My year in review included writing two novels, working on some stuff for other media, teaching at Yale and UBC, book tours in Canada, Sardinia, and the Netherlands. My wife and I co-edited an anthology titled Sisters of the Revolution and we published a huge omnibus of the fiction of Leena Krohn. The Annihilation movie from Paramount continues to chug along, with shooting supposed to start in May of 2016. (And, in terms of continuing coverage of the Southern Reach, I think I got the biggest kick out of this New Yorker piece on the subject.)
But I also published a fair amount of nonfiction this year, especially in the long-form. I wrote introductions or forewords to quite a few books. I also did a few other pieces, like this interview with musician Vernon Reid for Esquire.com (pictured above) and this one with novelist Monica Byrne for Electric Lit.
I’m proud of these pieces–and thankful for the opportunity to write longer essays for various places. Thanks to the Atlantic, Electric Literature, the Guardian, and Slate. Electric Literature in particular has given me the opportunity to talk about subjects I think are important. (Next year it looks like I’m doing an intro for a book from NYRB Classics and some reviews in the spring for the Washington Post, as a start.)
Anyway, happy holidays/new year–and in case you missed any of this and find it of interest, the links with excerpts are below.
LONG-FORM & REVIEWS
From Annihilation to Acceptance – My tragi-comic account of writing and touring behind the Southern Reach Trilogy, for the Atlantic. “The next morning, I get back in the car to run an errand and find the mosquito’s body obscured by a quick-acting fungus composed of delicate white filaments. I am in such a state of superstition, influenced by the novel, that I cannot bring myself to get a napkin and wipe it away. I am not even sure now that I swatted the mosquito in the first place. Is someone getting inside my car?”
The Slow Apocalypse and Fiction – Thoughts on fiction and climate change for Electric Literature, initiated by attending the Sonic Acts Geologic Imagination conference early this year. “Given our modern predicament, readers may soon reject myths that aggregate as they do in many near-future novels as wistfulness for car commercials, for Starbucks lattes, or for a thousand trifling conveniences….Who, sane, ethical, would wish for a time like ours of unrelenting animal carnage, for example? For the dead wreckage of our systems being sold to us as the height of technological evolution?”
The Unusual Mind of Clarice Lispector – A happy discovery this year was Clarice Lispector, when Slate asked me to review her Complete Stories (New Directions). The review went a bit long, which only made sense given the depth and breadth of material I needed to cover. “Sometimes when you don’t care about how many writing rules you break, you wind up somewhere sublime and subversive and original. Reading Lispector, you see this happen with startling regularity.”
Are We Alone? – Thoughts on extraterrestrial life and fiction for Electric Literature, in part through the lens of life on Earth and our unquestioning allegiance to modern tech. “How horrific would it be if humankind reached the stars, landed on a planet, and wound up eating sentient life-forms without realizing it?” Expanded slightly from a presentation I gave at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination
Are We Alone? SF is as sure a guide as any – A much shorter version of my “Are We Alone?” essay, for the Guardian, that focuses on one section of the four-part longer essay, with some expansion therein.
Epic Best-of-2015 Essay – I took a lot of time and care in crafting the descriptions of the books on my list. It’s meant to be a joyful exploration and discussion of some amazing fiction and nonfiction. “Working on a couple of novels, I closed myself off from the internet for several months and during that time I wrote in the mornings and afternoons, then did nothing but read in the evenings—long, uninterrupted reading that healed a fragmented brain and energized my writing. With that isolation, I found it possible to once again live in my own writing and the writing of others. It was one of the most peaceful periods of the last few years for me.”
INTRODUCTIONS & FOREWORDS
Foreword to Songs of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti – It was a great pleasure to pen a foreword to this reissue from Penguin Classics. “Ligotti’s fiction, temporarily unhooked it from the weird, is best understood as a continuing interrogation of the legitimacy of our modern lives. He is exploring the underbelly of modernity—personal and societal. His interest is in the blight beneath, whether it occurs solely in the mind or is expressed through actions. For this reason, the films of David Lynch and the fiction of Thomas Ligotti sometimes speak to each other in interesting ways.”
American Kafka? – My introduction to Michael Cisco’s The Narrator (Lazy Fascist Press), for LitHub. “These feats depend on a layering that’s extraordinary for weird fiction and is given rare power by the attention to detail in the brilliant set pieces that Cisco strings together to tell his tale.”
Introduction to Strugatsky Brothers’ The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn – A romp of a farce with mysterious weirdness and weird mysteriousness, published by Melville House. I was honored to be able to write about two of Russia’s most famous writers. “Confused? Don’t be. Think instead of the movie Clue or any number of British slapstick mystery-comedies. Perhaps with a hint of the Twilight Zone. Because not only does every man wear the face he deserves, but in The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn the Strugatsky Brothers, creators of the Forbidden Zone in their classic SF novel Roadside Picnic, give every reader the farce they deserve—with possible infernal devices thrown in to spice up the recipe.”
Introduction to Sisters of the Revolution (with Ann VanderMeer) – Ann and I had one co-edited anthology out this year, a feminist speculative fiction volume, and I co-wrote the introduction with her. “Our contribution to the conversation includes the great flowering of feminist speculative fiction in the late 1960s through the 1970s, which created the foundation for the wonderful wealth and diversity of such fiction in the present-day. The entry into the field of so many amazing writers at once transformed science fiction and fantasy forever.”
Introduction to The Bestiary – Ann VanderMeer’s Bestiary anthology needed an introduction, so I wrote a rather fanciful piece for it. “Tales of the first failed bestiary come to us from Roman-conquered England, where a goatherd claimed to have witnessed a wondrous zoological triumph “from the lands beyond.” However, upon closer examination, these wonders turned into a herd of burly goats dressed up or shaved in ingenious ways to make them resemble mythical beasts like the chimera and the phoenix.”
Foreword to Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction – Through our Cheeky Frawg press, we published an 850-page volume of Leena Krohn’s collected novels, novellas, and short stories. Normally I wouldn’t do the introduction for a book I published, but there was so little on Krohn written in English prior to this publishing event that I turned out to be one of the few experts on her works in English.