And so I find myself writing another new year’s eve review. What is it, my ninth, maybe? Which means another year must have sped by. Furthermore, it must be my birthday, and I must be 44 years old today. I know, I know, before you say anything, I don’t look it, but that’s really just because I haven’t taken any new author photos since 2009. It’s been an even crazier and more unsettled year in politics and events than the previous one, which set new standards for unsettled craziness. It’s also been an unusually busy and stressful year from a personal standpoint, as we spent nine months out of our house while the builders were in, only moving back in September and only really getting everything close to settled in the last month or two.
A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – Stone me if it hasn’t been more than two years since I last published anything now (and that was a collection of short stories). A lengthy hiatus and one that’s left me feeling kinda left out of the publishing scene and very much looking forward to getting back. As a result I’ve done very little of the public events and so on, trying to keep my powder dry for next year, when I will explode back onto the scene with the publication of A Little Hatred, the first in a totally brilliant honest new trilogy, which is pretty much definitely coming to the US and UK, in hardcover and audiobook (read by the incomparable Steven Pacey) in September.
A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Two years without publication, but as anyone who’s been following this blog will know, I have been anything but idle as far as the writing goes. Indeed, despite all the other distracting shit going on in my life and in the world (or perhaps because of it – I tend to find myself more productive the more I have going on), I’ve had a hugely productive year by my standards. I drafted the full 180,000 words of the last book in my new trilogy (The Beautiful Machine), went back and revised and edited the first (A Little Hatred), and got half way through the difficult 2nd draft on the 2nd (The Trouble With Peace).
Proofs of A Little Hatred should start to wend their way out to critics, booksellers and taste-makers the world over in the new year, then I guess the copy-edit will come back soon after, with proof-read to follow to leave that book absolutely totally finally DONE in good time for the September release. First meetings about art have been happening both sides of the pond as well. Meanwhile I’ll be getting the 2nd draft of Book 2 finished to send to my editors for comments hopefully by the end of January or so. I never really start feeling confident about a book until long after it’s been out and a decent pool of reader opinion begins to develop, of course, but I feel it’s all going pretty well. Certainly I think it was a wise idea to do things this way, and draft the entire trilogy in one go, despite the long absence from the bookstores. I will aim to continue with the bi-monthly progress reports as things move forward…
TV AND FILM – Film-wise I watch less and less, and often these days it’s stuff I see with the kids. The Avengers: Infinity War I thought was a pretty good effort considering all the balls to juggle. Black Panther was good too but maybe I’m just getting a little tired of the superhero glut. I quite enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts but I thought the second one was really pretty dire. First Man was well made but in the end spent a lot of time and effort to get a rather dull man to a very dull place. I was a little disappointed in Vice, having heard great things – some great performances and actor transformations but I’m not sure it really had a huge amount to say. I really quite liked weird ultra-violent mood piece You Were Never Really Here. But I think my favourite film of the year had to be The Incredibles 2. Just did exactly what it said on the tin very, very entertainingly. Also really enjoyed Green Book despite (or probably because of) hearing nothing about it – excellent central performances.
The floodgates of quality TV continue to stand open. Series I’ve particularly enjoyed this year, not necessarily first released this year, and probably forgetting a few: The Americans, The Last Kingdom, The Crown, Bosch, Narcos Mexico, Startup, Ozark, Trust (though it went on a bit), Killing Eve (despite a rather weak ending). Two series I really loved that are maybe a little less well-known would be Patriot – awesomely offbeat, occasionally hilarious, occasionally horrible, but always surprising, and the Italian import Gomorrah, which in a third season remains as grippingly unpleasant as ever – never have irredeemable brooding thugs stomping up concrete stairwells been so compelling.
GAMES – I found Far Cry 5 a bit weak – it’s been diminishing returns for that series ever since the excellent number 3. Assassins Creed Origins may have been last year for some of you but I only just played it, and liked it a lot. They make too many of these, but the good ones can be great. Illustrating that point nicely, I’ve also been playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and, I dunno – great setting, some cool mechanics, but a lot clunkier and blander than Origins – really quite weak in the writing department and the attempts to introduce dialogue choices don’t really seem to work. Monster Hunter World I enjoyed a lot – felt like quite a fresh combination of elements for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 was long awaited and, almost inevitably, perhaps, a remarkable experience, a world of unprecedented scale, depth and detail and an astonishing technical achievement. But the basic gameplay was a little hokey and dated, and the disposable gunplay fitted very uncomfortably with the powerful character-driven story they were trying to tell. So, for me, with the benefit of a little hindsight, I think my game of the year was the excellent God of War, which took a franchise notorious for its adolescent brainlessness and made something grown up and emotional out of it. Less vast ambition than Red Dead, perhaps, but a game in which all the elements: Design, Gameplay, Story, locked together perfectly.
THE YEAR AHEAD – 2018 was pretty fraught from a life perspective, so with any luck 2019 will be a bit calmer as we settle into the new house. Whether that will mean increased work output is something of an open question, but certainly there’ll be a fair bit more events and public engagement to do leading up to the release of A Little Hatred in September. Looks definite that I’ll be back in Aviles for Celsius in July, then at Worldcon in Dublin in August, then touring in the UK in September when the new book appears. We may well do some events in the US shortly afterward, but that’s yet to be confirmed – touring in the UK, where the distances are so much smaller, is a lot easier to justify. But I will let you all know when I know.
By the time A Little Hatred comes out, I hope that I’ll have The Trouble with Peace and The Beautiful Machine edited and complete, perhaps awaiting copy editing and proof-reading but basically squared away, leaving me time to consider that most terrible of all mid-career writing questions: what the fuck are you doing next? Still, it’s very very nice that people care…
Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards!