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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 11:06 am (UTC)
Planning A Song of Ice and Fire
Hi George,

I hope you and Parris have been having a great summer! I've seen many authors (especially those who write fantasy) say they had planned their books to be a certain length and they more or less matched that length. I'm curious how/why ASOIAF ended up being much longer than you first anticipated. I'm glad you're giving us 7 books instead of 3, but at what point did you realize it was going to be a much longer series?

Aug. 1st, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Planning A Song of Ice and Fire
I can't link to a video he has answered this question on YouTube. The quick and shallow answer is: "The tale grew in the telling".

Search for "george rr martin question repository" on YouTube.
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:16 am (UTC)
Good luck for the next twenty years
Hi George

I hopped on the Song of Ice and Fire express last century when Clash of Kings was first published in the UK and have been loving every moment of it. Can't wait to see what the next 20 years are going to bring. Just keep on writting.
Rohan Panikkar
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:24 am (UTC)
I was only 4 when AGOT was published. Sending love from India, George (you have MANY fans here, you should come and visit us sometime) ! Love the way you tell stories. Thank you.
Sara B.
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:31 am (UTC)
On peppered sergeants and namesakes.
Not only was Sgt Pepper's lonely hearts club band a whole lot earlier, it was also produced by that whole different George Martin, your namesake. ;-)
William Borges
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:34 am (UTC)
Congrats George!
Very excited for the new illustrated edition of AGOT! Thank you for the last twenty years of sharing this fabulous world with us!
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:43 am (UTC)
After JK Rowling's harry Potter I didn't think a book series was ever again going to create that sort of global pandemonium. Ice and Fire is getting pretty close. The day Winds of Winter hits the shelves is going to be insane. I'm imagining readers trying to get into book stores like the Black Saturday consumers in the South Park episode you're in George. I don't envy that pressure but at the same time it must fill you with so much pride.

That hodor artwork is beautiful and eerily exactly as I imagine him.
Shannon Cyborski
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:44 am (UTC)
Congratulations and thank you
George, Sir, congratulations on your success and thank you for sharing this fantastic world of yours with us. May it always be on your terms.
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:49 am (UTC)
beautiful edition
this edition seems to be beautiful :~ i'm sure i will buy it. i was stunned seeing the pictures presented in TWOIAF book.

this image of hodor carrying bran is indescribably stunning. i can't wait to have this book in my hands :)

by the way, congratulations for those 20 years. it has been a long journey. and all the fame and sucess you are getting through these years is more than well deserved.

you rock, george! \m/
Patrick Neubert
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:53 am (UTC)
Happy anniversary, George.
You are my favorite. I still can't comprehend what keeps you running. This old story must bore you by now, doesn't it? True, the world loves it now, but you how it ends "in broad strokes" for 20 or more years. I admire your patience and your endurance.

One word at a time. Page after page. We wait.
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:57 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Curt Stokes
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for a great 20 years!
Didn't learn about the series until 1999, but then I was immediately hooked. No other story had me so emotionally invested in its characters, or so angry when those characters died mercilessly. The St. Louis story was so sad! If I had known, I would have been there!

You and I had a brief email conversation in 2004, commiserating the election and impatient fans. I'll say again what I said then: quality over speed! Don't deviate from your writing methods if it would lower the quality of your work. I trust the wait WILL be worth it!
John Green
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:05 pm (UTC)
Book 6
I do not know how you are going make sense of it all. Meaning I do not think you can. Maybe that is the way it should be. Does life have sense or meaning? Suggestion for a surprise ending. Have that flying flaming whatever hit the land and cause mass extinction.
Mary Harrison
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:08 pm (UTC)
Happy Anniversary
Wow, I can't wait to get this illustrated version. I was a bookseller in a Barnes and Noble in Florida during that time, so I saw that silver foil book come in, shelved it, and read it. I've been reading all of the books and your other works ever since. Thank you for this larger than life sized reading pleasure. Congratulations on this milestone and long may you reign on the best seller lists. Best wishes to you and yours.💙
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:14 pm (UTC)
Excited to see the illustrated version and the new artwork. Thanks for sharing this world and these characters with us! Do you have plans to release the other ASOIAF books as illustrated versions?
Aug. 1st, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC)
Some people on Reddit spotted a Clash of Kings: The Illustrated Edition on Amazon a while ago. So I'm guessing the answer is yes.
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:17 pm (UTC)
There is a lot of ASoIaF artwork out there now, but I was wondering, are there any scenes that you would like to see illustrated that haven't been done yet?
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George R.R. Martin
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