2018: A year in review


There’s little to be said for 2018 that hasn’t already been said–most of it nooot pretty. For me, this year was marked by personal hardship, but also tremendous growth.

Writing was hard for me this year, as it was for many colleagues and siblings-in-arms. But I was a hungry-ass reader, and I took lateral risks with my art, when I could manage to do it. I beat down impostor syndrome and developed burgeoning badass syndrome (BBS) in several avenues of my life. In many ways I’ve grown into a surer self.

A formative relationship, one of those growin’-up-together-across-continents sorts of things, ended. In its wake I spent a lot of time examining the meaning of partnership, commitment, friendship, and what it means to love people and let them in, and whether it’s ultimately worth it.

It feels odd, growing up (and for the first time, maybe, ageing) at the end of the world. Sunflower in an apocalyptic desert type of weird. Glut of golden light from a fatally skewed planetary revolution. Something like that. All the sunflower seeds of my heart bristling/bursting with the need to be part of some pattern, some foodchain. Something like that.

What I wrote: fiction

I published two stories this year. I’m fucking proud of them both. They represent where I’m at artistically as a short fiction writer better than anything before–in particular my Anathema Magazine piece “The Calm the Love the Traceless Land,” which is and will always be my first and proudest Beckettian piece.

I’m also so proud of my first-ever appearance in the incalculably awesome Shimmer Magazine (now an emeritus magazine in the genre space), with “The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea.”

One story for the ocean, and one for the desert. Landscapes of my heart. How it goes.

What I wrote: poetry

In February 2018, I sent out a poetry chapbook manuscript into the world for the first time ever.

I hit up five contests. This selection of seventeen poems was entitled BRICOLAGE ON SUNDAY, and it ultimately received a semi-finalist nod in the Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award and a finalist finish in the Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Prize (selected by Carl Philips). I have a lot to learn, but I’m breathlessly proud of that.

I also had a poem selected for publication in a forthcoming issue of one of the great-aunts of London’s literary mag scene. I’ll announce as soon as I can.

I will spend a lot of 2019 focusing on getting a little bit better at poetry every day. Poetry is magic, yo, and who doesn’t want to do magic?

A first! gettin interviewed!

This was new and surreal! Please check out my conversation with spectacular person Milia Ayache over at Rusted Radishes, the American University of Beirut’s literary zine. We talked about a lot of shit. I made it weird. Milia vibed on the weirdness. It was a ball.

What I read this year

book covers of all my 2018 reading (so far!)

I read more long-form work than I’ve ever read before, this year. 51 books of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry so far, with 2 more that should edge in before the year is out.

Here are some that I want to talk to you about:

  • Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel: What a trip. I want to go on more trips like this, and I want Manickavel driving, with a phone on 5% battery and only google maps to guide us.
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay: So far, everyone I show a poem to from this collection cries. Train yourself w/ a bevy of onions and see if you can withstand this brilliant and painful work, ‘cos I could not.
  • Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff: Politics. But important. Changed my brain, a bit.
  • Everything Under by Daisy Johnson: Weirdly sticky little subcultural Englandy story of identity and family. I enjoyed Johnson’s prose experiments a lot.
  • Monster Portraits by Sofia and Del Samatar: Need I say words? It’s a way better little book than you think. Don’t miss out. Foyles has a copy.
  • Amatka by Karin Tidbeck: Fruiting bodiesssss. And fungal everything. Read this. Great little standalone dark SF.
  • Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh: After this short story collection, I stan Ottessa 4eva. I will read all of her stuff, eventually.
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis: How have I never read Davis before? This tightened a few loose screws in my brain in the general vicinity of law enforcement and morality.
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman: I really disliked this for many reasons, and found it to be pointedly anti-feminist. Feminism is not a role reversal of the current power dynamic, fam!
  • The January Children by Safia Elhillo: Maybe my favourite poetry book of the year this year.

I try to keep tabs on what demographics I’m giving my reading hours to, and I didn’t do as well at reading women, POC, and LGBTQ+ folks this year as last year, because my audiobook selections tended towards cough/bland/ cough. Mostly because I have a hard time focusing on (better) literature through my ears. I will try to fix this in 2019.

I had a less impressive year of reading short fiction. After a few years of consistently reading 250+ short stories a year, I just got tired, and my discovery mechanisms were overall not doing what I needed them to. And this year I was sad to see some important venues shutter, in particular Liminal Stories and Shimmer.

