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Spinoffs, Subrights, Secrets

It has been a busy, exciting week here in Santa Fe, but alas, I can't tell you much of what I've been doing. Not yet, anyway.

One of the cool things about the success of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is that it has given birth to all sorts of fun spinoffs -- card games, board games, t-shirts, miniatures, maybe even a television series. Other stuff, too. But I can't talk about that.

Admittedly, when the offers first started to come in, I had my moments of doubt. What did all this stuff have to do with literature? Mark Twain never sold Huckleberry Finn action figures, and F. Scott Fitzgerald never licensed the rights to make THE GREAT GATSBY into a board game. I remembered the words of my old boss, Ron Koslow, who created the tv show BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and always kept a tight rein on what subsidiary rights he would allow to be sold. He wanted Vincent to be a mythic figure, he always liked to say, and never wanted to see him on a lunchbox. I can understand that point of view. Really I can.

On the other hand, long before I was "the American Tolkien," I was a comic book fanboy... one of the ORIGINAL comic book fanboys, thank you very much, the ones who started comics fandom. And the comic book fanboy thinks that games and cards and miniatures and all that stuff is hot shit. And you know, the more I think about it, the more certain I am that F. Scott WOULD have licensed a Great Gatsby board game if anyone had offered him a nickle for the rights. Maybe it's not too late...

Anyway, the one thing I did want to be certain of when I started granting these licenses was that the resulting products would be as good as they could possibly be. I did not want my work to be associated with ripoffs or shoddy merchandise, and I refused to be one of these licensors whose participation is limited to cashing the check. I tried to pick companies that I thought would do produce a top-quality product, one that would please my readers. Inevitably that meant involving myself in the approvals process. There's a good side and bad side to that. On the one hand, having me looking over and commenting on prototypes and drafts during the development phase does help produce a better product (I hope). On the other hand, it takes a hell of a lot more time and energy than I would have dreamed.

And despite all my care and caution, I have to confess, my record with these spinoffs has been... mixed, to say the least. I hit a home run first time out with Fantasy Flight Games, who have produced a wonderful, award-winning card game and board game, and even a terrific art book. And though there have been a few bumpy spots with the comics, I could not be happier with THE HEDGE KNIGHT graphic novel, and expect I will be just as pleased with the forthcoming SWORN SWORD. The RPG, however... well, those who have played the GAME OF THRONES rpg say that Guardians of Order did a terrific job fitting the D20 system to my world, and the book they published is gorgeous, a true labor of love. Unfortunately, Guardians went broke while producing it, leaving the game an orphan. Not to mention all the freelance artists and writers who contributed to the game, who got the rawest deal of all.

Why so much musing on this topic?

There's lot of news on the license front, that's all. I have signed four more licenses that I am dying to tell you about... but I can't, because the licensees want to break the news in their own time. Some will announce our deals at major conventions, others when they launch their new websites. Some soon, some not so soon. Big stuff coming, I hope, and some really cool new collectibles for fans of both A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE and WILD CARDS. I have to hold my tongue for the moment. Watch this space, though.

Unfortunately, not all the news is going to be good. It now appears that Guardians of Order was not the only mistake I made when choosing partners. Another one of my deals has also gone sour, for very different reasons, and I have allowed an agreement to expire. I can't talk about that one either, at least not until the "divorce" is final. Like all splits, it's a bit sad and a bit painful, and I'm sorry we won't be able to bring you the great products we had promised. All I can say now that I mean to try and salvage that situation too, and find some new people who will step into the breach and deliver.

I'm tempted to say that maybe Mark Twain was smart to not to let himself get embroiled with Tom Sawyer action figures and Huckleberry Finn bobblehead dolls... but then again, old Sam lost all his money investing in an early experimental typesetting machine, so he made mistakes too.

I guess we all have to learn these lessons the hard way.


( 74 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 18th, 2007 02:12 am (UTC)
Keep fighting the good fight George. We'll think you're hot shit, licence deals or no :)
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Sad to hear about the license falling through. Makes me wonder about the fact that I haven't heard much about the Fire and Ice miniatures in a while.

Anyway, you are so right about Fantasy Flight Games. The Game of Throne boardgame is my #1 game (and thats #1 out of around 140 that I own at this point), even if I can't find people to play it as often as I would like :( So i can't wait to see what else you have in store for us. Thanks!!!
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: Bummer
Agreed. It's a wonderful board game.
Re: Bummer - princejvstin - Mar. 18th, 2007 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
Compared to the amount of tie-in tat that usually gets put out there, the quality of the ASoIaF material has been very high. The board game is excellent and, although I don't play, the art produced for the card game is pretty stunning. And the Game of Thrones RPG is both a superb game (the best use of the D20 rules by far) and a brilliant-looking book. Similarly, Dabel Brothers have done outstanding work on the graphic adaptions. It is a shame that some of the other deals have not worked out though. Good luck with the new licenses!
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
I may not be able to sample all the merchandise (being stuck in the Netherlands does have its downsides), I have been able to sample the card game, of which I bought one pack, because it was A Game of Thrones, and I was curious, not because I knew anything about the cardgame, and the artwork at least was gorgeous. I'll agree you should be careful in what you'll license and what not, but obviously you're the one making the decisions and I can imagine they're quite difficult, so I wish you the best of luck with that, and obviously with the books. The books are the most important, and don't you forget that, George ;)!

