Some favorites from my 2015 in reading & misc. Many of these were released prior to 2015, but I experienced them in 2015. So they count.
Tom Cho, Look Who’s Morphing (originally published in 2009 in Australia/NZ; picked up by Arsenal Pulp and released in North America in 2014): One of my top five short story collections of all time. Smart, fun, funny, wild. Favorites: “Dirty Dancing,” “The Bodyguard,” “Chinese Whispers,” “Cock Rock.” This summer I published an essay addressing Cho’s use of fan fiction strategies at The New Inquiry.
Casey Plett, A Safe Girl to Love (Topside, 2014): I read this on the plane to and from NYC, where, after the Lammys, I met an ebullient Plett (briefly) who had won in the Transgender Fiction category! This book collects stories about trans women across a wide spectrum of identities and experiences, none of them defined by their transness. My favorite story is probably “Winning.”
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Blue Talk and Love (Riverdale, 2015): Another exciting debut short fiction collection. Each story is exceptional. Lots of attention to unruly bodies, Blackness, NYC, adolescence and queer girlhood. My favorites are “Wolfpack,” written for/about the New Jersey 4 (you can watch a video trailer of the story here); “A Strange People,” which adopts an unsettling plural first person to tell the story of real-life conjoined twins Chrissie and Millie McKoy; and “A Magic of Bags,” about a young woman who discovers she has the strange ability to “make trouble” on other people’s bodies.
Kelly Link, Get in Trouble (Random House, 2015): More short fiction! Kelly Link brings it, every time. She’s at the top of her game, which is the top of the game. Favorites: oh, all of them are favorites.
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet, vol 1: Extraordinary Machine (Image Comics, 2015): This volume collects the first five issues of this scifi feminist exploitation comic, the corrective to Orange Is the New Black we’ve all been wanting: here the whiny entitled “I shouldn’t be here” Piper character gets eliminated by the end of the first issue. From there, women of color run the show.
Sara Jaffe, Dryland (Tin House, 2015): A tender, engrossing queer coming-of-age novel that takes place in early-90s Portland. Oh, the nervous stirrings of new lesbian desire! For it is intense. On a craft level, very interesting approach to first person: Jaffe and I talked about that and more in an interview about Dryland for Lambda Literary.
Gina Abelkop, I Eat Cannibals (co•im•press, late 2014): Abelkop’s second poetry collection. The first long poem, a breathless meditation on living dinosaur the cassowary, is epic, PLUS there’s a whole section devoted to time-traveling old west dance hall dykes. I interviewed Abelkop about I Eat Cannibals for The Conversant.
Trisha Low, The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013): Audaciously brilliant; dark materials. The first section is a series of “Last Wills and Testaments of Trisha Low” — as a whole making up a rich world through characters coming on and off stage, beloved objects and cultural artifacts. While wildly hilarious, given how self-consciously goth it all is, the suicidal ideation on display is also extreme nervous-making, and Low exploits that edge. But my favorite piece is the second section, a long short story where Trisha writes collaborative fan fiction (Anthony Rossomando of the Dirty Pretty Things / Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes) while chatting with her co-author, the two streams interacting. Really great, fun, smart writing.
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013): Samatar’s debut novel is a historical fantasy and ghost story, told in exquisite prose. Each sentence a strand of pearls. Haunting and gorgeous.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf, 2014): Stunning and painful. It’s exciting to see this book get so much attention and acclaim on a national level; and put to use to trump Trump. I love this essay by Erica Hunt on Rankine’s use of second person.
Jennifer Morales, Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories (UW Press, 2015): I had the pleasure of meeting Morales last year when she visited Beloit as a resident artist; and interviewed her this week for a feature (TK). Meet Me Halfway is a collection of linked stories exploring intercultural, particularly interracial, antagonisms in deeply segregated Milwaukee. The deftness with which Morales dramatizes subtly antagonistic encounters is astounding; and although Morales also presents numerous moments of cross-cultural affinity, the reader cannot fail to observe the impact of structural oppression on these characters’ daily lives.
Jessica Hopper, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (Featherproof, 2015): I came of age as a writer/critic reading Hopper’s early essays, so encountering them again is kind of a homecoming, and kind of just rad. Punk Planet forever. Hit It or Quit It too. I love Hopper’s style and her bite, her intersectional punk feminism. Highlights are the essays on Lana del Rey and Miley Cyrus, and her interview with Jim DeRogatis on his coverage of R. Kelly’s sexual predation of young Black women.
Videogames for Humans: Twine Authors in Conversation, edited by Merritt Kopas (Instar Books, 2015): Unusual, dynamic form — this book collects playthroughs of Twine games; that is, authors (often Twine authors themselves) were matched to games and asked to write their experience of the game, documenting their choices and reflecting as they go. This makes for a huge variety of approach: there are some poetic, meditative playthroughs, some that experiment with form, and some that are more pragmatic. All of them offer thoughtful engagement with Twine as a medium for interactive storytelling.
Dale Vigor & Teri Dee Strung, Executive Privilege: An Erotic Satire (Baby Robot, 2012): Hilarious! Pulpy and parodic, alternating points of view between Carolyne Feldencrest, power dyke CEO of TightFit Jazz Aerobics United, and her nemesis, Peter Mansfeld, former gay gigolo and CEO of Deep Tissue Nautilus Supply Co. Industry, whose company Carolyne wants to buy. A joyful congregation of extended metaphors. E.g.: “With her fingers, her hands, her mouth, Destiny composed a symphony of physical sensation, the virtuosity of which remains unrivaled to this day. … And when she reached Carolyne’s organ, depressing the pedals and pulling out all the stops, she composed a flamboyant and exuberant medley, leading Carolyne into a chorus of Hallelujahs that threatened to shake the very rafters from the heavenly firmament.”
Which leads me to….
The Internet, Ego Drive: Steamy, smoky queer R&B.
Joanna Newsom, live at Orpheum Theater 12/18 : I believe in Joanna! I believe in art!
Björk’s “Mouth Mantra” video: WHICH WAS FILMED INSIDE HER MOUTH
Goodnight Mommy, dir. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala: Austrian art-horror with twins and twists. I don’t want to tell you anything. This one is full of surprises.
It Follows, dir. David Robert Mitchell: Highly original albeit improbable premise, yet somehow…it follows. Gorgeously shot. Set in Detroit. If there had been some attention to queer sex and sexual transmission possibilities it would have been perfect. With thanks to Jami for the film recs.
Oxford American‘s Southern Music Issue, December 2015: Excellent writing, all kinds of stylistic approaches. Kiese Laymon on Outkast is a standout.
WisCon 2015: My first! I got to take a writing workshop with Charlie Jane Anders (!), interact with lots of people writing speculative fiction from antiracist/feminist/queer/trans perspectives, and eat decadent desserts. Looking forward to 2016.
Samuel Delany’s Facebook posts: I try not to like every one.
Mount Your Friends (game): CLIMB THE GOAT / REACH THE TOP! With thanks to Cynthia, for introducing us.
And soon I will be finishing Sybil Lamb’s I’ve Got a Time Bomb, digging into Kim Yideum’s Cheer Up Femme Fatale and Dodie Bellamy’s latest, and watching Carol; heading into 2016 with lots to catch up on and anticipate.