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Best of Fantasy 2008: Articles and Interviews

Last week we revealed our favorite columns of 2008, but there was a lot more non-fiction on offer. Interviews, articles, and more. Here are our favorites.

"The Chosen One" vs. The One Who Chooses by Naamen Gobert Tilahun -- I particularly liked this piece because it highlights an all-too-common trope and then presents an example of a different, and mostly superior approach.

Female, Muslim, and Mutant by Jehanzeb -- The first in our series of posts about Muslim characters in comics explores the character of Dust from the X-Men comics and the ways in which she breaks ground yet illustrates how far the writers and comic publishers still have to go.

A Conversation With Guy Gavriel Kay by Alaya Dawn Johnson -- When two great fantasy writers sit down and have a conversation about myth, history, metaverses and Dorothy Dunnett, it has to be good.

David Anthony Durham - Epic Proportions by K. Tempest Bradford -- David wrote one of the best debut fantasy books I've read in a long time, and I was really interested in exploring some of the aspects of race and gender the text brought up.

Justine Larbalestier & Ekaterina Sedia in the Fantasy Salon -- I got these two authors together because I wanted them to talk about different ways of feeling Othered as non-Americans writing for American audiences. What I got was so much more.

What were your favorites?


Best of Fantasy 2008: Columns

2008 was a year of major changes for Fantasy Magazine online.  We did a major site overhaul in June, not just to our look but also to our non-fiction department.  Readers were treated to many more columns by some amazing guests and beloved regulars.  Here are some of my favorites from last year.  What are yours?

No Objectivity: Dark Kingdom by Genevieve Valentine -- Genevieve is a reader favorite, so picking from amongst her many awesome columns was hard.  I have a fondness for this one, though, because it took me quite a long time to code it.  It was worth those hours to bring her vision of an amazing deconstruction of a completely ridiculous movie to life.

No Objectivity: AZTEC REX by Genevieve Valentine -- And of course who can forget the Rex?  (No one, obviously, as at least three people land on this page every day from Googling the title of this awful movie.)

Unbreakable Habits: The Lonely God is a Jerk by K. Tempest Bradford -- Included because he's still totally a jerk and I called it.

Guest Column: Saaaay… Why AREN'T there brown elves? by N K Jemisin -- This column is just one facet of a very important and very interesting conversation that happens around the SF-sphere all the time.

The Jeremiads: Twenty Things I Learned From Bad 80s Genre Films by Jeremy Tolbert -- Who doesn't love a bad 80s genre film?  We all do.

Guttersnipe: Girls Do Play D&D by Karen Healey -- Yep, we do!

Guest Column: Five Thoughts On The Popularity Of Steampunk by Stephen H. Segal -- This column broke traffic records, so everyone behind the scenes loves it for that.  But the reason it got so much attention is due to the brilliance of Mr. Segal and his elegant way with words.  When one hits the nail on the head, one will be praised for it.

Randym Thoughts: Punk'd by Randy Henderson - Randy always delivers a funny, insightful column.  For our steampunk week, he went all out.

Crossing Lines: Deconstructing Black Superheroes by Naamen Gobert Tilahun -- Naamen rightly took BlackVoices to task for their pathetic list of black superheroes.

Gamer+Girl: How to Get Your Girlfriend into Gaming by Robyn Fleming -- 1. Consider dating someone who is already a gamer -- FTW!

Why the Twilight Series Bugs Me by Cat Rambo -- Because it bugs us all.  Also because the comments never stop and are an endless source of amusement.

Top 12 Latin Superheroes by Ben Francisco -- I particularly liked this one because I had no clue some of these superheroes were Latino or that some of them even existed.  And we all know how I love to learn new things.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — The End Has Come…And It’s Not Pretty

I want to acknowledge that my last column infuriated more than a few folks. Some had some valid complaints, some were just too obsessed with Joe Flanigan's gravity defying hair to listen to reason but this is a new column, the last column on Stargate: Atlantis (at least until the movie comes out!) and I have a lot to say and possibly more folks to piss off, so let's get cracking!

First of all, I avoided "Brain Storm" for quite a while. Last column I expressed my distaste for episodes that focus simply on John Sheppard, well I also feel annoyance with ones that focus on the Rodney McKay/Jennifer Keller relationship. I just think that David Hewlett and Jewel Staite are much better actors than Flanigan so I can watch more easily through my annoyance. But I will again send up the question I have asked myself so very many times this season: Where are Ronon and Teyla? At least this episode we get a little something on where Ronon is, Teyla's whereabouts are an unaddressed mystery.

