The year ends. Some reflection is in order. Mostly concerning writing and literature, because that’s just what I do.
My first published short story appeared in print earlier this year. There’s nothing quite like seeing your work bound and typeset and all. Actual squeeing occurred when the contributor’s copies appeared in the mail. Frustration increased over the remaining months, however, as I failed to sell anything else. Fast fading thoughts of a springboard for my glorious career, though I knew that isn’t how writing works. Still, I really do want to recapture that feeling of accomplishment.
As for writing, I spent the first half of the year working on a book. Then dropped a little over half of the draft—126 pages, gone—because it just wasn’t working. Especially with the 280-some page goal I had in mind. While subsequent chapters have rolled out at varying intervals, I haven’t come even close to my earlier output. I’ve only just inched up to c. 50,000 words by now. You know, what NaNoWriMo participants write in a month. But I’d like to think those were good words.
One unfortunate side effect of worrying myself over something major is that I haven’t done much short story work, decreasing chances of any success in that area as well. And, of course, I’ve been faffing about the whole year actually writing, um, content for this blog instead of just posting silly pictures as I did before. Which has probably also had an impact.
Of course, I’ve also been reading. Reading a lot, and I haven’t really kept track. There was the Guy Gavriel Kay reading project, and I did end up reading everything by him (see details here), even his poetry collection. I read Dealing with Dragons due to repeated mentions by female friends and found out that yes, I do like Patricia C. Wrede. I’m also absolutely certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed that novel at all when I was in elementary school. Going further into YA, I tore though all the unread books by Lloyd Alexander at the local library except Time Cat. The Arkadians stands out as a Prydain-like take on Greek mythology. There was also Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, perhaps the best zeppelin adventure of recent memory. Skybreaker was also immensely entertaining, but Starclimber took things into outer space and quickly lost me due to lack of zeppelins. Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfield did a desielpunk/biopunk run-through of World War One. While I’m swept up enough to seek out the last of the trilogy, these suffered far more from the usual YA problems than Alexander’s books and I found the illustrations often more interesting than the text itself. As well, the reduction of World War One into a backdrop for a boy-and-girl adventure story is inherently problematic.
This is also the year I lost my complete adoration for steampunk, after realizing that “Ticker Hounds” by S.M. Peters was the only piece that really did anything for me. The Difference Engine is one of those books I just don’t know what to make of; it’s uneven and muddled and while there’s some great moments of writing, taken as a whole it’s an utterly impenetrable work. I’m not sure if Boneshaker belongs to this year or last, but it still sticks clearly in my mind as a deep frowny moment (here’s why). As does Mainspring. A recent attempt to start on Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air did not get all that far; I believe the first mention of the “Queen of Whores” was enough for me to decide there were other things waiting that I’d rather read.
In terms of classic texts, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars tops that list. Though the prose is often…not good, and the plot slapdash, there’s just too much in the way of spectacular flying machines and utterly awesome names (Kantos Kan!) to not enjoy a story as gloriously silly as this. Silly is not an insult. It’s a good kind of silly and I loved it very much.
I also got around to reading A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons be George R.R. Martin after a few years away from A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m not entirely certain why I quit reading A Storm of Swords early on the first two attempts, since it is without a doubt the best book in the series. Unfortunately, A Feast for Crows was a book in which almost nothing happened over a great many pages. While A Dance with Dragons made up for all that, I’ve read far better novels this year.
The Road and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. The Book of the New Sun (consisting of The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch), Pirate Freedom, and Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe. The Last Light of the Sun and Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. I was insanely happy to find The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman at the used bookstore. While the beginning was a little slow, the novel makes for an ultimately satisfying conclusion to the Riverside stories. I’m also more than a bit amused at how much Kushner seems to know my taste; Swordspoint had duellists with rapiers! The Privilege of the Sword had a girl with a rapier! The Fall of the Kings had…academic historians at a university! Neil Gaiman’s Stardust also makes the list; a fun little novella inflated by publishers into a 300-some page book due to typesetting magic. The Last Hero, by Terry Pratchett—also a novella accompanied by some lovely illustrations; the tale of Cohen’s last quest makes for a natural conclusion to the Discworld series and I would like to think that this is it where it all ends. As an honourable mention; Jack the Giant Killer by Charles de Lint belongs to 2010, but its sequel Drink Down the Moon, belongs to this one. After a shaky start, it managed to be just as good as its predecessor by the conclusion. Could have used more Jacky Rowan, though, because she just cracks me up.
That’s about it, really. Time for a…
New Year’s Resolution:
Finish the first draft of this damn book before I leave to do my Master’s Degree in 2012.
Happy New Year, everyone.