Marramgrass

That Was 2018

Politically-speaking, nationally and globally, 2018 was a terrifying shambles. I can’t think of anything sane or useful to say about that that hasn’t been said. Yikes.

Reading

I didn’t make as much time to read this year as I normally do, but still read some great fiction. Since I finally owned up to myself a few years ago that I mostly read genre fiction, and that being bothered by that was simple snobbery, the list was mostly SF and fantasy. A handful of titles that stood out for me:

  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a fun take on the tale of the kid with a crappy childhood finding a place in a school that teaches specialist and fantastic skills that render them a nigh unstoppable force. The second and second-and-a-half parts of the trilogy are also out there, and also worth a read. (After this, I read the author’s Broken Empire trilogy, which is both grim and dark, and is pretty good.)
  • Godblind by Anna Stephens is more of the grimdark, and is a gripping debut that is fit by the description visceral in more ways than one. The sequel, Darksoul, kept up the pace, and I’m looking forward to the concluding volume coming this year.
  • Semiosis by Sue Burke is generational SF, telling of a decades-long first contact with a sentient alien plant. It’s very different to anything else I can remember reading, and is a satisfying and compelling read.
  • Blackwater by Malcolm McDowell is, apparently (according to Goodreads), “one of the greatest horror novels ever published”. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it mentioned in a Twitter thread retweeted by (I think) Chuck Wendig (more of him shortly). Another story that spans decades, this is an engrossing bit of Southern Gothic that kept me with its central Caskey family dynasty for several weeks. Lots of family drama and politics, and plenty of dread of the occasional ghostly encounter or monstrous violence.
  • Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig might count as young adult fiction. I’m not sure. I’d say I hope not, but that might just be because my kids are both still under ten. Wendig is a worthwhile follow on Twitter, and his novels don’t disappoint, either. The Atlanta Burns stories are of a high-school student suffering from post-traumatic stress who tries to banish some of her demons by helping other students deal with their tormentors. Often with violence. Things almost never go to plan for Atlanta, and half the time her involvement leads to more harm than good, but she keeps trying to fix the broken world around her anyway. It’s great stuff.

Listening

I still fear the day when last.fm goes away. I’m sure it’s bound to.

A visualisation of my last.fm listening in 2018.

(Click the image for a nice big, wavy graph generated by LastWave.)

Missing from that is the all the time in the car in the first half of the year spent listening to the Hamilton cast recording, but very apparent is how a friend on holiday in the summer reminded my that the Levellers exist and I spent much of the rest of the year listening to their back catalogue on repeat.

Watching

2018 is the year we (through a recommendation from another friend) discovered Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Cloak & Dagger reignited my enthusiasm for Marvel TV adaptations. And A Quiet Place was as good as everyone said it was. And I finally made my way through [The Strain](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TheStrain(TV_series)). I’m relieved to report that it is much better executed on TV than in the books.

Sporting

Last year I took up a new sport, and even joined a club. The idea of me joining a sports club was (is) pretty unexpected, even if the sport involves as much standing in one spot as archery does.

In this part of the country, a lot of the indoor action involves shooting a Portsmouth round, and over the year I’ve taken my average score from mid-480s to mid-520s, with a PB of 533. I’d like to break that magical barrier at 540 by the end of the indoor season in March, but we’ll see how that goes. (540 is a big deal because that’s where the average score per arrow reaches 9.0.)

Outdoors, I achieved Second Class quicker than I expected. I’m hoping to manage First Class reasonably early in the 2019 outdoor season. Practice, practice, practice…

Archery is a very friendly sport. I’ve shot in several competitions around Yorkshire over the last year, and for a newbie who belonged right at the bottom of the rankings they were still welcoming and great fun. I’m planning more competition in 2019, too.

Family

This has been the year that we go properly settled into life in Leeds, I think. We got moved into our own house and started to make it the home we want. After a few of years marked by exciting changes and moves (Northern Ireland to Toronto! Toronto to Northern Ireland! Northern Ireland to England!), we’ve been able to just be here and live, with the minimum of further change and chaos. It’s been a bit of a relief, to be honest. There is plenty of joy and satisfaction to be found in the normal.

And so to 2019

I’ve not really done one of these big annual review blog posts before. And I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions or that kind of thing. But there are a small number of things that I’d like to do over the next year.

  • Spend more time writing. I don't know in what form, but I want to get back into the habit of putting words together. This post is part of that. Short bits, long pieces, fiction, non-fiction; I miss it all.
  • My work-work has been going great in 2018. We’ve been able to build and ship some very satisfying features that have had me learning and practicing new things. That’s somewhere I want to do even better things in 2019.
  • And this is the year where I really do need to become less of a man. I’m not joking that if I don’t manage something like a 35% reduction in body weight then some small problems are going to become big problems, and other new problems are certain to appear. It won’t happen all at once, and this is something I’ve tried and failed at many times before, but the time has come when I have no choice. It’s important. So here we go again.

Tomorrow is a new year.