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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Review / 2021 Preview - Essa Hansen


2020 review / 2021 preview - Essa Hansen

2020 has felt many years long and all blurred together. Isolating alone for ten months of a pandemic year sounds like a good opportunity to catch up on reading, but for me it’s also been a volley of deadlines and a whirlwind of virtual events. Though my time for media shrank, the things I did have time for stand out as much-needed retreats amidst this difficult year.

Standouts of 2020

This year I was deep in my own edits and drafting, so I had a hard time turning off my analysis brain when reading for pleasure. On the upside, I learn so much through critical reading, especially books that have similar elements to my own, but entirely different execution. For two of these, I had the pleasure of in-discussion events with the authors to dig even deeper. Here are those two:



Revenger by Alastair Reynolds - A revenge plot with a young protagonist who leaves her isolated life and tangles up with an ensemble cast in the wider galaxy. My favorite part was the eerie, ancient technology, plus the sense that there is something secret about the world’s history and remnants that the wider populace is ignorant of. Also the ships use large alien skulls for navigation, which human “Bone Readers” hijack their brains into to hear radio-like whispers from other carriers—how cool is that?



Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth - This setting and style is completely different than mine, but the novel also has an intimate perspective of PTSD, the responsibilities of heroes, and trying to heal and move on while old circumstances loop back on the protagonist. She’s struggling to define herself and realize what her desire really is, in a world where desire is the fulcrum of magic. Since I work with sound in my day job, the sound-based magic system also really appealed to me.



In TV shows, I binged the first two seasons of Dark, a German science fiction thriller. I went into it knowing absolutely nothing—which was perfect—and it ended up being my favorite twisty sub-genre of sci-fi.



In games, Final Fantasy VII occupies a special place in my heart, so I was eager to dive into the Remake, which did not disappoint. I also found time to replay The Last of Us, a brilliant and emotional piece of storytelling—it’s made me ready for Part II which released this year. And as a routine, I started replaying Final Fantasy XIV online with friends, a way to be social while in isolation.


What I’m looking forward to in 2021


In 2021 I do hope to catch up on the many things I missed from years before. I’ve had my head down and am out of touch with what’s forthcoming, but a few sparkly things snagged my attention:



Star Eater by Kerstin Hall has promised to be weird and haunting, otherworldly and bizarre—if the idea of cannibalistic nuns riding giant cats wasn’t intriguing enough.



Viking-inspired worlds tug my ancestral heartstrings, so I’m eager to check out Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long, which sounds like it has big scope, rich setting, and an overturning of beliefs.




I enjoyed An Unkindness of Ghosts this year from Rivers Solomon, so I’m looking forward to their next novel, Sorrowland. I except a similar intimate story of identity and place. This one is said to explore life in the margins, the monstrous within society.


I have countless games to catch up on, but since I have a soft spot for time travel, I’m eager to play 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, a Vanillaware title that released late this year.


On the horizon for Essa Hansen


In 2021 I’ll be finishing up Azura Ghost, the second book in The Graven trilogy—for release in October—while also drafting the third book.

About the Author

Essa Hansen grew up in beautifully wild areas of California, from the coastal foothills to the Sierra Nevada mountains around Yosemite, before migrating north to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She has ranched bison and sheep, trained horses, practiced Japanese swordsmanship and archery, and is a licensed falconer. She works for Skywalker Sound as a sound designer for science fiction and fantasy feature films such as Big Hero 6, Doctor Strange, Avengers: Endgame, and Pixar's Onward. Essa lives with her British Shorthair cat Soki in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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