Nora N. Khan

Year of the Horse

Hello! Some of my favorite writers have been making interesting posts about their years. Because I want nothing more than to fit in, I’m doing the same. I hope you read and enjoy.

2014 was an intense year! Year of the Horse. The umbrella theme was collaboration. In January, I met essayist and critic DeForrest Brown, Jr., on the slushy streets outside of McNally Jackson in New York. We blind-pitched an essay to an editor sitting in the New Museum tea space within an hour or so of meeting. I’m not sure how well that went, but it was exciting. On the sidewalk afterwards, a man walked by with a boombox in a plastic bag on his shoulder.

We’re interested in the same ideas – futurism, aesthetics, systems, machine dominance (I mean, synchronicity!), electronic music, electronic music, electronic … What emerged was an awesome writing partnership that allowed us both to write about what we really love.

But first, in March, I wrote a review of South Park: Stick of Truth for Kill Screen. The game was both insanely fun and a scathing critique of Gamers, who have obviously withered to dehydrated little nubs under the light this year. And rightly so! I’ve been reviewing and writing essays about games for five years now. It felt time to move on, for now.

In June, we wrote this piece on endlessly adaptable, schizophrenic youth culture  for RhizomeWavelength series, which was paired with a list of music around that theme.

In July I had an old story, Gunn, shared on Longform, and so, life breathed into it.

Over the summer, we worked for two months on this essay project, Faulty Inventory Control, for VVVNT, which is both a journal and project spaceThe piece is about cybernetics, glitch aesthetics, digital waste, and the romance of technology. To start.

The piece was included in Karen Archey’s “The Cyborg and the Moon: Notes on Science Fiction,” an online exhibition at the Museum of Post Digital Cultures, thanks to Yuri Pattison. It was also mentioned in The Fader by Alexander Iadorola.

The idea first came from a pitch that we made way back in February to artist and composer Lars Holdhus, TCF, about his entire practice. He then agreed to make sounds and stunning visuals for the essay once it was done. (We’re very thankful to editor-in-chief Sam Hart for patiently dealing with us and for being so smart, and to Mat Dryhurst, the journal’s editor for accepting the pitch).

In September, we got a copy of James Hoff’s heavy, unrelenting record BLASTER. We wrote a short review for Rhizome. Hoff used the Contagion virus to infect music samples and then composed with those warped sounds.

In October, I wrote a longish personal essay, “Error Redacted” — which will be coming out in the next week in print and online, for the New Haven Review. It’s about making a hell of a lot of mistakes, and why bad or wrong choices are important for making art of any kind.

That month I also worked a short space with Yuri Pattison to create a companion piece for DIS Magazine for his incredible exhibit, Free Traveller, at London’s Cell Project Space. It is a series of fictional diary entries from the perspective of a surveillance worker on an island.

In November, Kill Screen reprinted what is easily my most shared games piece, an essay on masculinity and loneliness in Grand Theft Auto V. They changed the title to “The violent, lonely minds of Grand Theft Auto V,” which was lovely, because the previous title made me sound sort of violent as well. I’m not. Trust.

November and December were consumed by work on my fiction as part of the Atwoods Writers’ Group. I met novelist Jeremy Bushnell at his Literary Firsts Reading in Cambridge over the summer. His invited me in. The group’s graciously given me a home to work out my weirdest ideas.

These final two months were also consumed by another massive collaborative writing project that I can talk more about in a week or so, once it is up. Themes: blockchain technology, what it means, and what we can do with it.

2015 is shaping up to be another hyper-productive year, with more projects gathered on the horizon. Writing is a lonely, difficult process but collaboration – on all the hard parts, from pitching to drafting to meticulous editing – makes it a hell of a lot more fun. Finding people whose ideas and vision you value and learn endlessly from, makes it priceless.

I am not sure that advertisement is going to convince many people to become writers, but maybe it will.