…and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Without Remorse (Stefano Sollima 2021), which might actually be called Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (and why shouldn’t he be since he – well, his estate – gets a pay cheque for this drivel regardless of how tedious it is?), is not Jamie Bell, who is never less than brilliant regardless of how bad the film he is in, or Michael B. Jordan, who until now has never been less than brilliant regardless of how bad the film he is in, is the way Michael B. Jordan spends the second half of this leaden ‘thriller’ doing everything he can to get his character killed so as to avoid having to make any of those pesky contractually-obliged sequels while the writers come up with increasingly cliched ways of preventing him from doing so…
This week has mostly been spent trying to finalise the revisions to my forthcoming book (pictured left, though that is neither the real cover nor the actual subtitle).
By which I mean all the revisions were done weeks ago, apart from overhauling the conclusion, which – as it stands – is a nice little riff on the Fast and Furious movies that ends a bit abruptly but has a killer last line that I want to be the last line of the entire book.
The problem is the nice little riff does not work as a conclusion for the entire book.
Or so I am told.
Because the purpose of – and desire for – conclusions continues to elude me.
I mean, what is wrong with you people? You’ve read the whole book and now you want me to chuck in the Cliffs Notes version at the end cos you weren’t paying attention? I’ve spend x-thousand words giving you ideas to think about and now you want me to tell you what to think about them?
You bums. You lazy good-for-nothing bums.
So can we all agree that in future instead of conclusions books will come with a pencil and some blank pages at the end for you to make notes and draw your own conclusions?
And if possible, can we all agree this before my deadline on Monday morning?
Slept badly, cried, comfort ate, comfort drank, comfort read, comfort watched old movies, sat staring out of windows, struggled with depression (my own and that of loved ones), had a brain seizure (eventually tentatively diagnosed as a ‘vascular incident’), injured left leg in the seizure so had to stop running, started running again, injured right knee running, stopped running again, performed massive amounts of additional labour neither recognised nor remunerated by my employer, left the EU (which was none of my doing), was governed by a bunch of clowns whose arrogance, greed and incompetence has cost thousands of live and billions of pounds (ditto), and missed seeing y’all.
Somehow, during all that, I managed to finish writing The Anthropocene Unconscious, which I should now be revising rather than writing this, and Andrea mocked up a cover based on my suggestions for Verso, though I suspect they are not going with this image or this subtitle:
And I gave a virtual keynote based on its opening chapters:
‘The Anthropocene Unconscious: Geological Disruptions of Discourse’, Anthropocenes: Reworking of the Wound, European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts/Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach/Muzeum Śląskie, Katowice, Poland, 17–20 June 2020
I was inundated with requests to say or write things about viruses, contagion, pandemics – and agreed to do these ones because friends (or people Erdogan labelled traitors) asked:
I did exactly one public f2f event before everything turned to shit, introducing the restored version of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin for Arnolfini/Southwest Silents, the Arnolfini, Bristol 13 March 2020.
And I examined three PhDs:
Michelle Clarke, Ecocritical Frontiers in Sub-Saharan Anglo-African Speculative Fiction (SOAS, London 2020)
Toby Nielson, Ecological Imaginaries: Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema in the Anthropocene (Glasgow University 2020)
RJ O’Connor, A Miéville Bestiary: Monsters as Commentary on Real and Conceptual Landscapes in the Work of China Miéville (University of Leeds 2020)
Of the two examined via zoom, my leg suffered massive cramps during Toby’s and my mac died partway through Michelle’s (though fortunately it was after we’d told her she had passed).
In 2020, I saw 425 films (thanks to lockdowns, insomnia, etc). Of the 216 I saw for the first time, these are my top 30 films (three of which I actually saw in a cinema, remember those?):
Voyna i mir I-IV/War and Peace, Parts I-IV (Sergey Bondarchuk 1966- 67) Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt 2008) Krylya/Wings (Larisa Shepitko 1966) Sanshô Dayû/Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi 1954) Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada 2018) Kurîpî: Itsuwari no rinjin/Creepy (Kiyoshi Kirosawa 2016) Gisaengchung/Parasite (Bong Joon-ho 2019) Zan/Killing (Tsukamoto Shinya 2018) Chiyari Fuji/Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (Tomu Uchida 1955) Salinui chueok/Memories of Murder (Bong Joon Ho 2003) Banshun/Late Spring (Yasujirô Ozu 1949) Elena et les hommes (Jean Renoir 1956) Fat City (John Huston 1972) Finis Terrae (Jean Epstein 1929) Fighting With My Family (Stephen Merchant 2019) Maborosi (Hirokazu Koreeda 1995) Booksmart (Olivia Wilde 2019) Nuoc 2030 (Minh Nguyen Vo 2014) Little Monsters (Abe Forsyth 2019) Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett 2019) Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe 2014) The Bigamist (Ida Lupino 1953) Le mani sulla città/Hands Over the City (Francesco Rosi 1963) Kuro no testu kâ/Black Test Car (Yasuzô Masumura 1962) Bãhubali: The Beginning (S.S. Rajamouli 2015) Bãhubali 2: The Conclusion (S.S. Rajamouli 2017) Córki Dancingu/The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska 2015)
Best scene-stealing by a dog award Tre Fratelli/The Brothers (Francesco Rosi 1981)
Most bonkers production design award The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg 1934)
Most 2020 viewing experience Filibus: The Mysterious Air-Pirate (Mario Roncoroni 1915) – watching a restored print streamed by an Italian museum on the TV along with a crappy old print but with translated intertitles playing at a different frame-rate on a laptop
Other honourable mentions for films I’ve seen before but not in these versions(and all of them in actual cinemas, how 2019 of me!) Bronenosets Potemkin/Battleship Potemkin, restored version (Sergei Eisenstein 1925) Der Golem, 4K restoration (Paul Wegener, Carl Boese 1920) Mad Max: Fury Road, Black and Chrome Edition (George Miller 2015)
And if anyone’s interested, here is the full list of 425 2 Fast 2 Furious (John Singleton 2003) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Michael Bay 2016) 21 Bridges (Brian Kirk 2019) 7500 (Patrick Vollrath 2019)
Adventure in the Sahara (D. Ross Lederman 1938) Advise & Consent (Otto Preminger 1962) Ah-ga-ssi/The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook 2016) Akumu tantel/Nightmare Detective (Tsukamoto Shinya 2006) Alice, Sweet Alice (Alfred Sole 1976) Alita: Battle Angel (Robert Rodriguez 2019) Angel Has Fallen (Ric Roman Waugh 2019) Aniara (Pella Kågerman, Hugo Lilja 2018) Aningaaq (Jonás Cuarón 2013) Annihilation (Alex Garland 2018) Arcadia (Paul Wright 2017) Arrival (Denis Villeneuve 2016) Avril et le monde truqué/April and the Extraordinary World (Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci 2015) L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni 1960)
