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Friday, 26 February 2021

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2021 Hot List. This week we will have a look at the most exciting new literature and novels you'll be reading in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2020 hot list
The keen eyed among this blog's longterm readers will no doubt have spotted a new addition to our annual Hot List. This is usually the time where I would reveal our most exciting new theatrical productions for the year. However, given the uncertain status of theatre over the next 12 months, such an endeavour would seem to be somewhat pointless. Instead, for this year only, we will replace our annual theatre preview with this super exciting list of 2021's most hotly anticipated books, novels and literature of any kind. If there's one thing this pandemic has been good for, it's catching up on your reading list, so let's just embrace it. Think this should become a regular part of the annual preview? Let me know.

So here it is: your reading list for 2021, our list of the top 10 upcoming releases from the world of literature to keep an eye on this year, starting, as always, with number 10:

10. "Light Perpetual" by Francis Spufford

best literature 2021 novel book light perpetual francis spufford golden hillLight Perpetual marks the sophomore effort from Francis Spufford, the once non-fiction author turned award winning novelist. 

If this author is at all daunted by the famously challenging second novel it's not apparent in the ambition of this follow up: a high concept piece of work that ponders the many what-might-have-beens of life. Light Perpetual imagines the possible futures of five children killed by a German bomb in November 1944. What would those five individuals make of all the incredible changes of the 20th Century, the wonders and tragedies of a world they will never see.

Just the concept is haunting in its own way; an homage to the fragility of existence, the finality of death, and to the unpredictable currents of the world around us. Light Perpetual releases in February. 

9. "Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost" by David Hoon Kim

best literature 2021 novel book paris is a party ghost david hoon kim Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost (#PIAPPIAG) is the debut novel of American writer David Hoon Kim, inspire by his own time spent living in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. 

This is the story of Henrik, a young Japanese man adopted by Danish parents and living in Paris, where he aspires to be a translator. When Henrik's girlfriend dies mysteriously, he sets off on an investigation through the city’s seamy underbelly. A darkly comic story about being lost and found in translation, delving into topical discussions on matters such as displacement, exile and desire.

There's a lot of buzz about this debut novelist, whose work has previously appeared in publications such as the New Yorker and earned him fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, among others. PIAPIAG releases in August.

8. "Women and Other Monsters" by Jess Zimmerman

best literature 2021 novel book women and other monsters jess zimmerman
The folklore that has shaped our dominant culture teems with frightening female creatures. Jess Zimmerman's Women and Other Monsters offers a cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology and invites all women to reclaim these stories as inspiration for a more wild, more “monstrous” version of feminism. 

This thoroughly unique concept urges us to re-examine our relationship with cultural tropes and embrace a new image of the female hero.

This makes for an interesting prospect. Ancient mythology with a dash of satire and modern feminism. Coming in March.

7. "Bullet Train" by Kotaro Isaka 

best literature 2021 novel book bullet train kotaro isaka Already a massive hit in his native Japan, Kotaro Isaka's latest novel might just be the next big page-turning craze.

Bullet Train has five contract killers on a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka, all competing for the same target before the journey reaches its destination. It's a silly, binge-worthy premise with huge potential, and a film deal is allegedly in the works. Upon its original release it garnered awards and rave reviews. Now an English translation is on the way.

Bullet Train will release in English this April. I expect this to be one of the big sellers of 2021.

6. "The Startup Wife" by Tahmima Anam

best literature 2021 novel book startup wife tahmima anamYoung computer programmer Asha Ray starts a tech company with her husband Cyrus Jones. After building an algorithm for a popular social media platform, their careers skyrocket – but it seems Asha's husband begins to overshadow her.

Part romantic comedy, part razor sharp satire of the tech start up scene, The Startup Wife is the latest novel from Tahmima Anam, an author better known for her poignant tales of war and the personal struggles that play out against that backdrop. This more lighthearted subject matter might sound like a departure, but on closer inspection perhaps not as much as it seems. This is, at its heart, a tale of power and societal strife, albeit on a different scale.

The Startup Wife releases in June, and it is already being tipped as one of 2021's must-read pieces of literature.

5. "Project Hail Mary" by Andy Weir

best literature 2021 novel book project hail mary andy weir artemis the martianThis is the latest novel of Andy Weir, best known for The Martian, the award winning novel and, later, award winning film. 

Project Hail Mary ostensibly treads familiar ground: a man stranded in space on his own, with little hope of rescue. It's the Martian, but on a much bigger scale. Existential threats, interstellar travel. A scientific mystery and a dazzling tale of exploration all mixed into one (or so goes the promise). 

The stakes are big, and the drama irresistible. Weir has established himself as one of the more crowd-pleasing names in mainstream science fiction, and this looks to be more of the same.

Project Hail Mary releases in May and will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

4. "Double Blind" by Edward St Aubyn

best literature 2021 novel book double blind edward st aubyn Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels sold half a million copies and were adapted into an award winning TV series. He has earned some big-name fans from the likes of Sam Mendes to Jonathan Franzen. The man has some clout and his latest work, Double Blind, sees the author treading exciting new ground.

Double Blind follows a group of three friends through a transformative year that takes readers from London to the Cote d'Azur and Big Sur and tackles big themes such as determinism, inheritance and freedom of will. It promises to be a journey that asks big questions but unfolds into some very personal themes.

Double Blind arrives late March and looks to be one of the year's biggest releases.

3. "Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro

best literature 2021 novel book klara and the sun kazuo ishiguro never let me goKazuo Ishiguro is one of those authors that when he has something to say, one listens. The Japanese-born British novelist is a Nobel Prize winner, whose novels The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have established him as one of the most celebrated contemporary authors.

His latest, Klara and the Sun, promises more insightful commentary on the human condition. A tale of love narrated by a machine. Klara is an artificial being bought as a companion for a terminally ill 14 year old, navigating the nuances of human emotion from an outsider's perspective.

It's heady stuff, expect to have an existential crisis when this releases in March of this year.

2. "First Person Singular" by Haruki Murakami

best literature 2021 novel book first person singular haruki murakami wells cats A new novel from Haruki Murakami is always reason to be excited. For a long while, he was one of the most exciting authors in fiction. Yet if I'm honest, his recent work has gone off the boil to an extent. Ever since the career culmination that was 1Q84, his later works have amounted to little more than a rehash of some of the author's more satirised tropes. A perfect time, then, for Murakami to make a comeback. His next work, First Person Singular, may just be that comeback. 

With FPS, Murakami is getting back to basics. This is a collection of short stories, all written from a first person perspective (hence the title) meditating on various topics, from nostalgia to music, and baseball. Murakami has often been at his best in the short story format. In classic style, this work will challenge the traditions of the art form and blur lines between reality and fiction. FPS releases in April.

