2015 – that was a year that happened, didn’t it?

Me in 2015

I wasn’t going to write one of these. 2015 is… exhausting to think about.

I was so poor, and depressed, and ill at the start of the year. A week into January I had to ask for your help to pay my rent and my bills. I was flat broke and had exhausted all other avenues. It’s a humiliating and panic-stricken situation to be in. I am so very grateful to the strangers and friends who kept me afloat in that period. I quite literally would not have made it without you. In the end I raised £1,460 via Go Fund Me, and about £60 via my tip jar (that last may have been smaller, but was immediately accessible funds badly needed at the time!).

Thanks to you I kept a roof over my head and I was able to finish my PhD.

The PhD

Which I did. I submitted at the end of May and was examined at my viva on 26 August, where I passed with no corrections. I was completely floored. Having spent the previous year largely bedridden due to illness (and the two years before that ill enough that I often went immediately to bed after work), I spent the final months of my PhD frantically writing up in my supervisor’s office. He didn’t get to see a full draft before I submitted. I was convinced I’d have major corrections – another chapter to write at least! – but I didn’t.

I had typos.

And they decided to accept the thesis with them anyway.

It’s… a bit hard to deal with. I had no reason to think it would go so well. A lot of people had told me I couldn’t do it over the years, and that my depression and illness were symptoms of me trying to do something I wasn’t cut out for. I knew I was ill because of the poor diet I had adopted because I had no money and was depressed, and that I was depressed because of long-standing issues combined with the fact that so many people had no faith in me to do my PhD, which was the most important thing in my life. And now a few people have made comments along the lines of ‘You see, you had nothing to worry about!’ … I can’t sweep it under the carpet that easily. I can’t just set aside how difficult it has been.

Being happy about finishing my PhD is… complex.

I am looking forward to graduating, though.

Today I told a salesperson that my title was ‘Dr’. That was nice.

A New Mattress

I was ordering a new mattress when I did that. I can afford a new mattress now. That’s nice, too.

My current mattress is the one I bought at the start of my PhD when I moved in to share a house with my friend Fred. It was the first unfurnished place I had ever lived in. It seems a lifetime agio.

It was never a particularly good mattress, and it ceased to be anything but deathly uncomfortable years ago. I got a couple more years of life out of it with a mattress topper, but even that has been struggling for a while.

Imagine being bedridden on a broken mattress and too poor to replace it because you are too ill to work. It’s not fun.

I’ve been temping full time since June, and now I can afford a new mattress. It’s good.


Full-time income is really good.

Not working in the evenings and weekends is really good.

I have played a lot of Dragon Age. Which is really good.

Temping isn’t really good for me, though. I work with nice people and they don’t mind if I have blue hair, but I only get half an hour for lunch and is in an Enquiry Centre. I answer phones all day every day. I find phones very stressful. I have a very good phone manner, but phones are not good for me.

I need a job in something I’m actually trained for, but I can’t get an academic job without publishing, and I needed a break from all that, and I’m so tired when I get home from work that all I do is play Dragon Age.

And instead of losing weight after the PhD was over, I’ve continued to gain weight. Because work is stressful and there’s a food table at work and when I’m stressed I eat from the food table. Also, I have continued to be ill, so even though I have been exercising, I have not been exercising enough. Yeah.

Nine Worlds

I had my least ill Nine Worlds ever, which was nice. And I also gave my first paper on their academic track, which seemed to go down well. And I was on a panel about geekdom in academia. I enjoyed both a lot!

I also had an updated Daenerys costume, and I got to take part in Knightmare Live – childhooddream fulfilled!

For various other reasons I have a lot of anxiety right now about the thought of going back. I hope I will overcome them. Nine Worlds has been a real bright spot in some very dark times, and I would like to feel that way about it again.


Although I have done less editing overall this year than previously, it’s still formed a fair chunk of my income and was vital in seeing me through those last few months of my PhD. I’ve also expanded my client base of authors and come to enjoy working directly with people who know what they want.

My sincere thanks to all my clients for being wonderful and a joy to work with this year.


It’s not been a great year with regards to writing for me.

I had one story published – ‘The Runaway King’ in Fox Spirit Book‘s Missing Monarchs anthology. I got to second round with pro magazines more times than I ever have before, but nothing was actually accepted.

I’ve barely progressed at all with my novels.

