Looking Ahead to 2012

I don’t do resolutions. Not because it’s a cliché; I sometimes think those are all right. Rather it’s because I just don’t ever stick to them. Things happen, blah blah blah. I could give you excuses, but that’s how things wind up going. So, inspired by Adrienne’s post (and obviously aping her post title) I’m going to say a few words about what I hope the new year has in store.

First of all, I’m going to get a new job. This really isn’t optional, since I’ve just been freelancing since August (and I’m definitely going to be doing more of that; I’ve already been doing some freelance editing this year, and I’ve been back from the holidays for less than a week), but at this point anyway, it’s not paying the bills. I’m trying to keep optimistic, but this is honestly going to be simultaneously the hardest and the most important part of my new year, both in terms of the task itself, and keeping my spirits up.

The Collected Poems of Wallace StevensI want to read more poetry. And I’ve already started! I’m nearly seventy pages into Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems. I’ve said for a long time that he’s my favourite poet, but I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the case. I really admire his work, and “The Idea of Order at Key West” is my favourite poem of all time, but maybe that’s not enough. I’m going to start with books of poetry already in my collection (the Stevens is a textbook left over from a Modern American Literature course I took with Stan Fogel as an undergrad), which means poets like Anne Sexton, E.E. Cummings, Anne Carson, Don McKay, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, David Donnell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and a bunch of others who show up in various anthologies. I admire poetry as a form, but I don’t feel like I understand it very well, particularly contemporary poetry, and I find that I either connect instantly and profoundly with a poem, or it bores me and I want to move on. I don’t know if this is normal, but it’s starting to bother me, and I want to work on it this year.

I want to start writing and blogging more, particularly about television. I’ve said things like this before, and it would be easy to say “and this time, I really mean it,” but I’ve been a serious fan of television as a medium my whole life, and at this point I think I have a strong enough grasp of what’s going on and the necessary critical language to write about it seriously. It would be nice if I could get paid for it, but I’ve come to realize that if I’ve got something to say I should just say it regardless. I plan to start with a series of posts about the amazing sitcom Community—and before you say anything, I’ve already got drafts started. As for blogging about other things, I also have drafts of book reviews and other posts, I just need to finish them. To be honest, the biggest obstacle is the stress of looking for work; it’s difficult to concentrate on the writing I do for myself with that looming over my head. (I would also like to say that 2012 is the year I stop making excuses, but really, nobody keeps that resolution.)

This will surprise no one who knows me well, but I’m kind of a geek. I like Star Trek and Star Wars, video games, science fiction novels, anime, and roleplaying games (well, some). I own complete runs of Cerebus, Preacher, and The Sandman (or did before some folks borrowed some of the latter without returning them). Hell, I even got about a third of the way into writing my own tabletop RPG once. Yeah, that’s right, I’m that guy. But over the years I’ve drifted away from those roots. I don’t read as much SF/F as I used to, I haven’t played an RPG in years, and I can’t even remember the last time I watched a new anime series. The truth is, the deeper I got into “fandom,” the more I found two equal but opposite impulses within the community extremely unappealing. The first was the impulse from some in the community to relentlessly nitpick every trivial little thing that was even a tiny bit inconsistent or outside their expectations—which goes beyond criticism and into entitlement—and the second was the impulse some have to go easy on people working in genre because it’s been ghettoized for so long and “we’re all in this together” (or some other sentimental nonsense the critic in me can’t abide), which helps no one, as it gives us a false sense of the work. Anyway, neither of those impulses are representative of the fan community as a whole (and it’s more a collection of related communities than a unified entity anyway), but they made me not want to be a part of it all the same. I got into James Joyce and art films, A.S. Byatt and The Wire, and for a long time didn’t look back.

Call of CthulhuThe thing is, you can’t read a lot of contemporary literary fiction, or watch a lot of television and film—not even the art house versions of same—without seeing how they have been influenced by and intersect with what we talk about as genre work. I’m not ashamed of being a big nerdy goof. Long time readers will know that I’ve blogged extensively about William Gibson’s books, for example, plus reviewed his last two for Quill & Quire, and even interviewed him for Canadian Notes & Queries; additionally most of my professional book reviews have been of books that straddle the line between genre work and “capital L” literature. But I never felt a kinship with the community, and drifted away in favour of other priorities. This year I want to change that. I spent most of December reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, and now I’ve moved on to H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve also, almost clandestinely it feels like, been reading Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin, Stieg Larsson, Elmore Leonard, Fred Vargas, Michael Dibdin, David Montrose, P.D. James, James M. Cain, and so on, and enjoyed pretty much all of them unequivocally. So I’m going to read a lot more genre fiction this year, and even try and see if I can connect a little with the community. We’ll see how it goes. I may even write about some of it.

So that’s a lot of rambling nonsense, but those are things that I hope will happen in the coming new year. As usual, comments and suggestions are welcome.

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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