The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli 1952) Bad Boys for Life (Adil and Bilall 2020) Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard 2018) Bãhubali: The Beginning (S.S. Rajamouli 2015) Bãhubali 2: The Conclusion (S.S. Rajamouli 2017) Bait (Kimble Rendall 2012) Bait (Dominic Brunt 2014) Bakuretsu toshi/Burst City (Ishii Sogo 1982) Banshun/Late Spring (Yasujirô Ozu 1949) The Baron of Arizona (Sam Fuller 1950) Before Midnight (Richard Linklater 2013) Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater 1995) Before Sunset (Richard Linklater 2004) The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola 2017) Better Luck Tomorrow (Justin Lin 2002) The Bigamist (Ida Lupino 1953) Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray 1956) The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock1963) Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Cathy Yann 2020) Black and Blue (Deon Taylor 2019) The Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks 1955) BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee 2018) Blind Fury (Phillip Noyce 1989) Blindness (Fernando Meirelles 2008) Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada 2018) Bloodshot (David S. F. Wilson 2020) Blue Iguana (Hadi Hajaig 2018) Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler 2015) Booksmart (Olivia Wilde 2019) The Bride Came C.O.D. (William Keighley 1941) Brightburn (David Yarovesky 2019) Bronenosets Potemkin/Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein 1925) Bronenosets Potemkin/Battleship Potemkin, restored version (Sergei Eisenstein 1925)Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man (Charles Lamont 1951) Bulldog Drummond (F. Richard Jones 1929) Bullet Ballet (Tsukamoto Shinya 1998) Bumblebee (Travis Knight 2018) Bus Stop (Joshua Logan 1956) The Butler (Lee Daniels 2013)
The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard 2011) Calling Bulldog Drummond (Victor Saville 1951) Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (Brian Clemens 1974) Casablanca (Michael Curtiz 1942) Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe 2014) C’era una volta il West/Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone 1968) Charley Varrick (Don Siegel 1973) Charlie’s Angels (Elizabeth Banks 2019) Chelovek s kino-apparatom (Dziga Vertov 1929) Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan/Godzilla vs. Gigan (Jun Fukuda 1972) Chinatown (Roman Polanski 1974) Chiyari Fuji/Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (Tomu Uchida 1955) Christine (John Carpenter 1983) Chui lung/Chasing the Dragon (Jason Kwan, Jing Wong and Aman Chang 2017) The Cloverfield Paradox (Julius Onah 2018) Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley 2019) Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense (Goran Olsson 2014) Un condamné á mort s’est échappé où Le vent soffle ou il veut/A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson 19560 Contagion (Steven Soderbergh 2011) Córki Dancingu/The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska 2015) Crawl (Alexandre Aja 2019) The Crimson Kimono (Sam Fuller 1959) Crumbs (Miguel Llansó 2015)
Daikaijû Gamera/Gamera (Noriaki Yuasa 1965) Daikaijû kettô: Gamera tai Barugon/Gamera vs. Baguron (Shigeo Tanaka 1966) Daikaijû kûchûsen: Gamera tai Gyaosu/Gamera vs. Gyaos (Noriaki Yuasa 1967) Dai-Nihonjin/Big Man Japan (Matsumoto Hitoshi 2007) The Dark Tower (Nikolaj Arcel 2017) The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich 2004) The Day the Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson 2008) The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch 2019) Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce 2015) Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino 2007) Death Race (Paul W.S. Anderson 2008) Death Race 2 (Roel Reiné 2010) Le déjeuner sur l’herbe/Picnic on the Grass (Jean Renoir 1959) Denchû kozô no bôken/The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo (Tsukamoto Shinya 1987) The Descent (Neil Marshall 2005) Destination: Planet Negro! (Kevin Willmott 2013) Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow 2017) The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg 1935) Les diaboliques (Henr-Georges Clouzot 1955) Die Hard (John McTiernan 1988) Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg 1931) Dong (Jia Zhangke 2006) Doomsday (Neil Marshall 2008) Don’t Bother to Knock (Roy Baker 1952) Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler 2018) Duel (Steven Spielberg 1971) Du rififi chez les hommes/Rififi (Jules Dassin 1955)
Edge of the City (Martin Ritt 1957) Die Ehe der Maria Braun/The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1979) Eight Men Out (John Sayles 1988) Electronic Labyrith THX1138 4EB (George Lucas 1967) Elena et les hommes (Jean Renoir 1956) Les enfants du paradis (Marcel Carné 1945) The Equalizer 2 (Antoine Fuqua 2018) Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi 1987) Évolution (Lucille Hadzihalilovic 2015) Experiment in Terror (Blake Edwards 1962) Exposed (Declan Dale 2016)
The Faculty (Robert Rodriguez 1998) Family Plot (Alfred Hitchcock 1976) Fantastic Four (Tim Story 2005) Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Tim Story 2007) The Farewell (Lulu Wang 2019) Fast & Furious (Justin Lin 2009) Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (David Leitch 2019) Fast & Furious 7 (James Wan 2015) The Fast and the Furious (Edward Sampson and John Ireland 1954) The Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen 2001) The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin 2006) Fast Five (Justin Lin 2011) Fat City (John Huston 1972) The Fate of the Furious (F. Gary Gray 2017) Fedora (Billy Wilder 1978) The Fighting 69th (William Keighley 1940) Fighting With My Family (Stephen Merchant 2019) Filibus: The Mysterious Air-Pirate (Mario Roncoroni 1915) Finis Terrae (Jean Epstein 1929) First a Girl (Victor Saville 1935) Fixed Bayonets! (Sam Fuller 1951) Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges 1980) Forty Guns (Sam Fuller 1957) Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock 1972) Friday the Thirteenth (Victor Saville 1933) Furious 6 (Justin Lin 2013) Futsû saizu no kaijin/The Phantom of Regular Size (Tsukamoto Shinya 1986) The Future (Miranda July 2011)
Gamera tai daiakuju Giron/Gamera vs Guiron (Yuasa Noriaku 1969) Gamera tai uchu kaiju Bairasu/Gamera vs. Viras (Yuasa Noriaku 1968) Il gattopardo/The Leopard (Luchino Visconti 1963) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks 1953) George Lucas in Love (Joe Nussbaum 1999) The Ghost and Mrs Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz 1947) Gisaengchung/Parasite (Bong Joon-ho 2019) Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Michael Dougherty 2019) Gojira, Ebirâ, Mosura: Nankai no daiketto/Ebirah, Terror of the Deep (Jun Fukuda 1966) Gojira– Minira–Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki/All Monsters Attack (Ishirô Honda 1969) Gojira tai Mekagojira/Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (Jun Fukuda 1974) Der Golem, reconstructed version (Paul Wegener, Carl Boese 1920) La Gomera/The Whistlers (Cornlieu Porumboiu) Gone in 60 Seconds (H. B. Halicki 1974) Gone in 60 Seconds (Dominic Sena 2000) Good Boys (Gene Stupnitsky 2019) Gräns/Border (Ali Abbasi 2018) Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón 2013) Greed (Erich von Stroheim 1924) Gremlins (Joe Dante 1984) Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante 1990) Gwen (William McGregor 2018) Gwoemul/The Host (Bong Joon Ho 2006)
