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2021 Hindsight

In hindsight, arranging an international move with family and a cat during a pandemic, across a border that went from EU-internal to third country during the move, might not have been the wisest thing to do. But we did, and we are now settled in Sweden, with our old home in the UK sold, and most of the bureaucracy of it all now sorted.

Unfortunately, the stress of it almost broke me, and in the middle of December, when the sale of our UK home was finalised, all the pent-up stress hit me with a complete writer’s block. I had to abandon my traditional Advent tale, and wasn’t able to write anything again until late January this year.

But I am recovering, and I have started writing again.

Anyway, in 2021 I wrote just under 300 microstories which I posted on Twitter, Facebook, Mastodon and Tumblr.

As usual I am eligible for the “Fan Writer” category in the Hugo awards.

As a sample of my work, I’ll include the most popular (by Twitter interactions) story for each month below, with some brief commentary.

January

I don’t really have anything to add to this.

February

I imagine that the second time you have to go out and save the world is the worst. The first time is probably bad, but then it’s over, and it’s done. Having to do it again must be worse.

But once you’ve had to do it again, doing it again again must be easier.

March

Referencing the ship Ever Given, which was stuck in the Suez Canal, and blocked an inordinate amount of international shipping for a few days. Less than four hours after posting this story, the ship was partially freed, and after another ten hours it was underway, so I squeezed this one in just in time.

Also, note the brain fart where I wrote Suez Channel instead of Suez Canal. I beg your forgiveness – it was late, and I was likely floating between languages.

April

Things are rarely as simple as this or that, the one or the other. It is easy to forget that.

May

It is really unprofessional to toy with your victims.

June

I have never had a dog myself, but I have witnessed friends’ dogs fetch all kinds of interesting things. Not a sword though.

Yet.

July

There once was, in the UK, a dial-up internet provider called Demon, where all support engineers were rumoured to be called Bob. This was written for them.

August

This story was most well received on Tumblr, which is the social media platform that holds on to its memes most dearly, cherishing and nurturing them for years.

Ea-nasir, a seller of sub-par quality copper ingots and the subject the world’s oldest customer complaint letter, is a firm favourite there.

September

Was there something in the news around then about billionaires not paying much in tax? Probably. There usually is.

October

I think this was inspired by some fic or story riffing off myths of ancient Greece.

You haven’t freed someone if you take custody of them yourself.

November

Libraries always offered me sanctuary.

December

It is a bit magical, that song.

This story was inspired by watching that video of the Green Day concert in Hyde Park in London, where the 65000 people in the crowd sang the whole song (including guitar solo). It’s amazing.

Bonus

A story which I am very proud of since half the comments on it were “Ooof!” and half were “I don’t get it”:

2020 Showcase

I have no idea why I haven’t thought of this before. Since it is award nomination season, I can do a showcase post!

As usual, the Hugo category that is most pertinent to me is the “Best Fan Writer”, which in my case would be in recognition of writing 250+ pieces of microfiction over the year and regularly bringing my readers (I hope) joy, food for thought, or a dose of silliness. If you like that sort of thing, and are qualified to nominate, please consider me for this category.

Unusually, I did not write any short stories that are publically available (there are a couple which I wrote as a little bonus for my patrons on Patreon and Ko-Fi), and no new Advent tale. 2020 was hard for productivity.

Here is a Twitter search for my stories over the year, though it only seems to bring back 60 or so – there is probably a cap on how many tweets they want to return. You can play with dates and number of faves to see what it yields.

And as a quick showcase, the most engaged-with tweet for every month, with some commentary:

January

This one came about after seeing yet another whine about it being “historically incorrect” to have black people or women warriors in period dramas or games. Given that there have been documented examples of both in at least Western and Central Europe for the last couple of millennia, it is just tiresome to see.

This story caused a lot of debate, which is always a bit scary to see. I am grateful that my readers tend to be reasonably polite and respectful to others.

February

I miss sword fighting practice. Not for flirting reasons, but simply because it’s a lot of fun. And I miss seeing my fighting friends.

March

All fiction, but especially genre fiction, builds on and plays with ideas and concepts conceived by earlier writers, used and told in new ways. “Spaceship Earth” was a concept first (I think) invented by Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s, and is by now a quite well-known trope, often used in pop-science TV programs.

A lot of my stories use genre tropes, because that saves space. So if you think you recognise an idea in a story from somewhere else, you’re probably right (or both riff off an older story).

Having said that, it is important to recognise that an idea does not make a story, and that how a story is told is generally more important than the idea(s) expressed by it, in terms of the impact the story has on the reader/listener.

April

Written after two weeks of the first UK Covid-19 lockdown.

May

Yeah. Some days it’s harder than others to get up and get going. Try to be kind to yourself.

June

Black Lives Matter.

