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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Review / 2021 Preview - RJ Barker

STUFF OF THE YEAR.

It has been, as you’ve probably noticed, a very peculiar year. I’m sure I’ve consumed more media than I ever would in a normal year, but it also seems to have passed my by in a haze – barely taken in, just buzz in the background. 


I’ve hardly read anything at all, my concentration had been shot to bits so that by the time I’ve finished whatever writing and editing I’ve been doing I’ve been struggling to concentrate. Still, I managed to read a couple: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke as well as more non-fiction, which I could dip in and out of. Both the McCarthy and the Lee-Burke books are works that I am still thinking about months after finishing. Then there was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke which I enjoyed but didn’t love. Though beautiful it felt curiously empty, to me, though I think that may be a deliberate decision.


In visual stuff, and like most people I was blown away by The Queen’s Gambit which is held together by astounding performances by Marielle Heller as Beth’s brittle, disappointed mother and Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth. Taylor-Joy’s ability to convey so much in just a flick of her eyes is astounding. Though if you had already seen her in Emma (and many horror films I am informed, though I am too much of a wuss to watch them) then you wouldn’t be surprised by this. I think what I really liked about the Queen’s Gambit was everyone found their bit of happiness, and I think that’s a large part of why it’s been a such a hit. I also liked the fact she didn’t just magically get good at chess. She had an aptitude but she had to work at it, she always had a book in her hand or was thinking about chess, or talking about chess. It’s something who will resonate with anyone who does a thing (like writing) that is as much compulsion as it is ‘work’. We also watched The Magicians, and though I can imagine it would annoy some people I found the ‘knowing winks’ within the story about story and how it works immense fun. I’ve enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery but I wasn’t quite as taken by The Mandalorian as most people, I thought there was a lot of filler in the early episodes but when it was good it was really good.



The other thing I’ve really enjoyed this year as been the podcast ‘Finding Drago’ where Australian comedians Alexei Toliopoulos and Cameron James try to track down the mysterious author, Todd Noy, who wrote the novella ‘Drago: On Mountains We Stand.’ They end up going on an adventure and if I told you anything about it then it would ruin it for you, but I think it is really worth your time. It’s a fascinating dive into people and so very satisfying.



Gamewise I really enjoyed Ghost of Tsushima which made me the Kurosawa hero I’ve always wanted to be. Was underwhelmed by Outer Worlds which I really wanted to like more but never really rose above ‘well, it’s alright.’ 


As to what I’m looking forward to next year, well, obviously the final book in the Tide Child trilogy is released, ‘The Bone Ship’s Wake’ and I think it’s probably the strongest thing I’ve written to date. But I’ve been so busy with that and other projects that I’ve been a bit out of the loop really and I don’t know what else is coming next year. I think what I’m really looking forward to next year is that I might be able to meet up with people again. Do some bookshop appearances and go to some conventions as I didn’t realise how much I missed seeing everyone until I did. I’ll enjoy that more than any film or game. Maybe not books though. Books are special to me. 

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