Season’s greetings from the Dante-esque dystopia that is England’s new Covid Tier 4 (twinned with Purgatory and Niflheim; other afterlives are available), and yes, it’s time for my inevitable Review of the Year. So here it is.
Enough of all that 24/7 excitement and non-stop global travel, so let’s not talk any more about The Thing That Happened in The Year That Shall Not Be Mentioned Ever Again. For me, the writing highlight of 2020 was undoubtedly the publication of Armada’s Wake, the third book of the ‘Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal’ trilogy, which I blogged about here. In many ways I was sad to say goodbye to Jack and the rest of the Stannard family, to the period and to Dunwich, the principal terrestrial setting for the trilogy. Having said that, Dunwich was one of my favourite places long before I ever conceived of these stories, and when the travel rules for the first national lockdown in England were relaxed, it was the first place we went to – partly because although it’s a two hour drive, it’s pretty much the nearest sea to where we live! I’d always conceived the Stannard trilogy as a standalone set of stories which wouldn’t permit of sequels and the like, but who knows what the future will bring? I’ve been working on a number of proposals for new fiction ideas with the idea of sending them to my agent and publisher in the new year, so we’ll see if anything emerges. I decided to take a bit of a break after completing Armada’s Wake, having had at least one and sometimes two book deadlines a year for the last twelve years. ‘Taking a bit of a break’ entailed writing another book, albeit with no contract and no deadline, the title in question being the next story in the ‘journals of Matthew Quinton’. This is currently about three-quarters of the way to completion and is proving to be good fun to write, so I expect to finish it by the end of January if all goes to plan. I’m also still working on my long-gestating book about the Stepney baronets, but can’t complete it until travel restrictions ease and various institutions reopen.
Otherwise, the various talks and conferences I was meant to be attending went by the wayside, although I’m now into a sequence of giving some Zoom talks, which in some ways are preferable to the usual format – above all, the opportunity for people to ‘attend’ from distant locations, including other countries, is surely something that we should all endeavour to maintain as and when circumstances become somewhat more normal again. I’m also contributing essays to a couple of forthcoming books, and hope to be able to announce more about these projects in the new year.
The other major development in my life was my election as chairman of the Society for Nautical Research, which I blogged about here. Some, if not all, of my predecessors probably took office in somewhat more propitious circumstances, and there have been a number of challenges to overcome. But at the moment the society remains very much on an even keel, and that’s due to the hard work and commitment of my colleagues among the officers and on the Council of the society. The highlight of the year for all of us was the recent launch of the society’s podcast, which goes from strength to strength and already boasts an impressive catalogue of topics.
Finally, then, I wish you as merry a Christmas as official government regulations will permit to one and all, and let’s all hope that 2021 brings better times. Until then, I hope you and your families stay safe and well.