Passport to a perilous future

Image description: The front of a maroon UK passport, with writing and the UK version of the royal coat of arms in gold. The writing reads: European Union. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


At the end of last year I realised that my UK passport would expire in seven months. I thought about where we could all be by then—in the UK, crashed out of Brexit with serious civil unrest; in the US, consitutional crisis and deeper divisions—and concluded, Fuck that, I’m renewing right now while at least some government is functioning.

I got the new passport yesterday. I am still, on paper at least, a citizen of the European Union. And for the next ten years I’ll be able to gaze at my passport and remember fondly the Good Old Days when Kelley and I could have lived and worked in 29 different countries. After Brexit, it will only be only three: US, UK, and Éire/the Republic of Ireland (the UK has a very long-standing arrangement—outside the Good Friday agreement, beyond the EU—that its citizens may live and work in Ireland).

So, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic Brexit deal defeat in the Commons—the worst government defeat since, well, maybe ever—what happens next?

First of all, from my perspective the current leadership of both Labour and the Conservative parties appear to be incompetent, and the Lib-Dems haven’t a hope of forming a government. So let’s set aside for now the question of who will be in power later this year (or even if there will be a United Kingdom to take control of).

What should happen now, in my opinion, is a year-long extension of Article 50 with a second referendum planned for late summer—this time with formal debates that are publicly fact-checked in real time. The preponderence of evidence in favour of remaining in the European Union would, naturally, be so overwhelming that the good citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would, of course, vote to unilaterally withdraw Article 50, and no one in the UK will ever talk about withdrawing from the EU again, The end.

Why, yes, that is a fairy story! Not only would a years’s delay fuck up EU parliamentary elections in May, and so be very unlikely to be endorsed by European lawmakers, but British politicians are a venal bunch, not really interested in the public good. And UK citizens, on the whole, are an easily manipulated mob who believe what’s most convenient—with a particular fondness for tall tales of Great Britain mighty world stature.

So what will happen? Anything from the dissolution of the United Kingdom, to a return to rationing; from the collapse of civilisation as we know it, to a deep economic recession; from serious civil unrest, to a new Golden Age; and from aliens intervening for the sake of the planet, to…nothing much changing at all.

If I had to bet, though, perhaps a brief (and because of those EU parliamentary elections it would have to be brief—60 days?) posponement of Article 50 implementation, vicious Parliamentary squabbling, a UK Commons vote on a very slightly softened UK-EU divorce settlement, and a bitter, seething citizenry aware of challenging times ahead. But in fairness you should know I’m almost always wrong about this stuff. So, yeah, no clue.

One thing I do know with bedrock certainty is that people in the UK, especially those already leading a marginalised existence (the ill, un- and underemployed, old, and disabled), are suffering.1 This suffering will only worsen in the face of political tumult.

So, all those who voted to Take Our Country Back to some mythical, magical era of magnificent superpower autonomy, are you having fun yet?


1 Some are dying. Late last year a disabled man, who had been refused his benefits, died due to refeeding syndrome—which is what happens when someone has starved so severely for so long that, when given food, their metabolic system collapses in chaos. To set this in context, it’s the kind of thing that happened when Americans liberated Nazi death camps at the end of the second world war and handed rich rations to the starving prisoners. And then there are all those pensioners who die in cold weather because they can’t afford to keep their flats warm.

The gift of a negative review

Part of a critic’s job is to offer an expert, informed opinion of art. Keyword: informed. We need disabled critics to review art by and about disabled people.

No one views a novel, painting, or symphony through the same lens, but an expert critic will often see not only the art’s brilliance but its flaws. And no matter how good a painting, novel, or symphony is, there is almost always something about it that could be improved.1 We need clear-eyed, honest, informed critical assessment of art, whether in emotional, intellectual, moral, or political terms. In other words, we need negative reviews. A negative review can be a gift.