La habitación de Fermat/Fermat’s Room (Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña 2007) Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen 2016) Halloween (John Carpenter 1978) Happy, Texas (Mark Illsley 1999) Hard, Fast and Beautiful (Ida Lupino 1951) The Haunted Palace (Roger Corman 1963) Haze (Tsukamoto Shinya 2005) Hellboy (Neil Marshall 2019) Histoire(s) du cinema (Jean-Luc Godard 1989) His Wooden Wedding (Leo McCarey 1925) Homo Sapiens (Nikolaus Geyrhalter 2016) House of Usher (Roger Corman 1960) How to Marry a Millionaire (Jean Negulesco 1953) How to Steal a Million (William Wyler 1966) Hua pi/Painted Skin (Gordon Chan and Andy Wing-Keung Chin 2008) Humpday (Lynn Shelton 2009) The Hunt (Craig Zobel 2020) The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum 2014) Infection (Albert Pyun 2005) Interstellar (Christopher Nolan 2014) Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages (D.W. Griffith 1916) The Intruder (Roger Corman 1962) The InvisibleAgent (Edwin L. Marin 1942) The Invisible Man (James Whale 1933) The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell 2020) The Invisible Man Returns (Joe May 1940) The Invisible Man’s Revenge (Ford Beebe 1944) The Invisible Woman (A. Edward Sutherland 1940) I Shot Jesse James (Sam Fuller 1949) It Happened in Hollywood (Harry Lachman 1937) Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Jamie Babbit 2007) Izgnanie/The Banishment (Andrey Zvyagintsev 2007)
La Jetée (Chris Marker 1962) Jiang shan mei ren/An Empress and the Warriors (Tony Ching Siu Tung 2008)) Jing wu feng yun: Chen Zen/Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zen (Andrew Lau 2010) John Wick (Chad Stahelski and David Leitch 2014) John Wick Chapter Two (Chad Stahelski 2017) John Wick Chapter Three: Parabellum (Chad Stahelski 2019) Jo Jo Rabbit (Taika Waititi 2019) Judy & Punch (Mirrah Foulkes 2019) Jumanji: The Next Level (Jake Kasdan 2019) Jumanji: The Next Level (Jake Kasdan 2019) Juno (Jason Reitman 2007)
Kaijû daisensô/Invasion of Astro-Monster (Ishirô Honda 1965) Kaijtô no kessen: Gojiro no musuko/Son of Godzilla (Jun Fukuda 1967) Kaijû sôshingeki/Destroy All Monsters (Ishirô Honda 1968) Kamera wo tomeruna!/One Cut of the Dead (Shini’ichirô Ueda 2017) Karnavalnaya noch/Carnival Night (Eldar Razanov 1956) Keanu (Peter Atencio 2016) Key Largo (John Huston 1948) The Kid Who Would Be King (Joe Cornish 2019) King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack 1933) King Kong (John Guillermin 1976) King Kong (Peter Jackson 2005) King Kong Lives (John Guillermin 1986) King Kong vs. Godzilla (Ishirô Honda and Thomas Montgomery 1963) The Kitchen (Andrea Berloff 2019) Knives Out (Rian Johnson 2019) Kollektivet/The Commune (Thomas Vinterberg 2016) Koroshi no rakuin/Branded to Kill (Suzuki Seijun 1967) Kotoko (Tsukamoto Shinya 2011) Krylya/Wings (Larisa Shepitko 1966) Kurîpî: Itsuwari no rinjin/Creepy (Kiyoshi Kirosawa 2016) Kuro no testu kâ/Black Test Car (Yasuzô Masumura 1962)
Lake Placid (Steve Miner 1999) La La Land (Damien Chazelle 2016) The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg 1928) Laura (Otto Preminger 1944) Let’s Make Love (George Cukor 1960) Life After Flash (Lisa Downs 2017) The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger 1943) The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers 2019) The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers 2019) The Likely Lads (Michael Tuchner 1976) Little Joe (Jessica Hausner 2019) Little Monsters (Abe Forsyth 2019) Little Women (Greta Gerwig 2019) Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (Misumi Kenji 1972) Long hang tian xia/The Master (Tsui Hark 1992) Love Nest (Joseph M Newman 1951) Love, Simon (Greg Berlanti 2018)
Maborosi (Hirokazu Koreeda 1995) Madame de… (Max Ophüls 1953) Madeo/Mother (Bong Joon Ho 2009) Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller 2015) Mad Max: Fury Road, Black and Chrome Edition (George Miller 2015) A Man Apart (F. Gary Gray 2003) Mandy (Panos Cosmatos 2018) Le mani sulla città/Hands Over the City (Francesco Rosi 1963) The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock 1956) Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock 1964) Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July 2005) Mekagojira no gyakushu/Terror of Mechagodzilla (Ishirô Honda 1975) Men in Black: International (F. Gary Gray 2019) Metropolis (Fritz Lang 1927) mid90s (Jonah Hill 2018) Midsommar (Ari Aster 2019) Mighty Joe Young (Ernest B. Schoedsack 1949) Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (Tony Tilse 2020) Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie 2018) Moby Dick (John Huston 1956) Monsters (Gareth Edwards 2010) Morocco (Josef von Sternberg 1930) Mosura tai gojira/Mothra vs. Godzilla (Ishirô Honda 1964) Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Just Murdered (Fiona Banks 2019) Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Dead Beat (Kevin Carlin 2019) Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Space for Murder (Lynn Hegarty 2019) The Music Box (James Parrott 1932) Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki 2004)
Neon (Eric Bednarski 2014) Never Fear (Ida Lupino 1950) A New Leaf (Elaine May 1971) Niagara (Henry Hathaway 1953) Night of the Lepus (William F. Claxton 1972) Nine, Dalmuir West (Kevin Brownlow 1962) Nobi/Fires on the Plain (Tsukamoto Shinya 2014) Nuoc 2030 (Minh Nguyen Vo 2014)
Paddington (Paul King 2014) Paddington 2 (Paul King 2017) Panique (Julien Duvivier 1946) Pat and Margaret (Gavin Millar 1994) The People under the Stairs (Wes Craven 1991) The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci 2019) Per qualche dollari in più/For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone 1965) Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone 1964) Pick Up on South Street (Sam Fuller 1953) The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman 1961) Point Blank (John Boorman 1967) Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow 1991) Power of the Press (Lew Landers 1943) Profondo Rosso/Deep Red (Dario Argento 1975) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock 1960) The Public Enemy (William A. Wellmann 1931) Pursued (Raoul Walsh 1947) The Pursuit of Happyness (Gabriele Muccino 2006)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese 1980) Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg 1981) Rambo: Last Blood (Adrian Grunberg 2019) Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa 1950) Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett 2019) Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock 1954) Reign of Fire (Rob Bowman 2002) Resident Evil: Extinction (Russell Mulcahy 2007) River of No Return (Otto Preminger 1954) The Roaring Twenties (Raoul Walsh 1939) Rokugatsu no hebi/A Snake of June (Tsukamoto Shinya 2002) Rope (Alfred Hitchcock 1948) Rudraksh (Mani Shankar 2004)
