I do this every year, and every year I seem to be disappointed by the same failures while being inspired by some surprising successes.

I keep promising I’ll be healthier, which is fat people code for “lose weight.”

Nope. Still a gentleman of generous proportions.

I keep promising I’m going to stop using four-letter words.

Not even fucking close. And that one had a bonus three letters.

I’m going to try both of those again. I need to survive my 40s, at least, and I sometimes sound like an uncultured beast, surely beneath a man of letters like myself. I’m not offended by swearing, of course. My mother is, like the father in A Christmas Story, a world-class cusser. I grew up with the F-word like other people grow up with . . . I don’t know . . . Catholicism. But at this point the swearing thing is less about the words themselves, or any sort of fear that I’m offending anyone else (I’m only offended by people who take offense to what other people are doing), and more about self control. If I want to be less of a potty-mouth, I should be able to be less of a potty-mouth.

The rest of the resolutions, about watching less TV, playing more games, writing more—stuff that’s actually more important to me, career-wise, I did pretty well on. I have been playing more games, mostly via PS3 (Flow, Dead Space, and Castle Crashers are faves), but we still haven’t played last year’s Christmas board games Risk: Halo Wars and Smallworld. I’ll try to fix that in 2012, too. Maybe we need to institute a Family Game Night.

Definitely we should do that.

I have written more, thanks to two exciting projects in particular: Arron of the Black Forest and The Fathomless Abyss. I did finish that urban fantasy novel, and just completed an additional revision inspired by some feedback from an editor who’s opinion I value. That’ll get into circulation again immediately after the new year. And I completed two work-for-hire assignments: The Warhammer short story “The City is Theirs” for Black Library and the fast-and-furious How to Start Your Own Religion for Adams Media. The only writing project I resolved to do last year that didn’t get done was a screenplay. I’ll get on that this year—the idea is here, just need to make it breathe.

So that’s it for the quick review of last year’s resolutions. A mixed bag of success and failure. I don’t swear more, and I’m no more fat now than I was a year ago, so at least I’m holding steady on some stuff, and getting to work on others. Let’s go ahead and stipulate that at the beginning of every year I’ll try again to be healthier, write more, read more, and so on.

For 2012, I want to do something a little bigger picture. One giant uber-resolution that I think will not only make me a better person overall in 2012 but may just have a ripple effect that will help me solve those other problems that I continue to struggle with.

In 2012 I resolve to live entirely in the future.

I know, that sounds a little Oprah Winfrey, but hear me out.

Like (I daresay) most people, I have a tendency to complain about what has happened, bemoan what could have happened, and endlessly suffer over what should have happened. And I do this more often and with greater vigor than I plan for what’s about to happen or go out in search of what could happen.

For instance, as much as I tried not to, and said I didn’t, I did hold a grudge about how things came to an end for me at Wizards of the Coast. No matter how many times I promised I wouldn’t, I still kept my ear to the ground there, still gossiped with people who, like me, have better things to do and more important things to worry about. I’ve been gone from there for eighteen months. It’s someplace I used to work, and though my time there was well spent and important to me, I use the lessons learned there (both positive and negative) every day, and I will still keep in touch with a small army of good friends and valuable allies from TSR/WotC past, present, and future, I hereby resolve in 2012 to spend no more time suffering over why I got fired from there as I do over why I don’t work for Rose Records anymore. Like WotC, they could have done things differently so that I didn’t get bounced out of a job five days after the birth of my first child. That was fun. At least Hasbro had a better-than-average severance package, and my kids were older.

