Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

2018 In Review

Here’s how my year was. It’s rambling and incomplete and mostly written as an aid for my own reflection, but read it if you like.

Reading

I read about 160 books, way more than my usual couple-books-a-week average, but that’s mostly because a whole lot of them were comics, and I can read three or four trades in an afternoon. I caught up on Saga, finished up Invincible and Ex Machina, re-read some bits of Transmetropolitan and The Boys, read Paper Girls, Fante Bukowski, some old Midnighter comics, caught up on The Walking Dead, read The Wicked + The Divine, read Alice Grove… it was a good year for comics.

My prose favorites were Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer (weird prohibition-era demonic magic), The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas (so many good stories), The Changeling by Victor Lavalle (magisterial writing, wrenching story), Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (a nasty little contained nightmare), Blackfish City by Sam Miller (weird ensemble future stuff, with an orcamancer), Martha Wells’s whole Murderbot Diaries series of novellas (I <3 Murderbot), Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files series (giant mech suits! and neat point-of-view stuff), Transcription by Kate Atkinson (a low-key spy novel, written with her usual grace and wit), Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (loved the stuff about gender and programming), Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (I liked it better than the Southern Reach books!), Brasyl and Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald (I love his stuff), The Power by Naomi Alderman (zap the patriarchy), Ada Palmer’s Terra Incognita series (frustrating but very thought-provoking), Stephen King’s The Outsider (I just like Holly Gibney basically), All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (this world is the one where the timeline went wrong!), Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (multi-generational psychic con artist family drama wonderfulness), Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (it looks like a Gone Girl-esque psychological thriller, then gets way weirder), and that’s probably enough.

Writing

What a year! The Wrong Stars was #1 on the Locus Bestseller list; first time that has ever happened to me. I lost a Philip K. Dick Award, but just being nominated was fantastic. The book sold well, too, with my first royalty check exceeding the amount I was paid for the book in the first place. That’s nice. Sequel The Dreaming Stars came out in September and seems to be doing pretty well too. I’m writing the third book in the series right now, The Forbidden Stars, and that’s going to wrap up the main action, though I will probably write some novellas set in the world in the future. I did some conventions and book events, including a couple of local appearances with Nick Mamatas and Meg Elison, plus panels and readings and such at Norwescon and in New York and at London Comic-Con.

I have an entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction now!

I did a Kickstarter for a Marla Mason collection, Do Better; print copies are on their way to me and should be zooming out to backers shortly. They got their ebooks already.

I wrote about 170,000 words this year, a little up from last year’s 150K, but still way down from the quarter-of-a-million word years I did annually for most of the prior decade. Not having to hustle and write two or three books a year to make money has been very restful, but I was probably too lazy in 2018. I may step things up a bit next year. I wrote four-fifths of The Dreaming Stars in February, during a single week at a writing retreat on the bayou in Louisiana with some wonderful writers. The rest of my output was short stories, including a dozen for my Patreon (still going strong!), a couple of commissioned holiday stories, and an original for my Do Better collection. The stories are “Twelve Days at Christmas”, “Dirty Santa”, “Hosting the Solstice”, “Through the Woods”, “Steal Away”, “Pages Recovered from a Partially Burned Volume, Bound in Goat Skin, Discovered in a New Hampshire Cave”, “Orchard of Worlds”, “The Four Horsepersons of the Eucatastrophe”, “The Tale of Crow and Lion”, “Do Better”, “Adaptive Traits”, “The Death of Grace”, “Sometimes You Get the Bear”, “Thank You For Joining Our Clinical Trial”, and “The Pentachoron Key”. A few of them are among the best things I’ve ever written. (You should join my Patreon, and get a new story every month, plus access to that archive of three years’ worth of existing stories: www.patreon.com/timpratt).

I did a tiny bit of other writing, including a review of The Good Place for F&SF, so now I’m allowed to call myself a semi-regular columnist for the magazine, whee! I wrote a single review for Locus, of Nick Mamatas’s The People’s Republic of Everything, upcoming in the January 2019 issue. I’m doing a year-in-review essay for Locus, too.