1. "Malibu Rising" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

best literature 2021 novel book malibu rising taylor jenkins reidBut our number 1 most hotly anticipated piece of literature for 2021 is the latest work from perhaps one of the best writers in the business today, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reid is known for novels such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six (and if you haven't read them, what's wrong with you? Go do so). Her latest work, Malibu Rising, tackles familiar themes of fame, beauty, and human folly. A lavish 1980s setting full of beaches, parties, and (presumably) self-destruction.

Reid's work is endlessly insightful, vividly crafted and just excellent entertainment. Without a doubt this is my pick for the year's most exciting novels. Malibu Rising releases in May.

So there you have it folks: 2021 in literature. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming up in 2021!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Hello and welcome back to the Hot List. This week we will turn our attention to the videogame industry, previewing for you loyal readers the most exciting videogames set for release in 2021.

new videogames games gaming 2021 ephemeric
To say that 2020 was a challenging year for the gaming industry would be an understatement. On the one hand, with so many people stuck at home the demand for virtual worlds and experiences arguably reached an all time high. But at the same time the development of those worlds, the most intricate of which these days typically involves teams of dozens or even hundreds of professionals in different fields, was made infinitely more difficult due to the pandemic, resulting in the delay of many of the biggest titles in development. Then there were the games trade shows themselves, typically bombastic, media-friendly Comic-con style events, that suddenly had to reinvent themselves as an online-only affair. 

This was a struggle and period of adaptation that has seen a great deal of disruption, but the signs are that the industry is now finding its feet. The transition to  a new generation of consoles is continuing apace with PS5 and Xbox Series X making their debut and 2021 looks to be a bumper year for big releases. As with most things this year, it is hard to predict how everything will turn out, but I'm hopeful that 2021 will have much to be excited about.

So here it is, the 15 key videogames to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Hitman 3 (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Stadia, Switch)

hitman 3 best games 2021 pc ps5 xbox playstationAt this point, Hitman is a venerable old franchise. Throughout its long lifecycle the core concept has remained consistent: play a hitman taking on targets in a series of intricate open sandboxes. 

Hitman 3 marks the final chapter in IO Interactive's latest iteration of the series that began with 2016's Hitman, and the series has never been better. Delightful sandboxes full of creative, often darkly humorous strategies. With disguises, tools, interactive environments and clever AI for manipulation, this current trilogy offers greater variety and replayability than the series has ever offered before and that's before even mentioning the periodic "illusive targets" released by IO, or the ability to create and share online your own custom contracts set in these sandboxes.

Hitman 3 will close this trilogy with the ultimate refinement of all these aspects, before IO moves on to bigger and greater things (expect to see more on that in next year's Hot List). The first episode releases in January with more content to be released through the year.

Release Date: January 2021

14. Kerbal Space Program 2 (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

kerbal space program 2 jebediah best game 2021The original game remains one of the greatest gaming surprises of recent years. Created by one amateur coder during his lunch break, the concept was fairly simple: build rockets and try to launch them into space under realistic physics and orbital mechanics. The deceptively deep toybox-like design tools proved such good fun that you could sink hours into just getting that one perfect spacecraft into orbit before even realising you had other planets to visit. Now a full team of professional designers are bringing a full-blooded sequel, Kerbal Space Program 2.

The goal of this sequel appears to be to take the successful foundations of the original and just build on it. More parts, colony building, multiple star systems. It's the type of feature list that fans and modders have been dreaming about, but the key will be to get the basics right. The physics system has to feel as solid as the original, the building tools need to be as intuitive. It won't be enough to just slap a coat of Kerbilish paint on a pale imitation.

Originally slated for release last March, a series of delays has seen this title pushed back into 2021. Delays are fine, I only wish they would follow the same open-development model of the first game (back when it was an indie title). The precise release date is not currently known, but barring any further delays we should see it late on in the year.

Release Date: Late 2021

13. Age of Empires IV (PC)

age of empires iv pc 2021 best gameWho says videogame companies never listen to the fans? The Age of Empires series has always held a fond place in the hearts of old school strategy gamers, and in particular the 1999 classic Age of Empires II to this day retains a surprisingly devoted fanbase and active multiplayer and modding communities. So much so, in fact, that Microsoft even deemed to make one of the community's more popular mods an official expansion, some 15 years after the game's release.

It seems Microsoft's newfound embrace of the franchise was not limited to just fan-made expansions and HD re-releases, and have announced Age of Empires IV, the first entry in the series since 2005. Little is known about the sequel, but the teaser trailer appears to imply a medieval setting roughly in-line with the second and most enduringly popular game in the series.

One of my biggest memories of Age of Empires was that my school used it as a teaching aid, so whatever happens I hope this new title does not skimp on the educational value. Release date is still to be announced.

Release Date: Late 2021

12. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord (PC)

mount and blade 2 ii bannerlord best game 2021A game that has been years in the making since the release of the original title back in 2008 Mount & Blade II arrives with a great deal of hype and it's easy to see why. The Mount & Blade series began life as an indie title, attempting to model an open world experience in a medieval setting that offered combat, trade and diplomacy in the mould of a title like Sid Meier's Pirates or Elite. 

The core gameplay is first person sword combat, reminiscent of a game like Skyrim, but in a realistic (albeit still fictional) world rooted in real-world technology and culture (ie no magic or non-human beings here). Where Mount & Blade differentiates itself from other titles is through its RPG and character interaction mechanics, which permit a great deal of player agency. Become a trader or a mercenary, swear fealty to a king and be assigned control of an army, or seize a town for yourself and begin to build your own fiefdom Appoint your own subordinate lords or generals, sire a family, build alliances, etc. It's all very dynamic and open, and the sequel builds on all those elements to create an ambitious and more advanced simulation.

Bannerlord has been in early access since last year, but should see its full release during 2021, supposedly in the spring a year after its initial early access launch.

Release Date: Spring 2021

11. Starfield (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

starfield bethesda fallout best game 2021 pc xbox ps4 ps5Anything you can do, we can do better. Having seen rivals and original Fallout creators Obsidian try their hand at a spacefaring RPG in 2019's The Outer Worlds (to moderate success), the current stewards of the Fallout franchise Bethesda are themselves getting into the mix with the as yet still very mysterious, Starfield.

Most of the details of this title remain shrouded in mystery, but rumours suggest a grand space opera in the style of a Mass Effect or Star Wars, with open-world exploration built around the same concepts as Bethesda's tried and tested Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series. Quite how this will adapt to a game which allegedly features multiple worlds and the ability to fly a spaceship is anyone's guess, but the few teasers we have seen point again to titles like Mass Effect for hints.

