decade in review

December 30, 2019

It’s that time again, everyone’s posting not just the year in review, but the decade in review.

Here’s the one I did ten years ago. That was a big decade.

This decade has been about consolidating, I think. Becoming established in my career rather than being on the rise. Going through my stuff and throwing a bunch of it out, making my house look like a grownup lives here and not like a college dorm room.

The trouble with consolidating is it often doesn’t look like progress.

(The political situation in the U.S. has gone completely to hell in the last ten years, and definitely feels like the opposite of progress. Let’s leave that aside for now.)

Ten years ago, urban fantasy was at the height of its popularity. I was publishing two Kitty novels a year plus side novels. My career felt kind of huge. Since then, I’ve changed agents, changed publishers, and my career looks quite a bit different. Instead of signing four-book contracts for a bestselling series, I’m basically selling one book at a time as I write them. I confess, as a type-A planner I kind of miss knowing what I’m doing several years in advance. My career has a whole lot less structure than it did ten years ago. This time last year I had nothing in the pipeline. Now, I’ve just released two novellas, have two more coming out in 2020, two short story collections, and a novel. That’s how things work now — I literally don’t know what my situation is going to look like a year from now.

On the other hand, in the last ten years I’ve been nominated for the Hugo twice, won the WSFA Small Press Award, the Colorado Book Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and am, in fact “established” in a way that still seems weird.

So I need to interrogate the concept of “progress.” What does “farther along” actually look like? Making more money? Selling more books? Having more stuff? Bigger stuff? Or just feeling better about things? Does the concept of “progress” take into account things I have no control over, like the state of publishing and the country’s political situation? In fact, there may not be such a thing as progress. Just rolling with it.

So, consolidating has been a good thing, I think. If I spent my twenties and thirties hustling my ass off, I’m spending my forties taking stock and building a foundation for what comes next.

The crazy thing is I’ve usually felt like I had some rough idea of what came next. (Type-A planner, did I mention?). Now? No clue. No idea. But whatever it is, I hope I’ve built a pretty good foundation for it.

 

TV watching update

December 27, 2019

I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, because it seems like it’s been awhile since I watched any new TV. Like, I’ve spent the last two years watching all of Midsomer Murders and rewatching Babylon 5 and nothing else. Well, a smattering of things like The Good Place and Good Omens and catching up on Legion and Mr. Robot. But all the amazing TV people have been raving about? I’ve been running and hiding. Watching an episode and then just not committing.

Which makes it super weird that I’ve watched like 4 entire new seasons of TV in the last three or so weeks. It’s like something in my brain has switched and I’m ready for new things. Ready for non-comfort viewing. We’ll see if it holds.

Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I’ve given up on the CW shows because I just lost patience, which makes it weird to dive in on the big crossover. Like, Superman has a kid? Where’d Winn go? Where’s Felicity? So confused. But the crossover is nice because it’s like drinking from the firehose, and the cameos and easter eggs are fantastic. Brandon Routh as Christopher Reeves’ Superman, and all the tribute that entails, makes the whole trip worthwhile. Still two episodes to go on this, and yeah, I think this is enough Superfriends for me these days.

The Expanse season 4. Still one of the greatest space-based SF shows ever. This season includes the scenes I got to be on set for last year, so I loved finally getting to see them in context. This is a show where reading the books first and knowing what’s coming makes things even more stressful. More on that in a bit.

The Terror. This is based on the horror novel by Dan Simmons about the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage, which vanished utterly in 1846 (except the wrecks of the two ships, The Terror and Erebus, were finally discovered just a few years ago). I’ve read it, and I wanted to see how they adapted it. The novel has one of my favorite scenes of horror of all time. . .and that scene was not in the show, alas. I think it should have been. Overall, this was uneven. It has some utterly brilliant atmospheric moments. Beautiful arctic hellscapes, the threat of cold personified. There’s a battle with the Creature in ep. 4 that is off the rails. And…then the show goes sideways. The last couple of episodes are kind of a mess, threads not carried through, characters who were looking fine just an episode previous suddenly turning cadaverous and dying, that kind of thing. And it diverges wildly from the novel. Wildly. Frustratingly. Like, in the course of simplifying the story the show just kind of lost the thread.

Anyway, The Expanse and The Terror are both shows where I have read the source material. Knowing what’s coming in The Expanse — knowing that the last scene of this season is actually the first chapters of Book 5, which is arguably the most harrowing, epic, tragic story of the entire series, is really super upsetting.  Nail biting. Like, when the settlers on Ilus start rubbing their eyes and I’m on the sofa screaming “OH NO ARGGGGHHHH!!!!” because I know what that means.

Versus The Terror where I know what the Creature is and I know what’s coming and I know more details than the show is giving us, and I’m liking the characters I’m supposed to be liking (crossover moment:  Jared Harris plays protagonist Francis Crozier here, and he also plays Anderson Dawes in The Expanse.  Isn’t this neat?). But I’m not upset? I kind of stopped worrying about them? Part of this is the difficulty of telling a story where I know from the outset that nearly every single person is going to die horribly. Anyway, I think it needed a couple more episodes to draw out the tension — and I really wish it had followed the book, which is a more interesting, fraught outcome than what the show gave us.

Next up:  The Witcher. I really know nothing about this at all, but the publicity stills of scruffy leather-bound Henry Cavill are so smoking hot I can’t not watch this.

 

happy holidays 2019

December 24, 2019

I have a confession:  I’ve really been enjoying the holidays this year.

