Obligatory First of Year Post

new year cartoonThanks to the wonder and magic of prescheduling, it’s 2017 was you’re reading this but still 2016 as I’m writing.  Consider this my shot across the bow of general plans for the next year.

I’ve never been a huge proponent of New Year resolutions.  I’ve always thought that if something needed changing, you put a plan in place to make sure things change in the way you need them to, don’t wait a around unless you’ve got a really good reason.  And if you’re content with the way things are, why change them.  (This latter view is largely a reaction to hype about something changing your life, when really all that will happen is your bank balance changing if you buy the product.)

So here’s where I’m at and what I intend to change over the next year.

First, some general stuff that will affect this blog.  If I’ve run the numbers correctly, I should be eligible for early retirement in another five and a half years.  I’d like to be in a position to take advantage of that if possible.  I’m not anywhere near that position, but I’ve got some time.  What I want to do is put myself in a position of freedom by having walking away be a viable option.

Each semester the urge to go and do something else gets stronger.  Some of this is burnout; some is I’ve grown and changed and my interests aren’t what they used to be.  Some is my workload becoming more administrative and less teaching, never mind doing any research.  Some is increasing bureaucratic micromanaging, from the state level down to the departmental level on top of growth in enrollment without the necessary growth in facilities and personnel needed to accompany said enrollment growth.  Add to that the attitude that all  work done is for the benefit of the institution rather than the department or individual, with raises dependent on the generosity of the state legislature (which doesn’t consider university employees to be state employees when they give state employees raises), and I’m getting pretty fed up with the whole thing.  I’ve been teaching an overload for the last year, and while I’ve been financially compensated, I’m not getting any younger.

maxine weight lossAt the end of the summer I began to quietly work on an exit plan.  I’m still examining options, but I’m going to do a few things to give me more freedom down the road.  (Check out Take the Stairs, The Compound Effect, Living Forward, and The Slight Edge to get an idea of what I’m thinking.)  Basically, I’m looking to make some small corrections that will have a major impact long term.  I must be doing something right, because I’ve lost over 30 pounds since the first of August (although I’ve gained a few back over the holidays).  What follows are the changes that will affect this blog.  There are other changes; feel free to email me if you really want to know.

As part of this long-term plan I’m going to try to focus on writing more, a lot more.  And by writing, I mean fiction writing.  This is going to be a challenge, as I don’t have a lot of quiet time in the evenings to write.  Writing at work isn’t a very good idea.  I’ve got too much to do.  So I’m going to have to be a lot more structured in my schedule.  I can usually write at a good pace if I can consistently write.  But to do that, some things are going to have to go.

That means that I won’t be reading as much for review, at least upon request.  Reading is going to be cut back, and what fiction reading I do will be based on what I want to read.  I’ve had a lot of trouble focusing on any single thing for the last few months.  I’ll pick up a book, start reading, enjoy what I’ve read, but put the book down and not get back to it for days or maybe even weeks.  Having multiple ereaders and ereader apps on the phone in addition to print doesn’t help; it contributes to the multiple irons in the reading fire.  Generally when I develop this type of reading ADD, it means I’ve got too much going on.  The end result is I’m not getting things read in a timely manner, and in some cases not at all.  I don’t like that, especially when I’ve committed to a review.  So I’m going to finish the half dozen or so titles I’ve committed to read.  After that I’ll limit myself to accepting review requests from people I’ve reviewed for in the past.

I’ll still blog, but there’ll be fewer reviews of new books, especially from major publishers.  Instead I’m going to review more independently published works, especially by friends, and those will be limited to titles I would read for fun anyway.


back row, l. to r., Williamson, de Camp, Clark, Long, Weisinger, Hamilton, Kline; front Binder, Wellman, Schwartz

I’m also going to spend time reacquainting myself with some of the greats in the field.  I’ve been working my way through 2016’s crop of year’s best anthologies.  Maybe it’s just an off year.  Perhaps I’m turning into a curmudgeon; that would explain all the kids who need to get off my lawn.  But it seems to me that the newer short fiction doesn’t rise to the bar set by writers who have passed on.  I’ll elaborate on this more in a future post, but most of what has been selected for these end-of-year-best-of-the-field anthologies is pompous, overwritten, and downright dull.  I’m going to spend time reading (in no particular order other than how they occur to me as I type) Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl, Jack Williamson, Fritz Leiber, Clifford D. Simak, Edmond Hamilton, Harlan Ellison, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Fredric Brown, Harold Lamb, Tanith Lee, Randall Garrett, Jack Vance, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov (especially the robot stories), C. M. Kornbluth, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, A. Merritt, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Bloch, James M. Cain, John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, and Cornell Woolrich.  And of course lots of Ray Bradbury, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, and Robert E. Howard.  Among others.

This also means is I’ll be buying fewer books.  I’ve been tracking expenditures on books and it’s been rather eye-opening.  I’m also going to begin thinning out the library.  I literally have no space left.  There’s some stuff I have no intention of reading again.  And some stuff, which I’ve either gotten as review copies or as part of a grab bag, that I have no desire to read at all.  I’ll be putting some things up on ebay over the next few months.  I’ll post a notice either here or on Twitter or both when things go live.

I’m hoping 2017 will be a good year.  But I’m not optimistic.  There’s too much stupid in play in the world right now.  So I’m going to try to control the things I can control and do my best to make them work out in my favor.

I leave you with the following song by Al Stewart.  Hopefully it won’t turn out to be prophetic.

12 thoughts on “Obligatory First of Year Post

  1. Adrian Simmons

    Noble goals!

    I always kind of half-assed new year’s resolutions. But sometime in my 30s I switched from New Years to using my birthday as the marker. What did I want to accomplish between 36 and 37 was way more motivational to me (for whatever reason) than what did I want to accomplish between 2005-2006.

  2. David West

    I hear you Keith, despite grabbing more kindle books than ever before, I’m still just trucking along without making the TBR pile any smaller. I didn’t get to a number of books I meant to before the end of the year. Still, I’m optimistic for the new year and plan on making it my most productive ever.

    Best of luck with all your goals!

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thanks. I’m looking forward to what you’re going to produce. I heard Bill Crider say one time, and I’m not sure to what extent he was joking, that writing really cut into your reading time.

  3. Woelf Dietrich

    This year’s plans are pretty much the same as last year’s plans. Do the same things again but try and do it better and faster. Hope you reach your goals, mate, and good luck with the writing.

  4. Fletcher Vredenburgh

    Here’s hoping for success! I haven’t had much luck with my reading and writing goals, though I keep plugging away. Maybe now that I’ve fired one contractor and hired another I’ll be less stressed.I’m especially looking forward to your take on Simak, my favorite Golden Age writer.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Thank you. Good luck with contractors.

      I read quite a bit of Simak in my teenage years, but of course that was so long ago that he was still alive and writing and would pick up new titles as they came out. I read “Goodnight, Mr. James” over Christmas. While it’s not your typical Simak story, it reminded me how much I enjoy his work.

        1. Keith West Post author

          Your memory is correct. In the introduction to the collection, the editor stated as much. I’m going to buy all of the Collected Stories volumes. This collection was one of them.


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