I am very excited about this game. The only reason it is this far down the list is because of my skepticism that it will in fact launch this year as expected.

Release Date: TBA 2021

10. Sable (PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

sable best pc game 2021 80 days meg jayanthI love a good indie game, but few make a debut as eye-catching as Sable. Produced by two lifelong friends in their basement, Sable promises to be a contemplative adventure focused around exploration, with a Ghibli-esque aesthetic and stunning hand-drawn art style.

It's certainly one of the best looking games to pop up in recent years, but such an introspective game is always going to succeed on the merit of its storytelling. It is fortunate then that the award winning Meg Jayanth is behind the story. If she can build the world of Sable with the same flair and aplomb as Sunless Seas or 80 Days then it could be a memorable experience.

Releasing initially on Steam, with a later launch on Xbox Live, we should see this one close to the summer.

Release Date: Summer 2021

9. The Artful Escape (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

the artful escape francis vendetti annapurna edith finch david bowie best game 2021Award winning film studio Annapurna made their debut in videogaming with the spellbinding What Remains of Edith Finch and have since followed it up with a series of remarkable and creative titles, including last year's excellent Sayonara Wild Hearts. This year they will finally follow up this success with their long-awaited title The Artful Escape. This one has been in the works for a while, time and time again it keeps getting delayed. But despite this, it looks better each and every time we see it. 2021 appears to be the year that it finally sees release.

The concept is quite unique. Players take the role of aspiring folk musician Francis Vendetti on a journey to reinvent his musical and stage persona. The result has been described by the game's lead developer as "David Bowie traveling off from London on an interstellar trip to create Ziggy Stardust".

In terms of actual gameplay, this takes the form of a musical platformer which sees Vendetti's performances depicted as journeys through mind-bending fantastical and sci-fi landscapes, with occasional rhythm-based music sections to pass. Frankly it's stunning to look at and listen to, with a pleasingly relaxing pace to it.

Release Date: TBA 2021

8. NEO: The World Ends With You (PS4, PS5, Switch)

neo world ends with you square final fantasy best game 2021 ps4 ps5 switch playstationWell this was a surprise. Fourteen years ago there existed a little-known handheld game called The World Ends With You, developed by Square Enix of Final Fantasy fame. It was really quite a wild ride: set in Shibuya, Japan, a world obsessed by fashion, status and pop culture. Players controlled a recently deceased teen with no memory of his demise, wandering the town unable to be seen by the ordinary populace and drawn into a series of cruel challenges by an enigmatic group known as "the reapers". It was a mystery rolled into a biting commentary on popular culture, impeccably presented in its music, art style and writing.

While warmly received at the time, it is a title that has since fallen into obscurity, until the surprise announcement of NEO: The World Ends With You. A full blown sequel, this time designed for home consoles rather than handheld. This marks the revitalisation of an underrated IP, with a larger ambition and scope than previously imagined. This could do for this title what 2019's wonderful Three Houses did for the similarly handheld-focused Fire Emblem series. Definitely one to watch.

Release Date: Summer 2021

7. Gamedec (PC)

gamedec rpg cyberpunk disco elysium best game 2021Slow-burning story-based RPGs are in vogue at the moment following the critical success of titles such as Disco Elysium, as is the cyberpunk genre (Cyberpunk 2077's somewhat tumultuous launch notwithstanding). Combining both those things is Gamedec, an adaptation of the Polish series of sci-fi crime novels.

The concept is deliciously on trend, a hard-boiled neo-noir detective story who investigates crimes in virtual worlds. Think Ready Player One mixed with Bladerunner. As with the aforementioned Disco Elysium, this is an RPG that decidedly does not focus on violence and action, but instead on its story and characters. Gamedec will live and die by the quality of its writing, but the premise so far is intriguing.

Gamedec entered beta at the tail end of last year, but was ultimately pushed to 2021 to allow for further refinement and quality control. It is now expected to launch this year, but no date has been confirmed.

Release Date: Summer 2021

6. Everspace 2 (PC, Mac, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

pc everspace 2 best game 2021The first game in the Everspace series was a serviceable enough roguelike experience. You'd be excused for thinking that the sequel, the creatively titled Everspace 2, was more of the same. This time, however, Rockfish have set their ambitions a little higher, crafting a full-blown story-driven space-faring RPG experience, more in the mould of a Freelancer (a truly underrated game).

Everspace 2 will see players explore a series of intricately detaled hand-crafted star systems and planets, complete with quests, secrets to be discovered, and plenty of satisfying pew pew combat. What impresses most (at this early stage) is the surprising variety of gameplay and the depth to the environments that have so far been revealed. If they can craft a compelling story with immersive world-building, this could really be a quality space adventure.

This game enters early access in January, with a full release expected later in the year. What we have seen so far bodes well and this is definitely a title to keep an eye on.

Release Date: Late 2021

5. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk (PC)

bomb rush cyberfunk jet set radio hideki naganuma best game pc 2021I'm a 90s kid. That means I inherently love Sega. But Sega are an objectively bad company. How else can you explain why a company that always appears to be on the verge of collapse is allowing an astonishing catalogue of classic intellectual properties and franchises (arguably matched only by Nintendo in depth) to just collect dust in a warehouse somewhere? Chief among these is the great Jet Set Radio series of games. Frustrated by their intransigence, a group of indie devs (and apparent fans of the series) have taken matters into their own hands by crafting their own spiritual successor to the long dormant franchise. The result is Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

Fans of Jet Set Radio will find much of what they love here. Bright, cell-shaded visuals, the funky musical stylings of the brilliant Hideki Naganuma, and the same mesmerising neo-futuristic urban setting. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, you will skate around a dizzying cityscape full of gangs, graffiti and rebel-spirit. So far it looks great.

Release is expected sometime during 2021. Can this indie team succeed where larger studios have failed and emulate the success of this classic title? We shall see.

Release Date: TBA 2021

4. Avowed (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

avowed obsidian pillars of eternity skyrim elder scrolls fallout best game 2021 There is not a single thing about the pitch behind Avowed that I do not like. Obsidian are masters of the RPG genre, known for the excellent Pillars of Eternity series as well Fallout: New Vegas (and indeed the team features many of the original creators of the Fallout franchise) and most recently the award winning The Outer Worlds. This is a Skyrim-like first person action RPG set in the same world as their Pillars series.

Obsidian are known for crafting immersive, fully fleshed out worlds that provide a high level of player agency, where the player's decisions have a real tangible impact on the story. The opportunity to dive into a new Obsidian RPG is always a reason for excitement, but I am especially excited to see the Pillars series (previously an old-school isometric RPG) reimagined from a fully immersive first person perspective.