So far you have been able to deliver on the promise of fantasy with a twist and a healthy interest in the political intrigue part of the game, and I hope you keep it up. I really can't wait to see what happens to the characters you left hanging (sometimes quite literally, you evil bastard you ;)) in A Feast For Crows. It takes a lot of skill to make a character like Cersei Lannister even remotely symphathetic to the readers, and I think you managed it. Not that I'm symphathetic to her, but I do want to know what happens to her, and in that respect you did bring some originality to the fantasy genre, with the multiple point-of-view chapters. Chapeau, Mr. Martin. Chapeau.
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
You know, some things just go south for no reason (or for every conceivable reason) -- there's no guarantee that publishing and licensing rights are any different, except that the result is a bit more...concrete and tangible...than most disappointing business dealings. Besides, an RPG based on The Great Gatsby would be great fun...right up until I had that 5th Prohibition cocktail and passed out on the couch. ;-)

(but seriously, looking forward to hearing about the new developments.)
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
Regardless of how many action figures I can buy in the future, I still consider you to be a personal hero and a source of inspiration. Like odiedragon said, keep fighting the good fight. We're in your corner.

(Happy St. Patty's Day!)
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)
So, mrbnatural, if I called you a sexless man-thing, would you be offended? :D

I need to dig out my shorts tapes and watch them again. They're my favs...
(no subject) - mrbnatural - Mar. 18th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
top few licensing deals I think you should say "yes" to:

-- a Tyrion Lannister Weeble-wobble
-- Symon Star Eyes Karaoke set, so we can all filk to The Bear and Maiden Fair
-- Baratheon Brand strongwine. Friends don't let friends drink and hunt.
-- Tickle Me Gregor. Like Tickle Me Elmo but eight feet tall and speaking in monosyllablic grunting.
-- ASOIAF Lemon Cakes (of doom) Eat at your peril.
-- the "Talk like Catelyn" microphone, changing your voice to a series of gutteral clacks with the flick of a switch

no need for sending royalties my way. I'm a giver. :)
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)
I want a licence to make these! :D
(no subject) - xraytheenforcer - Mar. 18th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - metzhead - Mar. 18th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - measured_words - Mar. 18th, 2007 03:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lifeisacabaret - Mar. 18th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
I see a Bros at Worldcon project - parrismcb - Mar. 18th, 2007 03:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I see a Bros at Worldcon project - lifeisacabaret - Mar. 18th, 2007 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I see a Bros at Worldcon project - misunderstruck - Mar. 18th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - valerini - Mar. 18th, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xraytheenforcer - Mar. 18th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
Hmm. I know we live in a world of spinoffs and tie-ins and marketing, but frankly I haven't the slightest interest in anything other than the books - Wild Cards, A Song of Ice and Fire, Tuf's stories or anything else. It's the words that matter to me, the people and worlds you create that come into my mind via the writing, where they express themselves filtered through my world. All those games and toys and miniatures and tv shows, they have nothing to do with what I encounter in reading your words, on paper.

Call me curmudgeonly if you must, but all these "extras" seem to me to be entirely extraneous and unnecessary, except of course how they might bring more profit to you so that you don't have to waste your time doing anything but writing. I want the writing itself, the story, and nothing else matters as far as I'm concerned.

(Gamers and collectors reading this, don't flame me please; I think you'll all agree that it starts with the created world and story, which we all love!)
Mar. 18th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
I agree. I love the books. I even buy them in trade paperback - which is a big deal because I have shoulder issues. The hardcovers are far too heavy for me to hold and curl up with comfortabl. The trade paperback is taxing on my shoulders - but manageable. In a perfect world they'd come out in the normal little paperback on day one!

I didn't even know that there were spinoffs until I stumbled upon this "notablog".
(no subject) - gbdragon420 - Mar. 18th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thefirstalicat - Mar. 19th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - adamjury - Mar. 21st, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pavanne - Mar. 19th, 2007 09:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 18th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
The best of luck to you on it... keep it coming, we love it. :^D
Mar. 18th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
Having worked with d20 over the past five years, I can say unquestioningly that Guardians of Order did a fantastic job adapting the system to your books. In fact, some of the fundamental rules changes they implemented, I now use as house rules whenever I run d20. There are a few companies out there that might have been more reliable, but I don't think they would have produced the same level of quality (don't get me wrong, some of them are both reliable and high quality, but I genuinely feel that Guardians of Order have produced the best d20/OGL offering on the market and in many ways surpassed the core rules themselves).
Mar. 18th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Aw, man, it's not testors, is it? I spent a lot of time buffing those things...
Mar. 18th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
i'm fairly sure it is
Mar. 18th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
I have a friend who would love to do a Great Gatsby LARP. She already has pseudo-plans for a Sense and Sensibility one.

The "spin-off" item I'd most like to see, though, is a Nazgul tribute album. I don't think words can express how much I'd like to hear Springsteen cover "Ragin'". And, off-hand, there are probably some really good choices for "Survivor" as well.

Here's hoping what's in the works, works.
Mar. 18th, 2007 03:53 am (UTC)
Hope everything goes through well, I have to say I'm certainly hoping the TV series plans itself out. I was excited for that one. :]
Mar. 18th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
I bought my first spin-off recently - the graphic novel version of The Hedge Knight. My next will be the board game. I'm looking forward to these unnamed new features you mentioned!
Mar. 18th, 2007 05:34 am (UTC)
hedge knight graphic novel is quality work, yo.
Mar. 18th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC)
I'm waiting for the Rains of Castamere(DJ Tricky Dwarf Remix)CD!
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( 74 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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