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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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Chris Haugen
Aug. 1st, 2016 04:18 pm (UTC)
Happy anniversary to the writer who has made so many people pick up a beloved bookserie today, Im very happy you finally have the success you earned over so many years. And like they say about James Bond: nobody does it half as good as you, baby; you're the best.

Also in honor of my favorite family in your seven kingdoms I just got a Lannister tattoo, hear me roar! :D

Yours truly
Christian A. Haugen
Rebecca Dornsife
Aug. 1st, 2016 04:27 pm (UTC)
I'm so very excited for this edition! The art looks amazing. Thanks George!
Paul Alans
Aug. 1st, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
Love your work.
What Tolkien did for fantasy all those years ago, you have done with ASOIAF. Not because your works are similar, but because of the great leap that the genre has taken because of what you do. The name GRRM defines now a before and an after, of this new episode for fantasy literature. This world you've created is so amazing and detailed and thrilling, it will take some time before another exceptional author comes, but the prospect is exciting. My girlfriend adores your books, as they have become favorites just as Stephen King's books already were. We want to thank you for what you do and what you inspire, GRRM.
Cindy Rutherfurd
Aug. 1st, 2016 04:52 pm (UTC)
Terrific news! This 20th anniversary commemorative book will make a truly special gift for my daughter Sara. You see, she was born on August 6, 1996, five days after A Game of Thrones was first published and she is a big fan of the books and HBO series. At her part-time job at the library, she often wears Game of Thrones t-shirts. Needless to say, the ASOIAF series is very special to my whole family and I thank you for your past, present, and future dedication to the craft of writing!
Matthieu Carme
Aug. 1st, 2016 04:56 pm (UTC)
Great news ! It looks amazing !
Take all the time you need for book 6 ;)
Vicky Riley
Aug. 1st, 2016 05:09 pm (UTC)
Brilliant! Due to life, children, study and many other distractions my reading speed of ASOIAF is approximately correlated with your writing speed ;)
At least with the illustrated version I can now have an excuse for taking my time. As an October born I plan on popping the new book on my birthday list. Great timing :D
I hope you enjoy writing as much as I enjoy reading your books, George.
Aug. 1st, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
Marc Simonetti bringing your thoughts into reality
This absolutely made my day! After reading the World of Ice and Fire, I was hoping for another book with such amazing illustrations. The World of ice and Fire is the book that introduced me to Marc Simonetti and his work, who has become a kind of role-model to me, as I also would like to illustrate after I finish school. I almost knocked my laptop off my desk when I was reading through this and found that his work will also be in this book. I Cant wait to buy this and enjoy the story the way you saw it in your head.
I bet you were in touch with the artist, getting them to create everything exactly the way you envisioned it, with every detail in place, just like you did with the WOIAF?
Aug. 1st, 2016 06:45 pm (UTC)
Hi George,

Congratulations on reaching this 20 year milestone.

I remember following your career for quite some time reading works such as: As Song for Lya, Sandkings, Fevre Dream and Armageddon Rag. The last two I had signed when you visited Bakka here in Toronto. And then you disappeared into television land and I thought I wouldn't see any more GRRM fiction. So glad you came back to bring us A Song of Ice and Fire. The accolades are well deserved! Can't wait to see what else you have in store for us in future whether they take place in Westoros or not.

Take care.

Mike Cahill
Aug. 1st, 2016 06:45 pm (UTC)
A Masterpiece
Congratulations George! I remember reading Alan Lee's illustrated edition of the Hobbit in 1999, which opened a world of imagination and wonder for me in my confused teenage years while at boarding school. At the time I probably would not have picked up the book if the pictures weren't so captivating. Something about that illustrated edition stuck with me long after reading. Even now, nearly twenty years later I recall staying up at night with a flashlight under the covers so as not to wake my bunkmates, turning pages, fascinated by the detailed images and the beauty of the story.

Not long after that I began my own journey with ASOIAF (my paperback copy had the image of Ned on horseback with Winterfell in the background). I look forward to taking home a copy of this illustrated edition and reliving your magical storytelling again. Though maybe not with a flashlight this time.

Thank you George and congrats again!
Aug. 1st, 2016 07:25 pm (UTC)
Will this continue for the other books as well? Take all the time you need for TWOW, I'm more than happy to re-read all your books in the mean time.
Aug. 1st, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC)
I celebrate my birthday at August (though not twenty years, but sixteen). I really love the series (I'm on book four now, and watched the whole show so far, so I'm getting there) and your writting is very inspiring for me...
As for this edition, I already want it on my bookshelf.
BIG hug from Brazil (by the way, if my english is bad, that's why), you're amazing. CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:08 pm (UTC)
Happy Throne-iversary!
Jordan Polycranos
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thank You
Doing a re-read from Game of Thrones to Storm of Swords and it's always a Joy made even brighter with the World of Ice and Fire and the wonderful art you help usher in. I bow to you in respect and thanks George. You've created a world that's made me a stronger, sharper and more logical person. I hope writing and your many projects are going well and hey maybe New York can take notice of this 20th anniversary and have a good football season. Best wishes from Maryland.

Edited at 2016-08-01 08:26 pm (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you thank you thank you!
I gotta say, your emails and blog posts are basically the only thing on this planet that compel me to spend money 100% of the time. I bought two books and I can't wait until a full special edition set comes out!

Please take your time with writing the next book, if it takes you 10 years to make it perfect, it will be well worth the wait.

Thank you for everything you do!
Larry Schwegman
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:46 pm (UTC)
First of all, thanks for not only getting me into reading, but for introducing me to the fantasy genre. Since I burned through ASOIAF several times I've turned to other fantasy sagas. Thanks for getting me started.

My question is why bother re-releasing a book ww have all read several times? I don't see why anyone cares about some pictures. Give us Winds of Winter. That's what we want. Also quick making jokes about missing deadlines. That is just an insult to fans of the series.

I know the joke about every time someone bugs you about winds of winter, you kill a Stark. Make mine Sansa. She gets more irritating to me every time I re-read through ASOIAF.
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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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