Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top Ten Videogames of the Year, 2016

While a terrible year for many things, 2016 was phenomenal for games. Not only do I passionately love more releases this year than normal, but I could easily make a Top Ten list out of games that aren't for me but that I've watched people explode over.

Stardew Valley
, Overwatch, Darkest Dungeon, Civilization 6, Pokemon Sun and Moon, Uncharted 4, Owlboy, Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes... The hits have kept coming all year. After multiple years of AAA console games lagging badly, those companies have finally started fulfilling their promise. At the same time, indie developers have continued their explosion in amazing output. It's been a pleasure just to listen to different players gab on what's captivated them. Developers endorsed games from genres I'd never known they even played in before.

In some cases, I just haven't had the time and money to play things yet. I'm sure I will like Firewatch and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End when I have the opportunity to play them. One game noticeably absent is No Man’s Sky, which I’ve held off playing since the developers are working on so many content patches. It sounds like it will be an entirely different game with all the updates next year. Given how polarizing the release was, and how busy my writing schedule got in Autumn, I figured I’d wait.

As with every year, I’m going to list my Top Ten Games of the Year. As with every year, I’m including ties where I don’t see any reasonable comparison for one title being ahead of another. Because ranking art is silly, and if we’re going to be silly, then let’s go all the way. This year there’s a three-way tie for first place, followed immediately by a three-way tie for fourth place. We even open on a tie.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bathroom Monologue: Reconsider the Lobster

Humans: ill kill and eat anything that looks good
Lobster: I'm a bug that lives underwater.
Humans: eh still
Lobster: With claws!
Humans: bet I can crack em
Lobster: I taste like pencil erasers.
Humans: i got butter
Lobster: I release poison when I die.
Humans: i loves a challenge

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Favorite Things in Books, 2016

The longer the live, the less I believe in objectively good literature. Even subjectively good literature is a concept deserving some scrutiny. When we listen to someone "love" a book, they're generally gushing about one part of it. Too Like the Lightning's plot twists, or Uprooted's dauntless quirkiness.

So this year I don't want to tell you about the "best books" I read. Instead, let's talk about my favorite things in books. Those things that define our memories of the book long after we've put it down. Come with me. Let's enjoy things together.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
There is this theory that all Secondary World Fantasy is told to us in translation. The people of Wizard of Earthsea and Sword of Truth don't actually speak English - they live on planets where there was never an England. So all such works are in a contrived translation to us. But that translation has almost always default to a nigh-facsimile of Proper British or Chicago Manual Style English. Thus Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is jarring because its dialogue is relayed entirely in levels of African American Vernacular. Consider:

“Y’all do what you want,” said Mosteyfa called Teef. “But this nigga here?” They called him that for the obvious reason: long, snaggled, missing… “Is going all the way to Olorum.”… pewter-black, moss-green, yellow… “My ass ain’t tryna go right back up to the desert.”… cracked, carious, crooked. “A nigga need some rest behind that motherfucker!”

Demane felt much the same, crudity notwithstanding. A unanimous rumble rolled across the gathering of brothers.

“Anyone?” said the captain. His right hand pantomimed a man walking away, left hand waving goodbye.

“Come this far,” said some brother, “might as well go on.”

“I ain’t never seen Olorum, noway,” said another brother.

“Silver full-boys, y’all!” said a third. “Much as we can grab, y’all!”

There is nothing any more contrived about any of this language than Lord of the Rings's Middle Earth having tobacco and potatoes, or all the Fantasy novels that use the words "aphrodisiac" and "volcano" in worlds where worship was never held for Aphrodite or Vulcan. Wilson mentions "volcanic" in his first chapter, which has to be deliberate. This is fiction highly informed by cultures ignored by too much of mainstream American Fantasy. And while it has great contents all the way to the monster stalking the heroic party at the end - and that monster is the freaking coolest Fantasy monster this side of Helene Wecker's Golem - it's the language that allows access to so much character and culture. After this and The Devil in America, Kai Ashante Wilson has proven one of the most promising voices in our genre.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I Was Reading a Classic Last Night, And...

I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution. I was troubled: a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize me; but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of plummeting ratings. All of us at CNN perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!) that it was the wretch whom we had created. I trembled with rage and horror, resolving to wait for its approach, and then close with him in mortal combat. He approached; his countenance bespoke bitterness, anguish, combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive of furious detestation and contempt.

"Devil," I editorialized, "do you dare approach me? and do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone, vile insect! or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust! and, oh! that I could, with the extinction of your miserable presidency, restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"

"I expected this reception," said Trump. "All media hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You propose to slander me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."

"Abhorred monster! fiend that thou art! the tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! you reproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed."

My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.

He easily eluded me, and said --

"Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, CNN, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, the best Adam. Sad! Apologize!”

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Where I'm From, We Eat Our Parents" is live at Daily Science Fiction!

I'm tickled to be back at Daily Science Fiction this month with a new story: "Where I'm From, We Eat Our Parents."

The story follows Fiend, a tentacle monster with romantic intentions. *Actually* romantic intentions. He's found a great girlfriend and the biggest conflict in his life right now is meeting her parents.

I might be riffing off a genre you've heard of on the internet. But will you admit having heard of it? As with "The Terrible," DSF's editors have let me publish some of my inner weirdness. I owe thanks to my beta readers: T.S. Bazelli, Nadya Duke, and Leigh Wallace.

You can read the story by clicking here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Halloween List: We Are Still Here

After I finished The Guest, I got on the elliptical and loaded up Netflix. By pure coincidence, We Are Still Here was next in my queue, and opened… on a couple coming home after the death of their son.

We Are Still Here is still a very different movie – the couple begin experiencing strange phenomena around their house, like pictures their son hated falling over and cracking, or voices in the basement. It turns out this is a new house they’ve just moved to, hoping to get away from some of the grief, but they suspect something has followed them here. But the locals explain that horrible things once happened in this house, and they’ve always found it eerie. We begin to question what is watching them.

