It’s 2017 already, but it’s still dark outside most of the day, and fuck me if it isn’t bloody cold. In this bleak midwinter, I want to take some time to look back at the media I loved best in 2016. Since there’s way too much to choose from, I’ll be looking at my favourite short fiction in a separate post, so television, film, and long fiction and non-fiction follow the cut.
TELEVISION: Luke Cage
Out of all the TV I watched this year, the Netflix series Luke Cage was by far the most consistently gripping and complexly themed. From his first appearance in Jessica Jones, Mike Colter resumed killing it in the title role. He would have been acting every other character off the screen if he hadn’t been flanked by such other great actors as Alfre Woodard and Simone Missick.
The attention to detail in Luke Cage blew me away, from the books Luke reads to the hip hop history, to every fully-fleshed out character, to Harlem itself.
Luke Cage is a show embedded in African American culture. It revels in it, critiques it, never comes close to making an apology for it. I’m white as they come and also not from America, so I’ve got no place making value judgements based on that. But. As much American culture as I consume, this is an America I don’t often get to see. It’s from its setting that this show draws its power, and even if I weren’t looking at that aspect this show is solid, smart and involving.
I didn’t go to the cinema a whole lot this year, largely as a result of being one broke motherfucker. However, I did scrape together some time and money to go see a couple of films–one of which made my cynical heart grow three sizes.
Moana is Disney’s new princess flick, based on Pacific Islander culture, starring Auli’i Cravalho as title character Moana, the daughter of the chief of her island, the only place she’s ever known.
Caveat lector: I’m a white person from a line of white people from the UK. The closest I’ve come to Pacific Islander culture is a year of hanging with a crowd of Maoris back when I lived in London. I’m not by any means an authority on what is good or appropriate or empowering (or otherwise) when it comes to Pacific Islander culture.
That said: I can’t even express how perfect every single thing about this film is. There is not even one element that is off key. Every moment, every song builds upon the film’s themes. I blubbed, okay. Like five times.
The animation is not only beautiful, but fucking charming. The music… I can’t even tell you. Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda was writing the soundtrack so I was hoping for greatness, but it surpassed my expectations.
Honestly, I could gush all day. Please watch it. Please buy it. Please buy its merchandise. I want more like this.
NOVEL: Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
This category was always going to be tough, but it’s the sense of inclusivity in Every Heart a Doorway that swung it. As I mentioned in my review, entering Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children with main character Nancy felt like coming home for me. This book is the magical school story for freaks like me, and that alone was delightful, not to mention the gleeful deployment of horror elements. To be terribly conceited and quote myself:
Just as Headmistress Eleanor West sees and welcomes spooky, nervous, asexual Nancy, dashing, transgender Goblin Prince Kade, and dapper scientist Jack, this story sees and welcomes all of us: awkward, lonely, wistful and queer.
NON-FICTION BOOK: The Good Immigrant, ed. Nikesh Shukla
The Good Immigrant, winner of the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Choice award, is a collection of fifteen essays by British BAME writers on the state of race and immigration in the UK today. This book could not be more timely. Hugely differing opinions and subject matters trace an arc through this book from Nikesh Shukla himself, on cultural appropriation in Bristol, through the famous and the obscure, to Musa Okwonga, on his youth here in the UK and his recent decision to emigrate to Berlin.
You might be forgiven, in the current political climate, for thinking that because of its topic the book would be a bit too gloom and doom to really enjoy. That would be shortsighted, though, because the overall quality of writing in The Good Immigrant is fantastic. The essays are for the large part fascinating, funny and relatable.
If you’re in any way affiliated with the UK (or even if not and you just fancy it), read The Good Immigrant this year.
Stay tuned over the next week or so for me, gushing over the enormous list of short fiction I fell in love with in 2016.