McKay and Keller go to a super-secret science gathering where an unstable invention once again threatens lives. The highlight of the episode for me was the inclusion of Bill Nye, the Science Guy in the gathering of scientific geniuses. Not only does the mocking of his persona and scientific knowledge provide some of the biggest laughs of the episode but his facial reactions to the insults are hilarious. The relationship between Rodney and Keller seems exceptionally more unbelievable as time goes on, I don't know what it is but the whole thing feels so pasted on. It's almost as if the actors themselves are tired of the storyline or no longer care about it.

Conclusion -- An overconfident scientist must bow to the genius of McKay, Keller almost dies but Rodney saves her which leads to the overconfident scientist claiming all the credit for stopping the horrific machine he invented in the first place. It, like many episodes this season, feels like filler and honestly in the last few episodes of the show altogether I expect a little bit better.


Crossing Lines: My Favorite Christmas Film

'Tis the Christmas season! Lights are being strung up in cities, Santas stand on corners ringing bells, songs about love and joy fill the air, people preach about holiday cheer and the spirit of giving, peace suffuses the air or at least that's what we're supposed to focus on. It all makes me throw up in my mouth just a little bit. The things that I see about the Christmas season in addition to what's put forward: credit card debt, hearing lecherous men making jokes about sitting on their laps, people killing and hurting others for the latest toy or gadget, money and commercialism slowly becoming more and more important that anything else and worst of all the songs that you hear everywhere and get stuck in your brain until you want to slam it up against the brick wall. It's not that I hate Christmas, I just hate the pretending that goes along with it, the falseness of acting as if everything is hunky-dory. So it's safe to say my choice of film is not going to be It's A Wonderful Life. Every year when this season roles around once again I pop in my favorite Christmas movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — No Hope On The Horizon

I'm so disappointed with Stargate Atlantis lately, as anyone who's been reading these column can probably tell. To be honest at this point if I wasn't writing this column I don't know if I would still be watching the show. I'd probably break up with it for good and catch the final episodes sometime in the spring on rerun. Sadly, the following episodes did not alter this opinion. There were some good things going on but at the end of most of them I just want to scream, "This is what you're going out on!? These episodes are what you want us to remember of the show!?". First off, apparently Carson Beckett is now some planet-wandering healer/medicine-man? I must have zoned out on a previous episode and missed this, or they never mentioned it and it's simply a weird retcon, either way it feels forced. But Carson is back and that's never really a bad thing in my book! The episode "Outsiders" starts with the team heading to a planet to bring Carson medical supplies. Carson is there to treat some folks that are victims of one of his earliest sketchy ethic moments, helping the Hoffans develop a plague that is deadly to 2/3 of the human population. The plus side of the plague is that those who survive it can't be fed on by the Wraith and are in fact poisonous to them. Now, this is one instance where Carson actually showed some care. Once he realized the drug would be deadly to many humans, he stepped back and was like, 'Oooooh, too sketchy for me. I'd rather return to Atlantis and perform painful experiments on living sentient beings.' Okay he didn't actually say that.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — There’s No “I” In Team

One of the strengths of the final season of Stargate Atlantis so far has been the focus on the team. In the episodes: “Whispers”, “The Queen”, “Trackers”, “First Contact” (Part 1) & “The Lost Tribe” (Part 2) that strength has been tossed with questionable results to say the least.

“Whispers” introduces us to an all-female Stargate Team we’ve never met before - Major Anne Teddy (Christina Cox), Sergeant "Dusty" Mehra (Janina Gavankar), Captain Alicia Vega (Leela Savasta) and Dr. Alison Porter (Nicole de Boer) who are accompanied by John Sheppard and Carson Beckett on a visit to a planet where one of Michael's early research facilities lies. Although I must say I enjoyed the inclusion of an all-female team in the Stargate universe and they were all fantastic in their roles it felt a bit "too little, too late" for my tastes. Some of us have been complaining about the roles of women and People of Color on the show since the beginning and to finally do something in the last season seems more patronizing than anything else. ‘Cause it’s not like we’ll get to see them again. Despite all that, Sgt. "Dusty" Mehra may be my favorite one episode character ever on the show, her propensity for violence and sarcastic attitude were great and really show what they could have done had they been invested in portraying Women of Color in a more interesting light from the beginning.


