• jasonmheller

2017: The Year I Went (Less) Mad

2017. What the fuck. It's been insane, it's been productive, it's been insane. Here's what I did.

-In January, I kicked off another year of being a regular book-and-music critic for NPR, which has been my main freelance gig lately.

-In January, I formed a new band called WEATHERED STATUES from the remains of my previous band, Cloak of Organs. And we decided to switch direction: from slow, shoegazing doom to dark, energetic post-punk.

-In March, I did a presentation on the sci-fi funk of the '70s at POPCON (at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture). My first PowerPoint! I didn't even screw it up! And I got to show off some of the research I'd been accumulating while working on my upcoming book STRANGE STARS: DAVID BOWIE, POP MUSIC, AND THE DECADE SCI-FI EXPLODED.

-In March, my essay "A PURPLISH HAZE: THE SCIENCE FICTION VISION OF JIMI HENDRIX" was published by Noisey.

-In March, I signed the contract for my next book, STARSHIPS & SORCERERS. My collaborator Desirina Boskovich and I will be creating this book for Abrams, and it will be a text-heavy coffee-table book that traces the secret history of science fiction and fantasy throughout popular culture. Due out in 2019!

-In April, my occasional DJ night FUNK CLUB became a monthly affair at Syntax Physic Opera in Denver. I love '70s and '80s funk, and I get to share my collection of 45s for crazy dancing crowds of rad people. This is in addition to being a resident DJ of MILE HIGH SOUL CLUB, Denver's biggest '60s soul dance night.

-In April, my interview with the experimental rap group clipping.--about their game-changing Hugo Award nomination for their sci-fi concept album Splendor & Misery--was published by Pitchfork.

In April, my debut essay for The Atlantic, "DAVID BOWIE'S 1987 SLUMP HELD ITS OWN WEIRD MAGIC," was published. A huge milestone for me. It was followed by three other essays I wrote the The Atlantic throughout 2017: on Nick Cave, Iraqi science fiction, the late Grant Hart of Husker Du, and a personal piece on what it's like to be an author of media tie-ins (I've written official movie tie-ins for Goosebumps and Pirates of the Caribbean).

In May, I launched a series of dance parties called 45s AGAINST 45. The idea is simple: the DJs spin 45s, and the proceeds go to the ACLU in their fight against POTUS 45. I'd been going nuts all year trying to figure out the best way to use my energy toward some kind of activism. I joined organizations. I marched at rallies. But I felt I needed to do something else, and so I concocted this crazy idea and ran with it. The first 45s Against 45 in May was HUGE! I was able to donate $1,000 to the ACLU. And since then, I've done two more of these events, with more scheduled for 2018.

-In May, I did one of the most difficult things in my life: I started taking medication for my anxiety and depression. I've been battling this shit my entire life, and I've tried everything imaginable to try to mitigate it--diet, exercise, quitting alcohol, quitting caffeine, etc. Finally I realized I needed to seek medical help. The transition was, well, interesting. But I'm so glad I took this huge step. I'm doing better than I ever have, and I'm still me--only significantly less scattered, impulsive, frustrated, angry, and petrified. If you've been putting off getting help for yourself, please, find a way to make it happen. Even if it's not medical in nature, but please don't rule that out. My illness was actually keeping me from getting help for that selfsame illness; for decade, my anxiety prevented me from accepting the possibility that meds might work. Of course, they don't cure everything, and I still need to be careful about what I eat, how active I am, and a myriad other things. But my frantic, jittery existence has become manageable. Thanks to everyone who's put up with me over the years!

-In August, I finished the first draft of STRANGE STARS and sent it off to my editor Ryan Harrington at Melville House. I busted so much ass this summer to complete this manuscript, and it felt FUCKING AMAZING to reach the finish line. This is the book I was born to write, but that didn't make it any easier!

-In August, my wife Angie and I took a road trip to Santa Fe. It was glorious. Such a beautiful town, and we ate some of the best food of our lives. And after my mad scramble to finish Strange Stars, I needed it.

-In September, my old friend Matt Bellinger, a founding member of the great post-hardcore band Planes Mistaken for Stars, died while in police custody after hanging himself in his holding cell. I wrote a remembrance of him for Westword, our alt-weekly paper in Denver. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever written. I miss Matt.

-In September, I finished recording with the rest of Weathered Statues. The ten songs we finished were influenced by the bands all four of us had grown up on: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Killing Joke, The Cure, and so on. And with those recordings in hand, I started shopping them around...

-In October, I wrote Pitchfork's official review of one of my favorite albums, Walk Among Us by the Misfits. It was an honor.

-In October, I served as the Toastmaster of MileHiCon, Denver's oldest and largest science fiction and fantasy convention. It was my first convention since getting on meds, and on top of that, I had to be extra social all weekend in my role as Toastmaster. I think I pulled it off, and my social anxiety barely flared up, even with all the public speaking I had to do. I even dressed up as a member of Devo and spun records at a sci-fi dance party in the hotel!

-In December, I finished editing (with Selena Chambers) my next fiction anthology, MECHANICAL ANIMALS. As advertised, it will be a collection of stories--science fiction, fantasy, horror--that deal with some form of mechanical animal. With a nod to Marilyn Manson, of course! The book will be published by Hex Publishers in November of 2018.

-In December, I finalized contract details with Svart Records--one of the best labels in the world for dark and/or heavy music--to release Borderlands, the debut album by Weathered Statues. Better yet, Lol Tolhurst, a founding member of The Cure, agreed to remix one of our songs, and it was a pleasure working with him. The album will come out in April of 2018 on vinyl, CD, and digitally, and there's a chance the Tolhurst remix will come out as a limited edition vinyl single. AND we're going to do some touring next, including a two-week trek through Europe!

So yeah, that's my 2017 in a nutshell. One of the most eventful years of my life. Madness yet less madness. Go figure.