Saboteur (Alfred Hitchcock 1942) Salinui chueok/Memories of Murder (Bong Joon Ho 2003) San daikaijû: Chikyû saidai no kessen/Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Ishirô Honda 1964) Sanshô Dayû/Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguhi 1954) San xia hao ren/Still Life (Zhangke Jia 2006) Scandal Sheet (Phil Karlson 1952) The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg 1934) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (André Øvredal 2019) The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder 1955) Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock 1943) Shakespeare in Love (John Madden 1998) Shazam! (David F. Sandberg 2019) Seven (David Fincher 1995) Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg 1932) Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton 1924) Shichinin no samurai/Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa 1954) Shi yue wei cheng/Bodyguards and Assassins (Teddy Chan 2009) Shivers (David Cronenberg 1975) Shockproof (Douglas Sirk 1949) Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven 1995) Shurayukihime/Lady Snowblood (Fujita Toshiya 1973) Sideways (Alexander Payne 2004) The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme 1991) Simba (Brian Desmond Hurst 1955) Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1952) The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard 2018) Det sjund inseglet/The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman 1957) Snowpiercer (Bong Joon Ho 2013) Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard 2018) Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder 1959) Son of Kong (Cooper 1933) Sorcerer (William Friedkin 1977) Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley 2018) Sôseiji/Gemini (Tsukamoto Shinya 1999) Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts 2019) The Spoilers (Ray Enright 1942) Spy (Paul Feig 2015)The Steel Helmet (Sam Fuller 1951) Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock 1951) Superman (Richard Donner 1978) Suzaki Paradaisu: Akashingô/Suzaki Paradise Red Light District (Yûzô Kawashima 1956) Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton 2017) Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick 1957)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Joseph Sargent 1974) Tales of Terror (Roger Corman 1962) Terminator: Dark Fate (Tim Miller 2019) Le testament de Docteur Cordelier/Experiment in Evil (Jean Renoir 1959) Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tsukamoto Shinya 1989) Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Tsukamoto Shinya 1992) Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (Tsukamoto Shinya 2009) There’s No Business Like Show Business (Walter Lang 1954) The Thing (John Carpenter 1982) This Land is Mine (Jean Renoir 1943) Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham 2010) To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks 1944) Tokyo Fist (Tsukamoto Shinya 1995) Topaz (Alfred Hitchcock 1969) Torn Curtain (Alfred Hitchcock 1966) Torrid Zone (William Keighley 1940) Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambéty 1973) Le tout nouveau testament/The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael 2015) Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley 2019) Transformers: Age of Extinction (Michael Bay 2014) Transformers: The Last Knight (Michael Bay 2017) Tre Fratelli/Thre Brothers (Francesco Rosi 1981) The Trouble with Harry (Alfred Hitchcock 1955) Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö/The Match Factory Girl (Aki Kaurismäki 1990) Two Rode Together (John Ford 1961) Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers 2011)
L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo/The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento 1970) Uncut Gems (Benny and Josh Safdie 2019) Undertow (David Gordon Green 2004) Underworld U.S.A. (Sam Fuller 1961)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson 2017) The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson 2019) Venom (Ruben Fleischer 2018) Venom (Ruben Fleischer 2018) La vérité/The Truth (Hirokazu Koreeda 2019) Vertigo (Alfred Hitchock 1958) Vibroboy (Jan Kounen 1994) Vital (Tsukamoto Shinya 2004) Vozvrashchenie/The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev 2003) Voyna i mir I: Andrey Bolonsky/War and Peace, Part I: Andrey Bolonsky (Sergey Bondarchuk 1966) Voyna i mir II: Natasha Rostova/War and Peace, Part II: Natasha Rostova (Sergey Bondarchuk 1966) Voyna i mir III: 1812 god/ War and Peace, Part One III: The Year 1812 (Sergey Bondarchuk 1967) Voyna i mir IV: Pierre Bezukhov/ War and Peace, Part One IV: Pierre Bezukhov (Sergey Bondarchuk 1967)
Wandafuru raifu/After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda 1998) The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye 1996) Welt am Draht/World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Passbinder 1973) Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt 2008) The West Point Story (Roy Del Ruth 1950) White Heat (Raoul Walsh 1949) Widows (Steve McQueen 2018) Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann 1950) Winstanley (Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo 1975) WolfCop (Lowell Dean 2014) The Woman in Black (Herbert Wise 1989) The Woman on the Beach (Jean Renoir 1947) Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (Mark Cousins 2018) Wong fei hung III: Si wong jaang ba/Once Upon a Time in China III (Tsui Hark 1992) Wong fei hung VI: Sai wik hung see/Once Upon a Time in China and America (Sammo Hung 1997)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Simon Kinberg 2019)
Yardie (Idris Elba 2018) Ying chun ge zhi Fengbo/The Fate of Lee Khan (King Hu 1973) Yôkai hantâ: Hiruko/Hiruko the Goblin (Tsukamoto Shinya 1991)
This year, thanks to two lockdowns, the two longest stretches of insomnia I can recall ever suffering and having to withdraw from a number of commitments for health reasons (and some very short volumes), and despite a massive increase in unrecognised and unremunerated workload, I read 311 books.
I’d read 20 of them before* (and one in a different translation).
Of the 291 I read for the first time, these are the best 20.
Novels Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), Michael Hoffman translation Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift (2019) John Sayles, Yellow Earth (2020) Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806) – it’s a fucking hoot Robin Robertson, The Long Take (2018) Ling Ma, Severance (2018) James Clarke, The Litten Path (2018) Sue Burke, Semiosis (2018) Fran Ross, Oreo (1974) Hari Kunzru, Gods Without Men (2011) Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (1996) Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After (1845) Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)
Short Fiction Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People (2018) Tim Etchells, Endland (2019) Julia Armfield, Salt Slow (2019)
Comics Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015)
Poetry Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (2006)
Non-fiction Jane Elliott, The Microeconomic Mode: Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Popular Aesthetics (2018) Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, fifth edition (1997/2019)
Some numbers 142 by straight white men writing in English, 144 by the rest of the world (82 by women), and 25 multi-authored or otherwise don’t fit.
