfiction

To spend the amount of time I now spend reading fanfic, something had to go, and it wasn’t going to be television. Because the fanfic I want to read isn’t available on audiobook for the most part (although R.A. Steffan now has an audiobook!), I’ve continued listening to some traditional novels and nonfiction books, but as far as sitting down and reading a book I hold in my hands, even ones I hold on my tablet, well, that hasn’t happened much. Except for the books I read for my book club, which leads me to…

The Best: The House of Mirth

Hands down, Edith Wharton’s classic is the best book I’ve read this year. The language is beautiful without being pretentious (one of the hardest lines for an author to walk, in my opinion), Lily Bart is a phenomenal heroine, and I wept. That’s pretty much the trifecta for me to love a book. Over the years, I’d tried to read The Age of Innocence several times and never made it past the first chapter, so I’d written Wharton off as an author. But when a member of the book club enthusiastically requested we read House of Mirth, I couldn’t say no. I opened the book dreading it, and instead fell wildly in love.

The Best: My first fanfic

Again, for the sake of keeping JS Mawdsley separate from my fanfic pseudonym, I’d rather not provide a link to my work on AO3. However, when I think about my work as an author this past year, I think most fondly on my first fanfic story. I recently reread it to refresh my memory as I prepare to continue the series, and it’s not half bad. Add to that how much it made me enjoy writing again, and it really is the best of me as an author in 2015.

The Worst: The Queen’s Tower revision

I will finish revising this book, dammit. Just not in 2015. Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you need to write fanfic instead.

So, narratively speaking, that was my year. Hope you had a good one!

~S

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