I really should stop calling myself a book blogger, but at least I’m still an author
I knew that being over 2020 has been done to death. So I had been hoping to put together a positive article, about the best things about 2020, from a Histories Unfolding perspective. The problem is, among other things, this year seems to have obliterated my reading habits. I can’t honestly remember what I read in 2020. There has, however, been a lot of sitting on the couch watching stuff.
Without further ado, here’s some of my favourite history adjacent things I watched this year.
The Good Lord Bird
I would have thought any dramatization about abolitionist John Brown would have made for heavy viewing. And yet, this limited series, based on a novel by James McBride was surprisingly light and funny, and still moving at the right moments. Rather than offering yet another white saviour narrative, the story centred on its Black protagonist, Onion, giving potent reminders of those who were most affected by Brown’s actions. Best of all, this show gave us horny Frederick Douglass!
The Queen’s Gambit
Much internet praise has been lavished on the Mad Men-esque style 1960’s fashions on display in this hit Netflix series. Besides being beautiful to watch (outside of a necessarily dreary first episode,) the show also recreated the feel of Cold War chess politics and the Bobby Fischer-driven chess mania that gripped the United States at one point. Ultimately, as much as I enjoyed those historical touchpoints, The Queen’s Gambit appealed to me much more as a sports buff. I’d even liken the final episode to Rocky IV, but with chess. Because of that classic sports underdog framework, the show’s historical aspects came across as a bit of wish-fulfillment fantasy. But also because that sports story ends so satisfyingly, I can’t begrudge that the show doesn’t go to the same dark places the original novel by Walter Tevis does. And I have never seen chess depicted on the screen in such fine dramatic fashion.
Despite the Sisyphean effort it takes me to put out blog posts, I somehow managed to find the time to talk about Puppet History twice! If you like crass humour, random song and dance moments, and a fuzzy blue monster(?) dishing out historical facts, then this is the show for you. I can imagine (actually I don’t need to since creator Shane Madej showed how it’s done) how labour intensive making these episodes is. The transition to a distanced version was also nearly seamless. So I appreciated the few that we got and looked forward to new episodes every week while they were coming out. I also hope there’ll be a new season, if only so that Ryan might actually, finally, win the coveted title of History Master!
Honourable Mention – Lovecraft Country
I had mixed feelings about this adaptation. it seemed for every improvement from the original book (making Braithwhite a woman, letting Hypolyta experience realities of her choosing) there were serious flaws (justice for Ruby!) Still, it was a joy to see historical Black science-fiction fandom celebrated on the screen and it did give us this very satisfying scene of a monster coming to the rescue [warning: coarse language and violence, very satisfying violence!]
I Didn’t Read Much, But I Did Write
Oddly, as much as I struggled with reading all that time isolating at home, I managed to get lots of writing done. [Many thanks to my wife for wrangling the kids on those home school days!]
Looking forward to the coming year, I’m hoping to keep the writing streak going and have book 3, Wounded Falcon, ready for publication. And then it’s on to a couple of long-gestating fantasy projects which I’ve also had in the works.