And I’ve been trying to figure out why, so I can maybe replicate this feeling. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’ve focused on the process rather than the day itself. So often it feels like the holiday season is a frenzy aiming toward this single moment, this single destination — Christmas, or Yule, or whatever — and it turns out to be a bit of a let down to spend all that stress and preparation for a single event that is over and done with just like that. All of us sitting there with the chaos of wrapping paper and presents and cold spiced cider thinking, That’s it? It’s done?

Instead, I did a lot of baking and thought about enjoying that. Putting together gift bags. Wrapping presents and eating food and going out with friends — it’s all part of the holidays. It’s all part of the celebration. There is no preparation — the preparation is the holiday, if that makes sense.  All of this is what I like about this time of year, not any one moment.

Which brings me to. . .why? I’ve been thinking about why I actually go through all this gift giving and decorating and music and concerts and parties and the rest. And it really is about the time of year, about distracting myself during the dark of winter, giving myself something to look forward to during these short cold days. Giving myself a stretch of time that isn’t ordinary, that marks a transition between this year and the next. A liminal space to mark the passage of time. To put away what was and prepare for what will be, and celebrate all the good things in my life.

“The holidays” aren’t a thing. They’re a process. It’s ongoing.

And just like that, a weight comes off, and I can enjoy all this a whole lot more.

Happy Holidays. I hope you all get a chance this season to take a moment and breathe and simply be.

 

I loved it.  (No spoilers here.)

There’s a moment in this film that encapsulates all of Star Wars. This small, quiet, beautiful moment that manages to draw in, like, everything. The more I think about it the more I love it.

This is not to say it’s a perfect movie. The pacing in the first half is relentless and disorienting. I was watching and thinking, This needs to slow down and give us a moment to breathe or the whole thing is going to be a mess. Funnily enough, about five minutes later the movie slowed down and gave us a moment to breathe and the rest of it opened up. There’s a ton of handwavium going on. If you go into this movie looking for things to pick apart, you’ll find them.

But I loved it. It’s full of hugging and heroes and epic duels and big moments and all the things I love about Star Wars. I got my Poe and Finn on a ridiculous caper story. Lots of Rey and Kylo. I got way more of General Leia than I had any right to expect.

And story…  Here’s a bit of analysis.

I know I said I was never going to talk about the prequel trilogy again. Episodes I, II, III. But I am, because I’m struck by something in them now:  the lack of spirituality. Episodes IV – IX are full of spirituality, the Force as a mystical thing that transcends people, that is always present, that just is. It binds the universe together, it doesn’t just belong to the Jedi, it requires calm and introspection and a personal connection to the universe. In Episodes I-III the Force is almost mechanical. There’s a blood test. The Jedi aren’t mystical shamans — they’re a bureaucracy.

And this may be one of the points of the entire saga. The Jedi of the Old Republic are like the medieval Catholic church, formal and political and bureaucratic. Because of this, their rigidity, they lack the awareness that anything is wrong and the flexibility to do anything about it. And they don’t know how to deal with Anakin. They’ve actually lost a ton of power. (I still think that part of the story is badly told, but the story is there.)

The rest of the saga may be about restoring a spiritual aspect to the Jedi. The idea of individual connection. A more shamanistic Jedi practice.

The prequels kept talking about “balance” in the Force. This film brings that idea back, with the idea that maybe “balance” wasn’t what those rigid practitioners of the Jedi order thought it was.

There’s a lot to think about — if you want to think about it.  Since thinking about this stuff is also one of the things I love about the Star Wars universe, I am happy.

 

It’s Star Wars season!

December 19, 2019

Have to admit, I might miss having a new Star Wars movie to celebrate each December. Then again, when my mother asked if I was looking forward to the new movie, my answer was of course “yes,” but also…exhaustion. I’m really tired of the hype and expectation and online collective freak-out that accompanies these things. I just want to watch the movie.

I’ve got tickets for tomorrow.

In preparation, I watched The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi this week. I love Rey’s story. The Jedi arc in The Last Jedi in particular is so fraught, and so pointed. I just love it.

“We are what they grow beyond,” Yoda tells Luke. The whole saga is about generational conflict, and how generations fail each other — particularly older generations who didn’t quite build the world they set out to and who didn’t successfully mentor those who came after them. And how maybe doing those two things is actually impossible. Because kids are their own people. They have their own arcs, and they don’t exist to complete someone else’s.

So yes, I’m very interested to see how this new movie adds to that story, if it adds to that story. On the other hand, The Last Jedi offers an ending of sorts of its own. There’s closure there, if you need it.

 

Frozen 2

December 16, 2019

So I cried through like the whole third act, mostly because the ice kelpie was so beautiful my heart just ached.  (Google tells me he is not a kelpie, but a Nokk, a Scandinavian water spirit that sounds a lot like a keplie, but then there is a lot of overlap with these things.)

I really loved Elsa with actual superpowers, and then she gets her own Fortress of Solitude. With an actual Campbellian Hero’s Journey descent to the underworld and rebirth. Like, we’re not even trying to hide it.

And then weirdly also like Annihilation, with passing through this wall of glowing mist and being trapped with weird transformative creatures?

I don’t know, the whole thing was fine, just what it says on the tin, but it sure packed a lot in there.

 

Here they are!

“The Ghosts of Sherwood” is scheduled for release June 9, and “The Heirs of Locksley” on August 4. I can’t wait!