Though I’ve been poking in and out of some books lately, I only managed to actually finish reading one in. But it was a book I really, really loved: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s just such a beautifully told story.
I don’t know who these monthly updates are for, really, beyond myself. Posterity? Crickets? Bueller?
In November, I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. It was a lot of fun, even if I’m not entirely sure I would go back. (I’m debating Worldcon in Kansas City instead, though the cost has still debating. I might just go back to Readercon in July. That I’ve registered for.)
But Saratoga was very pretty, and if you’re going to see fall in New York, upstate’s where you want to do it. The theme of this year’s WFC was “epic fantasy,” which isn’t typically my thing, but I attended a bunch of interesting panels and readings. I even met several people, despite being my usual only semi-social self. (I mean, I’d like to hang out chatting in the bar, but these Star Trek: TNG episodes on the hotel cable won’t just watch themselves, you know.) I met some writers I follow on Twitter, some I’ve even published in Kaleidotrope, and one of my classmates from the online writing course I took earlier this year.
It was a good time. I didn’t stick around for the banquet or awards ceremony, but I walked away with a bunch of books and a had fun.
A lot’s been written about the accessibility issues at the con — including by Mari Ness, who bumped right up against those issues all weekend (which was unfortunate), but who I bumped into on my way to check out (which was lucky happenstance). And yeah, those issues were bullshit, particularly the lack of a ramp to the stage, so I’m really glad to see con organizers for WFC and others talk about how they’re going to fix these problems going forward. It’s also heartening to see so many people co-signing Mary Robinette Kowal’s SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge. Because these are fixable problems.
Anyway, when I wasn’t busy attending conventions — which I guess is something I do now, huh? — I was mostly at home. Construction at the office robbed us of our cubicles for a little over a week, and with the Thanksgiving holiday shortly thereafter, I think all told I spent 8 days in the office this November.
Thanksgiving itself was really nice. Way too much food.
Also in November, I saw nine movies:
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Let Us Prey
From Here to Eternity
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Q: The Winged Serpent
I’m not counting William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge, the hour-long talking-heads documentary about the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not because it wasn’t interesting and entertaining, but because c’mon, it was only an hour long. It’s pretty slight, and calling it a documentary might be stretching things a bit.
I didn’t actually love any of the movies I saw last month, although both the Terminator and Hunger Games sequels were a lot better than I expected them to be, and From Here to Eternity was quite good. For a film that’s largely remembered for a single scene upon a beach, it has a lot more to offer — especially since that scene (and the part of the story that drives it) is barely any of the movie.
The Signal and Let Us Prey both have style but are light on substance. Q has an interestingly unhinged Michael Moriarty at its center (and a couple of other game actors) but is an otherwise a pretty lousy B-movie. Conquest of the Planet Apes isn’t bad, and also boasts some decent performances, while The Seven-Per-Cent Solution takes a fascinating idea but doesn’t actually make an interesting movie out of it. (And I dunno…Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson? Really?)
But Spectre was probably the biggest disappointment. I’ve generally liked the Daniel Craig Bond movies, and I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall, I think in part because it looked so beautiful in IMAX. But despite some good casting and strong initial set-up — the scenes in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebrations are very well staged — the film is boring more than anything. It makes the mistake of trying to impose continuity after the fact on Craig’s previous three Bond films, and it does so in the least interesting way possible. It’s not without its merits, and heaven knows there are probably worse Bond movies. (There’s nary a “Christmas Jones or pigeon doing a double-take here.) But too often, in its two and a half hours, it’s simply tedious.
Of the three big spy movies I’ve seen this year, I’d rate it well below Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but also considerably below The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which, while unnecessary, was also a little underrated).
I only read one book in November, despite picking up several at World Fantasy. That book was Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace, which I’d picked up at Readercon, and which I liked but didn’t love. The book presents an interesting post-apocalyptic world, which I guess is almost a prerequisite for young adult novels nowadays — it’s marketed as YA, though I wonder at that — but I’m not entirely sure it fleshes that world out as much as I’d like, despite a genuinely satisfying conclusion. A solid B+, I’d say, if I were the sort of person assigning letter grades to the books I read in lieu of really critiquing them.
I did read thirty-three short stories, though, so there’s at least that. Favorites included:
Lots of really good stories this month, though maybe that’s in part because I was cribbing from the SFWA’s Recommended Nebula Reading List. (Did I mention a story from Kaleidotrope also made that list? Because it did.)
And finally, what would another month be without another mix of songs:
That was my November. I hope all you crickets enjoyed yours as well.
In March, I read two books. I finished reading Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer, and I started and finished reading Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie.
I watched five movies. The Man Who Would Be King and Star Trek: The Motion Picture — which I’d actually never seen before — weren’t great. But the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was genuinely very creepy, like a ’70s political conspiracy mixed with a ’70s zombie movie. And Zardoz…god, Zardoz will fuck you up. I don’t regret watching it, but…it’s not something you can ever un-see.
The fifth was The Man Who Knew Too Much, which I’d actually forgotten until just now, as I was editing this post, that I’d seen. It’s decent Hitchcock, but not remarkable.