For an author, negative reviews are not fun. Some writers refuse to read any review of their work, and they have their reasons, but I read all my reviews, great and small.2 When they’re wrong, they teach me about readers’ biases and assumptions. When they’re right, they point to ways for me to improve. Either way, for me negative reviews are useful.

For a reader, negative reviews can be a real gift. The significance of this gift can range from saving one reader $10 and five tedious hours, to saving another reader’s life. No, I am not exaggerating. I believe some books can be so dangerous, so reinforcing of a despair-making cultural message that they contribute to suicide. If you’re a member of a group that’s already so marginalised that suicide rates are high, being warned away from a particular book, or having the book’s implicit messages discussed openly, can save you a lot of grief.

To be clear, I am not suggesting writers should not write fiction that is disturbing, or emotionally or culturally challenging. I am saying that cultural critics have a moral obligation to name the explicit messages and unearth the implicit messages delivered by the book under review.

To illustrate my point I will use a specific example, a novel about a disabled character, Still Life With Monkey, written by a nondisabled author, Katharine Weber. The book was published in August 2018, adorned with blurbs from a variety of well-known writers,3 and reviewed in outlets including the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post (including starred reviews from the usual publishing trade journals such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, all linked to below).

I read the novel before publication: Duncan, a successful, rich, married, satisfied, secure architect in his 30s freaks out about his feelings for his male protegé, Todd, and loses control of their car, with the result that Todd dies and Duncan sustains a C6 break and becomes quadriplegic. After a year of living with a helper monkey in a wonderful house with his wonderful wife, in complete financial security, paid staff of every kind, and a new opportunity to finally design exactly what he wants, Duncan finds life as a quad so unbearable that he kills himself. His wife inherits all his money, finally takes care of her brother-in-law’s disorderly life, and founds a nonprofit to look after retired helper monkeys. The status quo is magically restored, and with the tedious mournful cripple out of the way, everyone else lives happily ever after. I hated it.

The ableism and whiffs of homosexual panic embedded in Still Life With Monkey appalled me. Essentially, what this book said to me was, No matter how much you are loved, or, once you’ve recovered from the shock, how fine your life could be, if you need help with everyday life activities, that life is not worth living. Also, if you die all those who love you will be better off, so why not do everyone a favour and kill yourself?4

I was appalled, too, by the poor quality of the trade reviews. PW, for example, doesn’t know the difference between quadriplegic and paraplegic; Kirkus uses phrases like ‘wheelchair-bound.’ Unsurprisingly, both (anonymous) trade reviewers loved the book, and either didn’t see or did not have the skill to call out the homosexual panic subtext and the if-you-can’t-walk-life’s-not-worth-living ableism. Instead, theses reviewers suggested Weber is being ‘brave’ and ‘unflinching’ and ‘unsentimental’ about facing ‘hard truths.’ I would be very surprised if any of the trade reviewers were disabled.

So when mainstream reviews began a couple of months later, I paid attention. All but one of the reviews I read failed to point out either the ableist or homophobic messages of the novel. They, too, appeared to believe Weber was just bravely calling it as she saw it. To be fair, I think that’s exactly what she was doing. I’m guessing she thought she was just facing the unpalatable truth, that is, the truth as she imagined it would be for her if she became quadraplegic overnight.

Many nondisabled people really do think that if they became crippled, by accident or illness, they be better off dead. In my experience, disabled people rarely think this.5 So I do not believe the author intended harm; I do not believe she was aware of what a terrible message her book was delivering to disabled people (and bisexual men).

The thing is, it doesn’t matter what the author intended. Intention does not equal impact. And the impact of this book’s conclusion on anyone wrestling with new disability—that is, just when they are most vulnerable—could very well be: Oh, just kill yourself already because everyone will be better off without you moping around and ruining our previously aesthetically-pleasing bubble.

The single review I found that might have warned a disabled reader, or one of their loved ones, of the shock and horror of this book was Karen Joy
Fowler’s piece in the Washington Post.

