What A Year

Well, people. It’s been a year.

Not a particularly good one for me, even leaving international politics aside. (Although it’s fairly impossible to leave international politics aside right now, between the rump nationalism of Brexit and the regressive fascism-in-prospect of Trumplandia: looking either east or west from Ireland, the immediate view seems gloomy.) You may have noticed a certain lack of my blogging presence on these here tubes. I got a job, you see.

Ordinarily, that’d be good news. Unfortunately, it turns out that the job and I were fairly well unsuited to each other: I’m apparently not made for the kind of government work I found myself doing. In early October, I had my worst bout of suicidal ideation in about ten years. Combined with improbable amounts of fatigue, exhaustion, and continuing anxiety – I tried, I swear, so many prescription drugs. It took two months, but I recovered enough to return to work – long enough to give my notice.

So that was last week.

The events of the past while have made clear to me just how very little time there is to waste. I want to do work I’m good at and that I (at least for the most part) enjoy – and I want to advocate for the causes I believe in, which I could not do in the civil service job, which as a condition of employment forbade anything that could be construed as partisan political activity. So! You’ll probably be hearing a little bit more from me on Irish politics, the importance of green energy, climate change mitigation, #repealthe8th, social housing, ending Direct Provision, welcoming refugees, combating racism, building better public transport, and so on, as I harangue my local TDs (that’s the equivalent of an MP, but in Irish) and try to figure out where I can throw my weight in with political activism locally.

In the next while, I should be reactivating (under somewhat different terms) my Patreon page, writing more reviews for Locus and Tor.com, figuring out whether I have a theme for 2017 for the Sleeps With Monsters column, and looking at the practicalities of setting up a freelance biz in editorial consulting/proofreading. (I have mad skillz… but not necessarily in self-promotion.)

That is, I think, all the news that’s fit to print.

Long overdue update!

Before anything else, there’s a new post about The 100 over at Tor.com.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve caught up on the second season of The 100, the post-apocalyptic murder-fest television show of our time. Somewhere around halfway through, and definitely by episode 2.12, “Rubicon,” I started having a vague niggling itch: it was reminding me of Xena: Warrior Princess. “But that’s not right,” I said to myself. “They’re completely different: tonally, stylistically, structurally, in all ways. Have you been sniffing glue, self? Just because people are bringing Xena back is no reason to have it on the brain!”


I’ve been silent here for quite a while. February was A Month, friends, full of Interesting Life Things All Happening Close Together. (I joined a social club, went back to rockclimbing, had some developments happen that might change the shape of my life for at least the rest of the year. Etc.)

I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t been reading: reading for an award jury (the Clarke Award, which I’m not really supposed to talk about much?) has about killed my ability to not hate fiction.

It’s not so much fun taking about books when you read the first three pages and just hate everything, even if it has obvious merits.

I’ll probably be continuing quiet here for the foreseeable future, with the odd update when I have something new over at Tor.com or somewhere else online.

In the meantime, I entertained myself over the weekend by watching THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES and tweeting about it. Here are some of those tweets:

In conclusion, only watch that show for a drinking game.

Happy 2016!

How long has it been since I updated? Not since 24th November last, which is quite a while. In my defence, I spent December rather thoroughly distracted by trying not to die of the Chest Infection From Hell.

(No, really. From hell. I couldn’t stand up or talk for a week. And then I could only shuffle slowly for another two. It was the nineteenth before I was capable of going for even a short walk.)

And then there were the Mandatory Togetherness Times, which worked out unusually well this year. And, of course, the Briefly Returned Emigrés got together with those of us still living here for a bang-up evening of gossip. And the occasional exchange of gifts.

My friends, apparently, know me as well as love me.

But I have goals! And plans for this space – for example, to be more regularly entertaining in the coming year.

We shall see how well I succeed…

Another year older and still not dead!

Today I’m twenty-nine years old. Another year older and still not dead!

It has been my habit on my birthday, the last couple of years, to send messages to people telling them how much I appreciate their presence in my life. This year, I think, there are too many people to make that entirely practical – and I don’t know all their emails. So I’m just going to write here what I want to say.