What unfolds is one of the finest recent haunting movies outside James Wan’s The Conjuring series and The Wailing. While this is also a period piece, set in the 1970s, We Are Still Here uses the visual style of film rather than digital, and has best-in-class costume design and make-up. Characters often felt familiar to me because I knew adults like them in the early 1980s when I was a child.

There’s a great charm, too, to casting so many actors with fading looks, receding hairlines, and other touches of age that the crew don’t cover up. They feel aging in a way that Hollywood tends to hide. It nails its period better than any other Horror movie I’ve seen since House of the Devil.

The house they’ve bought also lacks glamour. The ground and upper floors are both worn, not in need of repair, but with the scuffs and chips of time. It brought me back to times spent in old Maine houses. Only the basement seems odd, with its hole in the wall that might as well lead directly to Hell.

Especially if you have Netflix and are craving a haunting for Halloween, this is a great pick. Indie Horror seems to be grasping period pieces better than ever before.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Halloween List: The Green Room (AKA Patrick Stewart?!)

Patrick Stewart plays the leader of a ground of backwoods skinheads trying to kill a Punk band.

Patrick Freaking Stewart. Captain Picard. Professor X. On his evilest day he was Captain Ahab, which was fine because that guy came out of a classic novel. The moment that Stewart walks into The Green Room and casually asks for the situation before instructing his fellow skinheads on the best way to break into a locked room and kill off the rest of the witnesses, it is jarring. This is Stewart barely changing his accent, just dropping a little of his warmth to fit in with the other drug runners.

The simple plot follows a never-gonna-be Punk band playing in the least popular venues. After doing an afternoon show at a taco hut, they drive into the woods for a rural bar. In a movie with several awkwardly funny moments, they open their set with a song deriding Nazis, while skinheads in the crowd check their swastika shirts and SS tattoos. I don’t believe in blaming victims, but at a certain point you might be asking to be the victims in a Horror movie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Under the Skin Vs. It Follows (Vs. Sexuality)

Today's is going to be a long post. Instead of just writing independent reviews of the two hot-topic films, I want to talk about them in relation to each other. If you haven’t gotten to them yet, I won’t spoil the third act of either. But Under the Skin and It Follows are very interesting Horror movies to have come out so close to each other – they’re both films about victimization, but from opposite sides of it. They’re both about predators hijacking sexuality for their own unknowable ends.

But most people I know like one and loathe the other. When they condemn whichever of the two they dislike, they label it sex-negative. I disagree with that reading for either film. Rather, both feel rooted in Horror’s history of finding something desirable and finding a way to make it terrifying. Friday the 13th did that with cabin vacations; Jaws did it for swimming; and it’s easy to forget, having grown up with John Carpenter’s Halloween, that the holiday wasn’t always so blood-soaked, but rather that movie helmed a change in cultural attitudes around the holiday.

Unfortunately Halloween also helped cement tropes about sexuality in Horror. The tropes are unhealthy, and even baffling when you find the liberal attitudes of their screen writers and directors. John Carpenter and Wes Craven were startled when people confronted them about things latent in their work. It's why Craven went out of his way to subvert some of those tropes in Scream.

So when Horror turns sex into an actual theme, it has to be mindful. Slasher Movies didn’t originally intend to punish teen sexuality, but it became a tradition, and one that It Follows deliberately fights back against. Under the Skin goes for something weirder.

Let’s look.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Halloween List: The Guest

The Guest s another of those movies I watched knowing nothing about. It's such a pleasure to take recommendations from friends and find out the premise of a movie as it unfolds. This is a particularly nimble film with a very sticky opening, and if you want to just dive into a Thriller this weekend, The Guest is a good shot.

My vague first paragraph out of the way: The Guest is about a family mourning the death of their oldest son, and are interrupted by a mysterious stranger who says he deserved in the military with him. He quickly ingratiates himself with stories and awkward politeness, and whenever their other children get in trouble, he's there to help. Except in breaking up a fight, he's surprisingly vicious. Often we catch him watching the family with dead eyes, like everything he's doing is an act. But if it is, then why is he here?
It feels like a piece of 80's B-cinema, a worthy successor to The Stepfather, except the dangerous man is this time filling the empty role of a brother. It's greatly helped by a synth-heavy soundtrack that tickles at the Stranger Things part of your brain.
He's not just a stalker - he intervenes with a school principle, local drug dealers, and a misbehaving boyfriend as though he really has the family's best interests in mind. But he'll kill to preserve those best interests. You're waiting for either a secret malice or his overprotectiveness to boil over when the family's daughter calls the military. Just one phone call scrambles people through the chain of command, until Fringe's own Lance Reddick shows up to rein the mystery man in. It's a lot of fun pretending the movie is a secret episode of Fringe.
You can go back and forth over whether this is Horror - it's more of a cheesy Thriller with moments of high intensity, and that happens to take place on Halloween. But by the end, it completely validates itself as an October watch. We have to hunt a bad guy through the school's freaking Haunted House display!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Halloween List: Train to Busan and Flu

Today I’ve got two hot films from Korea, including one of the biggest Horror movies of the year. It’s going to be a good day.

But before we start, I have to talk about an unfortunate parallel. Our first movie, Train to Busan, is fictional Horror about zombies on a train headed to one of South Korean’s biggest cities. But this October, the real Busan was struck by a massive typhoon. If you have any spare money, please consider donating to relief efforts.

Train to Busan

For all the buzz this has gotten as Korean revitalizing the zombie genre, I’m almost surprised to report that Train to Busan is… just another zombie movie. There is no great innovation in Horror or change to the zombie formula in this movie. Instead, it’s two hours of people stuck on a train, trying to fend off zombies from the rear cars. If somehow you are craving more zombie-smashing and tragic losses of survivors, then this is for you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Halloween List: Creep and The Good Neighbor

Today we're talking about two movies I knew nothing about. These were recommended by good friends and I went in completely ignorant. Particularly in Creep's case, knowing nothing so greatly helped. I can't imagine enjoying that movie as much if I'd watched trailers full of bits from throughout the run time. I'll be sensitive about exposing too much of the plots of these movies, because if they sound fun to you, they're much more worth discovering as you're watching.

