By Tanvi Dhulia Sep. 20, 2017
Happy Birthday George R R Martin! Hope you’re celebrating it with a pen in your hand.
Dear George R R Martin,
King of the Fandoms, Sass-monster of the West, Celebrated Sociopath, and (surprisingly) Non-British genius.
You’ve turned 69! That’s a pretty cool age to be. Are you reading this with a beer in hand? Or better still, a pen?
Okay, now hold on. Before you get riled by the idea that I might proceed to nag you into improving your pace, know that I’m completely aware of the fact that you are not my bitch. Nor anyone else’s.
No, I’m not here to nag. I’m here for a confessional. You see, dear George, I am in trouble. I had never been the kind of kid to sit at home and read, but after my family moved to Kerala, I was faced with the daunting task of settling into a different culture with new people, and a new language. And let’s face it, kids are mean. (By the way, Robert Arryn? He better fly soon.)
So, I withdrew into my room, spending more time indoors than ever before. I hid behind paperbacks and became addicted to serial fiction right from the moment I picked up my first Enid Blyton. I was damned to turn from page to page, getting lost in different worlds, and seeking out new stories obsessively. “Wasting time”, my kindly teachers called it. But me with my torchlight under the bedsheet didn’t give a damn. With each tale, I evolved. Harry Potter made me braver, His Dark Materials made me more inquisitive, andTwilight taught me to never fucking touch vampire-related fiction again.
Go ahead. Smash another guitar. Kill off a few more Starks. Let off some steam.
Over time, this addiction has evolved into some kind of phobia – the fear of leaving a series halfway. In a world that has documented a fear of balloons (globophobia), a fear of belly buttons (omphalophobia) and a fear of crossing bridges… even the smallest ones (gephyrophobia), I’m amazed that nobody has documented this fear that grips a reader of serial fiction and leaves them tormented at the thought of not being able to finish a novel. It dogs the likes of me as we go about our days, distracting us from work and conversation. We can picture vividly each cover of the novels that lie incomplete. Absolutely nothing frightens us more than the prospect of leaving one novel unfinished.
And this makes us think about the author obsessively. We get wildly high-strung if we see photos of him at a party or a talk show. We’re swamped by this irrational fear that I am now going to name for the sake of all of us who have endlessly suffered. It’s called Fomophobia. (Fear of Missing Out, for the uninitiated. And yes, I didn’t put a single original thought into this.)
Anyway, I first realised this phobia when I began reading the Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz. The nauseating anxiety I experienced as I turned the last page of Necropolis remains fresh in my memory. The lives of one of my favourite characters hung in the balance, and I was swamped with sinking dread every time I thought of Horowitz sleeping, eating, dancing, talking, watching a movie or doing anything else but writing. It took him over three years …THREE YEARS… to complete the final novel, Oblivion, and when it finally came out, the unthinkable had happened… I had grown out of him. I was done with the series.
Sometimes, I still recall those final pages of Necropolis and idly wonder whether the author let her survive (if it were up to you, she’d pakka be dead). Or whether the protagonists eventually succeed with minimum collateral damage (yeah, what do you know about minimum damage?).
You’re right, I could have just bought Oblivion and found out, but for the life of me, I couldn’t muster the energy. Because it has been far too long. The details of the series, along with the names of some characters, have slipped out of my memory. I’d have to re-read the previous instalments to catch up again, and who on earth has time for that anymore? In an age where we’re struggling to dedicate a good hour to reading a new novel, why would one go back to a previous set of books and increase their backlog?
I was concerned, Anthony Horowitz had faded into the very same oblivion that he took three years over.
Anyway, Game of Thrones came along in the meanwhile and changed the map of my brain. But now, ever since the moment I completed A Dance with Dragons, that intense terror has returned. I yearn for Winds of Winter with the same Fomophobia that makes it impossible for me to do anything else but obsess about what you could possibly be doing with your time other than writing?
*Runs for cover*
A dedicated reader
P.S: Anyway, I’ve heard on the grapevine that Anthony Horowitz now suffers from athazagoraphobia… the fear of being forgotten #justsaying.