I read thirty-eight short stories in my continuing endeavor to read at least one a day. The best of them, I thought, were:
I went to a meet-up of a local sci-fi club, where we watched a bunch of Star Trek in tribute to Leonard Nimoy — you know who was terrific? Leonard Nimoy — and I won a Spock glass. That (and the mint juleps) made me quite happy.
Oh, and I turned thirty-mumble-mumble-mumble. Thirty-eight. It was an okay birthday, far as those go, I guess.
Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary March. More wintry than I would have liked — a snowstorm on the first day of spring — and a couple of other meetups unceremoniously canceled.
I’m still writing, still reading and editing for Kaleidotrope, still doing the unable-to-find-an-apartment-why-am-I-living-in-New-York thing.
In January, I read two books: Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I read the first one for a book club I never actually attended, and the second one just because it was supposed to be good. It’s an unnerving book, almost certainly by design, but I’m currently reading Authority, the second book in the “Southern Reach Trilogy,” so it’s probably safe to assume that I liked it. (Ghost Bride was okay, too.)
In January, I saw seven movies: The Trouble with Harry, The Apartment, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sunshine Boys, Our Man Flint, That Guy…Who Was in That Thing, and Obvious Child. I think the last was my favorite, although Fiddler has some wonderful moments, thanks largely to the central performance by Tevye, and Shirley MacLaine is a (surprising) radiant delight in both Harry (which isn’t Hitchcock’s best) and Apartment (which is great but takes a weird hard turn near the end). Flint is often fun, but was probably better in the ’60s, when the Bond movies it parodies were new. That Guy…well, it certainly has a lot of those guys in it. It’s not really a documentary, much less a compelling one, but it is overstocked with a lot of recognizable and talented character actors, so you can almost forget its lack of real depth for about ninety minutes. Sunshine Boys was the most surprising, because I though I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. It felt fairly dated, and while Matthau and Burns give very good performances, the gist is often, “Hey, these two guys sure are old, huh?” (Burns weirdly reminded me a little of my own grandfather in a couple of scenes, which is not something that occurred to me when the two of them were both alive.)
In January, I read about forty-two short stories. I say about because one of them I actually listened to at an author reading, and because I’m reading stories for both my ongoing fiction class and my web zine, neither of which I’m tracking. I think these were my favorites of the ones I am:
“I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link (McSweeney’s)
In January, I went to a number of meet-ups and events, skipped out on a few more, saw The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, and attended a number of sessions of my online writing course. The course is going well, I think. We unexpectedly skipped last week, so it’s been a little while.
In January, I listened to some music:
In January, I sold another short story, a flash piece, which I’ll link to when it publishes. (This month, I hope!) This marks the third story I’ve sold in about as many months, which is nice. More rejections than that, and more stalled stories than not, but that’s par for the course.
Two thousand fourteen, I think I can safely say, was not my favorite year on record. This is less because it was a terrible year — though it often was that, at least in the news, in the nation, in the greater scheme of things. It’s just that I finished up the year feeling kind of rudderless, set adrift, not exactly happy with the choices that I’d made (or not been making) over the past few (or maybe even ten) years.
On paper, it wasn’t such a bad year. And while of course man does not live on paper alone, there are a few things I’m glad to have seen and done in 2014.
I got to travel a little: for work, to Texas; for writing, to Canada. Both trips were over much more quickly than I had expected, both leaving me a little melancholy upon my return. (I think you could say I still haven’t quite shaken that yet.)
I sold a couple of short stories, one to Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Inflight Magazine and the other to Mythic Delirium. Both are still forthcoming, though I’m hopeful they’ll both appear sometime in the new year. I saw more rejections than acceptances, but that’s the nature of the things. I know I need to write more, even as I know there will be more rejections ahead.
Meanwhile, I keep plugging away at Kaleidotrope, that little quarterly zine I publish. This year, a poem from 2013 was nominated for a Rhysling Award, and I published twenty-two new stories and ten new poems, all free to read. I’ve received some good feedback on the zine, and while I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, it’s something I still enjoy.
I read considerably fewer books than I have in years past, but there were some good ones in the mix. There’s a full list here, if you’re for some reason interested, but I think James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels were my favorite.
Having read them all this past year kind of gives 2014 a shape it otherwise sort of lacked.
I saw some decent movies. I even saw some bad ones I didn’t mind quite so much. These, below, were probably the best ones, though it’s all really subjective anyway.
And I put together a mix of my favorite songs from the year. (A few actually from this past year. It starts with Bob Seger and ends with Taylor Swift, so you try figuring out this year’s theme from it, ’cause I’m sure not. Also, if you’re one of the “lucky” few who I sent an actual physical copy of the mix with a Christmas card, know that this online version contains one additional, concluding track I hadn’t heard in time to add to the CDs. So, yeah: bonus!
Ultimately, though, I’m less interested in revisiting, or even reminiscing over, 2014 and more interested in looking ahead to 2015. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get where I want to go, and it’s work I don’t feel entirely ready for — but which I’ll need to do nevertheless. It’s going to take a lot of luck and perseverance.
I don’t know if I’ll have enough of either in 2015, but I have to try.