Creep (streaming on Netflix)

The great test for a Horror story is this: if the story was stopped at the end of any given scene, would you want to start it back up and see what happens next? In my little parade of Horror Movies so far, only Under the Skin and Pontypool have been this good at acing the test. Creep is expertly designed, a tight Found Footage movie running just 1:17.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Halloween List: Shin Godzilla is a Return to the Soul of Kaiju Film

It’s a two-second shot that defines the movie. The camera points up a cramped street as wreckage overflows into it, literal tons of boats and cottages rolling up the pavement like waves in a hellish river. A single young man runs from the camera and the tide of destruction so fast that his limbs are losing coordination. We don’t see him escape this street, and we never see him again. We can only hope he made it out of here. Shin Godzilla is an angry movie, angry that government has failed to save us, and insistent that it do better.

Shin Godzilla is the most political entry in the series since the original in 1954, which was an allegory for the horrors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Eventually kaiju film became more about giant monsters and robots fighting each other, and while fun, Shin Godzilla is from an older school. Godzilla has always been a hybrid of metaphors, and this movie shares influences from the 3/11 earthquake, Fukushima reactor incident, and recent tsunamis. It’s unnerving from its haunting score, to the camera so frequently switching to the point of view of his victims seconds before they die, to the pure nightmare fuel of Godzilla’s new appearance.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Halloween List: Tremors and Bone Tomahawk

Today is another one of those weird coincidences. Both of my movies were set out in the west - Bone Tomahawk attempting to blend Westerns and Horror, while Tremors is wonderfully cheesy Horror simply set out in the lesser-populated parts of Nevada. These are two movies that definitely wouldn't talk to each other at a party.

Tremors (streaming on Amazon Prime)

From the distant past of 1990 comes Tremors! A favorite of mine that I hadn’t watched in over a decade, and it ages very well.

Tremors is a classic 90’s B-Movie, cheesy and earnest, with an absolutely wild monster design. The “Graboid” is a prehistoric monster that tunnels under the ground, with an elephantine body, a mouth guarded by carapace mandibles, and inside lurk multiple obedient snakes that serve as biting tongues to drag prey down inside the beast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Halloween List: Pontypool and Southbound

Welcome back to The Halloween List! I'm already overjoyed with this project, as it's giving me fascinating movies to watch during otherwise grueling exercise sessions. I'm gradually rebuilding my lung capacity on the elliptical, which is great to do, but flares up my neuromuscular syndrome. A good show or movie takes my mind off things, and today's features definitely did that. I'm still thinking over the strangeness of Pontypool.

"What's Pontypool?" you ask. Well...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Halloween List: Attack of The The

It's my first week of Halloween movies and I'm already joyous. By pure coincidence, I watched all the movies beginning with "The" in a row. Today we're going back in time, to a dark forest in Japan, before stopping off in a doomed Korean fishing village. It's going to be a good time. Well, mostly.

The Final Girls (rentable on Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube for 2.99)

Imagine if Hot Tub Time Machine and Cabin in the Woods collided. The result is a punchy, funny Horror Comedy that has more heart than either of those two movies. It’s an unexpected delight that I’m still mulling over.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Halloween List

It’s my favorite time of the year! The air smells of falling leaves, the forest grows beautiful in color, the sunsets are richer, and all the cool movies show up on TV. I love Halloween from Jack O’Lanterns and costumes and candy for kids, to haunted house tours and the uptick in macabre media.

In the spirit of the season, I’ve made a little list of movies I want to catch up on this October. Most are from the last few years, as I’ve missed so many. I’ll be blogging my thoughts on them as I go along, and I invite you all to join me. The current list is:

  • The Final Girls
  • The Forest
  • The Wailing
  • Southbound
  • Pontypool
  • Green Room
  • He Never Died
  • Train to Busan
  • Flytrap
  • Under the Skin
  • It Follows
  • Mind's Eye
  • The Good Neighbor
  • Under the Shadow
  • The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
  • Tremors (a rewatch, to share the glory with a friend)
  • Don’t Breathe

While I’ll be doing thoughts-posts on 3-4 movies at a time, I want to devote a day to just Don’t Breathe. There’s so much to unpack, especially with the ableism it slams up against with its blind killer, and I am boiling over with thoughts.

I’ll be back Wednesday with thoughts on The Final Girls, The Forest, and The Wailing. For now: what are you reading and watching this October? And is there anything you’d recommend I add to my big list?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Blair Witch Problem

Horror Fan 1: And then what happens?

Horror Fan 2: That morning she thinks she finds his tongue outside her tent! But that night she hears him calling for her again! It’s so creepy.

Anonymous Nerd: (walks up) What are you talking about?

Horror Fan 1: We were talking about our favorite movies and Blair Witch Project came up. She loves it.

Anonymous Nerd: You know the problem with that movie? None of them were trained camera people so they couldn't keep it steady. And they should've gotten better actors, and came up with an actual script. Plus you just can't go a whole movie without showing the monster like that. It just makes it lame.

Horror Fan 2: It's fascinating that you could pinpoint all the problems in that movie, but noticed none of the problems in how you butted into this conversation about my favorite movie.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Six Great Movies Still Coming Out in 2016

September is half-over and Christmas decorations are starting to crop up in department stores. 2016 is a dying beast, and some people are already writing their Best Of lists. But there are books (yo, Wall of Storms), games (yo, Mafia 3), and even movies yet to be released that we’re craving. I just knocked off Don’t Breathe, which I have many, many thoughts on.

But that can wait. Let’s talk about cool movies that are coming out alarmingly soon.

1.     The Mermaid

You might not have heard that The Mermaid is the most popular film in the history of China. Releasing earlier this year, it has already doubled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s lifetime box office, and is heralded as revolutionizing Chinese Fantasy films.

