Games Editor Mark Finn
The year 2004 was one for the books. Incessant political debates
that culminated in the highest voter participation since the
Nixon-Kennedy election, a cornucopia of triumphs and tragedies,
and the final, crushing tragedy of a science-fiction type disaster
in Asia will ensure that we try our best to look forward rather
than back. However, in spite of all the weird vibe negativity
this year, it was a feast fit for a geek over in the arena of
It's almost overwhelming, really, to think about how mainstream
and blase everyone has become about Geek Culture. I see
many diehard SF fans, readers, and nerds of all stripes grumbling
and moving away from the spotlight, and that's a real shame.
If anything, all of these movies, books, TV shows, and what-not
are proof that We Were Right all along. With that in mind, here's
my picks for the best of 2004, in no particular order:
Best Genre Movie: Spider-Man 2
You know, I think I liked this one better than the first one.
I mean, there was more of everything I liked in this one, plus
the added bonus of one of the coolest super hero fights on film.
It's an age of miracles and wonders, and Doc Ock throwing Spider-Man
around like a rag doll is proof of that.
Best Genre Movie Without an Established Trademarked
Character: The Incredibles
I have an "I'll watch anything from Pixar" policy
that has never let me down. And while I knew that The Incredibles
was going to be, well, incredible, I didn't expect it to
be so . . . fantastic. Yeah, that's the word to use.
Fantastic. I'm also awarding the movie seven thousand extra
cool points for the brassiest, most swinging soundtrack since
Hoyt Curtin wrote the music for Jonny Quest. Honest
Best Web Site: www.popcap.com
This devious little flash-based
time-waster has a variety of simple yet addictive games
that are just the palette-cleanser after a hard day at the office
or when you're stuck trying to think of something clever and
staring at a blank computer screen. Many's a time when in the
midst of playing Bejeweled I find the solution to a plot complication
or something like that.
Best Comic Book Series: The New Frontier
For a while, it looked as if there was nothing that was going
to give Alan Moore's The Watchmen a run for its money
in terms of political scope and sensibility. The brainchild
of writer/artist Darwyn Cooke seems to think he was trying to
pick up the torch set down by James Robinson at the end of The
Golden Age. Whatever. All I know is, any comic series that opens
with The Losers running ashore on Dinosaur Island has my full
and complete attention. After that, Cooke heaps on brilliance
upon brilliance in a more sensibly-structured real time explanation
of how the DC universe might have developed in a post-WWII society.
The trade paperbacks will be out soon so you can get in on the
fun. It's the best thing I've read from DC in a long time.
Best Comic Book Series Utilizing the Same Old
Tired Clichés and Hackneyed Contrivances: Bendis'
Avengers Series, "Disassembled"
Excusing the fact that Bendis decided to kill a beloved character
with magic, thus insuring that everyone reading the book immediately
ignore the larger parts of the story and concentrate solely
on whether or not Hawkeye's death was "real" and "official"
or not, "Disassembled" was a great Avengers story
for one reason: it showed that for all of its vaunted continuity,
Marvel has just as many holes in its armor as its distinguished
competition. Really, now, The Scarlet Witch? Love her or hate
her, now she's fixed.
Best Genre Book (Softcover): The
Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Surely every single RevSF reader is intimately familiar with
Thursday Next, the intrepid book detective, and her alternate-reality
1985 where your English degree really matters. It should come,
then, as no surprise that these brilliantly-written novels have
finally caught on in America and the newest hardcover release,
Something Rotten, was simultaneously released in England
and America. For those of you out there who aren't familiar
with Jasper Fforde's addictive character and world, and for
those of you who are all caught up on Terry Pratchett, or for
those of you who wonder why there aren't more Monty Python projects,
or who perhaps think Brazil was Gilliam's best movie
ever, then you really need to read all of these books.
I'm sure that's not very many of you learned RevSF readers,
Best Book About Robert E. Howard You Never
Saw: The Barbaric Triumph, edited by Don Herron
Published by Wildside Press, this is really more of a critical
anthology ABOUT Robert E. Howard, written by many of the experts
and movers-and-shakers of the REH scholarly world. There's also
a long essay by some hack named Finn in there about Howard's
boxing interests. In spite of that, it's a well thought out
book that deftly highlights some of the more recent literary
criticism and theory about Robert E. Howard.
