The Symmetry of Snow: A 2020 Retrospective

From my second-story window-view, there’s a powdery veneer of snow on the ground that, though insignificant in its accumulation, provides a pleasant accentuation to not only the terrain but the hibernal stretch in which we currently reside.  There was snow on the ground for the first day of my day-job-related quarantine back in mid-March, 2020 (I was, in fact, on the phone with Adam Golaski the morning of March 14, 2020, pitching the possibility of his writing the introduction to The Skeleton Melodies, eyeing the lazy curtain of falling flakes) ; and while this was a year to be remembered for (and perhaps herald) heartache and discord, I find satisfaction amid the tumult in the suiting symmetry of this snow.

Mentally, it was a year that was difficult to creatively wander.  My personal writing processes are compartmentalized into specific exercises, each with their needs and accretive dynamics.  I liken drafting to spelunking — in my case, typically utilizing a headlamp that vacillates (particularly during those first dives) between erratically anemic and downright desultory.  These initial crawls require a strict amount of solitude.  Yes:  This is cartography, an exercise in discovery; yet, more specifically, this is ultimately about the imagistic revelation of shape.  And once you possess that delineation, you can move through faster, embracing mundane distractions, reprising your participatory roles in “reality.”  

I think a lot about passages from Ian Stansel’s 2017 essay, “How Deep This Grief:  Wrestling with Writing As Therapy.”  An excerpt follows:  “I have always found the idea of ‘self-expression’ to be rather solipsistic, embarrassing even.  It smacks of arrogance, this idea that I would have to express all the special wonder that exists inside me, and that people might want to listen.  Maybe this comes from spending the majority of my life in the Midwest, the land of self-effacement / It wasn’t until college that I began to figure out how to reconcile this seeming contradiction, when a writing teacher … scrawled a quote from V.S. Naipaul on the board:  ‘No one cares for your tragedy, until you can sing about it.’ … The words on the blackboard transformed the idea of writing from self-expression into something I was much more comfortable with:  a job.”

Though you could widen the panorama to the outskirts of 2016 (or, in some cases, 2008), the complexion of 2020 was a year that merely accentuated our underlying lineaments.  In a year when masks obscured characteristic countenance, ugliness and cheapness became unapologetically conspicuous.  (On a micro-scale, many in my community continue to flaunt their repulsive intransigence with wholesale pride.)

The dependable disciplines of writing continued to do what they do:  a discordant concert of intrinsic energies (some solipsistically cathartic, some aimlessly consultative, while the majority of others harness sobering cognizance) which provide dimension in self-contained collaboration.

Though I was unable to produce the fantasized work of brilliance during those early days of quarantine, I (somewhat) satisfied with the balance I achieved in a year when realistic vigilance was paramount.  Thanks to both the creative teams at Hippocampus Press (chiefly, Derrick Hussey; S.T. Joshi; David E. Schultz; and Jordan Smith), as well as the graphic artistry of Dan Sauer, The Skeleton Melodies, my sophomore collection of short stories, was my most significant creative achievement this year. I continue to have my eyes fixed on “the page” and on days ahead. By midnight tonight, I will have accumulated over 65,000 “new” words of fiction this past year, many of those words being dedicated to two story drafts and one (currently nebulous) novella.

Beyond writing, I’m grateful to have been gifted with the time to catch up on several mediums which continue to inspire me creatively; and if you’re reading this, then it’s likely you’re a friend, and I don’t take my readers and colleagues for granted — both of which are significant sources of galvanization and inspiration.  I am, in short, humbled and happy to find you here at the “end” with me, with the receding sunlight slanting over snow.


Movies:

  • The Witch In The Window (★★★★★)
  • The Blackcoat’s Daughter (★★★★)
  • Session 9 (revisit) (★★★★★)
  • The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982) (annual autumnal revisit) (★★★★★)
  • Resolution (★★★★★)
  • Spring (★★★★★)
  • The Endless (★★★★)
  • Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019) (★★★★)
  • Horror Express (annual autumnal revisit) (★★★★)
  • Nocturnal Animals (★★★★)
  • Relic (★★★)
  • Messiah of Evil (★★★)
  • The Head Hunter (★★★)
  • Starfish (★★★)
  • The Invisible Man (Universal / Blumhouse, 2020) (★★★)
  • Mandy (★★★)
  • The Lighthouse (★★★)
  • What Keeps You Alive (★★★)
  • Underwater (★★)
  • Knives Out (★★)
  • Color Out of Space (2019) (★★)
  • Blood Vessel (★)
  • The Bad Batch (★)

Television:

  • The Terror (★★★★★)
  • Chef’s Table (★★★★★)
  • Dark Shadows (original series) (★★★)
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor (★★★)
  • The self-indulgent overload of Hell’s Kitchen with my family during quarantine

Music:

  • Necrot, Mortal (2020)
  • Gatecreeper, Deserted (2020)
  • Like Rats, Death Monolith (2020)
  • Death, Leprosy (1988) and Spiritual Healing (1990) (revisit) 
  • Carcass, Surgical Steel (2013) and Heartwork (1993) (revisit) 
  • Spirit Adrift, Enlightened in Eternity (2020)
  • Morbid Angel, Covenant (1993) (revisit)
  • Darkthrone, A Blaze In the Northern Sky (1992) (revisit)
  • Deftones, Gore (2016)

Reading / Books:

  • Distant Frequencies (Demain Publishing, 2020), by Frank Duffy 
  • Ape In the Ring: & Other Tales of the Macabre and Uncanny (Madness Heart Press, 2020), by Douglas Ford
  • What’s Coming For You, by Joshua Rex (Rotary Press, 2020)
  • The Bleeding Horse and Other Ghost Stories (Mercier Press, 2008), by Brian Showers
  • The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood
  • Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror (Counterpoint Press, 2018), by W. Scott Poole
  • Kill Creek, Scott Thomas
  • Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Quirk Books, 2016), by Grady Hendrix
  • Terrible Things (Black Shuck Books, 2020), by David Surface
  • The Moving Target, by Ross Macdonald
  • Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
  • As Summer’s Mask Slips (Trepidatio Press, 2020), by Gordon B. White
  • Slade House (Random House, 2015), by David Mitchell
  • The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature (Grimscribe Press, 2020), by Christopher Slatsky
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead (Little Brown, 2014), by Michael Koryta
  • The Luminous Dead (Harper Voyager, 2019), by Caitlin Starling
  • Wolf In White Van (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), by John Darnielle 
  • Written with My Left Hand (Tartarus Press, 1951), by Nugent Barker

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