Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Libby Flores / Legs






Legs 

by Libby Flores



A couple sit on the floor in a short but intensely charged flash fiction instalment

Friday 29 January 2016



T
hey sat on the linoleum floor, the two of them. His watch was the only thing moving. Through the small window above the sink the rising sun was bleaching the room white. The sound of a garbage truck, a man calling his dog, newspapers hitting doorsteps. Her long, bare legs were out in front of her, knees like turned down saucers. He loved her legs. Something he’d miss. Their backs on the kitchen cabinets, his arm so close to hers. They were tired, but more thirsty. A glass of water would change things, she thought, if he would just get up and get a glass of water.



Libby Flores is a 2008 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road Magazine,The Rattling Wall, CODA Quarterly, and FLASH: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. She is the program manager at PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Laura Lampton Scott / What We Were Doing

Jiri Borsky
What We Were Doing 

by Laura Lampton Scott

In the third of a series of short stories, as featured in Tin House magazine’s Flash Fridays, a clifftop walk kindles an illicit attraction


Friday 6 November 2015


“T
hink of what you were doing at his age,” Andrew said. His fourteen-year-old kid skateboarded a respectful distance ahead, up the dark winding path on the Santa Cruz cliffs, that steep drop into the invisible ocean, so that we could smoke a joint without feeling guilty. We’d all gathered for a friend’s wedding. Andrew was my husband’s best friend, and though I’d been married for seven years, I was just getting to know him. We all lived so far apart.

When we were thirteen, my best friend Jackie first did it. Not it it, but gave a blowjob. She and the boy hid under my Esprit comforter, not on my bed, but on the floor. They lay on the carpet. My mom was rarely home.
My husband, sufficiently stoned, had picked up his pace and gotten ahead of us, up near Andrew’s kid.
“He always walks too fast,” I said to Andrew, who was taking a drag off the joint. “Like he’s so excited.”
Andrew laughed.
“He’s like that. You’re right,” he said and looked down at me as if I was a sage, interpreting the great mysteries of his friend.
He passed the joint to me and watched while I dried my lips and filled my lungs. I didn’t smoke much pot, and he did, so I tried to smoke like a pro.
My scope of perception shrank down to Andrew, me, and a sense of my husband ahead. The boy’s skateboard wheels on the paved path. Andrew’s eyes were green. The ocean was blue. Despite the dark, I remembered their colors.
Even at the time, twelve years old seemed too young for sex. Even though our bodies sent us barreling toward it, it was strange.
It took a long time, well into my marriage, for sex to feel as natural to me as it had seemed to be for Jackie. I hadn’t seen her since high school, but I’d looked Jackie up. The internet. She’d married a preacher and had five girls. Still lived in our hometown. I felt that I’d escaped whatever had trapped her, the dutiful mother and wife, but maybe she was doing fine. I was smoking pot atop the cliffs of Santa Cruz, still a kid on vacation flirting with boys.
I left the path and walked to the edge of the cliff, leaning over to look into the dark. The wind off the ocean felt as if it was sloughing off my skin.
Andrew dropped next to me and watched me watch the ocean, as if he was trying to figure me out. Before marriage, I might have huddled in close to him, let my hip brush his, laughed loudly at his jokes, ended up under a blanket on someone’s floor with my mouth around his dick, excited and terrified by what I could do.
“Come back,” Andrew said. “Away from the edge.” He gave directives, a thing my husband never did. He scooped his long arm around my waist and pulled me into him, back to the path, where his arm dropped away.
My husband and Andrew’s son were waiting. Andrew’s son was telling stories to my husband as if he were a friend.
“I hate it when they’re too young. I was dating this girl once. She texted me, ‘Babe, you know I’m only 12, right?’”
We adults fell into giggles and snorts. Andrew with those eyes, as if he and I had another, separate joke.
My husband came and leaned into me, looking down at me, smiling, thinking of our future children, watching them become themselves. His eyes were blue. I reached to squeeze his elbow, to reassure myself of him.
“Quit laughing at me,” Andrew’s son said. He pulled himself into a ball, sitting on his skateboard.
“You have to understand how it sounds,” I said, but stopped myself from attempting to explain. He felt as Jackie had, as Jackie probably still did: prepared, like a grownup.
We found out the next day that Andrew was getting a divorce. It was the day of our friend’s wedding, a new marriage not yet spoiled by years, high up in the hills. As I put on a dress and heels, I considered Andrew and me. Sometime after dark, we could find a place, drive a car up the road from the wedding or walk into the surrounding forest. I told myself that I imagined these things to keep them from happening. At the wedding, when we crossed paths, Andrew would look away. I would turn my back.
The night was lit by strings of lights. Andrew’s son snuck too many drinks, got too drunk, and told me he thought I was smart. The older couple hosting the event, family friends of the bride, made out in various conspicuous places. I got too stoned. The groom crawled into the hot tub with a bunch of naked women, one of whom was his wife. I burrowed my face into my husband’s shoulder, as if to fight the chill blowing up off the Pacific. With my eyes closed, the glow of the tiny lights bloomed behind my eyelids, and I was on the edge of a cliff, white tips of the ocean waves moving through the dark below.
  • Laura Lampton Scott‘s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Okey-Panky, No Tokens, and Monkeybicycle. She’s a MacDowell Colony fellow and is working on a novel. She will be teaching a Writing Flash Fiction workshop as part of this year’sWordstock programming. 




