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Jason's Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy of 2016

2016 was a great year for speculative fiction. Here are my personal awards in a wide range of media.


Favorite Fantasy Novel: The Hike by Drew Magary

A fun, weird, modern-day fantasy, in which an average guy goes for a hike in the woods and ends up in a crazy fairy tale. He befriends and battles a cast of bizarre characters, including a giant woman and a talking a crab, and solves puzzles in his quest to get home. It's Alice in Wonderland for adults.


Favorite Behind-the-Scenes Book: The Fifty-Year Mission

This oral history of the entire Trek phenomenon includes stories of feuds, rewrites, and crazy ideas (Eddie Murphy in Star Trek IV?!). Gene Roddenberry and other producers and directors struggle against both limited studio budgets and a rabid fan base. Everyone shares their experiences in these two volumes—assistants, special-effects artists, critics, and even modern-day fans like Seth MacFarlane. The subtle war between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy is recounted with glee... but so too is their lifelong friendship. These books are must-reads not only for fans of any Trek incarnation (even the animated series gets a chapter), but also for aspiring writers and producers, to see just how much work goes into creating even an hour of science fiction.


Favorite Fantasy Series: The Magicians

Harry Potter for adults. I knew nothing about the Lev Grossman novels when I began the series, but now I can't wait to dive in. The show presents a fairly realistic look at how people with magic would survive in 2016, and how they would keep their secret from the public. The fact that there's also an entire fantasy world, Fillory, gives the show an extra dimension with more opportunities for adventure.


Favorite Sci-Fi Series (Cable): Westworld

Not a hard choice. The show's explorations of artificial intelligence, identity, memory, and entertainment itself are relevant to our world of cosplay, MMORPG's, and virtual reality. I worry that the show's rapidly collapsing mystery and its penchant for killing characters will end it before getting close to Game of Thrones's eight seasons, but I will definitely extend my stay in the park for as long as it lasts.


Favorite Sci-Fi TV Series (Broadcast): Timeless

When was the last great time-travel series? No, not Twelve Monkeys. Maybe Sliders, which only sort of counts? This clever show follows three heroes—including a history professor and a computer programmer, neither with combat training—as they jump around American history trying to save it from the complex plans of a villain out to destroy the country. One of the show's more interesting choices is that history does change, and only the time-traveling trio remembers "our" timeline. And it's about time we saw our nation's history through the eyes of both a woman and an African-American.



Favorite Sci-Fi Movie: Arrival

Yes, Rogue One is fantastic. But we're going to have Star Wars movies and TV series for the next decade. What's far more rare is original, thoughtful science fiction. That takes place in the modern day. And doesn't involve combat. And stars a woman. From the eerie musical score to the fascinating exploration of language, Arrival is sci-fi cinema at its best. It has the courage to ask, "What would it really be like if aliens landed and didn't immediately attack us?" The ending blew me away.


Favorite Fantasy Movie (Live-Action): Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Tim Burton is a genre unto himself. And that's good, because we need his quirky, creepy, fantasy films with heart. Though the film is based on a series of novels, the ideas are still original and intriguing. The story is basically a cross between the X-Men prequels and the Harry Potter films. Plus, I'm a sucker for Eva Green. And for Samuel L. Jackson, especially when he chews scenery—in this film, quite literally.


Favorite Fantasy Movie (Animated): Moana

Kubo and the Two Strings is visually stunning and a great, touching adventure. But I have to give the edge to the Disney magic of Moana. Beautiful seascapes, catchy songs (co-written by undisputed genius Lin-Manuel Miranda), a story that's respectful of Polynesian culture, and a non-princess female lead with no romantic subplot combine to make this a magnificent addition to the Disney canon. I hope Kubo wins awards and gets the recognition it deserves, but Moana is the musical fantasy of the year.

What are your favorite books, TV shows, and movies of 2016? Cast your vote in the comments.

Jason ginsburg

Jason Ginsburg

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