So far we have seen little aside from the initial teaser. We should expect to get a closer look when E3 rolls around this year (assuming it does), with a release expected by the end of the year.

Release Date: Late 2021

3. Perfect Dark (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

perfect dark reboot best game pc xbox 2021 rare james bondSpeaking of long-neglected franchises (which makes more sense if you skip the last one and refer back to number 5 for Bomb Rush Cyberfunk), here's a reboot I most definitely did not expect to see.

Perfect Dark (the original N64 title from 2000) is one of my favourite games of all time. Created by Rare back during the pinnacle of their golden age, Perfect Dark was a first person shooter and spiritual successor to the classic Goldeneye, also developed by Rare for the N64. Like Goldeneye, it was a spy-thriller full of gadgets, colourful characters, and some of the best multiplayer ever devised. Unlike Goldeneye it was not constrained by the established James Bond lore. Instead, Rare were able to do their own thing, crafting a stunning cyberpunk world of mega-corporations, aliens and sinister cabals. The original title in the series was also notable for pioneering a sort of open hub-world at a time before the blending of an open-world format with other genres had become common as it is today.

So to be finally getting a new title in the series, the first since 2005's mostly disappointing prequel Perfect Dark Zero is an exciting moment. Developed not by Rare, but by the newly created The Initiative team at Microsoft, little is known about this title including whether it is a sequel, prequel or complete reboot. Mega-corporations appear to be back (spotted a Datadyne logo in the trailer) and we are told to expect some kind of an "eco sci-fi" plot. If they can pull this off it could be spectacular.

Release Date: Late 2021

2. Untitled Mass Effect Game (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

mass effect 4 5 sequel andromeda shepard xbox playstation pc ps4 ps5 best game 2021You know what is one of the few franchises better than Perfect Dark? Mass Effect. 

The original trilogy of Mass Effect remains one of the pinnacles of story-based videogames. A stunningly realised sci-fi world full of believable and well written characters, unforgettable settings and top level world-building. A series that pioneered (for mainstream gaming at least) morality systems and decision-tree storytelling where the player's decisions materially impacted the ending and inspired a generation of copycats. Then came Mass Effect Andromeda in 2017, a soft-reboot following the main trilogy that attempted to expand the franchise into a new setting and with completely new characters. While the title was not lacking for ambition, it was a buggy, incomplete mess that had clearly been rushed to market. Its disastrous launch resulted in the cancellation of all intended DLCs and sequels and placed the entire franchise temporarily on ice.

But now that period in the wilderness appears to be at an end. Mass Effect is back with an as yet untitled sequel. Right now essentially nothing is known about this game, but the initial teaser did reveal a few tantalising hints, most notably the reveal of Liara, suggesting a return to the setting and characters of the original trilogy. But at the same time, the audio of the trailer hints at a return to Andromeda, indicating that some kind of crossover or combination of the two settings may be on the cards. Whatever they end up doing, this is very exciting news, I can't wait to see what they end up doing.

Release Date: TBA 2021

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)

legend of zelda breath of the wild 2 sequel switch best game ever 2020You know what is one of the few franchises better than Mass Effect? The Legend of Zelda.

How do you follow up a game that is often considered to be one of the greatest ever made? That is the question Nintendo will be asking now as they craft The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (presumably a working title). In fairness, it is a position in which they have found themselves before in following up the Ocarina of Time. The result on that occasion was Majora's Mask, a game considered by many to be even better than its predecessor. So no pressure then.

We know nothing about this game, other than the fact that it is apparently directly related to its predecessor, itself a somewhat rarity in the Zelda series. One of the major boons in Majora's Mask's development was the fact that the engine and assets were already there, which meant that the developers could use their time more for adding finesse and character. If they pull the same trick this time around then we could be in for something special.

Release Date: Late 2021

So there you have it folks: 2021 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new theatrical productions coming this year!

Friday, 15 January 2021

Happy New Year to all and welcome back to The Ephemeric. I hope you are all well rested and well fatted from your holidays, but now 2021 is upon us it's time to get down to business. A new year can only mean one thing, it's time to break out The Hot List and see what's coming up next.

So here it is, your ultimate guide to the year ahead, The Ephemeric's 2021 Hot List. In this first entry we will be looking at the most exciting things happening in the world of television over the next 12 months, with a particular eye cast over the brand new shows hitting your screens in 2021.

best anticipated new tv television shows 2021 hot list ephemeric
As far as the entertainment industry goes, television is one medium that has been left relatively intact during the pandemic era. It makes sense. After all, with everybody spending a lot more time at home, there's likely to be a much higher demand for television content and in particular the various home-streaming services. Indeed that's what we have seen, with Netflix, Disney and others reporting astonishing growth in subscriptions over the past year. 

Instead, the challenge has been in the production of new content. Acting out scenes generally requires a lack of social distancing, to say nothing of the various off-camera realms of production that typically are performed in teams. It has no doubt been a unique challenge for many production companies, one which has led, if not to a cessation, then to a much lower pace of production. As a result, many series that we were expecting to see in 2020 ended up being pushed to 2021, and even now it is far from certain when exactly we will see many of the year's most anticipated shows. 

Nevertheless, they are coming and here we have for you a list of the best of the best, the ones that everyone will be talking about in 2021 (pandemic willing). So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2021:

15. Inventing Anna - Netflix (New TV Show)

inventing anna netflix tv show 2021 best most anticipatedEveryone loves a good conman story, and in Netflix's new series Inventing Anna, they have got a good one in store. Inspired by real events, this is the story of Anna Sorokin, a Russian fraudster who, for years, had infiltrated some of the most exclusive social circles of New York posing as a German heiress.

This is the first production to come of the much ballyhooed new exclusive deal between Netflix and Shonda Rhimes, best known as the creative mind behind Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. Dawn of an exciting new era? We shall see. Julia Garner stars, with a cast also featuring Anna Chlumsky, Katie Lowes and Laverne Cox.

Production began in earnest back at the start of 2020 and despite a pandemic-related delay, we are now expecting to see this launch on Netflix towards the middle of the year.

Start Date: Summer 2021

14. The Sandman - Netflix (New TV Show)

the sandman netflix gaiman 2021 most anticipated tvAnother notable coup for Netflix, this is the long-mooted adaptation of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman. As with most Gaiman works, the plot is such that it would be difficult to describe it in any meaningful way with the amount of space I have available. Suffice it to say, this is going to be every bit as weird and wonderful as you would expect from the man who wrote Coraline, Stardust, American Gods, Good Omens, among others.

The Sandman has endured something of a tortured production history, beginning life as a Goyer film that had been intended to star Joseph Gordon Levitt way back in 2013. That production ultimately stalled and eventually gave way to the new miniseries with which we have ended up. 

