2018: Highlights from the Year That Was a Decade Long


Wanna know how long 2018 was? Avengers: Infinity War was in 2018. Black Panther was in 2018. Last January we looked forward to checking out the news, now most of us view it as a chore, or as outright painful.

It feels like we experienced 2018 as a decade. Gawd it was a long trek.

But let’s rise above the tsunami of suck that was this year and look at some highlights. These will be mine (and an incomplete list) and I truly hope you add yours in the comments below.

Politics

Look, no matter your politics, 2018 has had so much darkness that, if you are clear thinking at all, you came out of this year more wary of blindly believing elected leaders and journalists.

Hopefully, many of us had a moment of clarity during which the list of those you trust shrank to a precious few.

My hopes for all is that you are blessed with the ability to step away from the howling cacophony of social media trolling, the 24-hour news cycle, and a lock step allegiance to any organized movement or political party. The key is educating yourself broadly and thinking for yourself, and that key has been burnished by the millions who clung blindly to all three throughout 2018.

See? Blessings!

Film

I am impressed with the enormous scope of what the creators behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe are attempting. We are over 20 films deep into an attempt to create dynamic, separate stories that weave together to tell arguably the grandest tale ever told in cinema. This year’s trio of additions to that American myth are among the best entries so far:

This has been well worth experiencing, and I acknowledge here that 2019 is their greatest challenge; bringing the overall tale to a satisfying ending with Captain Marvel and Avengers Endgame is going to be an enormous task. I wish them well in accomplishing that goal.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse was a surprisingly excellent and smart joy of a movie.

First, it introduced Miles Morales, the other great Spider-Man.

Second, it introduced Spider-Gwen, still another great Spider-Person.

Third, it demonstrated how strong the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko ideas were.

Miles uses almost the same origin story with a different character. Spider-Gwen took the original cast and just moved the radioactive spider over one person. Both minor changes exploded the possibilities of story while demonstrating the strength of the original idea.

Anyone can wear the mask; each of us is a potential hero, if only we take that leap of faith. This extended message further universalizes Spider-Man as a character that belongs to all of us.

There are so many other great aspects of the film that the creators got right – dialogue, visuals, humor, characterization, casting, pacing, but most impressive is how this film introduces the concept of multi-verse. I suspect this will pay dividends during Avengers: Endgame and seeing the concept first in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is genius.

The flip side is The Happy Time Murders is such a misfire that it is worth watching to see what not to do. I respect those creators and Melissa McCarthy is credible amid the sixth grade humor, but so much of it tosses viewers out of the story consistently, that even the most forgiving viewer cannot justify this waste of talent.

TV

HBO’s Game of Thrones (that was 2018, wasn’t it? Gawd, this has been an endless year) took televised story telling to new levels, as did Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime, as well as Black Mirror on Netflix, and Castle Rock on Hulu. Bravo to each of them. In a completely different genre, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime is a brilliantly written, acted, and shot comedy.

All the above are highly recommended.

Books

I loved a lot of what I read this year, not all were novels.

November Road by Lou Berney really engaged me as a fiction fan and author at the same time. He uses the Kennedy assassination as the backdrop for a story about Americans running from their lives as a direct result of that historic event. One is a mob figure, the other a housewife with two daughters. Both flights toward freedom are fraught with many metaphoric and real American horrors. Exceedingly well done. Highly recommended.

Stephen King continues to write in a widening range of genres, this year offering The Outsider, a police procedural with one element of the supernatural which turns the investigation upside down. The horrors are more grounded and that is very satisfying. Toilet moments aside, this thick book is gripping.

Additionally, King offered the much shorter Elevation, a wondrously positive story which uses a potentially horrifying occurrence and the challenges of getting past prejudices to render a timely, engaging yarn that is ultimately, excuse the pun, uplifting.

Both are very satisfying and highly recommended.

TOUGH CRIME STORIES is a collection of exactly what the title suggests. Rusty Barnes collects a dynamic, consistently intriguing set of tales that deserves a wide readership. This title adds to a small but growing list of great genre short story magazines out there (the list will be a subject for another blog) and TOUGH has impressed. Highly recommended.

There are so many other great works that came out in 2018. What were some of yours? Let’s discuss them in the comments section.

All the best to all of you in 2019.

Christopher Ryan is an author, teacher, re-emerging public speaker, and continually inspired family dude. (Yes, dude. Not pirate angel.) For more on him and his work, check out http://chrisryanwrites.com

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