As always, the rules are 1) It's not what's new that I've read, merely something I've read this year that counts. It could be a book from 1978 of my youth I've revisited for some reason. 2) It's something you ought to get at your local library (SUPPORT ALL LIBRARIES WOOT).
So, that said, here's the list for 2016.
BEST FICTIONAngelmass, Timothy Zahn
Already a fan of Zahn's work on the Star Wars literary 'Verse (shunted off now that it mostly conflicts with the Disney control of LucasFilm), I picked up this work for ebook reading a few years ago and spent some time here and there perusing it.
Zahn sets up a galaxy-spanning human empire (Pax) in conflict with another race in the Seraph solar system that has developed a bizarre new technology: harvested materials ejected from a Black Hole - yes, it's possible - that are used to create "angels", baubles that compel the wearer to be honest and virtuous. The moral implications alone are staggering, but Zahn's main characters - sent to confirm the science (and to justify Pax sending a warship to destroy the Seraph system) - also have to cope with the truth behind Angelmass, along with the ramifications of a galaxy-wide war that would erupt should their own Pax armada succeed in starting (not finishing) the impending war.
Where Zahn impresses me is with the creative and memorable characters he creates for his works: their interactions throughout most of the stories he writes make his stuff enjoyable reads. This one isn't as good as his Thrawn Trilogy, but as a stand-alone Sci-Fi novel it's a solid work.
BEST NON-FICTIONPragmatism, William James
While I'm not a fan of -isms (per my political blogging), I still recognize that I have a world-view and that I have to find some way to cope with it all. As such, I'm really getting into reading up on Pragmatism as a philosophy, and I've been reading the works of William James over the last three-four months.
What I'm getting into with James' take on Pragmatism: He argues about Reality in which you have to deal with matters of fact (not so much Truth Of Opinion but Truth of Fact), with ideas that must relate to each other, and that these truths must lead us to useful consequences (that Pragmatism must lead to practical, long-term solutions). As a librarian who performs research into facts, and works on goal-oriented projects, I get the feeling I've been playing by these rules most of my life.
I'm still in the middle of reading this stuff, but if I had to ever go with an -Ism to follow I'm gladly buying into this.
BEST GRAPHIC NOVELBlack Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Granted, I'm a fan of Coates' political and historical writings already, but I'm now a fan of his fiction writing in the comic book literary style. (and DAMN, he's living the dream doing it...)
As part of a Marvel Universe reboot, the company granted Coates the chance to start a new series of one of the major African (American) superheroes in their roster. What Coates did was re-establish Black Panther's political and cultural legacy, by questioning the role T'Challa has as both king and guardian of a powerful African nation now beset by uprising and turmoil. Dragging in the real-world problems that Africa has with terrorism, human trafficking and human rights, and political animosities across borders, Coates tweaked a place with a comic-book history (he's notably building off the work done famously by Christopher Priest) by giving it a genuine conflict that can't be easily resolved within six issues of a monthly release. Coates is signed up for twelve issues (of which 8 is out and this graphic novel collecting the first part of the story arc), so it'll be interesting how he wraps this up.
BEST WORK BY SOMEONE I EMAIL, TWEET, or CHAT WITH ON A REGULAR BASISDeath Vigil Volume I, Stjepan Sejic
Okay, I'm cheating a bit here by going with another graphic novel, but the rule is "someone I email, tweet, or chat with on a regular basis," and I've kinda tweeted enough times with him - "you did WHAT? With a WHAT?! To a WHAT?!?!" - regarding his other work Sunstone that this qualifies (I kid: I have no problem with (expletive deleted) being used as part of (unusually detailed sexual shenanigans), just as long as it doesn't harm any Presbyterian choirs...!).
Death Vigil, from what I gathered about his working on the project, is more of a personal labor of love for Sejic than anything else. Drawing from his work with Witchblade and on the shared geek concept of Eldritch monsters, Sejic creates a world where death is only part of our problems. Your soul can get used and abused even after you die, and your best chance for your soul to survive is with a team of Knights who work as Reapers/Monster-fighters. Introducing us via a recent cult victim's entry to the ranks of these Knights, we meet a rather lively (pun intended) group of dead people, who are facing a dire threat from humans working with demonic forces to seize the weaponry of these Knights in a mad attempt to cheat death itself.
What makes DV fun amidst the terror is how Sejic creates memorable, interactive characters that we can root for. In particular, he introduces us to Mia an otherwise happy-go-lucky preteen girl who just happens to be a Lovecraftian monster outside of her human form (who's still happy-go-lucky even as she's devouring her enemies).
While Sejic is tied up with other projects - he's capped Sunstone at five volumes but now working on related spin-offs - he's still eager to give Death Vigil one more volume to finish off the ideas he's got in that 'Verse. You ought to give Volume I a serious look.
BEST ANTHOLOGY THAT CONTAINS A STORY I WROTEStrangely Funny III, Mystery & Horror LLC
If you'll recall an earlier submission to Strangely Funny, I wrote a story "I Must Be Your First" about a vampire coping with the problem of Hunters ruining his morning. Coming off from that, building on a 'Verse where I have rules about what vampires really are and about the other supernatural elements they cope with, I submitted this little tidbit "Minette Dances with the Golem of Albany." Sort of a prequel set in 1985 where a vampire (actually a dhampyr, a half-human blood drinker) spends a night dancing (kind of) with a Golem sent to kill her. I had fun messing with the rules of Golems as much as with vampires, and set up how a Golem is actually the perfect opponent against otherwise unstoppable vampires (vamps can't drink from a Golem, and Golems are stronger and more unstoppable than vampires).
I chose having the Golem come from Albany Georgia because 1) Georgia is known for the red clay, and clay is a good material for Golems and 2) that's my birth city. Yay.
I haven't seen as many reviews for my story, nor for the anthology, but I hope my readers here pick up the book and give it good thumbs up, please and thank you.
Shill shill shill. ;-)
So, that said, IO SATURNALIA and HAPPY NEW YEAR!