2014 in review

Another year is creeping up on us, and 2014 is coming to a close. It’s been a good year, compared with recent ones. Most importantly, my neck/back problems basically resolved, though they took a toll on my the first draft of The Stars Askew, which I finished at the end of 2013. I pity my poor editors who had to wade through that shitty first draft, but this year I managed to do a pretty massive rewrite and I’m happy to say, the book now rocks. In my eyes at least. I think it takes the good things about Unwrapped Sky and then raises the bar. It’s a wider, airier and funnier read – though still retains the Caeili-Amur intensity. The story is written to work as a stand-alone, as well as a continuation of the city’s story, a two bob each way bet, which I hope comes off. I can’t wait to see the responses when it comes out. You can read a snipped of the early draft here.

I have also – along with freelance work – almost finished The Rusted Earth, a gaslight fantasy set in 1890s Australia, with touches of Lovecraftian weird and my own bits and pieces. It’s a funnier book than the other two, a kind-of Indiana Jones-ish adventure, without the Orientalism, I hope. And there are Australian megafauna. You can read a bit of the preface here, though it doesn’t feature the main characters, but rather events 50 years before the main novel begins.

Of course the biggest professional event was the release of my novel Unwrapped Sky, which was reviewed across the world, in the Wall Street Journal and Locus and the Age. There were plenty of reviews, mostly good, a few bad. Some loved it, others hated it, most were somewhere in between.

My favourite album of the year was St Vincent’s self-titled (though fourth) album.

My favourite novel. This one is hard, but three I liked were: Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief, which is amazing; Ben Peek’s The Godless (which I’m still reading, so the judgement isn’t yet conclusive) but is ambitious and original and cool; and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which is also ambitious, and practically experimental, and yet also sort-of epic. Hannu and Mantel’s books aren’t, of course, from this year, but I only read them this year.

My favourite non-fiction work, which I’m also still reading, is the fascinating military history of the Winter War between Finland and Russia, A Frozen Hell, by William Trotter (written in ’91 I think). I like history books now more than any other. Followed closely by science books. Then general non-fiction and fiction last. I think partly the reason is that, unlike with novels, reading them doesn’t feel like work. Also, so many novels are, frankly, not very interesting. Commercial publishing is so driven by the bottom-line that the effect is to limit really original work. As Joe Abercrombie said at some point in London: people want a twist on the familiar. I’d rather read something I’ve never read before.

Favourite film: The Immigrant, which stars Marrion Cotillard and Joaquin Pheonix, both of whom were brilliant. Apparently it was released in 2013, but I only saw it a few months ago in Australia, and I suspect it took a while to arrive there.

I travelled the world a bit this year: to Turkey and Ireland, where my grandmother grew up, and spent considerable time in London and France. All in all, it was a lucky year, a good year. Hopefully 2015 will hold up as well.

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