Russ’s Top 10 of 2016 – Books, Movies, TV, & Music

Howdy folks! It’s been a few years since I’ve done my annual top 10 lists, but that’s the life of a busy author with two kids!

Anyway, 2016 was another crazy year for me, but I did manage to squeeze in a few moments for myself. Rather than break them out per category like I normally do, for this round I’m doing one combined list that includes my top 10 favorite books, movies, TV shows, and music … that I experienced in 2016.

That doesn’t mean each item on the list was necessarily new unto itself in 2016, but that it was new to me, which means there’s a bunch of catching up I did this year that made my list.

So … with all that in mind … here we go …

10. Sherlock Seasons 1-3 – I was a little late to the game here, but Sherlock on BBC has been great fun. The capers get a little convoluted at times, but the pacing is great, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock himself and Martin Freeman as his best pal and partner-in-(solving)-crimes Dr. John Watson are a joy to watch. If they keep making ’em, I’ll keep watching ’em. Great fun.

 9. Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey in True Detective – Again, I was a little late to the game, but I finally caught up with True Detective season 1. The episodes were a mix of slow burn and tense thriller, and I had no idea how much this season was a kindred spirit with Silence of the Lambs. But Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey both delivered multi-layered, powerhouse performances that will stand the test of time.

 8. Deadpool – Marvel has a strong track record when it comes to its superhero movies, mostly sticking to a friendly formula that really works. Well … toss that formula out with Deadpool! It’s nasty, raunchy, bloody, irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny, letting Ryan Reynolds be, well, Ryan Reynolds, in a showcase perfectly suited for his style. Deadpool isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re easily offended, but if you can handle rough and raunchy, this is a superhero movie for you.

 7. Star Wars Trilogy movies, ninja style — I’ve seen the original trilogy more times than I can count, but I had the chance to watch them all again — as well as The Force Awakens — with my little ninjas. There’s nothing quite like the experience of seeing 6-year-olds take in Star Wars movies for the first time. I was watching them all over again … in a whole new way. A SciFi dad’s dream. Next year we’ll tackle the prequels.

 6. Ready Player One came out back in 2012, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally had the chance to dive in. This was a pure page turner for me, knocking the entire book out in a week. I hardly ever do that. It had a few bumps mixed in, but otherwise it was a nerd’s dream, especially if you grew up in the 80s like I did, with endless references to video games, music, TV, and movies taken right out of my youth, including obscure references you could only know if you were there at the time. Spielberg is doing the movie. I hope they nail this one.

 5. Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden – I’ve been going to Billy Joel concerts for more than 30 years, which seems hard to believe. I saw him earlier in 2016, and he was off his game. But he came back in November for a great show, with a few surprises, like a rendition of The Eagles’ Take it Easy and later broke into some Led Zeppelin. But it was the final killer 6-song encore, which included We Didn’t Start the Fire, Uptown Girl, You May Be Right, Big Shot, Still Rock n’ Roll to Me, and Only the Good Die Young, which brought the house down. Again. He’s still got it.

 4. Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage Season 1 – As a season, Luke Cage was a mixed bag for me, with a compelling first half and an up and down second half. But Mahershala Ali as the smoldering, driven, yet tortured villain Cottonmouth stole every scene he was in. A tremendous actor who first popped up on my radar in House of Cards took things to a whole different level in Luke Cage. An unforgettable performance. He’s one to watch.
 3. Game of Thrones Season 6 – No TV show gripped me this year as much as this whopper. The epic is saga is coming to a close, and season 6 raised the stakes yet again, finally bringing years of build-up to some intense confrontations. And they have dragons. Hodor!
 2. Star Wars: Rogue One – The newest entry in the Star Wars Universe completely rocked my world. Filled from front to back with gritty, grounded, intensity, and a thrilling sense of urgency, Rogue One is probably my favorite in the series after The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, there were a few bumpy elements, but in total it was a riveting experience for any Star Wars nerd who wanted some closure leading up to A New Hope and yet get something utterly new and different with characters we hadn’t seen before and yet still immediately understood what they were up against, maybe even better than they did. I loved it.
 1. Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden – I’ve been a Pearl Jam fan since their very first album came out almost 25 years ago, yet I’d never had the chance to see them live. Even in their early 50s, these guys still know how to rock with the best of them. Great songs, great show, with Jeremy probably my favorite tune of the night. It was also a birthday gift from a friend of mine, so that made the concert that much more fun. I’d go back for more in a heartbeat. Pearl Jam’s induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is well deserved.
Honorable mentions: Supergirl Seasons 1-2, Dark Matter Seasons 1-2, Leverage Seasons 1-3​, Love Season 1, Master of None Season 1

SciFi Rock n’ Roller Coaster Q&A – Guest Author: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books and has recently started her own press, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com). dmcphailhighresHer published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed.