Dear friends,

It’s been a tricky year, since this time in 2014. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. Without you, I wouldn’t have a PhD all but in hand. Without you, my life would be so much poorer and smaller, and contain so much less joy. I am honoured by your acquaintance, and your friendship, your hospitalities and your support: your presence in my life is a gift and a blessing, and it humbles me.

Thank you. Never stop being awesome.

It’s about ethics in book reviewing!

No, really, it is.

So I started a Patreon about a month ago. It’s reached its basic goal already – which is a little startling to me – so as soon as I sort out a couple of things on the paperwork/back-end, it’ll be bringing More Book Reviews to an Internet Near You…

…ahem. Which brings us to the ethics part. It hasn’t escaped my notice that at least half a dozen of my patrons are themselves Publishing Professionals. That’s obviously a potential conflict of interest right there, so clearly I need to set forth a policy, or at least articulate my position on reviewing books that are connected to people who are providing me material support.

The thing is, book reviews are never objective. Responses to art are always personal and subjective, even when we find objective arguments to support our subjective reactions. And that’s even before we move into personal connections. I know – and feel sufficiently friendly towards – enough writers to be aware that how I think of them as people affects how I react to their work. I try my best not to let it affect how I present those arguments and reactions, but let’s be honest: if I tried to pretend it absolutely didn’t, I’d be either deluding myself or a lying hypocrite.

On the other hand, just because someone buys me a drink (or lunch, to take another example, or lets me sleep in their spare room for a couple of nights), it doesn’t mean I owe them anything other than a reciprocal drink or lunch at some future point – or if the opportunity for equivalent reciprocity never arises, to pay it forward.

With Patreon, supporters are paying for the production of reviews. The content? Will reflect my own tastes and biases, as always.

Just in case you were wondering.

Review copies: Walton, Cambias, Lindskold

Three, from Tor Books.

Three, from Tor Books.

Courtesy of the kind people at Tor Books: Jo Walton’s THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS, Jane Lindskold’s ARTEMIS INVADED, and James L. Cambias’s CORSAIR.


Since handing in my PhD thesis, I’ve been wandering around in a kind of aimless, bereft fog. My brain broke sometime in the last month: in the past few days, glimmerings of regrowth have begun to appear – I no longer want to run screaming from the thought of reading a novel, or really anything longer than a blogpost, although “enthusiasm for the prospect” is still a ways off – but physically, mentally, emotionally, I am so tired.

It is very bizarre. I am completely off-balance. It feels almost like the state I was in after my near-nervous-breakdown… ha, it’s nine years ago this month, practically, after I had permission to stop (I did my first year of university twice: the second time on a medical repeat) and try to learn how to live with myself again. A curious blankness; a peculiar anomie; the theoretical knowledge that with enough time and proper food and sleep and exercise one might feel real again instead of frustratedly hollow, the ghost of one’s own self haunting ruined passages. But theoretical knowledge is only theoretically comforting. Time has lost its meaning: I can’t conceive of a space beyond the end of a week, cannot conceptualise the shape of so long a time as a month. (If I hadn’t had this happen nine years ago, I’d be more worried: back then it took me about two months to think more than a couple of days ahead again.) My head and my muscles and my very bones ache, semi-constantly, and the physical reflex of anxiety – tightness in the diaphragm, shortness of breath, a tingling in the muscles that presages the desire to run or fight – comes at random moments in my day.

I don’t know if this is normal. I do know I’ve passed through something similar before, so I have to believe I will pass through this and feel more like I used to on the other side, eventually.

Meanwhile I am filling out government paperwork, in order not to starve while I try to find work… give us this day our daily forms, and deliver us from waiting in ticketed lines.

Finishing the thesis is, in case you’re interested, why my column at Tor.com is presently on a break and why this space has been pretty quiet for the last year or so.

Things to read, things to do

Tor Books have sent me a review copy of David G. Hartwell’s and Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s Twenty-First Century Science Fiction. I’m unlikely to read it: it’s over 500 pages long, and I’m not much of a short fiction reader at the best of times. It contains more short fiction than I would normally read in the course of a year.


