end of year

Jan. 2nd, 2012 09:45 am
raven: (misc - thine own self)
[personal profile] raven
1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Finished a Masters degree; worked 9-5 and earned a corresponding salary; lived with a partner; owned a car.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My resolutions for the last three years have been: read more, and write more. These are both still a resounding success - I read 80 books this year, many of which I loved, and I wrote quite a lot, of which more anon.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?
I was still living in the US for the first five months of the year. Otherwise, France, Israel, and India. I was in Scotland as usual, of course, and in March I flew down to New Orleans, which wasn't another country but compared to upstate New York, felt like it in the best way.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
I just... don't want 2012 to be as awful as it's promising to be right now. Okay, meme, universe? Just, not that bad.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Such a silly, melodramatic question! Er. May 27th, the day I left Ithaca, the day I didn't want to leave; September 6th, the day I began the new job; December 23rd, the day I walked out of my office to catch a flight and my colleagues explained to me they'd never seen me look happy before.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Taking the Masters degree with all honours ought to be. Actually, I think it's making it through the last four months, and coming out now feeling really rather mentally bruised and sad, but, as I always, always say, still here.

9. What was your biggest failure?
This current job represents a failure to me: a failure to get on with it, sure, a failure to do well in it, but more generally, a failure on my part to realise before that this wasn't the right choice.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, not really. Sleep problems have improved a little this year, though there's still lots of room for improvement. At the moment I am somewhat depressed.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The array of IKEA wonders we got for the new flat. Lovely bookshelves! Uplighters! Chests of drawers!

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My lovely friends', as always, and Shim's most of all.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Those awful, creeping, self-serving self-declared class warriors some total fuckers elected into government.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent and flights. It's always rent and flights.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Doctor Who season opener in NYC with [personal profile] macadamanaity and friends! All the cocktails that followed.

16. Which song will always remind you of 2011?
The Civil Wars, "Barton Hollow".

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sdder? Sadder, sadder, sadder. This time last year I was feeling far better about life and my place on it.
ii. Richer or poorer? Richer. Hey, salary.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd had more time to rest.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Crying in the toilets.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Ah! For the first time in years, I got away. Finally! Lovely, hilltop morning, sky washed out to perfect austere blue, breakfast on the verandah in the chill as the 9.15 Kalka-Shimla ricketed past above. No one even mentioned Christmas. And I had Shim with me, drinking milky-sweet coffee up there in the Himalaya. What more could anyone ask for?

21. How did you spend New Year's Eve?
I slept through it! For the first time since 1990. Jet lag hit me around 10pm. Terribly pathetic, I know.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
It's still the long fall.

23. How many one-night stands?
Oh, dear, meme, get with the programme.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
I was going to say there wasn't anything I loved particularly that was new - I had a M*A*S*H renaissance, and loved quite a bit about Doctor Who - but I think Fringe has crept in to be something I'm excited to keep watching.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't think so.

26. What was the best book you read?
Oooh. Er. One of the best things I read this year I only read this week: Kalpa Imperial, by Angelica Gorodischer and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's the fictional history of an empire, done in fables, stories, allegories, and it's clear-eyed and utterly beautiful. I'm going to write more about it later.

Also: Stories of Your Life And Others, by Ted Chiang. Lambent, mind-expanding science fiction. Transcendent, gorgeous.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Weepies and The Civil Wars! I love them, I love them.

28. What did you want and get?
The Masters degree; the quiet summer.

29. What did you want and not get?
Peace of mind.

30. Favourite film of this year?
I am SO BAD at watching films. Other than The King's Speech, I think I may not have been to the cinema this year. I saw half of 3 Idiots and am having no luck tracking it down to finish, so, er, it might have been my favourite of the year?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was twenty-four, and I had plans. Then Distant Relative appeared from nowhere, was very tedious, etc., and I was actually quite annoyed - my first birthday at home in six years and we're shepherding Distant Relative around? Really? And then my mother said, what do you want to do. I said I want to see a movie, with popcorn.

