* Cultural settings that are not like or set in my own (America/modern global West): this might include creative spec fic societies as exemplifed by Le Guin; historical/fantasy settings that feel like older cultures (ex. A Song of Ice and Fire; Asian/manga; indigenous or Afro-futurism; works that are genuinely older, even ancient.
* Complex characters with complex love relationships with each other. This does not need to be romantic. I tend to be less leery of m/m relationships, but that’s not essential. If they involve relationship/genre clichés, those clichés should be explored so deeply and wisely that they lay bare new insights about being human (ex. Mirage of Blaze). I am always glad of a good friendship story.
* Stories about older, more mature characters, cuz I’m not getting any younger and/or characters I categorize as “saints,” not in a strictly Christian/religious/literal sense, but in the sense of people with a very highly developed sense of conscience and understanding of life, who are importantly motivated by being of service in the world. (Ex’s include Vash and Rem from Trigun, Alyosha from The Brothers Karamazov, Kagetora from Mirage of Blaze (in his tortured, confused way), Yudhishthira from the Mahabharata.) I really want to read more of this ilk.
Here are some titles I have really fallen in love with, and I would love to fall in love with something like this again:
Mirage of Blaze
Gangsta (when it’s about the two principals)
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Brothers Karamazov
The Lord of the Rings (Yeah, everybody who reads fantasy loves it, but I really love it for the low-key straightforwardness of the characters.)
Works I’m not Necessarily in Love with but Really Please Me
Ai no Kusabi (mainly original novel, 1992 anime)
The Persian Boy (Mary Renault)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (book and movie)
Blade of the Immortal (esp. the parts focused on Anostu, Rin, Makie, Gichi, Hyakurin)
Hedda Gabler (reread this recently, fascinating)
City of Illusion (Le Guin)
Here’s what I do NOT want (but always with exceptions for the brilliant):
Anything that is basically about late-20th, 21st century Western culture, including science fiction stories where we’re colonizing the solar system, etc., but it feels just like 20th-21st-century Western characters grappling with capitalism. And this pretty includes anything about “teenagers” in the modern conception of adolescence, unless it’s truly ingenious, like Buffy. Anything primarily comic, zany, or action-oriented: I’d like enough psychological drama for it to be cathartic. Thank you!!!