In spite of the general fucked-up-ness of the world — any world without Tom Petty in it is bound to feel wrong — I had a lot of happiness in my 2017. The personal stuff, which I tend not to talk about, because it’s personal, was pretty damn wonderful. And professionally, boy, I caught some good breaks. Chief among them: my 6th book, Strange Weather, a collection of four short novels, was released to good reviews and hopped onto The New York Times Best-Seller List… where it was located just a few spots away from Sleeping Beauties, the novel my brother and my dad wrote together. What a trip. I never would’ve imagined all three of us would be hanging out there together one day (what are a few nice boys like you doing in a place like this???). I would be remiss if I didn’t add that, if you happen to be flailing around for a last minute Christmas gift, Water Street Books in Exeter, NH still has some signed copies of Strange Weather and they ship worldwide.

I wrote a few new short stories, and scripted two episodes of Locke & Key for television (and worked on a third with my Tejas compadre, C. Robert Cargill). Hulu and IDW filmed a pilot episode up in Nova Scotia, starring the likes of Frances O’ Connor, Danny Glover, and Nate Corddry, directed by Andy Muschietti, and produced by Barbara Muschietti. I want to tell you all about it, but we are in the cone of silence for the moment, and if I were to speak of the first episode in any way at all, someone would come for my nuts with a pair of garden shears.

I went to Detroit for ConFusion and visited with John Scalzi. I hit Spain for the Fantastic Fest in Avilés and hung with Joe Abercrombie and M.R. Carey. Mike Carey and I teamed up again for the Edinburgh Literary Festival. I went from Lexington, Kentucky to Dublin, Ireland in support of the new book. I’m grateful to everyone who came out to see me, and who treated me with such warmth and affection. I had the time of my life.

I also saw some amazing TV, caught a few great movies, heard some outstanding music, and read some novels that knocked me on my heels. Here’s a dozen of my 2017 highs.

Once Hulu decided to make a TV show out of Locke & Key, I figured I better find out what they could do, so I checked in with The Handmaid’s Tale. What I got was a monumental work of dystopian horror, a masterpiece of feeling, insight, suffocating cruelty, and impossible hope. It’s the best first season of anything ever.
But is that really any surprise? I say they had pretty good source material. I read the novel for the first time this year and it tore my heart out. Everyone should read it. It ought to be assigned in every sophomore English class in every high school in America.
Anyone who thinks Shape of Water isn’t one of the best films of the year is all wet.
Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is actually a 2016 release, but it’s new to me, and I haven’t been so in love with a country record since Steve Earle’s I Feel Alright. “Hands of Time” feels like a lost track off some otherworld version of Blood on the Tracks where Bob Dylan was actually Bobbi Dylan. “Four Years of Chances” is a filthy rocker right up there with country tonk Stones and Lucinda Williams’ barn-burners. “Weekender” is a forlorn-funny Cash/Hank Williams lament about the lock-up. On every listen I go a little deeper and discover a little more. Don’t miss it.
Hey, man, I loved the first Stranger Things… but for this Spielberg obsessed child of the 80s, Stranger Things 2 was so much more than I ever could’ve hoped for. It is in this moment what the Harry Potter series was in the last decade, and I’m in for every last dorky, humane, horror-stoked minute of it.
This book made me so happy. Ali Smith writes sentences that fill me with the kind of delight I remember from being little and spun around and around on the Merry-Go-Round behind the school: a dizzy, giddy-sick euphoria.
I want Wonder Woman to visit Gilead and whup some ass.
Rock album of the year, right here. Gallagher’s voice careens from sweet vulnerability to corrosive contempt, twining together Lennon’s soulfulness with Johnny Rotten’s sneer. The hookiest, most addictive LP by either of the Gallagher brothers since What’s The Story (Morning Glory), and a throwback to the days when a mere rocknrolla could push a needle of sound right through the globe, knock the planet on a new axis. Go get an ear full of “Paper Crown” and tell me it didn’t make you shiver.
John Oliver keeps me sane.
When you settle down to read a “great” book, a part of your soul prepares to be educationally bored. Put that fear aside with Invisible Man. What with the sadistic boxing matches, the whorehouse shaking brawls, the exploding factories, the riots in the streets, the electroshock therapy, and more fake identities than you’ll get in a whole season of The Americans, if you’re bored by Invisible Man, nothing is going to flip your switch.
Invisible Man is a drama about the way America deprives black men of their identities, humanity, and lives.

Get Out, on the other hand, is a horror movie about the way America deprives black men of their identities, humanity and ahhhhhhh y’know what just go check it out.

Then there was Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre, an absolutely filthy hour of noise by a band that isn’t coasting even a little — this is the tightest touring outfit in the world right now.

I know, man. I know! It’s only rock and roll.

But I like it.

Wait, did I say I was going to make a dozen recommendations? I’m sure, for the 13th issue of Escape Hatch, I meant a baker’s dozen. Here’s one more.
The debates will rage across geekdom for a generation, but to me it’s obvious… Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the best entry in the entire franchise. The stakes are real. The losses are deeply felt. It’s no spoiler to say that Luke Skywalker figures prominently in this picture, and this is the best iteration of the character (so much better than the dull monk we met in Return of the Jedi). Rey, Finn, and Poe are allowed much richer inner lives than our original heroes, and the entire fictional universe is richer for it. I came out feeling so full and so satisfied. I thought Star Wars could never recover from the fatally bad prequel pictures. It has.
Yeah, I know: 2017 sucked in a lot of ways. The world is not a good place at this moment for a good many people. But I hope you had some happy times and found some stuff to love amid the stresses and setbacks…. and that you helped to lift up some of the people around you. There are still people doing good art. There are still people who believe in kindness, decency, in learning and literacy, in compassion and contemplation. Try and be one of them. Hang in there and hold the ones dear to you close. We’ll march into 2018 together, huh?