And for anyone who cares, here is the full list:
James Agee, Agee on Film: Reviews and Comments (1958) –. Selected Journalism and Book Reviews (2005) –. The Night of the Hunter (1960) –. Uncollected Film Writing (2005) Robert Aickman, Cold Hand in Mine (1975) –. Dark Entries (1964) Akala, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire (2018) Prayaag Akbar, Leila (2018) Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (1996) Richard Allen, Skinhead Girls (1972) –. Sorts (1973) –. Knuckle Girls (1977) Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) Julia Armfield, Salt Slow (2019) Eleanor Arnason, Mammoths of the Great Plain, plus… (2010) Jake Arnott, The Long Firm (1999) Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser, Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (2019) Jenn Ashworth, Fell (2016) Odafe Atogun, Taduno’s Song (2016) Margaret Atwood, In Other Words: SF and the Human Imagination (2011)
Linda Badley, Claire perkins and Michele Schreiber, eds, Indie Reframed: Women’s Filmmaking and Contemporary American Independent Cinema (2016) James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son (1955) –. Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961) –. The Fire Next Time (1963)* –. The Devil Finds Work (1976) Iain Banks, The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007) –. The Quarry (2013) Edward Bellamy, Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process (1880) John Berra, Declarations of Independence: American Cinema and the Partiality of Independent Production (2008) Charles Beaumont, The Intruder (1959) Lauren Beukes, Slipping: Stories, Essays & Other Writing (2016) Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu, eds. Decolonising the University (2018) Emilie Bickerton, A Short History of Cahiers du cinema (2009) Terry Bisson, The Left Left Behind, plus… (2010) Max Blecher, Adventures in Immediate Irreality (1936) Michael Blumlein, Thoreau’s Microscope, plus… (2018) Leigh Brackett, Stranger at Home (1946, ghostwriting as George Sanders) –. The Starmen of Llyrdis (1952) –. The Big Jump (1955) –. An Eye for an Eye (1957) Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018) Pat Brereton, Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (2005) Maurice Brauddus, Pimp My Airship (2019) Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847) John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)* –. Greenmantle (1916) Holly Jean Buck, After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair and Restoration (2019) Edward Bunker, Stark (2008) Sue Burke, Semiosis (2018)
Ramsey Campbell, The Face That Must Die (1979) Hannelore Cayre, The Godmother (2017) Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) Dave Chipps, Mozart Cuato, Mike Sellers, Matt Frank, Joshua Bugosh, Gonçalo Lopes, Gamera: The Comics Collection (1996, 2017) Walter Van Tilburg Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident (1940) James Clarke, The Litten Path (2018) Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950) Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe’s Tiger (1997) John Crowley, Totalitopia, plus… (2017)
Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya, or The Moor (1806) Uriah Derick D’Arcy, The Black Vampyre: A Legend of St. Domingo (1819) Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, new edition (1989) Aliette de Bodard, The Dragon That Flew Out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe (2020) Daniel Defoe, The Storm (1704) –. Robinson Crusoe (1719)* –. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) Samuel R. Delany, The Atheist in the Attic, plus… (2018) Virginie Despentes, Baise-moi (1993) Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), Michael Hoffman translation Cory Doctorow, The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, plus… (2011) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901–2)* Alexandre Dumas, Georges (1843) –. Twenty Years After (1845) Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (2014)
David Eggers, The Lifters (2018) George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861) Jane Elliott, The Microeconomic Mode: Political Subjectivity in Contemporary Popular Aesthetics (2018) Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, Trees: In Shadow (2014)* –. Trees: Two Forests (2015)* –. Trees: Three Fates (2019–20) Steve Erickson, Shadowbahn (2017) Tim Etchells, Endland (2019) Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (2015) Bernardine Evaristo, The Emperor’s Babe (2001)
Howard Fast, Peekskill USA: Inside the Famous 1949 Riots (1951) –. The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party (1957) William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930) Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett and Gorg Hugg, 1637: The Volga Rules (2018) Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth, The Crucible of Empire (2010) John Fowles, The Collector (1963)* Nancy Fraser, The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born: From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump and Beyond (2019) Philip French, I Found It at The Movies: Reflections of a Cinephile (2011) Mattias Frey, The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority (2015)
Ernest J. Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) Elizabeth Gaskell, Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) John Gibbs, The Life of Mise-en-Scène: Visual Style and British Film Criticism, 1946–78 (2013) Zoe Gilbert, Folk (2018) Beryl Gilroy, In Praise of Love and Children (1996) John Godey, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973) Rebecca Goldstein, Strange Attractors: Stories (1993) Robert Murray Graydon, A Case of Arson (1917) William Murray Graydon, The Law of the Sea (1912) Graham Greene, The End of the Affair (1951)
Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance (1990) Patrick Hamilton, The West Pier (1951) –. Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse (1953) –. Unknown Assailant (1955) Virginia Hamilton, The House of Dies Drear (1968) Knut Hamsun, Pan (1894) Elizabeth Hand, Fire, plus… (2017) Karen Milwood Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (2016) Nick Harkaway, Gnomon (2017) Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)* Cecil Hayter, The Slave Market! (1907)* Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin (1995) Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929) –. To Have and Have Not (1937) Nalo Hopkinson, Report from Planet Midnight, plus… (2012) –. Falling in Love with Hominids (2015) Yuri Herrara, The Transmigration of Bodies (2013) Sarah Holding, SeaBEAN (2013) –. SeaWAR (2014) –. SeaRISE (2014) Reynold Humphries, Hollywood’s Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History (2010) I.Q. Hunter, Cult Film as a Guide to Life: Fandom, Adaptation and Identity (2016) Megan Hunter, The End We Start From (2017) Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (2014) Zahid Hussain, The Curry Mile (2006)
Gabino Iglesias, Zero Saints: A Barrio Noir (2015) David Ingram, Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema (2000)
Ayize Jama-Everett, The Liminal People (2011) C.L.R James, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (1953) Stephen Graham Jones, Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth (2013) Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007) –. The First Bad Man (2015)
Marc Kaplan, The Last Temptation of Sun Ra (2011) Christian Keathley, Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees (2006) Sarah Keller, Anxious Cinephilia: Pleasure and Peril at the Movies (2020) Leigh Kennedy, Saint Hiroshima (1987)* William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983) Mark Kermode, The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? (2011) Porochista Khakpour, The Last Illusion (2014) Laleh Khalili, Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (2020) Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir (2017) Paul Kingsnorth, Alexandria (2020) Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle 5: Some Rain Must Fall (2010) –. My Struggle 6: The End (2011) Sakyo Komatsu, Virus (1964) Mary Robinette Kowal, The Fated Sky (2019) David J. Kowalski, The Company of the Dead (2012) Paul Krassner, Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders: A Tale of Two Trials, plus… (2014) Hari Kunzru, Gods Without Men (2011) Henry Kuttner, Fury (1950)
Paul LaFarge, The Night Ocean (2017) Joe R. Lansdale, Vanilla Ride (2009) –. Miracles Ain’t What They Used To Be, plus…(2016) Christopher J. LeBron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea (2017) Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore (1973) –. Tehanu (1990) –. The Wild Girls, plus… (2011) Cixin Liu, The Wandering Earth (2011) Sarah Lotz, The White Road (2017) Wesley Lowery, “They Can’t Kill Us All”: The Story of Black Lives Matters (2017) Roger Luckhurst, Corridors: Passages of Modernity (2019)
