Usually, I devote a little blog space at the end of the year to quantifying the work I’ve done and making grand plans for the year ahead. But this is 2017, and a series of color-coded graphs can’t quite capture everything that happened.
I didn’t do much formal tracking of my word count this year. If I had, you’d see long lulls punctuated by spikes of feverish activity. You might be able to pick out periods where I got deep in the weeds of stories that didn’t pan out. You’d see the same scenes getting picked at over and over. I didn’t write with my usual joyful abandon in 2017. A lot of the words I ground out were hard won.
Keeping up with Astra Nullius was, in some ways, the easiest piece of longform writing I’ve ever done. The short story format allowed me to toss out work I wasn’t enjoying and play with interesting ideas that weren’t robust enough to be entire novels. This year, I made a point of setting aside the idea that I was writing something intended for traditional publication and just let myself write what I wanted to write.
In other ways, this was the hardest writing project I’ve ever embarked on. For the first few months of stories, hitting publish or even just sending a draft to my beta reader was enough to leave me shaky and anxious for days. When I started publishing Astra Nullius, I hadn’t let anyone read my fiction in five and a half years.
I wrote the first story for Astra Nullius in October 2016. Hillary Clinton was cruising toward what looked like an easy victory, and while I had plenty to worry about in my personal life, I was optimistic about where my country was headed. The fantasy world I was creating was a fun sandbox to play around in: the messy end of a Star Trek-esque utopia, viewed through the eyes of libertine heroes who want to bring back the good old days but spend most of their time just scraping by.
2017 was a weird period for us all. Talking about my personal life has never come easy to me, and it’s been especially hard this year. It was a weird, frightening, overwhelming time in my life, and I ended up slamming face-first into a lot of major life events in very quick succession.
I think it’s pretty obvious how all that played out in my fiction. I’d originally planned Astra Nullius as a loving send-up of pulp scifi, a goofy homage to a genre I’ve always turned to for comfort. What I actually wrote was stranger and sadder, a story about how victory sometimes looks like making it through another day.
I’m excited about everything I have planned for the crew in 2018. It’s been fun establishing the world they live in, but now it’s time to raise the stakes. I’m also changing the publication schedule and working some new ways to read the series that won’t require readers to slog through eye-straining walls of text. Stay tuned for more updates in the next few weeks.