2023: a year in posts

In January 2023 I set a goal of posting every week, which isn’t easy when you’re diverted as readily as I am. I managed about three posts a month and I’ll take that for a win. Nerd that I am, I thought I’d start the new year with my top five posts of 2023.

A chimpanzee with a tool
An author, deep in thought. Credit: Anthony Anastas/Flickr

Most popular posts of 2023

When it comes to winning views, my most successful post in 2023 was Planning tools for writing novels, which saw a surge of interest around Nanowrimo in November. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then, that second place went to my two-part review of Plottr, the visual storytelling tool.

I was surprised to see that Comparative sentience: what does it mean to be smart, was my third most-viewed post of 2023. Originally posted on my old Medium feed in 2017, I re-posted here after discovering that it was cited in an academic paper. Maurice Yolles at Liverpool John Moores University referred to my work in Consciousness, Sapience and Sentience—A Metacybernetic View.

Publishing my first novel in 2022 made me think about the true cost of writing a book. I posted How much does it cost to write a novel in January 2023, and it’s become the next most popular post of the year.

Book reviews have taken up a fair bit of blogging time this year, so I was relieved to see one make the top five. My review of Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief took in the book and the 2010 film, but it was timed for the launch of a new adaptation on Disney+. I’m looking forward to catching up with the TV show’s take on the ADHD demigod.

NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus cooking on the International Space Station during the Expedition 18 mission in 2006
NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus cooking on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Most read posts of 2023

I tend to write long posts, so it’s even better when my content is read as well as seen. Ranking my posts by the time visitors spent reading them, the 2023 winner is the first part of my series of space food: A Taste Of Space. Contemporary Astro Cuisine had an average engagement of 8 minutes and 56 seconds, although when I say visitors, there was just one and I thank you.

Next up came my thoughts on the hard problems facing that hoary sci-fi trope of uploading your mind to a computer. Embodied intelligence: bad news for transhumanists, great news for AIs, was read for an average of 4 minutes 41 seconds.

Book reviews also made for longer reads in 2023, with three posts filling the final slots in the top five of reader engagement. A triple-bill of The Murdstone Trilogy, The Power and Invisible Monsters captured your attention for 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Another book vs film review, for The Gunslinger/The Dark Tower by Stephen King, was close behind at 2 minutes 21 seconds. Finally, a roundup of those unlikely bookshelf-fellows The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Titus Groan and The Grapes of Wrath occupied readers for 1 minute 51 seconds.

My favourite posts of 2023

Nothing beats discovering that I’d written something smart enough to be cited by a genuine academic, even if it was something I wrote six years ago!

I enjoy all of my research-based writing — maybe too much — whether it’s animals in space or Irish mythology. A Taste Of Space became an epic undertaking but it provoked a lot of thought about the future of food for off-world communities. Research is fun but it’s only the beginning: the hard part is turning it into cultures that my characters inhabit.

It’s not always fun to review books from a writer’s perspective, especially when I wanted to like a novel and feel let down by the experience. I’ve encountered novels I might never have read and been glad that I did, and hate-read to the end on a couple of occasions. Sometimes it’s been cathartic to get those feelings into a review and rationalise my feelings, but every novel has been provocative and educational in one way or another.

And it’s been rewarding to see that Save Orangutans has been consistently among the top five pages on my entire site. I hope some of you have jumped off to one of the conservation charities to donate.

Kinnitty Pyramid, a black stone mausoleum in rural Ireland
Kinnitty Pyramid will reveal its dark secrets in 2024. Credit: Alexander Lane

Post predictions for 2024

The coming months will see more reviews as I take on the books and adaptations of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Colour Out Of Space by HP Lovecraft and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones. After that I’m going to look at a few of the books about writing that I’ve enjoyed, though I want to keep reviews at a monthly cadence and leave room for other topics.

The hardest part is choosing a topic from the every-lengthening list and trying to stop them running away into multi-post epics. There will be something about AI, consciousness, research into history, mythology and space travel, and notions about literature itself that all these reviews are making me think about.

As for creative writing, the second Nightmare Vacations story remains mired in edits. I’m determined to get it out by the middle of 2024 and I’ve got several research-based posts in mind to support the launch.

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