The Mermaid is a remix of Chinese folklore through the unique lens of director Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer). Trailers promise a comedy about a lovable loser being harassed by a mermaid, or a tragic love story of that same duo being pulled from each other by a cavalcade of figures from Chinese folklore. Despite the CG battles, I’m hoping for more of a comedy, because no director has Chow’s knack for oddballs.

You probably haven’t heard of it, though, because it was licensed by Sony Pictures. The company released it on just 35 theaters across the entire United States. Fortunately, it’s received an On Demand release.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Three Pieces of Good News!

I'm packing up for Worldcon right now, but I have three pieces of good news to share before I go!

1. I'll be making my second appearance at Daily Science Fiction later this year with "Where I'm From, We Eat Our Parents."  I'm flattered to be back, this time with a story of a tentacle monster and his purely consensual relationship with a nice human girl.

Forget all the rumors you've heard about tentacle monsters - he's polite, even sweet, though he's nervous now that he has to meet her parents. After all, her dad served in the war of the worlds.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post by Erica L. Satifka: Beyond the Symptoms

Erica is a writer whose short fiction I've admired for a while now, and I'm excited to share my blog today as she prepares to launch her debut novel. Characters navigating their mental health always catches my interest, but rarely does it let them save the local economy from interdimensional horrors. Over to Erica!

Emmeline Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. But she's so much more than that. While Stay Crazy is speculative fiction, it takes place in the present-day real world, and Em not only has to deal with the monsters in the store and in her mind, but also the stigma that comes with her very misunderstood condition.

That’s something I wanted to confront even in my title: the term "crazy" used in this context is not derogatory. My protagonist – like me! – comes from a working-class background, raised in a family that isn't exactly literate when it comes to mental health issues. "Crazy" is the word that other people would use to describe her, but it's also something Em herself is reclaiming.

Too often, folks with psychotic disorders don't get to be the heroes of their own stories. Nearly always, they're given the role of madman or mystic, and I'm not sure which is worse.

Okay, that's not true: the trope of the axe-wielding maniac is definitely worse.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

John's Worldcon Schedule

I'll be in Missouri next week for the annual Worldcon! It's my first year as a panelist, and I was invited to so many things I had to turn a couple down. The staff has been very welcoming so far and I look forward to meeting everyone.

As always, if you feel like saying hi, please do! It should be a busy week, but I'm always happy to meet new folks.

Anime Stories to Watch in the Dark

Thursday 22:00 - 23:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
When one hears "anime", horror may not be the first thing to come to mind. This panel might change that. Don't be scared, and join us as we explore horror in anime.
John Wiswell, Lyda Morehouse

It's Not Torture If It's The Good Guys

Friday 10:00 - 11:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Zootopia at first glance appear to have little in common but both use the premise "I won't kill you, but my friend will." Just a few scenes apart in season 2 of Daredevil the lead is shown torturing someone "heroically" followed by a mob boss torturing someone "evilly." In this session we discuss the hows and whys this dichotomy can have developed and whether it is time to start challenging the notion of good torture on screen.
Scott Lynch (M), Seth Dickinson, John Wiswell, Kij Johnson, Marc Zicree

Flash Fiction: Short, But Not Easy

Saturday 10:00 - 11:00, 3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Many people think that Flash Fiction must be easy to write since the stories are so short.  It takes real skill to be able to tell a compelling story in only a few hundred words. Our panel will discuss some of the key skills needed, and the best places to get your flash fiction noticed.
John Wiswell, Anna Yeatts, Caroline M. Yoachim (M), Betsy Dornbusch, Chris Phillips, David VonAllmen

The Horror Melting Pot

Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, 2503B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Ghost stories, supernatural, suspense, gore, shock horror - all of these used to be more or less recognizable and identifed as distinct genres. Today they are increasingly clumped together as just horror. What effect does this have on horror as a genre?
Alasdair Stuart (M), John Wiswell, David Boop, Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, August 1, 2016

Great Things I Read in July, 2016 Edition

July is the month when I slammed into a wall. Going from 4th Street to driveway maintenance to Readercon to a college reunion pretty much destroyed me, but one thing that kept me sane on the road was all the short fiction I had with me. God bless free public wifi. As always, every piece included in my list is free to read by clicking the link included. If you enjoy a story or article, please let the writer know with a tweet, fan mail, or a handy Patreon donation.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

"The Journey and the Jewel" by Rebecca Campbell at The Sockdolager
-It's Magical Realist story about a Magical Realist story bleeding into a Magical Realist story! What excellence. The Journey and the Jewel was the last and greatest puzzle-book written by a genius couple, but they died without leaving a solution to the world, and so their daughter Ananda never figured out where its treasure was hidden. Ananda grows up having to deal with what the powerful book may have conjured, like a Shapeshifter whose face is constantly rotating new shapes, and a treasure that might possibly be out there. And it's sewn with lovely lines about the book itself, like, "The Journey and the Jewel’s last page is its most dreadful, the kind of page a kid might fasten shut with paper clips to prevent it opening by accident," which kick the tone in wonderful ways.

"Straight Lines" by Naru Sundar at Mothership Zeta
-“It must have been hard for you, Em.”
“I’m a ship mind. Hard is relative.”
It's that kind of zaniness that leaves you grateful Mothership Zeta exists. It's a very chatty story as the sentient ship tries to work out its relationship with Xiao, the woman who's trying to take it on an adventure. While her motives are interesting, the real strength of the story is in the keen rhythm of the dialogue between the two of them, something that any emerging SciFi writer would do well to study.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Great Things I Read in June, 2016 Edition

June is over! It has been conquered, and there is no more of it. I'm back from the first of three conventions this summer, and had a wonderful time on panels at 4th Street. While I was on the road, I read some fantastic shorts and non-fiction that I'll share with you today. As always every piece is free to read, no pay wall or anything. If you like what you're reading, though, please consider sharing it, or tipping the zine or author's Patreons.

