My best-of 2014 list
Four or five days late, but, you know, I was finishing a novel. So. Three of my best reads from 2014 weren’t actually 2014 books, as it turned out: John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder, and Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. But, from 2014, it’s got to be Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, Matt Kindt’s continuing MIND MGMT, Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland, Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style, and Jeff Strand’s Wolf Hunt. I wish I could erase all of these from my mind and then sit down, read them all over again.
And, I wish I could track and remember short stories, and I’m sure I could somehow search them up through my inbox—I’m always forwarding them around, assigning them—but, man, this might be more task than I’m up to. Two I remember very distinctly are Junot Diaz’s “Miss Lora” from the 2013 BASS and Peter Watt’s “The Things.” But neither are 2014, alas. Oh, I know: two This is Horror chapbooks, each of which blew me away, only one of which is available yet—Ray Cluley’s “Water for Drowning” and Nathan Ballingrud’s “Visible Filth.” Both are ridiculously good. Like, I just want to stop writing because of both of these stories, because how can I ever match up?
As for best 2014 short films—I was in Texas while Mile High Horror Film Fest was going on this year, so didn’t participate in the selectioning process. But I did recently get to see Robin Schdmidt’s “Dog,” which is flat out amazing. Every love story is brutal, man. There’s so little dialogue across these forty minutes, but so much said. I would put the trailer here, but I can’t seem to find one. If you get a chance, though, see it. So worth it.
As for feature films, here’s my list:
- Starry Eyes: this is far and away the best horror of the year, for me
- Coherence: completely disturbed me, left me suspicious of my world
- Guardians of the Galaxy: pitch-perfect action-comedy tone, with heart and explosions
- Wer: I sincerely hope this is the start of a werewolf boom. very cool movie.
- The Guest: devious and surprising, gory and fun. geat You’re Next follow-up
- Nightcrawler: it’s not about LA, it’s about surviving in this world
- The Lego Movie: that escalation in the third act is unlike about anything else. maybe McEwan’s Atonement (novel) might compare?
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: this is how adapting works when it works perfectly
- The Grand Budapest Hotel: capers and comedy, irony and sentiment, all on display here
- It Follows: until Starry Eyes, this was my best horror from 2014. This scares me more, though
- Cold in July: such a solid adaptation of Lansdale’s novel.
And, I should add a couple that aren’t from 2014 but that I saw this past year, that completely blew me away:
- Rhymes for Young Ghouls: this movie breaks your heart and then puts it back together again
- Big Bad Wolves: this style of storytelling is a how-to guide. I want to watch it over and over
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
- John Wick
- Interstellar (I went yesterday but there were only 23 seats left, all at the front)
- Sleepy Hollow (who says the four horsemen won’t invade New England?)
- Brooklyn 9-9 (I thought I’d forgot how to watch sitcoms. until this)
- AFV (America’s Funniest Home videos—longtime fan, can’t ever get enough)
As for a wrap-up of my stuff: not sure how many stories I published, but I was lucky enough to be in the TOCs of Fearful Symmetries, The New Black, Children of Old Leech, Letters to Lovecraft, Nightmare Carnival, The Force of What’s Possible, The Starry Wisdom Library, The Cutting Room, IDW’s Zombies vs. Robots, and I showed up in The Dark and Shock Totem and Bourbon Penn and some Polish magazine I can’t pronounce (but it looks cool) and on Tor and ShocktilYouDrop and Huffington Post and Microfiction Monday and Trop, and I’m forgetting a few, I’m pre-sorry.
Had a few books published, too: The Gospel of Z, States of Grace, Not for Nothing, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (with Paul Tremblay), After the People Lights Have Gone Off, a standalone novella Sterling City, and the This Is Horror chapbook “The Elvis Room.” Of all my years publishing since it started for me in 2000, this has been my most full year. And, it’s good prelude to next year, when I—at my new agent’s request—have nothing coming out. Though there will be The Faster Redder Road: the best Unamerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones, ed. by Theo Van Alst (April), and, in the Fall, A Critical Companion to the Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones, ed. Billy Stratton.
And, in January I wrote one novel, Mongrels, and from Sep26th – Dec 28th, I think, I wrote another, but am still not saying its title (am still reworking it). And I did I don’t know how many readings and classroom visits and conventions and conferences, each cooler and more fun than the last, of course.
Also, I had a nice bull elk right in my scope in November, and somehow he’s still out there bugling (lie—I saw somebody else hauling him out, actually).
And, most cool: I had no ankle or knee surgeries, and no concussions or skull fractures (well, I guess I did spend some time in another Darth Vader boot, but that was hardly my fault) (and I’m fairly certain I broke a bone in my foot, but I walked it off [on a cane for a couple weeks]). That makes this officially a banner year for me. I don’t even think I had any stitches (though my finger’s currently mangled, could use a stitch or two, but it’ll heal on its own too, I’m pretty sure, and I never mind skewing the whorls and vortices of my fingerprints around some more . . .).
And, for the first time, I taught a werewolf course. Doing it again soon, both for CU and then, in Fall 2015, for University of Utah, where I’ll be a visiting prof for the fall. Packing up the family and heading west, yep. But just for a few months.
Other than that . . . oh: I finally got a jam-free stapler. This has completely turned my life around. Aside from the touch-light on my nightstand, this is about the most amazing item I own, and definitely one of the things I love the absolute most, outside of, you know, family and books and movies and old trucks. All of which I’m proud to say I got to spend a lot of time with in 2014. Now on with the next year. Can’t wait. I turn 43 here in two or three weeks, and then have my twentieth wedding anniversary in May. And, in the next month or two my son’s going to be taller than me, I’m pretty sure, and my daughter’s already light-years smarter than me. Getting a lot of silver in my hair, but I dig it, too. I want to be like William Nolan or Del Harris in a few years if I can.
Anyway, back to it, now: writing, reading, stapling things just because I can. It’s a pretty good life, all-told.