So, that was 2010? Let’s see what we’ve got here.
The feverish activity of the blue hours of deadline day. Adrenaline and nausea. Pillow-over-head; attempting to sleep through the hour of strained mechanical whirring as my ageing printer struggled with 50-odd pages of Masters thesis.
Listening through the warm haze of Sunday night pintage, as my Italian then-flatmate and her brother span exotic tales of the hot winds and intra-family surveillance of small-town Sicily.
The increasingly windswept ‘city’ of Akureyri, Iceland. Three Germans, a French national, and myself. Instant cross-European, generational communitas. One of the single most joyful evenings of my year.
Lost in a maze made of maize in the fields of Surrey, flanked by an endlessly tolerant Karen Hancock; our small flag held proudly aloft.
Feeling sheepish about my (considerable) height in an acupuncture consultation with a diminutive Vietnamese doctor in Golders Green. Left for a full half hour, legs hanging over the end of the table, desperately struggling to suppress the urge to flex my en-needled right foot.
Walking from the British Museum to Deptford in the early hours of a weekday morning, as the aftermath of a friend’s birthday. No maps, navigating solely by Canary Wharf and the first third of the Shard. Despite everything, wasn’t stabbed.
The single greatest burger / jacket potato combination, cooked to perfection. Eaten from a moulded plastic container while sitting on a wall, on hipster safari with six Romanians in London’s Brick Lane.
Standing in the apocalyptic, ash-strewn foothills of Eyjafjallajökull; the volcano that—five months earlier—had stranded my father in West Africa.
A 45 minute walk through the Ballardian periphery of Heathrow, having totally failed at navigating airport buses to the Radisson Edwardian for 2010’s Eastercon.
That one, ill-advised game of football on Goldsmiths’ college green. Trainers and brown cords for the first act of voluntary team sport in over five years.
Hitting Chat Roulette with JF in the aftermath of a moustache-themed party, armed with an acoustic guitar. Advising Californian teens on their romantic issues, then showing a Chilean dentistry student our teeth. Surprisingly low penis-to-human ratio. Again with the communitas.
The patio of a gîte in France’s Vendée region, a cool July evening. Sitting in the eerily calm eye of a massive storm, alongside my father, gigantic banks of angry blue-black clouds bearing down from all directions. Twilight sky the colour of a bruise; lightning crackling on the horizon, as we scratched the head of an increasingly deranged local cat.
Finally finding that excuse to write an academic essay on Richard Kelly’s cult classic Southland Tales (2007).
Four books, read in quick succession as part of my return to reading-for-pleasure in the immediate aftermath of my MA. Unexpectedly complementary, providing four different cardinal directions for the compass of twenty-first century speculative fiction, they were:
The Dervish House, Ian MacDonald. A tale of nanotechnology against the backdrop of a Europeanised/ing Turkey. For me, intricate plotting and his deployment of an ensemble cast elevated this far above his previous offering, Brasyl, while invoking memories of my own trip to Istanbul in the summer of 2007. Great eye for detail, even if it occasionally skirted the dubious territories of hokum-meister Dan Brown.
Zero History, William Gibson. A work of linguistic precision and unparalleled poise. Having reread the two preceding books for my MA thesis, this was one of my most pleasurable reads of the year. Almost uncanny levels of personal pay-off for the inclusion of familiar London locations, and his decision to conclude the narrative in Iceland, where I myself chewed through the final chapters; tucked under a duvet in that Reykjavik youth hostel, as part of my campaign of guerilla warfare waged against unexpected (and probably unwarranted) jet-lag.
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer. Alternate world fantasy as prog rock concept album, with mushrooms. At times baroque, sublime, and bitingly political, it struck me as an excellent companion to China Mieville’s The City & the City (2009), with that same sense of the almost-plausibly surreal. A really strange hybrid which shouldn’t have worked, it somehow pulled together into a cohesive whole. On reflection, I think I preferred the black humour and epistolary textures of its predecessor, Shriek: An Afterword (2006), but there was a whole lot to like here.
Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shyteyngart. This book made me physically nauseous, in a way that I struggle to explain. Though messy and uneven, it transcended the details and specifics of its (many) flaws. Like the best science fiction, it wasn’t intended as prediction, but rather a commentary of the present state of the writer’s world; in this case, an America in post-imperial decline. By turn darkly comic and deeply sad, it had this unsettling quality — whether in its detailing of a post-literate society, or the specifics of social networking or US politics — that while the world he was detailing was obviously a satire; a piss-take or parody, it nevertheless rhymed with my own world. Tragic and discomfiting, it felt all-too-familiar. For me, this book induced some deep, gut-level future shock. If the Gibson was comfort food, this was some kind of violent ambush or mugging. High praise? I’m still not sure.
Didn’t see many films this year, but there were three that really stuck with me: Monsters (Gareth Edwards, UK), Skeletons (Nick Whitfield, UK), and The Social Network (David Fincher, US).
An eventful year, then, if not the most evenly spread. And what of 2011? Interesting noises emanate from the Superflux shed, as Anab and Jon prepare to kick their activities up to eleven. There are pints owed to people whom I intended to catch before the spreading fungus of Yuletide burnout, and a graduation ceremony sketched in for mid-January (cue absurd snowfall). There may well be travel and adventure.
That’s the plan, anyhow.