I reflect on 2015 (and the literary implications contained therein).

A year ago, I drafted a post looking back on 2014, a post that never saw the light of day. Looking at it now, I think it’s best I left it in my drafts. It’s terribly negative, and reads like I might have written it drunk. Very long, very maudlin. No one needs that.

So let’s see if I can do better this time.

If you look hard enough, 2015 was way better than 2014. Unemployment is down, tornado fatalities are way down. Not too shabby, right?

For some of 2015, you don’t need to look too hard to find the good stuff. Remember the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality? And we got ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in 2015. What’d we get in 2014? ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?’ Gross.

By other measures, 2015 sucked. We lost Terry Pratchett, Leonard Nimoy, Scott Weiland, and Roddy Piper, among many others. We’ve had more mass-shootings in the US, while worldwide terrorism seems to be up (it grew 80% in 2014 over 2013, and my guess is it’ll be worse for 2015 once the numbers are tallied). It seems like the world becomes more and more dystopian every time I open Twitter and read the news.

Of course, most people don’t think about these sorts of things, at least not for very long. That’s evident in the social media trends whenever something bad happens. A given tragedy is all the talk for a few days, then it’s back to business-as-usual. The Kardashians or something, probably. Mind you, this isn’t indifference. It’s exhaustion. It’s hard to focus on these complex and depressing issues when it’s so much work just to survive. It’s no wonder we seek our escapes as soon as we can.

So when most people look back on 2015, it’ll be their own lives on which they’ll reflect, their own triumphs and celebrations. So I’ll try to do the same. Highlights of the past year include my trips to Boston and New York City, the Between the Buried and Me show my brother and I saw in Nashville, and, of course, the release of ‘Fallout 4.’

Good times, and I know 2016 will be even better. Which is a great feeling.

The biggest event for me, personally, was that I started paying attention. I used to ignore the world’s bad news, or I tried to. I would ignore the state of our government, of my own neighborhood, of my family. Why? Anxiety. These sorts of things would completely occupy my mind if I let them, to the detriment of whatever else I tried to do. Couldn’t write, couldn’t play my guitar. The struggle is real, y’all.

But I’m past that. I’m paying attention. And I don’t like what I’m seeing. More on that later in 2016.

Instead of crippling my mind with anxiety, the state of world is making my brain hum with ideas. My favorite thing to write is science fiction, and the best science fiction, as you know, reflects the real world at the time it was written. No doubt the events of 2015 will send writers all over the world running to their keyboards. I’m certainly inspired.

But what will they write? What sort of fiction will come out of all this? Well, if the writer wants to be overt and forego all subtlety, you might read the following logline in a year or two:

A billionaire clown tries his hand at politics, and in the process exposes entire swathes of the population as bigots. He can lead these simple people in acts of hatred, but does he have what it takes to lead the country?

Or maybe this one:

On a planet plagued by runaway warming, the elders devise a strategy to reverse the effects of industrialization after decades of denial. But is it too late to save their world?

Or this one:

In a country founded on the principles of religious freedom, the practitioners of a peaceful faith become the victims of bigotry and intolerance after the violent actions of a few who falsely identify as devout followers.

That last one would have potential as fiction if it weren’t such a tragic reality. Imagine: millions of Muslims facing intense hatred, all because of a few nuts who only said they were Muslim before murdering innocent people. It reminds me of elementary school somehow. If it were mere fiction, I don’t think I’d have the stones to pitch a story like that to an agent. It’d take a better writer than me to make entertainment out of something so ridiculous while being so unspeakably terrible.

I should note: it’s not my intention to minimalize these issues. As a writer and someone who believes that art (and, by extension, literature) can change the world, writing about this stuff is the best way I know to contribute. Sometimes you need to use terrible things for inspiration. And living on a planet inhabited by 7+ billion mildly-evolved and mostly uncivilized apes, I have access to an infinite amount of creative catalyst, a well that will never run dry.

That’s 2015. Big things are coming in 2016. Always better to look ahead, wouldn’t you agree?

Author’s note: 2015 got worse after I wrote this and scheduled it to be posted. Should’ve waited, I guess. Anyway, RIP Lemmy. 

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