Best Nonfiction Book for Geeks: Men of
Tomorrow by Gerard Jones
Don't call yourself a comic book geek until you read this
amazing book by Jones, himself a veteran of the comic book production
trenches. This is the comic book history that fills in the missing
side of the multifaceted story of how comics came to be in modern
culture. By focusing on the business side of things, Jones picks
up the industry's underbelly and this historical treatise actually
shines a lot of light on the way things are still being done
today. If you've ever wondered "Why did they DO that?"
the germ of the answer lies in this book.
Best Genre Book (Hardcover): Jonathan
Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
This is just the thing to tide you over until the next Harry Potter
novel comes out. A brilliant novel with a huge catalog of cool
influences and amazing production. In 1806, magic is a reality,
but it's also abstract, until a couple of actual wizards show
up to throw the 19th century into chaos. A fantastic, not-filmable
book that you'll want to read before you are the last person on
the block to miss it.
Best Game: Betrayal at the House on the
Hill by Avalon Hill
Listen to me now and believe me later: Board games are making
a comeback. And as long as Avalon Hill keeps their production
values high, you won't mind paying fifty bucks for something
like Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
If the title sounds like an old B-movie (or a new B-movie,
for that matter), well, that's on purpose. This boardgame lets
you build your own haunted house, room by room, getting scared,
taking damage, and so on. Eventually, though, you'll get to
the part of the mansion where the big reveal (or haunt) occurs,
and then one of the players becomes the monster, and the other
players have to stop them. Best of all, you can do this fifty
different times with different scenarios and plots. An awesome
game that no horror or movie fan will want to pass up.
Best DVD Release: Return of the King
Like the academy, I waited until the last one to recommend this
wonderful, butt-numbing DVD package (not that you need my say-so;
don't you all have it already?). The extras are actually exhausting,
emotionally and physically, but for now just pop in the movie
and revel in the extra scenes, including the final confrontation
with Saruman! It's real hobbity goodness.
Best Movie You Probably
Never Saw: Napoleon Dynamite
If you're over 30 and you tell me that you didn't feel at least
one pang of recognition throughout this whole movie, I'll call
you a liar to your face. I couldn't stop laughing at this film,
even as I could feel my own burning sense of shame at having been
the kid who drew pictures to get attention. However, there's an
uplifting message to this train wreck of a film; we make our own
happiness. There's someone out there for everyone. Even Napoleon.
Best Love Note: Kill Bill Volume 2
As if Quentin Tarantino couldn't get any better than Kill
Bill Volume 1, he finished his Kung Fu odyssey with a nod
to his Shaw Bros. influence and a way to make Darryl Hannah
an actual actress. Who knew he was so talented? I cannot wait
until the pair of movies is released as a single boxed set with
tons of extras (like you didn't know THAT would happen). These
films have gotten a bit of a knock for being "unoriginal,"
but I think it's the nature of filmmaking that allows for homage
without straying into plagerism. Besides, all he's really doing
is showing the twentysomethings that the old stuff has value.
Best On-Screen Death: David Carradine in Kill
Bill Volume 2
Man, that David Carradine is pretty damn cool. And in Kill
Bill, he's cool and bad. But how charming a villain that
tranquilizes Uma Thurman to force her to listen to his Superman
soliloquy? And maybe YOU saw the ending coming, but I sure didn't.
That Carradine . . . man, he's cool.
Best Evidence the Geek Have Inherited the Earth:
The Release Date for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Made National News
And no, it wasn't a slow news day, either. It was just that big
a deal. This book will shatter the previous sales records set
by the last one, and will outgross a movie just like the last
one did. When's the last time you saw any positive story about
people reading a book? I can't think of one, either. So, maybe
there's hope for us all, yet.
Best TV Show: Lost
Currently, I'm watching between two and four hours of television
a week. It's interesting to note that two of my four hours are
on ABC and have managed to neatly bifurcate David Lynch's groundbreaking
Twin Peaks. I'm talking, of course, about Desperate
Housewives and Lost.
Of the two, I like Lost better, because of the "not-quite-sure-what-the-hell-is-going-on"
factor is on eleven. I really want this show to have a definite
ending, unlike the ill-fated and way ahead of its time Twin
Peaks, but I'll be pretty happy if some of those mysteries
never get answered, too, unlike the ill-fated and ultimately
This show (scripted by Buffy and Alias alumni)
is a great example of what happens when you pay writers to do
their job. Survivor with a much better plot. Possible
dinosaurs. Mysteries galore. Catch it if you can!