Thursday, December 29, 2011


Personal Review of 2011 (with over-emphasis on writing activities)

Hello! It's me! How are you? Did you have a nice Christmas?

Well, it seems that it's that time again: when I look back on my personal highlights of the year. I'll try to keep this review a bit shorter than some previous annual reviews. No I won't.

By the way, this photo was taken at the beginning of October: we had an Indian Summer in Wales. This occurrence was definitely one of the highlights!

I got fit in 2011; fitter than I already was, I mean. I've always been a hiker and mountain walker. But now I think I've earned to right to call myself a cyclist and runner too. Nothing spectacular, but regular 50K bike rides and 5K runs became a normal part of my life.

It was a great year for my writing career, one of the best in my life so far. I had three new books published. Here they are: The Brothel Creeper, Sangria in the Sangraal and Link Arms With Toads!

I'm especially pleased with The Brothel Creeper. In fact I regard it as my strongest collection to date. All three volumes are still available for purchase, but reviews are thin on the ground, I'm sorry to say: I don't get reviewed much. I don't get profiled or interviewed much either. Nor do I get invited to do many readings. Ah well! But I have a loyal set of readers: and that's what really counts. And to them I say THANKS!

So much for new books... Two of my books from previous years went into second editions in 2012. The first edition of my satirical novel Mister Gum was badly designed, with an unreadable font; the second edition was much better. And after a wait of 16 years, my first collection Worming the Harpy returned with all the missing passages reinserted. That was satisfying, I can tell you!

In 2011 I wrote exactly 52 stories, averaging one a week (though they weren't written like that), totalling 175,000 words of fiction, making 2011 my third most productive year. I completed two novels: Captains Outrageous (though I might have to change the title, as it seems some other author has already used this title) and The Pilgrim's Regress (which I have a particular fondness for).

I sold The Truth Spinner and The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange to reputable publishers and with luck both will be issued in 2012.

It was also the year when I discovered the power of ebooks. 40K issued three of my ebooks (in English and Italian); and Gloomy Seahorse Press (a fancy name for myself) issued four more.

Righto! That's enough about me! What about other writers? I read 36 works of fiction (novels and collections of short stories) in 2011. Every year I discover at least one excellent author previously unknown to me. This year it was William Saroyan. I read My Name is Aram, a collection of linked stories, and was hugely impressed. This work is realistic and tells of poor Armenian immigrants in California but Saroyan's style is upbeat and colourful, never depressing; and although his treatment of even the most sombre themes is unashamedly sentimental, it isn't maudlin. His language is pared down and simple but his rhythms are delightful and infused with a warm humour. The writer he most closely resembles to my mind is Ray Bradbury, but without the fantastical element.

My other favourite books of 2011 were Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau; A Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov; The Adventures of Mr Thake by Beachcomber and City by Clifford D. Simak... But my 'book of the year' was undoubtedly Triton by Samuel R. Delany. Because of the appendix on metalogic, Triton looks like a 'difficult' novel, but that's an illusion. It's a beautifully written, complex but totally accessible and engaging work. The main character, Bron Helstrom, is simultaneously likeable and infuriating, perceptive and unaware, an authentic personality on the page. The background events of his life in an 'ambiguous heteropotia' include a devastating war between the inner worlds and the outer satellites that is presented slightly obliquely and very convincingly. And the society in which Bron has chosen to make his home is constructed with brilliant imagination and attention to detail. It's a sort of utopia-of-choice, not quite the perfect society but hugely preferrable to our own. Delany is a thought-provoking writer but there is a lot of positive emotional energy in his work too.

I ought to say something about the appalling political condition that Britain seems to be in at the moment; but that really deserves a blog post all to itself.

So that's it until 2012... Have a great New Year! Bye from me!

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