I usually look forward to writing these posts: a nice bow, bright and neat, wrapping up my accomplishments into a tiny package that I can pull out later as evidence that I do in fact do things sometimes, and that everything is not always horrible. They are not something I procrastinate on; rather, they’re the thing I write when I’m procrastinating on something less pleasant but more important.
But this year, in the quiet spaces between one tab and the next, between rounds of Gardenscapes, at stoplights and in checkout lines, a thought keeps popping into my head: I am not OK. It’s not that there’s anything in particular wrong with me, exactly. In every objective measure my life is pretty great, and in just about every subjective one, too. I’m not unhappy.
But there is an incredible emotional weight to discovering that the bedrock foundations of the world have shifted. The things I thought I could rely upon cannot be relied upon anymore. Like all of us, I carry that burden with me, everywhere I go. So: huzzah, I published a story! (But the world is still on fire.) Hot diggity, I got to visit Zurich! (But the world is still on fire.) Sah-weeeeet, I got to play Horizon Zero Dawn! (But... the world is still on fire.)
It’s not that I’m not OK, as such. It’s that the aggregate of all of the things going on are not OK. I can’t hold the foundations of the world in place, but still I strain against the weight of them, trying to keep back the uncertain horrors that would emerge from their absence.
But I am nothing if not an optimist. No, truly! And so I am going to determinedly look back on the year and see how bright the bright side is, exactly.
What I Shipped in 2017
The Revolution, Brought to You By Nike (Fireside)
Hard Bargain, Bookburners Season 3 (Serial Box)
Into the Woods, Bookburners Season 3 (Serial Box)
Patch Job, ReMade Season 2 (Serial Box)
Chosen One, ReMade Season 2 (Serial Box, out December 29)
Three Laws (Fireside)
TeleTravel™ Release Notes (Patreon)
Waking Titan (No Man’s Sky ARG with Alice & Smith)
Kiss of the Revenant (The Secret World ARG with Alice & Smith)
Spy Virtual Race (Macmillan Cancer Support and Six to Start)
Zombies, Run! Season 6 Radio Mode (Six to Start and Naomi Alderman)
Zombies, Run! The Board Game, Guest Mission (Six to Start and Naomi Alderman)
The Cultures (with Naomi Alderman and Adrian Hon)
There’s also one more ReMade episode I’ve written that won’t be out until late January. I will also have written two more episodes of Bookburners by the New Year, but since they won’t be published for some time, those go on next year’s ledger.
Aside from all that, I’ve written a number of essays and articles that I frankly haven’t kept track of; two more sets of scripts for other audio dramas; an all-new short story, written and sold but not yet announced; I’ve almost given up on selling another short, which I love desperately but cannot seem to place in a market; and I very noticeably have not written a novel, which fact I felt a lot worse about before I realized I’d written well over 80,000 words in various other forms as well as designing and writing for an old-school, work-hours-heavy alternate reality game this year. Plus, you know, parenting school-age children with heavy extracurricular schedules.
Wow. I guess this is why I do this end-of-year recap, huh? No wonder I’m feeling so burned out lately.
Of all of these pieces, I suspect The Revolution, Brought to You By Nike is the most significant and impactful thing I’ve done this year, and will not doubt be one of the highlights of my entire career. It is extremely political, and simultaneously the most personal thing I have ever written. And it was published in February, which has led to a curious hangover the rest of the year, a certainty that my most important work is behind me, and that none of the rest of it counts as much. I realize this is ridiculous, but there it is.
So that’s work. What about everything else, though?
Punditing, Travel, and Activism
After a lengthy hiatus, I started taking speaking engagements about transmedia storytelling again this year. And I found I quite enjoyed it, after my break! I even had conversations with a couple of universities about teaching at various games programs over the last year, but ultimately discovered that they couldn’t pay me enough to justify the opportunity cost — I would love to teach, but not as an adjunct. The math just didn’t work.
On the other hand, I took a year mostly away from science fiction conventions, which turned out to be for the best given how hard I was working, especially over the conference-heavy summer months. So I went to Confusion in January, and then spoke only at C2 in Montreal in May and CILECT in Zurich in October. (I also traveled to London for business in late June, and my family took a glorious trip to Disney World in August.)
I also tried to volunteer with the NYCLU, but I don’t think my skills and availability suit their needs, alas. If I’m going to serve the world, then perhaps my best path is imagining my way to a better future. (I’m working on that.) Meanwhile, there’s always more calling my congresspeople to do. And voting. Always voting. (I registered as a Democrat for the first time this year, after staying as an Independent since I was 18. It felt like it was about time.)
One thing is abundantly clear, in any event. The overall volume of work I’ve put out this year is unsustainably high, and I’m going to need to think some hard thoughts about how to more efficiently direct my efforts going forward. Especially because...
Health and Wellness
This was not a super great health year for me. I took a tumble down the stairs at Confusion early in 2017. Inauguration weekend, in fact. Two sprained ankles and a bruise turned into an antibiotic-resistant infection, and it seems the antibiotic that finally killed it may have also killed my Achilles’ tendons, which did not become apparent until I sharply increased my swimming length dramatically in June. (Magnesium supplements are apparently a miracle cure for me where five weeks of physical therapy was not.)
On top of that, I burned both ends of the candle very hard over the summer and through October to hit a cascading series of deadlines and other commitments, the net result of which was losing several weeks to a series of respiratory infections ultimately followed by several more weeks of asthma in which I could not so much as walk across the room at a normal pace without causing a sharp spike in my heart rate.
I have learned a lesson from that, and the lesson is that sleep is important, and I am no longer 24, and I need to be more cautious with my body if I want it, and ergo me, to stick around for the long haul.
What’s On Deck in 2018?
Wow, I’m not sure. This is the first time in a long time I’ve stared at a new year without a long list of things I want to accomplish. I’m just... really tired, friends. Really, really tired. Trying to hold up the foundations of the world takes a lot out of you, I guess. Plus, uh, all the work.
I want to write a novel for real in 2018, and I’ve made some thousands of words of progress in that direction. I want to do another season of Lucy Smokeheart, very, very much, and I think a lot of you want me to do that, too. I’m going to Confusion again in January, and then after that... ???
Aside from all that, I genuinely don’t know what I want or where I should go. Do I want to try to break into VR? Or put together a team to make some indie games? Do I want to start building a full-on transmedia franchise? Break into film? Should I just focus on prose writing? Build a direct-to-Kindle erotica empire? Should I quietly shut down all of my digital presences and take up a more serene life as a yoga instructor instead? Ha ha ha just kidding. Probably.
Well, I guess we’ll all find out together. Hit me, 2018. I’ll be ready for you.