2010 was quite a year.

I figured, since so much had happened that I was having a hard time keeping it all straight, I’d try to do a “year in review” post summarizing all the crazy stuff that happened this last year, to the best of my ability. Of course, probably the biggest thing is that I was contacted by Jason Yarn, an agent with Paradigm after he saw my submission to the Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities call for micro-submissions. He and I have been talking since, and hopefully there’ll be some big related news on the horizon.

Three of my stories appeared this year. “Nature vs. Nurture” appeared in the third fiction issue of Innsmouth Free Press, where it also won the readers’ poll for best story in that issue. My flash story “Ex Libris” appeared at Everyday Weirdness. And “The Clowder,” which I sold years ago, finally appeared in the Cat Tales 2 anthology from Wildside Press.

While “The Worm that Gnaws” was published in 2009, in 2010 it was voted the best Pseudopod of 2009 in an annual forum poll, which made me very proud.

That was it for fiction in 2010, but it was the Year of Nonfiction for me. Back in February I started my column on international horror cinema at Innsmouth Free Press (the latest installment of which is here), and I participated throughout the year in Vampire Awareness Month and Ghost Appreciation Month. This coming February I’ll be one of the MCs for Monster Awareness Month, which I am very excited about. I also wrote a piece on Mignola, Wellman, and Modern Myth-Building for IndiePulp. But my proudest nonfiction moment of the year was being asked to write a piece for Strange Horizons on a subject very near and dear to my heart, which you can take a gander at over here, if I’ve not already pointed at it and jumped up and down enough times.

The end of 2010 saw a fairly unprecedented flurry of short story sales that should all be appearing in 2011 sometime. First “Letters from the Monster Show” sold to the forthcoming YA ezine Scape, then, in rapid succession, I sold three stories to anthologies that should be hitting next year. “Black Hill” will be in Historical Lovecraft, the first anthology from Innsmouth Free Press. “Count Brass” will be in The Burning Maiden from Evil Eye Books. And “The Devil in the Box” will be in Delicate Toxins from Side Real Press. In every one of those I’m in some very august company, and I’ll keep you updated about ordering information and such as it becomes available.

A lot of stuff happened in my “real life” this year, too. I got a new job, for starters. My lovely, smart, and talented wife was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, went on short term disability, had to quit her job, and found a new one that suits her much better. Our cat had a brush with death, and we learned that she needs some extensive dental work done. Ups and downs, in other words, but I think we came out of it better than we started, which is good enough.

I could go on and on about things that happened to friends, movies I saw, books I read, but I’ve mostly talked about those things before, and this is getting long enough. I’ll close with a few links to a couple of other fun things I participated in this year: a micro-interview with me at Innsmouth Free Press, Vincent Price Day live-Tweeting with me and Selena Chambers, and my 74* favorite horror movies.

That’s the short version of 2010, anyway. (God help you if I’d gone with the long one.) It was an exciting year, if not always a pleasant one, and 2011 is shaping up to be just as exciting and hopefully even more pleasant. See you then!

2010 is, I believe, the first year of my entire life where I read more than ten books that came out that same year. Hence, I’m honoring the occasion by making my first-ever Top Ten Books of the Year list. It’s mostly comics, and about half of it’s stuff by Mike Mignola, but really, this is me, so that’s to be expected.

I read a lot of very good books this year, and because Mike Mignola released so many a few deserving ones didn’t quite make this list. That said, I still didn’t read nearly as many new books as I probably should, so there are likely ten times as many great books that I didn’t get around to as ones I did. Still, here’s a list, for what it’s worth.

(For the purposes of this list, I only counted books that came out in 2010. I read a number of great books for the first time that came out in previous years, some of which would’ve undoubtedly found a place here had I opened it up to them. A few that deserve mention are The Monstrumologist, Worse Than Myself, and The Darkly Splendid Realm.)

Anyway, without further ado:

10. The Ammonite Violin & Others
A weird, rough, sometimes repetetive collection of stories that are also often breathtaking, intriguing, and inspiring. Like most everything else I’ve ever read by Kiernan, although taken to its own extreme. Maybe flawed, but a gem nonetheless.

9. B.P.R.D. 1947
While the B.P.R.D. titles are not usually my favorites of the Mignola gestalt, the 194- series are my favorites of the B.P.R.D. titles. While 1946 tackled mutant Nazi vampires, this one focuses on “the spooky, old-school variety,” and the result is a quieter, more haunting story than usual for the series, aided by charming art and the combination of humanity and military/historical verisimilitude that Dysart brings to the mix.

8. The White Cat
Like The Brothers Bloom with curse magic! I’m a huge Holly Black fan, and a fan of grifters and con artists and stories about criminals, and The White Cat hit all those notes beautifully. Probably my favorite of Holly Black’s novels to date.

7. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
Maybe the biggest turning point in the history of Hellboy so far, this is one that could also have gone off the rails all too easily under any hand less sure than Mignola’s. This is as sprawling and epic as Hellboy comics get, and Fegredo’s art is up to the task.

6. Under the Poppy
While no one is probably surprised to see this list dominated by Mignola, I myself am surprised at finding Under the Poppy here. I read it because I’d heard good things and something (the puppets, probably) about the premise intrigued me, but I didn’t expect to find myself loving it as much as I did. There’s nothing speculative here, just great characters and great writing, but in this case that’s more than enough.

