Some Things I Liked in 2022
Posted on December 28, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi 29 Comments
As 2022 heads out of the door, here are some things I liked in it, including entertainment, tech, life and other stuff. This is in no particular order:
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Yes, I know, me and every other nerd in the world, but look, sometimes the nerds are right. The film is anarchic and silly to the point of ridiculousness, but it also never once loses the plot (literal or figurative) thanks to Michelle Yeoh’s fearless performance at the center of it, as a woman who, as the worst possible version of herself, is the only one to save her family, and also, all of existence. Come for the talking rocks and mind-controlling raccoons and martial arts battles involving butt-plugs, stay for the deep emotions and, always, Michelle Yeoh. My choice for Best Picture of the Year, and if Yeoh does not walk away with an Oscar, it will be because she was flat out robbed.
Andor: Some critics are arguing that this is the best television show of the year, and while I’m not 100% sure that I would go that far, what I can say is that it is, far and away, the best Star Wars television show to date (live action; I haven’t seen enough of the animated stuff to say, so don’t come at me, Clone Wars fans), and the best Star Wars content, period, since at least Rogue One, the movie this series is a prequel to.
The best way I can describe this is that most of Star Wars content works like fables, with tales of laser knights and evil bases and mystical powers, probably based on actual history somewhere but told and retold so many times that any veracity is not only lost but beside the point. Andor, however, is like history taken directly from primary documents, embellished only enough for drama, and no more. This is a believable empire, and so much more awful for its banality. “No Jedi, No Lightsabers, No Force” is exactly what Star Wars needs at this point, and I was both shocked and delighted to get it.
Strange New Worlds: On the other side of the equation from Andor, Strange New Worlds is old school, light, episodic Star Trek where most things take place and wrap up in the space of an episode, and while I think Discover and Picard are solid shows, I’m digging on getting a quick hit of Trek and then getting out (Lower Decks, the animated show, is also good for this but it came out earlier than 2022). Also, SNW’s cast is generally pretty and pleasant and I’m enjoying watching Anson Mount’s pompadour possibly more than a nominally straight man should.
“Spitting Off the Edge Of the World” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs:
I never don’t dig Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but as a practical matter their albums seem “one on, one off” for me, which is to say, I dig Fever to Tell and It’s Blitz! but not so much Show Your Bones or Mosquito. Cool It Down, their latest, is an “on again” one for me, with this track in particular doing all the things for me that I want Yeah Yeah Yeahs to do, just a big ol’ wall of sound with Karen O wailing all over it. It’s bliss.
Speaking of music:
The fact that, holy shit, Kate Bush blew the fuck up: Thanks, Stranger Things! She deserves it, and The Kids These Days deserve a full blast of Bush’s “I’m the local witch in a hedge, but in song” energy. I mean, we all do, but especially the kids.
My Space Toilet: This is, honestly, the best purchase I made in 2022, and I will tell you why: Because last week, when it was -10 outside and the world was sucking heat from our house and I had to get up in the middle of the night to take care of business, that heated seat on the space toilet? The best thing ever. Also: the bidet, which honestly was a revelation but also this bidet comes with variable heating and pressure and also does spiral or pulsing action if you want it, and you will. Plus it’s self-cleaning and will totally flush for you so you don’t have to do it yourself, and so on, I could keep talking about it for a while but I sense you are getting progressively uncomfortable with me implicitly talking about my bodily functions so let’s move on to:
The Pixel 7 Pro: Google finally got it all right on one of its phones, mostly by not actually trying to do anything new this time around, just by doing it what it was already doing better. Sometimes iteration is enough. I mentioned in my “first look” piece on the phone that I got into a groove with it almost immediately; there was no learning curve to deal with, I just started using it without any problems. Which is great!
My Year of Dicks:
My pal Pamela Ribon’s short autobiographical animated film about the year she tried to lose her virginity is a hoot, which is not a surprise because Pamela is one of the funniest humans I know, but also surprisingly tender (which is also not a surprise because Pamela is a very smart, very good writer). Anyone who was a teen in or near the early 90s will tell you: This was exactly how it was then. Also: My Year of Dicks has made the shortlist for Oscar consideration in the Animated Short category (that’s the last step before the actual nomination list), and how cool is that.
Tits on the Moon: Dessa is best known (and rightly so) as a musician, but she has a number of side hustles including podcaster, memoirist, and, here, in this little volume, poet. The poems in here (often deployed, as Dessa mentions in the forward, as diversions when there’s some small emergency in one of her live shows) are clever and fun and also surprising in ways I’ll let you discover when you read them yourself (here’s the order page, in case you’re interested).
Babel, by RF Kuang; The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang, and The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal: which are the three SF/F novels I enjoyed the most this year, although it must be said it was a pretty damn fine year for science fiction and fantasy all around. I’ve said elsewhere that I have a sneaking suspicion this year’s Hugo awards are going to be heavily focused on Chinese-language finalists, because the Worldcon this year is taking place in China and also because it’s been next-to-impossible for non-Chinese to register for Worldcon up to this point (we’re blaming banking regulations for this), and so the nominating pool will be skewed a bit because of it. The reason I mention this is because I suspect each of these novels above would in a normal year be serious contenders for the Best Novel Hugo; as it is, there is still the Nebula Award.