The Sleeps With Monsters column at Tor.com has moved to a monthly schedule for the foreseeable future. I have a thesis to write, and this year hasn’t been very kind to my ability to write it: that really needs to change.


I still owe a review of Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. I hope to get that done by the end of December, but things have gone so much the opposite of smooth this autumn and winter that I hesitate to make any firm promises.


So. It has come to this. Part II: gratitude.

After posting “So. It has come to this,” last night, I went to sleep.

I logged on today, twelve hours later. Guys. I am gobsmacked and speechless at your generosity. You’ve given me more than I asked for – twice as much as I dared hope for.

(In consequence of said twiceness, only let me know and I will refund half of the donation.)

You are all amazing, and I am humbled and grateful.


I promised rewards. Let me talk about the timeframe for fulfilling my promises.

I will write the 500-word review of a book chosen by the person who donated most (I will be in touch to confirm who you are) before the end of July.

I’ll write the 500-word review of Lucian’s True History also before the end of July.

I’ll write the 500-word review of G.W. Bowerstock’s The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars On The Eve Of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013) before the end of August.

I’ll write the 750-word review of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die also before the end of August.

I’ll write up every session I attend at the conference within two weeks of coming home from said conference.

I’ll review with as much detail as possible Paul Roberts’ Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Oxford University Press, 2013) before the middle of September.


Any funds remaining after I have covered conference costs, I will donate to a good cause. There being so many worthy causes, I will investigate and report back which one(s) after the conference is done.

So. It has come to this.

I’m giving a paper at Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: A Science Fiction Foundation Conference, Liverpool, 29 June- 1 July 2013. My paper’s on the reception of Minoan civilisation in science fiction. I had a fun time writing it, and putting together the slideshow. I think it’s an interesting paper – even if it is rather tangentially related to my thesis.

I applied for my university’s postgraduate travel funding to help with the 600 euro it’s going to cost me to go, stay, eat enough to stay on track, and get back. Yesterday, I got a message from the travel fund administrators: they’re giving me one hundred euro.

I can’t afford to go.

This isn’t hyperbole. The reasons are to do with family health. (And perhaps, with certain misjudgements, like choosing to buy new clothes when the old ones develop holes.) I prefer not to discuss the awful whole, but suffice to say I was rather counting on the postgraduate travel fund administrators being reasonably generous.

If the travel fund had awarded me 300 euro, I’d be able to attend secure in the knowledge that the month of July wouldn’t involve a diet of beans and an embarrassing inability to leave the house. (Two hundred euro! A lot of money when you haven’t got it…)

So, it’s come to this. After talking it over with some friends, I’m swallowing my pride and appealing for donations. If you can spare a few pence to forward academic intercourse, I’m asking.

Donate here.

The done thing is to follow the Kickstarter model and offer rewards. So here goes.

REWARDS.

If donations reach E50.00, I will write a 500-word review of a book chosen by the person who donated most.

If donations reach E100.00, I’ll write a 500-word review of Lucian’s True History as though it were an SFF novel written this century.

If donations reach E150.00, I’ll write a 500-word review of G.W. Bowerstock’s The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars On The Eve Of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013).

If donations reach E200.00, I’ll write a 750-word review of Mary Renault’s The King Must Die.

STRETCH REWARDS

If donations exceed E250.00, I’ll write up every session I attend at the conference.

If donations exceed E350.00, I’ll review with as much detail as possible Paul Roberts’ Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Oxford University Press, 2013).


Thank you.


UPDATE 1200 June 14.

Your generosity has humbled and overwhelmed me. The cost of attending the conference has been more than covered: I will write proper thanks as soon as I am able, and follow up when I am slightly less gobsmacked, humbled, and overwhelmed.

Welcome

All the cool kids have moved away from Livejournal and Dreamwidth, so here I am, moving too. I expect to use this space slightly more professionally than the old LJ. Less of the grousing, more of the interesting…

 

Well, at least once a week.