5. Hellboy: The Crooked Man & Others
For a Hellboy collection with only one story illustrated by Mignola, this one’s a classic. The title story marks Hellboy’s first foray into Mignola’s version of the Appalachian folklore of Manly Wade Wellman, and also is a high point in the collaboration of Mignola and Corben. “In the Chapel of Moloch,” the one story illustrated by Mignola, is a great Hellboy short and a reminder of why Mignola’s the best. And the John Pelan essay on Wellman at the back of the book would be worth the cover price all by itself.

4. Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels
My favorite of the various Hellboy spin-offs to date. Perfect Victorian-era occult detective storytelling, with great art by Ben Stenbeck and tie-ins to the rest of Mignola’s expanding mythology that are both subtle and great.

3. The Poison Eaters & Other Stories
As I mentioned above, I’m a big Holly Black fan, and I like her short stories even more than her novels. The Poison Eaters was a big event for me, and it didn’t disappoint.

2. Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
Who would’ve expected Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson to turn out the best supernatural comic series this side of Hellboy, and about talking animals no less? But that’s exactly what Beasts of Burden is. The art is great, the humor is great, the pathos is great, the monsters are great. And this collection, which features not only the four-issue miniseries but also all the short stories from the Dark Horse Book Of books, is both beautiful and great. If you haven’t already read Beasts of Burden, this is one of the best comic collections ever published.

1. The Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Objects
Who’s surprised? Yeah, probably nobody. What we have here is a book that’s all Mignola. All the art, all the writing (with some help from his daughter Katie). And not in the Hellboy universe, either, but completely unfettered to do basically whatever he wants. And it’s brilliant. In addition to the by-now familiar (from the animated pilot, if nowhere else) title story, there’s a bunch of all-new content, and it’s all great weird mythologizing of the first order.

Yesterday Paul Tremblay and then Jesse Bullington both put out lists of their 74 Favorite Horror Movies. Being a good camp follower, I decided to try my own hand at a similar list.

When I set out to make it I realized really quickly that Hammer movies were going to be a problem. On the one hand, they were going to just dominate the list. And on the other hand, I wasn’t really sure which ones to include. See, Hammer movies are basically unfailingly good, in a way that I’ve never found with any other equally large sub-set of cinema. And, what’s more, they all feel very similar to me. I don’t really even think of them as individual movies, exactly, but as sort of one huge tapestry of related films with the same actors, settings, monsters, etc. Pulling them apart seems disingenuous, especially when they’re just going to then occupy something like half my list. So instead I made a list without including any Hammer movies, and then gave all of them an honorary spot. So this is actually 73 movies, plus every Hammer movie ever made.

I also stretched the boundaries of what constitutes “horror,” probably, including some stuff that I’m not even sure I would put under that banner. But I’ll let you judge for yourselves whether they should be included or not.

This is about as far from an objective list as it’s possible to get, and equally far from being ranked in any particular order. Basically, these are the first movies I thought of, and I’m sure I left out all sorts of great ones. (I noticed several I left out upon reading back over, but I didn’t let myself go back and make changes.) They comprise a pretty solid combo of things that I love right now and things that had a big impact on me at some earlier point in my evolution. (And sometimes both.) Anyway, here’s the list. It was fun to make, hopefully it’ll be fun to read.

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Another thing that was suggested for my countdown was that I should produce a list of my favorite horror stories and novels. Somehow this task was too dauntingly open-ended for me at the moment, but I came up with an alternative. I made a list of fifteen authors of the weird and supernatural whose short stories have inspired me over the years, and a favorite story by each.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I could double it without difficulty. Probably triple it. Probably more. I picked fifteen because it seemed a manageable number and because it’s always the number of those “pick fifteen” memes that go around Facebook. I listed the first fifteen authors who came to mind. There are lots of notable exceptions that didn’t make the list for an assortment of reasons; sometimes because I couldn’t pick a story, sometimes because I just didn’t think of them before I’d gotten to fifteen. (There is, just as a for instance, a conspicuous and unfortunate lack of Fritz Leiber, which is really uncalled-for.)

The stories I picked are not necessarily representative of stories by these authors. Nor are they necessarily my very favorite story by that author. They are one of my favorie stories and, again, usually the first one that came to mind.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Mike Mignola — “The Witch and Her Soul”*
Robert Westall — “The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral”**
H.P. Lovecraft — “The Shunned House”
Robert E. Howard — “The Rattle of Bones”
Manly Wade Wellman — “Up Under the Roof”
William Hope Hodgson — “The Voice in the Night”
M.R. James — “Count Magnus”
Brian Lumley — “Recognition”
Clive Barker — “In the Hills, the Cities”
Holly Black — “The Poison Eaters”
M.T. Anderson — “Watch & Wake”
William Browning Spencer — “The Tenth Muse”
Norman Partridge — “Return of the Shroud”
Terry Dowling — “One Thing About the Night”
Sarah Monette — “The Venebratti Necklace”

*This one’s cheating a bit, since it’s a comic book story, but not including Mike Mignola on any list like this would be unthinkable for me. Also, picking a favorite of his stories is a mug’s game, and this could be replaced by virtually any of his other tales. “The Whittier Legacy” is another recent favorite that’s available to read for free online.
**Another cheat. This one’s a novella, and I could have easily picked any number of actual short stories by Westall that are also wonderful, but I wanted to pick this one, so there.