What did you like in 2022? The comments await!
When you are listing things about 2022 that you liked, it’s okay to skip the things I did. You’re here on the site commenting, I figure there’s a good chance you like at least some of my stuff.
Instead, please focus on stuff from other folks. Thanks.
I would kill for a space toilet, plus a giant bath to go with it!
These aren’t new but this year we rewatched Handmaid’s Tale and Man in the High Castle, and both superb.
The number one item on the list of things I liked from 2022 is Emma Newman’s new podcast “Tea and Sanctuary”. Its small, warm, cozy and an utter delight.
Just here to chime in on SNW. As someone who grew up to endless repeats of TOS in syndication in the NYC area in the early 70s, I have a nostalgic love for the original that never seems to quite match what I see on the screen when I, you know, actually watch the original (the updated special effects on the version streaming on Paramount+ help. A little.). SNW feels to me as though someone distilled all that was fun and awe-inspiring about TOS into a new show without feeling dated or repetitive, and with absolutely joy-inducing special effects, not the least of which is Pike’s peak (which, like @scalzi, makes this 50-something cis-het guy feel at least a bit heteroflexible). DISCO is serviceable Trek, Picard has a nice, nostalgic feel to it, but SNW is a photo torpedo of happiness.
That’s interesting. My first 3 fave things were the same.
One thing I found interesting about both ST:SNW and Andor is that they are both willing to pick and adhere to a structure. SNW accepts the challenge of being an episodic show about the adventures of a starship representing a hopeful far future for humanity. And Andor is very heavily structured into short, punchy 3 episode arcs. You have a good sense of what you are watching at all times, which I missed in some recent Trek and Star Wars.
SNW also lowers the stakes a bit and gives its characters room to be light as well as dark, by copying the little bits of day-to-day banter which liven up The Orville and ST:Lower Decks. This in contrast to the melodramatic gloom which pervades Discovery and Picard. And once you get through the initial triple cycle, it becomes easier to enjoy Andor’s quieter ‘build-up episodes’, secure in the knowledge that the pay-off each time will be very good.
As a holiday gift to myself I signed up for Paramount+ and binged all the Star Treks and loved it. I’d like to try the Halo series also…
After decades away, I got to Disneyland and got to see Galaxy’s Edge, their Star Wars land. I admit it, I loved it. The attention to detail was fantastic.
Another year of great books. Read about 20 this year. I wish it was more, but I also love other entertainment too. Movies, shows and PC gaming.
Lastly, I got to see the James Webb telescope activated and see the first images. What a great future this tool will have. Got to watch a small helicopter fly on Mars. And basically all the work going on in the real world of space exploration.
I’ll end by being cliche. But what a time to be alive! Here’s to a more exciting 2023.
It also helped Ke Huy Quan (https://twitter.com/FilmUpdates/status/1606022840855040000) which is a feature.
I generally liked the new Star Trek, But the episodic nature highlighted a problem with story telling in that format — it is really more an outline for a story than an actual story. That’s the only way to fit it in the run time constraint. A particular example that stood out to me was when the crew was captured and imprisoned. Pike says he, from prison, is going to foment a mutiny. Two scenes later, there is a full blown mutiny going on. They really didn’t earn that. The longer form Trek stories usually do work through at least some of that process. I think abandoning the episodic format is part of what makes this the era of peak TV. It is more interesting and engaging to me than monster of the week (or space pirate of the week, as the case may be).
While scrupulously trying to avoid bathroom humor, I appreciate your evaluation of the ‘ Space Toilet’. I’ve been intrigued by the concept ever since I spent a short week in a Japanese spec condo in Waikiki a few years ago. Would you buy the same model again, or consider other options after living with it a while?
‘Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’ by Gabrielle Zevin is the literary novel about writing computer games that you didn’t know you needed.
And another vote for Strange New Worlds. For the first time since mid-Enterprise, Star Trek isn’t trying to be something other than Star Trek.
Natasha Pulley’s “The Half-Life of Valery K” was amazing. Half Horrifying and Half Heartwarming.
Unsurprisingly, I liked most of the things you liked! But I want to add in The Outfit, starring Mark Rylance. Or as I like to think of him, that guy with the hat. A quiet, deeply suspenseful, period piece, that was as much a puzzle as a gangster movie. Available on Prime.
Loved Faun, the German pagan folk band, seen live at the Union Chapel in London.
My favourite book was Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell.
Really enjoyed Wednesday on Netflix, I thought The Peripheral on Amazon was good, but the book was better.
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one intrigued with Pike’s hair. Early on I toyed with the idea of a Twitter account called, “Man Crush on Pike’s Hair.”
… brain remembering after posting …
Avenue 5 on NowTV (UK), very funny space satire.
