End of Year 2019: Favorite Reading

Favorite Reading

While we are a community focused on games and how they intersect with our lives, we’ve never shied away from exploring and discussing other media critically and enthusiastically. It only seems appropriate, then, that our End of Year event offer up a space for us to share our own “Waypoints” from 2019.

This topic is dedicated to anything that you read. That could be a book, a short story, an article or a blog! It could also be a comic, whether it be a big superhero comic, a serialized manga, or an independent webcomic! Whatever you share, we’re excited to read about reading.


Discussion Thread

This thread is all about discussing your favorites! The end of the year is always a great opportunity to look back and reflect on what we loved, but it’s also a great time to remind ourselves of what we missed and want to come back to next year. So give a recommendation, get a recommendation, and above all please be respectful and have a good time!

Be sure to check the Q&A section below if you have questions, otherwise feel free to reach out to one of us! We hope you enjoy this event and we’re excited to see what sorts of discussion each category inspires!

Please Note: We’re planning to write-up a summary thread at the end of the event and include various members’ quotes from the discussion threads, just like last year. The quotes that we select will be attributed to their authors and only posted on this forum (forum.waypoint.vice.com). If you would prefer to not be quoted in the summary thread, please indicate this in your posts.


Q&A

Q: End of Year? What's that?

A: I’m glad you asked! Just head over to our pinned topic if you need a catch up! You can also find details on the process for the event here.

Q: What can I discuss in this thread?

A: Anything that you think fits the topic! Feel free to share your favorite experiences of 2019, whether they occurred in media that released in 2019 or media from a previous year.

Q: Where are the nominations?

A: This year we’re structuring things a little differently: we’ll be posting discussion threads over the second half of December, and nominations won’t begin until January. This will give you a few more weeks to play more games before you’ll need to lock in your votes. We also hope that by focusing on open discussion threads, the event will be more inclusive of folks who haven’t been able to play many games from this year.

Credits

A Memory Called Empire is probably my favorite book I’ve read this year. It’s a wonderful story musing on history, culture, ansestry, and empires, all wrapped up in a well paced sci fi murder mystery/ political thriller. A book that made me anxious for a sequel that won’t be out for close to a year. I haven’t had that feeling in a while. Very much recommended.

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Am working on my own best of year lists, but for now this popped up on my twitter feed and might be helpful:


So many comics I want to read are on this list

I have been very remiss with my reading this year, so I have less to draw from than usual. I’ve written about my feelings about Becky Chambers’ the long way to a small, angry planet missing the mark for me; I’ve spent less time talking about how I read all of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London sequence [to date], and found that the more he “revealed” parts of the underlying world, the less interesting his answers seemed to be.

So, whilst it’s possible that I’ll finish The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie and decide that it’s my new favourite reading experience [it’s certainly very good, but I’ve not finished it yet], or that I’ll read something else before the year end [maybe Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts]…

… my work of fiction this year has to be This is how you lose the Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Yes, it’s a bit overwrought, but that’s the point, and the prose is beautiful.

i managed to only read a single book that was actually released in 2019 this year and i am very biased bc im friends with the author but salt slow by julia armfield is very beautiful and horrible and good if you like feminist/queer horror-ish short stories

i think it might be out in 2020 in the US but look out for it, it slaps

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I just finished that one, and it’s really wonderful. The Raven Tower was a really good read as well.

Unfortunately, I feel into a bit of a rut with reading this year, so those are the only two new books I got around to. Mostly I re-read a bunch of 40k garbage because it was all I had the capacity for. Hoping to fix that for next year.

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I’m going to shoutout some of the yuri I’ve been enjoying reading this year.

Bloom Into You is about several girls who don’t have very strong senses of self changing for the better as the result of their platonic or romantic relationships with each other.

Yuri Is My Job is about several girls working at a cosplay cafe where they must act like characters in a school similar to the one in Marimite as their real life feelings and problems infiltrate into the kayfabe of the cafe.