Ling Ma, Severance (2018) John D. MacDonald, The Executioners (1957) Ken MacLeod, The Human Front, plus… (2013) Barry N. Malzberg, The Destruction of the Temple (1974) –. Chorale (1978) Laura Marcus, ed. Twelve Women Detective Stories (1997) Adam Mars-Jones, Second Sight: The Selected Film Writing of Adam Mars-Jones (2019) Tim Maughan, Infinite Detail (2019) Maxine McArthur, Time Future (1999) –. Time Past (2002) Ian McEwan, Solar (2010) Claude McKay, Banjo (1929) –. Amiable with Big Teeth (2017) Danielle McLaughlin, Dinosaurs on Other Planets (2015) Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller (2005) Herman Melville, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846)* –. Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas (1847)* –. Mardi: And A Voyage Thither (1849) Steve Mentz, Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550–1719 (2015) Andrew Milner and J.R. Burgmann, Science Fiction and Climate Change: A Sociological Approach (2020) Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (2005) Michael Moorcock, Modem Times 2.0, plus… (2011) Timothy Morton, Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People (2017) Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen (2016) Walter Mosley, Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned (1997) Sarah Moss, Ghost Wall (2018) Mitch R. Murray and Mathias Nilges, William Gibson and the Futures of Contemporary Culture (2020) Benjamin Myers, Beastings (2014)
Annalee Newitz, Autonomous (2017) Michael Z. Newman, Indie: An American Film Culture (2011) Mick Norman, Angels from Hell (1973)* –. Angel Challenge (1973)* –. Guardian Angels (1974)* –. Angels on My Mind (1974)*
Frank Owen, South (2016) Helen Oyeyemi, Mr Fox (2011)
Paul Park, A City Made of Words, plus… (2019) Adrian Parr, Hijacking Sustainability (2009) Michelle Paver, Wakenhyrst (2019) Salam Pax, The Baghdad Blog (2003) David Peace, Nineteen Seventy Four (1999) Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan (1946)* –. Gormenghast (1950)* Dale Pendell, The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse (2010) Robert G. Penner, Strange Labour (2020) –. ed., Big Echo Interviews, 2017–2020 (2020) Ann Pettifor, The Case for the Green New Deal (2019) Marge Piercy, My Life, My Body, plus… (2015) Frederik Pohl, Drunkard’s Walk (1960) –. Demon in the Skull (1965/1985) –. Homegoing (1989) Rachel Pollack, The Beatrix Gates, plus… (2018) Charles Portis, True Grit (1968) A.J. Pott, The Boyhood of Belinda (1931) E. Deidre Pribram, Cinema & Culture: Independent Film in the United States, 1980–2001 (2002)
H.L.T. Quan, Growth Against Democracy: Savage Developmentalism in the Modern World (2014)
Edogawa Rampo, Beast in the Shadows (1928) –. The Black Lizard (1934) Alastair Reynolds, Revenger (2016) B. Ruby Rich, New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (2013) Nathaniel Rich, Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change (2019) Walt and Leigh Richmond-Donahue, Blindsided (1993) Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, fifth edition (1997/2019) Robin Robertson, The Long Take (2018) Kim Stanley Robinson, The Lucky Strike, plus… (2009) Fran Ross, Oreo (1974) Rudy Rucker, Surfing the Gnarl, plus… (2012) Rolan Rugero, Baho! (2012)
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Slum Online (2005) James Sallis, Death Will Have Your Eyes (1997) José Saramago, Blindness (1995) Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929–1968 (1968) Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns (213) John Sayles, Yellow Earth (2020) Carter Scholz, Gypsy, plus… (2015) Sam Selvon, Moses Ascending (1975) Ernest Sempill, The Man from Scotland Yard (1908) Levent Şenyürek, The Book of Madness (2007) Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift (2019) Ashley Shelby, South Pole Station (2017) John Shirley, New Taboos, plus… (2013) Vandana Shiva, The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology and Politics (1991) Robert Silverberg, Blood on the Mink (1962) Clifford Simak, All Flesh Is Grass (1965) Upton Sinclair, Our Lady (1938) Iceberg Slim, Mama Black Widow (1969) –. Death Wish (1977) –. Long White Con (1977) –. Airtight Willie and Me (1979) Joan Slonczewski, The Children Star (1998) Norman Spinrad, Raising Hell, plus… (2014) Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet (1998) Neal Stephenson, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (2019) Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–67)* –. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)* Rex Stout, Under the Andes (1914) Tricia Sullivan, Occupy Me (2016) Helen Sword, The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (2007) –. Stylish Academic Writing (2012) Imre Szeman and Dominic Boyer, eds, Energy Humanities: An Anthology (2017)
Koushun Takami, Battle Royale (1999) Richard Taylor, The Battleship Potemkin (2000) Adrian Tchaikovksy, Children of Time (2015) Adrian Tchaikovsky and Keris McDonald, Short Changes (2020) G.H. Teed, The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle (1913) –. The Black Eagle (1923) Tade Thompson, Household Gods and Other Narrative Offences (2020) –. The Rosewater Redemption (2019) Jim Thompson, Heed the Thunder (1946) –. King Blood (1954) –. The Grifters (1963) –. Nothing But A Man (1970) –. Fireworks: The Lost Writings (1988) –. The Rip-Off (1989) Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People (2018) James Tiptree Jr., Up the Walls of the World (1978) Yannis Tzioumakis, American Independent Cinema, second edition (2006, 2017)
Peter Van Greenaway, The Medusa Touch (1973) John Varley, Titan (1979) Yanis Varoufakis, Austerity (2018) Eben Venter, Trencherman (2006) Gore Vidal, Thieves Fall Out (1953) Harl Vincent, The Copper-Clad World (1931) Gerald Vizenor, Hotline Healers: An Almost Browne Novel (1997)
Priscilla Wald, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (2007) David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future (2019) Rosie Warren, ed. Salvage #8: Comrades, This Is Madness (2020) Peter Watts, Blindsight (2006) –. Echopraxia (2014) Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2007) Archie Weller, The Day of the Dog (1981) Colson Whitehead, Apex Hides the Hurt (2007) Aliya Whiteley, Skein Island (2019) Charles Willeford, Miami Blues (1984) Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (2006) Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, ed., Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film (2010) David H. Wilson, The Psychotic Dr. Schreber (2019) G. Willow Wilson et al., Ms. Marvel, volume nine: Teenage Wasteland (2016) Sheena Wilson, Adam Carlson and Imre Szeman, eds. Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture (2017) Brian Wood et al., The Massive, volume one: Black Pacific (2012) –. The Massive, volume two: Subcontinental (2012–13) –. The Massive, volume three: Longship (2013) –. The Massive, volume four: Sahara (2014) –. The Massive, volume five: Ragnarok (2014) Nick Wood, Water Must Fall (2020) Cornell Woolrich, Rendezvous in Black (1948)
Masaki Yamada, Aphrodite (1980)
Joanna Zylinska, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (2018)
As I continue this Xmas to struggle with The Anthropocene Unconscious, this fucking recalcitrant book that refuses to be written, it is nice to look back over the year to see what else has happened – though that warm sensation might just be procrastination…
The biggest thing this year was receiving the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award, and being the Scholar Guest of Honour at the 40th International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, 2019. It was lovely to be back at the conference, and to catch up with so many people, after a seven year hiatus.
My GoH speech received the not-so-rare distinction of being mocked in Private Eye‘s ‘Pseuds Corner’, between Charlotte Church and Grimes – ‘Our Frightful Hobgoblin, or, Notes Towards Full-On Fully-Automated Luxury Green Interspecies Feminist Queer Space Communism of Colour’. (A longer version of it, with a longer title, is forthcoming in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts some time.)
I also appeared on a panel with Sarah Pinsker, John Rieder, Nisi Shawl, Joan Slonczewski, Fran Wilde, and did an opening plenary with Sherryl Vint and author GoH G. Willow Wilson (!), whose work I’ve loved since first reading Cairo. And as a special bonus, Willow is just lovely to hang out with.
While I’m namedropping, this year I also got to drink way too much wine with:
the Quay brothers, before and after but not actually (and surprisingly) during a panel I did with them (and Andrzej Klimowski, Danusia Stok and Simon Ings) on Stanislaw Lem for the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival/Polish Cultural Institute at The Barbican in April
Mike Hodges (again), before and during a screening of his Black Rainbow, which I introduced for Cinema Rediscovered in Bristol in July
Andrea, Karolina and Claudia before and – from a shared bottle classily passed back and forth along the row – during a screening of Mauro Herce’s Dead Slow Ahead I introduced at Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw in December
There was, however, no wine consumed before, during or after the screening of Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer’s Menschen am Sonntag I introduced for Bristol Festival of Ideas’ Festival of the City/Southwest Silents in Bristol in October. (In my very slight defence it was a Sunday at noon, and I had neglected to bring any bad influences with me.)
