2021: The Year That Almost Was


I… thought maybe this year was going to be different. Upfront, let me say I don’t think this year was all bad, per se. Certainly it wasn’t as bad as 2020, though that is a thing I have to remind myself of constantly, because 2021 certainly feels like it’s a real piece of shit on par with the last real piece of shit. Then again, this year was not the start of a global pandemic where everyone was quarantining their mail and bleaching their vegetables and washing their hands to raw nubs, all under the (not-so) vigilant gaze of the Traitor-in-Chief, Mister Big Lie Himself. I mean sure, the insurrection was this fucking year, somehow, inexplicably, and sure, this was the year of Delta and now, Omicron, not to mention a cascading series of climate change emergencies —

I dunno, maybe 2021 was just as fucking bad. Who knows.

Point is, this felt like the Year Of Almost. Like, 2020 sucked moist open ass, and we all hoped inevitably for a better 2021. Which, I think, we got, but it it was better in the way that getting shot in the leg is better than getting shot in the head. It’s still not amazing. It’s just, everytime I thought we were almost to a better place, a better thing, then… we didn’t quite get there. Almost!

We stayed in Almost.

We knew Almost intimately.

We lived in the fucking Almost.

I entered this year thinking, okay, we got a new president, that’s great, whew. But then there was an insurrection (seriously? the insurrection was this year?? are we sure about that?), and then there was Manchin and Sinema, and then Joe Biden has been a good president but not a great president — a paper plate pressed over a sucking chest wound.

I entered the year thinking, great, I’ve got three goddamn books out this year, and surely I’ll get to tour for at least one of them — by which I mean, go out into the world, not simply live yet again trapped in the digital interstices of Fucking Zoom again. But then, nope, that didn’t happen. I remained, as most of us did, in our Zoom Prisons. The digital Phantom Zone. Pressing our faces against the prismatic dimensional glass as we all floated away from one another.

I entered the year thinking we at least understood this pandemic and sure, it’d still keep on going, but we’d have some control over it and then, haaahahhaaheaayeaaaaah not so much. We thought the vaccines were what we needed, and they were, but only in part. We figured people would slowly get on board with that whole Science and Medicine thing, but then you had jabronis eating horse-dewormer and trying to suck out the vaccine with snakebite kits. I know people who had COVID, who had it badly, and who still won’t get the vaccine. What the fuck? What is wrong with you? There were always people and will always be people who have scrambled eggs for brains, but it definitely feels like the GOO-BRAIN ratio has gone way, way up.

I entered the year thinking, well, at least we can spend time outside, and that’s true, but then there were also two rounds of tornadoes here in Pennsylvania — first time, one hit a half-mile north of my house, and another hit a half-mile south; second time, a tornado had a little jaunt through my sister’s backyard. So “outside” became a little bit more treacherous, didn’t it?

It was one thing after the other.

There was a really sweet spot in May and June where the clouds parted, the sun started to shine and I thought, here it is, here’s the moment where it’s all going to turn around. The numbers looked good. COVID was fading. A lot of us had our shots. We were venturing out of our caves to enjoy the sunlight. Then the clouds went the other way again like the stage curtain closing on that Spider-Man Musical, and Delta rocked up on us. And just as we got boosters and got our kids vaccinated, here comes Motherfucking Omicron.

It feels like, hey, here’s the good news: we are no longer sinking in quicksand. And yet bad news, we’re still somehow in quicksand? What the shit?

It’s not a great feeling. Like I said: paper plate pressed onto a sucking chest wound. It’s better than nothing. But that doesn’t mean it’s enough.

God, this is fucking depressing, isn’t it? I don’t mean it to be! It’s not hopeless. Things are better now than they were, and with some effort on our part, it could get even better still. And I really do think that 2021 was better than 2020, if… uhh, marginally so. I’ve definitely clawed back some parts of normal life. (And some people in this country never left normal life at all, eating weekly at Applebee’s even as their lungs filled up with fluid! Sorry. Depressing again. Mea culpa.) It’s fine. It’s fine.