Katharine Weber’s “Still Life With Monkey” is a beautifully wrought paean of praise for the ordinary pleasures taken for granted by the able-bodied. In precise and often luminous prose, with intelligence and tenderness, Weber’s latest novel examines the question of what makes a life worth living. The answer the book offers is its only disappointment, but a profound one.

Fowler also points to the homophobic panic subtext—though is kinder about than I would have been.

The book is somewhat mysterious on the subject of Duncan’s fondness for Todd. But the important fact is the one Duncan expresses quite plainly: “Todd Walker will always be dead. I will always be the reason.”

Weber uses Duncan’s guilt over Todd’s death as a fig leaf to cover her ableist assumptions. She wants us to believe that Duncan doesn’t want to die because he’s a cripple, oh dear me no. He wants to die because he feels guilty about Todd’s death. But a close study of the text (and trust me, I studied it closely; it’s the most attention I’ve paid a book since doing my PhD) shows this to be nonsense.

Thankfully, Fowler is very clear about the main impact of the book.

This excellent novel is, however, all but spoiled by its ending. I counted on the imagination and intelligence shown in the rest of the book to carry through. Instead, we’re given the same appalling conclusion we see so often in tales of disability. The end of Duncan’s story line is a terrible letdown. The conclusion of Laura’s story is unpersuasive. Only Ottoline has an ending I can embrace. As she begins the book, so does she close it, with a bright energy and the continual mystery of her complex and curious mind.

If Karen Fowler could see what the real message of this book is, why couldn’t other reviewers? More to the point, why would assigning editors commission nondisabled critics to review a novel that evolves around attitudes to disability? We’ve all seen the embarrasing results of white critics taking on the work of writers of colour6 (and, worse, that of white authors writing about race and making clichéd assumptions about the lives of characters of different races or ethnicities). These days few self-respecting editors would assign such a review to a white freelancer (professional critics can be a slightly different case). We know that if a book about women’s experience, or queer experience, is assigned for review it should probably be to a professional book critic or to a guest reviewer who identifies, respectively, as a woman or queer. On the other hand, if the book isn’t about the experience of a member of a traditionally marginalised community but is, say, a straight-up murder mystery, or campus novel (does anyone even write those anymore?) or romance that just happens to feature a protagonist who is black, or queer, or a woman, then the identitfy of the reviewer might not matter so much, because race, sexual orientation, and gender may not be essential to the narrative. Although, of course, you would not assign such a book to a known racist, misogynist, or homophobe.

But a novel about disability, especially one written by a nondisabled author, really, seriously needs to be evaluated by someone who understands the lived experience of being disabled. This is because most nondisabled (and some disabled) people are so unaware of their ableist bias that they are de facto ableists. In terms of disability, most people simply can’t yet offer an informed assessment.

One quarter of US residents have a disability that effects their lives (though I’m guessing not all would identify as disabled).7 It shouldn’t be too hard to find a decent book critic who is disabled. A critic with lived experience of disability will not only recognise ableism when they see it but probably also spot the kind of wish-fulfillment some beginner writers indulge in, and, hopefully, be more willing to call it out. Because, oh yep, there’s a lot of crap criplit out there (after all, 90% of everything is crap; criplit is not immune).

So, book review editors, do better: employ some disabled critics who will actually understand the issues at hand. And, book critics, if you are not disabled but are offered criplit to review, at least ask the opinion of a couple of disabled book professionals you trust. It will save you embarrassment, it might help a new writer improve, and it might, it really might, save someone’s life.