Flash Fiction and Short Stories

"Other Metamorphoses" by Fábio Fernandes at Lightspeed Magazine
-The third paragraph positively killed me - one of the funniest reveals in any flash I've ever read. This flash is a great twist on Kafka's classic novella, and as badly as I want to discuss Fernandez's worldbuilding, it'd spoil the reveal. The story is too short to give away. Just click and come back when you hit "dreamtime."

"The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One" by J.Y. Yang at Uncanny Magazine
-A vicious piece of second-person narrative, explaining how you are being physically cut out of the narrator's body, and then dissected. The most uncomfortable story Uncanny has yet published, dark and ponderous, where the real game is figuring out the context for why all this is happening, and what you and the narrator are.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Guest Post: Funny Thing by Curtis Chen

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from debut novelist Curtis Chen. Coming out June 21 from Thomas Dunne Books, it's a SciFi spy romp aboard an intergalactic cruiser, starring an agent with a pocket dimension... in his pocket. But writing about foiling terrorism emerged from events that shaped so many of us, including 9/11. Curtis now shares with us how tragedy gave him inspiration to brighten our world. Over to Curtis!
SPOILER ALERT: If you’d rather know absolutely nothing about my debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo before reading it, STOP and save this blog post for later!

September 11, 2001, was an awful day for me, as I imagine it was for most Americans. It took me a long time to deal with it. I didn’t cry until two days later. I didn’t write about it until the week after, and I stand by what I said then: Murder defies reason.

The good news: 9/11 directly inspired the plot of
Waypoint Kangaroo, wherein hijackers attempt to crash an interplanetary cruise spaceship into Mars to start a war. (In my future history, the Martian colonies very recently won their independence from Earth after a brutal conflict, and there’s still plenty of bad blood between the two worlds.)

The bad news: That particular inspiration also made much of the first draft very dark and depressing—i.e., at odds with the protagonist’s trademark snarky humor—and I struggled to balance those two elements over many subsequent rewrites. I wanted Kangaroo to not take himself too seriously, but I wanted the stakes to be real matters of life and death.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bathroom Monologue: What If Captain America Isn't Alone?

It wasn’t just Captain America who joined Hydra. Was it weird to you that in seventy years of continuity, Cap never mentioned his fascist leanings, and always stopped Hydra from taking over the world?

Then it’s going to be super-weird when Sam Wilson and Sharon Carter join Hydra, too, plus three quarters of the Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm brings an iPod Shuffle and plays smooth jazz just a little too loud during roll call.

The thing is, having all these new recruits doesn’t make Hydra more effective. In fact the number of missions per fiscal quarter drops. Every time they take a vote to raid some young democracy, the measure is voted down in favor of getting drunk and ordering Five Guys. The TEAM HYDRA Facebook Wall is quickly covered in Bernie Sanders quotes and funny cat memes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

John’s Convention Schedule

Nerd Convention Season is picking up, so it’s time to figure out where we’re going. Last summer got kind of ridiculous for me, so I’m scaling back travel a bit to focus on my health, and finishing a certain novel.

A note particularly for newer con-goers: I know being new sucks. You don’t know anybody, you feel like every attempted conversation is butting in, and you don’t know what the big events are. So if you’re going to any of these cons and don’t know many people, comment on this post, or tweet me, or shoot me an e-mail. Hell, if you see me chatting with a crowd in the lobby, come on over and I’ll introduce you to the conversation. I know how awkward it is standing on the outside of a ring of people. I’m happy to make these spaces more inclusive.

4th Street Fantasy. June 17-19, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I’ve only gone once and this might already be my favorite con in existence. There is one track, and all ~200 attendees go to the same set of panels. Panelists dig deeper into the craft of storytelling than most cons, and the conversation rolls over from panel to panel, since everyone knows anything brought up earlier. For its small population, it attracts a high percentage of professionals, many of whom like to drunkenly sing in the cafe after midnight.

Readercon. July 7-10, Quincy, Massachusetts.
After years in Burlington, they’re moving to a new space that’s hopefully a little less cramped. ReaderCon attracts brilliant writers like Kelly Link, Ken Liu, and Elizabeth Bear, who pontificate generously on panels and at the bar. This is the only con I'm doing this summer where I'm not on panels, so I'll take this one more laid back. I'll be fun to watch everyone freak out over Guest of Honor Tim Powers.

WorldCon, August 17-21, Kansas City, Missouri.
Ending the summer with the big one. This will be my first WorldCon as a panelist, and my first WorldCon with the Rabid Puppy fights going on. People come from around the world, which means seeing more old friends than any other time in the year. I also hope to get some writers together to sneak out for a movie at some point...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Great Things I Read in May (2016)

There were too many good pieces of writing in May. As a result I only finished one novel and two non-fiction books (well, that and copious editing of my own work). I don't regret a moment of it, though it does mean my Favorites list is pretty bulky today. Bulky, and still incomplete.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

"The Middle Child’s Practical Guide to Surviving a Fairy Tale" by Mari Ness at Fireside Fiction
-Meta on fairy tales is past its Best-By date, and yet Ness has a great steamlined take on them. Here we sympathize with the older (and usually less attractive) sibling in fairytales, the one that usually exists to die horribly as a warning, as a tragedy, or as plot fodder. Over her list of thirteen items, Ness points out the warning signs and tropes you must avoid to survive someone else's magical journey. Being supporting cast is hard. You might as well try to live through it.

