In 1998 my father died. He had a number of heart attacks and two strokes. He was ready to go, but it is a shock, in any event.
I had no health insurance and I was suffering from intense periods of pain that were followed by brown and red tinged urine. Also I would get high ankle sprains on my left foot. During the summer of 1998 the intense pains grew worse, I still had those weird foot issues, and I had two teeth break off at the gum line. In September when we had insurance and I could see a doctor finally I saw him for my intense gut pain, and he said you are fat. Lose weight, you'll feel better. I lost a couple pounds but on my birthday we ate McDonalds and I had extreme pains. On the way home from Northern Minnesota my wife and I stopped at KFC. And I had the worst pain ever to that point. My wife figured out that the common issue was high fat foods. I felt grave pain after I ate those foods. So I went to my doctor, I explained what she said, and he said hmm I wonder if you don't have gallbladder issues, stones or otherwise. I had an ultrasound, and my gallbladder was full of stones. I had 3 broken teeth pulled, I had my gallbladder removed. During the periods of extreme pain I prayed. I vomited from the pain. I tried to lay down, but sleep never happened due to the pain.
My wife had had two ectopic pregnancies, and we had almost lost the third, the day before my father's funeral... My wife gave birth to my son, and we were joyous.
During the year when I was in grave pain there were two things that allowed me to persevere: The comics of Jack Kirby, and the fiction prose of Alan Dean Foster.
Jack Kirby's 4th World was not a perfect work, but I thought it was great, and the taste that it left behind was perfect. I was in so much pain so often that I needed something, anything, to get out of it. To read such a fantastic talent's Magnus Opus helped me survive, at least mentally.
I have always referred to Alan Dean Foster's work as comfort food for the mind. It is escapism in the most perfect sense. It allows you to enjoy a story, there are no horrible scenes that make you want to throw the book against the wall, you go on a 6 hour or so cruise, into space, into the past, or somewhere, and you arrive home safely, the better for the voyage.
Normally I would read HP Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard but, at this point in my life, I had read all of their works. So I searched for and found these books. The character looks evil, but he isn't altogether. He looks mean and dangerous, and that, he is. The writer James R. Silke bring to life an archetypical figure and his work is seriously wow material. I have many works of fiction in the sword and sorcery variety, and this is up there with the best. Someone needs to bring out a collection of this. I'd buy it, happily.
You might know, or not, I am a historian by college degree. I have special areas in the Ancient world. I was exposed to the works of Victor Davis Hanson and Peter Green at a time when thought I had a handle on the reasons for war, and how the battles were fought in the days of the Ancient Greeks. But I was wrong. Victor Davis Hanson turned my understanding of the way of war on its head. And Peter Green completely dashed my thoughts on Alexander the Great, and his great Persian conquests.
When I was through with 1998 I had a new life in my world. My son is 16 y/o now, and gives me a reason to live, daily. I remember much of what I read, and am grateful to the authors for their creations. I had very little allowing me comfort, and distraction, and they provided it.