Some of that is deliberate. I put a hold on more or less everything in order to finish the PhD, but I had intended to return to writing when I was finally free. I haven’t.

I have mostly just played Dragon Age.

Some of that is much needed rest. Some of that is still me not being particularly healthy. Some of it is the FEAR.

I need to get over it.

I’m 32 and my life has been on hold for the last nine years whilst I finished the PhD. I can’t bimble along waiting until I’m Ready to become a Writer anymore.


I want to have a full first draft of one of my novels before I’m 33. That’s six and a half months. It’s not impossible, but I need to get serious about it if I’m to manage to do that alongside a full time job.

I want to lose at least a stone in weight. I need to lose three or four stone, but I’ll settle for one. My clothes don’t fit and my health is suffering. This can’t go on.

I want to be earning more money this time next year than I am now. I’ve never earnt as much as I do now, but it’s temp work. There is no job security and I don’t get paid if I’m ill. I also have a lot of debts to pay off. Things are better now, but they’re still tight. I want to get out of this situation of limping by and owing lots of people money. I need a proper job.

That might be an admin job or a job in publishing or an academic job – those each come with varying levels of difficulty, but at some point I need to stop just coasting and take control of my life.

So. There’s three resolutions. I know a lot of people don’t believe in resolutions, but they have sometimes worked for me in the past. I want 2016 to be the year that everything changes for the better. A lot happened in 2015, much of it for the good, but there was too much hardship for me to really look back on it with any fondness.

Thanks to my wonderful friends who have been with me through it all. You’re very special people, and I’m inadequate in expressing quite how much your support has meant to me.

Thanks also to the friends, family, and strangers who kept me afloat this year.

And now I think I need to move on from thinking about 2015. I want to look forward, instead.

2014: A Year in Review

I really wish that was a pun and this post was about all the reviews I did in 2014. Alas, as you all know, I’ve been a bit lacking on the review front this year. I’ve been sick as a dog and it’s limited my output in just about all areas of my life. There were no Serene Wombles this year, not just because I didn’t really review enough things, but because around the time of my blog’s birthday (3rd October) I was super extra sick and dealing with a bunch of Real Life shit from Hell. It’s really tempting to feel like I achieved nothing, but that’s not the case. Actually, a bunch of cool stuff happened this year, so I’m gonna focus on that.

At the end of 2013 I quit my job. 2014 saw me supporting myself as a freelance proofreader and copy editor for the first time. In January I set up a website and moved my blog hosting to rhube.co.uk  and started looking for ways to make money without negatively affecting the experience of the site. I became an Amazon Associate. This was a massive waste of time and I made no money from it whatsoever. I also set up a tip jar (in the side-bar just over there—>) which a small number of you have been very kind to show your appreciation with 🙂 . In July, when I was well and truly screwed, you guys literally saved me with your tips and I am super grateful.

In February I launched my Proofread Along with Rhube series, which surprised me by being pretty popular. I started out with good intentions of posting something to the series every week. But. Well. You know how that went. Ill-health yadda yadda yadda. I also added a series on Inspiring Women for International Women’s Day, which seemed to go down well. And for International Poetry I did a reading from ‘Eve’s Apology’, by Aemelia Lanyer, first female poet to be published in the English language, and one of my inspiring women from Women’s Day. I received my first tip for this reading, and it’s still available to listen to either by visiting that page, or going direct to Sound Cloud.

19th April was SUPER EXCITING as Speculative Fiction 2012 was nominated for a Hugo! This is the book in which my blog post, ‘Remembering Margaret Cavendish‘, was published. I was excited because, well, ‘Hugo Nominated’, that’s something I’d seen on books since I was a teenager, and it had reached a kind of mythical status for me. Plus, I’ve become something of a one-woman Margaret Cavendish promoter since writing that. Margaret was an amazing woman who once wrote ‘All I desire is fame’, and we forgot her. Because her male contemporaries dismissed her as mad. I’m kind of massively about correctign that. You can read more about why I got super passionate about the whole thing here.

Of course, the nomination was for our awesome editors, Jared and Justin, but they very kindly told us contributers that they felt it was like each of us had a 50th of a Hugo nomination, and they even sent us amazing original artwork to commemorate it. IT WAS AWESOME.