Filming began at the tail end of last year and Gaiman has insisted we will see this at some point in 2021. But otherwise we know surprisingly little about this production, who it will star or what it will look like. Nevertheless, it is enough to intrigue.

Start Date: TBA 2021

13. Daisy Jones & The Six - Amazon (New TV Show)

2021 most anticipated tv amazon daisy jones six novel reece witherspoonThis is the adaptation of the Debbie Award winning novel Daisy Jones & The Six, a miniseries that has been in production basically ever since Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel first dropped. Snapped up by Reece Witherspoon's production company, the series was first pitched as potentially making its way to HBO, it has since ended up finding a home on Amazon.

This is of course story of the titular Daisy Jones and her fictionalised 1970s rockband, allegedly based loosely on the history of Fleetwood Mac. The novel was written in the format of a documentary film, but it is expected that the series will be a more traditional drama, albeit with an Office/Parks and Rec confessional mockumentary style.

The cast may be mostly unknown, but in its lead they have some bona fide musical credentials in Riley Keough, grandchild of none other than the king Elvis Presley himself. She is joined in the cast by Sam Claflin, who you might recognise from the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films. Release data is still TBA,but this is one of the most exciting series in production. We will watch its production closely.

Start Date: TBA 2021

12. Station Eleven - HBO Max (New TV Show)

station eleven hbo max 2021 most anticipated tv showsSomewhat topical. Station Eleven is the adaptation of the 2014 Emily St. John Mandel novel of the same name, quite presciently depicting the aftermath of a flu pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. A little too topical perhaps? Don't worry, this is supposed to be the uplifting and optimistic type of post-apocalypse. If anything it will come as reassuring.

Patrick Somerville is attached as show-runner, best known for his work as writer on The Bridge, The Leftovers and Maniac. The cast will feature Mackenzie Davis, who you might recognise from Black Mirror, The Martian and Blade Runner 2049, alongside Himesh Patel, best known for his role in Eastenders and the recent Richard Curtis movie Yesterday.

Station Eleven will appear on HBO Max, a service that hopefully will one day appear in the UK. I'm expecting this to drop in the latter half of 2021.

Start Date: TBA 2021

11. The Orville - Hulu

the orville hulu family guy seth macfarlane 2021 most anticipated tv
The Orville had a great first two seasons in 2017 and 2018, finally giving fans that proper spiritual sequel to Star Trek that they had so badly been craving. It's been a rough two years since then, however. A transfer from Fox to Hulu would have been difficult under any circumstances, let alone in the middle of a pandemic that ultimately delayed production further. Production did finally resume at the end of 2020, and it is expected that we will finally see the third season this year.

Imaginative and timely with its moral-driven plotlines, Orville sees Seth MacFarlane move out of his comfort zone and into a less slapstick genre, one which showcases his talents as a writer. In an era when anything even vaguely sci-fi feels the need to be ├╝ber grim-dark or full of over the top action, it's nice to see a series that's more about provoking thought than a visceral reaction.

If season 3 can maintain the consistency and quality of its storytelling, then we could have the makings of a very strong science fiction franchise here.

Start Date: Late 2021

10. This is Going to Hurt - BBC (New TV Show)

adam kay this is going to hurt bbc amateur transplants london underground 2021 most anticipated tv showsThe name Adam Kay means a lot of different things to different people. To some, he is a former doctor and graduate of my alma mater Imperial College. To others of a certain age, he is one half of The Amateur Transplants, a musical comedy duo that brought us such classics as London Underground and The Drugs Song (Kay would probably rather we not remember some of his other, most disturbing songs like "Never let a Woman Drive" to the tune of the Sheila's Wheels jingle, and "Rohypnol" to the tune of Blondie's Maria).

But to most, he is the author of the medical memoir This is Going to Hurt, detailing some of the horror stories from Kay's time as a doctor. The best seller is now being adapted to TV by the BBC.

If some of his material can be considered in bad taste, there is no denying that Adam Kay is a witty man. His writing is blistering, incisive, and hilarious, and if that translates well to the screen then this will be a very worthwhile series.

Start Date: Spring 2021

9. Dexter - Showtime

dexter showtime reboot return comeback 2021 most anticipated tvHere's one I did not see coming. Four great seasons and another four not so great, Dexter was a decent series back during its original run on Showtime, which ended some seven years ago. This surprise ninth season provides an opportunity to revisit these characters and hopefully to undo the catastrophically awful original series finale.

Michael C Hall reprises his role as the titular closet psychopath with a penchant for hunting down and executing criminals in order to (relatively ethically) slake his bloodlust. James Manos Jr, who helmed the series during its original run and will also be known for his work on The Sopranos and The Shield, returns as showrunner.

The revival is expected to pick up where the previous run left off, hopefully providing some much needed closure to fans. We have been told to expect the new series late 2021.

Start Date: Late 2021

8. Halston - Netflix (New TV Show)

2021 most anticipated tv halston netflixThis new Netflix series represents the latest work from the impressively prolific Ryan Murphy, best known for his work with American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Glee, The Politician and Hollywood, among others.

Halston tells the true story of America's first celebrity fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, tracking his rise and fall in the 1960s. Ewan McGregor will star.

Ryan Murphy is not everyone's cup of tea, but his work is usually pretty entertaining and worth watching. His frenetic, oversaturated style would seem to be a good fit for the glamorous world of fashion in particular. An exact release date has not yet been confirmed, but production is complete and we have been told to expect this at some point during 2021.

Start Date: TBA 2021

7. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2021 season 4And of course you can't have a Hot List without a new season of Stranger ThingsNetflix's mega hit remains one of the best things on television, and I know I'm not the only one who can't wait to see where season four takes us.

Little is known about the new season. The last season left us on something of an ambiguous note, with certain central characters potentially gone, and the ongoing status of Stranger Things' main villain left uncertain. And what of Eleven's sibling and the ambiguous fate of her "papa"?

While there are clear plot-threads to follow going forward, no one really knows what direction the Duffer Brothers will take this. Whatever the case, the strength of the writing and production thus far gives us no reason for concern, and we expect great things when this releases in August.

Start Date: August 2021

6. The Boys - Amazon 

the boys amazon season 3 2021 most anticipated tvOne of Amazon's bigger successes in original TV content, The Boys is an adaptation of a little known comic book series satirising the superhero genre by imagining a world where the super-powered have become corrupted by greed and corporate interests. If the first season drew headlines for its violence and raunchiness, season two took the series to a more complex and highly polished level.