"The Rogue State Next Door" by Vajra Chandrasekera at Unsung Stories
-It takes him six paragraphs to establish a cutting satire and vision of the world. It's an uncomfortable story about how the President tries to negotiate with another nation sharing his border, which is apparently so powerful his entire country fears them, and the President won't look through the fence at it. It gives a vaguely surreal vibe akin to Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation, inviting you to wonder if this is a superpower, or some evil alien mega-entity. I kept the tab open to re-read it every week this month. It's like instant fiction: toss this in your imagination and it expands to the fill the container.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

X-Men is My Star Wars

Star Wars or Star Trek? My answer is X-Men. Because I grew up with them, I like my SciFi Extra-Special-Implausible. Not growing up with Star Wars, I confess to never “getting it.” When the Prequels landed, I was unfazed. They were just another trilogy about a Mary Sue with his cast of not-as-special-people who were important because he knew them. They weren’t as well made, but they were clearly the same model. Today, the greatest thing about Force Awakens is watching other people get so much out of it.

I told you that to tell you about ADD. In my lifetime ADD became ADHD, then became a "myth," a thing doctors made up for money, or lazy people made up as excuses. The current scorn for its sufferers is garbage. I have it, and have since childhood - the same week I received medication, my grades skyrocketed. Even then I struggled with reading. Superhero comics, with their mixture of art and the written word, were a huge part of introducing me to the desire for literacy. Here, nothing was more invigorating than X-Men comics, and particularly Wolverine.

So half my readers just closed this article because, ugh, another Wolverine fan right?

The rest of you: hold on for four more sentences.

Because he became particularly meaningful to me at Age 13, when medical malpractice put me in full-body pain for the rest of my life. As opposed to Superman’s invincible skin or Batman’s eternal dodging reflexes, Wolverine feels every blow. He’s shot, stabbed, even eviscerated, and the good artists captured that the pain registered on his face. He could survive anything, but only win by powering through the pain.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Great Things I Read in April

Well, this is late. I've been sacked by a bronchial affair, one truly pesky insurgency that's left me lucid for less of this week than I wanted. I'll do my best to keep this round-up comprehensible. Like at the end of every month, I'm collecting a list of excellent short stories, flash fiction, and journalism. This is probably a little less complete than usual on account of it feels like my furniture is floating. All the stories and articles below are free and can be read just by clicking the link.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction
"Deportations to Begin" at The Boston Globe
-Allegedly this fictional front page of The Boston Globe hurt Donald Trump's feelings. The Globe is an unusual outlet for Speculative Fiction, and yet that's inarguably what this is: speculation on what a Trump presidency will mean for immigration, abuse of law, and the economy. Balder than 1984, and a far sight more likely in its ugliness.

"Foxfire, Foxfire" by Yoon Ha Lee at Beneath Ceaseless Skies
-This belongs on the syllabus for Fantasy classes next year. I love the language. I love the worldbuilding. I love that two paragraphs in, you realize you aren't just hearing this from a human civilian, and not in a clunky line like, "I was born a vampire," but subtly, with, "Better to return to fox-form, surely, and slip back to the countryside..." I love the narrator's indignant place in the society, not utterly helpless, but feeling the pressure of what's coming and expected. Whenever you can establish your world enough that the characters can push back against it in favor of how it should be without it all feeling contrived, you've created a genuine Fantasy. Here the fear of tigers and tiger-sages, and the rush of evacuation, is all potent. It's a story that I thought was going to be shorter, and then was sad to find ending so soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Foreign Tongues" is live at Flash Fiction Online!

What if an alien visitor wasn't as reliant on sight and sound as we are, but rather wanted a taste of our culture? Would you mind an alien tasting you? And would you taste polite to them? Those are some of the questions behind my latest story at Flash Fiction Online, "Foreign Tongues," about an alien explorer that finds earth and thinks ice cream is our best ambassador. The humans? Well...

By bizarre coincidence, this is the third story Flash Fiction Online has published from me in an April. The third comedy, too. So the amazing people at Flash Fiction Online put me on the cover. But they didn't just put my name on it or an author photo. No, no. They painted a tribute to "Sun Belt," "Alligators by Twitter," and the latest story.

I couldn't be more tickled by this. I'll have to take their editors out for ice cream. It's what civilized explorers do.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Great Things I Read in March

If I can say anything about reading in March, it's that my Favorites List is probably incomplete. Between illness, family emergencies, travel, and rebuilding my computer from scratch, I have forgotten an obscene amount of data this month. It's been easier to forget a good story because I read so many this March. While everyone else was (somewhat justifiably) freaking out over Donald Trump steamrolling the Republicans, I kept finding wonders from around the world. Here are a few of them.


"Your Orisons May Be Recorded" by Laurie Penny at
-A story that treats angels as switchboard operators for prayers. Our narrator is an experienced, ancient being who's been demoted a few times given their extreme fondness for human men. They keep screwing human men - and falling in love, but there are centuries of sexual indiscretions too. Once they married a country pastor. The scenes are quick and spry, the tone ceaselessly funny, resigned to their place in the cosmos, but also wry. It's the most fun I've had with a "fallen angel" story since The Screwtape Letters.

"The Curse of Giants" by Jose Pablo Iriarte at Daily Science Fiction
-The story about a giant growing up. Already you're envious of Iriarte's inspired premise, but it can be read literally or allegorically, about the abusive forces you encounter as you grow into your own strength and bravery. For something so short, the ending has a hell of a punch. And it hits back, too.

"Opening Move" by Xin Rong Chua at Flash Fiction Online 
-A striking slice of life piece of a struggling chess player, who's managed to escape the Girls category and instead plays in the Open. But that puts her up against the top-rated player in the entire league. It's a flash packed with milieu.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Stop Calling Fiction a Lie

What's the difference between lies and hyperbole? Lying is wrong, but hyperbole is the worst thing ever.

One pernicious hyperbole is that fiction is a lie. The truth is that fiction is untruth, and if that confuses you, welcome to my job. My grandfather believed fiction was a pack of lies, and even tried to talk me out writing the one time he drove me back home from Liberal Arts college. Over burned toast and runny eggs, he argued that someday society would recognize that novels and movies were feeding us falsehood and that we should only deal with facts and non-fiction.

That's what I hear when people joke about writers as high-paid liars. If anything, the lie is that most of us are paid very much. Lies and fiction are two kinds of untruth that are little alike.

