What a long, strange trip it’s been, this 2011.
The ball has already fallen in Times Square, so the new year is on hand back on the east coast. Here in New Mexico, as I write, it’s still 2011… for another forty-five minutes or so, at least.
A year ago, this very evening, I was just being released from the hospital after a week’s stay, including the worst Christmas of my life. It was my first hospitalization since 1973, and a scary time for me and my loved ones. Hard not to look back, and reflect on the close call I had. It was an infection, as I wrote last January, and the antibiotics knocked it out… but if I had delayed going to the emergency room another day or two, things could have been much worse.
Things turned out for the best, though, and I’m glad they did. 2011 was a hell of a year.
I would love to write something profound and deep about everything that’s happened to me this past year… but, truth be told, words fail me. I’ve had good years and bad years before… more of the former than the latter, thankfully, but plenty that were mixed… but never a year like 2011. The first part of it was incredibly stressful, as I struggled to finish and deliver A DANCE WITH DRAGONS while still recovering from that aforementioned hospital stay. The rest of it was just incredible.
Even now, looking back, I hardly know where to begin. So many amazing memories from this year, so much that I will cherish forever. My work has always been well received and well reviewed, I am pleased to say, and I’ve won my share of Hugos, Nebulas, and the other genre awards… but the kudos and honors I’ve received this year went far beyond genre. To be named Author of the Year by USA TODAY… to have TIME magazine list A DANCE WITH DRAGONS as the best book of the year (not the best fantasy of the year, or the best SF book of the year, but the Best Book, period)… to be profiled in THE NEW YORKER… to be named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME magazine… to be recognized by ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY as one of the entertainers of the year… to have the New Jersey State Assembly vote to recognize my achievements and invite me to address them… these go way way WAY beyond anything I ever dreamed of, beyond anything any Sci-Fi Guy could ever hope to achieve back when I was breaking into the field, way back when. And maybe this is all a sign that the world outside our literary ghetto is starting to recognize all of us… for I could never have achieved any of this without the efforts of those who went before. I stand on the shoulders of giants.
Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t a kick. And even more than the honors, the joy was the work itself. I would have to work another six years to find the right words to express how good it felt to finally deliver A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, after struggling with it so long and so hard. And after all that, to have the novel meet the incredible response it did… as I write, DANCE is STILL on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list (at #14 in hardcover for the week of 12/26), where it has been since its publication on July 12… and the reviews have been the best I have ever received for anything that I have ever written… well, all that was a vindication and a relief. After six years wrestling with Kong, I was way too close to the beast, and truly had no idea how the book would be received. The publication of DANCE, and my summer book tour to promote the book, was one of the highlights of my year… and my life. My thanks to all of you who came out.
And then there was the show. I’d been involved in television before, of course, but I’d been away for a long time, and I really had no idea how the HBO series would go. The trailers and panel at the TCA last January, the LA premiere party at HBO, the food trucks, the pedicabs, all the fabulous HBO promotion… and then the debut of the show last April, the ten week run, all the kudos it received from the entertainment press, and the TV viewers… it was an incredible ride. And the Emmys! Hot damn. Yes, we lost… (third time for me, since I’d lost twice for BEAUTY AND BEAST back when)… but Peter Dinklage won, and we were there, and the parties were amazing, and it IS an honor just be nominated, to be recognized by the industry itself as one of the five best dramas on television. And for all that, my thanks to all the good folks at HBO, to our fantastic and talented cast, and especially to Dan Weiss and David Benioff.
The book… the series… all these honors… some great conventions and trips and tours… all that would be enough to make 2011 a truly great year… but, hey, I haven’t even mentioned to real highlights yet. That of course would be my two weddings — the legal one here in Santa Fe last February, and the fannish one in Reno in August. They were both amazing, as is my blushing bride, Parris. None of this would mean a thing without her.
Or without my friends. Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Certainly not. So let me lift a glass to them all. To Ty, my acerbic assistant, who shared many of these adventures with me, and helped kept me semi-sane. To Raya, and her unfailing good cheer. To Michael Engelberg, who gave me the best news I got all year, and is always there when I need him. To Michael Cassutt, who is usually there whether I need him or not, to get me into trouble. To Howard and Gardner and Steve and Denise, old pals who know where all the skeletons are buried, and to Mara and Ti and David and Dan and Bryan, new friends I hope to hang with for many years to come. To my amazing agents, Kay McCauley and Chris Lotts and Vince Gerardis, and my amazing editors and publishers, Anne Groell and Scott Shannon and Jane Johnson and Joy Chamberlain. And of course to Melinda, best man, best friend, partner in crime and Wild Cards… hey, thanks for the bachelor party, kid.
And look… while I’ve been writing, a whole new year has begun.
It’s going to have a hell of time topping this one.
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