The main cast of Karl Urban, Jack QuaidAntony Starr, and Erin Moriarty returns. It's anyone's guess where season three will go from a narrative perspective, although the second season's cliffhanger ending certainly provide a hint of what to expect. It has also been floated that this season will see a depiction of the "herogasm" plotline from the comic series, the name of which should give some clue as to what it entails.

Filming is only just getting underway as we speak due to pandemic-related delays, so there is a chance this could slip into 2022, but I am optimistic that it will be ready in time for release by late 2021. 

Start Date: Late 2021

5. Staged - BBC 

staged season 2 lockdown michael sheen david tennant 2021 best televisionThe first of what will likely be many artistic works inspired by the pandemic era, Staged is the delightful creation of writer, director and sometimes actor Simon Evans. Evans plays himself alongside fictionalised versions of Michael Sheen and David Tennant as they seek to put together a theatrical production in spite of the logistical difficulties of lockdown. It's part commentary on the surreal nature of the pandemic era, part satire on celebrity and the creative industry. It's a very simple premise, rendered remarkable by the wit and self-effacing performances of its stars. 

Arriving just in time for another lockdown, season two will go full meta with a fictionalised non-fictional (if that makes sense) version of Sheen and Tennant attempting to adapt the TV show Staged for American audiences following the successful critical reception of the first season. They will be joined by an even greater lineup of celebrity guest stars, including the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, Christoph Waltz, and many others.

Both seasons of Staged are now available on BBC iPlayer.

Start Date: January 2021

4. The Underground Railroad - Amazon (New TV Show)

the underground railroad amazon best tv show television 2021The main headline of Amazon's new original TV content for 2021, The Underground Railroad is a timely adaptation of the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead

This miniseries, helmed by Barry Jenkins the award winning filmmaker behind Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, depicts an alternate world where the real-world Underground Railroad (a network that worked to free enslaved African-Americans during the 1800s) is an actual underground train system. The plot follows two slaves, Cora and Caesar, as they attempt to escape Georgia and ride the railroad to freedom. Cast includes Thuso Mbedu, Aaron Pierre and Joel Edgerton.

Filming wrapped back in September, meaning that a release in the not-too-distant future is on the cards. I expect this one to drop around the middle of the year.

Start Date: Summer 2021

3. Ted Lasso - AppleTV+

ted lasso season 2 apple appletv+ plus new most anticipated tv 2021The big shock of the television world in 2020. When Apple announced an adaptation of Jason Sudeikis' short-lived and one-note comedy skit Ted Lasso (originally conceived as part of an advertising campaign for NBC's coverage of English football) into a full television series, most people (myself included) were quick to scoff. But somehow, against all logic, this is a far better show than it has any right to be.

The key ingredient was the tapping of Bill Lawrence, best known as the creator of Scrubs as showrunner. He has managed to craft a world that is bursting at the seams with charm and loveable characters. An idealised version of reality that makes for some delightful feel-good television that is sure to please fans of shows like Scrubs and Parks and Recreation.

Apple were so pleased with the first season that Ted Lasso has already been renewed for seasons two and three, with the second expected to land sometime in late 2021.

Start Date: Late 2021

2. WandaVision - Disney+ (New TV Show)

wandavision marvel comics vision scarlett witch disney disney+ tv show 2021 best most anticipated Until now, the television output of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been something of an afterthought, untethered from the continuity of the main series of films and without the same creative direction or resources. That looks set to change with WandaVision, the new series from Disney+ focusing on prominent movie characters Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson). 

Anyone who is up to date with the films will no doubt be wondering how we can have a series featuring these two characters. Much of the plot is still shrouded in mystery, but the trailers released to date make clear that something very odd indeed is afoot. Black and white suburbia, old four camera style with a laugh track. WandaVision appears to be going for some bizarre mishmash of midcentury sitcom and superhero blockbuster and that is part of what makes this so intriguing.

WandaVision will launch on Disney+ in mid January. It may be shrouded in mystery, but we will see soon enough what all the fuss is about.

Start Date: January 2021

1. Foundation - AppleTV+ (New TV Show)

foundation apple 2021 most anticipated tvApple's adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation had been billed as the main tentpole of the company's new push into original content. Perhaps predictably for such a massive and expensive project, delays followed, and the release is now (hopefully) expected for some time in Autumn 2021.

The seminal, epoch-spanning book series has long been mooted for some form of adaptation, but has generally been considered either unworkable or too large-scale to depict on screen. Apple apparently feel the technology is now there, and are prepared to throw a significant budget into bankrolling this ambitious new series.

The project will be handled by David Ellison's Skydance production company, while Ellison will be joined as executive producer by a line-up of prominent names including David GoyerJosh Friedman, and Asimov's daughter Robyn. The cast features Jared Harris, Lee Pace and Laura Birn. Beyond that, much is still shrouded in mystery, needless to say this is going to be a major event when it gets here.

Start Date: Autumn 2021

So there you have it folks: 2021 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

On January 20th, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. He takes the reigns of a country in free-fall, reeling from a seemingly unending litany of crises, many of which were self-inflicted by the previous administration. The new President needs to hit the ground running in order to get this house in order. With this post I will run through what should be the early priorities of this administration, many of which can realistically be achieved through this new Democratic majority.

2020 2021 joe biden 46th president new administration priorities legislation policy plan first year trump election inauguration

1. Get Coronavirus under control
This one goes without saying. The first and main priority for any President at this time should be getting this pandemic under control and putting an end to the catastrophic and ongoing loss of American life. 

Of course, we need to be realistic. There is only so much a President can do, it's not going to be a case of snapping his fingers and making everything better. Even with the best leadership, this is going to be a long and hard fight. That being said, there is an awful lot that the President can do to improve the situation, whether it is through mask mandates, lockdowns and tighter restrictions. Joe Biden will also establish a much needed Covid-19 task force and prominently feature medical experts in his response strategy, as opposed to the political strategists who have mystifyingly been put in charge of the Trump plan.

But perhaps the single most important thing the President can do to help handle the pandemic is educate the public. Set the right example, explain the need to wear a mask, the need to wash your hands and observe social distancing. For the past year, our Government has been officially telling people that the virus is no big deal and that they did not need to take any measures to slow its spread, and surprise surprise the virus has spread out of control. Simply changing this approach and educating people on the simple, easy steps they can take will do much to slow the spread.

2. Re-commit to the Paris Climate Accord
This is something that the new President can and should do on day one of his presidency. The Paris Climate Accord was a historic agreement that implemented a sensible and achievable strategy in order to protect our environment and safeguard the future of this planet. 