She is also the author of the solo collections A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, and Transcendence, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

SciFi Rockin’ Roller Coaster: Hey Danielle! You strapped in? Let’s have some fun! Have you ever, or would you ever go sky diving? Details!Danielle Ackley-McPhail: I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot-air balloon, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a desire to jump out of a perfectly functional plane. Just saying. Hang-gliding might be interesting, though…only my hubby would have a coronary if I even suggested it.

SFRRC: We have a magic kitchen, which can prepare any meal you want. Cost and prep time are not an issue. You can either eat alone, or invite guests from anywhere in time and space, fictional or real. What’s your ideal, one-time only menu? Who joins you? And what’s the venue? BabaAliandtheClockworkDjinn_lg

DAM: Everything has no calories, right? Meat. The most succulent, best-prepared meat…lamb, steak, rabbit, duck, venison….I could die happy without anything else even being on the table, but for those who are big on sides, creamy crusty homemade mac and cheese, buttery homemade mashed potatoes, and fresh-picked corn on the cob. And I would invite everyone who was hungry.

SFRRC: Speaking of appetites, when it comes to fiction, what three books would you most like to read that you haven’t gotten to yet?

DAM: Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato, Alma Alexander’s Shifter, and the newest Rachel Griffin book by L. Jagi Lamplighter.

SFRRC: What book, in any genre, has stayed with you the longest after you read it?

DAM: <blushes> When I was thirteen I read The Outsiders by SE Hinton 21 times in a row.

SFRRC: Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?

DAM: Both, I love a great sci fi, and these are both lasting legacies with much to offer in both entertainment and message.

SFRRC: Favorite character from any SciFi movie?

DAM: Tech Sergeant Chen from Galaxy Quest. He had so many subtle layers.

TW3-COVER-REVAMPSFRRC: There’s been a resurgence over the last decade, bringing SciFi back to TV. Favorite SciFi show that’s debuted in the past ten 10 years?

DAM: I’m a little hazy on time since I see most things after the fact on DVD. I would say Firefly, if it’s in the right time frame. If it’s not …. really hard to say since I don’t get much time to watch TV. Of course, if this counts, I would also say FaceOff, which is a reality show, but yeah, really high on my list.

SFRRC: We love Rock n’ Roll here at SFFR. What’s your favorite kind of music? And if you could go on tour with any solo artist or band, for one year, all expenses paid, from any time in history, who would that be?

DAM: I’m really big on Celtic music and other folksy type genres that come from the same roots. If I was able to follow someone around for a year, though, it would be SJ Tucker. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

SFRRC: In our bag of tricks is a single wish, granting you one, specific super power — which you can use at your discretion for one full week. You have to pick now. One-time only offer, and your power can’t be that you can give yourself more powers. What’s your power, and why?

DAM: The limitless power (for that one week) to heal everyone I meet of their most grievous hurt, be it physical, psychological, mental, emotional, etc.

SFRRC: Now that your powers are used up, we can now send you to a magical realm filled with wonders and dangers with almost unlimited possibilities, where you’ll encounter all sorts of creatures, friendly and otherwise. If you go, there’s a 50-50 chance of you making it back to the life you know now. If you do make it back, you’ll be filled with stories to share that authors can only dream of inventing. But if you don’t make it back — whether dead or alive, thriving or not — you can’t ever return, and the people you know in this life will have no idea where you’ve gone or what’s become of you. Would you go?

DAM: I would not. I like to believe there are people on this earth who would notice and care if I were to disappear and to do so willfully and put them through the heartache and grief of not knowing what happened…I could not do that to those I care about. And to be truthful, I already come up with some pretty fantastic stuff so I will be content with that.

SFRRC: When you writing career is over, how would you like to be remembered, both as a person, and as an author? SoGSoE Postcard copy

DAM: To be remembered fondly, to be remembered as someone who touched others’ lives and enriched them in some manner, be it through my writing or as a friend, as a true follower of Christ and all that entails, with love, not judgement. Though, in truth, I’m sure the one thing I will be remembered for—at least by those who actually know me—is for my hugs. There are worse things in life.

SFRRC: OK. We’ve tortured you enough. You’re a writer. What are you working on now? Promote away!

DAM: As an editor I am working on The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a superhero/villain flipbook anthology, which is now available for pre-order in multiple formats. As a publisher I’m working on The Weird Wild West, edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw, and as an author I am working on a story for the Were- anthology by Zombies Need Brains! and on Eternal Wanderings, a spin-off novella series related to my Eternal Cycle novels based on Irish myth.

To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com, www.especbooks.com or www.badassfaeries.com.

Twitter: @DMcPhail

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/danielle.ackleymcphail

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Danielle-Ackley-McPhail/e/B002GZVZPQ/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/989939.Danielle_Ackley_McPhail

SciFi Rock n’ Roller Coaster Q&A – Guest Author: Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman is the author of Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and H. G. Wells, Secret Agent.