Monday, April 25, 2016

Mai Nardone / My Faher Brought Me to Watch


My father thinking of me (2013)
by Richard Burger

My Father Brought Me to Watch 

by Mai Nardone




In a new instalment of Flash Fridays, Mai Nardone tells the story of a young girl forced to witness her father’s terrible actions

Friday 30 October 2015

First-born, a girl, but anyway his first-born so he brought me to watch when he touched the other woman.
He started his fingers at her lips. And the woman bracing her hips off the car seat, wanting him lower, where she was swollen.
She interrupted herself with clipped breaths. “How—how old are you?”
At home I was old enough to take turns holding my new sister. The baby grasping, leaving spittle. While at the window my mother burned holes through the screen with her cigarette.
But here in the parking lot? In the back seat? I looked down.
“Twelve.”
Father, hand lower, said, “Old enough to be responsible.”
Between my legs were four sets of noodles in ballooned bags, the broth hot on my thighs. I squeezed and released my knees, timed my breathing with the woman’s.
When she left the car he called me into the front: “First-born, it’s your responsibility to know. She’s pregnant. You’ll have a brother finally.”
“Half-brother,” I said.
“That,” he said, “is why I put you in charge.”
I told him that responsibility is knowing when you’re too drunk to drive. I cranked down the window. “I can wake you in thirty-minutes.”
So he fell asleep with his hand twined through the steering wheel. I turned on the cabin light to look at him. His skin was red. The alcohol seemed to burn from its surface. I took the whisky bottle and dipped my finger into it, ran the hot liquor down the middle of my tongue. I dipped again. By the dashboard clock I counted thirty and gouged the leather seat for every time Father had called her his ‘girl.’
At home I kicked the sisters awake as Father laid out bowls.
“Number one,” he said, hands coming gently down on my shoulders. He touched his daughters only at the round table, assigning seats.
“Number two, what will it be?” My sisters nodding, sleeping still. Father worked the revolving table. “Pork broth? Fish? Three sit here. All the way from Khlong Toey,” he gloated. “I want you to eat while it’s fresh.”
And my noosed mother didn’t ask was why Khlong Toey, why nighttime. She looked at me with drawn eyes and handed over the baby.
“Can you keep a secret?” I whispered. I slipped my whisky finger into her mouth, scratched her tongue with it. The burn reached her cheeks and she began to cry.
“Brother. Boy. First-born,” I said. “First-born boy. Now you know.” And I pushed my finger deep into her throat.
  • Mai Nardone was raised in Bangkok, Thailand, by an American father and a Thai mother. He has received scholarships from the Tin House Writer’s Workshop and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. His recent fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, and Slice. He lives in Bangkok.





