Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.
Who: Jim C Hines, Speculative Fiction writer and author of the Jig the Goblin books as well as the Princess series, featuring fairy tale princesses kicking ass – we love it, precious. Jim is also an awesome, prolific blogger.
Recent Work: Libriomancer, first in the Magic Ex Libris series
Please give it up for Jim, everyone!
Happy Smugglivus, and thank you so much to The Book Smugglers for inviting me to participate! My very first Smugglivus … I’m so excited! Is there a pole? Did anyone bring ice cream? Can I wear my Vorpal Rabbit slippers? When do we start building the giant book fortress? I wasn’t sure what the traditional Smugglivus carols were, so I brought my Journey’s Greatest Hits CD. I hope that’s okay!
I hear one of the sacred holiday traditions is the celebration of some of your favorite things. (I’m pretty sure they appropriated that from an earlier Pagan holiday about Mary Poppins.) Here’s some of the stuff that helped make my 2012 a truly wonderful year!
Book: Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord.
This is Karen Lord’s first novel, and as an author myself, that just pisses me off. Because it’s also one of the best, if not the best book I read all year. And it’s totally unfair that Lord’s very first book can be that good. The first few chapters are loosely based on a Senegalese folk tale, and the entire book has that same feel. From the very first page, Lord creates the illusion not of turning the pages, but of sitting back and listening to a master storyteller, one who has no compunctions about addressing the audience directly.
I will say that if you’re looking for a traditional Western/American fantasy about an orphaned farmboy who vanquishes the evil overlord with a magic doohickamabob, this isn’t the book for you. Lord’s story challenges such tropes from page one, questioning everything from the nature of evil to the assumption that the only heroic choice is to fight and defeat your presumed foes.
Oh, and there’s a trickster spider.
What can I say, I loved it. Not only as a self-contained story with good pacing, fun characterization, sharp banter and dialogue, and just the right amount of humor, but also as the culmination of years of planning and groundwork by Marvel. So much of what I see, at least here in the U.S., is all about the short-term gain. What can I get right now? Who cares about five years down the road? I loved seeing Marvel investing in this project, building the pieces one movie at a time, then bringing them all together in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
Plus my son giggled for weeks about the bit where Hulk casually punches Thor off the screen. (Yeah, okay, so did I.)
TV Show: The Legend of Korra.
I had never seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, but many of my SF/F friends raved about it. So when Legend of Korra came out, telling the story of a new avatar, an impulsive, butt-kicking waterbender, I decided to check it out.
Reader, I fell in love. There’s so much care and thought in this show, from the worldbuilding to the implications and possibilities of the different kinds of bending, even to the specific martial arts styles the different bending movements are based on. Even the weaker episodes were beautifully animated and well written.
My favorite part of this show is the character of Lin Beifong, a middle-aged metalbender who runs the city police. I love her. She’s strong, passionate, and uses her metalbending to manipulate long cables in a graceful, beautiful technique that reminds me of an Olympic gymnast blended with Cirque du Soleil.
And then you have young Meelo, who invents combat fartbending.
Best Day of the Year: November 7, aka NO MORE POLITICAL ADS Day.
I wrote last month that I wanted to offer my services as a professional novelist to aspiring politicians, since the whole campaign process seems to be about storytelling. Nobody worries about facts as long as you can create a good story! I think when 2016 rolls around, I’m just going to crawl into a cave and hibernate until December.
Another Book: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor.
This is a powerful book, set in postapocalyptic Africa. Okorafor that looks unflinchingly at issues like rape and genocide, slavery and female circumcision. Unlike many books I’ve read, Okorafor’s approach never felt exploitative; she writes honestly. The book is sometimes brutal and sometimes beautiful and occasionally both at once.
The story of Onyesonwu will be familiar to fantasy readers. She’s an outsider in her village, marked as a child of violence by her sand-colored hair and lighter skin. She possesses magical powers that she must learn to master. There is a prophecy she hopes to help bring about, one which leads her to leave her home and set off on a quest with her companions.
But Who Fears Death is so much more than a quest story. What impressed me most is that this book never looks away. It never glosses over beauty or ugliness, love or hate. It doesn’t present simple answers, and never shies away from the complexities and contradictions of life. Good things can come from the most evil or brutal acts, while evil and darkness can come from the best intentions.
Okorafor won a number of awards for this book, and in my opinion, they were well deserved.
Life Change: Antidepressants and Therapy.
I debated whether or not to include this one, but it was a very positive change in my life. I finally went to the doctor to talk about my depression. I started on anti-depressants, and a month or so later, began seeing a therapist.
I was amazed at the change. My relationships at home improved. My attitude at work got better. (Even after I took a promotion to management and had to deal with all of the, well managing!) I still have bad days, but overall, I’m feeling happy with life again. Even in the midst of various crises and other stress life throws at me. It feels manageable, and I’m able to make time for myself again. To actually find enjoyment in my life.
On that note, I invite you all to take care of yourselves, and to have a wonderful Smugglivus.
Thank you for sharing, Jim!