In June, Speculative Fiction 2012 was nominated for the British Fantasy Society Award and I invited everyone to do the dance of excitement again. I also watched Maleficent, which was fantastic. If I’d done Serene Wombles this year, I would have been hard pressed to choose between Maleficent and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – both films blew my tiny mind and were so important for women in film.

Unfortunately, June was also the time I got the last of my work from my main client, as Angry Robot went into difficulty, closing Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A Books, and soon after ceasing to send out work for AR itself. I joined the ranks of people anxiously waiting to hear what was going on. The loss of Strange Chemistry was a real blow for so many people I know – so many amazing authors who entered a kind of limbo, waiting to see what would happen with their books and contracts. As a proofreader and copy editor I was always particularly pleased to receive Strange Chemistry books – the quality was so high! But alas, it’s a tough market for Young Adult at the moment – the market was saturated and although I really do believe that Strange Chemistry would have made it in the long run, Osprey were in difficulties more broadly and did not have the luxury of giving them time.

July was my first crisis point. I’d had a successful first half of the year, but with AR in limbo I was out about £1,000 and found myself unexpectedly with no money coming in. I made my first plea for you guys to show your love with money, and you were amazing. The money you sent covered my urgent bills and, with a little help from my mum, got me to the end of the month. At the time, I was expecting quite a bit of new business to come in in August, so I thought everything would be OK after that.

Alas, it was not to be. An unfortunate confluence of unrelated events meant that the business I was expecting for August evaporated. My health was also deteriorating and although I had a new diagnosis and was taking pills that would eventually help, it turns out it was a good three and a half months before I would feel the benefits (that’s just a couple of weeks ago, btw).

I went to Nine Worlds with anxiety in my belly and a need to drop and sleep pretty frequently, but also with a determination to have fun and two two – Daenerys cosplays. I had a fantastic time, met a whole bunch of new and awesome people, and some people I’d known before online but never had the joy to meet.

And then, for the rest of August, I think I mostly slept. Slept, worried about money. Was too ill to do anything about it.

The beginning of September saw me in financial difficulty and having to ask for yet another extension of my PhD, due to the illness rampant. I applied for yet another extension and ask my parents for help with the money. Fortunately, the British Fantasy Society through me some proofreading work in exchange for paying for my ticket to Fantasy Con. I met more new people and was pleasantly surprised when SpecFic 2012 won the British Fantasy Award for Best Non-Fiction.

After that, I spent most of September trying to find new avenues of income. More work I was expecting to come in never materialised. I learnt that freelancing websites are full of people charging nothing for substandard work, making it next to impossible to win a bid. I got a small amount of work that way, including my first poetry proofreading, which was actually a lot of fun. Eventually I concluded it wasn’t worth the time, though.

In October, I had a month’s free gym membership, which a friend had won but didn’t need. I was too ill to make the use of it that I really wanted to, but it was a really nice gym, and I will totally be buying a membership if I ever become magically rich.

On 15th October I uploaded Existentialism and the Terminator. I’d written the paper earlier in the year for Nine Worlds, but didn’t make their final cut for the Academic track. It was a piece close to my heart and which I’d been promising to do a video on for years, so I thought what the hey? I also converted it to a podcast, which I uploaded in November.

Sticking with the apocalypse theme, I began a regular series of Music for the Apocalypse posts, breathing new life into a series that I had begun on the Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. These usually go live every Tuesday, but, uh, today you’re getting this instead.

On 1st December I made a post about Chairs in Space, which surprised me when someone linked to it from Gawker, earning it over 800 hits in a single day. A hit-record only topped when Io9 featured Existentialism and the Terminator. Views of the video went from 46 to over 5,000 over night, and the blog saw a bit over 800 hits that day as well. All of which is a win for me 🙂 Honestly, I put so much work and heart into that piece, I’m really thrilled that people actually liked it and it’s gotten some attention. Thanks to everyone who watched it or linked to it. I hope to do further work on other science-fiction/philosophy videos soon, but, you know, it’s a work/health/PhD thing.

The year is closing out with some more good news. My story, ‘The Runaway King’, was published in Missing Monarchs, which is totally a thing you can buy. And just a few days ago this blog topped 100,000 hits!

Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by here over the past year. I wish I could have made more and more interesting content for you, but I’m super thrilled you liked what was here as much as you did. Your support has been amazing and has made all the difference in a very tough time.