If I Could Reach You is an angst-filled title about a teenage girl with a troubled home life and her unrequited feelings for her older brother’s wife.

Bright and Cheery Amnesia is about a woman getting amnesia and her girlfriend dealing with her amnesia. It’s bright and cheery and she falls in love with her girlfriend again immediately.

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I’ll add in the praise of A Memory Called Empire. It was the first book I had read in a very long time. It hasn’t gotten me back into reading constantly like I used to, but the fact that I’ve read multiple books this year is a huge change. I love the setting, and all the people in the story. It was a gripping mystery/thriller that I can’t wait to see what comes next!

I’ve been reading the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie. I’ve just now started the third book in the trilogy. It’s a very interesting story with some deep sci-fi themes. As I go into the third book there is a bunch of set up, but very little resolution so far. I’m interested to see how it all wraps up.

While I enjoyed the previous entries, my favorite by far is Black Panther and Red Wolf by Marlon James. It’s a long winding story that left me happy, heart-broken, frustrated, and excited all throughout. Marlon apparently used African myths/folklore to create the characters and story of the book, and it’s incredible to see all of them come together. I could imagine the myth that created one character after another. It was an incredibly thrilling story of chasing down an evil crew that kept building the world larger and larger. The world in this story is expansive, but each character, tribe, city/area gets a ton of detail to flesh it out. I highly recommend this book. The cast of characters are all so interesting which only makes putting down the book more difficult as they take you on this incredible journey.

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Haven’t had the capacity to finish much of what i’ve read this year so this is experiences midway through a lot of stuff. this has mostly been a comics year for me. first has to be **Kirby’s fourth world saga which may be kirby at his peak with searing allegory for totalitarianism and setting up the strong moral cosmology for dc comics for decades to come. second has to be that first omnibus of clairemont’s x-men alongside morrison’s x-men. on a print level I’ve been loving me some pratchett death novels

Been a great year for reading, here are my top ten lists for books:

and comics:

All of these are highly recommended.
If I was to pick one book and one comic, it would probably be:
Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (2011)
(copied from my tweet w a little editing)
Strange and lyrical story of an AI born in the dreams of siblings implanted with software, told in the language of folk stories. I was moved by the parts of this story that challenge the narratives we take for granted about AI and humanity.

and The Electric State by Simon Stalenhag (2017). Not technically a comic but a beautifully illustrated story. Road trip in an alternate America deformed by wierd (and fatal!) technologies.

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I felt since I read it earlier this year that The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley was going to be my book of the year. Following the exploits of a person who joins their local corporation’s army as they go to war with Mars, it ends up feeling in a lot of ways like a more modern and darker version of Starship Troopers. The protagonist is placed in an elite group of soldiers that are teleported into battle by being converted into light and beamed through space. The technology is still pretty flawed though and some intense body horror scenes happen as a result of it and more importantly the protagonist finds themselves experiencing the war in the wrong order, showing up to different battles in different locations to where they were meant to be. It’s a really great book and it stuck with me a lot this year.

image
… BUT THEN I READ This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone and mwah chefs kiss what a perfect book. Telling the story of two agents on the opposite side of a war which spans across time itself, it’s told primarily in the notes they leave for each other as they interfere with each other’s missions. At novella length it’s short and punchy and unlike other novellas I read this year it doesn’t feel like it has to rush towards a conclusion.

Also, while it didn’t come out this year I want to throw out a rec for “The Immortals” by S.E Lister, the third time travel book I read this year. It goes places I wasn’t expecting and while the overall pacing is a bit bumpy I enjoyed the way it played with my expectations and treated time travel.

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I see Memory Called Empire mentioned here a few times and it totally deserves it. How many sci fi novels have you read that are mostly about politics and court intrigue?

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I’ve only read five books that released in 2019, and one of them is a fantastic anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, which I recommend… but perhaps it’d be weird to call it the best book of 2019 when most of the writers of it died a century ago.

