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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. 1st, 2016 08:47 am (UTC)
Congratulations George. Your success has been well deserved.

Are these limited editions btw?

P.S.: A big thanks to you and your minions for allowing us International Readers to order signed books. I received my copy of KotSK and couldn't be happier!
Aug. 1st, 2016 03:17 pm (UTC)
No, this is not a limited edition.
Alistair Urie
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:52 am (UTC)
Looks absolutely wonderful
I wanted to buy a new book from you this year but am more than happy to buy a new edition of an older text from the same series.
Steve Marsh
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:06 am (UTC)
I bought A Game of Thrones because of a tag line by Robert Jordan. "It's brilliant." Was all it said. Never was a truer word spoken. Proud to have been able to be part of the journey, 20 more years of enjoyment and anticipation please.

Edited at 2016-08-01 09:08 am (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:16 am (UTC)
Congratulations, and happy anniversary, sir! And, thank you!
Alfonso Cabello
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:16 am (UTC)
long live ASOIAF
long live to ASOIAF...
These books probably changed your life, but also that of millions of readers around the world. Congrats!!
Jon Norwood
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:38 am (UTC)
Cant wait to own a copy of this that i wont be lending out to never see again lol
Madeeha Mishaal
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:47 am (UTC)
Happy Anniversary
Hi Mr Martin!
Happy Game Of Thrones Anniversary.
I am a diehard fan of your novels and i have a question about my two most favourite characters . Will Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow evet going to meet?? Plzzz answer me.
Ellen Merrill
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:55 am (UTC)
happy anniversary
In 96 I was reading Dragonlance, but would have dropped it in a heartbeat if I had known how incredible GOT would be. Artwork is great and I will certainly be on the prowl for this release. Fans shouldnt snipe at you for wandering from Westeros.....I loved Tuf Voyage and have sent a fan reply to SyFy as a series suggestion.... happy anniversary and thank you for commuting your musings to paper.
Pat TheRedman YNWA
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:06 am (UTC)
cant wait for the The Illustrated Edition! the art is amazing, but when do you think there will be a TWOW update?
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:09 am (UTC)
Question about illustrated books 2-5
Hi Mr. Martin, it looks awesome and my money is ready . . . but when will the illustrated books 2-5 be out? Do we need to wait another 15 years to get the 20th anniversary edition of ADwD?
Sharn Mevissen
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:09 am (UTC)
Dutch translation
Will there be a Dutch translation of the anniversary edition of Game of Thrones ?
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:10 am (UTC)
Yes, give it to me now, please and thank you
Happy birthday, A Game of Thrones!

Some time in the early 2000s, when I still didn't know these books existed, I was involved in a discussion with some friends about why no fantasy series had touched Lord of the Rings. They tossed out various books and authors and I tried them all, searching for that feeling only Tolkien had given me. And while the books I read were enjoyable, none of them came close to the grand master of fantasy.

Until, that is, I discovered your books... and my world hasn't been the same since. So, give me all the things! I have re-read these books now half-dozen times and will happily read them again with illustrations. Sign me up, dungeon master.
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:11 am (UTC)
I'm sure it'll be fantastic! I wonder, do you listen to music while writing ASOIAF? If so, what sort? Does it inspire you?
Beate Ratz
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:43 am (UTC)
Great News!
Really love these illustrations. That will be... the fourth time of me buying the first book. :D Sady i'm living too far away to visit one of the cons and get them signed.

Take all the time you need with Winds of Winter, I'm sure it will once more enchant our hearts and souls <3

Take care, Ser!
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:04 am (UTC)
Happy Anniversary!
And may the coming twenty years be as glorious as the past ones have been. May you live long and prosper, GRRM and ASoIaF both.

To me, not the least side effect that the success that is ASoIaF has produced is the vast amount of high quality artwork it has engendered. The two volumes of "The Art of George R.R. Martin's a Song of Ice & Fire" are testament to that, among many other things.

The TV show has come to be the dominant visual representation of the ASoIaF setting in recent years, and defines how a great many people picture Westeros and its inhabitants. That is entirely natural given the extent of the show's reach, and the breadth of its influence, and it would be a fool's errant to lament it.

But still, it is a good thing to remember that there is an abundance of superb artistic representations to complement, compete with, and expand upon the show's imagery, from a wide array of sources. Among the best and most influential of those are, IMHO, the annual calendars, the role-playing game, and the card game that has been around, in one iteration or other, since 2002.
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George R.R. Martin
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