I've always liked the click over of the new year. It's the fresh slate, you know? A new me for a new year. Well, maybe not, but still, fresh starts and all that. Time to build the year anew. I was thinking about that (and the future and past) yesterday when I caught an episode of Quantum Leap. It's an old show from the end of the eighties that I watched off and on as a kid, but which always struck me as one of those shows that had the perfect high concept: a man lost in time, jumping from body to body, always looking like the new person to those around him, and then being forced to figure out the mystery of that person's life (or the people around them), helping them, and moving on once some sort of karmic balance is adjusted. The concept allows for the main character, played by Scott Bakula, to be dumped in any number of situations, and I'll always remember the one where he ended up in the body of Lee Harvey Oswald before the JKF assassination. I actually don't remember how the episode ends (I think the show suggests Oswald was the shooter but I could be wrong) but it's just a neat idea, something that allows you to play with history and time and situations in a huge variety. The JFK episode is probably pretty hoaky to watch again, a bit of a tired thing, but however old I was when it played, I totally got into that premise. The show itself didn't always pick up on this, and it's largely uneven, but there are good moments--moments that withstand the run of time, such as the episode I caught yesterday, where Bakula was dropped into the body of a murderer who was holding a mother and her daughter hostage. Right before he plans to let them go, he learns that the cops have surrounded the house, and that they plan to blow the fuck outta him should he step outside the door. He's got an hour and a half to figure it all out before he dies.
In the future, however, the killer arrives in the waiting room with a gun, and escapes... but he escapes into the futuristic world of 1995.
Made me laugh, that.
But rolling around to the new year makes me think that I've hit a new slate, especially in publishing, where the year's achievements disappear the moment a new year begins. Fiction wise, I had an okay 2005. 'The Dreaming City' was reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, which meant that the story would find an Australian audience, which I was very pleased with. A lot of the reviews of the story were positive on it, and that helped the writing of A Year in the City throughout the year. The story will be reprinted again this year in The Best of Leviathan, which is also very cool, and when Jeff VanderMeer puts up the table of contents for the book, I'll post it here. In addition to that, I published four short stories: The first was the first part in my three part sword and sorcery serial, 'The Elephant's Glass Prison', which appeared in the anthology Magistria, Volume 1, edited by G. W. Thomas (the second, 'The Wooden Sparrow's Labyrinth' will be out in volume two this year). My science fiction revenge story, 'Dream of a Russian Princess', appeared on Ticonderoga Online. 'An Examination into the Chinese Made Roman Toga', a religious comedy of sorts, was in Full Unit Hookup, #7 (which was even listed in andyhat's Recommended Reading of 2005, thus ensuring that someone read it and liked it). And 'Johnny Cash (a tale in questionnaire results)' appeared on Shadowed Realms, and it proved to be quite popular (well, popular in that strangers would actually tell me they liked it, stopping by the blog, emailing me, and in one case, actually saying to me in person, 'You're the guy who wrote Johnny Cash!') It'll be reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror this year, which is also real nice.
In addition to that short fiction, I also got to step into the weird side of fiction at a different angle by writing and, I guess, self publishing the Dialogues through this blog. They got a lot of nice feedback from everyone here, which was very pleasing, and I figured that it wouldn't be a bad idea to find an Artist and make a chapbook and make the Dialogues a semi regular (actual time frame to be decided) project that I could do. An Artist has been found, and she dismantles and rebuilds and talks to me about dead babies, as you do, and it proceeds at a good pace.
I sold my novel, Black Sheep, to Prime, which was quite cool, and it'll be interesting to see how that goes in the world once it's released, since I think it's going to be a like it or hate it kind of book. That's what dystopian novels are, really. I like the idea of using negative reviews from One Nation and The KKK for blurbs, myself. Heh. But, who knows? I'm just happy to have gotten a step onto the novel footpath. Likewise, selling Black Sheep helped with the writing of A Year in the City, which is about thirty, thirty five percent away from being complete as I type this. I have picked up a bit of RSI in the last couple of weeks, so I slowed down, did the exercises, all that shit. I've got to keep writing at a full pace until the end of March, most likely, and it does no good to cripple myself in December. On A Year in the City still, the dissertation part came back from my supervisor, and while things need to be done (as I knew they would) she said it was all looking good and didn't need any strenuous structural changes, which, y'know, thank fucking everything.
