Let's just get this out of the way first, shall we? 2021 was mostly a pretty terrible year that many of us will be glad to put in the past.
Understatement of the decade, I know. 2021 was a year of reboots, from Coming 2 America to the new Covid variants. It was a year in which we argued over the sexual proclivities of a cartoon skunk while the company who started that dumpster fire were happy enough to leave characters who were literal rapists in the same film. It was a year where we argued over the limits of free expression concerning some risqué-for-modern-times children's books, and whether or not a song about the singers' slip-n-slide vaginas was high art or just trash, despite the plethora of songs that have expressed far worse in the past. It was a year filled with a lot of shouting at one another, some in person but mostly on the internet. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, blah blah blah.
And despite all of this noise, 2021 was the best in my writing career to date.
I only published one novel in 2021, but I believe it's one of the best things I've written, and a beast of a book at 585 pages. It's also the final book in my first ever book series (The Ghostland Trilogy)., which has been quite successful for me. Equally successful, due to a viral TikTok video from the host of the excellent horror fiction podcast Books In the Freezer, and the support of the Facebook Books of Horror group, is my 2016 transgressive/extreme horror novella, Woom. The renewed response to that book has inspired many laugh-out-loud worthy reviews (see below), which I've been happily posting to social media here and there.
Amid all of this, my wife and I were happy to be able to visit my folks out in B.C. this summer, and we had a terrific time despite the precautions. We also rented a cottage and spent most of our days swimming and hiking. It was a great place to write, as well, overlooking the lake and evergreens.
All right, I guess it's time for lists. People like lists at this time of year, and I'm no exception.
Movies I enjoyed:
I had a fair amount of fun with both The Matrix Resurrections and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Not revolutionary filmmaking, by any means. But it was cool to be back in those story worlds again. Same with Candyman. Each of these films had their flaws but presented something old in new packaging. They're essentially the The Force Awakens of these intellectual properties, and I'm okay with that. I liked The Force Awakens.
I loved Pig, with Nicolas Cage, a surprisingly understated drama about a once-famous chef's love for his truffle pig and the trauma that caused him to say goodbye to civilization. Cage's character reminded me a lot of Robin Williams's "Parry" in The Fisher King, one of my favorite movies and performances. I enjoyed Anything for Jackson (which wasn't released in Canada until 2021, even though it's a Canadian film), which had a lot of fun twists and turns and violence, and Saint Maud (again, not streaming in Canuckia until 2021), which was bleak as hell, especially the ending. I also dug A Quiet Place 2, though less than the original, and Zack Snyder's Justice League, which I found easier to watch by thinking of it as bingeing a TV series, though I still feel the epilogue was overdone.
TV I enjoyed:
What We Do in the Shadows was probably the highlight for me this year. Season 3 was phenomenal, with Guillermo, Nandor and Colin Robinson going through some extremely funny and weird and lifechanging stuff. It also featured some great cameos, from Donal Logue to Scott Bakula (who Nandor and Nadja invite to the Vampiric Council because his name sounds like Dracula). I also really enjoyed the two South Park Post-Covid specials, skewering everything from weed culture to NFTs. MacGruber recently returned to TV, and I thought the pilot was pretty fun. Locke & Key season 2 was a ton of fun, as well - and it was awesome to see Kevin Durand (Martin Keamy from Lost, my favorite series of all time) playing a badass villain again.
I've mostly been watching Star Trek: Voyager this year for the first time, and it's far better than other Trek fans would have led me to believe. The characters are great, there's rarely if ever an episode I'd consider "filler," despite its seasons often being 24 to 26 episodes, and the narrative drive (the desire to return to Earth) makes for a sense of that previous Treks lacked.
Music I enjoyed:
Weezer's OK Human was my favorite album of the year. I dug new songs from Aimee Mann, ("Suicide Is Murder" and "Burn It Out"), Third Eye Blind ("Box of Bones" and "Dust Storm"), Billy Talent ("End of Me," ft. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer), Ghost's "Hunter's Moon" (from the Halloween Kills soundtrack), Radiohead's "If You Say the Word," Lil Nas X's "Montero," and Goodnight, Texas's cover of Metallica's "Of Wolf And Man." I also appreciated a fair amount of Max Richter's music this year.
