Remember that movie My Favorite Year? I saw it as a kid and all I remember is Peter O’Toole being super-drunk in like twenty directions. Well, needless to say, 2020 was not my favorite year. I won’t even be willing to say I survived 2020 until sometime in 2023, just to be on the safe side.
But… some actual good things happened to me in 2020, and I wanted to share them with you, because I always want to spread positivity. I think it’s even more important to count your blessings in a horrible year, especially when you’re lucky to have made it through when others didn’t.
Last things first: I just adopted an adorable kitten, whom you can see above. His name is Marcus Aurelius Sassafras Vespasian, or Dr. Sassafras for short. Or just Dr. Sassy. He is the perfect amount of rambunctious and cuddle-friendly, and he is one of those cats who sincerely wants to be friends and hang out all the time, rather than the aloof feline stereotype. He’s a little bit dog, really. The softest nicest boy. Thanks to Meghan and Jen for sending him my way, and to Steph for bringing him to me.
In February, the paperback of The City in the Middle of the Night came out! And to tie in with its release, I wrote a brand new story that takes place after the novel, called “If You Take My Meaning.”
Also, I did a TED Talk! Actually, I did the TED Talk in December 2019, but it appeared online in March. Over two million people have now heard me say the words “post-apocalyptic poop barbecue,” which is something.
And then there’s Looking For Leia, a seven-part documentary series about lady Star Wars fans, created by a whole team of amazing humans — it appeared on Syfy and YouTube and other places. I’m featured in two or three of the seven episodes, and it just makes me so grateful to be associated with something so cool and positive. This series will remind you why you love Star Wars and fan culture. Watch the whole thing here. The first episode is below:
And meanwhile, I teamed up with a group of astonishing superheroes to help organize We Love Bookstores, a couple dozen (or so) events to help local Bay Area bookstores survive the first lockdown. A small army of heroic authors volunteered their time, and we raised around $62,000 for local bookstores! A bunch of the videos of our events are here — if you watch them and can spare some money, please donate to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.
Early in 2020, I pitched the idea for a series of essays about how to write your way out of a really horrible moment in history, based on a talk I’d been doing for a few years. This became Never Say You Can’t Survive, the series which appeared weekly at Tor.com — and now it’s going to be a book (see the bottom of this email). I could not have predicted just how horrendous 2020 was going to be, and how much I would need to take my own advice. I hope these essays helped other people, but writing them kept me going during my least favorite year.
I wrote a story for Alta Online called “The Turnaround,” about using augmented reality to explore the past and future of San Francisco—and the protagonist realizes the only way to find a better future is to build one yourself.
Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast that Annalee and I co-host about the meaning of science fiction, won its second Hugo Award in a row. And also, I feel like we really hit our stride in 2020 — I’m very proud of every single episode we put out this year.
For my birthday this year, Annalee went all out. They got me an sprinkle cake that says “Happy Birthday Princess,” and a crown of flowers and a new pink jumpsuit. This was easily in the top two or three birthdays I’ve ever had, and it was especially amazing in the midst of this hell-year. BEHOLD:
The geniuses at Open World did an audio adaptation of my story “I’ll Have You Know” (about a trans woman who transitions on her hundredth birthday, but is pressured to sign up for dream-learning, which is actually thinly disguised brainwashing.) And this is one of those wondrous cases where the adaptation is better than the source material. Writer/producer T.H. Ponders brought so much spark and humor and warmth to the story, and star Cap Blackard is just perfect. This episode was singled out by Bello Collective as one of the year’s best podcasty things, and Open World’s whole season made it onto Spotify’s “best of year” list. Open World might be worth keeping in mind for your Best Dramatic Presentation noms next year, just sayin’.
Annalee and I teamed up with the geniuses at Dog Eared Books Castro to create care packages to send to some of our loved ones. These packages included queer books, science books, poetry collections, zines, stickers and other stuff, and it was super fun helping to put this together. The folks at Dog Eared would be happy to help put together care packages for your friends and fam (though it might be too late for them to arrive by Friday.) And I bet other local bookstores would be happy to do something similar!
And finally, I’m super stoked to have a short story in The Trans-Galactic Bike Ride edited by Lydia Rogue — a collection of “feminist bicycle science fiction” featuring trans/non-binary adventurers. This is the latest volume in the wonderful Bikes in Space series of anthologies, which are always a total delight. Just getting to be a part of this loveliness makes me feel like I must have done something right.
As for 2021… it’s going to be a huge year for me. I have three (count ’em) books coming out next year! Pre-order links below…
In April, there’s my YA debut, Victories Greater Than Death. It’s basically Guardians of the Galaxy with more feels, queer romance, and thoughts about art and violence and stuff. I want to get Sarah Gailey’s incredibly generous and eloquent description of this book tattooed backward on my face, so I see it whenever I look in the mirror.
August sees the book version of Never Say You Can’t Survive, my aforementioned collection of essays about using creative writing to make it through a really tough year. Which… I wrote these essays during a really tough year. I’ve been working non-stop lately to polish them up and add new material, so the book will be considerably better than the online version was.
And then in November… there’s my first full-length short-story collection, Even Greater Mistakes. (I don’t believe there’s a cover for this book yet, so the image above just uses Yuko Shimizu’s gorgeous artwork for my story “As Good As New,” which I will always seize any opportunity to share.) This book contains 17 or 18 stories, including some which were published in tiny venues that sold twenty copies back in 2007. The thing all these stories have in common is that I still can’t believe I didn’t get struck by lightning for even attempting them. Also, all of these shorts still make me laugh, or cry, or both.
I’m utterly terrified about all three of these books, for different reasons. Basically, three flavors of hubris. I really appreciate any and all support you can give me, including moral. <3