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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. 4th, 2016 07:37 am (UTC)
People forget Essos
"..he would be spending most of the next two decades in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros with Tyrion, Daenerys.."

Why the constant cold shoulder to Essos. Seems to be more interesting & colorful than Westeros. In any case Dany has only walked on Essos so that statement is little off.
Deepankar Arya
Aug. 4th, 2016 08:55 am (UTC)
Thank You!
Thank you so much for introducing the lovely world of Westeros !
Aug. 4th, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
I picked up my copy (eventually 2 copies....) of Game of Thrones in probably in October or November f 1996, when the bookstore I worked at remaindered(!!!) them for whatever reason. I was positive it was a mistake because the book was so new, but it didn't stop me from snatching a copy... and later a second. I think I'd heard rumblings of good things, or something appealed to me. I no longer remember. But I've been reading ever since.

The illustrated version looks beautiful.
Aug. 5th, 2016 10:57 am (UTC)
I bought my first copy of the US edition directly from George in July 1998 because he was offering remaindered copies for sale via his website. The asking price was $24.00 plus $10 shipping to the UK so I sent $35 in banknotes as I had them left over after a holiday in the US. I too was aghast that such a wonderful piece of work could have been remaindered. Pity about the jacket though - a nightmare for collectors as the laminate tends to become detached due to the heavily raised text (for a modest example, see the letter A in the photo of the book shown). Plus, from the moment they leave the printers, it is my experience that foil jackets NEVER look good.
Aug. 4th, 2016 08:25 pm (UTC)
Congratulations and thank you for this amazing story!!! I finished re-reading in english Book 5 yesterday (italian is my mother tongue)! I don't know why, but in some ways Bran Stark reminds me Bran The Blessed (The Blessed Crow)!

Ps: I can't wait to get the special illustrated edition! :)
Aug. 5th, 2016 09:34 am (UTC)
Which day twenty years ago?
It has always been my understanding that the UK edition was the true first having been published on August 5th 1996.

Your own for-fans/faq page states that "The HarperCollins/ Voyager 1996 edition was the British first. Its official publication date was earlier than that of the Bantam edition, but Bantam went to print several months early to hand out copies at the ABA, so I consider theirs the true first."

The contentious point is whether give-away reading copies constitute the first publication. The 1996 ABA meet was held in June that year, so on that basis one could argue that 15th June was the date of first publication. For sure, that would set an interesting precedent for the book collecting community because at present neither ARCs nor proofs are considered to be the true firsts.

But regardless of my pedant's revolt, it was a milestone in publishing history which will live on way beyond you and I - up there with Tolkien, Swift and all the greats of English language fiction and I thank you most sincerely for the pleasure you have given and continue to give to readers worldwide.

Paolo Francini
Aug. 5th, 2016 10:22 am (UTC)
The end of it all
Some days ago, I was thinking about the kind of ending I would like most for the whole huge story. King Jon on the throne? Dany? Arya? Tyrion and Sansa? Samwell? Bran? No throne? Democracy in Westeros? Anarchy? Big battle of dragons against the others? Jon and Dany having a dozen of children? I came to the conclusion that I would wish no single, univocal conclusion. Everyone seems to ask "which is it going to end?", while I feel any conclusion would be delusional and somewhat miserable for such a grand, epic story. I would like if, while approaching to the end game, some slight contradictions in the details between the different POV's start to arise and to increasingly spread, in a discreet but substantial manner. The conjectural details of the end game will have hance to be someway rebuilt by the reader himself, attempting to guess which are the mistakes or the bad informations held by the different POV's and how to reconstruct and "interpolate" a unitary, consistent version of the true conclusion. A Rashomon-like endgame. That would mean fans' theorycrafting forever. I would love it! Thank you for the joy you gave us in all these years, George!!

