Best of the year 2013: Lauren Beukes
Yes, unbelievably it is the start of December, and as the sands of 2013 run out rapidly that means it is time to commence once more with what has become something of an annual tradition over the years on the FP blog, our series of guest Best of the Year posts (see here for 2012’s series). Naturally the blog crew post their own best of the year picks, as many sites do around this time of year, but we’ve always wanted to present a wider selection of tastes and preferences and not just our own preferences. It is a big, wide world of all sorts of comics, books and more after all, and so we’ve a tradition of inviting a lot of our friends – writers, artists, editors, publishers and other commentors on comics culture – to share their thoughts with us as to what floated their boat in the last twelve months. Hopefully this gives us a more diverse range of recommendations than if it were just the blog crew choosing (even with our, ahem, impeccable tastes) – personally I’ve often found new work I either never had time for or else didn’t spot during the year through our guest series, and I hope many of you also pick up on some new work that will tickle your reading buds. Also on a personal note I often find it interesting to see what our guests choose and compare it a few months down the line to what titles frequently appear on the shortlists during awards season. As ever we start here on the first of December and will be posting many more daily through the month as usual, with the blog crew’s own picks at the end.
This year our guest series starts with award-winning novelist, comics creator and jet-setter Lauren Beukes. Not content with having one of the most powerful novels of the year, the remarkable, frequently brutal The Shining Girls (very much recommended – one of my own book picks of the year), Lauren also worked with Spanish artist Inaki Miranda to create the New York Times bestselling Fairest: Hidden Kingdom for DC, and you know when someone like Bill Willingham seeks a writer out to work on his Fables spin-off series (focused on the female characters from Fables) that they must be well worth your reading time. Lauren was also one of the guests at the huge comics strand in this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival (among her many international appearances this year, I wasn’t kidding about the jet-setting!) and I had the pleasure of talking to her and Inaki about Fairest on stage there, which you can see in the video below.
Despite her many travels and appearances this year Lauren somehow managed not only to find time to take part in this year’s guest Best Of series, she was the very first person to send her choices in, so let’s kick off the Best of the Year 2013 with Lauren’s picks:
FPI: Can you pick three comics/webcomics/graphic novels which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Joe Hill’s Locke & Key blew me away, again Lovecraft overtones, but it’s so wonderfully, crazily, darkly imaginative and surprising with great characters and lovely human insights.
Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda’s Coffin Hill is off to a terrific start. Unsettling, ravishingly beautiful with writing as sharp as smashed chandelier glass; it’s full of dark potential and I’m a huge admirer.
Online, I love the more personal stuff The Oatmeal has been doing lately. It feels like he’s gone much deeper and braver, illustrating moving personal essays and bolshy pop histories on Tesla and Columbus.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Lauren: Max Barry‘s Lexicon is ostensibly about a secret society of poets who know that words really do have power. But the search for the killing word is ultimately a story of love and redemption.
Sara Gran‘s Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead. Imagine if Haruki Murakami wrote The Wire set in post-Katrina New Orleans. A little bit Philip K Dick, a little bit Angel Heart, Gran’s novel is tragic, gorgeous, gritty, dreamy and with one of the most memorable and stand-out detectives I’ve ever read.
Charlie Human‘s Apocalypse Now Now is a demented, raucous urban fantasy set in Cape Town with zombie strip clubs, Afrikaner psychics, porn-dealing school boys with a heart of gold, and a doomsday weapon from Khoi-San mythology (Disclaimer: I was Charlie’s MA in Creative Writing supervisor on this book, so I may be a tad biased, but I also gave him an incredibly hard time about it. Ask him about the notes I scrawled on his manuscript including “this is the worst sentence in the history of sentences” – now fixed, I’m happy to say)
FPI: Can you pick three TV shows and/or movies which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Lauren: Breaking Bad – the best television show ever made, beating out The Wire and the Sopranos. The ending was pitch perfect. I was so happy.
Parks and Recreation for its wonderful silliness and terrific characters, especially the female characters (something one of my other favourite shows, Community, often got wrong)
Girls for nailing the horror of being amiddle-class single down-and-out 20-something in New York City. I never had it that bad when I lived there, but it’s the most real evocation of flailing early adulthood in a place that’s supposed to be magical and dream-come-true capital for young creative people and it’ll just eat you up and spit you out. Also: awkward sex with inappropriate partners.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Lauren: I’ve been on the run so much (15 weeks of touring on and off), it’s only recently that I was able to take a step back and look at how incredible this year has been; billboards in the tube, getting to tour internationally, meeting amazing people at festivals, nice reviews, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom (the Fables spin-off graphic novel I did with Inaki Miranda) debuting at number 2 on the New York Times best-seller list and having Gillian Flynn and Stephen King say kind things about my work. It’s been mindblowing and deeply humbling and a little hard to believe. Like someone is pranking me, really good.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
Lauren: Broken Monsters, my new novel, is out in the middle of the year. Disturbing mash-up bodies are turning up in Detroit, half-human, half-animal. And I’m pitching on new comics!
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Lauren: Sarah Lotz. She’s a one woman phenomenon and her new book The Three (plane crashes and evil children) is amazing, but she also writes as YA novelist Lily Herne, with her 21 year old daughter, as horror writer SL Grey with Louis Greenberg and Helena S Paige (with Helen Moffett and Paige Nick), author of the choose-your-own-adventure erotica Girl Walks In series.