Reading…and writing in 2019

I read even fewer books in 2019 than the year before, but upon reviewing my Books Read in 2019 list, I realized that for the first time–ever?–a full third of the books I read this year were non-fiction. Even more to my surprise was that only one book was remotely science-fiction, a light-steampunky book I read only because the title was The Clockwork Scarab, and it was, unfortunately, not worth reading the sequel. It was going fairly well until the time traveler from the alternate future showed up. *facepalm* But I digress.

Regaining my appetite for reading has been a long-term goal and something I’m still working on. There are books by new authors I really enjoyed this year, such as A Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, and old favorites that soothe the soul, like The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin. Despite myself, I have enjoyed getting to know Jane Austen through an audiobook biography I listened to when I had difficulty sleeping (I have had a long misunderstanding of Miss Austen, largely due to how she was presented to me when I was in high school and undergraduate; if my peers hadn’t gushed over her characters as if she wrote chick lit, then she and I might have been acquainted much earlier). One of the last things I learned this year was that Austen also had a chronic illness, probably an autoimmune disease, and died from it. This makes my heart break.

Another reason I have read more non-fiction this year is because I have been researching the eighteenth-century, and yet another reason I have not been reading is because I have been writing. Slowly, bit by bit, building my little mountain range–I do not know what to call it yet: more than a novel? But I do not want to call it a series. I do not know what it is. The project over all is being called WINTERS for now for the character who ties it all together is Tess Winters (yes, that’s her, but events have changed her since that post).

So I’m in the process of turning myself into an amateur generalist eighteenth-centuryist in order to write a eighteenth-century arcane-steampunk fantasy.

Here’s to a narrative-filled 2020: from books in print, on audio, from my own mind, at the rpg table, or elsewhere.

Reading & listening in 2018

Every year I keep a list of the books I’ve read and then add the list to the Books Read List page of this blog. If you look at the Books Read in 2018 list and compare it to the last couple of years, you might think that 2018 was a poor year for reading.

Well, I would counter, it wasn’t as bad as 2013 or 2015. Even so, I would admit that I feel a little bit of disappointment in seeing that 2018’s count is twenty books fewer than 2017’s.

Screenshot_PodcastsBut then I would remember that 2018 could also be described as the Year of the Podcast and the Year of the Non-Traditional Narrative: in 2018 I began listening to and watching actual-play D&D campaigns podcasts and web series, Eberron Renewed and Critical Role.

For the past few years I have chosen a book series to binge-listen to during my long commutes for my summer teaching job. Instead of choosing a book series in 2018, I chose to listen to my friend’s D&D podcast Eberron Renewed. Some 90 episodes later (each weekly episode running between an hour and an hour and a half), I estimate that the amount of time I’ve spent listening to this podcast is the equivalent to about a dozen audiobooks. Eberron Renewed is just a very long narrative being “written” collaboratively and in improv.

And if I had been reading instead of watching Critical Role? Well, that’s another very long narrative being told in real time that also amounts to about 15 books in terms of hours. (Though I could just as well have been watching other TV shows to be honest, which I haven’t had the time for.)

Then there are the BBC and PRI news and linguistic A Way With Words podcasts I listen to at work, when I could be listening to audiobooks.

So it’s not that I’m not getting healthy doses of narrative, fiction, news, ideas: I am. I’m getting them from not only reading and listening to audiobooks, but also from unexpected, non-traditional narrative sources by following along other players’ D&D campaigns. Getting my entertainment from these sources and from playing RPGs myself with my friends has had me thinking about role-playing games as narrative sources, as sources or modes of entertainment: a form of oral narrative, community narrative, an exchange between those who create entertainment and those who are entertained by it and the nexus of when those groups happen to be the same people gathered around a table with character sheets and dice.

I’ll be exploring some of the ideas that have sprung up in my musings about RPGs as non-traditional narrative sources in an upcoming blog series.

Do you keep track of what you read? From what sources do you get your doses of fiction?