1 In my brief critical career I always felt obliged to point out these flaws, even in work I loved. Most of that work I would still stand by—with one memorable exception—but eventually, in the late 90s, I stopped reviewing. I believe offering only unalloyed praise is not useful–for writers or readers–in the long run, but punching down felt mean-spirited, and punching up was proving counterproductive. The exception? My review in NYRSF of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I misread one aspect of the book so badly it makes my toes curl to think about it, but happily Octavia forgave me.
2 I believe most (though not nearly all, sigh) negative reviews of my work are wrong-headed. The first Locus review of Ammonite, for example, said something like, “It might have been so much more meaningful if Marghe had had a brother…” And then of course there are the So Lucky reviews like this one.
3 All of whom should know better. See the publisher’s book page, and reviews from Publishers Weekly, NYTBR, and Kirkus. for samples of clueless critics. See the Washington Post for a much better approach.
4 In this way, it’s very like JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You. I’d like to take a flamethrower to both.
5 This is one of the many perils risked by those who write outside their cultural experience. I have no quarrel with those who do, only with the fact that most of them don’t employ sensitivity readers who can point out egregious subtext—or even maintext—that the writer is unable to see. It’s why we need more #OwnVoices fiction, to displace the well-meaning tripe pumped out by novelists who have no clue about the lived experience of, for example, queer and disabled people.
6 Hunt down some reviews of Toni Morrison’s early work, just to pick out one example.
7 These are figure released by the CDC in August, 2018.

Merry Christmas – Have a present!

Every year I try to find a different way to destroy the Christmas tree. This year I went with short and sweet.

First, have a present!

I realised I’d left my ukulele in the picture by mistake, so then I made this one to captialise on that: my version of a musical Christmas.

If you enjoy these, you might like my YouTube channel, Blow Shit Up!

Go have a blast…

2018 in review

I’ll be mostly offline for the next two weeks, so I’ll post my roundup of 2018 today. I hope your holiday of whatever stripe is lovely, and the start of 2019 exactly as exciting as you’d like it to be.

Publishing

In terms of fiction, I published one very short story, “Glimmer,” and a book, So Lucky.

So Lucky was an interesting experience. When I finished the first shareable draft last year, I honestly didn’t now what to make of it. All I knew was that I wanted it published as fast as humanly possible. (Why? I’m not entirely sure; it just felt urgent. In one way it is urgent: there is not enough #OwnVoices fiction out there with disabled main characters—see the NYT article for more on this. The huge, yawning hole where our fiction should be pulled at me like a black hole.) I pondered publishing it as a novella, perhaps for Tor—because, hey, there’s a monster! and an invisible dog!—thinking they could get it done fast, but then my Hild editor unexpectedly made an offer to publish it as a novel, and to do it super fast. Seriously. For a book no one was expecting, getting it published, and well published, in less than a year is kind of amazing.

But that speed did have some negative consequences. The main problem was not knowing how to talk about the book. That is, I didn’t know how to talk about my own novel. It wasn’t like anything I’d done before. Every other fiction I’ve ever written has been a focalised heterotopia—it norms the Other through its treatment of the protagonist–but in disability terms So Lucky does not do that. It took me a long time to figure out how to describe it. So the ARC and catalogue copy described it as autobiographical fiction about the struggle with MS, which meant reviewers and buyers approached it with certain expectations which the book doesn’t meet. When one’s personal brand and public conversation don’t match the publishers’ marketing Bad Things Happen. (I talk about this general notion in Branding: It Burns.)

But after a while the book began to speak for itself, and reviews have improved tremendously (my favourite so far came out just two days ago). It’s beginning to get some traction, making a few Best Of lists and getting into some interesting shortlists. I have no idea where it will end up. The whole thing has been an enormous experiment that, on the whole, is going well.

I wrote a few nonfiction pieces, most notably “Rewriting the Old Disability Script” for the New York Times and “Remembering Ursula K Le Guin” for the Seattle Review of Books.

In terms of blog posts I wrote this year, what I suspect will end up having the most lasting impact is the piece for booksellers based on improving your bottom line by making your store and online presence more accessible. It wasn’t the most popular, that was the post about my new wheelchair-accessible minivan, but it will have ripple effects. As “How ableism affects a book review” is already doing.

I also started an irregular series of Reading posts, wherein I talk very briefly about the books (mostly fiction) I’ve been reading. It probably isn’t a coincidence that this year I was also asked to read many books with a view to providing endorsement than usual. That is, I was asked to read about the same number as usual, but a much higher proportion turned out to be books I actually liked well enough to blurb—and I wanted to talk about them.