Everything is PERFECTLY FUCKING FINE.

I guess maybe I’ll focus on the personal stuff. Yes, let’s do that.

Personally, it was a year with many nice things in it.

I had three books out, which you can buy at the links below because I am not above trying to pay my mortgage and feed my child:

You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton (with Natalie Metzger!)

The Book of Accidents

Dust & Grim

This is after 2020, where I had 0 (zero) books out in the world, so three in relatively short order was a big shift. I think they were successful. The first was always a bit of an odd release, so I never expected it to hit huge, but I’m glad that TBOA and D&G hit a lot of year-end lists and people’s favorites — and I don’t know how well D&G has sold, but I can say with authority that TBOA has done very well, and I’m pretty thrilled with where it’s at and the attention it has been getting.

I had a hard time writing in 2020, but with 2021, I came roaring back, writing and finishing the sequel to Wanderers, called Wayward, coming out in August 2022 (preorder here).

My family is good. Kiddo was in school for this new school year. None of us got COVID (er, yet). We’re all vaxxed. My wife and I are boosted. We see more people, go more places, but carefully, smartly. Creeping about like little mice who don’t wanna get eaten by the owl.

Things happened? We existed? It’s all a blur.

Normally I’d go through and tell you about all the STUFF what I read and watched and played this year but I’ve tried to keep you up to date on that as I go, so I’m not gonna rehash here. And I barely remember what came out this year, anyway. (Plus, half the books I read are gonna be 2022 releases.)

It’s fine.

It’s fine.

What will 2022 bring?

HaaahahahahahaaahaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHH I mean, uhh, I have no idea. I have plans for two in-person book tours that at present are utterly uncertain.

Wayward comes out, and I’m hoping people like that. I’m editing it now. It maybe doesn’t suck.

I’ve got one book to write, maybe two, and potentially a comic? More on that when I can say.

I’ve mostly stopped trying to guess at what will happen for me personally, and I’m definitely letting life just be a river that I’m floating upon — if a rock gets in my way, I’ll try to paddle my ass around it, but at this point any map I attempt to construct is outdated the moment I finish it, so I’m just going with the flow and will respond to the bends and dips and sudden rapids accordingly. This is probably a bad plan. But it’s the week between Christmas and the New Year, so I hope you’ll forgive me this floating in the void sensibility. We’re all merely hovering this week and that weightlessness has perhaps infected my overall attitude.

I hope for a better world in 2022. I think we’ll get one, but no promises.

And in that, I don’t think we can just go with the flow — to get that world, we need to fight the flow and fight for the world we want. (Just not this week. This week is cookies and naps.)

Hope you’re doing well.

Hope this year wasn’t all bad.

And hope the year ahead is better.

Claim joy for yourself. Make art. Be weird.

See you on the other side of 2021.

(Flickr is giving me fits, so I’m gonna sequester my Favorite Photos of the Year to a separate post. KEEP YER GRAPES PEELED.)


11 responses to “2021: The Year That Almost Was”

  1. I’ve got a positive for you, sir. For me, you perfectly articulate how f’in crappy and depressing things are, so thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed Wanderers and can’t wait for Wayward. Your new books are in my “stack,” so I’ll get to them soon, probably very soon as my vaxxed, boostered and mask wearing body is isolated due to a positive rapid test 3 days before Christmas. Zero symptoms, zero, which is good, but if I didn’t voluntarily take that rapid I’d be out and about infecting my world. N95 up and Happy New Year and sincere thanks to you for your words.

  2. Hi Chuck, your newsletters have been a breath of fresh air this year (that I’ve also spent at home with my face pressed against a screen.) And a much needed source of laughter (sometimes with tears). So, thank you and happy 2022!

  3. I am starting to think that the high point of the coming year will be with the pandemic wanting to become endemic; if enough folks will keep up their vax. Maybe it will just be added to the flu vax and called flu season vax.

    I think it will come apart from there, because there is the first,after the Orange thing, national vote. I won’t hold my breath thinking the f’ng GOP is going to behave this time.

    You did nail last year, almost.

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