So we went to see The King's Speech with popcorn at eleven o'clock in the morning. It was surprisingly lovely.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not to do this damn job, by God.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Jeans and a T-shirt, followed by playing-dress-up-in-lawyer-clothes. It's not been a good fashion year. I don't think I even bought anything I really loved.

34. What kept you sane?
Shim and Laura, books and TV.

35. Which public figure did you fancy the most?
As always, Karen Gillan. Also, Jasika Nicole is lovely.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Borrowing [livejournal.com profile] highfantastical's answer, I felt paralysed by all the bad things, rather than stirred. This is the greatest tragedy of our current government, I feel: it's such a never-ending calvacade of awful that it defeats you before you've begun.

37. Who do you miss?
Oh God. The South African Siren, Tobermory, Baby E, [personal profile] thingswithwings, [personal profile] eruthros, [personal profile] livrelibre, my lovely adviser A.,[livejournal.com profile] gamesiplay, [personal profile] macadamanaity, [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat and ABOUT A GAZILLION other people.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Hmm. I met [personal profile] toft this year! That was very cool. And [personal profile] marina and [personal profile] roga, although I'd known them on the internet before. Oh, and my trainee cohort, who are much much nicer than I expected or deserve. The two other women are kind and supportive and fun to be around, and the Caped Crusader helps me feel less like a stranger in a strange land.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Keep moving.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
You know what, flist? You know what? Have the song I always use for this question:

Dar Williams - The Ocean

This year, if all goes well, I'm going to have a line from this tattooed on me. I think you could say, as soppily as you like, that it speaks to me omg.

Other notes, on reading and writing:

A very good writing year, which has startled me somewhat. After a few years of doing badly on this front, I really do seem to be writing regularly again, for which I'm very grateful.

Anyway, in 2011, I wrote twenty-two stories in thirteen fandoms (including two for Yuletide). I was particularly pleased by New Beautiful Things Come, the 17,000 word X-Men bakery AU, Lilies of the Field, a Vorkosigan story about Cordelia and Alys, and these are the days of miracle and wonder, a M*A*S*H story written after ten years away.

Also! Excitingly, I have finally started to write original fiction for the first time in many many years. The novel is hard going a lot of the time, but at the time of writing I have nine chapters of Receiver of Wreck written, and a lot of planning and outlining for the second half of it. Many, many thanks to those of you who are reading it for me; I'm very grateful. Add the novel, and I've written a round 100,000 words this year, and that's good enough for anyone.

On that note, I do think that writing fanfic for a decade has made me a far, far better writer than I would be otherwise, and I suppose, now, aged twenty-five, I'm tired of being told that fanfiction is juvenile or lesser. (For one thing, I am always suspicious when a female-dominated creative enterprise is infantilised and made to seem less important. Call me a cynic.)

Book-wise, I mentioned above that Kalpa Imperial was for me the stand-out book of the year. I loved it so much that here, I am actually going to quote some of it at you. These are its opening lines:

The storyteller said: Now that the good winds are blowing, now that we’re done with days of anxiety and nights of terror, now that there are no more denunciations, persecutions, secret executions, and whim and madness have departed from the heart of the Empire, and we and our children aren’t playthings of blind power; now that a just man sits on the Golden Throne and people look peacefully out of their doors to see if the weather’s fine and plan their vacations and kids go to school and actors put their heart into their lines and girls fall in love and old men die in their beds and poets sing and jewelers weigh gold behind their little windows and gardeners rake the parks and young people argue and innkeepers water the wine and teachers teach what they know and we storytellers tell old stories and archivists archive and fishermen fish and all of us can decide according to our talents and lack of talents what to do with our life—now anybody can enter the emperor’s palace, out of need or curiosity; anybody can visit that great house which was for so many years forbidden, prohibited, defended by armed guards, locked, and as dark as the souls of the Warrior Emperors of the Dynasty of the Ellydrvides. Now any of us can walk those wide, tapestried corridors, sit down in the courtyards to listen to the fountains run, go into the kitchens and cadge a doughnut from a fat, grinning cook’s helper, pick a flower in the gardens, admire ourself in the mirror galleries, watch maids go by with baskets full of clean laundry, tickle the foot of a marble statue with an irreverent finger, say good morning to the crown prince’s tutors, smile at the princesses playing ball on the lawn; and then go on to the door of the throne room and simply wait our turn to come right up to the emperor and say to him, for instance, “Sir, I love plays, but my town doesn’t have a theater. Do you think you might tell them to build one?”