July

By this time it felt like 2020 had been going for a couple of years. Now that it’s over, I haven’t changed my mind.

August

Don’t really have much to add to this one. I like public libraries. I think they’re one of humanity’s greatest inventions.

September

Hmm, yes.

October

Black Lives still Matter.

November

Everyone doesn’t always fit into neat little well-defined boxes. I made a comment about a story I wrote for Bi Visibility Day in September which also applies here:

Reading all the comments on this I can only conclude that “genre” is fluid, and a social construct.

December

Partially inspired by the Sotherans rare book shop, partially by Aziraphale’s shop in Good Omens, partially by some favourite book shops I haven’t been able to visit for far too long.

2019 and all that

This was… not a productive writing year for me. My day job was very demanding from January to July, and then again from September to December. Add to that family stress – the first half of the year saw one long-term relationship break up (not mine, but one involving a close relative), and three trips abroad I could have done without, for one deathbed visit and two funerals. Plus, you know, Trump, Brexit – which will directly impact me and my family – and general world blah. So I had limited energy for writing or projects related to my stories.

On the other hand – I had a book published! In June, my collection of 365 science fiction stories was published by the German publisher Mikrotext, in both English and German. It was well received by reviewers too. I am incredibly grateful for the work done by Nikola Richter at Mikrotext, and Birthe Mühlhoff who translated my little stories. And of course, I’m grateful to everyone who bought a copy. Thank you!

I also visited Dublin again, and attended WorldCon where I met a lot of friends I haven’t seen in ages, and went to a lot of really good panels. While I had volunteered to do panels (with the caveat that there are plenty more interesting voices than mine), I was very glad I was not asked to do any, and could treat it as a holiday.

But what have I written? Looking at the archive at microsff.tumblr.com I see 30 pages, with 15 posts each, from 2019. Discount individual tweets from longer stories, plugs for the book, or my Patreon and Ko-Fi, and other announcements, and I probably ended up at around 300 micro stories written and posted during the year.I also wrote two serial tweet stories:

Hugo Award eligibility

Hugo nominations have opened, so should you deem my work worthy, the two stories linked above are eligible for Best Short Story, and as usual I am eligible for Best Fan Writer for, well, everything I write.

Review roundup

This summer, the German publisher mikrotext has released a collection of 365 of my science fiction stories. Called “Micro Science Fiction”, it is available in English and German, as ebook or paperback, from all major ebook stores and some realbook stores (lists of shops here and here).

I realised that while I did post about it, I haven’t done a roundup of reviews, which I ought to, since it has received very positive reviews in German media:

Exberliner
“With razor-sharp wit, riddle-like playfulness and moments of poignancy, Westin tackles the big issues facing the future of civilisation […] Each microstory is Tardis-like in its depth and philosophical scope”

Sueddeutsche Zeitung
“[…] in the brevity of a tweet, compress ideas that could carry a whole novel […] in the best of his ultra-short works, Westin succeeds in allowing the reader to unfold a whole small cosmos out of two or three sentences.”
[Google Translated]

Book Gazette
“Westin’s stories are remarkable and can serve as a prime example of storytelling and building worlds with as few words as possible. […] For the sake of form alone, [they] seem even more enchanting and brilliant. ”
[Google Translated]

Deutschlandfunk
“Westin grabs current debates [or] sci-fi scenes [and] compact the material until the beginning, middle, and end merge. Until only a tiny, polished diamond is left.”
[Google Translated]

Camestros Felapton
[…] the shift in perspective provides emotional insight into a character or social commentary or a disturbing reveal (or all of those).
The brevity invites readers to imagine the world and setting around the story.”

2018 summary

I have not counted every story/poem I have written this year, but the final tally seems to be around 300 tweet-size pieces of microfiction or poetry. This is way below my usual tally of 500+ pieces, which I mostly attribute to the world being too distracting/distressing, and to the fact that from June onwards, a change in my role in my day job meant it became a lot more stressful and exhausting, but also very rewarding.

I also wrote some longer pieces:

The stories above are all eligible for the Short Story Hugo award. If you would like to nominate my whole body of work – the microstories, the short stories, the poems, and the AdvenTale – for a Hugo award, you can nominate me (e.g. O. Westin, writing at twitter.com/microsff) in the Fan Writer category.

2017 Awards Eligibility Post

As award season is coming, I thought I’d do an Awards Eligibility Post™.

As usual, I have not counted how many microstories I wrote during the year, but there are 45 pages of 15 posts each on my Tumblr, which makes 675 posts. Discount serial tweetstories, posts about translations, Patreon, WorldCon, and stuff like that, and I think the final tally is around 520 tweetstories and tweetpoems.

In addition, I have written nine serial tweetstories, one regular short story, a play, and a collaborative choose-your-own-adventure story.