Travel/Appearances

Considering I had a book published this year, I didn’t do much travelling. This was my choice: I told my publishers No travel except local! We went to Portland and Bellingham and Olympia and Bainbridge Island for the book but most of the stuff I did was right here in Seattle. I also did a few staged conversations with other authors, such as Maria Dahvana Headley and Katrina Carrasco. I enjoy doing these things and helping other writers; I’ll do doing more next  year. Keep a lookout for an event at Elliott Bay bookstore in March, with Sarah Schulman.

We were supposed to go to ICFA this spring but three days before we flew, a family member had a horrible accident that required Kelley’s attention 24/7 for a while. I also had to cancel a Seattle University class for their Creative Writing students. I hate to cancel things, but family comes first.

In April we spent a few days in Columbus where I gave the Ethel Louise Armstrong Lecture at OSU on disability arts and culture. I’d never been to Columbus. I was pleasantly surprised by both the physical access and the food (OSU makes their own smoked salmon, and their own vodka!)—I would totally go back if invited. And in late September Kelley and I got to spend a whole week together, just us (bliss!), on Orcas Island. There is nothing like an entire week of zero obligations, zero social media, and zero traffic or people noise—or any noise except the lap and plash of the water…

Health & Disability

It’s been a complicated year in terms of disability stuff. My health is fine, relatively speaking, but bureaucracy has been seriously tedious.

First of all, health insurance. As self-employed people, Kelley and I pay more in health insurance premiums per month than we do on our house payment (and houses and property tax here in Seattle are expensive). I’d tell you how much a year we spend on health-related costs but I doubt you’d believe it. For that much money you’d think we’d have the Rolls Royce of health plans but, well, no. Our plan limits us to one particular health system, which means I had to lose the internist I’ve been seeing for 22 years and find a new one. Which meant intern-shopping. Wow, there are a lot of doctors out there who essentially cannot practise medicine because they’re so rushed. I saw several in a row before I finally found one I like.

As a result of the limiting health insurance, I also have no physical therapist. I tried a handful who are qualified by this plan and either their style doesn’t work for me or they don’t have the equipment I need. I’ve cobbled together my own exercise regime—including something entirely fun, which I’ll talk about below—but with the loss of PT coinciding with transitioning from crutches to a wheelchair I am a lot less able and mobile than I should be.

Speaking of mobility, another gigantic effort and frustration this year was the wheelchair accessible van. It’s a great van—it’s just that I’m still not licenced to drive it. Why? Because no one will give me lessons. Seriously. There’s not a single driving school in Seattle that will teach me in my own adapted vehicle. I had five lessons in the car used by the University of Washington’s Driving Rebabilitation programme, but then I got the van—and they won’t let me use that. And believe me, driving a gigantic super-heavy vehicle with hand controls is utterly different from tooling about in a little red 2-door Toyota (the car I had when my legs still worked—15 years ago). So I’m feeling frustrated. My tentative plan is that I’ll just go take the test (my options: in Lynwood or Tacoma, because, that’s right, driving schools won’t give you the test in a hand-control vehicle, either), fail, work on what I did wrong, take the test again. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary.

This year Alice Wong and I hosted fewer #CripLit chats, mostly because we both had books coming out and so less time and bandwith for unpaid community-building stuff. Organising a #CripLit can be surprisingly time-consuming. Also, the demise of Storify meant we had to rebuild the #CripLit archives on Wakelet where you can read all the previous chats (though Alice did that, so all kudos to her).

I also wrote a few essays about #CripLit for other outlets, including one about the abysmal rate of disability in literature for the New York Times.

Audio

This year I got my first professinal narrator gig: turning So Lucky into an audiobook for Macmillan Audio. I wrote about that here. I loved it! I now want to narrate all my books and short stories. And just for the hell of it, I narrated “Glimmer,” too—which you can listen to for free here.

