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The Long Game... of Thrones

It was twenty years ago today... not when Sgt Pepper taught the band the play, no, that was much earlier... when GAME OF THRONES was first published. August, 1996. That was when the big glossy hardcover with the silver foil cover first hit the bookstores (though some comp copies had been handed out earlier at the ABA in Chicago).

Reviews were generally good, sales were... well, okay. Solid. But nothing spectacular. No bestseller lists, certainly. I went on a book tour around that same time, signing copies in Houston, Austin, and Denton, Texas; in St. Louis, Missouri; in Chicago and Minneapolis; and up the west coast to San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Portland, and Seattle. Turnouts were modest in most places. The crowds didn't reach one hundred anywhere, and at one stop (St. Louis, if you must know), not only was attendance zero but I actually drove four patrons out of the bookshop, allowing me to set my all time "bad signing" record at minus four (on the plus side, I had the time for long friendly talks with the readers who did show up).

But my oh my, things have changed a bit in these last twenty years.

My crowds are larger now (though, sadly, I can no longer chat for five or ten minutes with every customer). The novels appear on every bestseller list in the country, and most of those in the UK and the rest of the world as well. There's a successful television show that you may have heard of, with record ratings, record piracy, and a record number of Emmy Awards. There are games, miniatures, slot machines, pinball machines, cosplayers, dolls, action figures, coins, t-shirts, graphic novels, translations in more than forty languages.

It has been a helluva twenty years, twenty years that have transformed my life and career, twenty years during which the novel has never been out of print. And something like that has to be commemorated. So... well, let me quote the official announcement from my friends at Bantam Spectra.

"First published on August 1st, 1996, A Game of Thrones marks its twentieth anniversary today. In celebration of the fantasy masterpiece that started a cultural phenomenon, we’re excited to announce the publication of a special illustrated edition."

An anniversary like this requires something special, something more than just a reprint and a new novel. This new edition will be very special, I think. Same story, of course. But we've added an introduction by the World Famous Nebula Toastmaster John Hodgman... and a truly astonishing amount of artwork... a total of seventy-three (73) black and white interior illustrations, and eight (8) spectacular full color plates. Some of the artwork is drawn from the Ice & Fire calendars, from The World of Ice and Fire, and from the card and board games and RPGs... but forty-eight (48) of these pieces are completely new, never-before-seen artwork. Bantam says, "With gorgeous full-page illustrations to open every chapter, the mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure of this magnificent saga come to life as never before."

Here's a sample of some of the art we'll be including: one old piece, one new one.

The list of participating artists reads like an all star roster of fantasy illustrators, and includes such luminaries as John Picacio, Paul Youll, Gary Gianni, Didier Graffet, Victor Moreno, Michael Komarck, Arantza Sestayo, Magali Villeneuve, Ted Nasmith, Levi Pinfold, Marc Simonetti, and many more. We've had some stunning illustrated editions of A Game of Thrones before, to be sure, with the limited editions from Meisha Merlin and Subterranean Press... but each of those was illustrated only by a single artist. This will be the first edition to feature such a galaxy of talent.

A Game of Thrones: The Illustrated Edition goes on sale October 18, 2016.

And no, before someone asks, I had no idea when this all started where it would lead... or how long the road would be. That picture of me up above was taken in 1995 in Scotland, after I'd signed the contracts for the first three books but before I'd delivered any of them. Back then, I'd thought the whole story could be told in three books, and that it would take me three years to write them, a year per book. That picture was taken just a few weeks after I blew my first (bot not my last, oh no) deadline on the series. Ah, how innocent I was... little did that guy in the picture imagine that he would be spending most of the next two decades in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros with Tyrion, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Jon Snow, Bran, and all the rest.

But here I am, twenty years later... still working on book six... ((and no, sorry, I have no announcement to make on that front)).


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Aug. 2nd, 2016 03:51 pm (UTC)
two questions
1. Will there be illustrated anniversary editions of the other books, forming a series?

2. Will the JCC bookstore sell signed copies?
Aug. 3rd, 2016 06:31 am (UTC)
Re: two questions
1. Maybe, if this one sells well.

2. Definitely.
Brian Pavlac
Aug. 2nd, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
I was just at castle Urquhart in Scotland a few weeks ago! What is the castle in the background of your current picture?
Aug. 2nd, 2016 04:25 pm (UTC)
What changed the most?
What part of the story changed the most from what you originally envisioned when book 1 was published?

I know we've heard your explanation that you're more of a gardener than an architect.

Even so, it's interesting to know what grew.

Say...Elio & Linda said that you told them you were fairly sure who the Three-eyed Raven was in his human life since around the second novel or so.

