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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 08:58 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. There's no way I won't be picking up a copy of this. :D
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:14 pm (UTC)
Importance of Art
I picked up a paperback copy of AGOT off the self just because the illustration of Jon Snow riding in front of a cool castle caught my eye. A fellow author/endorser called in a Fantistorical on the inside cover - had to buy. Never underestimate the power or art.

No you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but this time art and book combined to form a rather large part of my life thereafter. Great literature can inspire great art - as they seem to in Song's case.

Great to see a variety of artistic takes on Ice and Fire - not just the HBO version (though its dominant now).

Just came back from the mid-night Potter play release. Costumes, trivia, tall tales etc. Can't wait for Winds to blow through - what a release it will be.

Ximena Isabella
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:27 pm (UTC)
I discovered Game of Thrones about 13 or 14 years ago. I was on a train trip Segovia-Pamplona (Spain) but the train got delayed in Madrid due to a fire in Guadalajara.
So I was bored, got nothing to read, and decided to take a walk out of the train station in Atocha and saw a small library, and entered searching Irvine Welsh's "Marabou Stork Nightmares" but the bookstore owner told me he didn't have it. I asked him what he was reading at the moment and he handed me a copy of Game of Thrones. I took a look at it and told him I wasn't into Fantasy. He replied with a laugh "Fantasy? It's much more than that. It's a different world from ours. It's the same world as ours" So I bought it. And it changed my life.
Some years ago the four ASOIAF books I had got burned at a fire at my mother's house. A fire gave them to me, and a fire took them from me. And, no, it was a normal fire, not a green one.
Fortunately a friend gave them as a gift soon after.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I took a Clash of Kings to the birthing room. It was my token of good luck.
I can't imagine my life without ASOIAF. I don't know Mr. Martin but I sure love him very much, like a very good friend. He gave me one of the most beautiful things that anybody has given me: a whole new universe....Jaime, Brienne, Sansa, Varys...dragons, direwolves...zorses....
So congratulations George. And thank you very much for the gift you have given to us. And thanks to that bookstore owner...if I ever return to Madrid I'm sure going to pay him a visit to thank him.
I love the new edition, I will sure get it as soon as I can!!!
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:43 pm (UTC)
So why did you drive 4 patrons out of the store? Sounds like an interesting story.
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Question
It was certainly not intentional on my part. They were drinking coffee in the cafe, where the stage was set up for me to read from GAME. When the manager introduced me, they got up and moved to the tables on the sidewalk outside. Guess they didn't want to hear a reading...
You Know What I Think? - sourbillytipton - Aug. 1st, 2016 11:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You Know What I Think? - grrm - Aug. 2nd, 2016 12:34 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: You Know What I Think? - olliethehound - Aug. 2nd, 2016 01:20 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: You Know What I Think? - grrm - Aug. 2nd, 2016 05:26 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: You Know What I Think? - jacobsb2440 - Aug. 5th, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Christine Butler
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:46 pm (UTC)
same cap?
Love your books.....read them often!
BTW is it the same cap? :)
Love Cx

Edited at 2016-08-01 09:50 pm (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:22 pm (UTC)
Re: same cap?
Lorraine Ellis
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:43 pm (UTC)
Happy 20th Birthday Westeros!!
Happy Anniversary, Mr. Martin! Thank you for the unusual effort you put into your books. It is evident and appreciated. Thank you also for Jon and Arya, the kids I hold so dear in my heart.
Guilherme Rodrigues
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
And here's to people still enjoying and celebrating your work 20 years from now, and 20 years after that and so on!
Congrats and thank you for this amazing story!!
Uma D
Aug. 1st, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
Congratulations and Thank you :)
Hello George,

Thank you so much for all your hard work to writing these books and gave a chance to read one of the best stories. Your thinking is amazing.

Congratulations :).

Take care and all the best for future work.


Gabriel Dos Santos Birkhann
Aug. 1st, 2016 11:58 pm (UTC)
Parabéns! And that book six come on!! :)
Aug. 2nd, 2016 12:27 am (UTC)
Cheers to you!
And to the generations not yet born who will read your stories, including those not yet written.
On the subject of which, please take your good, sweet time and make it awesome. If it's worth reading, it's worth waiting for!

Thank you, Ser!
Aug. 2nd, 2016 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you, GRRM, for the 20 years of wonderful adventures. The only other series I've come to love as much has been by Mercedes Lackey, and I've been reading her since 92.

P.S. It was via Mercedes Lackey that I learned of you. You're names are next to each other just about on the bookshelves at Waldenbooks (back when that was my favourite place to be) and I picked up a copy just because I wanted something new to read. I have zero regrets.
Jackson D Latta
Aug. 2nd, 2016 01:38 am (UTC)
Booksignings of old...
I like to taunt my friends with memories of your old book signings before your avalanche of fame. I was at your Joseph Beth book signing in Lexington for Storm of Swords, and I remember there being maybe 15 to 20 people there.. I remember the reading, and how you sat around and kinda had a neat little discussion with us. It was very cool getting to just hang out with you for a bit, and talk about the books and characters.
I went back to Joseph Beth for "Feast" and "Dance" but the word was out, and the line stretched out the store and through the parking lot.

Good times. Looking forward to Winds. If you make it to Lexington again, I'll be there.
Aug. 2nd, 2016 03:10 am (UTC)
Twenty years ago I bought A Game of Thrones and since then, every book that followed.

My daughter picked it off my shelf a few years ago, and fell in love. She has read all of them, two or three times now. These books are her first fantasy series love. I think it's a wonderful when a book or series sparks that love of a genre for the rest of your life. This book will always be that for her, like Thomas Covenant was for me.

This edition is gorgeous and the illustration are amazing, it would be the perfect gift for her.
Aug. 2nd, 2016 03:11 am (UTC)
I've been reading for 19 of those years
And many are my eyes tired!

Hah! But honestly, a bookseller in my hometown turned me on to Book one in 1997 or 1998, I can't quite remember, and I have read through every book at least four times. I don't remember how many paper back copies I have bought, lost, or given away; only to be replaced.

Westeros is a fine place to take a vacation too, I just really, really, really want to know where it all ends up.
Aug. 2nd, 2016 03:47 am (UTC)
Do you ever resent readers, publishers or even fame itself? I mean, in the sense that you were the same guy and these were the same books back then... but people didn't care and now these same folks flock in droves to buy anything GoT-related?

I mean, like the girl you worshiped back in the day but she didn't want to hear your name but now you don't care that much anymore, she won't leave you alone...
Aug. 3rd, 2016 06:37 am (UTC)
No, I don't resent my readers. Never. Sometimes, at public events, I do feel overwhelmed, but I always try to remember where I came from, and be grateful for where I am.

As for fame... it has some amazing perks, no denying it, but there are times that I wish I could dial it down a little. Not all the way down to zero, no, nobody likes obscurity, but maybe just a few notches.
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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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