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”

    November 2015

    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
    • Terminator Genisys
    • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
    • Let Us Prey
    • Spectre
    • From Here to Eternity
    • The Signal
    • 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:

    • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (Uncanny
    • “Werewolf Loves Mermaid” by Heather Lindsley (Lightspeed)
    • “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap (
    • “Last Drink Bird Head” by Daniel Abraham (Last Drink Bird Head)
    • “Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres)
    • “In Autumn” by Theodora Goss (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy” by Rich Larson (Strange Horizons)
    • “What Wags the World” by Sarah Pinsker (Daily Science Fiction)
    • “The Ape’s Wife” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” by Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
    • “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars” by Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her)
    • “Madeline” by Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed)
    • “Let’s Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children” by Margaret Ronald (Strange Horizons)
    • “Damage” by David D. Levine (

    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.