I gave one other keynote this year
‘Revenant, Repetition, Road Block: Foreclosed Futures in Late-Anthropocene SF’, Striking Back? On Imperial Fantasies and Fantasies of Empire, Max Planck Institute, Göttingen, Germany in September
but after the absurd number I’ve done in the last few years, I figured it’s about time to get back into the discipline of giving 20 minute papers, so I did these two (though the first one was pulled out of the hat when someone had to withdraw at the last minute from a conference I organised):
‘The Great Derangement and the Anthropocene Unconscious’, Imag(in)ing the Anthropocene, UWE/Watershed in June
‘Other Affect in Slow SF: The Clone Returns Home and Dead Slow Ahead’, Senses of Science Fiction: Visions, Sounds, Spaces, University of Warsaw, Poland in December
Oh, and I organised a conference, Imag(in)ing the Anthropocene, mainly as an excuse to hang out with Karolina and Dan over a rainy Bristol weekend in June
Publications-wise, Global Studies in Science Fiction, which I co-edit with Anindita Banerjee and Rachel Haywood Ferreira, published a couple more volumes:
Amy Ransom and Dominick Grace, eds, Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Bridging the Solitudes
Simone Brioni and Daniele Comberiati, Italian Science Fiction
The collection I co-edited with Rhys Williams finally appeared:
M John Harrison:Critical Essays
I published my first journal article for a couple of years, but it has a long and complicated history, and was written ages ago:
‘Afrofuturism and the Archive: Robots of Brixton and Crumbs’, Science Fiction Film and Television 12.1 (2019): 171–193
It was uncommissioned and is actually the first article I have ever cold-submitted to a journal. Which felt like an accomplishment of some sort until Gerry Canavan kindly pointed out that since I founded the journal what else could they do…
I published a couple of book chapters and my first review in a couple of years:
‘Afrofuturism in the New Wave Era’ in Eric Carl Link and Gerry Canavan, eds, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (Cambridge UP 2019), 396–414
‘Science Fiction and Cult Cinema’ in Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton, eds, The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema (Routledge 2019), 59–68
Another exhausting year of too much admin and too much teaching with too many brand new modules. But on the bright side I did get to teach Dead Slow Ahead to first years on my new Spectacle, Action, Narrative module, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (for the first time in about a decade) to second years on my new Film Genre module. (On the even brighter side, the TTCSM Blu-ray does not offend my sensibilities the way the too-clean DVD did, because it is so clean it is like watching an entirely new film rather than a scrubbed-up version of a masterpiece you lived with for decades on ropey who-knows-what-generation VHS. I have a plan to do more with TTCSM next year.)
I continue to be part of the supervisory team on a couple of PhDs, but the real PGR successes this year were my Master by Research students: Luke Williams on Animals and Objects in Contemporary Feature-Length American Digital Animation (Merit), and Sam Gerrett on Reconceptualising Violence: Objective Violence and the Neo-liberal Subject (Distinction). I also examined Pablo Gómez Muñoz rather brilliant PhD thesis A Better World? Cosmopolitan Struggles in Twenty-First Century Science Fiction Cinema at the Universidad de Zaragoza.
The big news looking forward is that a lunch with China and Rosie made me face up to the fact that the kind of substantial research leave necessary to write my next book is never going to come my way unless I can move to a better institution, so I should just get on with doing the book. So part of our summer vacation was spent writing a book proposal for the first time since I can’t remember when (2013?). Verso responded by pointing out I’d actually proposed two different but closely related books, and by asking whether I’d be interested in doing them both. So next year I will be writing the shorter The Anthropocene Unconscious while also finalising the outline for the second, longer book (which in my head I am calling Climate Parapraxes, but that is not quite right), which will be written in 2020. There is also a crazy-ass plan for a quick and dirty side project in between, and two later spin-offs: one will definitely be an edited collection/ journal issue, and the other probably will be since I don’t think I’m smart enought to write it all myself.
Publications-wise, it’s been an odd year. The only things I’ve published have been informal academic work or contributions to non-academic venues:
‘Monster Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Mark Bould, Liv Bugge, Surekha Davies, Margrit Shildrick and Jeffrey A. Weinstock, edited by Donna McCormack’, Somatechnics 8.2, the ‘Promises of Monsters’ special issue (2018), 248–268
‘Cultural Heritage, Future Vision’, contribution to the ‘Decolonizing Science Fiction’ special issue of The Postcolonial Studies Association Newsletter 21 (2018), 23–24
But I have managed to write or finalise – mostly finalise already written pieces, tbh – the following, all of which are in various states of forthcomingness:
‘The Anthropocene Unconscious of African Second Contact Narratives: District 9, Rosewater, Lagoon’ in Karolina Lebek, ed., Fantastic Materials: Things and the Non-Real’ (Routledge 2019)
‘Speculative Fiction’ in Joshua L. Miller, ed., The Cambridge Companion to 21st Century American Fiction (Cambridge UP 2019)
‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene’ in Jack Fennell, ed., A Companion to Science Fiction (Peter Lang 2019)
‘Space/Race: Recovering John M. Faucette’ in Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek, eds, Afrofuturism Through Time and Space (Ohio State UP 2019)
‘Science Fiction and Cult Cinema’ in Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton, eds, The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema (Routledge 2019)
‘Afrofuturism in the New Wave Era’ in Eric Carl Link and Gerry Canavan, eds, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (Cambridge UP 2018)
Review of Bradley Schauer, Escape Velocity: American Science Fiction Film, 1950–1982 for Science Fiction Studies
Review of Dan Hassler-Forest, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Politics: Transmedia World-Building Beyond Capitalism for Science Fiction Film and Television
Editing Despite standing down as editors of Science Fiction Film and Television at the end of last year, Sherryl Vint and I returned more or less immediately as guest-editors of issue 11.2, the ‘Women in Science Fiction Media: Celebrating Mary Shelley’ special issue.
Rhys Williams and I finally finally finally put M John Harrison:Critical Essays to bed – just waiting for the last of the jacket blurbs to come in and it should go to press in January (seems like a mere 4 1/2 years since the conference!).
And Global Frankensteins (edited by Carol Margaret Davison and Marie Mulvey-Roberts) and Ian Campbell’s Arabic Science Fiction joined Ritch Calvin’s Feminist Science Fiction and Feminist Epistemology (2016) as the second and third volumes in Studies in Global Science Fiction, the monograph series I am fortunate to edit with Anindit Banerjee and Rachel Haywood Ferreira.
I’ve been a little less jet-setty this year but I went various place to wave my arms around in front of powerpoint:
Keynotes ‘The Great Clomping Foot of Nerdism Stamping on the Human Face—Forever: World-Building and Contradiction’, Worlding SF, University of Graz, Austria, 6–8 December 2018
‘Daily Life in the War Machine: Neoliberalism and Climate Change in The Purge’, Pathologies and Dysfunctions of Democracy in the Media Context II:The New Dystopian Imaginary of the 21st Century, from Orwell to the Black Mirror, from Big Brother to Big Data, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal, 12–14 November 2018
‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene Unconscious’, Current Research in Speculative Fiction, University of Liverpool, 29 June 2018
Invited research presentations ‘Science Fiction and the Anthropocene’, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, 7 June 2018
Conference papers ‘It’s the Climate, Stupid: the Anthropocene Unconscious of Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake’, Gravity Assist: Speculative Change in Literature, Film and Art, University of Split, Croatia, 14–15 September 2018
I was also allowed out in public to hang out with Mike Hodges for the weekend at the Cinema Rediscovered festival at the Watershed in Bristol in July, and to introduce with him an incredibly rare midnight screening of the never-released director’s cut of Terminal Man (which is very judiciously a fraction shorter and even better than the released version). And back in March, John Timberlake invited me to be part of a panel at London Review Bookshop discussing Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary, which is also the title of his new book.
