One Down

A lot of things are different this year. Last January we got dumped with three feet of snow—this year, we got less than three inches. Last January I had no idea when (or even if) I was ever going to get a piece of writing accepted, and now I’m starting to get the hang of this whole ‘getting published’ business. Last January I wasn’t googling things like “how to resist a political coup” and “current risk of economic collapse.” Now how’s that for nostalgia value?

This January has not been easy for me. I’ve spent much of the past eleven days in a “dissolving into 80s synth pop while staring into the endless void of a blank page” state of mind. Writing fiction feels almost trivial in the face of everything that’s happening right now. It feels wrong not to at least acknowledge that.

But between walking in the Women’s March and swallowing my social anxiety to call my Congressman for the first time in my life, I’ve been trying to stick to my creative goals. Letting fear and helplessness poison me into abandoning my goals is just giving the fascists what they want. I know it’s not exactly a form of grand and meaningful resistance to simply try not to let my own spirit get crushed into powder, but it’s something, right? And if things continue as they’re going, it will only be the beginning. I’ll put Connolly on my speed-dial if I have to.

In keeping with my resolutions, I’m going to do a snapshot of my current progress at the beginning of every month to prove I haven’t been a total inert meatsack. Here’s how it’s going so far:

  • Words written: 65,710
  • Books read: 5
  • Story drafts completed: 2
  • Stories submitted: 3

I’m behind on everything except my word count, but not egregiously so. My goals for the month were 8 books, 3 drafts completed, and 4 stories submitted; you can practically hear my fingernails scraping as I cling to that narrow margin of error. With some luck and a few better coping mechanisms, I can hopefully get 100% back on track in February. And if all goes according to plan, in March I’ll be hitting the road again for the next westward adventure.

Without further ado, January’s reading:


  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2014
  • Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (re-read)
  • Catalyst by James Luceano
  • The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street by Jacob M Appel

Re-reading Annihilation in preparation to finish the rest of the Southern Reach Trilogy was a treat; I forgot how much I loved the characters as well as the concept. The Topless Widow was funny and insightful, and the 2014 Year’s Best had even more fantastic stories than usual. Honestly, Catalyst and The Windup Girl disappointed me.  In retrospect, I shouldn’t have forced myself to slog through them. But it’s always so tempting to feel like the very next page of a mediocre book is going to be the one that finally kicks off the plot, improves the writing style, and makes you care ever so slightly whether all the characters spontaneously combust before the end of the chapter. No dice.

Imperial politics, science intrigue, the birth of the GIANT DEATH ORB–God, I wish I could have liked it.

Next month I’m going to try and be more ruthless with dropping the books I don’t enjoy; there might be some twisted satisfaction in finally tossing a finished book against the wall and knowing you’ll never have to think about it again, but it’s not worth the time that could be spent reading something I’ll actually enjoy. It usually takes me 2-3 times longer to read a book I hate; ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, assuming that America still exists as a country for another month yet, I’m planning on trying to pick up the pace on my reading, and focus more of my writing output on finishing specific projects. Also, resisting the dawn of our new corrupt authoritarian dictatorship. Oh, sorry, am I allowed to say that? If this is the last you guys ever hear from me, assume it’s a no.

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