This is the last thing I write about 2022 I hope.
For Christmas I asked for and received (thanks to my mom and brother Jeff, thanks guys) Hideo Kojima’s The Creative Gene. The book (so far) is mostly Kojima’s account of stories that have influenced him, why they mattered to him, and sometimes how we can see their effects in his work.
I keep a yearly planner — a hobonichi techo — which has a “my 100” list in the back where you can chronicle 100 things. I never knew what to do with it, but in 2022 I kept a chronicle of media I consumed, whether I liked them or not, or other special memories of new places or things. So for the first time I had a reliable, localized collection of the things I read/watched/saw that were new to me. After starting The Creative Gene I thought it might be nice to share with you, like he shared with me, the things that I believe I learned something from that will help me go into the future.
So here are 20 of the stories that changed me in 2022, in no particular order.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
In the summer of 2021 a friend (hi, Kerys!) mentioned to me that they heard some discussions that changed their perspective on Catcher in the Rye. What if you read the book with a critical eye that Holden Caulfield has some trauma about sexual assault?
This wasn’t my first time reading Catcher, but I read it before when I was probably fourteen years old or so. I saw it on a list of banned books and wanted to pick it up for a school project. My teacher told me to ask my mother if it was okay first because of the adult content within, but I’d already read worse.
Returning to this book was refreshing because it always meant a lot to me when I was young and read it as Holden’s peer, and it still means a lot to me in a completely different way from the perspective of an adult. Is Holden a victim of sexual assault? It’s hard to say, but reading it into how he analyzes adults is very interesting.
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Berserk has been on the backburner of my “stuff to read” list for a very long time, and after losing him in 2021 it seemed like if I didn’t read it soon, I would never. It was a bit fun to go back to the dark recesses of anime and manga of the 80s and 90s, a dark and gnarly lair of sex, gore, and rock ‘n’ roll we don’t get to enjoy as often as I’d like these days. After reading the story of Guts, Griffith, and Casca, I could definitely see what all the fuss was about. How many stories have been influenced by these three star-crossed partners?
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, mostly because I enjoy turning on an audiobook while I clean or cook. The format has its strengths and weaknesses, so I will often follow up an audiobook listen by buying the book and doing a physical review where all the information is in front of me and I can go over it once again.
I love true crime but I also find audiobooks a good time to do my homework and learn. I’ve listened to many an anti-racist book, including How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, which is also excellent. Stamped from the Beginning is a history, recounting the development of racist perspectives through history and how they justified slavery and discrimination. It’s a painful read at times, but so important. It taught me so much.
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
I listened to the audiobook of Their Eyes Were Watching God in 2021 (I think). Narrated by Ruby Dee, I think it was the best possible experience I could have had with that story. Ibram X. Kendi had a lot to say about Hurston’s work in Stamped from the Beginning, so I found Barracoon as my next of hers to read. It’s an incredible non-fiction folklorist’s account of Cudjoe Lewis, potentially the last man sold into slavery in America. This book reminded me how much I love reading texts collected and recounted by folklorists, and how much fun I found sociological studies to be in university. Cudjoe’s stories are riveting and he was a precious person living a precious life, but aren’t we all? How many wonderful stories are we all holding within ourselves? How many people have a tale that will change your life?
Ghost of Tsushima
As 2022 to me ended up being the year of Yakuza, Ghost of Tsushima was an interesting pregame for that. I think Ghost is incredible, but more than anything, I feel like it taught me how little I know, and how much knowledge I’m missing. The game was made inspired by Kurosawa films, and I have seen exactly zero Kurosawa films. How much do I really know about yakuza or samurai that isn’t real information, just filtered down to me through media? I have a lot more reading and learning to do.
And I still made it to the end of 2022 without having seen any Kurosawa films.
I know how we all feel about Cyberpunk 2077 and I am a bit ashamed of myself for being such an apologist for the game. I played it early in 2022, and the game I played ran well and crashed… sometimes. The game I played (on PS5) was certainly not the one that disappointed people on opening day. When it comes to most games, the story is more important to me than the play and the game itself. I can suffer a lot of crap for a good story, and so even now that’s all I can remember about Cyberpunk 2077. Who cares about the bugs when the story can rip your heart out of your chest and blow it into outer space?
I’m looking forward to the DLC in 2023.
