2016 Unbound: The Year in Review

2016 was pretty weird, in a bad way. But we’re grateful for the things that weren’t so horrifying (except in a good way). Below, the Unbound writers share their favorite posts and books of our second year.

Lisa Mahoney: The shocks of this fall propel us toward books that help us reexamine societal stereotypes and governmental abuses of power. At its best, military space opera science fiction, like that of Lois McMaster Bujold and Anne Leckie, can take to logical extremes the inconsistencies of belief systems in imagined galaxies, thus forcing us by analogy to imagine what worse may yet come if we continue down our own road without questioning our society’s beliefs and actions.

Theodore McCombs: What do you do when the order and sense you thought of as natural turns out to be a pocket of brief luck in a chaotic universe? How do you face the end of your world? Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy starts with The Three Body Problem, a novel rich with these disturbing, timely questions, as well as some bravura sci-fi coolness. Picking the physics apart was one of my favorite blogging experiences this year. With The Dark Forest, the difficult and stirring sequel (see Mark’s write-up here), and Death's Endthe trilogy’s conclusion, encountering the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy has been a bright spot in a dark year.

CS Peterson: Perspective, analysis, the long view. For me these are the doorways to action leading past the emotional moment. The VanderMeers' mammoth anthology, The Big Book of Science Fiction, spans the history of speculation from H.G. Wells to Cixin Liu. The stories of Hossain, Vonnegut and Chiang examine old questions of free will and dystopia and how we project those concepts into the future. Imagination comes before and informs beliefs and action in the present. It is good to contemplate these past visions as the wheel of history turns ‘round again.

Mark Springer: If what’s past is prologue, then it’s only fitting that the first book I read this year was David Mitchell’s horror-fantasy novel, Slade Housein which greedy, soul-stealing vampires manipulate their victims’ hopes, fears and insecurities to perpetuate their own privilege and power. Not subtle enough? Get used to disappointment, or get motivated. For the latter, you might look to William Gibson’s The Peripheral for a primer on how information and individual action can upset the status quo. Don’t forget: to change the future, we only need to change the present.

Jon Horwitz-White: With only four posts this year, I feel that I found my voice with "Docility and Rage...," though not without some trepidation.  Whenever I write an essay for Fiction Unbound, I fear that I'm a self-absorbed Los Angeleno who can't stop talking about himself even when writing about the work of another.  Fiction, however, is a mirror, and I can't help but reflect upon my identity and experience as I read.   Moreover, if I dare to offer criticism of another's work, I feel compelled to make myself as vulnerable as the authors who share and distribute their work with the world.

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