The thing about writing a weekly column is that — and let’s be honest with ourselves here — not every one is a home run. Sometimes they’re base hits, sometimes bunts, sometimes even a sacrifice fly.

I don’t know baseball.

Anyway, here are six of the best columns I wrote in 2015. I know most people put out their “best of the year” in December, but I think that’s cheating. If you write something great after you put out that list, then you have to put it on next year’s list, and it gets all convoluted. This is easier.

6. SOTB things no one tells you about self-publishing (November 18) — Since this column came out, I self-published The Clockwork Russian. As of the writing of this column, I’ve sold eight copies. Because you can’t just throw a book up on Amazon and expect people to buy it. Work is required, and no one expects the amount that they’re going to have to put in to get any sort of positive result whatsoever.

My favorite part:

I hate marketing myself. I hate asking people to help me by retweeting or Facebooking or Googleplussing. But I do it because I have to. I don’t do it well, mind you, but at least I do it. It’s countless e-mails, tweets, DMs, and Facebook messages to people who I think can help me out in the process of getting my book to more people, and I feel vaguely dirty every time I do it — even when I know the people I’m contacting are going to be positive.


5. SOTW parts of the Star Wars movies (December 2) — While I am pleased with most of what I wrote for December, this is by far the latest column in 2015 that I think is worthy of this list. And it was well-timed, what with the then-impending release of The Force Awakens — which, by the way, I saw and enjoyed greatly, even if JJ Abrams did reuse the stupid “you can see a planet blow up from another planet because light-years aren’t a thing” device he used in Star Trek 11.

My favorite part:

Maybe they should have used Star Destroyers. Each one holds about 45,000 people (although at only 1600 meters long, one wonders just how much personal space each person got), and the Empire could easily have laid waste to Yavin (and, for that matter, Alderaan) with only a dozen. I mean, the rebellion didn’t have a ton of capital ships — at least, none that we really saw until Jedi — and I’m fairly certain they could’ve taken down a rebel base with five Star Destroyers. Instead they somehow managed to get beaten by a couple dozen fighters. If I had been the emperor, Darth Vader would’ve been force-lightninged to death long before Empire.


4. SOTW side effects of losing your memory (April 1) — When I started putting together this list, I was reasonably certain that my column about memory loss would be at the top. It was by far the most serious column I’d written in 2015, and it was on a topic that still scares the hell out of me. It’s still happening (though less than it was), and I’m still on the lookout for it when it does. My memory loss did lead to what I think is one of the best stories I’ve ever written (in my opinion), “Memories of My Father”, which hopefully someone will want to publish soon, but other than that I can’t think of anything good to come from my memory loss. I’d like my memory back now, thank you very much.

My favorite part:

The one thing you never forget when you’re losing your memory is that you’re losing your memory. It’s always in the back of my mind: depression (that I can’t control what’s happening), stress (because I’m thinking about it all the time), fear (that I’m going to sabotage my relationship with my partner), worry (that it’s going to get worse), and, of course, anger — not at myself, but at what’s happening to me. They all feed on each other, growing stronger and more pervasive, and it’s only going to get worse.


3. SOTB annoying bugs (August 19) — I had so much fun writing this column. Originally I think it was going to be about computer issues, but the fact that the food chain and humanity in general actually needs annoying bugs is important to remember. Plus, finding all of those insect meme images was a treat.

My favorite part:

I really wanted to include a bit about fruit flies — trust me, if you’ve ever left bananas on the counter for too long, you’ve had to deal with these little pests — but Google seems to keep directing me to other research articles where fruit flies were used to test hypotheses. I’m sure fruit flies have other reasons for existing besides science and annoyance, but I was lazy. Do your own research, slacker.


2. SOTB reasons to be a strict parent (May 13) — It drives me crazy that when people say “strict parent” the first thing that comes to mind is “draconian” or “enforces rules using corporal punishment”. Strict parenting, in my mind, can be very positive, as long as it’s the parents being strict with themselves. I am a strict parent, inasmuch as that’s possible, and my daughter knows it — and I’m pretty sure she’s okay with it. Even when it doesn’t benefit her.

My favorite part:

I don’t consider my parents as having been strict, not in the sense that the Buzzfeed list or many of the commenters did. I had rules and chores, and they weren’t onerous, but they were things I had to do. I don’t look back on my time as a kid and think “my parents did Thing X and Thing Y wrong, so I have to make it better for my kid by doing it differently.” But if you look at the definition of “strict” as “demanding that rules concerning behavior are obeyed and observed”, then I suppose they were.


1. SOTW new words and symbols (August 5) — Y’know what annoys me most about this column? The fact that, as the year wrapped up, we were having more and more mass shootings and political/social gaffes that required us to use the words and symbols I came up with. It got so fast and furious that I actually sat down and wrote a story about it, which I hope is purchased soon. It’s mostly satirical, for now. I realize the difficulty with getting any new words or symbols approved and put into regular use — these days you pretty much have to make the internet do it for it to matter — but it’d sure make things easier.

My favorite part:

No one means apologies anymore. Over the past ten years, we’ve had to make our apologies so flowery and wordy that a simple “I’m sorry” no longer cuts it. So just say I’m sorry, tack on an apologizo symbol instead of a period or exclamation point (and say “apologizo” if you’re doing it aloud), and move on. Because, truthfully, no one gives a damn about the strength or sincerity of your apology. They just want to know that you’re sorry.


Bonus Content!

My original list actually had 12 items on it, so here’s the next best ones after those six:

12. SOTW parental technology troubles (January 7) — Because the holidays just passed and you’re still your parents’ tech support person. This is why I resisted taking technology classes in high school.
11. SOTW things about birthdays (May 6) — Because of the part at the end where I highlighted how people “celebrate” your birthday on Facebook. I still laugh.
10. SOTB ways to spend this weekend instead of seeing Fifty Shades of Grey (February 11) — Because no one should see that movie. It’s not about the acting, or the directing, or the cinematography; it’s the subject matter. Let’s not glorify abusive BDSM relationships, okay?
9. SOTB nerdy things I did with my school friends (October 14) — Because nostalgia is fun. I mean, you are talking to someone who plays the oldest game in the arcade, after all.
8. SOTB reasons to watch the movie first (July 23) — Because I needed an excuse not to read the Divergent series. So far, so good.
7. SOTB Rocky Movies (November 25) — Because I actually did watch all the Rocky movies before I wrote that column, and I still like most of them. Still haven’t seen Creed yet, though.


Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.

Josh’s book, The Clockwork Russian and Other Stories, has been called “intelligent, compelling, and always entertaining” by award-winning author Sean McMullen, and “thought-provoking” by Big Anklevich, editor of the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. You should read it and find out why.