The Yakuza Series
Though this post is about ranking the games according to my preferences, I feel like it covers most of what I have to say about it, and what it meant to me this year. So I don’t have much more to add, but I can’t deny how much it helped me survive 2022.
Tokyo Revengers by Ken Wakui
I read a bunch of Tokyo Revengers for work at Seven Seas, and at one point I said “to hell with it” and jumped beyond the books we were printing to read the rest. I got to the end on time to enjoy the finale as it was released in November 2022.
I find Tokyo Revengers to be really special and also inherently flawed, which makes it a bit more special to me. When something doesn’t sit quite right in what it’s doing, it shows you that it is truly made from another human being, someone flawed in their own right. I think I might need to someday write something more substantial about how I feel about Tokyo Revengers. Maybe in fanfic format.
RRR is such an exceptionally special film. There’s nothing in this world I love more than stories where people love and hurt each other, and RRR deploys this conflict like a bomb under a table, with OTT action and laughs. The soundtrack got me through quite a few difficult days.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
I forget where, but recently I encountered the names of the Columbine massacre perpetrators and I didn’t recognize them. It made me realize how uneducated I am about the situation at Columbine high school. It took me a while to rally my willpower to read this book, but if you read anything about the massacre I think this is the one. Dave Cullen’s Columbine is an apology. In the introduction he notes that he himself was a journalist guilty of spreading some misinformation that followed the massacre’s survivors and the school itself, which inspired him to make a comprehensive account of the facts only. This book is thorough, informative, and dense with information. It outlines events in detail and puzzles out motivations with the voices of experts as well as the murderers themselves as recorded in videos and journal entries. It documents the lives of the victims, both those who survived and those who did not. It chronicles the reactions of the community and calls out the irresponsibility of the media. It’s a beautiful piece of work and, as someone who is admittedly not an expert, I feel like I know everything I need to know about this event. If only we can all be so responsible as to apologize for our mistakes in such a powerful way.
Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
I love Tamsyn Muir’s work and I’ve been enjoying the Locked Tomb series for a while now. Though Nona the Ninth was a book that sprung up, unplanned, turning a trilogy into a series, it’s probably my favorite volume to date in said series. Nona herself reminds me a lot of a character of my own, and so I loved her instantly. Nona brings us back to a planet where people are alive, living, and struggling to survive. It’s suspenseful and I genuinely struggled to put it down, which isn’t an experience I’ve enjoyed in quite a while. I hope that if you aren’t reading this series already, you give it a go.
The Banshees of Inisheirin
I resolved to make a friend watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri this fall and they remarked on it by saying “we went to see this guy’s new movie in theatre,” and I was like, “what?!” I really, really, REALLY love Martin McDonagh’s films, but I’ve only stepped into a movie theatre once since the pandemic began. Luckily, my friend enjoyed Banshees enough to come see it again with me.
I missed almost all of the big movies of 2022 because I’m not very good at watching movies. Out of everything that released this year that everyone lost their minds about, I think I only saw Banshees and RRR. I think I’ll have to see more movies in theatre in 2023, because I’m not going to watch them on my own and if I go on a quiet day it won’t be a huge covid risk. Who knows when I’ll get off my ass and watch Everything, Everywhere, All At Once? I need my wife to live in this city with me so I can have someone to drag me to movies.
Anyway, everything Martin McDonagh makes is made for me in particular.
Missing from the Village by Justin Ling
I’m LGBT+ and I live in Canada, but I mostly feel like I’m a citizen of the internet. I tend to be alienated from my real community because I prefer to spend my time alone and communicating through text. At the same time I realize that I’m very lucky as a queer person in Canada, but I have the added benefit of being cis and white. Stories like the serial killer stalking Toronto’s village have been a valuable wake-up call, teaching me that, though I take so much safety for granted, queer people so often fall through the cracks of society.
Missing from the Village is a careful rumination on the crimes of Bruce McArthur and some of his victims. Ling’s pragmatic approach to the story and what made these people vulnerable surprised me. He could see the many threads which converged on the case leading to how these victims could disappear, unnoticed, to the point of giving detectives in the police force a lot of consideration without letting them off the hook for their oversights. I feel like this book taught me a lot, but also is leading me to have higher standards for journalism and true crime books.