Ekkemantes I will probably smile, since he too loves plays, and fall to talking enthusiastically about the poetic tragedy by Orab’Maagg recently presented in the capital, until one of his counselors reminds him with a discreet cough that he can’t spend an hour chattering with every one of his subjects because it would leave him no time to rule the Empire. And probably the good emperor, who seems born to smiles and good nature, though he wielded weapons like the black-winged angel of war when it was a matter of eradicating from the Empire the greed and cruelty of a damnable race, will reply to the counselor that chattering for an hour with each of his subjects is one way of ruling the Empire, and not the worst way, but that the lord counselor is right, and in order not to lose any more valuable time, he’ll dictate a decree to the lord counselor and sign it himself, ordering that a theater be constructed in the town of Sariaband. And very likely the counselor will stare and say: “My lord! building a theater, even a theater for a very small town, is an expensive business!”

“Oh, that’s all right,” the emperor may say—“let’s not obsess about money. A theater’s never expensive, because what goes on inside it teaches people to think and understand themselves. There’s some jewel in the palace, some fortune down in the basement, to cover the cost. And if nothing turns up, we’ll ask all the actors in the Empire to send the profits from one day, one evening, one show, to help build a theater in Sariaband, where some of them will act some day or where some day they’ll see their son act, or their daughter, or a student who they’ve been trying to teach the hundred and eleven methods of expressing sorrow on the stage. And when the actors agree, we’ll build a theater of the pink marble from the quarries of the province of Sariabb, and we’ll ask the sculptors of the Imperial Academy to carve statues of Comedy and Tragedy to flank the doorways.”

And the play-lover will go off happy, whistling, his hands in his pockets, his heart light, and maybe before he reaches the doors of the great throne room he’ll hear the emperor shouting after him, promising to come in person to the opening of the theater, and the lord counselor clicking his tongue in disapproval of such a transgression of protocol.


What I love about this, about all of it, is that it's not so much political but ur-political: before you even get to politics and democracy and all of that, it tells you, you need free people, and ignorant, illiterate, uneducated people aren't meaningfully free. I love that; I love how it's unashamedly literary in one particular sense, that people need stories and histories to be people.

Anyway. It's lovely. Read it.

And, finally! I also read three Chetan Bhagat novels this week, which are happy 250 page slices of Indian life. Shim picked them up and read them after me, and also enjoyed them, but even so I am reluctant to recommend them exactly, because, well. Bhagat, for me, writes so well and so engagingly because he writes about India and Indians, for Indians, in Indian English. Which for me is charming and real and part of what makes Bhagat excellent, but, y'know. You don't want to recommend books that non-Indians are going to pick up and read and put down and feel pleasantly superior that, failing everything else, they're not Indian and don't say things like we are like this only.

But given that, I do recommend them: they made me laugh and they had something to say: 2 States is his best, I think, but I like them all. They have a delightful, almost Victorian conceit in that the events of all of them reportedly happened in some way to the author (he always begins them by explaining how someone emailed him, or he met someone on a train, and that person usually turns out to be the protagonist of the novel) and I especially like the way this plays out in One Night..., in which the reader would be excused for pointing out that the events of the denoument don't work if there were any witnesses other than the characters.

No problem, says Bhagat, there was a witness who witnesses everything. And it's nice to hear God evoked in a Hindu way - as a stranger on a train.

Anyway. Enough talk. More washing up.
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