AlexSciFi Rockin’ Roller Coaster: Hey ​Alex! You strapped in? Let’s have some fun! Have you ever, or would you ever go sky diving? Details!

No. Na-ah. Nope. Not happening. If you want me to exit the plane, it better be parked at a nice airport terminal somewhere. If you expect me to exit a moving plane at high altitude, you better be prepared to shove hard. And even then, there’s a decent chance I will overpower you and enjoy stale airline pretzels as I wait for the death machine to land.

SFRRC: We have a magic kitchen, which can prepare any meal you want. Cost and prep time are not an issue. You can either eat alone, or invite guests from anywhere in time and space, fictional or real. What’s your ideal, one-time only menu? Who joins you? And what’s the venue?

Alex Shvartsman: I’d love to share a meal with Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Disraeli and Mikhail Bulgakov. At that point I’m pretty sure I would not remember the food served, or the venue serving it.

SFRRC: Speaking of appetites, when it comes to fiction, what three books would you most like to read that you haven’t gotten to yet?funnyscifi_cover

Alex: There’s a mountain of books in my To Be Read pile which resembles Everest in terms of both its height and how intimidating it is to approach. Somewhere near the top of this pile are Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine (which I already started and need to finish), Tom Doyle’s The Left-Hand Way and Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Anyone got a few extra hours in the day they can spare, so I can read these sooner?

SFRRC: What book, in any genre, has stayed with you the most long after you read it?

Alex: This is not a fair question in that I have to pick just one. But if I must pick, I’ll go with Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick. I think it was the first collection of short stories that tied together into a novel (a la The Martian Chronicles or Tuff Voyaging) that I read and truly enjoyed, and it influenced my approach to writing and space opera in considerable ways.

SFRRC: Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?

Alex: Star Wars for sure. I prefer unabashed fun adventure to (slightly) more serious and scientific SF any day.

hg wells alexSFRRC: Favorite character from any SciFi movie?

Alex: Morpheus from The Matrix, probably. I don’t watch very many movies, to be honest.

SFRRC: There’s been a resurgence over the last decade, bringing SciFi back to TV. Favorite SciFi show that’s debuted in the past ten 10 years?

Alex: Is it cheating to say Game of Thrones, since it’s fantasy? Probably the most influential genre show in recent years, and definitely a ton of fun.

SFRRC: We love Rock n’ Roll here at SFFR. What’s your favorite kind of music? And if you could go on tour with any solo artist or band, for one year, all expenses paid, from any time in history, who would that be?

Alex: I’m partial to Queen, Billy Joel, The Beatles, and Chris de Burgh. If I had to tour with anyone though, given my own artistic tendencies, it’d probably be Weird Al Yankovic.

SFRRC: In our bag of tricks is a single wish, granting you one, specific super power — which you can use at your discretion for one full week. You have to pick now. One-time only offer, and your power can’t be that you can give yourself more powers. What’s your power, and why?

Alex: If it’s only for one week, I suppose I’ll take super-intelligence. That way I can cure cancer, design an FTL drive, and solve the plot problem on page 47 that has been bothering me of late.

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SFRRC: Now that your powers are used up, we can now send you to a magical realm filled with wonders and dangers with almost unlimited possibilities, where you’ll encounter all sorts of creatures, friendly and otherwise. If you go, there’s a 50-50 chance of you making it back to the life you know now. If you do make it back, you’ll be filled with stories to share that authors can only dream of inventing. But if you don’t make it back — whether dead or alive, thriving or not — you can’t ever return, and the people you know in this life will have no idea where you’ve gone or what’s become of you. Would you go?

Alex: Nope. Are you kidding me? I’ve got plenty of stories to tell as-is!

SFRRC: When you writing career is over, how would you like to be remembered, both as a person, and as an author?

Alex I write for fun and don’t truly consider it to be a career. I want to entertain my readers and instill a sense of wonders, especially for those younger readers who might pick up my books. More than any kind of award, I would love to hear someone say that they got into writing because they read my books as a kid one day.

SFRRC: OK. We’ve tortured you enough. You’re a writer. What are you working on​ now? Promote away!

cthulu cover-hi-resAlex: I have two fresh anthologies: one just came out (Funny Science Fiction, you can buy it now, cheaper than a fancy coffee at Starbucks!) and the other is coming out in October: Unidentified Funny Objects 4, headlined by George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman among many other fabulous authors.

As to my own work, I’m about half way through writing my grimdark fantasy novel “Eridani’s Crown.” My latest funny short story is in the current (September) issue of Galaxy’s Edge magazine. It’s called “Dreidel of Dread: The Very Cthulhu Channukah.” You know you want to read that. Finally, if you like that sample story you can pick up my collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories. (I promise, some of those other stories are not about Cthulhu.)

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