Boxing!

Late this autumn, as part of my rather haphazard fitness regime, I took up boxing. Amazingly, I found a completely accessible gymn not too far from the house—and a boxing coach, Seth, who also uses a wheelchair.

I love to hit things. The harder and faster the better. The first martial art I studied, karate, was about straight-line strikes with hand, foot, knee, and elbow. Boxing is pretty different. I’m not learning Hoyle’s Rules but street boxing: how in a wheelchair to beat the shit out of anyone who thinks a crip is vulnerable. This is a fucking dream for me: I go to the gym, I hammer the shit out of several different heavy bags while dodging multiple opponents (Seth zooming at me and wacking me with pool noodles) on an obstacle course (orange traffic cones), then we swap tall tales of the fighting crip variety—except, y’know, they’re true—then I go drink beer and eat more than is strictly necessary, eyeing up rowdy people in the bar and thinking, Oh, yep. I could take that one out. Hit here, here, and here. Which is a place I used to live but had left by the wayside. It’s pretty cool re-engaging with old skills and picking up new ones.

It’s been a very long time since I taught self-defence and quite a while since I last started a martial art; I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy it. I’d also forgotten just how exahausting it is to physically go full-tilt—but it’s seriously good for me. I’d also forgotten how fast my arms and back muscle up; none of my t-shirts fit anymore, which is not good for my budget. Some of that, it’s true, is winter podge, but a lot of it is not. Next year (after I’ve bought new clothes, sigh) I’ll be trying to figure out a way to afford (money, time, and energy) to box more often.

2019

So what’s on the docket for next year? One of the things I’m most excited about is giving one of the plenary speeches at a big academic conference in Vancouver, IONA: Early Medieval Studies on the Islands of the North Atlantic transformative networks, skills, theories, and methods for the future of the field. I can’t wait!

Just before that, I’ll be one of the headliners at the Orcas Island Literary Festival. I  love Orcas, I love talking about books, and I love meeting readers—so if you’re in the region I hope you’ll consider coming. And probably a bit before that I’ll be in New York for a few days for something very important to me that I might talk about next year. (And, oh, it’s been a saga…)

I have some summer fun lined up, too, with family.

As I’ve already said, I’ll be doing more boxing. Depending on how other things go, I might also start teaching self-defence again. This time not just for women, but for marginalised groups in general. Given the increased hate out there for some groups I think we need something like this. And if a person in a wheelchair is confident of defending herself, others can be too. But this may take some time to figure out and set up, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything for a while.

A big goal is to get my fucking driver’s licence. Info on that when I have it.

But my main focus of 2019 will be to finish Menewood, that is, the sequel to Hild. This is one of the biggest, most challenging and thrilling things I’ve ever tackled (I have to keep a spreadsheet of characters; as of yesterday, there are over 200 names). Right now it’s going well.

So 2019 will be busy. Full of interesting—in all senses of the word—people, events, and challenges. My plan, though, is to stay firmly anchored to the joy of life: to spend time out of doors, time with my sweetie, time with family and friends, new and old, as well as getting things done. Because the point of life is life, and what’s life without joy?

Great Grinning Thing

Cascadia has just published a beautiful review essay of So Lucky by Sharma Shields.

There are layers upon layers in So Lucky. It’s a deftly-drawn story, bigger than just a woman fighting a monstrous disease.

It’s also a story about divorce, friendship, disability, community, love.

It’s a story about change and survival, from disease, yes, but also from assault.

It’s a novel that deftly penetrates society’s ableism, the tacit, constant ways we communicate to those with disabilities: ‘You are not whole. You are less.’

It’s even a suspenseful detective story. This subplot doubles as a stunning metaphor for the difficult process of securing a diagnosis: Are you sure what you’re feeling is real? Maybe this is all in your head…

Shields really gets the book: she’s not only an award-winning novelist, she has MS. It makes a sharp difference (compare this review to this one). Once again I’d like to suggest to review editor that, when assigning books for review, choose appropriate critics. The farther an author is from the privileged norm, the more deeply the assigning editor needs to consider the experience, identity, and empathy of the reviewer.