I art directed in a small way, commissioning Jenn Reese to do the cover design for Do Better and Aislinn Harvey to draw some interior illustrations. Jenn drew a holiday rat for a chapbook for me, and Ais did a sinister reindeer for another chapbook. I loooove giving artists money.

I was the judge for the science fiction/fantasy section of the Publishers Weekly Booklife prize for self-published works, and the winning title, Fid’s Crusade by David Reiss, is super fun, smart and humane supervillain stuff.

Humans

I have good people in my life. My wife has been a creative whirlwind this year, sewing up a storm; almost all her holiday gifts were handmade and personal and super impressive. She’s making me an amazing quilt of my million old t-shirts for me! We’ve had a really good year and our house is a cozy refuge.

Our son turned eleven, and he’s growing up into a smart funny kind raucous person. We have a lot of fun playing games and watching shows and reading together and taking walks and discussing all sorts of things about life and the world. We go swimming, we ride bikes, we send him off on roller coasters, we have a great time. He’s in fifth grade and it’s going really well. He played John Darling in the school production of Peter and Wendy and did a fantastic job: “You offend reason, sir!” He’s such a big kid now, and he’s got more responsibilities and privileges and is doing well with both. He’s playing in a monthly D&D game too, which makes my heart warm. My kid!I am fortunate to have a close-knit and wonderful community of people who love me and spend time with me regularly. Ais still lives right down the street so we get together all the time for meals and movies and hanging out and doing weird stuff (the weirdest this year was probably seeing Robin Sloan do a talk about robots and bread hosted by Annalee Newitz in a dive bar under an overpass). Amanda is being scholarly down in Palo Alto but we get together whenever we can, and this year we took a wonderful trip on her birthday up to Napa, where we had a fancy champagne tasting that still makes me bubbly to recall. Emily is even farther away up in Portland but we managed to see a fair bit of each other this year, on various trips (more about those below), and when she came to keep me company, while Heather and River were in Indiana over the summer, and during the smokepocalypse in November — we went to see the Magritte exhibit at SF MOMA and it was glorious. I still see Katrina for weekly-ish WhiskeyHorror booze-and-movie nights and I also had the pleasure of taking her to a dinner with George R.R. Martin (and like twenty other writerly people) and to George’s onstage talk with John Picacio afterward. That was a treat. I see Sarah just about every week, too, and we drink and eat and frolic our way through the East Bay; we did a couple of great trips together as well, of which more below.

I see other local friends too when the world allows, catching up with Zoe, hanging out with Katie, writing with Erin and Daryl, going to great parties (Effie’s housewarming, with that cabinet of curiosities cake! Erin and Paul’s July 4th cheese party! David’s birthday dinner!), meeting Daphne’s new dog Tchotchke, hanging out with Elsa at barbecues and parties, and generally fighting back against my essentially hermitlike tendencies on a semi-regular basis, because it makes me happy to be around people I like.

I also got to see more farther-flung friends! I saw Jenn and Chris a couple of times up in Portland, saw Susan and Matt and their adorable kid in Brooklyn, my friend and agent Ginger in New York, caught up with Greg while he was in Petaluma on big fancy book tour, reconnected in a meaningful way with my college sweetheart the Feyrie Princess when she visited the Bay Area, had a wonderful night of pub-crawling with my later-in-college sweetheart Megan while I was in London, and had a great dinner with Besha and her partner in Portland. I saw a ton of people I adore in the writing community at conventions and parties and just because they were in town for Worldcon, and I started listing them all but it got WAY too long and I was afraid I’d forget someone, so just know: you’re all grand and I don’t see you nearly enough. I met lots of great people for the first time in London, writers and editors and publishing people I really hope to see more in the future (Worldcon is in Ireland next year…). It’s been my most social year in a long time.

Trips

Last year I said I traveled a ton. I had no idea how 2018 was going to be.