Sunday, April 24, 2016

Kristen Arnett / How to eat chicken wings


How to eat chicken wings 

by Kristen Arnett



In the first of a series of short stories, as featured in Tin House magazine’s Flash Fridays, Kristen Arnett explores a love-hate relationship chicken wings

Friday 23 October 2015

T
here’s a map bred in the bones of the bird. Before you ingest the chicken wing, you must know the vertices of its hinge, that place where tendons and gristle connect and shake hands. It’s all very scientific.


Step One: The Origin


Find a likely tray of sacrifices at the church picnic. You’re in the fourth grade and according to your mother, you don’t know how to wear a dress without showing everyone your underwear. Chicken bones collect between your knees as you sit crossed legged on the ground beneath the lawn’s sole tree. Rub the mess from your hands on the smocked pink gingham of your skirt because you don’t believe in napkins. There’s already enough barbeque sauce coating your cheeks and chin to simulate war paint. Let the girls from your Sunday school class hover over you like a swarm of horseflies. Their wings will unfurl to note the red stain at your crotch and the matching stain at your lips. They’ll christen you menstrual bloodsucker; unholy dyke vampire. Optional: when you’re done crying, bury the chicken bones in the anthill you’ve been sitting on. Fashion a cross out of two Popsicle sticks.

Step Two: X and Y Axis


When you go to dinner with your parents on your first weekend home from college, let them know you’ve given up chicken wings. Your father will immediately drive the whole family to an all-you-can-eat barbeque restaurant. Straddle a bench at a long wooden table while sauce is ladled over slabs of pork and beef and crinkle cut fries. Eat a dry baked potato while your father points a wing at your face and says no daughter of mine. Let your mother squeeze your arm and whisper that you’d probably like chicken wings if you gave them half a chance. Wouldn’t your life be easier if you ate chicken wings? Your mother says she doesn’t particularly like them, either, but chicken wings have afforded her a stable lifestyle. How can you have children without chicken wings? Your father will pile some on your plate despite your protests, orange grease mingling with the mayonnaise from your coleslaw. Best-case scenario, your mother will eat the wings while your father’s in the bathroom. Worst-case scenario, you’ll feel guilty enough to keep eating chicken wings for the next three years.

Step Three: Fixed perpendicular lines


A friend of a friend will meet you at this New Year’s party. Overhead the fireworks will pop and spray like champagne and everyone will laugh at your jokes, even though you’ve never been very funny. Next to the buffet stands the only kid at the party; a one-year-old someone’s left to fend for himself. He’ll grip a chicken wing in each hand. When his chubby fist pushes a wing past his lips, he’ll gum around the flesh because he only has a few baby teeth. Pay attention: you’ll be the only one who notices when he chokes. Lie him down on the ground, surrounded by dirty napkins and plastic cups and the dregs of spilled beer. Root in his wet, red mouth with a single digit. The throat is a slippery cavern that chicken wings don’t ever want to leave, so you’ll have to do this more than once. More than twice. On the third try, you’ll shout the name “Christ,” though you haven’t spoken to him in years. Hook your finger and angle it toward the vee of bones, snagging upward and reeling. When the wing pops free, let it lie exposed between your legs. Let it die there in the grass while the boy sucks oxygen and his mother leans over him like a smothering blanket. If you’re lucky, the friend of a friend will help you up and dust the mud off the back of your pants. Sit together on the back deck as the numbers count down to midnight and watch her eat chicken wings. She’ll give you the meatiest parts, closest to the bone. Eat every bite. When you finally kiss, mouths sliding together, covered in barbeque sauce, you’ll fall in love with chicken wings all over again.

Kristen Arnett is a fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Tin House, Kenyon Review, and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction and was named an honorable mention for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. Her work has either appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Ninth Letter, Superstition Review, Blunderbuss Magazine, Joyland, Grist Journal, Pithead Chapel, The Rumpus, The Toast, and elsewhere. 

THE GUARDIAN





Saturday, April 23, 2016

Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’

Monica Lewinsky



Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’



Nearly 20 years ago, Monica Lewinsky found herself at the heart of a political storm. Now she’s turned that dark time into a force for good


Jon Ronson
Saturday 16 April 2016 09.00 BST


O
ne night in London in 2005, a woman said a surprisingly eerie thing to Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky had moved from New York a few days earlier to take a master’s in social psychology at the London School of Economics. On her first weekend, she went drinking with a woman she thought might become a friend. “But she suddenly said she knew really high-powered people,” Lewinsky says, “and I shouldn’t have come to London because I wasn’t wanted there.”