2005 was also the year of blog growth. For reasons unknown to me, the audience jumped something fierce here. It's nothing huge in the way the blogs can be, but for a guy writing in the small press, and without huge exposure, it's a strange thing to experience. As Cat Sparks said to me once, 'Your blog gets more readers than the books I publish.' (You should buy the books she publishes, by the way. Her Agog! series is going to be reprinted through Prime this year and that means you will be able to read 'Scratches in the Sky' in Agog! Fantastic Fiction and 'R' in Agog1 Smashing Stories again, as they are out of print now, I believe.) So as the audience grew here I got a crash course in what it's like to have an audience. I also got to watch this blog piss people off and make other people happy. The big thing done here, local scene wise, was the 2005 Snapshot done in April. I'm still not quite sure how that all came together so quickly, and how it didn't end up as a huge mess all over the net, but like all good performers, I'm not repeating this trick again.
And that was the year, in a way. Doesn't seem like a lot, really, but it feels like I was busy.
I didn't read much this year for pleasure. I read a ton of books, and I read them quickly, I read only chapters, and I read portions and then tossed them aside for, while interesting, they were not what I wanted. Such is the research pattern that I use when doing my research for this phd. That said, I did read some such things for pleasure, and here's a rundown of what has stuck with me. It's nowhere near complete and doesn't deal with much published in 2005, but for what it is worth, this is it.
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami.
Murakami's new novel is not his best and, in truth, I think it falls apart at the end. That said, the first half of it is excellent, and Murakami at his strongest. The book feels like a transitional book to me, with Murakami moving into new areas, but I'm told that his next one, The Dark (?), is even more transitional. As I can't read Japanese, I just have to take M's word, but she has a good feel for Murakami, and I'd believe that. Still, whatever its faults, Kafka on the Shore is worth reading, tho despite this link going to the US Amazon, you should buy a British edition, which has yen instead of dollars in the translation.
Final Girl, Daphne Gottlieb (postmaudlin).
Published in 2003, it was one of my favourites in 2005. Final Girl is a book of poetry exploring the representation of females in horror films. There's more to it, of course, but as a one line breakdown, that's probably a fair description. Gottlieb uses a wide range of techniques and demonstrates a wide range as her ability as a poet. There's not much bad I can say about it--some pieces work better than others, as it always is with any kind of collection, but it's always good stuff.
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov.
I can't remember if I read this early this year or late last year, but who cares. Pale Fire is all goodness. Describing it doesn't do it justice--you just want a copy, if you haven't read it.
Lord of the Silver Bow, David Gemmell.
Yes, from Nabokov to David Gemmell. This is the type of guy I am. Gemmell's latest book is, actually, a structural departure from him, as he divides each chapter into three different view points on the events that are happening. It actually succeeds in making the main character, Helikaon, for the first half of the book, somewhat of a mystery. Still, the book is a return to history for Gemmell, as he mines ancient Greece to tell the story of Troy from the point of view of Aeneas (Helikaon). The first book is all set up for Troy, building Hektor, Odysseus, love triangles, and so forth. The writing is, as always with Gemmell, nothing special, but the battles are strong, as always, and I actually really dug this.
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy.
A strange book, a kind of huge prose poem about the violence in frontier America. Beautifully written, tremendously violent, and with some of the finest imagery I've ever come across. It's not a book that is for everyone, but if you haven't read it, it's absolutely worth the attempt.
And, I think, with such a long post to open 2006, I'll end it there. Below is my resolution for the year.
In the year 2006 I resolve to: