Well, this was a hell of a year.
2016 was illuminating on all levels. [I had some specifics here, but I erased them for being too personal. My reticence to talk about myself was definitely one of the things this year illuminated! And yet, here we are.]
For that reason, I also find it hard to talk about how grateful I am for the people who read my stuff. I don’t tend to talk about it, because that means acknowledging feelings and if there is one thing my social media feed will tell you, it’s that I do not like having public feelings. But if you read my stuff, trust me: It means a lot. (Earlier this year, people wrote in to the AV Club about Elementary to the point that they revived coverage and asked me back to write recaps for this season; that felt pretty great, actually.)
Anyway, work continued, and there’s some stuff I did this year that I’m really proud of. Below, some highlights of what I published in 2016!
NOVEL: ICON [Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound]
ICON came out this year! It’s the sequel to Persona, and I am thrilled that Navah Wolfe wanted more of Suyana and Daniel’s story, because it was deeply satisfying to write. Persona was a much more immediate book, about the two of them making some very fast decisions that would have far-reaching consequences. Icon has a little more breathing room, on purpose. I wanted Suyana and Daniel to really have to face the systems they had upgraded themselves into and realize the ways in which those systems defined them, and frankly, I wanted watch them struggle within that, because I’m a monster. (This was before politics through the lens of twisted celebrity culture became the national pastime, so it still counted as science fiction.) I’m grateful to Navah, Joe Monti, and everybody at Saga.
NOVELETTE: “Everyone from Themis Writes Letters Home”
In October, “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home” was published in Clarkesworld. This is a novelette about virtual reality, the lure of escapism, the inevitability of impasses, and the ways systems of power will move to protect themselves at the expense of those they’ve exploited. (This story will appear in Rich Horton’s Best of the Year 2017.)
SHORT STORY: “Familiaris”
“Familiaris” was published this year in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales. [Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound] It’s a retelling, of sorts, of a Bavarian fairy tale that’s ostensibly about a princess who gives birth to seven sons in seven days and tries to feed them to the wolves. But to no one’s surprise, it’s also a fairy tale about ambivalent motherhood, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s all I needed to get started.
SHORT STORY: “La beauté sans vertu”
This story was published at Tor.com in April. It’s about the fashion industry, sort of, and “ambivalent” is probably also applicable here. (It’s also in the Tor roundup of Some of the Year’s Best, which is a free ebook!)
CATWOMAN VOLUME 7: INHERITANCE [Barnes & Noble | Amazon/ComiXology | Indiebound | Your local comic shop]
My run is over, but my second collected volume of Catwoman came out this year! (Art by David Messina, colors by Lee Loughridge.) It means so much to have worked on this book, with one of my favorite comics characters of all time; to say anything else would be a spoiler. (Not a pun, but I understand that at some point, given Stephanie Brown, the pun becomes unavoidable.)
XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS: ALL ROADS [Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound | Your local]
This year, I got to write Xena: Warrior Princess! (Art by Ariel Medel and Julius Gopez, colors by Nanjan Jamberi.) In which I got to explore the empty space in the show canon I felt was most interesting (how did they kill half the gods and then tame Rome in season 6 before they headed off to mess with other pantheons?), introduce a band of middle-aged women warriors, and write my favorite version of Xena and Gabrielle: the old-marrieds version who have been through so much nonsense they almost can’t believe it at this point.
BATMAN AND ROBIN ETERNAL, Volume 1 [Barnes & Noble | Amazon/ComiXology | Indiebound | Your local] & Volume 2 [Barnes & Noble | Amazon/ComiXology | Indiebound | Your local]
I also got to work on Batman & Robin Eternal; it was my first time in a writers’ room, and getting to build up this story led to some wild things (I count 6-person conversations and murderous ballet dancers as equally tricky to choreograph).
ATTACK ON TITAN ANTHOLOGY [Barnes & Noble (exclusive cover) | Amazon | Indiebound | Your local]
And I have a short comic in the Attack on Titan Anthology. It was a delight, honestly; faux-Victorian travelogue is a thing that just begs for visuals, and David Lopez delivered. I really loved the chance to dig around in the canon and think about the last days before disaster.
We’ll start with something that hasn’t been published, but that I still want to mention: I got invited to the Kent State Wonder Woman Symposium! “Empire of a Wicked Woman” looked at the history of Catwoman and how she maps over various Western European narratives of women. It was my first time presenting anything academic, and I was truly honored to be invited; thanks so much to everyone at Kent State and the Cleveland Public Library who made it possible, and everybody who came.
The rest of my nonfiction this year was all over the place!
Penny Dreadful ended, and sweet lord, it sucked. If you’ve read my recaps at io9, you’ll know that this came as a disappointment but not as a surprise. The damsel in distress trap: How “Penny Dreadful” betrayed Vanessa Ives.
I wrote about how the women of Stranger Things ran aground against the limits of Boy Nostalgia.
Who loves a glimpse of naturalist literature? You, hopefully! The Workings Of Nature: Naturalist Writing And Making Sense Of The World.
My Trek Anniversary piece, to no one’s surprise, took those costumes to task. The Picard Maneuver: The Great (and Terrible) Trek Aesthetic. (Don’t worry, I picked apart the Star Wars costumes, too.)
My feelings on the headless woman in Bruce Wayne’s bed led to The Invisible Woman at The Book Smugglers Almanac.
Westworld is a very interesting show that seems to be subject to some strikingly different readings. Here’s my take on why the suffering of its women in the early episodes was, for me, worth it: How ‘Westworld’ Plays with Our Attraction to Trauma Stories.
I also think it was such a disservice to package it like a mystery when it’s clear all it wants to do is make James Marsden into a rugged Sisyphus and talk about creation myths. Westworld’s twists are easy to predict because they’re not the point of the show. (It’s also had some interesting beats that fold in the death of the Western and functioning in broken systems.)
In the 1940s, Whitman published a series of novels in which the names and likenesses of famous actresses were used as characters in illustrated stories of bizarre capers. When I pitched it, it was for the novelty value and tracking celebrity culture and how people-as-narrative is reclaimed/repackaged. After the election, they took on a new cast that could only be solved in Ginger Rogers And The Case Of The Authorized Editions.
SOME REVIEWS AND RECAPS
I got to recap the second season of UnREAL for the New York Times. The season itself was…kind of a car crash (sometimes literally, ha ha haaaaaaa), but it was very interesting to write about.
I covered the third season of Reign, which continued to be exactly what it is, for everything that entails.
And after reviewing Elementary’s fourth season, I am back at it! Elementary’s fifth season is revealing the ways in which the show is settling and shouldn’t, and setting up some really amazing potential payoffs.
I also got to recap two episodes of Bates Motel, which normally would not rate its own line, except one of them was about two repressed people getting married for convenience and then almost suffocating on their own feelings and the other was about people realizing they can never go home again, so it was kind of a marvelous time to drop in.
I loved the all-out emotional gruesomeness of And Then There Were None so much. How much? This much.
I also got to review several books this year at NPR. You can find the list here! Some of the most fun, in no particular order:
Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors, which teaches us about the construction of identity through consumption, suggests fascinating cultural shifts inherent in deciding an era now qualifies as “antiquity,” and rats out a couple of popes.
You Could Look it Up, about the history of reference works, which does such a good job pointing out how arbitrary reference works are that you end up picking this book apart because that’s just what it wants you to do.
The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, an example of just such a reference work!
And a very strange honorable mention in Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which is a very fascinating book that tells you almost nothing about 1) Fergus Hume or 2) the book The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, so.
I don’t know what’s in store for next year. (We’ll all find out together, and it’ll be wild.) In the meantime, thank you for reading. See you from there.