Blimey, it’s the year Twenty Twenty, a year that sounds incredibly futuristic. We’re past the setting of Blade Runner. The world is different and weirder in ways we couldn’t imagine before.
With that in mind, I’m announcing my next book of short stories, called This Was Meant to be the Future. I’ve been working on these stories for the last couple of years and it feels an appropriate time to release them.
I’m really excited to announce my debut chapbook is being published by the fine folks over at Selcouth Station. It’s called Our Voices in the Chaos and is a combination of blackout poems and actual poems. It’s an anxious little hybrid of a book, dealing with societal collapse, ghosts and what the rain says. Continue reading →
In 2019, I read 66 books, but a lot were poetry chapbooks or graphic novels. You can see most of the list on my GoodReads page if you want.
Heres some of my personal highlights:
Probably because of everything in the world right now, I read a lot of books about escaping into strange dreamlike worlds. I sped through the Annihilation trilogy by Jeff Vandeermeer and Roadsise Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, both of which share a common DNA. They feel less like science fiction and more like moving into a weird world where the rules are never clear.
The book I’d most like to recommened is nominally science fiction but wears those elements lightly. Kindred by Octavia Butler is a furious novel about a modern black woman transported back to the south at the height of slavery. It should be essential reading for everyone as it highlights how injust and obscene slavery was in a visceral, emotional way.
The main nonfiction book I loved was Maria Popova’s Figuring. Popova runs the enormously interesting blog Brain Pickings and this book feels like a digestion and development of that blog. Focusing on a few gifted scientists and artists, mostly queer, mostly women, it asks why they have been unfairly excluded from history. Through its beautiful, elegant prose it also shows the connections between these figures. We often view history a single story, so it was enlightening to see the connections between everyone. It was also fascinating to read about the people who were supremely gifted but we have forgotten about, because of prejudice. Its a long book, but it zips along and is really worth your time.
Liz Berry’s Black Country was a highlight. With some poems written in black country dialect, it is unique in its use of language and imagery.
Ada Límon’s The Carrying is a book by a poet at the height of their powers. Dealing with climate change and having
children, it feels universal and specific in the best way.
To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus is incredible but you don’t need me to tell you that.
I also really enjoyed Ross McCleary’s Endorse Me, You Cowards! , which is both hillarious and then deeply troubling in the way nightmares are. He really nails an uneasiness about modern office work. He also helps run the podcast Lies, dreaming, and the episode on Hump Day was really… something else.
Also Stuart Buck’s Become Something Frail, which is full of incredible imagery. Stuart has a unique way with language and the whole collection shines.
So yeah, I got really into reading poetry last year.
I finally got all the way through Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, which is sadly getting more and more relevant each passing year. Only the idea of the media having strong power to fight injustice feels dated, but the politics and the characters are oddly prophetic considering it was written at the turn of the millenium.
On the other end of the spectrum, Joff Winterhart’s Driving Short Distances was perfectly observed. Nothing really happens but it feels so tragic. Its a book about masculinty and depression which is funny and heartbreaking without ever being didactic or preachy.
Phew, that was more than I thought. Anyway, this year I want to read more widely, especially more books by women to expand my perspective. I might start doing little reviews on this blog as I go, I might not. We shall see.
I’m late to the party with my year wrap up. It’s already the roaring twenties. 1 But I still think it is worth looking at where we have been so we can look to the future.
In many ways, the last year of the decade was a contradictory one. There seemed to be such hope in the air with the protests against injsutice and climate emergencies, yet people routinely voted for selfish, narrowminded parties. Brexit seemed a hopeless prospect and yet people were determined to push it through. There was so much joy and within the same moments, so much panic and sadness.
John Green’s podcast The Anthropocence Reviewed has been a consistent highlight this year, but the latest episode on Auld Lang Syne is particularly moving. The reworking of the song and reclamation of it is joyous.
It made me think about why we celebrate New Year. The answer John Green gives is an elegant one; because we are all still here. Another journey around the sun, another year passing into history.
Hold each other tight and revel in each other’s company. No matter what happens, we have these moments of joy and closeness. We have each other for a little time on this strange planet.
Happy new year everyone. I hope 2020 is better for us all.
-and the clouds gather above your head, darker than you thought possible, bringing sudden night and you are now aware this field is too exposed and how you stick out like an antenna over the-
-and the airhostesses are telling passengers to sit down and adopt the position, hands behind the neck, back bent forward and they are trying to remain professional but two of them have tears running down their faces even as they try to-
-and they are gathering in the streets, emboldened by political events you only have the dimmest understanding of, some new leader maybe, and they are laughing and joking, all wearing shirts and buzzcuts, and you are glad you wore contacts and not glasses or else you could have been singled out and for now you hold your breath and walk past, when one says-
-and this the hottest day on record but you are sure it’s fine, the government has a plan or maybe the scientists or someone will come up with steps to be taken and you will listen and shade offers no relief but-
-and no one is shouting now, everyone is in their seats and everyone has adopted the position and it’s very quiet now-
Recently on Twitter, I replied to this tweet about keeping a private anthology:
I got into a discussion about my commonplace book and why I keep one. I thought I’d follow that up with a larger discussion of why I find it useful and some examples from the book.
A commonplace book is an old tradition, with bits of knowledge stacked on top of each other. Ryan Holiday has a great explanation if you want to know further. I use it to note down quotes, photos I like and poems that speak to me.
I’ve been avoiding the election cycle because its just so depressing. Lies after misinformation after racist dogwhistles after lies. It’s disheartening to see people support the Tories, who have messed everything up over the last ten years. At this point it feels more like Stockholm syndrome.
We’ve found a way to monetize breath. It’s simply a game changer. Can you feel the paradigms shifting under your feet? We are shaking up the world like a snowglobe and breaking traditions. Each inhale a cent, each exhale is free. Thats it! Simple!
After all, we are providing a service. We could flood the atmosphere with deadly chlorine gas, killing everyone painlessly and quickly, but we don’t. We allow seven billion humans to live. So we are providing a service.
The market has responded favourably. All hail the market! Praise stock tickers! We’ve revolutionised food and water, turned the streets into profit, now we spin gold from the air itself. Our investors are very pleased indeed. If you don’t like it, don’t breathe.