Lies are non-consensual. You speak misinformation under the assumption the other person doesn't know better. Your kid doesn't know there isn't a Santa Claus, but you want to fool him, for fun, or to get his mind off a chronic illness. The IRS doesn't know how much money you've hidden under the table, and you want to deceive its agents to get away with paying less. A lie is your decision without the informed agency of the other person.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kryptonite or Bad Writing: What's Superman's Real Weakness?

The more I hear people wishing Batman would take down Superman, the more I believe it comes from a greater hatred of power than of its abuse. The current popular iterations of Batman are of a tyrant building his kingdom, an autocrat ruling Gotham with an iron fist, an angry billionaire of unchecked privilege and brutality. Somehow Superman is the one labeled overpowered and unrelatable.

People keep saying he's invincible and therefore a bad character. But Superman's weakness isn't just Kryptonite. In the biggest comic event of all time, the mofo was straight-up beaten to death in a fist fight.

His weaknesses include magic, mind-control, various diseases, other Kryptonians, and the bajillion other aliens that are just as powerful, or more powerful, but are dicks about it. He's vulnerable to super-sharp weapons, the light of a red sun, pretty much every energy weapon I've ever seen. He can be out-smarted, caught by Green Lantern rings, or Black Lantern rings. And there are always nuclear weapons. If he has a greatest weakness, it's probably the emergencies of normal people who he constantly puts his own life on hold to assist. That's why I like him better than Batman. Increasingly, Batman is a fantasy of punishing someone, where Superman is a fantasy of helping someone.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Crediting the Idea Factory

Last night I was doubting my imagination. I'd just finished a new short story, which was the conclusion of a premise I came up with fifteen years ago. My last three short stories were ideas I'd had for decades. Weary from pain, I worried the only ideas I had left these days were the creations of my younger self.

In my malaise, I started backing up my computer so I could rebuild it this weekend. My writing folder was full of unfinished drafts that I had to open to recognize. They were tens of thousands of words of plots, many I'd created in the last couple months but had been so busy I'd forgotten I'd written.

The idea factory was still open. It just wasn't getting credit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Guest Post: Great and Terrible - 8 under-used, seriously scary monsters

Today I'm proud to present a guest post from author Tam MacNeil, who's just launched her paranormal thriller Salt and Iron. It's about the youngest member of a monster hunter family trying to make his way in the world - while the world is crawling after him, looking for a bite. To commemorate to the book, Tam wants to introduce us to some of her favorite monsters that you've probably never seen in a novel or movie before.

Monsters are one of my favourite things. Like pantheonic gods they often represent some aspect of human life - fear of mortality, personification of tragedy, unutterable pain, or mental illness. They are expressions of the uncertainty of human existence, which makes them familiar, and that is part of what makes them so proudly horrible. -Tam MacNeil

Gashadokuro - Japanese

One of my old Greek History professors once told me, “History is a body count,” and she was right. Anywhere you’re standing, odds are good somebody’s spilt somebody else’s blood, either through murder or neglect. Well, in Japan there seems to be some social anxiety about that, because Japan has the gashadokuro, the colossal ghost-skeleton.

Usually to be found stalking the unwary traveller with a broken-down car or hurrying home through the countryside at night, gashadokuro are voracious ghosts made up of the bones of those who died violently or of starvation. "Ravenous" is an inadequate little word for these colossal creatures, which are said to devour anyone found on the road at night.

Since they’re said to be invisible, the only way to know if there’s a gashadokuro in your vicinity is by a sudden ringing in your ears. What do you do when your ears start to ring? Run. And hope you’re running away from the monster.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Great Things I Read in February

February is one of those months when I'm grateful to do lists like this. I've been so busy with healthcare problems and editing that, until I checked the list, I thought I hadn't read anything special. Life can get so busy that it's easy to forget all the great art that flies by.

As usual, I'm collecting great short fiction and non-fiction that's free to read on the web.

"Between Dragons and Their Wrath" by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky at Clarkesworld
-No short story has haunted me more in the last month than this. The dragons are a metaphysical terror, casting a shadow of mutations across the landscape of two absolutely lovely characters. With scenes whipping by, each has a punch, even in the last line.

"43 Responses to In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nato" by Barbara Barnett at Daily Science Fiction - I love stories that creatively use unusual real world formats, and here's a story told through a Comments thread. It's a bunch of believers who might be experiencing a haunting, since one of their dead friends seems to have shown up and is poking at their insecurities. It can't help but be funny and creepy at the same time, which is hard to pull off, especially with such limitations. Masterful work.

"Lotus Face and the Fox" by Nghi Vo at Uncanny Magazine
-Two god-masked figures pull off a little robbery in the dead of night, and it keeps up its creative enthusiasm from there. It feels flash-length despite being longer because of energetic pacing and a lovely handling of its world.

"Ars Longa, Amor Brevis" by David Twiddy at The Sockdolager
-Two pretentious master-artists bicker over their accounts of a calamity that their magical arts *may* have brought about. A fine use of homunculi! I actually beta read this story, but it's only grown stronger since the version I saw in 2015.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bathroom Monologues Movie Awards 2015

It's almost March 2016, so of course we're all talking about the best movies of 2015. If all the griping on Twitter is any indication, I'm once again happy to have skipped the Academy Awards. Naturally I disagree with some of the winners. More naturally, I don't understand what some of the categories mean. But nothing shall dissuade me from telling a sizable democratic body of people who devote swaths of their lives to film that their mass conclusions were wrong. Here we go.

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Foreign Tongues" sold to Flash Fiction Online

I'm happy to announce I've sold my short, "Foreign Tongues," to Flash Fiction Online. FFO is one of my favorite short fiction magazines, and I'm tickled to return there. The story will go live in their April issue.

"Foreign Tongues" is the story of an alien explorer the communicates through taste rather than sight or sound. Upon landing in a strip mall, it decides ice cream is the greatest ambassador for earth, while humans are less savory. They keep resisting being swallowed.

