I began this year on airplanes. In bookstores and in theatres, meeting hundreds and hundreds of lovely people and signing so very many copies of The Starless Sea. Drinking post-event Cabernet and trying to remember what day it was or what city I was in, pausing too briefly in hotel room after hotel room and the whole time I had a head cold and I joked that I didn’t want to leave my house for the spring and then I didn’t.
I didn’t leave my house in the spring or the summer or the fall and now the snow is falling again.
Things that were happy-making in a long dark year:
Jeni’s ice cream. The fire pit we got for the backyard. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume oils (particularly Candy Apple Smut, Baby’s First Ballista & Venus Genetrix). My new camera that takes very good photos of birds and kittens. Getting a towel from my perfect husband for my 42nd birthday (he also gave me a sword). This Ethan M. Aldridge illustration. S’mores made with turmeric cardamom black pepper caramelized coconut mylk chocolate. Taylor Swift’s folklore on vinyl. Chasing Vesper around the library while she chased a mouse. Blood Milk’s Sacred Heart of Hecate ring. Knitting with Malabrigo Rasta yarn. The Alex Eckman-Lawn paperback cover for The Starless Sea. Flailing about Dragon Age 4 teases with people on the internet. The El Goliath Tarot. Catching cherry blossoms in Animal Crossing. Becoming long-distance friends with the extraordinary Dani Carr. This cast iron roast chicken recipe. And Todd Doughty’s happy-making posts on Instagram.
I didn’t read much this year at all. I’m always a slow reader and I never get through as many books as I would like but this year was particularly bad for my attention span. I did procure a lot of books so I am well-stocked for 2021 and beyond.
Of the handful of things I did manage to read this year, these were my favorites:
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, the witchy 80’s Massachusetts field hockey novel I never knew I always wanted.
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, who is a genius. I laughed, I cried, I laughed until I cried, all while our power was out, reading by flashlight.
The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained by Colin Dickey. I adored Ghostland and this is just as fascinating. One of the things I love about Colin’s work is how much of it is about the stories that we tell.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. In many ways this book is to The Starless Sea what Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is to The Night Circus, which baffles and delights me. It is a treasure.
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, like Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter had an Australian baby. It is moody and dark and has sharp teeth like the best of fairy tales.
Beowulf translated by Maria Dahvana Headley is a luscious, lyrical gift of language that feels old and new at the same time.
This year I started writing a book that will very likely end up being the new book. It has been a file filled with notes for awhile but now there are pages of prose and characters who haven’t found their names yet and bits of impermanent imaginary architecture. It is a long way from being a book but it is more than it was at this time last year, a million years ago.
In the meantime The Starless Sea came out in paperback in August of this year which already seems like ages ago. You could purchase it or any number of other wonderful books (everything in the pile above is highly recommended!) from an independent bookstore near or far, might I suggest Print: A Bookstore or Gibson’s Concord or Odyssey Bookshop or Oblong Books & Music
I played a lot of games this year. No, more than that.
My game of the year is a fairly even tie between Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Hades. I bought pink rain boots because I liked my Animal Crossing ones so much. Hades made me realize I’m actually pretty good at the kind of game I sometimes find intimidating. (Current record clear time is 19:39.55)
Ghost of Tsushima was epic and stunning and the end of Act II made me cry more than any single moment in a video game ever.
I love a good visual puzzle game and Superliminal was just what I wanted, quirky and smart and beautiful.
I finished A Short Hike in one day and I still think about it, it is a perfect little story game. It is, as the name implies, very short. “a little exploration game about hiking up a mountain.”
I replayed a lot of things this year for purposes of comfort and familiarity including BioShock 2 (I had never done the Minerva’s Den DLC and it’s marvelous) and Horizon Zero Dawn and I am currently in the middle of my fourth replay of Dragon Age: Inquisition which is of course my most favorite game. I am taking my time with it but afterwards I am probably going to replay Origins & Dragon Age II as well, because it’s been that kind of year.
I’ve just started Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and so far I like it a lot, it’s like smashy smashy Breath of the Wild.
Also recently acquired the Annapurna Interactive Deluxe Limited Edition collection, I’ve played and loved some of these games already (particularly What Remains of Edith Finch and Gorogoa) and I am very much looking forward to the rest of them.
In related gaming news I still don’t have a PS5 despite trying several times to get one (I blame our comparatively slow internet speed) and right now my main goal is to get one before Horizon Forbidden West comes out.
I barely watched any tv this year but I did rewatch all of Adventure Time including the final seasons which I’d never seen and I sobbed my way through the final episode which was bananapants and perfect. I might need “Will Happen Happening Happens” embroidered on something.
We’ve been getting into Critical Role this year, we’re 30-something episodes into the second campaign and I love it, my attention span for watching anything has been terrible but with Critical Role I can sit and knit or whatnot and still follow fascinating complex narratives and it has been soothing in a chaotic sort of way. And there is so very much of it! We are like two years and a bazillion hours behind! It’s kind of nice to have so much catching up to do especially since we don’t leave the house and it is helping me sort of understand Dungeons & Dragons finally. I’ve never played! Everyone always thinks I have! I haven’t! But I’m learning! (Once in awhile someone tags me on twitter about doing campaigns based on my books and whether or not I mind and of course I don’t mind I am flattered beyond belief please please have all the role-playing fun with them!)
This year sounded like the Hades soundtrack and Nothing But Thieves and The Amazing Devil and London Grammar’s Californian Soil and BMO singing about how time is an illusion but mostly it sounded like folklore (& evermore) on repeat and I am grateful to Taylor Swift for these sounds and these words that were in the background of this year like a blanket. I have other favorite tracks but when I told myself to pick a single one for this post as is New Year’s Post tradition, it had to be this one.
Happy New Year, darlings. We can be pirates.