Edited at 2016-08-07 01:22 am (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2016 06:14 am (UTC)
Hey George, great news. Been thinking of doing an old school trek in the newest of our RXs (we have cars of all variants, including yours), down the Pac Coast Highway and then east into where my family is and is from (Scottsdale, and Tuscon). Love to see the Theater you've rebuilt, but I can also bring a 99% perfect and original tape deck for your RX7, as you said last time we spoke it's dead. Be happy to either drop it off, or install it and fix it up for you, take me no time at all, and be the least I could do for the years of entertainment provided. Plus, we rotary people look after one another, I meet fellow wankel heads in the strangest of ways, and have had lifelong continuing friendships over these interesting and now eclectic cars.

Edited at 2016-08-06 06:16 am (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2016 09:22 pm (UTC)
Re: RX7
Sounds cool.

I still have the RX-7, though it's in the shop at the moment. And though I did replace the broken tape deck, the new one has its own (different) problems, so a working one would be welcome.

However, it all depends on which day you pass through Santa Fe. I may or may not be at home. Have worldcon coming up...
Re: RX7 - gman109 - Aug. 7th, 2016 06:02 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 6th, 2016 08:29 pm (UTC)
Few people can say they have spent 20 years of their life this worhtwile (not counting your other fiction + TV work and such). Enjoy your literally anniversary :-) I even resurrected my LJ to say this. ;-)

Edited at 2016-08-06 08:30 pm (UTC)
Martina Frammartino
Aug. 6th, 2016 09:11 pm (UTC)
I've read the first half of A Game of Thrones in the 1999, the year of the first italian translation. The story is a part of me, my life changed a lot while I read your books. They are as some old friends, never far from me, and I'm very happy that our long journey together will continue for a bit.
Andrew Porter
Aug. 6th, 2016 10:29 pm (UTC)
All those years ago
My cousin Chad gave me the first book in the spring of 1997 after he'd finished it (he was my d&d playing, elf quest collecting, hero). Over the next decade, I purchased and gave away no less than 12 copies of GOT, proselytizing to anyone I knew that seemed able to read. When it hit I was so happy. Everyone I knew that read the books early-on knew that this was something special, something different. Congratulations George, and good on ya. Now, everyone, read Fevre Dream!
Aug. 7th, 2016 01:06 pm (UTC)
So happy I found your books!
I love the GOT show, but started reading the first book and really wish I'd discovered it long ago. I love the writing. Makes me hope I can try my own hand at epic fantasy someday :)
Aug. 7th, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC)
August 1, is the Harvest Festival in the Celtic Lands, what better Harvest than this. Looking forward to the new edition. As an odd-eyed person, THANKS for a character like Tyrion to represent us! Might he not end up with Sansa in the end? He is the only outside person to treat her with courtesy and as a person. Beauty and the Beast, a la Cocteau, n'est pas?
Thanks for all the Death.
Wendilyn the Wyrd
Nina Maria
Aug. 8th, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
Wow! Time flies by so fast. It seems like it's only yesterday. Can't wait for this wonderful saga to be concluded. I'm excited to know how the story ends. I believe (just like many other fans) that Young Griff is the real Aegon VI, son of Rhaegar and Elia. Although Varys' baby swap may sound soap opera-ish (also, he could've just smuggled Rhaenys along with Aegon to Essos as well), it works for the story of Aegon. The baby whom everyone thought to have been smashed and murdered is actually well and alive and ready to take the throne.
Pushpendra Thakur
Aug. 11th, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC)
Coincidental death during child birth..!!
Hi sir, I'll come straight to the point, I have been reading a song of ice and fire and can't help but notice that the mothers of Dany, Jon and Tyrion all died after giving birth to them. The wait to find out is killing me. You are a phenomenal writer.
Masha Mikhalovna Reinaud
Aug. 11th, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC)
so curious
Dear Mr Martin

A little question from France (Please forgive me for my English).
Did The Old Kingsguard (Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower & Oswell Whent) regarded Jon as a king ?
It would be a great irony if the biggest bastard of Westeros , was the true king.
I love your work, your "chef d'oeuvre".
Thank you so much!!

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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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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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