1491 by Charles C. Mann
Full title: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus is a book that dismantles what North Americans are so often taught in schools about the state of the world before Columbus landed in the Americas. The author dabbles in all kinds of fields for his research, debunking things that people have taken for granted for years with the support of scholarly work by anthropologists, archaeologists, and so forth.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on indigenous stories and injustices of North America lately, so I thought this book would be a bit lighter and more pop science than those books, but I actually found it intelligent and well-researched. It’s easy enough to read while still quite dense with information. I think everyone should read it, and I definitely need a copy to keep for myself.
Fight Like Hell by Kim Kelly
Early in 2022, employees of Seven Seas Entertainment in the USA announced their union, the United Workers of Seven Seas. While talking to organizers with the Communication Workers of America, they often mentioned Fight Like Hell, a book documenting historical labor movements in the USA. It was an interesting and informative book that reminded me how important it is to fight for rights, and what is at stake in that fight. Here’s to the many who suffer in order to unionize their workplaces and get what we deserve.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
I read The Radium Girls before Fight Like Hell but the two seem deeply linked in my mind now. The Radium Girls is a book about the women of American watch companies who would paint the numbers on watch dials in glowing radium paint. To paint the tiny numbers, they would point the brush between their lips. Years later, one by one, they died horrific deaths, while the company that hired them did all they could to pretend that radium was harmless, even good for you. Employers are, almost by rule, unwilling to take responsibility for anything. That’s the power of the collective.
This book is extremely graphic about some truly horrific effects that radium has on the body, so you have been warned.
The 25th Ward
I am a big fan of Suda 51’s, but I didn’t play The 25th Ward until this year. I have mixed feelings about it. It has some of the most incredible stuff in it, while also being disjointed and hostile to the reader. It’s so deeply Suda 51 that I wouldn’t change anything about it, and it left a deep impression on me. I think everyone should read The Silver Case and then you can enjoy The 25th Ward… in theory.
My Own Private Idaho
I saw this movie as well for the first time this year and in a way, I’m still just as confused about it as I am about The 25th Ward. It’s such a strange fever dream of a film, and I think I liked it but I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that it made an impact on me the results of which remain to be seen.
I should just say I liked it because I generally love stories about being poor as shit. And also gay.
Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara
My spouse is a huge fan of Mushishi and we watched the anime together years ago when it was being released. The series left a big impression on me but I didn’t bother reading the source manga until this year. The vibe of Mushishi is so remarkable, documenting the moments when mushi (tiny creatures, like bugs or bacteria) collide with human life. The story is episodic, revolving around rural farmers struggling to survive while our hero, Ginko, travels from town to town. Like a wandering doctor he heals the people of their mushi ails, when he can. Mushishi is beautiful, quiet, and meditative. It opens up a world with a new kind of “nature” for us to discover and learn to live with. The troubles within are so small, both metaphorically and literally, but each case is dealt with the same way by Ginko. It reminds me of the little troubles we all have every day on this earth, encountering bugs, creatures, and nature. Every day has little victories and little failures. I wonder if a story like Mushishi would have succeeded in the West or if it’s a story for Japan.
Coming in at the end of the year I’m excited to finally be able to play this game I’ve heard so much about. Now I can truly understand this game and the stories surrounding it.
I’ll tell you one. I started a new game with my spouse just to show Dwarf Fortress to them. Everything seemed to be going smoothly except that the wilderness was populated with agitated yaks who kept coming along and murdering my dwarves. In a rush I built a bowyer workshop and made some crossbows. I told my dwarves to go out and kill the yaks. We killed one yak and two dwarves died. One dwarf fell after the other. The expedition leader was killed. The children were killed. I had three dwarves left: one adult and one child. I told my dwarves to make cage traps to catch the yaks in case they tried to enter the fortress. While trying to make this happen, a yak got in and killed another dwarf, leading a bloody smear through the hall to the exit. The yak then, for some reason, walked into my store room. I got the genius idea to build a wall at the entrance to lock the yak into the store room and told my one remaining adult dwarf to do so. Instead, he cleaned the blood up from the floor. I cancelled one action he tried to do after the other in a panic, but somehow by the time he finally closed the door, there were FIVE agitated yaks that we had Count of Amontillado‘ed into the store room and no more yaks showed up to join them. Then my game crashed.
I love the stories that come out of Dwarf Fortress. 10/10