I put in my second of three years as a jury member for The Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which this year went to Carl Freedman.
And I gave a long interview for the Open University’s course materials on Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, which none of you will ever see (unless you sign up for the course).
He had, in fact, though now his sisters were doing all they could for him, by calling him “poor Richard,” been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle him to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
While it was happening, this mostly felt like another year lost to the day job – launching a new BA and helping launch a new MA while the previous new BA was only entering its third year – so loads of new modules to design and teach alongside a tidal wave of related admin. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, to see how long this post turned out to be.
Editing The big news, I guess, was the decision to stand down as an editor of Science Fiction Film and Television, which Sherryl Vint and I launched a decade ago. We have now ascended to the giddy heights of editors emerita/us, while leaving all the hard work of actual editing to Gerry Canavan, Dan Hassler-Forest and another to be announced soon. (Though Sherryl and I return almost immediately as guest-editors for 11.2, the ‘Celebrating Mary Shelley’ issue.)
The other big news is that Rhys Williams and I finally finished editing M John Harrison: Critical Essays, which should be out from Gylphi soon(ish). This is the second collection to come from the conference we organised at Warwick back in 2014; the first was SF Now (Paradoxa 26), which somehow we turned around in three months rather than three years.
‘Between the Sleep and the Dream of Reason: Dystopian Science Fiction Cinema’ in Rainer Rother and Annika Schaeffer, eds, Future Imperfect: Science Fiction Film (Bertz/Fischer Verlag 2017), 42–63
‘Pulp SF and its Others, 1918–39’ in Roger Luckhurst, ed., Science Fiction: A Literary History (British Library 2017), 100–128
‘Afrocyberpunk Cinema: The Postcolony Finds Its Own Use for Things’ in Graham J Murphy and Lars Schmeink, eds, Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (Routledge 2017), 213–234
And I wrote two other essays, the first of which came out within a month of submitting a hastily concocted first draft, and involved what was without doubt the most astonishingly brilliant experience of being edited I have ever had (goddammit, that sounds sarcastic; they really were incredible to work with). I am also extremely grateful to the editors of the second piece, who tolerated six months of delays as the day job (and not unrelated health issues) got in the way.
‘Dulltopia’ in Junot Díaz, ed, Global Dystopias (Boston Review) (2017), 191–206
‘Space/Race: Recovering John M. Faucette’ in Isiah Lavender III and Lisa Yaszek, eds, Afrofuturism Through Time and Space (Ohio State UP)—forthcoming
I published one review essay, six reviews and an introduction to a novel
‘Max Sexton and Malcolm Cook, Adapting Science Fiction to TV: Small Screen, Expanded Universe, Steven Gil, Science Wars through the Stargate: Explorations of Science and Society in Stargate SG-1 and Douglas and Shea T. Brode, eds, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Original Cast Adventures’, Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies 12.3 (2017), 315–19
‘Brian Willems, Shooting the Moon’, Science Fiction Film and Television 10.3 (2017), 418–421
‘African Science Fiction’ on Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry’s ‘African SF’ Special Issue, The Los Angeles Review of Books (2 October 2017)
‘David S. Roh, Betsy Huang and Greta A. Niu, eds, Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media’, Extrapolation 58.1 (2017), 95–99
Contributor to ‘Best SF Films of 2016’ (reviews of Evolution, He Never Died and Mænd & høns/Men & Chicken), Vector 285 (2017), 11–18
‘Introduction’ to HG Wells, The Time Machine (Pan Macmillan, 2017), vii–xv
In memoriam, I wrote a piece about Mark Fisher and an entry for a collection Mike Levy was to have edited and which Farah Mendlesohn brilliantly took on in his stead:
‘Verschränkung’. Contribution to ‘In Memoriam: Mark Fisher’, Los Angeles Review of Books (2017)
Entry on Arrival for Mike Levy and Farah Mendlesohn, eds, Aliens in Popular Culture (Greenwood)—forthcoming
Banging on There was an absurd world tour of keynotes, plenaries and other invited research presentations
‘Making Habitable Worlds in the Late Anthropocene’, The Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, University of Warwick, 20 November 2017
‘Art/Science at the Edge’ closing plenary discussion with Susanne Winterling, chaired by Bodhisatva Chattopadhyay, Synchronizing the World: Historic Times, Globalized Times, Anthropogenic Times, Universitetet i Oslo, Norway, 12–14 June 2017
‘This is the Worst of All Possible Worlds’, Dystopia Now, Birkbeck, 26 May 2017
‘The Anthropocene Unconscious of African Second Contact Narratives: District 9, Rosewater, Lagoon’, Inventions of the Text seminar series, University of Durham, 10 May 2017
‘Staying with Wahala: Making Time in the Anthropocene’, Africa of the Past, Africa of the Future: The Dynamics of Time in Africanist Scholarship and Art, SOAS, University of London, 5–6 May 2017
‘Figuring History in Robots of Brixton and Crumbs’, The Distorted Mirror: Reflections of Time and Space in Speculative Media, Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies/Universität Bayreuth, Germany 29–30 April 2017
‘Afrofuturism Archive Anthropocene’, Cornell University, 17 April 2017
‘Making Afrofuturism, Salvaging History’, University of California, Riverside, 10 April 2017
and some public talks
Selected and introduced Arthur Robison’s The Informer for Southwest Silents, The Lansdown, Bristol, 18 October 2017
Like almost everyone I know in the UK (except Caroline Edwards), I spent a couple of hours being interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s We Are theMartians, 6–8 March 2017, but did not actually appear on any of the programmes (though some of my words did, albeit from the mouths of presenters). I even came to the rescue when the producer had only an hour or so in which to find a (literal) hole in the ground in Arizona to record an echo-y cave effect while reconstructing John Carter’s first astral visit to Mars/Barsoom. But still my fucking words are only fucking good enough to fucking air if fucking said by someone fucking else they are actually fucking paying for their fucking labour with my fucking licence fee.
I also examined one PhD, Thomas Connolly’s Bio/Techno/Homo: A Critical History of the Human in Anglo-American Science Fiction (Maynooth University, Eire 2017), and served my first year as a jury member on two awards:
The Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which went to Tom Moylan
The International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts’ David G Hartwell Emerging Scholar Award, which went to Grant Dempsey
and so anyway it turns out that the Anna Karenina Principle, which never having read Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies I had not even heard of until today, does not – as it should – mean:
sooner or later you are bound to throw yourself under a train
I cannot believe the contortions Jared Diamond puts the opening of Tolstoy’s novel
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
through to make it means what he wants it to mean. But kudos, I guess, for coming up with a forced literary allusion rather than naming it after himself, because as Principles go, it is far from being a Diamond one.
See also: the Principle of Fragility of Good Things (which is not something I just made up).