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The Third Apparently Annual Tropism Awards
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Here's what I thought about some stuff:

(Note: I do not limit myself to films, books, music, etc. released last year, though I do do limit myself to works I encountered for the first time last year. Mostly. Other times I ignore that rule. These are in no meaningful order.)

Best Story: I should probably do a big song-and-dance about how I read so many good stories this year, it's so hard to decide, but actually, I have no trouble at all pointing to the story I enjoyed most this past year: "Professor Berkowitz Stands on the Threshold" by Theodora Goss. It's the story that made her my top writer-to-watch, and I've eagerly awaited the appearance of each new story from her. Now, if I had to name a second-place story, that would be difficult, because I did read a lot of very excellent stuff this year. A few runners-up, in no order at all: "The Hortlak" by Kelly Link; "Start with Color" by Bill Kte'pi; "Bay" by David Erik Nelson; "Ancestor Money" by Maureen McHugh; "The Apocalypse According to Olaf" by Barth Anderson; "Salting the Map" by Alan DeNiro; "King Rat" by Karen Joy Fowler; "Being Right" by Michael Marshall Smith; "Drowned Men Can't Have Kids" by Karina Sumner-Smith; and "" by Nick Mamatas. There are others, of course, but those are a few good ones.

Best Writing Workshop: Okay, I only went to the one, but it's hard to imagine a better experience than Rio Hondo. Though Hidden City this year looks like it's going to be very good, too.

Best Television Show: Heather and I both seriously dig The West Wing, which we'd never seen until about six weeks ago, and the few episodes we saw on TV spurred us to pick up season one on DVD. Thoroughly enjoyable, great writing, great handling of a large cast of characters.

Best Movie: Hmm. Yeah, I guess I'd have to say The Return of the King. Any movie that can keep me consistently entertained for 3+ hours deserves lots of esteem. I liked Intolerable Cruelty a lot, too. Maybe I should subdivide this category into genres of some kind. Eh. Nah. Too lazy.

Best Message Boards: The Night Shade discussion boards have hosted some lively and interesting discussions this year. Runner-up goes to the Third Alternative boards.

Best Magazine: Technically I shouldn't even have this category, since it's The Third Alternative again, with no real competition. Argosy is beautiful, and published good stuff in its first issue, but nothing delights me quite like finding TTA in my mailbox.

Best Small Press Publisher: Night Shade Books. They published M. John Harrison's collection, and they're publishing Nick's novel this year, and they do attractive stuff that's actually affordable.

Best Convention: Wiscon again. It was great in 2003. I met Dora Goss, Kristin Livdahl (and hung out with her a bit), Gwenda Bond, Chris Rowe, and other people I'm doubtless forgetting; I had a slumber party at fair Karen's with all manner of fabulous people; got gifts; bought good art; started writing "Terrible Ones" in Karen's back yard; read poetry; bought a cubic ton of good books... ah, it's just the best convention ever. Attending the Nebulas was an interesting experience, and I had a lot of fun at the mass signing and hanging out with Andy Duncan, but as a whole it was rushed, and exhausting, and didn't involve a slumber party, so really, how can it compare?

Best Non-fiction: I greatly enjoyed Oliver Sacks's An Anthropologist on Mars, especially the sections on autism.

Best Meal: This is a difficult one. It's got to be one of the meals from Rio Hondo, but which one? They were all divine, but my favorite, hmm... Either the green chile chicken cordon bleu or the black roux gumbo, I think.

Best First Novel: The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, followed closely by The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Best Novel in an Ongoing Series: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King edges out The Crystal City by Orson Scott Card.

Best Anthology: Trampoline, edited by Kelly Link. Brilliant work by Christopher Rowe, Maureen McHugh, Karen Joy Fowler, Richard Butner, and Alex Irvine, among others. Eclectic, strange, absorbing. Runner-up goes to The Dark.

Best Collection: First, let me say, this was an amazing year for collections. The best, for me, was M. John Harrison's Things That Never Happen. It took off the top of my head and made certain small but important changes in my brain.

Best Tiny Notebook: I really like my moleskine. I've been writing in it every day since I got it.

Best Music to Write By: Cake served me well for a while, and the Magnetic Fields, so call it a tie.

Best zine: Since I won't count Flytrap, as I'm biased, I'd probably say LCRW, with props also given to Say....

Best Coffee Shop: Javha House Café and Wine Bar, down by the lake (not to be confused with Javha House in Santa Cruz, which is good, too). It's got good drinks, skylights, comfy seating, and a hip clientele.

Best Bookstore: I am increasingly impressed by Borderlands in San Francisco. A marvelous selection of odd small-press stuff, in addition to all the other good SF/fantasy/horror you'd expect, a killer atmosphere, fun events, and friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Best People To Have Help You Move: Mary Anne Mohanraj and David Horwich, who went far above and beyond the calls of friendship and duty to help transport and carry all our stuff up many stairs to our new apartment.

Best Kittens: Marzipan and Zanzibar. We really did get a couple of good cats. We lucked out.

Best Movie Theater: Ultimately, Grand Lake. I can walk there, it has a lot of just-faded-enough grandeur, but it's not dirty or uncomfortable, and the screens are of a good size.

Best Musical Group: The Decemberists are the big happy find of the year for me. I highly recommend their EP, "Five Songs," though the full-lengths are quite good, too.

Best Musical Group That My Friends In College Used To Listen To That I've Recently Gotten Into: Built to Spill. It's good novel-writing music, too.

Best Novel: Probably Light by M. John Harrison. It changed my notions of what a space opera -- and, indeed, a novel -- could be.

Best Cartoon To Watch After Ingesting Hallucinogens: Aqua Teen Hunger Force. For I am your digital ruler.

Best New Crack: Lemon chicken from Yang Chow. I've long been a fan of lemon chicken in general, but never have I found such a perfect specimen. Tender chicken, sweet lemon sauce. One order is enough for two generous meals, and I enjoy it enough to eat it two days in a row with the utmost pleasure.

I could, of course, always, go on and on, but that's enough looking-backward for now.

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