But it’s not at all just WotC. Believe me, most days go by when I don’t actually spend any time thinking about Wizards of the Coast in either a positive or negative light at all. I also bitch about politics, including things that have happened, that everyone seems to accept were bad, but that will not ever be fixed. No one will stand trial for causing this depression we’re in. Most people participate in the huge lie that what’s happening now is a “recession,” or even have the balls (pardon me) to use the word “recovery” in any but the past tense. This is the kind of shit (pardon me again) that makes me crazy. This keeps me living in a shoulda-woulda-coulda life that’s of no use to anyone. No one wants to hear me bitch about the Hope and Change candidate I was excited to vote for but who has changed fuck all (pardon m—aw the hell with it) and most of us are only less hopeful now than we were in 2008.

Okay . . . see what happens?

This is no good. You’re no better off for having read that, and I’m no better off for having written it. Here’s one thing I’ll do, proactively, to keep myself moving forward: I will stop watching the TV news.

I know this seems like I’m just putting my head in the sand, but I’m the kind of person who, when confronted with a problem, sees that as a request, a challenge, a mandate to fix it. But I can’t light a fire under the legislature. I have no access to President Obama. I can’t talk Al Qaeda out of this crazy shit they’re doing. No one at Goldman Sachs is going to take my calls, let alone offer me their apology for cashing out on America. I can’t stop radon from leaking up through the ground. Who do I call to convince television networks that when people are being forced out of their homes every day for the sin of getting sick with no health insurance the details of a perfect stranger’s product-placement celebrity wedding is not just unimportant and uninteresting but obscene? If I could, I’d invent a clean, renewable energy source that makes fossil fuels obsolete.

I’ve sat through the endless “health reports”: carbs make you fat—no, it’s fat that makes you fat—no, wait, it’s fruit, no rice—no, wait, it’s . . . shut up already. The sugar industry releases a study that says that corn syrup is bad for you and it’s reported as science. Then the corn growers pay a few million dollars for a commercial to tell you that sugar and corn syrup are the same thing. Finally Michelle Obama warns you to stay away from both of them. It will drive you mad. It will. I can’t stand it. I have actually sat through episodes of TV news shows that have made me so angry I couldn’t sleep. Commercials for payday loans and bankruptcy lawyers send me into panic attacks. The re-introduction of Depression Era programs like “layaway” makes my hands shake. And supposedly “upbeat” stories of anonymous millionaires paying off strangers’ layaway items for Christmas doesn’t make me feel better—that’s not hopeful, that’s another sign of the pathetic, whimpering end of the American Dream.

I can’t carry this weight anymore. I don’t know how to begin to fix any of those problems. So what’s left to me after an hour of all that is impotent rage. I flatly refuse to crack and go off on some kind of shooting rampage, so the only other possibility for me is to step out of the madding crowd and get on with doing what I do.

I write stories. I’m going to concentrate on that. And sometimes, I’ll have to do research and I will, and Twitter will tell me if something big happens, and I’ll seek out informed and balanced information on events that interest and/or effect me directly. But don’t ask me about Wizards of the Coast, Kim Kardashian, Rick Perry, or Rachel Maddow. I’m not going to have an opinion.

I’m going to get to work. I’m going to work my ass off. And if the only hope for middle class Americans like me is to buy our way into the 1%, well, then, 1% here I come.

I’m not saying I’m all of a sudden going to “sell out”—after all, as soon as I put pen to paper to write the Baldur’s Gate novelization that ship well and thoroughly sailed—it just means that I’m going to point at the sunrise, not the sunset, get busy being busy, and do for me and mine.

After all, they got this Depression on.


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Arron of the Black Forest, Books, creative team, Publishing Business, SF and Fantasy Authors, The Fathomless Abyss, transmedia, Video Games, Writing, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. It all works for me. I try not to dwell too much on where I fell short (to be fair I can only remember one real resolution I made last year), but I try to focus on what is coming. I have a good list this year and I look forward to nailing each and every one!

  2. Pingback: HEALTHY BODY/HEALTHY MIND | Fantasy Author's Handbook

  3. Pingback: DEPRESSION AND WRITER’S BLOCK | Fantasy Author's Handbook

  4. Pingback: WRAPPING UP 2014 | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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