Monday, January 8, 2018

Metapost 2017

The year 2017 has come and gone. Time for a year-end retrospective metapost!

First, and most importantly to me, the list of books I read in 2017, in reverse chronological order:
  • The Aztecs: People of the Sun by Alfonso Caso
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
  • Story of a Soul by Therese of Lisieux *
  • The Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour
  • The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren by Nelson Algren
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson *
  • Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. Dick
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll *
  • Kiss Me, Deadly by Mickey Spillane
  • Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
  • The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien *
  • The Big Kill by Mickey Spillane
  • The Godwhale by T. J. Bass
  • One Lonely Night by Mickey Spillane
  • Half Past Human by T. J. Bass
  • The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  • Count Zero by William Gibson
  • King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry by Siobhan Roberts
  • The Gulag Archipelago: Volume 3 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien *
  • The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Necronomicon by H. P. Lovecraft
  • Vulcan's Glory by D. C. Fontana
  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  • Cugel's Saga by Jack Vance
  • The Preparation of the Child for Science by Mary EverestBoole
  • The Russia House by John le Carré
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien *
  • Missions and Pueblos of the Old Southwest by Earle R. Forrest
  • The Summer Stargazer by Robert Claiborne
  • Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist
  • The Gulag Archipelago: Volume 2 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Regular Polytopes by H. S. M. Coxeter
  • A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison
  • The Pastel City by M. John Harrison
  • The Pueblo Revolt by David Roberts
  • Pueblo Gods and Myths by Hamilton A. Tyler
  • The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard
  • Life in the Pueblos by Ruth Underhill
  • Hell House by Richard Matheson
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin *
  • Vengeance is Mine! by Mickey Spillane
Isn't it sad how I only read old stuff? What's the matter with me? I do actually have a few newer things on my list of to-reads; my immanent venture into the world of e-books will hopefully help with that. (I'm not a complete luddite, just ten years behind the times. I do have a cell phone now. That is, my wife does.)

Asterixes denote works read aloud to my children. I read aloud to them for half an hour to an hour every night. Because they begged me to, I read them The Lord of the Rings this year. I'd been reluctant, thinking them a bit young (seven and nine) and reflecting that, after all, you can only read a book for the first time once. But they were starting to read it without me, so I figured I'd better take the opportunity while I still had it.

It was a long project: we went in something like real time, from Frodo's departure from Bag End to his awakening on the Field of Cormallen, and decided that we'd have to start it on September 22 next time around. This is my third time to read LOTR aloud, but...I still cry at certain parts. I'm not ashamed, dammit.

My literary high point for the year is probably my completion of The Gulag Archipelago. My low point would be those four Mickey Spillane novels, none of which I can clearly remember now, although I do seem to recall one whose resolution involved a baby blowing a woman's brains out with a handgun. I began Kiss Me, Deadly while standing in line at Wal-Mart, waiting to score a Super NES Classic when it became available at midnight of its release date, if that gives you any idea of the luridness of my daily life.

But here's an amusing Mickey Spillane story I heard at Thanksgiving. My godfather, who, like Spillane, lived in South Carolina, used to know a bar or some such place also frequented by Spillane. He went out one night with someone from out of town, and they saw Spillane. "Hey, want to meet Mickey Spillane?" my godfather asked. They went over and, like an old buddy, my godfather said, "Mickey, I'd like you to meet so-and-so." Spillane gave them both a hearty handshake and hello. It isn't known whether he realized he'd never met either of the two.

My 2017 reading completion rate is a bit of a falling-off from previous years, but in my defense I should list the works I'm in the middle of:
  • History of the Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott
  • The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor
  • Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
Not exactly light reading! There are also bits and pieces by writers like Plato, Aristotle, Pascal, Descartes, Nietzsche, and others. I've also read a bunch of comic books graphic novels and manga, including four superman comics, the first omnibus edition of Wonder Woman comics by George Perez, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Akira. I meant to write a post about Wonder Woman comics, but seeing the movie (which everyone seemed to like so much but which I found depressingly stupid) sort of took the wind out of my sails. Sometime soon, perhaps.

As for stuff I produced this year, I had two Carvajal novelettes appear in the august e-pages of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

Heart of Tashyas, HFQ #31
I've got a couple more sitting in the trunk, to be produced in the future if there seems to be interest in more. One day I'd like to see a collection of Carvajal stories published in some way, shape, or form.

I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds, HFQ #33
The third installment of my Carvajal narrative will appear in HFQ next month. Here's the sketch for the accompanying illustration:

That's based on a self-portrait, incidentally, though I don't have a pirate earring, and I don't let my hair grow that long these days. (I do like to go around with a sword in each hand, however.) The prickly pear wallpaper pattern, which is of type pg, is my own invention. I'll include the pattern itself in a future post.

All of which reminds me: one high point of 2017 was my attendance at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio, where I got to meet assorted heroes, villains, and rogues of the fantasy publication world in person, and had the heady experience of encountering some of my very own writing and illustration in the dealers' room.

I also showed my art in a one-man exhibition on the Sul Ross State University campus in Alpine, Texas. I sold a few pieces, gave a talk about art, math, and writing, ate some tasty snacks, and in general had a good time.

Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to get any pictures during the closing reception. Some of the pictures will be familiar to readers of my books.

Speaking of Alpine, Nelson Algren, an author I discovered this year, has an interesting connection to Sul Ross. A college-educated would-be journalist from Chicago, he wound up in Alpine as a drifter / hobo during the Great Depression, where he began working on a novel on a typewriter at Sul Ross, which was then just a normal college. Upon leaving town by train, he decided to take the typewriter with him. The authorities caught up with him further down the line. He was arrested and thrown into the Brewster County jail, where he languished for months until a judge was in the area to hear his case. His lawyer compared him with Jean Valjean during the trial; although convicted, he was released and given twenty-four hours to leave the state. His imprisonment was a harrowing experience that colored his fiction for the rest of his life. He was a proletarian writer whose work petered out in the forties or fifties, though one of his best stories appeared in Playboy in the seventies. I encountered him in Flannery O'Connor's correspondence; O'Connor didn't have a high opinion of his work.

But back to me. I also showed some painting, drawings, and mathematical sculptures at a gallery in the town where I live. The 120-cell sections and net in the foreground are mine; the painting in the background is not.

My sections and net of the 24-cell were also on display, though not shown in this picture. I'll dedicate a post to them in the near future.

Lately I've mostly been working on Ark of the Hexaemeron, the third installment in my Enoch series. One of my 2018 resolutions is to get it finished and published this year. For various reasons my work speed has slowed down somewhat of late, which is why my blogging continues to be light. But I do plan to continue with reviewing noir films; the next one on my list is, I believe, The Killers.

The Coming of the White Worm
This year I'm also going to continue tinkering with techniques for digital illustration, as I'd really like to tell a story in pictures some day. I think of my various HFQ illustrations as playful exercises. I've played with doing colors solely on the computer, mainly because it's so difficult to ensure accurate color transitions from watercolor to digital files. In the end I suspect I'll try to compromise somehow.

Well, that about wraps it up. Let's send 2017 off on a high note!

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