The coming year promises to be… weird. My physical health is improving, my mental health… has seen better days. My financial health is a hilarious hell ride. Final deadline for submitting my PhD is the end of May. After that it could be all change. I’m really hoping that that means more, and more amazing, things for this blog. There’s a lot I want to do, including an analysis of the Battlestar Galactica episode, ‘Bastille Day‘, in terms of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic, and The Matrix as an exploration of brain-in-a-vat scepticism.

You can help by donating. I have a £40 bill for my website coming up in January, and, to be honest, I need more web-space. Hosting the Existentialism and the Terminator podcast ate up a lot, and I want to host more podcasts in the future. Anything you can contribute would be welcome, but I totally get it if you can’t 🙂 Just coming here and sharing what you like means the world to me.

Be well. Live long, prosper. Long days and pleasant nights. 2013 was awful; 2014 wasn’t great, but actually a lot of cool shit happened. Let’s make 2015 AMAZING.

Out with the old, in with something else

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It feels kinda sad posting this. I have two incomplete posts that I wrote since The Serene Wombles, but I’ve been going through massive amounts of change up in Womble Towers, and I just couldn’t give my blog all the attention it deserves, so it’s been pretty quiet around here since October.

The summary is that my job was getting beyond busy, so in late November handed in my notice to focus on finishing my PhD, on which I am staggeringly behind, and live off proofreading (and a little help from my family). Which is all pretty massively scary. The last few weeks at my job were beyond intense as I worked to pass on seven years’ accumulated knowledge whilst helping to finish off a major project that needed to be done by Christmas. Then there was Christmas. Then I was ill, probably in part because I’d run myself into the ground again. And now I’m heading into the New Year and a new life. A life where I work from home, proofreading and copy editing, and in which I work intensely to find my feet again in my benighted PhD in a rush to finish.

I’m feeling pretty good about the working from home, thing. Not so good about how much work I have to do for the PhD. Pretty worried about failing after devoting what’s going to end up being about 8 years of my life to it. Feeling strongly that one’s early 20s are a bad time to make major life commitments, and yet, sadly, that the way our society works is to push us very hard to do so.

But I’m here, and the next six months have to be devoted to finishing the blasted thing off – because I’m damned if I’m going to have been through all this for nothing.

On the plus side, I’m feeling pretty good about my writing and my contributions to blogging and activism. Which has been building for a while, but sort of cemented in the way that one of my posts on Tumblr took off over the Christmas period. I say ‘took off’ – it has about 300 notes, whereas a successful post on Tumblr can expect anything from tens of thousands, to millions of notes. (That’s ‘likes’ and ‘rebloggings’ for those who don’t Tumbl.) But it’s good for me. The post was a rewrite of Star Wars from Princess Leia’s perspective, highlighting the fact that Leia is consistently the most competent of any of the Star Wars characters, that the story of the rebellion can be told with virtually no reference to Luke, and that a choice to tell the story from Leia’s perspective (the tough, skilled, intelligent, idealistic young politician turned uncompromising freedom fighter) could in many ways make the tale more interesting. Which is not to diss Star Wars. I love Luke’s tale, and I think a lot of credit is due to George Lucas for writing such a complex, interesting, and capable female character – one which is still lightyears ahead of most of what’s permitted to reach the screens today. I kinda feel like Katniss (from The Hunger Games) is Leia’s daughter from another Galaxy, you know?

Anyway, the point is, I wrote this – like many things I write on Tumblr: because it was the fusion of a lot of things I’d been thinking about for a long time, because I was angry with how the world is, and because I still see hope for how it can be different – I wrote it expecting it to be another shot off into the darkness that’s reblogged anything from zero to a dozen times, and then forgotten. But it’s still going. Every day I find someone new has reblogged it and set off a fluttering of new likes and reblogs in response. (Much thanks to Nick J Barlow, who seems to be the nexus of a lot of the reblogs. He’s a pretty awesome dude if you want to follow him on Tumblr or Twitter.) And more than just liking or reblogging it, people say things like:



Dammit, now I wanna see this.


I would watch/read this. Hundreds of times.


