So many people are going to hit “unsubscribe” after reading that title.
I would tell 2016 [explicit word coming after the click] to fuck off, but it will only get worse, and this is why I’ve always preferred the devil I know, particularly when they are better at selecting Supreme Court justices. Even so, I have these odd moments of political motion sickness when I remember fifteen years ago when I was plotting imaginary road trips to Seattle to join the WTO protests and here we are with a crazy Republican president who promises to end free trade in the US. (For selfish reasons, of course, but wow, somebody grab me a bucket.)
2016 not only took Prince, Bowie, Wilder, and Fisher, but it also took my dad. Just a few weeks ago. The day before my sister’s birthday and a few days before my own. His colon cancer was diagnosed in November and he died three weeks later. It was not the long, drawn out affair I was expecting, and, even though we knew it was coming, the rapidity of his death was a shock. He probably had the tumor for decades and by the time someone made him go to the hospital, it had spread all over. He was 61. Very young. Everyone: get your bums checked out.
I’m not saying this to seek condolences– we had very little in common and were semi-estranged (although he did give me my sense of humor and he made poop jokes all the way to the end)– but just because it came up in conversation with some of you and so you might be wondering and I don’t know how to approach an email about my dad dying. Hotmail doesn’t have that template and I don’t know the emojis.
Because of his illness and hospitalization in a far-off country town, I got to have one of those “ohhh, this is why Trump won,” epiphanous, backwater road trips like the one that guy wrote about in The Guardian soon after the election. It was a good article and I could totally relate.
Back to the drum I normally beat this time of year, I don’t do resolutions– or, at least, not on January 1st– because it’s such a disappointing time of year, an arbitrary placeholder that only serves to exaggerate the super boring nothingness of the months ahead. The pretty christmas lights come down (except for that one neighbor), and the days finally get longer again, but, counter-intuitively, the season gets colder and deader, work gets busy as hell again, and I never quite know what to do with my own free time thanks to so many false spring-starts.
I do make changes as they occur to me, however, and a number of things have already happened, so let’s talk about that:
Re: this blogging thing
Three years is my typical cycle for quirky hobby obsessiveness and this blog hit that threshold in June. Like clockwork, my reading input/blogging output slowed to a crawl, and it was almost painful to drag myself to the keyboard in August to churn out my predictable distaste with all things Hugo. (Many of you wise and patient readers saw this coming long ago, and will likely blame this burnout on the Hugos themselves, rather than any fault of my own leisurely rhythms, but let me remind you: I read the Clarkes this year too! And the Kitschies! And some of the Nebula ‘6s! And a bunch of Dicks!)
A number of things are happening in combination with one another, including 1.) yes, the Hugos are just really, really awful lists to read in total (regardless of year or politics); 2.) I am running out of ways to say how awful they are (hence the “really, really” part of my previous statement); and 3.) ultimately, I have found my way.
Ah, yes. The yellow brick road of list-reading has brought me delicious lollipops and horrible flying monkeys, but now I’ve earned my red shoes and it’s easy to find my way home to a good book. I’ve made satisfying contacts, discovered reliable recommenders, and now I understand enough of the geography of the SF field to recognize my ideal climate when I see it.
Which leads to my biggest problems of late: 4.) Actually, there are too many good books to read, and 5.) I’d rather read, instead of write about reading.
If you’ve noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of combined, mini-review posts lately. I find myself increasingly envious of Ian Sales and his reading diaries, and I want to try that format in 2017. Most of you seem to prefer my mini-reviews anyway, so I don’t think this will be a big sacrifice, in fact, it’s probably a blessing because who needs another 1300-word essay on how much I hate the shallow, mindless, cheesiness of commercially-produced SF. My new goal is to post a reading diary at the end of each month, and, of course, I’ll probably pop around to
make snide remarks about review a few awards lists.
Re: this social media thing
I continue to avoid facebook, but twitter is full of strangers I actually like to follow, but even that was getting heavy around election time. Fortunately, I finally cleared out all news and political feeds from my twitter feed and let me tell you: THAT was an outstanding decision. I highly recommend it. People are still talking about books! I had no idea!
Re: that reading thing I’ve been doing
I started this blog because my previous hobby was jogging, but my hip flexors started acting up a few years ago, and I was getting too underweight, so I decided I should replace my evening jaunts with books instead. Now my lower back is being an asshole and I need to be active morning and night if I want to feel comfortable throughout the day. Which means less reading time. So my reading output will probably decrease this year.
I actually welcome less reading in 2017. During the past few years, my reading behavior has been more akin to book consuming, rather than book reading, and I miss the decadent feeling of taking my time with a book.
I’m currently sipping on a book right now and it is delightful.
Re: that obsessive audiobook listening thing
Slower reading might also mean an audiobook diet, which has already started. It seems I have come full circle in my opinion of audiobooks: my one-time dislike has gone from warming to loving to obsession and now I’m back to dislike. It might be because of the heavy couple of months I’ve just had, but I’m finding harder to concentrate, especially on the spoken word. Pre-election, most of my mindless activity time was taken up by news-related podcasts. Lately, I’ve just been listening to music. Empty, shallow, motivational indie music where the favored pronoun is “you”. I hope it’s just a phase.
Re: oh, yeah, that resolution thing
Ahhh, the resolution time that I hate so much. I’m too inconsistent lately to do anything too elaborate, though all the same healthy goals apply: more books by and about women, POCs, non-westerners, etc (but fewer books overall). I think I’ve narrowed down all of these observations about my latest reading behavior to one concise and easy-to-follow resolution, inspired by the earliest and biggest lesson I learned from my three years of reading for this blog:
I RESOLVE TO READ ZERO BOOKS PUBLISHED BY BAEN AND TOR IN 2017.
Baen Books is childish, cheeze-fest central, and I always find Tor novels overcommercialized and wanting (and I find the ethical principles of that imprint contradictory and confusing). There is another publishing house I could add to this list, but I prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist. (And I apologize to anyone I like who has been published by Tor, but I haven’t seen much appreciation for originality or rigor from that house.)
There. I said it. 2017 might be a lot of horrible things, but I just sliced off a huge chunk of reading misery for myself. At least I have that to look forward to.
I feel so much lighter now!
2016 Reading & Blogging Stats
My goal was to read 80 books, and I’m on my 79th book at the mo, but it’s 72 degrees outside and I want to go for a jog right now. SO 78 BOOKS IT WILL BE!
I published 66 blog posts in all, counting this one, averaging about 5 per month, with an uptick in posts in February and August, to coincide with the BSFA and Hugo Awards. My lowest monthly output was in November, when I posted only one meager post, probably all due to the existential paralysis that comes with political cancer followed by parental cancer. I thought I was fine, but the blog is a symptom, is it not?
My most popular reviews this year:
- 2016 Clarke Award Shortlist: Surface, Contrivance, and Salience
- Dragonquest (WHY??? Every. Effing. Year. I am not linking to this. This is an old review that for some reason people keep clicking on. Quit reading my crappy old reviews.)
- The Best SF I Read This Year
- My Favorite SF Novels (I need to update this)
- Adventures in Military SF!
I also showed up in other places, and it looks like that will probably continue in 2017. This little corner of the digital cosmos might be quieter, but yur not rid of me yet.