Margaret Killjoy’s The Free Orcs of Cascadia was my favourite short story in the March/April edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a magazine I picked up just to read the Killjoy story. It’s a funny story, especially if you’re into anarchism or heavy metal.

I didn’t like Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower as much as the Imperial Radch books, but it was still a good read. I definitely don’t love second person - I won’t even read Risotto Nero/Reader fics on ao3 unless they are in first or third person - but I liked the world a lot, so I got through it.

I also read Alien: Echo, by Mira Grant (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire), which is a YA novel set in the Alien universe. I can’t say how it holds up as a YA novel, since I don’t really read YA, but it wasn’t a bad Alien novel. Grant is a great horror writer, and her language when describing the xenomorphs is poetic and suitably scary-sounding. Plus, it’s gay, and in my opinion the Big Mistake almost all Alien comic writers/game devs/whoever decided Alien: Covenant only needed to acknowledge two of the characters were gay in a YouTube prequel short/etc. mess up is not having some LGBT characters in there. It’s not necessarily the best read of the year, but it fulfilled a need.

I sort of feel this way, although the second person didn’t bother me as much as it did you. I think, for me, the slight weakness was that it felt as if the novel wanted to be a tragedy (and thus have their be no real surprises - there’s enough clues, presumably deliberately, that none of the “revelations” feel like they’re not obvious before they happen), but is written almost like a mystery (which requires the opposite).

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You fools! You gave me a platform to talk about webcomics! MWAHAHAHAHAHA

Despite reading more webcomics than ever this year, there were a) very few comics that started this year that I was able to get around to (always a shame. Discoverability remains a huge problem with the medium) and b) still finding that those comics I’ve gushed about in years past just keep getting better (oh darn). So even if this is mostly boring list if you’re familiar with webcomics, these are still the ten comics I’d consider having the strongest 2019.


Best Ongoing Webcomics


Kill Six Billion Demons
Tom “Abbadon” Parkinson-Morgan
2013 - Current
https://killsixbilliondemons.com/

The most metal Abrahamic isekai fantasy comic out there had a great 2019, showing the amazing growth (and frustrating lack thereof) of our post-small-time-skip damsel-in-distress-turned-literal-demigod protagonist Allison, her similarly grown and strained relationships with her allies, and bring her struggles with the remaining ruling demiurges to the forefront. It was a year packed with great character moments, great action, and, best of all, just top notch art.

Never Satisfied
Taylor “Corny” Robin
2015 - Current
https://www.neversatisfiedcomic.com/

The curse of webcomics is it can take years for them to coalesce fully. You can have an initial pitch to grab people (an extremely LGBTQ+ comic about magician apprentices vying in a competitive elimination process for a once-in-a-lifetime position) and it take years to finally lift the curtain and show what the comic really is about. Never Satisfied not only got that opportunity in 2019, but did it with one of the coolest and shocking fight scenes I have seen in the medium. The contest may be over, but Corny let us know decisively the ride has just begun.

Paranatural
Zack Morrison
2010 - Current
https://www.paranatural.net/

What do you do with your comic when you’ve spent four years on a single day of middle school? Redo it all from a tertiary character’s perspective! To be fair, Stephen’s day, despite being suspended, was a fun diversion from the story that allowed Zack to flex their art muscles and show off their goofy, kinetic style. Also it was a great excuse to sprinkle in nuggets of world building at a blistering pace (that all fly over our sweet delinquent boy’s head, of course).

Sleepless Domain
Mary “Cubewatermelon” Cagle
2015 - Current
https://www.sleeplessdomain.com/

Easily my favourite webcomic running, Sleepless Domain is just a gift that keeps on giving. This year in magical girls we saw new team-ups, new transformations, new cute gay moments for our main characters, and a chapter that brilliantly conveys what succumbing to your depression and disassociation is like. It was a weird year to follow week by week with so little of the main cast appearing, but as a whole it might be the strongest year Cube has had with the comic yet.

