This year, five stories of mine were published for the first time, by people who had paid for the rights to do so. They were, in chronological order from first to last,
- "Hypothetical Foundations of a Quantum Theory of Familial Social Physics" (FLAPPERHOUSE No. 2, Summer 2014)
- "Bonfires in Anacostia," August 2014, Clarkesworld No. 95
- "Cold Duck" (FLAPPERHOUSE No. 3, Fall 2014)
- "Thirty-Eight Observations on the Nature of the Self" (Phantasm Japan, Haikasoru, September 2014)
- "The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine" (M: Horror & Mystery No. 2, November 2014, from Big Pulp Publications)
To summarize in terms of genre, then, two pieces of barely classifiable experimental writing ("Hypothetical Foundations..." and "Cold Duck", both in FLAPPERHOUSE); one piece of near-future science-fiction ("Bonfires"); one piece of philosophical fantasy ("38 Observations"); and a piece of crime fiction with an ambiguously fantastical element ("Jumping Frenchmen").
Were it not for my knowledge of how many stories of mine are loitering in slush piles or cluttering my metaphorical trunk, I would say that it was a very good year. From any objective standpoint, it likely was.
On the theory that, "if I am not for myself, who will be for me?" (Rabbi Hillel), I have, for the first time in my life, taken out a supporting membership in the upcoming WorldCon so as to be able to nominate & vote for the Hugo Awards. Choosing between "Bonfires" and "38 Observations" seems a bit absurd; the stories are so different. Yet I am putting my chips on "Bonfires," for two reasons. First, having appeared in a high profile online venue, it is likely to have been read by more people to date than "38 Observations," which is in print only, in an anthology. This also means that people are more likely to read it on a whim. The second reason is that the story appeared online just eight days before the assassination of Mike Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. The story deals with many of the issues of race, class, police violence, the struggles of the oppressed, and the mechanisms of state power, that have rightly been taken up on the streets in the months since.
But my work is only eligible in the short story category, and there are many more categories than that. And, as Rabbi Hillel said, "If I am only for myself, what am I?" I definitely intend to nominate two of my fellow Phantasm Japan pieces in the novelette and novella categories: "From the Nothing, With Love" by the late Project Itoh for novelette and "Sisyphean" by Dempow Torishima for novella. I already sang their praises. Buy the book already! (To quote Rabbi Hillel again, "If not now, when?")
I've exhausted the Hillel theme, but still have more to say. Continuing on the topic of Hugo nominations, I reiterate my full intention of nominating Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven for the novel category. I cannot say with certainty that it was the best science fiction novel this year, but of the novels published this year that I read, it was one of the best written. I also plan to nominate Randall Munroe's What If? for "Best Related Work". It is basically hard science fiction pushed to the limits of the absurd--Asimov's "Nightfall" with stick figures. Plus, it gave me a chance to explain Avogadro's Number to my daughter. She still talks about "a Mole of Moles".
And I would be remiss if I did not mention that this is my first year of eligibility for the Campbell Award.
Awards aside, I read many good things this year that either are not eligible anymore for awards, because they are too old, or the awards they are eligible for are in fields I am powerless to effect. Here is a brief recap of them:
- Daniel Alarcón, At Night We Walk in Circles
- Dashiell Hammett, The Hunter and Other Stories (especially "Faith")
- Hesiod, Theogony
- Carl Hiaasen, Skink--No Surrender
- Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Autobiography of a Corpse
- Hisaki Matsuura, Triangle
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia, This Strange Way of Dying
- Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
- Hilton Als, White Girls
- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
- Jan Karski, Story of a Secret State
- Christine Montross, Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis
- Luis Nicolau Parés, The Formation of Candomblé: Vodun History and Ritual in Brazil
- Claudio Pavone, A Civil War: A History of the Italian Resistance
- Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century
- Shai Secunda, The Iranian Talmud: Reading the Bavli in its Sasanian Context
- Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
- Mara Casey Tieken, Why Rural Schools Matter (full disclosure: I work with the author)
- Christine J. Walley, Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago
If there were a way that I could nominate FLAPPERHOUSE for "Best New Electronic Magazine of the Year," I would. Certainly it's the one that, even when it's not publishing my work, most resembles my own twisted aesthetic.
As of now, only one piece of mine has publication lined up for 2015, "The Joy of Sects," due to appear in February 2015 in Unlikely Story No. 11, The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. I await the verdict of the slush-gods on many others.
I am not sure how many stories I have actually written this year, since until a story is ultimately sold I revise it, multiple times. I can say with certainty that it is fewer than I wrote the year before. The reason for that is simple: In April my second child was born. And now, having thoroughly buried the lede, I bring this retrospective on 2014 to a close.