In contrast, were there any things in the fourth and fifth novels which surprised you the most that you hadn't even thought of by book 2?
Paula Kinnie
Aug. 2nd, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
Ahh Castle Urquhart. I have a picture of it up on my wall, it looks like you did the boat trip.
Aug. 2nd, 2016 05:00 pm (UTC)
20 Years
Wow. Was it really 20 years ago you came into my store and did a reading/signing for GoT? William was just a baby and now he wants me to ask you to help him audition for a part in the TV show. And it was 20 years before that that we first met. And no, I didn't die in GoT; I was just threatened with a horse bite. So kill me already! Greg Ketter
Luke Jackson
Aug. 2nd, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
Wayne Fishback
Aug. 2nd, 2016 06:01 pm (UTC)
Since 2004

I've been with you and Westeros since 2004. Your work has added immensely to my life.

Here's to another 20.
Miglė Kalinauskaitė
Aug. 2nd, 2016 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you
It's such an honor to have been born the same year as this magnificent series started. Thinking about it, isn't it strange as well as amazing that there are adult readers the same age as the book itself? I think it is and hope there will be so many younger readers in the decades to come. Thank you, George, for every word.
Mario Ruiz
Aug. 2nd, 2016 07:01 pm (UTC)
Such a Journey
Such and adventure, hope you enjoyed it George, Gods bless your path.

Aug. 2nd, 2016 11:17 pm (UTC)
The books are great
Each book has been better then the one before and all have been masterpieces. 20 years since my favorite series began. Still unfinished but the preview chapters have been so good that I know TWOW will be brilliant. Some of the best characters in literature are within these books, Tyrion, Stannis, Theon, Sansa, Jon Snow, and even down to the minor characters like the Umbers and Big Walder there is great writing. I hope writing is going well and in general hope things are going well. In short the books are great.
Aug. 3rd, 2016 03:33 am (UTC)
congratualations on your sucess. it's well deserved because in my honest opinion, I don't think i can read 90 percent of the books that hit the best sellers list. But I think yours is well deserved.

I wish I was one of those hipster that knew about you before you were popular haha. I don't like being just a number among millions of fans. I like to talk to people I admire in person. I do that with local indie musicians, I like to talk to them as if they are people.

I wonder how many there are like you. People who used to be in your position back when it first came out, and how many great stories are being under appreciated and unvervalued. I think people should actively look for good things, Instead of wait until it gets massively popular. Or what happens if it doesn't, it will become one of those extremely underrated that needs to be popular series/shows.
The way of kings is one story I think thats underrated and was ahead of its time.

grats, and song of ice and fire is a cracking series, as is the TV show.I'd say it's my favorite fantasy series up there with Miura's Berserk. Wish I was in such an awesome tv show, if only to be surrounded with such a great talent and genuinely amazing people.

Edited at 2016-08-03 03:36 am (UTC)
Aug. 3rd, 2016 06:25 am (UTC)
Our field is full of great authors who are underappreciated and, sadly, too little read. Some will eventually have that breakthrough book. Others may not. That's the nature of the beast.

But then again, we knew the job was dangerous when we took it.
(no subject) - MrWalker1000 - Aug. 5th, 2016 07:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 3rd, 2016 04:22 am (UTC)
hello mr martin
congratulation on your amazing journey.i read game of thrones about 6 years ago and I really liked it and it have been my favorite story and fictional world ever since.i have read the first three books five or six time so thank you for writing this story.
I know that you are really busy but i wanted to ask you about dunk and egg stories.any news?
thank you very much.
Aug. 3rd, 2016 08:54 am (UTC)
Long time lurker...
...first time poster. Thank you for the 20 years in Westeros as well as your many other works that I have enjoyed over the years. If I may ask a question though. Is the ending you have for the series written in stone? Has it changed since you first began or merely the road to the end? If it has changed do you think it will change again or is it too late to get off the road that it has been set on?
Aug. 3rd, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
Can't wait to get my hands on this, I'll most definitely order it through your cinema. Thank you for this world and these amazing characters.
Aug. 3rd, 2016 11:58 pm (UTC)
Well, this makes my birthday more special to me. I'm happy to share it with the anniversary of GoT 💜 Thank you, Mr. Martin for writing my favorite books. You have supplied me with countless hours, days, months and even years of happiness for me.
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

Latest Month

April 2018



  • 5 Mar 2018, 19:17
    Still working on that. When we have a final, I will share it.
  • 5 Mar 2018, 05:32
    All the Wild Cards books under Tor have had absolutely stellar covers. I'd frame them and hang them on my wall if I could.
  • 4 Mar 2018, 03:28
    Are all these examples digital artwork? It doesn't look like traditional oil on canvas. I miss the fantasy/sci-fi covers of the '70s and '80s. Even the paperbacks had amazing covers.
  • 3 Mar 2018, 17:49
    Whatever anyone can get their hands on is, I suspect, the right answer.

    At the last party, it was an open bar with pretty much everything you can imagine on offer. There were some special drinks as…
  • 3 Mar 2018, 00:07
    Any chance you could tell us who’s doing the cover art for Fire and Blood? And maybe when we can expect a glimpse of it. Thank you!
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