Their Story (aka Tamen de Gushi, SQ)
Tan Jiu
2014 - Current
https://yaoi-blcd.tumblr.com/

In previous years I’ve nominated Their Story for comic of the year and, if it was more active this year, this wlw comic would be my favourite still. It still had plenty of cute moments (I mean, look at those two) and even a slow year for this comic still makes it a standout among everything else.

Unsounded
Ashley Cope
2010 - Current
https://unsoundedupdates.tumblr.com/

The usual exclamations of “HOW DOES ONE PERSON EVEN MAKE THIS?!” continued into Unsounded’s tenth year. This year was entirely devoted into a flashback story told by our aristocratic zombie deuteragonist of his miltary days (pre-death). While his usual blind patriotism in full force, he is bound to tell the ugly truth of his war stories and face how his past has shaped the entire world.


Best Webcomics I Didn't Start Reading Until 2019


Alice and the Nightmare
Michelle “Misha” Krivanek
2015 - Current
https://aliceandthenightmare.com/

Lewis Carroll’s seminal work has inspired hundreds if not thousands of spin-offs, but Alice and the Nightmare feels so much more… modern. Unflinchingly queer, Misha treats the source material less as a bible and more as a fun source we’re all familiar with to twist, distort, and poke at, all the while constantly balancing the story between modern fantasy and science-fiction. It’s a fun read, even if it hasn’t quite gotten past that setup act (again, the curse of webcomics).

Daughter of the Lillies
Meg Syverud & Jessica “Yoko” Weaver
2013 - Current
https://daughterofthelilies.com/

Daughter of the Lillies is NOT a Dungeons & Dragons comic. The creators are adamant about this. And I don’t blame them. Too many comics fail at dramatizing the tabletop experience into an interesting tale. But you can see where they worry sets in when the main cast includes an orc, half-orc/human, elf, and a protagonist’s whose race is one of the biggest mysteries in the story.

But these worries are unfounded. Daughter of Lillies is a breath of fresh air in the crowded medieval fantasy that delves deep into mental health and how its effects can be so much worse in a world of magic.

Also Thistle, that mysterious main character, is just adorable and a huge dork.

Harpy Gee
Brianne “potatofarmgirl” Drouhard
2014 - Current
http://www.harpygee.com/

Brianna Drouhard is a veteran of the animation and comic industry, having her work shaping shows like Teen Titans (2003), Batman: Brave and the Bold, and Scooby-Doo! Myseries Incorporated. And, let me tell you, Harpy Gee lives up to the expectations of a comic from someone so talented.

But I also mention this to show that, hey, Brianna is a talented, accomplished animator and this is not her day job. Harpy is her side project and, like all side projects, sometimes they don’t get the love they need when everything else in life takes precedence.

2019 is a good example of this. What was supposed to be a cute Valentine’s side story ended up being the only Harpy we got this past year until very recently. Sure, it was an excellent (if a little infuriating (on purpose)) side story, but its still disappointing that, after the absolute treat of going through this for the first time last year, that updates will be fewer and farther between than can be expected of those who are full-time comic creators.

I guess that’s the trade you make for getting a Nickolodeon short made out of your comic. It’s too bad it was passed on for becoming a full series…


Best Actually New Webcomic 2019


Seed
Said P.
2018 - Current
https://www.webtoons.com/en/sf/seed/list?title_no=1480&page=1

Okay Seed started at the very end of 2018, so I’m cheating a bit. Fight me.

Thrillers aren’t a popular genre for webcomics for good reason. Not only is it a medium full of amateur storytellers and a genre that is incredibly hard to get right, but webcomics need to keep that tension with day and week long gaps between your updates.

So while Seed isn’t a perfect comic, it absolutely blows me away that it not only nails its genre, but does so while juggling a cautionary tale of our Internet of Things future, the rights and sentience of A.I., and writes middle school kids well?

Again, it’s a new comic, one that has really only finished its first “season”, so who knows how well it’ll go from here. But it’s a promising start.


Phew. Okay, I think that’s about enough webcomic ranting for now. I’m gonna go lie down now.

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