Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: My Year in Goosebump-Raising and Attic-Sleeping

This year I slept in Neil Gaiman's attic.

That's not all I did, of course, but it's the thing that stands out the most in my mind as I peer back through the shrouded mists (or is that the misted shrouds?) of the past twelve months. But allow me to explain: This summer I was one of eight participants in a speculative-fiction-writing workshop called Wyrd Words, and it took place at Neil Gaiman's house deep in the wilds of Wisconsin. I won't elaborate on it too much, but I will say this: Among the many wonderful things that happened during those five days -- up to and including talking about '70s British punk with Neil, who regaled me with the tale of how he snuck into a pub to see The Jam while a teenager in 1977 -- I slept in the man's attic, just a wall away from his archive of original manuscripts and Sandman statuettes and other things that just boggled the mind of a guy who's been faithfully reading and gathering inspiration from that stuff since 1989.

In short: It was pretty amazing.

In preparation for Wyrd Words, I wrote the first draft of a novel throughout the first half of 2015. I'm pretty stoked about it: It's called Repeater, and it takes place in the punk scene in Denver in 1994, and it involves ritual magic and being in a go-nowhere band and what it's like to be 22 and lost and alone and yearning for far more than the world is prepared to give you. I need to revise it before having my astounding agent, Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maass Literary Agent, sent it around to some publishers. But that's high up on my to-do list for 2016.

That's not all I wrote in 2015. Along with my usual output of articles and reviews about books and music for NPR, Pitchfork, and The A.V. Club, I wrote a few pieces for Clarkesworld Magazine, including a pair of essays about two of my favorite science-fiction-fixated musicians: Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex and Marc Bolan of T. Rex. Full disclosure: I am the former nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld (which is how I won that shiny Hugo Award in 2013, for which I am eternally grateful), and I'd also been researching Styrene, Bolan, and many others for a nonfiction book proposal I wrote in 2015. That proposal is currently making the rounds with publishers, and one major publishing house in particular has shown avid interest; I've been working with a certain editor there in the hopes that we can make something happen. But I don't want to jinx myself, so I'll keep the details mum for the time being...

I didn't write a ton of short stories this year, but I did sell three, varying from interstitial science fiction to horror to fantasy: "Of Homes Gone" to Farrago's Wainscot, "The Projectionist" to the Hex Publishers' anthology Nightmares Unhinged, and "Daughter of the Drifting" to the Stone Skin Press anthology Swords v. Cthulhu (which will be published in 2016). Speaking of Hex Publishers: I've also signed on to edit two science fiction and/or fantasy anthologies for them over the next couple years. One of them we're close to officially announcing, but I'll drop some details here: It's titled Cyber World: Tales of Humanity's Tomorrow, and it's coming out in November of 2016 in both physical and digital formats, and it's going to feature a stellar roster of authors that includes Paolo Bacigalupi, Saladin Ahmed, Nisi Shawl, Stephen Graham Jones, Cat Rambo, E. Lily Yu, Chinelo Onwualu, Madeline Ashby, Isabel Yap, and others. More details soon!

Music-wise, I made a big leap in 2015: After many years of playing guitar, I picked up the bass again. Some of you reading this (that is, if you lived in Denver in the '90s) may remember that I started out playing bass, in a punk band called Crestfallen from '93-'96, before I switched to guitar in '97 to play in The Blue Ontario (with two members of the seminal emo band Christie Front Drive). Anyway, I've stuck with guitar in various bands ever since -- but this year I grabbed the bass again to join a great band called Cowcatcher (ex-The Blackout Pact, who released stuff on Astro Magnetics/Eyeball Records, which were co-owned by Geoff Rickly of Thursday). Anyway, I'll be playing my first handful of shows with Cowcatcher in January of 2016 -- including an opening slot for Small Brown Bike on January 22 at the Marquis in Denver -- and I'm super stoked. Cowcatcher sounds sort of like Leatherface, Jawbreaker, and Hot Water Music; in other words, it's exactly the kind of music I'm rooted in. However, I'm not forsaking the guitar altogether! I've got another band called Cloak of Organs (featuring Neil from Wovenhand and Planes Mistaken for Stars), and it's a much heavier affair, and hopefully our debut EP will be ready in early 2016. More news on that to come.

Oh, and I guess I ought to mention a little book of mine that came out in 2015: Slappy's Revenge, an official Goosebumps movie tie-in that was published by Scholastic Books. It was a blast to write an installment in one of the world's most popular horror franchises, and of course, my 10-year-old-niece Hazel suddenly thinks I'm the coolest person in the world. In other young-person-book news, I've also been busy in 2015 revising my original middle-grade novel, Lullaby Underground, which will hopefully be finding its way to a good home in 2016. Fingers crossed.

So yeah. Goosebumps-raising and attic-sleeping. 2015 has been a weird year. Hopefully 2016 will top it. Time to start making that happen.


  1. Jason, great post. My proofreader eyes, aging at 70, spotted one minor typo. You wrote Jennifer Jackson "sent" it around, you meant to type "send" it around, no? Fix online for archives? Cheers, Dan

  2. Not a comment on this post, but rather a comment on your superb Atlantic article. As one of the few screenwriters in Hollywood who can still walk into a meeting wearing the "team jacket" that has on the back "Graduate, Roger Corman Film School" (though you don't want to do that in the summer of 2017, when there has been no "June Gloom," no "July Gloom" and nothing but hothothot here in the City of Lost Angles) I just wanted to tell you how much I liked your article in the Atlantic about writing "Media Tie-Ins." Writers who will never write one should read this. Working for Roger Corman was thought of by those who knew not what they were talking about to be something similar. I'm sure your editors worked with you to hone the story to the "tie-in" which is something any writer needs to know in writing for their intended audience. Writing for Roger was actually a bad thing for Greater Hollywood, since they took scripts seriously. "Tom, I don't have a million dollars in special effects to hid the fact there's no there there," as Roger said to me more than once.

    When writers think how their credits will read, they betray their upper-middle-class origins. They don't want to be embarrassed with their "peers" (most of whom have no fucking clue what writing is about to begin with).

    I hope the real writers who read your article will learn the important lesson that is there. The idiots need to go get that degree in accounting that fits their truth.

    Best regards,

    Thomas McKelvey Cleaver