I'm so grateful to Cassandra Williams, Sunil Patel and Arkady Martine for beta reading it. This marks the third time I'll have been published by FFO, and the third time I've been published in their April issue. I think I'm living up to my desire to be their personal April Fool.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Should Obama Replace Scalia?

This isn't about respecting the dead, as Justices have almost always been replaced within six months after they die. Obama has twelve months left in his term.

This isn't about whether a president should be allowed to nominate a new Justice in the last year of a term. FDR, Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover did just that.

The root of the Conservative objection is that they don't want such a Conservative icon replaced by a Liberal Justice. Antonin Scalia seemed, more than anybody on the Supreme Court, like he was Their Guy (even when he was sometimes selling them out to the Kochs). I can get that, but consider the other side.

The root of the Liberal desire is to see a Justice that doesn't dismantle the rights of racial minorities, LGBT+ people, unions, and the poor for another thirty years. It's not just that Scalia said racist and homophobic things. He facilitated numerous reductions in rights and protections for so many marginalized people, and was at work doing more of this around the time of his death. Liberals are eager to see someone who will stand up for egalitarian values get into the Supreme Court and go to work immediately addressing grave concerns.

It's pretty easy for me to pick which is more important. One side wants someone from their team in power, while the other side wants millions of people who aren't in power to be treated like they're on our team.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Great Things I've Been Reading (December/January Combo Edition)

December ended busily with Books of the Year and Games of the Year posts, so I couldn't fit my normal short story/non-fiction round-up. January is now in our rear-view mirrors, so I figured I'd lump the two months together now.

As always, the rule is that whatever I link is free-to-read with no paywall. The selection will be bigger for this post, but it still feels too short, mostly for the December stories that melted from my memory with the pressure of deadlines and the holidays.

Monday, January 25, 2016

You and I Will Ruin X-Files

If one thing ruins this X-Files revival, it will be us. It won't be Chris Carter's zany and plodding scripts - you liked that twenty years ago. It's not the actors aging - Gillian Anderson has only gained more gravitas with time. No, we've changed. We've changed in a way that can screw this up for us.

I had a great time watching the premiere last night. It captured the unabashed hokeyness of the original series, a willingness to believe things that no one in my social groups does. It is once again a show about Belief and Plot getting along much better than they do in reality. It is once again an escape from the way things are, an itch only Welcome to Night Vale scratches for me these days.

But people got furious over the New World Order conspiracies that flooded the episode. They were angry that the show wasn't doing "better" than Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. Jones and Beck are contemptible in real life, but X-Files is not The Wire. It performs a different function. From the first episode when Mulder spray-painted an X on the street and gauged how much time a flash of light made him lose, it's been about indulging in tinfoil hat thinking.

Last night's premiere was remarkably faithful. The X-Files didn't change. We did.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Most Anticipated Books (and other things) for 2016

Hello, January! What a nice year you've brought behind you. Today I want to share the books I'm most looking forward to this year. Like every year there will be huge surprises, but there's already outrageous promise for what we can read. I've added a couple of games and movies to the end, because anticipation isn't reserved just for writing. But damned if I won't be unreachable the week Children of Earth and Sky releases.

The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster
(Right Now,

The first book on my list is actually releasing this week! One of's hot novellas, The Drowning Eyes is a tale of the high seas, and the people that control the wind behind your sails. Wind mages are a great idea for pirate stories. Their power stopped raiders for years, but that magic has been stolen, forcing an intrepid captain to risk her ship and crew to get it back.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Realistic Spider-Man?

So yesterday the Russo Brothers did an interview about how "grounded" and "realistic" their approach to Spider-Man would be. I couldn't help offering some tips on how a realistic Spidey story would go.

  • A realistic Spider-Man? So, a kid is bitten by a spider, gets no powers, and struggles with poverty?
  • His widow aunt can't afford their bills, so Peter gets a second job. They're evicted anyway.
  • Peter photographs himself as an elusive vigilante. Daily Bugle won't call him back and he winds up with three reblogs.
  • Mary Jane swipes left.
  • Rich evil Norman Osborn dons a goblin mask and terrorizes the city. Pundits wonder when he'll run for president.

  • While Peter is at a wrestling show, his uncle is shot. Naturally he blames poor standard of living and NRA lobbyists.
  • Boy genius Peter develops liquid steel webbing technology. A troll swoops his patent and sues him.
  • Doctor Octopus is a Podcatcher knock-off app that fills Peter's phone with malware.
  • A sexy cat burglar is tearing up the city. Peter, who has crushing debt and no powers, never meets her. The end.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top Ten Videogames of the Year, 2015

Nothing expresses how Three-Stooges-goofy I find ranking art than my own attempts to do so. After Twitter friends said they wanted to read about my Top Ten Games of the Year, I tried and failed to order them. In recent years I've tried keeping lists like this just to remind myself how great videogames are as a hobby, and every year I come up with impossible ties. 2015 was the year of the most goofy ties yet.

Below you'll find:
-A tie between Tenth, Ninth, Eighth, Seventh, and Sixth Place.
-A tie between Fifth and Fourth Place.
-A tie between Third and Second Place.
-And a game that's unlike any of the other nine, and yet I think is my favorite thing I've played this decade.

There is no objective superiority between any of the tied games. Hell, there isn't even a respectable objectivity in the games ranked above and below each other, because it turns out comparing art objectively is ridiculous. Ask me what I think of Awards Culture sometime for a fun rant.

Aside from revealing how goofy ranked lists are, this is my attempt to celebrate 2015 as a year where so many companies created such different pieces of great interactive entertainment. These were necessary escapes from some terrible health problems, and some enriching narratives that gave me great times with friends. The leaps videogames have made in narrative, in the ability to present art design, and in refining mechanics makes it one of my favorite respites. It's so great that I end the list with a bunch of Honorable Mentions. The Honorable Mentions are not ranked because Shut The Hell Up.

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