All of which is not only really sweet and flattering, but made me feel like I really do have a perspective that other people want to hear – that other people want to hear stories told from. There’s been a change in the water, this past year, about diversity and the sort of roles we give to women, and people of colour, and people who do not fit neatly into heteronormative and CIS-normative naratives, and I want to be a part of that. I think I could be a good force within that, and I want to do that. I wrote more about my thoughts on this matter here. I’m not saying that that post is all that’s behind that feeling. More like it marked a point of cumulation of impetus.

But damned if I’m gonna give up on this PhD without a fight. A lot of the time it feels like I’m the only person who really thinks I can do it. But I do think that. So. First things first. I have to finish my thesis.

What this means for this blog is that updates will probably continue to be rather sporadic for the next six or seven months. But after that… watch this space. There’s a change in the wind, and I want to be a part of it.

Year End Review, Part 3: the Writing

Is it indulgent to have three posts about the end of the year? Maybe, I don’t know. It was a long year, and I wanted to try and deal with it without my usual barely intelligible splurge where topics are thrown together higgledy-piggledy.

So, now we get to the writing – perhaps the most relevant for a writing blog, but it’s all linked. The writing part actually starts in the latter quarter of the previous year. I’d taken a term off from my degree to regroup, save money, and let my creative side out of the bag from which is had been bursting. I focused on two things: finally writing down some of my thoughts on The Dark Tower (OK, still a bit academic, but not of the right kind for my current studies), and making a real push on The Giant. The Giant had been in my head since 2004, and, after several abortive starts, I’d finally fixed on something I was happy to bring along to a critique group. The Dark Tower article had been somewhat longer in the making. I made good progress on both in the Autumn of 2009, and the start of 2010 saw me with a complete (but very raw) draft of the article, and over half way through the story.

Unfortunately for me, I thought I was much closer to the end of the story than I actually was. I’ve spent most of the year squirreling away moments to add something to it, each time finishing with the feeling that ‘There’s only about 2,000 words left – I’m sure I’m nearly done’. I’m still in that place, about 10,000 words on. Fortunately for me, despite the fact that my long short story had morphed into a length that’s virtually unsellable – a novella – I got more and more interest and encouragement in it as time went on. I have thus felt increasingly irresponsible as I continued to fail to finish it. But I’ve kept working at it, even though I haven’t been able to make it the top priority in my life since 2009.

The article went through many drafts. There is so much I could say about The Dark Tower it was a real fight to create something accessible, intelligible, and short. Again, I was fortunate enough to be told I had a place for it if I could get it sorted. I edited and I edited and I split it in two because it was still too long, and finally it was done. Or at least as done as I felt I could get it. Hopefully it will be out in Hub some time this year. I say ‘it’ – I now mean ‘them’, of course, as the article is now two.

Having sharpened my critical faculties, I began to write more non-fiction, although not quite on the same scale as the Dark Tower articles. Although I’ve had several reviews and a story accepted in 2010, only my review of Haven was actually published last year – banking my vowed ‘at least one thing published every year’ that I’ve been maintaining since 2007. I have no illusions – I’m a baby of the small-time, but, like I say: I have other calls on my time, and the important thing for me, right now, is to keep plugging away.

Waiting to go out at some point are my review of Inception, and a review of Tim Waggoner’s Nekropolis. After I got all zombie’d up via the freebie of I, Zombie I received at Fantasy Con, Lee of Angry Robot fame kindly served to stoke the zombie bonfire by sending me Nekropolis, which I very much enjoyed, and had to review.

Fantasy Con was generally a changing point, with me. I’d begun to connect with other writers and reviewers beyond my immediate circle via Twitter, but at Fantasy Con I got to meet some of them in person, as well as catching up with people like David Moore of Abaddon Books, who I knew initially through other geek-like channels. My Twitter followers increased, and I finally got off my arse to create the WordPress blog I’ve been meaning to start for years (that would be this).

I also heard of Dark Fiction Magazine via my new Twitter contacts, as well as their Twelve Days anthology. Although I was not successful in my submission, the prompt poked me into writing a piece of flash fic that, with a little polishing, has now found another home. So, although I had no fiction published in 2010, I did have some accepted, and that’s no bad thing.