Lewinsky is telling me this story at a table in a quiet corner of a West Hollywood hotel. We had to pay extra for the table to be curtained off. It was my idea. If we hadn’t done it, passersby would probably have stared. Lewinsky would have noticed the stares and would have clammed up a little. “I’m hyper-aware of how other people may be perceiving me,” she says.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hillary, Bill and me / On growing up in the shadow of Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky
Hillary, Bill and me: on growing up in the shadow of Monica Lewinsky

Young women do understand the significance of the former secretary of state’s candidacy – but it’s the demonization of a guileless intern that has one writer reflecting on the Democrat’s complacency when misogyny hit close to home

Jean Hannah Edelstein
Sunday 21 February 2016 13.00 GMT

‘Who among us, when confronted by infidelity, has not felt the urge to place the blame on the guilty party who is not our partner?’ Photograph: Vin Ganapathy for The Guardian

Bill Clinton taught me about blow jobs. Indirectly, but: in early 1998, 16 years old, I lived in a sleepy semi-rural suburb in upstate New York, where I spent a lot of time reading mid-20th century British novels. My parents discouraged me from watching R-rated movies, we did not have cable television, and I hung out with a crew of girls who were, by and large, very good at math.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bill Clinton portrait artist hints at Monica Lewinsky scandal


Bill Clinton looking up at his portrait during its unveiling at the Smithsonian Castle Building in Washington. Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

Bill Clinton portrait artist hints at Monica Lewinsky scandal


Nelson Shanks: ‘I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting’

Alan Yuhas in Washington
Tuesday 3 March 2015 00.37 GMT


The artist responsible for a portrait of Bill Clinton in Washington’s National Portrait Gallery says he painted a hint of the Monica Lewinsky scandal on the canvas.
Nelson Shanks, of south-east Pennsylvania, told the Philadelphia Daily News that while painting a portrait of the former president, “I could never get this Monica thing” – meaning the president’s sexual tryst with a White House intern and subsequent lies about the liaison – “completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting”.

White House push to defend Clinton during Lewinsky affair revealed

Hillary and Bill Clinton at Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, in September (2014). Photograph: Jim Young


White House push to defend Clinton during Lewinsky affair revealed

Documents released by the National Archives also touch on Whitewater investigation and former president’s last pardons


Associated Press in Washington
Saturday 11 October 2014 10.29 BST


The White House made a public push to defend the then president, Bill Clinton, during a series of investigations relating to his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and other matters, according to thousands of pages of documents released by the National Archives.
The papers did not appear to reveal any new information that might affect a potential presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton memoir / We 'were broke' after presidency


Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton memoir: we 'were broke' after presidency
Launching her memoir, Clinton reveals debt caused by Chelsea's education and legal bills relating to Lewinsky affair

Associated Press in Washington
Tuesday 10 June 2014 09.07 BST



Hillary Clinton's family was "dead broke" and saddled with legal bills when she and her husband, Bill, left the White House, the former first lady has revealed.
"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton told ABC News at the start of a tour to promote her memoir, Hard Choices, which is released on Tuesday. "We had no money when we got there and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy."

How Bill Clinton betrayed us / Allies speak out on Lewinsky affair


Bill Clinton
How Bill Clinton betrayed us: allies speak out on Lewinsky affair
TV documentary reveals how Clinton's closest aides felt about affair that ended in scandal
Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent
Saturday 11 February 2012 17.18 GMT

A close-knit band of friends and colleagues around Bill Clinton at the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair will speak publicly for the first time of their disbelief and sense of betrayal this month in a much-anticipated four-hour documentary about the former US president.
Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton photographed together in November 1995

The two-part biography, which premieres in Britain and America on 20 February , chronicles Clinton's struggle with his unruly libido from the beginning of a political career he was determined would take him to the White House. His loyal adviser, the pollster Dick Morris, will tell of the moment Clinton rang him just before evidence of his affair with Lewinsky was about to be made public.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hilary Mantel / The Dead Are Real



PROFILES

THE DEAD ARE REAL

Hilary Mantel’s imagination.