The best 2 plays we saw were Prima Facie, a one-woman performance from Jodie Comer (on Broadway in 2023) and Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy, with the text in rap !
The opening of the Elizabeth Line in London brought the Underground into the 21st Century, with big, comfortable air-conditioned fast trains and new stations with wide platforms and corridors – it was still possible, however, for an Indian lady to get her scarf caught in an escalator 😱
I feel like my list is pretty short, but not because I didn’t enjoy things. I think I’m just bad with these kinds of lists.
Things I liked:
The Batman – One of my favorite interpretations that focused more on the Detective side of Batman and paid homages to everything from The Long Halloween to Seven.
Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Come Off – I grew up with Hawk in Powell-Peralta, watching the goofy skate videos they would make. This whole documentary was a vibe and I loved it.
Severance – What a TV show. Maybe one of the best first seasons of TV in awhile.
High School – A TV show no ones is talking about — probably because it’s on “FreeVee” but so good. Please watch it.
Not a lot of reading this year. :-( But here’s some:
Wash Day (GN) – One of the best I’ve read in awhile. Highly recommended.
Frank Lee, After Alcatraz (GN) – A fun what if about one of the escapees from Alcatraz
I’ve read that Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is getting some backlash from “certain circles”. But if The Shape of Water and Parasite can win Best Picture at the Oscars in recent memory, then EEAAO certainly can.
I’ll add a video game: “Tunic” is an excellent Zelda-style adventure game with Elden Ring mechanics and fiendish puzzle design (I was calling it “Zelden Ring” for a while, but it’s more than that). Definitely worth the price and the time.
Can you go into more detail on your toilet?
A week ago, I slipped on ice and broke my hip (yay getting old!!!). Recovering from hip replacement, and planning how to old-ify my house, including significant commode improvements.
Yours sounds awesome!
I’ve loved Michelle Yeoh since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I could watch her do laundry. And in “Everything”, i did! Far and away best movie in a long, long time.
3000 years of longing had 2 more of my favorites in it. Elba and Swinton
See How They Run was fucking hilarious and i love Rockwell. And Ronan was perfection.
Bullet Train was funny as shit and had a plot that kept upgrading. Brad Pitt was good. But Tangerine and Lemon make it a gem.
Other 2022 items that were good:
The Grey Man
The Man from Toronto
Enola Holmes 2
Andor is one of the best shows of the year, but just having finished Apple’s Severance, I think that might edge Andor out. Individual episodes: “The Sound of Her Wings” from The Sandman.
Movies: Yes, “Everything Everywhere,” but I was also quite fond of “Prey.”
Books: Hell yeah, Babel going away.
I have to say–and I truly do mean this–that one of the things I really enjoyed this year was a little book called The Kaiju Preservation Society. Whoever wrote that: [chef’s kiss].
Satisfying (to me) 2022 wrap-ups of their respective trilogies:
“The Lost Metal” (Brandon Sanderson)
“The Golden Enclaves” (Naomi Novik)
Good 2022 news from an old writer: Elizabeth Moon is working on new Paksenarrion book(s)!
TV Show: Aside from Strange New Worlds, which has been mentioned ad nauseum, Our Flag Means Death on HBO Max is the only new show that kept my attention, and which I was excited to hear had been renewed.
Books: I have rarely read so many books I wanted to recommend as I did in 2022
Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel
Killers of a Certain Age, Deanna Raybourn
The Bone Orchard, Sara Mueller
Hell Sans, Ever Dundas
The Grief of Stones, Katherine Addison
Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher
The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi
In nonfiction, Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus has dominated a lot of my conversation at the end of this year — how much of our attention is stolen by everything from advertising to our environment, what are some of the catastrophic effects on society, and how we can start to steal it back.
None of the movies I saw this year excited me, unfortunately.
Thank you for mentioning The Spare Man: I was looking to purchase it last week and couldn’t remember the title or author and had not yet plunged back into the backlog of your posts. Currently reading Mur Lafferty’s Station Eternity and absolutely loving it!
I loved Slow Horses. Being a great fan of the novels, in which Jackson Lamb is introduced as looking rather like Timothy Spall, I was sufficiently disturbed to ask the obvious question: why not get Timothy Spall? However, I needn’t have worried; Gary Oldman is eminently disgusting (in his first scene he wakes himself up with his own fart).
It’s like when I started listening to Timothy West reading audiobooks of Trollope novels. When I read Trollope now, I hear West’s voice. Timothy West IS Anthony Trollope; Gary Oldman IS Jackson Lamb.
Just squeaking into my 2022 reading was Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys. Very well done tale about first contact and a future where humanity is addressing climate change. Babel was my favorite this year, but Half-Built Garden was up there.
In 2022, I read more fantasy than science fiction. One thing I noticed, perhaps a trend or perhaps just by chance, is that more SFF books are detective stories, or enemies to lovers stories, or both.
Here’s the top five books I read in 2022:
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
City of the Uncommon Thief by Lynne Bertrand
Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
Sticking to genre books that came out this year right now my top three are:
Nona the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau – Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Fevered Star – Rebecca Roanhorse.