I went up to Portland in January for a Wrong Stars event at Powell’s, which went super well, and I got to see Emily and Connor and Jenn and Chris.

In February I went to Louisiana to spend a week at a writing retreat on the bayou, and it was the most productive week of my life, probably, writing-wise. (I also swam a lot and looked at lizards and ate great big meals and talked about writing and publishing and life with a dozen accomplished smart genius women writers and artists. Only the retreat cone of silence restrains me from tagging them all by name.)

In March I did a combined business-and-pleasure trip, first hanging out at a lovely beach house on the Oregon coast with Emily and actually relaxing, then bopping briefly to Portland, then heading up to Seattle for Norwescon, where I did authorial things and lost a Dick Award. (It was great anyway. It’s fun being a big deal at a convention.) I got to meet Galen Dara there!

I went to Santa Cruz a couple of times, once with Emily in June (for swimming and feasting and boardwalking and beach walking and drinking a flight of Pappy van Winkle, so, heaven) and once with Heather and River for the kid’s last big hurrah road trip of the summer (so it was 95% boardwalk and 5% milkshakes at Saturn Cafe, in other words, also heaven).

In August, I went up to Cazadero with Sarah and we enjoyed the glory of the redwoods and the river and hung out at my friend Mark’s bakery eating so many glorious carbs.

I went back to Portland in September to visit Emily just for fun, and it was really lovely, full of amazing meals (home-cooked and in restaurants), and we had a fantastic night in Jenn and Chris’s house playing drunken Drawful.

In October I was away from my house more than I was in it. I went to New York to read at the KGB Reading Series, and visit my agent, and see friends, and be a tourist, and Sarah was kind enough to accompany me and tromp all over botanical gardens and through bookstores and eat all the foods imaginable. My first trip to New York!

Less than a week after I returned from New York, I whooshed off to London! London Comic-Con flew me in, put me up in a hotel, and only made me work a little bit (some panels and signings). It was my first time out of the country and was mind-expanding in all the best ways, truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life on multiple axes. I was in the same room with a couple of Doctors Who and some horror movie villains at the same time so that was really cool.  I love a good green room. Free crisps!

After that I vowed not to go anywhere else all year.

(It was a lot a lot of travel, and Heather was heroic and kind to solo parent so much. She got to go to France for ten days, so I didn’t have ALL the fun, but travel was definitely tilted in my direction this year.)

Money

Things continue to improve financially. I’m on track to be out of debt in a year-ish (it might be early 2020 before I squish the last of it, depending on how big my tax bill is this year, etc), and I’ve paid down enough already that I have a lot more breathing room than I used to. It’s very strange to need something (new boots, clothes for my kid, whatever) and just… be able to buy it. I have a ways to go before I’m totally stable, and this all assumes things continue to work well in terms of day job and writing career, but for the first time in my entire adult life, I can see the top of the hole from here.

Various Things

Last year we bought a van; this year we totaled it in an accident on the way home from our last road trip of the summer in Santa Cruz. River and I escaped unscathed but Heather got a concussion. My first ever serious accident. It sucked. We haven’t bought a new car (we can walk and mass transit quite easily for our day-to-day needs) and I get pretty tense when I drive, even a few months later.

I got a passport!

We got fast internet several months ago and our quality of life is SO much better. Did you know Netflix isn’t always blurry and pixely? Amazing!

My day job moved offices, from the old car factory by the Wal Mart in San Leandro to an adorable space in Preservation Park, Oakland, a nine-minute train ride from my house. I loooove my new commute, just as much as I hated my old one.

I played some games I really liked: Oxenfree, neat narrative, good writing and voice acting, puzzles even I could do. Superhot was cool too, with an interesting dynamic. I spent MANY HOURS on Metal Gear Solid V. I do love stealth action.

I read in my hammock a lot and had many lovely meals in the yard and a lot of great chats in the kitchen with people who are smarter and nicer than me, and truly, though the larger state of the nation and world has some definite vile qualities, the texture of my personal life was overall very good in 2018.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.

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