A Look Back at 2017

Ah, yes, the year-in-review post. This is always tricky business, isn’t it? Perhaps never moreso than this year. Oh, 2017, you freakish walking nightmare of a dystopian hellscape you. It kind of felt like a decade. This year kicked my ass, but I’m still here, and that’s something. I walk away from it conflicted. It was discouraging, dispiriting, full of depression and insomnia and turmoil and hate, but there were also bright spots, and fond memories, and glimmers of hope. A year to remember, anyway.

Portland, land of wonders, has been kind to us. Our house in the magical hills of southwest Portland probably needs some work here and there, but overall it’s a delight, our cozy haven in troubled times. I love this house, our neighborhood, nearby Multnomah Village, the city of Portland, the state of Oregon. My traditional, glacial six-year process of making friends in a new city is creeping along; I think I may have gotten out of the house a few times, and I like to think I’ve made a new friend or two. And the landscape! I never figured myself for someone who responds all that strongly to nature’s beauty, but Oregon delivers so much of it that I can’t help but be moved, even just in my capacity as an indoor enthusiast driving past it on the way to work. I mean, bonkers, right? But here I am, loving it. Portland is the best.

This was a messy, sloppy, ugly writing year. I was too disorganized to track my productivity, but I can’t imagine the word counts are all that impressive. I managed an irreparably broken short-short and revised a problematic skiffy metafiction, but no truly substantial new short fiction. I sold nothing, and for the first time since 1994, I had a stretch of weeks when I had no stories at all circulating—which is a bummer, but hey, I suppose twenty-three years is a pretty impressive run. Meanwhile, I finished a complex sprawl of a new novel, which is likely a marketing nightmare but also a labor of love I’m proud to have created. Lightspeed published my novelette “An Inflexible Truth,” as well as a few of my genre TV reviews, including one in collaboration with Jenn. I blogged the usual bloggy blogness. I joined an awesome new crit group, which got me back on the road to discipline, accountability, and community. And here in the dying days of the year, I even started a brand new novel. All things considered, I fought the good fight on the writing front, which wasn’t easy in light of the incessant cloud of horrifying politics murking up the atmosphere. Yes, I remain chronically disappointed by the progress of my career. Every bloody sentence feels like a war with my own mediocrity, and I wasted way too much time beating myself up and cursing the universe. But writing also remains a sustaining creative force. Writing may be the worst, but it sure beats the alternative.

Work kicked my ass, but I kicked its ass right back. For the first time in my life, I like and respect my day job and it seems to like and respect me as well. I worked hard, learned a lot, even got promoted. Sometimes I took on too much, and the effort followed me home and got in my way. But I am invested, and engaged, and I really like my coworkers, which is new and weird and welcome. The job can be exhausting, but it’s also rewarding. I am grateful to have found a place at a unique and admirable company, and I’m surprisingly enthusiastic to see where it leads.

Following a recent trend, 2017 was a light travel year for me. I got down to northern California a few times (usually for work, but once for my brother-in-law’s wedding). I had a wonderful few days on the Oregon coast with Jenn, Ted, and Marcia for the eclipse, and got up to the Olympic Peninsula for my first Rainforest Writers Retreat, which was spectacular fun. There were quick trips up to Seattle to see beloved friends, as well. So while I didn’t venture all that far from home, I did get some time away, and fortunately enough people came to visit us here that I got to share other peoples’ vacations. We hosted a parade a wonderful friends including Andy, Carol, Trace, Krista, Remy, Nicole, Sarah, Greg, Deb, Ted, Marcia, Alex, Jon, Tim, Erik, Laura, Steve, Sara, Jed, and quite possibly more people I’m regretfully forgetting. I hope and expect the Whiskerwood “bed and breakfast” to remain popular next year.

Fiction, music, and pop culture delivered the goods in 2017. It blessed me with A Legacy of Spies and X-Mas Death Jazz, The Romeo Section and Twin Peaks: The Return, Amatka and Glow and Baby Driver and Sense8 and The Moon and the Other and Fortitude. I wracked my wrists on NHL17 and Overcooked. I rocked out to new music discoveries Free Salamander Exhibit and Screaming Headless Torsos, and received a beautiful new five-string bass for my birthday. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) Oh, and I almost forgot Cloud and Wallfish, and Halt and Catch Fire, and The Office, and The Big Sick, and The Kettering Incident, and Don’t Think Twice, and Berlin Station, and Mission: Impossible – The Television Scores and oh I think maybe I can see why I don’t get enough writing done these days, but hey, story is fuel, music is life, games are diversionary balm in dark times, and why am I justifying my passions to you, anyway? Oh hey, I forgot Iron Fist. Er, wait, no I didn’t.

The cats are a joy. Cairo battled through hyperthyroidism to remain the loving, cranky, snuggly, bossy leader of our feline trio. Oslo only gets goofier and sweeter as he ages, and yeah, he has a habit of licking all the fur off of his butt, but that’s our awkward middle child for you. Finley remains the softest, smartest, cutest, cuddliest, and occasional most devious little cat dude.

And through it all was Jenn, who is amazing and inspiring and hilarious and beautiful and brightens my every day, even when I don’t deserve it. We have been through so much together and we keep coming through it.

So yeah, 2017 was a tough one for me. There’s a lot about it I really could have done without. But I’m a lucky guy, and there was a lot about this year that was fun and challenging and educational and rewarding. Here’s hoping for a better 2018 for each and every one of us.

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