The Giant has slowly increased throughout the year, and I now have around 22,000 words, 21,700 of which I edited over Christmas. This morning I made a start on the last chapter. I don’t know all of what this year will bring, but I know I will finish my novella, and if all goes well I should have at least one story and two reviews published this year. And, on and off, I shall be blogging…

Year End Review, Part 2: More Music, Awesome Opening Sequences, and Podcasts

So where was I? Oh yes: lots of music. After my initial splurge, I sort of had the But-They’re-Only-69p Bug, and I recalled some other tracks I had fallen in love with more recently. In particular, the phenomenal ‘Bad Things’, which, of course, I came to know through True Blood. WOW, that’s a good show. Or at least, the first season was – ground-breaking, sensual, violent, challenging. And that opening sequence deserves to go down as one of the all time best composed sequences in the halls of Media Artwork. That and the opening sequence of Dexter – as a vegetarian, I have never wanted to eat meat both more and less.

So I bought ‘Bad Things’ – an unutterably sexy song, not least because it wants to do bad things with me, not merely to me. Also, because I had been watching a phenomenal amount of Smallville, I’d been put in mind of the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ‘Superman’s Song‘, by Crash Test Dummies. I first heard that song whilst watching Due South, where it was achingly appropriate. Of course, the gut-wrenching thing about that song is that it laments: ‘sometimes I despair the world will never see/Another man like him’, when, in fact, we never have. (Unless, of course, you believe that Superman is a Dick ;-p) It was very well-placed in a show centred around a Canadian Mountie who really was too good, too polite and pleasant for real life.

So I downloaded that as well, along with the Johnny Cash version of ‘Hurt‘, because, you know, I’m so cheery. And when I wasn’t studying or working or watching Smallville, I was playing endless games of a Settlers of Catan-alike computer game with these songs (and those mentioned in the other post) on loop bemoaning the imperfect world we live in.

This is one part of the Audio Theme that was this year. The other part, of course, is podcasts. I hadn’t experienced them, before. Being a depressive type, I’m pretty much always listening to something whenever I go outside by myself so as to keep the Bad Thoughts at bay. But until this year it was all Radio 4 or radio dramas (ahem: Nebulous) or any sort of audio lecture I could get my hands on. But then something happened: I got an allotment.

Not seeing the connection? Well, For a few years I have been vainly trying to grow things in a series of poorly situated backyards. I have consequently discovered a surprising interest in Gardener’s Question Time. But then, this spring, I got my long-awaited allotment. I was thrilled and daunted… and also aware that I wanted to listen to Gardener’s Question Time whilst gardening, but the two didn’t always coincide, and I didn’t want to disturb neighbouring allotmenteers, nor lug my radio all the way out to said allotment. I discovered that I could download it as a podcast. AWESOMESAUCE. This also opened me to the world of the Friday Night Comedy Podcast, and other such things.

I also occasionally downloaded some Escape Pod, Pod Castle, and the like, but failed to become an addict. I like the odd story, but you can’t like them all, and I tend to prefer to download things that I know will last me for my journey. I feel like I should download more from them – hey, it’s free SF&F! – and yet I don’t.

It wasn’t until the autumn that my podcast addiction really started to flourish. I’ve been a Hub reader for ages (yeah, OK, the Hub crew are drinking/writing group buddies of mine, but they also put out good stuff), so I was psyched when they launched their first podcast – a novel by Mur Lafferty in 7 parts. Naturally, I downloaded and listened to it. I discovered that I liked the first part, and was pleased by the fact that I now had a new podcast I knew I could listen to of dependable quality. Plus, it opened me up to Mur’s I Should Be Writing, which has proved even more invaluable in providing me with podcast-fodder that is Relevant To My Interests.

It was also in the autumn that I went to Fantasy Con, met some cool people, and soon afterwards, started this blog, but perhaps that’s for another post…

Year End Review, Part 1: Music, Smallville, and Misfits

It’s been quite a year. This blog wasn’t even close to existing a year ago, and that’s just the least of it. Some of the biggest events of my life aren’t going to get a mention here, because I do want to keep this focused on my writing-centric and geekerific side, but there’s still been a lot going on. Why am I going to be talking about music, then? Well, why not? And it’s been an oddly musical year. Very much an audible year.

My parents were big music fans, and I always thought I would follow in their footsteps when I got to university. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t. A combination of things, I think. One was money – I couldn’t afford to buy new music on the off-chance – but then, my parents weren’t that well off at uni, either probably less well off than me. Part of it was the music itself. Just about the only decade of the latter half of the 20th Century I didn’t have a lot of time for, musically, was the 90s. (Not that there weren’t notable exceptions, like Pulp – Different Class was the soundtrack to my teenage years.) I was a student in the naughties, of course, but I’d pretty much tuned out of the popular music scene by the time that came around, and the new decade took a little while to ease in and get playful. The other thing is probably that I am hopelessly multi-interested, and I guess writing, reading, SF&F/role-playing, and my studies got first dibs on my time and money.