Books I enjoyed:
Straight by Chuck Tingle. Yes, the Chuck Tingle, author of Buttception and I'm Gay for My Living Billionaire Jet Plane. This was probably my favorite read of the year, and a very unexpected surprise. Love is indeed real, as Dr. Tingle has been known to say, and this novella, about a virus that only effects straight people one day a year, turning them into murderous bigots, and the LGBT folk dealing with the consequences, is deeply heartfelt, funny and often harrowing.
Twentieth Anniversary Screening by Jeff Strand (from Slice and Dice). Told in article form about the (you guess it) 20th anniversary screening of a poorly produced slasher film called, The Roofer, and the serial murders it inspired. Lots of gleefully macabre moments and inspired social commentary throughout.
Transmuted by Eve Harms. Cronenbergian body horror permeates this story of a trans internet micro-celebrity who gets more than she bargained for when she accepts the services of Dr. Skurm, giving her the "perfect body." It's tragic, darkly funny and at times absolutely bonkers.
Man, Fuck This House by Brian Asman brilliantly subverts the standard haunted house cliches, racheting up the dread and bizarre circumstances toward a climax that makes King's "The House on Maple Street" seem normal.
The Navajo Nightmare by David Sodergren and Steve Stred. A Western revenge novel in two parts, Sodergren's Before is a bleak and harrowing, Cormac McCarthyesque vision of the Old West. The switch to Stred's After is a bit jarring at first due to the difference in style (typical of most collaborations where the portions written by each author aren't melded into one), but it's a very entertaining companion piece to Before, following a posse's attempts to find and kill the "Navajo Nightmare."
You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes. The TV series veered wildly away from the ending of Book 2 (Hidden Bodies), but the Joe you know and can't help but love came back in a big way in this novel. The same biting, acerbic wit and razor-sharp satire keeps the twists coming at a brisk pace. Joe gets into some really sticky situations in this one, and fans of the series and books are sure to enjoy it.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca. An epistolary novella written as a series of emails and private messages between two extremely different people who meet over an ad for an antique apple peeler. Things get dark pretty quickly and the writing style as well as the side stories told by one of the characters were very engrossing.
Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy. When a potter's daughter is found dead, she suspects the mysterious local priest might know more than he's letting on. There's a lot of grief in this one, and it's very well written.
Not from 2021 but I enjoyed the hell out of them anyhow:
Prince of Nightmares by John McNee. Dark, gritty and wildly imaginative. A rich man visits a strange hotel at the request of his dead wife's final wishes and discovers the nightmares on offer at the Ballador Country House Hotel may be far more than they seem. Mind-bending body horror at its finest.
Slade House Clocks by David Mitchell. Slade House was my gateway drug into the world of Horologists and Anchorites (which is further explored in the earlier novel, The Bone Clocks), though I suppose I discovered his work some time ago with the Wachowski/Tykwer-directed collaboration, Cloud Atlas. (I loved the movie but have yet to read the novel.) Slade House is another not-your-typical-haunted-house book, the titular house is inhabited by two soul-sucking immortals who call themselves Anchorites. The story takes place over several decades, with one victim after another succumbing to the vicious Anchorites.
Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2022:
I'm hopefully going to be signing a contract in the very near future for a really exciting project that could be a whole lot of fun. I'll provide more details on that as soon as I'm able. In addition to that, I'm excited to write some more Woom-level filth, as well as more "Ghostland Extended Universe" content (or "DLC," if you prefer), and hopefully a new horror novel/novella that's unrelated to any of my other stuff.
I'm also looking forward to being able to travel outside of the country again. We went to Belize right before the pandemic hit (a few people were wearing masks on our flight and we thought it was a bit odd--little did we know this would be life for the next almost two years!). We had a ton of amazing adventures there, from exploring sacrificial caves, to climbing the Mayan ruins of Tikal, to swimming with sharks. I really enjoyed pushing myself to experience things that would normally terrify me--kind of like what I enjoy doing at home, except out in the real world.
Well, that's all I've got for this year. Here's hoping most if not all of us who survived the asshole of a year that was 2021 will have a much better better 2022. This year may have felt like crawling "through a river of shit," as Red says in The Shawshank Redemption, but we've all come out on the other side, clean or otherwise.
Things are slowly starting to look up, despite what the news and social media would like us to believe. And as Red says at the movie's close, "I hope."