This tag (possibly created by Amanda from A Brighter Shade of Hope) is an excuse to celebrate the characters who stole our hearts. I had a ball taking it for Wyrd and Wonder and wanted to revisit it with a SF spin for SciFiMonth – but as I didn’t get to it, I’m dusting it off to start the year.
This was written as an annual tag, so new year seems like a good fit – but expect to see it again later this year during Wyrd and Wonder / SciFiMonth if I can actually keep to my schedule in 2023.
FAVOURITE FEMALE CHARACTER
While it’s tempting to yell Naomi Nagata in any year where I (re)read The Expanse, I’ll resist in favour of the brilliant, ruthless and sharp-edged Evelyn Caldwell and her gentler yet no less determined clone Martine of The Echo Wife. I’ve spent all Christmas acknowledging how much I love stories about awful people; Evelyn most certainly qualifies.
FAVOURITE MALE CHARACTER
Easy, Amos Burton – no, wait. In my heart of hearts, I prefer show Amos to book Amos, so I’m passing him over in favour of soft, hopeful Santi of Meet Me In Another Life. Santi is a joy as a contrast to spiky Thora and I loved his evolution from cinnamon roll to bitter rebel to fervent optimist as they begin to understand and try to solve their situation.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER OF ANY OR NO GENDER
Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters is a space opera reimagining of The Little Mermaid where a trans prince turns her back on her throne to live ashore with her husband. When plague strikes, she seeks the help of her captivating and spiteful former lover the World Witch Yanja – who promptly steals the show and gets my vote for this category (and Atuale’s heart).
MOST RELATABLE CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
Mal (Firebreak) is just trying to make rent and afford water. She doesn’t like being in the spotlight, but needs people to subscribe to her stream. She wants to meet her heroes, but doesn’t know what to say to them when she does. She can’t turn her back on corporate treachery, but doesn’t really know what to do about it. Damn right she’s the most relatable character of the year, and I can only aspire to try as hard as she does.
COUPLE OF THE YEAR
Forget romance – I’m picking a platonic throuple whose friendship is as fierce as it is unlikely. One of my favourite aspects of the highly entertaining The Immortality Thief was the enemies-to-allies-to-then-some arc of the central three characters. With the stakes sky high, the loyalties conflicted and ample reason to stab one another in the back, their emerging bond was as adorable as it was unreliable.
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
A notable number of my SF reads this year didn’t really have villains, with faceless organisations or challenging circumstances filling the shoes of antagonist rather than an individual I could love to hate (or just love. Hey, villains can be awesome). Where there was a villain, they were often a bit underwhelming (although I enjoyed Xander as a catalyst for the drama of This Is Our Undoing). The Expanse has always done brilliantly unlikeable characters – and often given them POVs – and I have a great deal of time for the megalomania of misguided saviour Winston Duarte as an antagonist; but he’s not as glitteringly awful as Marco Inaros. So I’m declaring no winner for this category this year.
MOST DISLIKED CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
I feel I should check there wasn’t some character I actively hated in some other book, but as Dex the self-absorbed tea monk single-handedly ruined my enjoyment of A Psalm For The Wild-Built this goes to them without hesitation. I really wanted to like this book, but I had no time for the selfishness being modelled at its core, which seemed so out of step with the rest of the delightful world-building.
SIDEKICK OF THE YEAR
Is a sidekick a sidekick when they are part of you? When you can merge your consciousness to share their experiences directly? Asking for a space archaeologist whose robot mirror VALOR is their shadow self: stronger, braver, more sarcastic and significantly less interested in risk taking. It’s tough having to take care of your human at times, but VALOR’s affection and dry humour suggest they really don’t consider it hard work (Origin Complex).
NON-HUMAN CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
I always end up deeply relieved that there’s multiple categories in which I can celebrate non-human characters, who are often my favourites in SFF. With VALOR praised, I can pause to appreciate Trine, a particularly sassy instance of a hive mind AI stubbornly retaining its independence to pursue scientific studies and archaeology in Shards of Earth. Come on, what’s not to love?
ROYAL OF THE YEAR
…spot the tag written for fantasy and contemporary rather than SF. I toyed with turning it into ship’s captain or AI of the year, but I think I’ll rest it instead rather than double up on a character or book I’ve already nominated.
FREE CHOICE: JOB OF THE YEAR
I am ecstatic that my SFnal reading featured multiple space archaeologists in 2022. Finally, the universe is encouraging the stories I long to read. From the philosophical reflections of Tombs Of The Universe in Sinopticon to the sass of Trine in Shards of Earth and the relentless urgency of Crash’s self-imposed mission in Origin Complex, archaeology emerged as a job that has no boundaries and no concept of self-preservation. Indiana Jones has a lot to answer for, and I am here for it.
Who were your favourite characters of the past year?