Anyway, that changed a very tiny bit this year. I finally discovered the awesomeness that is downloading individual tracks. I’ll be honest, sometimes it wasn’t that I didn’t want to buy a song, it’s just that buying a book or a DVD was more value for money than buying a whole album on the basis of one song. We learnt that lesson the hard way, didn’t we, The Coral? But this year, I’ve bought more music than I have done in the whole of the last ten years, probably.

It started in the cold, cold days after Christmas, when I was alone in the dingy Flat of Doom. I had the Internet, my DVDs, iPlayer, 4oD, and an Amazon voucher for company. One of the things that happened, as you may have gathered, is that I found the first series of Misfits. Which I ate like a hungry thing in pure, joyous escapism.

I was then sad, and alone, and had no more shows about superpowers to watch. Against long-term prejudice, I caved. Despite my firm belief that Smallville was awful and not to be touched for love nor money, I realised I needed a fix, and I resolved to try it from the beginning. I learnt that: a) yes, in many ways the first few seasons were god-awful; but b) it was better when seen in the right order; c) it got better as it went along; and d) it is highly addictive.

That was the Great Smallville Inhaling of 2010. I’ve had obsessions before, but never had there been so much left to absorb at once, nor so much need of distraction (not least because I was actually working quite hard, when I wasn’t watching Smallville). It was a glorious thing to behold. At least, it was from where I was huddling with my hot water bottle.

The other thing I did in that cold, drab winter was to take my Amazon voucher and apply it, for the first time, to songs… And these were the songs I grabbed:

(If you’re weird enough to share my taste in music, you can find a playlist of these on YouTube here.)

Ride Like the Wind, by Christopher Cross
The Boys of Summer, by Don Henley
Rhiannon, by Fleetwood Mac
We Built this City, by Starship
Don’t Stop Believin’, by Journey (Why yes, I had been watching Glee – how did you guess?)
Broken Wings, Mr. Mister
Streets of Philadelphia, by Bruce Springsteen
Hazard, by Richard Marx (I hadn’t seen the video before – the song’s way better without it)
As Tears Go By, by The Rolling Stones
As I Lay Me Down, by Sophie B Hawkins
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, by Doris Day (And yeah, that’s the Strictly Ballroom clip that first sold me on the song)
Sleeping Satellite, Tasmin Archer

Incidentally, if you decide you want to start jogging again (as I did, early this year) those first 6 are awesome running songs. 80s motivational rock FTW! On the other hand: yes, I am now sick of ‘Don’t Stop Believin”, just like everyone else.

This list is a mixture of songs I have always loved, but never owned; songs my parents owned, but I never got around to buying for myself; and songs that I used to have on a mix CD I composed of a friends’ music collection whilst at Sixth Form College – the CD is now hopelessly scratched. ‘Hazard’, ‘Broken Wings’, and ‘The Boys of Summer’ were on that CD. What can I say – those songs remind me of a very special time in my life; a time of possibility and hope. I needed a little sense of possibility and hope this year.

Another fun fact: I spent quite a long time believing that ‘The Boys of Summer’ was ‘The Poisoned Summer’ – I thought it was a song about life after the apocalypse. It’s an easy mistake to make, and if you listen to the lyrics you actually have to get fairly far into the song to get to anything that doesn’t gel well with that interpretation. It’s got a very T2 feeling to it, to me – I get visions of the open desert road, long shadows, and warm orange sunset light. Possibly coloured the song a bit differently for me.

Tasmin Archer’s ‘Sleeping Satellite’ was another song that changed meaning for me on listening properly to the lyrics. It’s a song about how sad it is that we’ve stopped going back to the moon. Maybe it’s a metaphor about passionate love fizzling out too quickly, too, but if so, it’s really specific and involved. Anyway – I think it’s an awesome song.

And… this post is quite long enough, so I think I’ll pick up this tale later. If this sort of post bores you (and I can see why it might)… Oh well. I’m sure to be posting about Misfits or something else again soon.