Wednesday, 6 January 2016

2015: A Year in Review, Progress Report

Shared Universe Reviews has been one of my longest personal interest projects. It’s also been a pretty rewarding one for several reasons. As I’ve come to realize in my life, when things are rewarding it’s usually because I worked hard at achieving a goal and I’ve met my desired targets. In that regard, last year provided proof once again that the harder I work at my posts on SUR, the more I get out of it. Slowly, year by year, I’ve built a body of critical writing that I’m proud of it. I think that writing these annual progress reports helps me better assess what I’ve done, where I’m at, and what I would like to accomplish in the coming year.

For my first year of blogging, in 2013, the goal was simple. Start blogging and do it regularly. Because I was just starting I didn’t need anything more than that. In my second year, 2014, I tried to get a better grasp on the areas of entertainment on which my main reviewing output would focus on. The original idea for SUR was always comic books reviews but along the way I’ve found that I enjoy writing about others things too. The Blog Fantastic (a project in which I review fantasy novels written by authors I like, authors I want to discover, and classic series) has been one of my proudest achievements and bigger successes on the site.

I had a few goals for 2015, some of which I’ve met and others which I didn’t. I had two ongoing projects. One of them was the Harry Potter reread which I did in collaboration with my older sister. That was a great success. For two months, the only posts I had at SUR where Harry Potter related and it was quiet fun. My sister enjoyed her first blogging so much she’s gone on to create her own fashion blog called Couture du Jour.

My second big project really wasn’t much of a project at all since I didn't really change or focus my writing in a particular area. I mostly changed how I label some of my reviews. Year of the Unread was designed as something to help me reduce the number of books I buy in a year and focus my attention on reading the books I already own but haven't read yet. I tracked all of the books I read that fit with this project in the Year of the Unread archives. Last year I bought the smallest amount of books ever in a given year since attending high school. In that regard, the project was a success, but something about it left me a little hollow and disenchanted with the idea of reading.

You see, as much as my personal taste for fiction is reading older books (anything more than a few years old) I really, really love new books too! How can I not? New works by authors I like are very hard to resist. In the case of comics or manga or even longer fantasy series, it’s very difficult to resist buying the latest releases. Sometimes part of the reading experience is keeping up with it and I discovered that I lost some of that magic in my reading pile this year. It’s not all bad because I learned a lesson about myself and for now, I’m resisting the urge to start any new series and to finish buying and reading the series I’ve already started before moving on to something new. You’ll see some of that reflected in my 2016 goals for Shared Universe Reviews.

Another one of my goals was to work on a comic book reread project. I never even got that off the ground. I didn’t even finish writing the first post. There’s not much to say here other than I didn’t do it.

One of the unexpected surprises this year was that I contributed to another site. In past years I had mentioned that I wanted to try and get other writers to contribute to SUR but for some reason I never connected with a fellow blogger in a way that made regular contributions a reality. I decided to flip my original goal around and seek out new writing opportunities at websites and blogs I enjoy reading myself. When Sequart announced that they would be hosting their Third Annual Sci-Fi Week and were accepting submissions, I jumped at the opportunity. Mike Phillips agreed to post two of my science fiction comic book reviews. The first one was my review of The Complete D.R. & Quinch by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. My second review was of The Red Wing by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. It was pretty fantastic to join in on the fun, especially because Sequart hosts quality reviews. I’ll be working to add more reviews at Sequart in the new year.

Though I can’t say much about it now, I’ll be contributing to another site in 2016. I’ll be writing reviews of a particular kind of nerd hobby. I’m quite grateful for the opportunity and I have a feeling I’ll be learning a lot along the way. I’ll share more about it in the coming weeks.

I want to make it clear that I won’t be abandoning SUR. I’ll keep this as my personal blog where I can continue to work on projects that exist here and write reviews of whatever I enjoyed reading. One of new things I started in 2015 was to create yet another project (they’re so easy to create and much more difficult to maintain and develop). Short Story Sunday gave me a new outlet for reading and reviewing short stories. So far I’ve focused on science fiction but I’ve also used this as a way to encourage me to read the original Conan the Cimmerian stories by Robert E. Howard. I really enjoy this and for the most part, they do not take too long to write. I must admit that while I’ll continue posting new reviews and commentary at SUR, I’ll be reducing my output in 2016 since I’ll be writing elsewhere as well.

That being said, here is a list of projects and goals I’ll be working on for the rest of the year. Some of these are actual projects and the rest is just a wish list or checklist of books to read. Think of them as encouragements to finish long-in-the-works series.

2016 Goals

1. Start a reread review of a long (more than 24 issues) comic book series:
I’ve already started this, actually. I’m reading a series for the second time. It’s been a while since I originally read it and new issues have come out since then. I’ve got several volumes to review but I’ll be taking my time, posting reviews of a single issue at a time. The goal here is probably to post one review per week. I placed this at number 1 because I’m carrying it over from last year.

2. Continue writing for other sites:
I really liked writing for Sequart. I’ll try to strengthen my relationship with them and possibly expand to other sites. This was the source of a lot of excitement for me in the last couple months. It’s energizing.

3. Review a manga series in its entirety (or up to the latest published volume):
Going somewhat hand-in-hand with the first goal, I’d like to review a manga series. Again, I’ve got a series in mind for this one and it’s currently at 11 volumes. I think this is a feasible goal. I haven’t started this one yet and I might wait a little bit before I get to it.

4. Finish reviewing a fantasy series in its entirety:
My plan here is to finish reading and reviewing one of the fantasy series that are part of the Blog Fantastic project. I have a couple options here. Basically, this is about cleaning up my outstanding reviews a little bit so that I can move on to reading other series guilt free.

5. Star a new comic book related project:
Again, I’ve got more ideas for projects than I could possibly accomplish in a given year (or even five). One of the ideas I’ve been kicking around in my head has to do with highlighting particular series or titles with a specific approach in mind. You’ll know more once I start the project. It won’t be something regular, not really, but it will give me an opportunity to talk about comics I love in a way that is different than a standard review.

In addition to these goals, I’ve made a non-title specific list of the kinds of books I’d like to read. Last year I attempted to read difficult or challenging books. I found that making the decision at the start of the year was encouraging and worthwhile (as all three challenging books were really good reads). This year, I’ll be using this checklist:

-Explore J.K. Rowling’s non-Harry Potter novels.
-Read at least one Kurt Vonnegut novel.
-Continue reading The Wheel of Time! The last book I reviews was The Dragon Reborn back in September 2014. Yikes!
-Read three non-fiction books.
-Read three classic science fiction novels.
-Read three Star Trek novels.
-Read three Star Wars novels.
-Read three classic or influential comic book titles or series.
-Read one book about dinosaurs (fiction or non-fiction).

There, that should be enough. I’ve basically plotted out my reading for half the year. I hope to achieve most of these goals, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about them. I’ll be keeping this list handy and referring to it whenever I stare blankly at my bookshelf, trying to decide what to read next. I hope you enjoyed what I had to offer at SUR this year and hopefully you’ll like what I’ll be posting in 2016. I’ll leave you with a list of my Five Favourite Science Fiction Short Stories Read in 2015:

Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published at Strange Horizons (2010)

Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine (June 2010), edited by Neil Clarke

Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published in F&SF (Sept/Oct 2010), edited by Gordon Van Gelder

Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published in Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF (2010), edited by Jetse de Vries

Read in New Destinies Volume VI/Winter 1988 (1988), edited by Jim Baen
Originally published in New Destinies VI (1988), edited by Jim Baen (I think this is accurate, I couldn’t find any indication otherwise)

Happy New Year!

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