Because, after all, there are still nice things in the world.
- Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. If I had ever met Terry Pratchett, the one thing I would have wanted to say to him was “thank you”. His books are an antidote to illness, a holiday escape, a refuge in times of sorrow. They taught me scepticism and they taught me humanity. They have their flaws, of course; but their small perfections are so much greater.
- My degree. I was fantastically lucky to be able to read for three years and be taught by experts in their fields and have access to world-class libraries. I started learning to think rigorously about books and culture; I got a good grounding in historical attitudes to literature; I developed my own theories and learned for the first time that criticism doesn’t have to mean sucking the joy out of everything.
- Steampunk. I know this isn’t just a bookish thing, and I know, too, that steampunk can be conservative and reactionary and nostalgic in an unhelpful way. But I also think good steampunk can be fantastic at deconstructing the oppressive structures inherent in our society, precisely because so many of its core elements foreground those structures.
- Tolkien. His philosophy, defiant in the face of evil, is just what we need right now. And also because Tolkien has brought some lovely people into my life.
- Libraries. Libraries! Libraries are amazing places: buildings that contain whole worlds, that anyone can access for free (mostly). And not just bookish worlds, either: libraries are meeting-places, community hubs, study spaces, Internet access points, vital sources of information in an information age.
- Strange Horizons. And all the other online venues doing thoughtful, intelligent SFF criticism: Andrew Rilstone, Ferretbrain, Asking the Wrong Questions, Tor.com: people who think this essentially popular genre is worth thinking about critically. This Internet microcosm has encouraged me to keep this blog running, practising the critical skills I started learning at university and generally keeping me sane (even if all I do on those sites is lurk).
- Forbidden Planet. It is impossible for me to go in here without making my purse cry. It’s just full of stuff I like to read.
- T.S. Eliot. It’s kind of a cliché to cite The Waste Land as a favourite poem, but there’s a good reason that it’s a cliché: because Eliot’s poetry speaks to the condition of modernity in a way that few poets ever nail down, while still capturing timeless human emotion. It’s also strongly SFnal, as Stephen King noticed in The Waste Lands.
- Nine Worlds. I just want life to be Nine Worlds, is that really too much to ask? Seriously, though, Nine Worlds 2016 was such an overwhelmingly positive, thoughtful, diverse space, and I think making “real life” more like that would be no bad thing.
- Postmodernism. Is “thankful” really the right word? I’m not sure. Rife with problems as it is, though, postmodernism gets us to think about how our dominant cultural narratives work, which is really important for any critic.
(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)