The Last Word on the Plague Year 2020

Illustration for Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism” by Lawrence Nickle

At the ends of most of the years I’ve lived through (and there have been more than a few), the little miseries and disappointments of the previous 365 days were generally ones unique to me, so when I looked back on a year, I’d keep those to myself, or tell a few close friends, or maybe just write them down and set them afire. They were nobody’s business.

2020 was different of course. In at least the broad strokes, we have been united in our dismay; there’s no secret to them. You could say that the apocalyptic COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a common language of suffering and dread and it gives us all a small window into one another’s souls.

Not that all suffering is equal. Even in these times, it is far from that. But dread? Whatever else is going on in our lives, the same beast is at all our doors. For too many of us, it’s stepped inside.

It hasn’t here. Madeline and I have been able to isolate, do our work at home, keep in touch with the outside world through Zoom, Google, Face Time and the phone – and the odd distanced, outdoor visit with mask and sanitizer close at hand. We’ve been absurdly healthy; one side effect of all this masking and isolating from COVID-19 is also isolating and masking from the cold and flu. And of course we spent the year COVID-19-free, as have the people around us.

Still. It’s been a slow year for new writing. Not entirely a stagnant one – I’ve got some incremental work to show for 2020 – and the year’s finishing with a new project soon to be announced that’s going quite nicely – but 2021 has some catching up to do.

There have been no conventions or other literary events. I would have been at at least one – the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, which was to take place in Florida, back in March. I’d gone so far as to book a hotel room but had, happily as it turned out, put off booking a flight, by the time it became clear that lockdown was if not imminent then at least advisable. A few days after I cancelled with ICFA, the organizers sensibly cancelled the whole thing.

Like a lot of people, I find myself wondering if there’s ever going to be another destination-convention in the genre again. Maybe… probably. But it does seem a long way off.

Of course, the world has a way of surprising you. In late 2019, I was faced with the prospect of all my books falling out of print, possibly indefinitely. By this time this year, I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to be the case. Open Road Integrated Media got in touch with my agent Ron Eckel in late November, to talk about the possibility of picking up my backlist that had been published with ChiZine, and putting them all out as e-Books and trade paperbacks.

By May of 2020, we’d finished all that talk, and I was able to announce the republications of six books. Eutopia and Volk, which together make up my Book of the Juke series, came out in August, and the rest of them – Rasputin’s Bastards, The ‘Geisters, Monstrous Affections and Knife Fight and Other Struggles – appeared just over a month ago from the time of this writing.

The new covers and designs… well, I’m very happy with them.

I built a new website too – or rather, I hooked up with Jeremy Tolbert and his company Clockpunk Studios, to build this website. It replaces my dozen-or-so year-old website that I’d cobbled together somehow with Blogger and the no-longer-supported Google Pages service. The site’s got the same ‘name’ as the old one – the Devil’s Exercise Yard – but a new and more succinct domain: davidnickle.ca. And otherwise it is as smooth and beautiful and elegant as I could have hoped for. As an added bonus in a year in which I haven’t been able to meet many people at all, I got to meet Jeremy, who is good people.

I’m grateful for that.

In fact, as I write this I realize that I am grateful for a lot of things this past year – far more grateful than regretful. These are dangerous times, it’s true, and the beast is at the door. Yet so far, Madeline and I have been able to both remain safe and happy, and in the main hopeful that we can pass through this and move on to something that is better than today, if not perhaps exactly the same as it was before.


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