BY The New yORKER, OCTOBER 15, 2012

Of
Of “Wolf Hall,” Mantel says, “I knew from the first paragraph this was going to be the best thing I’d ever done. It began to unscroll before me like a film.” Photograph by Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello.





What sort of person writes fiction about the past? It is helpful to be acquainted with violence, because the past is violent. It is necessary to know that the people who live there are not the same as people now. It is necessary to understand that the dead are real, and have power over the living. It is helpful to have encountered the dead firsthand, in the form of ghosts.
The writer’s relationship with a historical character is in some ways less intimate than with a fictional one: the historical character is elusive and far away, so there is more distance between them. But there is also more equality between them, and more longing; when he dies, real mourning is possible.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The biggest Game of Thrones mysteries / Ten things you didn’t know about the most obsessed-about show in the world

Daenerys Targaryen and dragon. Illustration by Sébastien Thibault
Encyclopaedia Westerosa: the biggest Game of Thrones mysteries, solved
How huge is Westeros? What is wildfire? And how rich are the Lannisters? Ten things you didn’t know about the most obsessed-about show in the world
Warning: this piece contains spoilers for seasons 1-5 of Game of Thrones.
When George RR Martin’s stabby saga was adapted for TV in 2011, perhaps the biggest question surrounding it was: why would any self-respecting adult watch a fantasy series about dragons, zombies and magic? Well, six seasons in, the folly of that way of thinking has been exposed like a member of the Night’s Watch trapped north of the Wall. Game of Thrones is now a global obsession.
Much of that success is down to the detailed world created by Martin and brought to vivid and sometimes visceral life on the show. From the frozen north to the intrigue-filled chambers of King’s Landing, Westeros is a place steeped in mythos and mystery, familiar yet so alien. Even now, there’s still so much we don’t know about the place, so many questions that need answering. But while you’ve already read 713 blogs about whether or not Jon Snow has carked it, there are deeper mysteries about Game of Thrones that have never been properly addressed. Ahead of the show’s season six premiere, we get to grips with Westeros’s biggest hows, whys and whats. Answers are coming ...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones Season 5

WARNING: 

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones Season 5

With the sound of 'shame, shame, shame' still ringing in your ears since this week's Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones, Lena Headey's body double from that now-infamous scene has spoken to Entertainment Weekly about the process of filming the walk, and also the post-production process involved.
It was the scene fans of the show had been waiting five long seasons to see: the evil, scheming Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, finally getting her comeuppance as she was forced, shorn and naked, into the streets of Kings Landing for her long walk of atonement back to the castle. The scene was harrowing, long (clocking in at over eight minutes), apparently very expensive to shoot (allegedly $200,000!), and by the end of it you almost felt sorry for the Queen mom. Almost.

Game of Thrones / Father´s Day Reflection

Stannis Baratheon
Game of Thrones
‘Father’s Day Reflection,’ 
Featuring Stannis Baratheon

By Vinnie Mancuso | 06/19/15 4:00pm
COMMENT
stan Fathers Day Reflection, Featuring Stannis Baratheon
Happy Father’s Day! (HBO)

Father’s Day is right around the corner people! Better head to the store to pick up some power tools or baseball mitts if you haven’t already gotten Dad a present yet, ya rascal. This is a fine time of year, a good time to reflect on the man our fathers are, the people they taught us to be, and how they measure up to Game of Thrones‘ Stannis Baratheon.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

George RR Martin / When writers just can't finish their books

George R.R. Martin
George RR Martin: when writers just can't finish their books
The Game of Thrones creator still hasn’t finished the sixth book in A Song of Ice and Fire – placing him in a long tradition of writers, from Chaucer to Dickens

Michelle Dean
Tuesday 5 January 2016 17.55 GMT



W
hen George RR Martin announced this weekend that he still hadn’t finished the sixth book in A Song of Ice and Fire, the reaction took two broad themes. One, as we chronicled here, saw fans of the books being broadly supportive of his slowness and evident agony over the same. The competing attitude was more usually subtly expressed, surfacing in aggregated news stories that observed that Martin might become “less relevant” to the series if he did not catch up to the television show soon.