I would like to balance things out and maybe read a handful of great short stories a month in 2019. I gotta figure out how.

What I listened to

Not an incredibly strong music year. I listened to A Black Mile to the Surface by The Manchester Orchestra basically on repeat. I also rocked Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy a fair amount.

What I saw

With all the hours I spend reading, working, and exercising, it’d be hard for me to be the biggest movie/TV buff. So a modest pool size, here. Nonetheless, standouts for me this year were:

2018 in one final thought

I took in a lot of beauty this year.

2019’s going to be the year to add a speck of new beauty to the world.

Stuff I read in 2014

I read 21 books (not including magazines) in 2014. This is the first year I keep count, so I can’t tell if this is impressive compared to a baseline. But next year, I’ll have a number to beat.

Here’s everything I read chronologically from the beginning to the end of the year, with notes.

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – this made me cry, and was just clever and personal and featured a fictional novel as a central plot device. I really enjoyed it *thumbs nose at haters*.
  2. Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noë – A fantastic slim new volume furthering an extended mind / embodied cognition hypothesis. Professor Noë is one of my favourites.
  3. Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman – Moving graphic novel about mortality and art.
  4. Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print–and How to Avoid Them by Bill Walsh – This is one I knocked off my to-read list after having it on there for yeeears. It wasn’t as fun to read as I’d expected, but I picked up some useful tips on writing style and diction.
  5. Innocent Erendira & Other Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Any short story collection by Gabo is my kryptonite. I particularly loved “The Sea of Lost Time”.
  6. Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi – This was probably my least palatable read this year. A cognitive science theory put forward in the most overwrought, pretentious way humanly possible (under the excuse, I think, of making it ‘accessible’), to the point that the thesis itself is lost in the wash.
  7. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – This was really good, although a bit ‘hard’ SF for my taste. I’ll read Ancillary Sword in 2015.
  8. The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente – Fantastic collection of Japanese themed short fiction. My first exposure to award winning novella “Silently and Very Fast”, which I loooooved.
  9. English Breakfast by Jay Bernard – A poetry collection penned by London-based poet Bernard while living in Singapore.
  10. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz – I really enjoyed this. Hauntingly prosodic, and just so sad and true.
  11. Half Life: A Novel by Shelley Jackson – Odd-as-fuck novel about conjoined twins in a world where this has become a common side-effect of nuclear testing.
  12. Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Another Gabo collection. Mostly re-reads, but some new ones.
  13. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – A novel broad and deep enough that the protag feels like a best friend or a relative by the end of it. Ridiculously accomplished and humbling storytelling.
  14. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – Eerie, just eerie. Great bit of gothic horror.
  15. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine – Probably the book I was most looking forward to reading this year. Verdict? I needed more eau de Beirut in a novel set in that city — how can Beirut not fully permeate any story set within its borders? The presence of the city wasn’t as strong as I expected. The final 10% of the book was astoundingly moving, though.
  16. How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ – A sarcastic teardown of mansplaining and manframing and all other kinds of misogyny targeting women writers.
  17. Naming, Necessity, and Natural Kinds edited by Stephen P. Schwartz – Excellent, excellent collection of analytic philosophy essays on the Causal Theory of Names.
  18. Light Boxes by Shane Jones – An experimental short novel about depression. I was not as wowed as I expected to be.
  19. At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson – Varied collection of stories by Johnson. Standouts for me were “Story Kit”, “Spar”, and “The Man who Bridged the Mist”. The collection is worth buying for these stories alone.
  20. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Clever, funny, intriguing fantasy set in a fictional city which is sure to join the ranks of the greatest urban settings ever written.
  21. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – I squeezed this novel into the last few days of the year. I’m not sure what kept me glued to this book, as the plot was not the central motivator, but something definitely had me hooked. Really enjoyed this.

Thoughts on my year in reading: I read some great modern philosophy this year, and managed to keep up with a few of the SFF novels generating big awards buzz. Pretty good mix of literary and SFF–I’ll try to continue to read widely in 2015. I also read maybe 300 short stories (mostly slush) so, yeah, not a slouchy year, words-wise.

Since my new Kindle arrived in late November, I’m reading much, much faster. Bodes well for next year.