I have to confess, after half a year of pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing, I am showing signs of cabin fever… half of which is quite literal in my case. Yes, I am in an actual cabin in the mountains. No, I have no fever. Yay! For the present at least, I am healthy… for an out-of-shape guy of 71, at least … and doing all I can to stay that way.
If nothing else, the enforced isolation has helped me write. I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress. I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week. But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week. It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go. Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.
I was heartbroken when CoNZealand was forced to go virtual due to the pandemic and I had to cancel my plans (exciting plans) for a long trip down to Wellington with Parris and my minions… but there is definitely a silver lining in that cloud. The last thing I need right now is a long interruption that might cost me all the momentum I have built up. I can always visit Wellington next year, when I hope that both Covid-19 and THE WINDS OF WINTER will be done.
I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world. In between tapings, I return to Westeros. Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah. I will be dropping back into Braavos next week. I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.
I do wish they would go faster, of course. Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month. I fear I shall never recapture that pace again. Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then. A fever indeed.
Anyway… when I am not writing, or thinking about writing, I am watching television and reading. Publishers send me huge piles of books, so my “to be read” pile is always growing, no many how many books I consume. Of course, I also buy books as well. Cannot help it, I am a book junkie. The new Stephen King collection IF IT BLEEDS was one recent favorite. I love these novella collections that King comes out with from time to time between his novels. This one features a new Holly Gibney story, and it is always great to see that character again… but there’s also a story called “Rat” about a writer trying to finish a novel in an isolated cabin which… ah… resonated with me rather strongly for some reason. One bit, where the writer gets derailed trying to figure out how many rocking chairs a sheriff could fit on his porch, was a dead-on depiction of the kind of stuff I go through all the time. Steve’s protagonist gets some help when a dead rat turns up to be his muse. So far, no rats at my cabin. Sid did catch a couple of mice last year, but she made pets of them. And Timmy and TomTom were no help whatsoever with WINDS. (Please don’t send me long emails about the dangers of mice, we know all that stuff).
Another recent book that really knocked me out was THE GLASS HOTEL, the latest by Emily St. John Mandel. A few years back, she wrote a (ahem) post-pandemic SF novel called STATION ELEVEN which I loved at the time and now devoutly hope is not going to prove prophetic. It was my favorite novel of that year, and I thought it deserved to win the Hugo and the Nebula. Which it didn’t, alas. But I had Emily at my theatre for an author event, which was great, and snapped up her three earlier novels. I really liked those too. Now comes her latest, THE GLASS HOTEL. No, this one is not science fiction or fantasy. In fact, I would be hard pressed to say what it is except a damn fine novel. It is about a hotel in a remote location, the people who work there, the people who stay there, it is about a Ponzi scheme, and art, and music, and a dysfunctional family, and… oh, well, I don’t know what it is about, but I do know that once I started reading, I could not stop. When people describe a book as a “page turner,” usually they are talking about novels that have a lot of plot, which Mandel definitely does not, yet somehow she keeps me turning pages regardless. And she writes just beautifully. Her prose is not overblown or excessively ornate, as is the case with too many writers who are known as “stylists,” but… it is just lovely, haunting and evocative and immersive… I guess you can say I am a big Emily St. John Mandel fanboy. I look forward to whatever she writes next.
There are other things going on in my life as well. I bought a railroad… well, I bought a third of a railroad. See the post below. Hollywood has slowed to a crawl thanks to the pandemic, but THE HOUSE OF THE DRAGON is still flying along wonderfully, thanks to Ryan Condal and his writers, and the tireless Ti Mikkel. With my producer hat on, I am still involved in trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s brilliant WHO FEARS DEATH to the small screen, and relaunch the WILD CARDS tv project. We have feature films in development adapted from my stories “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” and “The Lost Lands,” television shows in development based on works by Roger Zelazny and Tony Hillerman, there are the secret shorts we’re doing that… well, no, if I spilled that, it wouldn’t be secret.
But up here on the mountain, all of that that seems very distant, and much of it has stuttered to a halt in any case, until Covid goes away.
Mostly, it’s just me in Westeros, with occasional side trips to other places in the pages of a great book.
Now you will have to excuse me. Arya is calling. I think she means to kill someone.