Get off the pot, old man, went the not-so-subtle subtext of such stories. His problem to them seems unfathomable. The man now has all the money and time in the world, and yet he can’t be bothered to produce this book? To them, the statistics speak for themselves. “In the four years from 1996 to 2000 he published three books; in the 15 years since he’s published part of one,” wrote Tim Marchman at Deadspin, in a piece published a few days before Martin’s admission. Plainly, this line of thinking held, Martin is physically and intellectually capable of producing faster. Does he ever plan on finishing the thing, before he dies?
Well, the muse doesn’t quite work like that, most writers would cluck. In fact, Martin is just another in a long and sometimes highly literary line of authors who have conceived grand projects and ultimately can’t finish their work. Both Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene are, for example, technically unfinished. Those two examples would suggest, actually, that leaving a grand-scale creative project unfinished at your death is actually a mark of greatness. Not that Martin is dead yet.
Things get worse when your fame is not posthumous, of course. Dickens – the literary patriarch of popular serials – was lucky that he could crank out copy for most of his life without suffering writers’ block. (The one exception was Dombey and Son, but there his interruptions were all of a personal nature, the endless illnesses of his extended family.) Dickens always preferred to neglect his family rather than his fans, as you’ll learn from just about any book on him published after about 1935.
Still, he died mid-novel, just a few months after beginning to publish The Mystery of Edwin Drood in serial in 1870. At the time of his death, Dickens had completed more installations than he’d published, but not yet the entire series. As a result we don’t actually know who the killer is in Drood, having only speculation and guesses. Thus followed a century of devoted fans guessing the answer for various stagings and BBC television productions.

So obsessed were some prominent Dickens fans with the outcome of Drood that in 1914, the Dickens Fellowship staged a full mock trial of one of the suspects. (Mindful of spoilers, I shall not here reveal the name of the defendant or the outcome of the trial.) GK Chesterton acted as judge, and George Bernard Shaw as foreman of a jury of fellow writers that included the likes of Hilaire Belloc. Yet none of this cultural ephemera threatened to eclipse Dickens’ involvement in the story, nor make him “less relevant” to it in the first place.
Granted, Martin has made things more complicated for himself by handing the stories over to HBO, creating a competing cultural product in a time when far more people probably watch prestige television than read books. (Though one longs for a study about that, actually.) That said, the existence of an energetic Dickens fandom, one which long before the era of snarky users of internet message boards found speculating about his books delightful, suggests that authors are always running against a couple of pressures: mortality being one, but the appetite of loyal readers another, an appetite which can grow so all-consuming
But perhaps reasonable people can disagree over the appropriateness of comparing Martin to Dickens. A closer analogue might be the case of Robert Jordan, a former military man from North Carolina who wrote a series of bestselling fantasy novels, inflected by the author’s personal interest in ancient history, called The Wheel of Time. (I haven’t read them so shan’t attempt to summarize with any authority, but suffice to say there seems to be lots of Dark Forces and channeling involved. And a large wheel.)
Whatever their merits, these books were at the top of the lists all through the 1990s and have a devoted following. Yet Jordan, like Martin, saw his project spiral out of control, from a six-book original plan to a 12-book actual one. When he tried to take time out from the project to do other things, online fan communities bristled about it. Then, as he was working on the 12th book, in 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer and died within months. He had assured his fans, though, that he was leaving plot-prescribing notes so that the books could be finished by someone else. His widow chose a young novelist named Brandon Sanderson to write the books.
Sanderson was chosen in part because he was a big fan. “I’ll be perfectly honest: when I heard the news [of his death], my first thought was of the big loss of someone extraordinary,” Sanderson told the LA Times back in 2008. “My second thought was … he was working on the last book, would we ever get to see it?” In the world of fantasy and science fiction, heavily reliant on serialized work, this was seen as a heavy responsibility, of course. But they were still greeted (Sanderson published the last book in three instalments, ending in 2013) as the work of Robert Jordan.
Martin may, as such, take succor. David Benioff and DB Weiss, the producers of the television show, may be ahead of him, story-wise. But those characters and events will always be his.