Donald Trump's announcement to withdraw from this agreement, making his pariah state the only nation on Earth not to commit towards solving this actual existential crisis, has been much overshadowed by the many scandals and more marketable crises since, but will nevertheless go down as one of the more reckless and unfathomable policy decisions of his presidency. Fortunately Joe Biden will reverse the previous administration's decision to leave the accord and can do so unilaterally as soon as he enters the White House.

3. Undo Trump's healthcare sabotage
There are few instances in which one can point to an actual belief or ideological stance among Trump's various policy endeavours. If there is a single unifying thread through most of the, admittedly few, things he attempted to accomplish as President, it would be the desire to reverse any actions taken by his predecessor Barack Obama (and in doing so provide his base with the validation they so desperately craved). Prime among these initiatives was the push to repeal Barack Obama's signature healthcare expansion.

The attempt failed, so instead Trump decided on an even more pathetic and underhanded strategy: attempt to legally sabotage the law so that it would be vulnerable to being overturned in the courts. The specific mechanism here was to reduce the non-compliance tax to 0%, and then argue in the courts that a 0% tax was unconstitutional and therefore the rest of the law must be repealed because it needs the tax to function. It's a nonsense, a fact made clear at the very least by the fact that the law has been functioning perfectly fine for years without it. Nevertheless, with the high number of extremist judges that Trump has managed to pack onto the courts, there's a very real chance of this insane endeavour working. While this would actually do very little to undo everything that Obamacare accomplished (after all, if you repeal a law to build a bridge, it doesn't un-build the bridge) it would remove many of the regulations and protections that hold the American healthcare system together, plunging the sector into a death spiral and almost certainly costing many American lives in the process. 

Fortunately this is also something that can be easily undone by the next President. A bare majority would be sufficient to reinstate the tax, thus rendering the entire case moot. President Biden should move to do this in his first week in office and he should follow it up by passing additional legislation to make the law less vulnerable to such cynical attempts at undermining in the future.

4. End gerrymandering & Electoral reform
If we have learned one thing from the past four years, it is that American democracy has a number of major flaws. The Trump administration began with the President and both chambers of Congress having been elected by a minority of the votes and shockingly this was in no way abnormal. Indeed, the Republican Party has only won the national popular vote once in the past thirty years, despite having controlled Government for most of that time. American democracy is shockingly undemocratic. It has been twisted and corrupted into a system that, as often as not, permits the preferred minority to defeat the majority. Clearly this should not be the case if America wants to continue to represent itself as the heart of democratic values. 

There are a number of steps that can be taken to help fix this system. One that has been in the news a lot over recent years is the abolition of the electoral college, the outdated system that allowed Donald Trump to take power despite losing the 2016 election by several million votes. This is extremely unlikely to be something that happens through Congress, as it would require a two thirds majority to amend the constitution. A more realistic alternative is the national popular vote compact, an initiative that calls on the states themselves to agree to award their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. There is actually a realistic proposition of this coming to pass eventually. It has currently been signed by states representing 196 electoral votes, with bills pending in states representing an additional 77. If those states sign (unlikely to happen in the immediate future) then the initiative will pass and the electoral college, while not technically abolished, would be rendered irrelevant.

A more immediate, and potentially even more important, step that can be taken to fix American democracy is a ban on gerrymandering. Gerrymandering, in short, is an undemocratic process by which politicians draw their own district borders so as to lump unfavourable voters into as few districts as possible, essentially to choose their own voters (this, for example, is why the Democratic Party currently needs to win nationally by historic margins just to squeak a narrow majority of seats). Congress can and should pass a law to end this practice, mandating that states establish independent and non-partisan commissions to draw their borders. This is actually something that Biden could move pretty quickly on, requiring only a bare majority of votes. It would also be largely immune to judicial challenge, given that the question of gerrymandering has been sent to the Supreme Court on many occasions, only to be dismissed as a question for Congress to resolve on each occasion.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the shocking disenfranchisement problem that Americans currently face. This includes the long and surprisingly open attempt to exclude minority voters (in some extreme cases, by incarcerating them on minor charges) as well as less subtle initiatives such as voter purges and reducing the number of polling stations in urban districts. There are a few laws that Congress could pass pretty quickly to reduce the impact of these shameful practices: make election day a national holiday, re-enfranchise convicted felons who have served their time, as well as strengthening the federal electoral commission and other similar regulatory bodies.

5. Statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico
Along these lines is another national disgrace that, quite frankly, we have ignored for far too long. There are millions of American citizens who currently have no representation and no right to vote nationally. 700k people in Washington DC alone, a further 3million in Puerto Rico, as well as others. That's more people than live in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota combined, and yet they do not enjoy the same rights as those citizens. 

But this is more than just a crisis of democracy. The shocking events in America's capital this week laid bare in striking fashion the very real toll of non-statehood, with DC officials lacking control over even their own national guard (which unlike every other state, is controlled by the Federal Government). The citizens of DC were unable to defend themselves from an attack, all because a capricious and hostile President refused to deploy DC's national guard. I expect this will inspire a renewed push for statehood, and rightly so. It is a national embarrassment that so many people are treated as lesser citizens for purely political reasons.

6. De-radicalisation of American extremists
Nobody wants to say it, but after this week's violent attack we really need to. It's easy to watch the recent news clips of these unhinged insurrectionists screaming about socialism or muslims or how Joe Biden is a Chinese child-rapist and just think to yourself "oh well those people are just crazy". But this is a much bigger problem than we want to admit. These types of wild, completely fictional beliefs are shockingly widespread. These are not bad people, they are not crazy people. Despite what many on the left like to believe, they're not even necessarily stupid. There are many completely normal, completely rational and otherwise intelligent people who have inexplicably turned into wild conspiracy theorists and I'm sure many of us know a few. 

We need to call it what it is. These people have been radicalised. Just like any other extremist movement anywhere else in the world, otherwise normal people have over time been twisted and manipulated to a worldview that is angry, fearful, and completely untethered from reality. It's not even necessarily their fault. The tools that liars and propagandists use to manipulate and poison the minds of the receptive have grown more subtle, especially in the mass media and digital age. The documentary The Brainwashing of my Dad does an excellent job of shining a light on this problem and I'm sure there are others. This is the biggest problem that America doesn't even realise it's facing. This extremism has led to our current state of division, anger and violence. It will only get worse if we simply continue to ignore it.

So what can we do about it? That's the question and it's more of a longterm project for this new President, but one that he will need to address at some point. It could take the form of campaign finance reform to prevent the unlimited and anonymous funding of propaganda, or greater regulation of the media to prevent people from spreading propaganda under the guise of legitimate news. Election security, to prevent hostile actors from targeting and manipulating the vulnerable (as we saw in 2016) would be a good move. Longer term it may require additional efforts through education, a greater emphasis on teaching our children about critical thinking and making sure they are mentally equipped to resist manipulation in the digital age. In the most extreme cases, we may need to consider a fully fledged program of de-radicalisation, similar to what we saw in the wake of World War II, or that we currently employ in the fight against terrorism.

I appreciate that this is a difficult topic to discuss and controversial in many ways. But mark my words, if we do not address this problem directly the violence will only get worse.

7. Crack down on corruption in law enforcement
Now let's be clear, I have never been part of the "defund the police" crowd. I think that's a stupid idea and one of the worst political hooks I have ever heard. That being said, it is clear that the police needs to be reformed in many ways, a fact that has been plainly thrust into the spotlight in the wake of this week's attack on the Capitol.

Some of the most shocking footage from the attack has been that of police officers aiding the attackers, allowing them through barricades and waving them on to the Capitol building. Posing for pictures with them and turning a blind eye to their criminal actions. The fact that the police force was so lacking for this attack compared to the Black Lives Matters protestors last summer is shocking enough, even more so when you see footage of police officers escorting the attackers away from the Capitol and letting them go on their merry way rather than being arrested on the spot. 

Nor is this an isolated incident. Many of us still remember the footage from Kenosha last year where police appeared to endorse armed vigilantism, even when those vigilantes went on to shoot and kill peaceful protestors. We may not need to defund the police, but they certainly need much greater oversight and accountability.

8. De-politicise the courts
This is a tricky topic, but one that needs to be addressed in some form. The rule of law in America has become increasingly politicised. In recent years we have seen the courts get packed with politically minded appointees, turning the judiciary into a de facto third legislative chamber, but one over which the voters have practically no influence. This has been a problem for a long time, but it reached an entirely new extreme during the Obama years, with the Republican Senate obstructing the judicial appointment process at an unprecedented level to the detriment of the country, culminating in the still-shameful theft of Merrick Garland's seat on the Supreme Court. 

We saw the problem in all its absurdity last year with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For an octogenarian cancer patient's life to be turned into a political football, for the wellbeing of so many to rest on a single individual forcing herself to continue a job at the expense of her own health rather than retire and seek care, is an absurd and unacceptable situation for so many reasons. A member of the judiciary falling ill or dying should not cause a political crisis or endanger the healthcare of millions, that is ridiculous. It is medieval. It is clearly an unsustainable way to run a modern democracy. One way or another, we must address the political dynamics that gave rise to so appalling a situation.

So what can we do? Many have suggested simply expanding the court. I do not favour such an approach on its own. This may at least recoup the two ill-gotten Trump Court seats, but without real structural reform there is nothing to stop future administrations simply doing the same ad infinitum. It kicks the can down the road and creates a self-fulfilling death spiral for the court. More substantial reform is needed. 

I am not sure what form that reform should take. Term limits would seem to be a sensible suggestion to avoid the absurdity of RBG's sorry plight. Pete Buttigieg had a decent suggestion that only some of the court's seats could be political appointees, with the others appointed by members of the judiciary. But the best suggestion I have yet heard comes from Andrew Yang, who points out that there's no real reason to have a single Supreme Court bench of just a few Justices. He advocates a wider bench of many Justices who sit on different cases according to their expertise and standing. This would increase court efficiency and allow the court to handle a larger number of cases each year. Most importantly it would reduce the significance of any single individual Justice since, if one dies or retires, they could just be replaced by one of the other Justices. This de-escalation of the significance of every single court appointment is the best solution I have yet heard for how to de-politicise the process, and ensures that the death or illness of a Justice does not also become a political crisis. 

9. Salvage the Iran nuclear deal
One of the most significant foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama administration was the Iran nuclear deal. It ended decades of brinksmanship between the Middle East's foremost powers, ensured stability free from the spectre of nuclear war, and provided an economic pathway for Iran to shift away from extremism and towards becoming a true global partner.

The Trump administration's betrayal here has increased the likelihood of a nuclear Iran and plunged the region into chaos. Most importantly, it dashed the internal credibility of Iran's reformers, setting back by years the movement to de-radicalise and moderate the nation. It's a disaster for the region and for the planet as a whole. If that wasn't enough, it also calls into serious question the trustworthiness of the United States. Why would anyone commit to any kind of international agreement with the country if they can just unilaterally break that agreement? If the global community was not so dependent on the United States, they would surely (and rightly) have been slapped with sanctions over this move.

For these reasons, it is absolutely essential that Biden do what he can to reverse the damage caused by the Trump administration. It may be too late to salvage this deal, especially without making some major concessions, but for the sake of peace and regional prosperity, it is an urgent crisis that requires attention.

10. Hold the previous administration accountable for its criminality
Many will disagree with me on this point, but this is something that I feel strongly needs to happen. The past four years have been a very dark period in our nation's history, a period of deep corruption and lawlessness. From financial crimes to foreign collusion, from obstruction of justice to extortion and abuse of power, from bribery-for-pardons to attempted electoral fraud, the last administration has committed a number of actions that appear to be criminal in nature. Several members of that administration have already been charged with crimes relating to these actions and there are still criminal contempt charges that were passed against Bill Barr and Wilbur Ross that have been just sitting there waiting to be actioned. All this before we even mention the sedition and violent coup attempt that came to a head this past week, an effort that was participated in not only by Trump but by many members of his own party and supporters. And these are just the things that are publicly known. Given this administration's penchant for lying and obstructing investigations, there could be much more beneath the surface of which we are not even aware.

When Richard Nixon resigned his office he was granted a blanket pardon in order to help the country move on and unify. Already there have been calls to do the same here, mainly from members of Trump's party. This is a terrible idea. This is not burglary or petty crime, this is an attempt to violently overthrow the United States Government. This is a widespread insurrection movement consisting of thousands of Americans who currently believe that their cause is righteous. Simply ignoring the problem will do nothing to bring those people back from the brink, if anything it will empower and perpetuate their cause. The only way to bring this country back together and end the division is to hold the criminals accountable and take away the legitimacy of the movement. There needs to be a massive effort (a special prosecutor or a political crimes commission) to enforce justice here and send a loud and clear message that these people are criminals and that their conduct is not acceptable. Every single one of them must be held accountable.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of everything the next President should or will do. He will no doubt have his own legislative agenda and things that he wants to accomplish. This is merely a list of the items that I feel are either so urgent that they require immediate attention, or that are important and quickly achievable enough that there is no good excuse not to get them done. 

Whatever targets Joe Biden sets in his first 100 days, it is clear that he faces great challenges, many from within his own country. I would hope that most Americans will join me in wishing him luck and hoping that we can look back on the next administration as one that was able to repair the great damage that has been done to our country, and finally take us forward in the right direction again.

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