It’s that time of year again — time to summarise the year’s posts so you can find them more easily over on the archive page.
It is also the time to reflect a bit.
I’ve posted almost 300 times this year — almost 100 more blogposts than last year — and I’ve clocked up another quarter of a million words — although slightly less than last year. Engagement has been insane too. Views have doubled on last year, from 45,000 to 90,000 over the last twelve months.
That’s all very nice to see and I am hugely grateful for the continuing support. This blog has only existed for a little over 26 months but the line on the engagement graph is downright accelerationist. It is steep and very humbling.
From my own perspective, it’s been a bit of a weird year this year. I think I’ve posted so much because I was insecure about the productivity of the year before but, now we’re at the end of 2019, it may have been a year of quantity over quality.
That’s okay though. I’ve been working super hard behind the scenes and what quality has been missing from the blog will hopefully be made up for by my first book, Egress, which is due imminently. (I’m told there might even be a few available at the Mark Fisher Memorial Lecture this year, in just a couple weeks time.)
And that’s weird. Although I’d announced Egress in October 2018 — or rather, it was announced for me after I’d put it up on my website and Justin Murphy caught wind of it — as a self-publishing project, which I just felt done with and felt like putting out myself as print-on-demand, I was really grateful to Robin Mackay for telling me to hold my horses and make sure it’s as good as it can be before I let it out of my grasp.
And I think I’ve done that. I was working on it right up to the wire — to the extent that I’m a bit embarrassed about the galley proofs doing the press rounds as we speak because I know it is a lesser version of the text than the final one, even if that is in ways that only I’ll notice — and it has been through a complete transformation over the four months since I submitted it to Repeater and then had to hand over the final proof to be printed. It doubled in length and I learnt an insane amount about myself and my bad writing tics and also that, when the pressure is on, I can do some of my absolute best work. Looking back, it blows my mind how I’d struggled with that book for so long and then as soon as it was in the hands of Repeater I saw every flaw I’d missed previously and turned it into another book entirely. (That’s why I blog so much — much better at finding the flaws in my own thinking when I know it is on display.)
I never thought any of these epiphanies would come out of 2019. And it is weird to be writing this now knowing that no one has any idea what I’m talking about and won’t until the end of Q1 of 2020. I’ve been ready to wash my hands of this project since September and now as we enter January the press machine gets into gear. So weird, writer’s templexity.
Putting all the time spent booking to one side, the year takes on a very different shape. January started with a massive mental block, emerging out of a long conversation had at the end of 2018 with Reza Negarestani. I attempted to turn this conversation into a blog series called “Patchwork Epistemologies”. It wasn’t very good but I have no regrets. Sometimes you just have to clear the brain pipes with a six-part excursion through your own mediocrity before you can move onto the next thing.
Then, of course, it was the second anniversary of Mark’s death which always dominates the start of the year.
After January, things sort of faded into a grey area. I don’t remember writing a lot of what came next. In my head, I didn’t do anything for months but I must have just gone into auto-pilot. There were some really big posts that came out of this — the U/Acc primer being the most influential it seems — but also a lot of micro-blogging glorified-tweet type stuff which feels worthwhile in the moment but doesn’t hold up to much in hindsight. (I’ve left most of that out of here.)
From February onward, I fell into a really deep depression — one of the worst I can remember having since at least 2015. It was a weird brain chemistry thing, in part. I did a load of drugs at a party and then never recovered from the comedown. In fact, I just kept sliding down further and further into perhaps the bleakest mental state I’ve ever known.
Whilst everything fell apart in 2017, after Mark’s death, emotions from around that time were worn on my sleeve for the most part. I felt like quite a public mental health mess. It wasn’t any secret that I wasn’t coping very well because it was all anyone was talking about anyway. I was a mess and so was everyone else. Such was the atmosphere around Goldsmiths then. However, no longer in that zone, working a day job and having responsibilities beyond studying meant I fell back into the default position of hiding my feelings rather than letting them all hang out. And it was suffocating. Quite literally. I fell into a really dark place because even confessing my struggles to my partner on the daily didn’t make the pain go away and there was a point where I didn’t think I could take it anymore. All I remember is that every day was defined by a pathological guilt and I would sit in the office trying to smile through the very physical sensation of having a lump of lead in my chest.
Then I spent a night in Bedlam, starting an experimental course of triple chronotherapy and doubling by antidepressant dosage, and that shunted my brain out of the pit it was in. And I was almost euphoric after that. It was such a relief to not feel like death. I’d forgotten what “wellness” felt like.
Once I was out the other end, I set my heart on finishing Egress. Again, I don’t remember keeping up with the blog much during that time but I evidently posted some stuff. I “finished” the book in July and sent it off to Repeater and I was amazed by their quick response. But it wasn’t without caveats. As soon as I sent it to Tariq Goddard, all the faults in it became glaringly obvious and it was in July and August that it doubled in size from a modest 45,000 word document to 90,000. Then, after a stressful few months of editing and finding all the spelling mistakes and reinforcing the philosophical arguments, it is now due out on 10th March 2020.
I am really, really proud of it and I am so relieved to have washed my hands of it now. It is a load off my heart and my head.
I’m expecting that 2020 will be defined by this book. As much as it is an opportunity for myself to get some closure and move on from Mark’s thought to some other projects, the irony is that, in orbit of the release date, I’m sure I’ll end up writing about Mark more than ever. I just hope I can find a way to do so that doesn’t emboldened the Mark Fisher cottage industry. (I already have a few essays and op-eds lined up as well as a few lectures and launch events and podcasts.)
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…
But I’ve also already started on book #2. Over the first six months of this year, I struggled to write an essay called The Primal Wound which was featured on lapsuslima.com. I’d been invited to contribute to the website in December 2018 and had the idea almost immediately but really struggled to get it out of my head and onto the page. I really laboured over it. When it came out, it felt really special and the response was amazing but I’ve since realised that I am not finished with it. It was very compacted and functioned as a snapshot within a process that dominates a lot of my thought-life. That’s good, to some, but despite how much the post-Ccru crowd love compression, it’s not really how I roll and so I feel like there’s another book in there for sure. At the time of writing, I’m 25,000 words into it and I hope to finish a draft of it by the end of 2020.
I don’t intend it to be as long as Egress. It’s going to be a lot more concise and with much shorter chapters. More than anything, I’m in love with this project already because I know it’s going to be a mental sanctuary over the year ahead. It is a project so totally unrelated to everything else I’ll be preoccupied with promoting.
Other highlights of this year include our various trips to Cornwall and Suffolk, the xenofeminist hellthreads, writing about gigs I’ve loved, getting back into photography and having more of that on the blog, and a few other post series: “Cascading Adolescence” and “Frontier Psychiatry”, both of which were kind of aborted but I’m not done with them. (A polished version of “Cascading Adolescence” may be getting translated into French in the new year, seeing itself properly published, and “Frontier Psychiatry” could be another book project but it might be something I edit rather than write wholly on my own. [My previous Wild West posts turned into a major chapter in Egress so I have sort of scratched that itch for now — which is also why that series died before it got off the ground: energy went elsewhere.] I also already know of one other person who caught the Wild West bug… If you want to write something about frontier politics and psychoanalysis, drop me a line.)
Anyway, enjoy the highlights below and here’s to what is shaping up to be the most exciting year yet for xenogothic. Big terrifying things are happening. It’s great that all the energy put into this blog — that might have been seen as energy squandered by so many of the more traditionally academic types I know — is starting to pay off. If only so I don’t feel like I haven’t been completely wasting my time procrastinating on it eternally.
Here’s to 2020 being the year my procrastination helps me pay the bills?