Monday, December 23, 2013

Flipping Ahead: SF/F Books I'm Anticipating in Early '14

Did I read even half of the new books I wanted to in 2013? Not even close. But that hasn't stopped me from looking forward to some of the most promising novels (by my humble estimation) in the speculative-fiction/science-fiction/fantasy realm that are due in the first couple months of 2014. Like these:

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead, Jan. 7)

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Crown, Jan. 14)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Random House, Jan. 28)

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher (Angry Robot, Jan. 28)

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Feb. 4)

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals, Feb. 4)

The Waking Engine by David Edison (Tor, Feb. 11)

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun (Hogarth, Mar. 4)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Year in the Rear-View: 2013

Every December I sit down to write one of these end-of-the-year posts, and every year I’m floored. I didn’t do half the things I swore I would this year! I did twice the things I swore I would this year! At the same time! What makes this paradox possible is the fact that I’m crazy, the world is crazy, and writing is crazy. Amid those vectors of craziness, however, shit got done. Here’s some of what went down in 2013:

-In March, I was nominated for a Hugo Award in the Best Semiprozine category as part of the Clarkesworld Magazine editing team in 2012 (I served as Nonfiction Editor last year). And then, in September at Worldcon in San Antonio, WE WON—and I now have a shiny Hugo rocket sitting on top of a bookshelf next to my Lego pirate ship. I owe the win to Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, and Kate Baker at Clarkesworld, who continue to put out the best science fiction/fantasy magazine in the universe. I can’t thank them enough for having me along for the ride. During my twelve months as an editor at Clarkesworld, I launched a new monthly column, drew in a fresh crop of top-notch nonfiction contributors, and helped streamline some behind-the-scenes workflow. I’m extremely proud that I was able to play that small part in the continued excellence and success of Clarkesworld. Heck, I even squeezed in an essay for them this year about locomotives throughout the history of science fiction.

-I proposed to my girlfriend of six years, Angie, on New Year’s 2012. She said yes! In September, we got hitched. It was a small, quiet, beautiful wedding ceremony, and Angie is the best person I’ve ever known, so… that was pretty awesome.

-I wrote first drafts of two novels. The fate of them remains to be determined, but I’ve got some nibbles, and I’m currently in the midst of doing a massive revision/polishing job on one. It’s a science fiction book with a 12-year-old protagonist who lives in a peculiarly dystopian future. The revision should be done and sent off to some editors by the end of this month. So, yeah, fingers crossed.

-After four years of freelancing for The Onion’s A.V. Club (and three years of being their City Editor in Denver before that), I was promoted to Senior Writer of the site. It’s an honor I never could have imagined a dozen years ago, when I decided to quite my retail job and start writing for my local alt-weekly newspaper, let alone when I first discovered and fell in love with The Onion and The A.V. Club many years ago. Of all the stuff I wrote for A.V. this year, I'm most happy with the launch of Fear of a Punk Decade, a year-long series where I examine '90s punk, hardcore, and emo, year by year, mixing in a little memoir along the way.

-I began writing music reviews and articles for two other publications that I love: Pitchfork, the biggest independent source of music criticism in the world, and Decibel, the best heavy metal magazine in existence. Hell yes.

-I had my first byline on, for a book review I wrote of Nick Mamatas’s excellent new novel Love Is the Law. A year and a half earlier, when my own novel Taft 2012 came out, I was interviewed for NPR’s Morning Edition—so getting to review books for them kind of brought it all full circle.

-I was asked, and eagerly accepted, an assignment to write a chapter-length essay about time-travel-themed music for The Time Traveller’s Almanac, an epic compendium of short stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. Not only did the British edition of the book come out in November (the U.S. edition will be published in March via Tor Books), I got to share a table of contents with some of my heroes—including Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe, George R. R. Martin, and Douglas Adams (not to mention friends of mine such as Carrie Vaughn and Genevieve Valentine).

-And speaking of the great Carrie Vaughn: She and I recently co-wrote a creative essay for Jeff VanderMeers’s next anthology, The Steampunk User’s Manual. It was a blast shooting text back and forth with Carrie, and I think the piece came out beautifully. I’m not exactly certain when the book comes out, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be in 2014.

-A couple other random publication credits that I’m (still) very excited about are an essay on J. G. Ballard and post-punk for the British speculative-fiction journal Adventure Rocketship! as well as a more personal essay about being an erstwhile touring musician for the literary journal New Haven Review.

Of course, there were some things I wanted to do this year that I didn’t get around to, including finishing the first draft of my eternally-in-progress post-steampunk novel. Yes, you read that right: post-steampunk. What does that even mean, besides the fact that I clearly love the prefix “post-” too much? The book is still in progress, so I guess we’ll both see.

Actually, finishing a first draft of that book is my primary goal—call it a resolution—for 2014. Some other resolutions involve selling at least one of the nonfiction book proposals (of three!) I’m currently working on AND writing a first draft of a supernatural/science fiction book for kids that I’ve been turning around in my brain for a few weeks. And did I mention the anthology-editing plans that my friend S. J. Chambers and I are cooking up? Because there's that, too Oh, and Angie and I will be going on our honeymoon to Ireland in the spring, so that’s something to look forward to in 2014.

Along with more writing. Lots and lots of writing. Algebraically paradoxical shitloads of writing. Or something.

UPDATE: I almost forgot that one of my old bands, Red Cloud West, played a reunion show last month. It was fun as hell, especially seeing as how I (sadly) don't have time to be in a full-time band right now. Hmmm, maybe I need to add that to the 2014 to-do list. I clearly don't have enough stuff on there as is.