Twenty-fifteen in review

2015 was kind of a mixed bag, all around.

A lot of the issues I had with 2014 haven’t exactly gone away. I’m still feeling more than a little rudderless, looking for direction (or at least an apartment I can actually afford). I was in a minor car accident in February. And, of course, we took a big hit this year when Tucker, our family’s dog, passed away at the start of May.

But, despite all of that, and maybe even somewhat to my surprise, overall I feel like 2015 was a good year.

I took an online writing course with author Cat Rambo, which, if nothing else, got me to the point where I actually sat down and finished a few of my short stories. I sold one of them, “The Northern Recess,” to Stupefying Stories in October.

I had four other stories published this year:

Considering that it’s been about five years since I really actively worked on my writing, to the point where I was sending stuff out, I think that’s pretty good. I just need to bring more focus to it in 2016.

Meanwhile, I read a lot of short stories in 2015, at least one almost every day, for a total of 440. I already listed my favorites, with links when available, here.

At the same time, I only read 21 books.

True, that included one short story collection, and a novel I actually started sometime in early December of 2014. And I listened to Amy Poehler’s memoir on audio book. But still, it doesn’t include Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic, which I re-read earlier in the year.

When Pratchett sadly died in March, I decided I should finally tackle his Discworld series. I’d only ever read the first book, and here now was the opportunity to read them all. There are lots of different suggested reading orders, but I decided to go with publication date. I haven’t exactly made good on my plan to read them all this year — that last I finished was Sourcery, the fifth of forty-one books — but that’s what new years are for, right?

I don’t think there were any books I read that I didn’t like, though Andy Weir’s The Martian probably came closest. (It’s fun for what it is, which is largely almost immediately forgettable.)

M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, James S.A. Corey’s Nemesis Games, and Poehler’s aforementioned Yes Please were probably my favorite longer reads in 2015.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in 2016, not least of all those 36 other Discworld novels.

I saw just under 100 movies in 2015, although only ten of those were actually in theaters.

I guess if I had to put together a top ten, in no particular order they would be:

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Crimson Peak
  • It Follows
  • John Wick
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Furious 7
  • Blue Ruin
  • Big Hero 6
  • Inside Out
  • Ex Machina
  • Not Anywhere as Good as I’d Been Led to Believe: Whiplash. It’s an intense but unpleasant movie, in service of compelling (but bullshit) ideology. (Runners-up: Silver Streak, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, and The Sunshine Boys, though I’d willing to chalk that up to their all now being rather dated. I was amused by how much George Burns reminded me of my grandfather, though.)

    Not Anywhere as Bad as I’d Been Led to Believe: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. It really suffered in comparison to the (admittedly much better) latest Mission Impossible movie. And it has basically no reason to exist. But it’s actually a lot of fun, with good performances and some very good action set-pieces. (Runners-up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which wasn’t exactly good but was genuinely entertaining at 99 cents, and Terminator Genisys, which is a confused mess but a lot of fun and well-acted.)

    Exactly as Bad as I’d Been Led to Believe: Fantastic Four. The movie is many things, but fantastic is not ever one of them. So disappointing. Sometimes, when everybody says a movie is terrible, they’re right. (Runners-up: Next, which is just painfully dumb, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which looks great but has no story to tell.)

    Biggest Disappointment: Hands down, Spectre. I’d loved Skyfall when I saw it in theaters, and I had high hopes, but this follow-up was mostly just tedious. (Runner-up: Interstellar. Soooo long. It’s a very well made, sometimes well acted, bad movie.)

    Biggest Surprise: Barbarella. I had no expectations going into it, expecting a ridiculously dated sci-fi mess. And the movie is that, but it’s also rather delightful, good silly fun. (Runner-up: Maybe Crimson Peak, only because I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite so much.)

    Movie I Feel Like I’m Still Watching: Zardoz. Seriously, this is such a deeply, fundamentally weird movie that will fuck with your head. Though one good thing: after seeing it, I feel like no other bad movies can hurt me.

    In 2015, I started more actively going to readings, and some local meetups, though I still only do those irregularly and should probably do so more in 2016. I also attended my first two conventions — Readercon in July and World Fantasy in November. I enjoyed both, not least of all because it gave me the opportunity to meet some people I knew mostly from their writing and Twitter, but also just for the experience of attending a con. It’s an experience I was rather surprised to discover I quite enjoy.

    I’ll be attending Readercon again this year, though I don’t know about anything else. World Fantasy is in Ohio this year, while the other contender, Worldcon, is in Missouri, and both of those are two far to drive. I figure, if I’m going to spend up to a thousand bucks (airfare, hotel, registration, etc.), maybe I should wait and go all-out next year, when Worldcon is in Finland. I’m still deciding, and I’m not un-tempted by Kansas City. (I watched last year’s Hugo Awards huddled under a blanket on the couch and running a fever, so this would be a step up.)

    And finally, as is my wont, I put together a year-end musical playlist, which is basically just me narrowing down the month-by-month playlists of new (and new-to-me) songs I like to make and occasionally foist on people. Here’s 2015’s best-of:

    Overall, I do think it was a halfway decent year. Not my best, but by no estimation my worst. I’m hopeful for 2016, and I hope you are too!

    So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with. That;s about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what. Now try How and Why. – Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”

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