Crossing Lines: Deconstructing Black Superheroes

A few months ago came up with their list of the Top 25 Black Superheroes of All Time. As a life long comic book/superhero fan I was anxious to check out who they considered the best. Some of their choices I cheered and at others I cringed so hard I worried that my face would stick that way. However, cringing in regards to black superheroes is not that unusual.

All too often black heroes are based on harmful and offensive stereotypes cleaned up just enough that the majority of people won't object. For example: Patriot from the Young Avengers title, the leader of the group and grandson of the original black Captain America. He's a hero and a great leader until we come to learn that he's lied about the source of his powers and is actually shooting up a new street drug to gain super-strength. Or to take a hero from the list itself, D.L. Hawkins from the TV show Heroes; the only black hero on the first season and an escaped prisoner. Yes, it does turn out he did not commit the crime he was incarcerated for but he has committed previous crimes. Other black superheroes are simply two dimensional copies of a white hero given a more "street" background, a coat of brown paint and then called something like "Black" Goliath -- who's one of the heroes on the list by the way.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — Full Speed Ahead

Most of you have probably already heard that this season will be the last for Stargate Atlantis and it's truly a shame because this season has featured some of the best episodes that I can remember - mainly because the team is a team again. One of my major quibbles with the show during season 3 was that John Sheppard and Rodney McKay were constantly spotlighted which took away from the rest of the cast and from the team dynamic of the show. What started as an ensemble was drifting into a show that featured two of the characters above all the others. It wasn't something I enjoyed and is one of the reasons I stopped watching.

Well, I don't know what exactly happened but all the episodes of Season Five so far have had a much better balance and work to develop all the characters instead of just a select few.

In The Seed, an organic alien virus has made its way into the city and is taking over Dr. Keller. We not only got a little bit of the Rodney/Keller/Ronon triangle that seems to be one of the arcs the season but also a little insight into the Wraith organic-tech because the whole point of the "virus" is to take over systems and create a new hive ship with Keller as the living brain. The episode also served as the return of Dr. Carson Beckett. Well, his clone returned from stasis, but since all the characters seem to be ignoring the fact that the real Carson died -- in one of the most absurd ways ever (exploding tumors!) -- I suppose I can do the same. Even though Carson returns to earth at the end of the episode I really hope we see more of him and his sketchy, sketchy genetic experiments and lack of scientific ethics in the coming season.


Comic Book Tattoo, ed. Rantz Hoseley

Comic Book Tattoo -- an interstitial smorgasbord that clocks in at nearly 500 pages and has a list of contributors that span from established to up-and-coming -- is undoubtedly one of the most interesting anthologies to come out in years. Each comic is based on a song by singer-songwriter Tori Amos and choices range from her most recent album, the rock-influenced American Doll Posse, to the hard-to-find early synthpop group album, eponymously titled Y Kant Tori Read.

The reason you should buy this anthology is simple: it's awesome. The diversity of art styles in the book range from stark lines to photo-realistic to "cartoonish" to the avant-garde. And the plots are just as diverse. Almost every genre is represented -- science-fiction, romance, paranormal, dark thriller, fantasy, and slice of life. The true thrill of the book is how none of these differences detract from the stories or seems jarring. They just flow from one to the next until you find yourself on page 300 without realizing it. You don't go from a story of joy directly into one of pain; instead, you're led in a slow wave of emotion from depressive to euphoric and everything in between.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis’ Fifth Season Premiere

The fifth season premiere of Stargate Atlantis was -- like all their premieres and finales, both mid-season and bookend -- action-packed. The set-up was excellent: a collapsed building with our heroes stuck inside, the daring rescue of team member on the verge of giving birth from the clutches of an enemy that the Atlantis crew actually created through highly unethical experiments. It was all very summer blockbuster-like with just enough plot and continuity to make all the high stress situations seem necessary.

With certain shows we have to take the good with the bad, and for me Atlantis is one of those shows where the bad was beginning to outweigh the good. I got tired of the flat writing for women characters and characters of color, the pandering to stereotypes at every turn and the subtle alterations in the show that seemed to change it from an ensemble piece to the John and Rodney show.