One day this won’t be true, but today, here and now, a nondisabled critic most probably would not have the understanding Shields does of what I’m doing in So Lucky. They would not be able to write this:

So Lucky is a boundless, fearless animal of a novel, made more boundless and fearless by talking so frankly about the ways illness limits us and terrifies us. It’s structurally ingenious and beautifully written, thrumming with breathtaking sentences that evoke in us a sense of deep empathy.

I’ll have more to say about this in the New Year. Meanwhile, go read the review essay. It’s a lovely piece of work.

2018 blog stats

I published a little bit more this year, 75 posts vs. 68, and a couple of new pages. The average word count of each was higher. According to WordPress, about 70,000 people visited the blog, more than last year (which, to be fair, was a huge drop from previous years). I have no real idea how many people actually read each post but I suspect it’s a multiple of the WP figures: more than 2,000 people read by email, a few hundred via the WP feed, and another couple of thousand between three other platforms where the blog reposts automagically.

Most popular
  1. New car: an accessible minivan
  2. Fiction that passes the Fries Test*
  3. How ableism affects a book review
  4. So Lucky
  5. Books about women women don’t win big awards: some data*
  6. Hild*
  7. The Fries Test for disabled characters in fiction*
  8. Huge news: multiple sclerosis is a metabolic disorder*
  9. Booksellers, this one weird trick could increase your bottom line by 25%
  10. Lame is go gay*

I was surprised by the van post taking the top spot. But then I remembered Hacker News picked it up, and BoingBoing, and it made sense. For the first time, more than half of the top ten were perennials (*). With two exceptions, the most popular posts are connected, in one way or other, to disability. The exceptions are posts about literary prize data and Hild

Visitors
  1. US
  2. UK
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Sweden
  8. India
  9. Netherlands
  10. New Zealand

The top ten looks very much like last year, except the Netherlands and New Zealand replaced Ireland and Spain.

My visitors came from all over the world: 151 countries. When I looked at the nifty map WP analytics offers, I see that the gaps clump regionally. So for example most of the missing are countries are in Central and Western Africa, three from the Middle East (Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan), and a handful of remote (to me) islands or island nations: Svalbard and Greenland; Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; and Cuba. The exception? Mongolia.

Referrals

How do the visitors get here? Like last year, organic search tops Twitter which tops Facebook. But this time, Hacker News and Wikipedia showed up in the top 5. And trailing way, way down the list now, my old Blogger site. I’m still going to leave it up, though, because a lot of stuff here still links to it.

2019

I’m glad that one of the popular spots went to Hild because I suspect you’ll be seeing more Hild-related posts next year. I may be talking less about disability because much of my time right now, and hopefully next year, is being spent in the seventh century. I’m having the best time building Anglo-Saxon settlements, infrastructure, and relationships in my head and on the page–which means at some point I’ll want to talk about it.

In terms of travel and major events I’m expecting a couple of things. So I might talk about those, too. As always, we’ll see. The only thing I know for sure is that plans always change…

So Lucky and the 2019 Tournament of Books

The Tournament of Books is a crazy and brilliant way to revel in books and, more particularly, the thrill of talking about books and rooting for books and cheering yourself hoarse for  your champions. And So Lucky is on the 2019 shortlist.

Each weekday in March, two of the books on the shortlist below will be read and considered by one of our judges, also listed below. One book from the match will be chosen to advance, with the judge explaining in detail how they came to their decision. Then the judge’s decision is evaluated first by our official commentators, then by you, the commentariat, wherein you politely and respectfully resist going bananas. And the next day we do it all over again, as March gallops on, until one book wins our award, the Rooster, and we all settle down for a long nap.

The madness begins in March. Plenty of time to go read all those faaaabulous books and buy your facepaint!