I've spent the last few months in Westeros.
And Valyria, and, and, and...
The Song of Ice and Fire series has been great, and I'm thankful that I've read these books. Doing so has added a dimension of depth in characterization and setting that has only enhanced my appreciation for HBO's fine television series. George R.R. Martin's books provide such nuance into the politics, way of life, and social structure of these environments (I particularly love learning the backstories and legends surrounding these various noble houses), and it's a staggering literary achievement to breathe such vivid life into a fictional world.
That said, I can finally see the end of A Dance with Dragons and I'll be happy to check out for a while. Honestly, I know that Martin is hard at work on The Winds of Winter, and that fans are clamoring for its release, but I have a bit of fatigue. I miss my mainstays. I miss jumping around between King, Lansdale, Barron, Hiaasen, Dorsey, Kellerman, Hill and whatever horror anthologies catch my fancy. I miss my weekly forays into digital short stories and all of the good work being written by up-and-coming authors that can be found at places like Nightmare Magazine and Clarkesworld.
I won't deny that I've ducked out along the way. One has to in order to stay sane. I have two half-finished novels that I've been reading on my nightstand, and I've read a few dozen horror short stories in the last year (I knocked out four from Bentley Little's The Collection just yesterday). I re-read everything I'm teaching in my literature section at the college, and that always feels like getting together with close friends.
But the fact is, I'm a hedge knight pushing my exhausted garron down those last few frozen leagues toward Winterfell and, dang it, I'm determined to get there. I've never read a series (Dark Towar or LOTR included) in which I've felt so compelled to stay in the environment and adopt a linear reading approach. This is a compliment to Martin. His world-building is so thorough that full comprehension kind of demands immersion.
These are great books and, like the rest of the SFF community, I'll be happy when the next one is released. But I'll be honest--I'm also stoked to have these books behind me so that I can get back out there and drink more fully from the stream of great storytelling!
I read this amazing short story last night, and it's been bumping around in my head all morning. Jackson's writing is just so...urgent and compelling. Even when she's holding things back, the prose is luxuriant and evocative. It's a rare writer whose use of adjectives is just so calculated and precise that one stops mid-sentence to marvel at just how that apt term was employed.
This one drips with mythology and menace. It's a slow build to a haunting final scene. And that last line? My, what a way to pay off a story.
While I adore "The Lottery" and all of its wicked charm, I think this is actually a better story. It certainly becomes a highlight of the grand little collection I'm putting together here...
The Ultimate Anthology
"The Man in the Woods" ~ Shirley Jackson
"The Drowned Life" ~ Jeffrey Ford
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" ~ Stephen King
"Voluntary Committal" ~ Joe Hill
"The Pear Shaped Man" ~ George R.R. Martin
"The Small Assassin" ~ Ray Bradbury
"Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" ~ Peter S. Beagle