When did you first encounter George RR Martin? I think that for most of the world, it may be when his extraordinary series of books, A Song of Ice and Fire became the HBO series A Game of Thrones.
But my first encounter with his work came long before that.
In 1991, Kat and I were at Norwescon. Pulphouse Press, operated by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch had a booth there and were offering a number of chapbooks. I had met both of them a number of times, considered them ‘writer friends’ and wanted to support this latest endeavor. I was pretty broke at the time, but Kat selected “The Pear Shaped Man” by someone called George RR Martin, we paid, and took it home in our con bag.
That chapbook proved to be the most engaging, horrifying and yet strangely humorous thing either of us had read in a long time. At the time, I had little idea who George RR Martin was. I did not know that I’d already been exposed to his story telling, via the television series Beauty and the Beast.That series starred Ron Perlman as the Beast and Linda Hamilton as the Beauty in an urban fantasy version of the classic tale. I did not know that the man behind this mesmerizing tale was again George RR Martin. I just knew it was worth climbing up on the roof of the shed and twisting the antenna pole and cleaning the corrosion off the PL-259’s to try to get better reception.
I won’t claim to have read “The Sand Kings” when it came out in Omni in 1979. But by the time it was an episode on the revived Outer Limits in 1995, I knew George’s name and made a date to tune in for it. Again, I was not disappointed.
What else was there along the way? Fevre Dream. Published in 1982, but not discovered by me until years later. The Wild Card anthologies, super heroes in print instead of graphic novels.
But my most significant encounter? One day, an ARC came in the mail. That’s an Advance Reading Copy, a copy of a book that isn’t a book yet. Pages and pages and pages of manuscript, sent to me by one of my editors in the hopes that I would offer a blurb. I was at a time in my life that was both strange and sad. As a writer, I had vanished. Megan Lindholm had stopped writing novels and few outside of my agency and publishing house knew that I was now writing as Robin Hobb. And my mother was dying of complications of diabetes. A horrific combination of bacterial and fungal infections in her feet were taking her down slowly. She was in hospice care, at my sister’s home. I and my little daughter Ru were taking the night shifts there. I would sleep on the floor next to my mom’s bed so I could hear her if she needed her pain medication in the night. Or, more accurately, that was where I was not sleeping.
Nights were very long. But there was that huge manuscript. A Song of Ice and Fire, book one, A Game Of Thrones. So I lay on the floor on my belly, a tensor lamp focused on the pages so the light wouldn’t bother my mom, and I read. I read like I read when I was a kid, hiding my book and my light. And sometimes I would say, “Mom, you would love this book. You would LOVE this book.” And because all my life we had shared books, it seemed horribly sad to me that I had this wonderful book in my hands and she would never wake up to read it.
And, of course, as I finished the book she died.
Then I did something that still makes me cringe when I think of it. I wrote to a relative stranger, a fellow author, a heart-felt letter thanking him for sending his characters and his story to be with me as I kept that death watch. There is loss in that first book, terrible irrevocable loss, shocking as death is always shocking. And the reading of it interlocked with my living of it. I thanked him and I told him how much I loved his book and how much I regretted that my mom never got to read it. I meant every word of thanks.
But what a letter to send someone! I did get a reply from George, a rather awkward thank you note, as you might well imagine. I gave him a very honest blurb and he gave me one for Assassin’s Apprentice that to this day, I’m proud to have on the cover of the Hobb books.
And on we went, building our careers.
I’m not going to claim that George and I are intimate friends. I’ve been fortunate to have had coffee or dinner with him a handful of times. He’s edited my work and accepted it for publication in several of his anthologies. And from a writerly distance, I’ve rejoiced in his well deserved success as I continued to read each volume of A Song of Ice and Fire as they came out. So. While I am not a confidante or BFF of the man, I have what I regard as the best possible friendship. With his books. With the parts of himself that he has labored over and polished and then offered to us, his readers, as the part of himself that he wants to share with the world. Those are mine, in the way that very good books become extremely personal possessions. I own George RR Martin’s world and characters. They are interlocked with my life like the pieces of a Chinese wood puzzle.
I will confess that I have avoided watching the HBO series because I have such strong visions of his characters, and I want to keep them mine until I’ve finished experiencing the books. But the temptation to view is becoming stronger and stronger with each passing season.
So. I feel greatly honored and excited to be invited to share a stage with George. I look forward to hearing him speak and to finding out more about him. But I also know that I’ve already got the best part of him shelved in my office.
Some of you will be able to come and watch this interview. Most of you won’t be able to. Below I’ve extracted from the HarperCollins news release the relevant information that will let you join us online via blinkbox books’s facebook. Live, streaming and free. I hope you will join us.
HarperVoyager will host an event with two of their highest profile authors, George RR Martin and Robin Hobb. The event will take place in a central London venue on 19th August 2014. Tickets will go on sale later this week.
Tickets will be £45 each and will include a hardback copy of Robin Hobb’s latest novel Fool’s Assassin http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fools-Assassin-Fitz-Fool-Book/dp/0007444176
This unique event offers readers the perfect opportunity to spend an evening listening to two of the world’s greatest storytellers, discussing how they build their fictional universes, create their characters and balance fantasy and reality; about their influences and inspirations, their struggles and successes.
HarperVoyager’s Publishing Director, Jane Johnson said ‘This is a uniquely exciting event, bringing together two of the greatest storytellers in modern fiction talking candidly about their writing lives. I have worked with them both for years, but in all that time I’ve never had the chance to eavesdrop on them in conversation: I can’t wait.’
Charlie Redmayne, CEO of HarperCollins UK, said, ‘We’re thrilled to have George and Robin together for such an event – they are two experts at their craft, and have taken fantasy writing to the widest possible audience through their amazing worlds and characters. HarperCollins is immensely proud to publish both authors. I, for one, am hugely looking forward to attending this event.’
Live Streaming from blinkbox Books
The event is sponsored by ebook retailer blinkbox Books (http://www.blinkboxbooks.com) In support of their pledge to bring readers closer to authors, they will be streaming the full event for free – live and exclusively – on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/blinkboxbooks
The event will also be supported by Waterstones.
HarperCollins is anticipating huge demand for tickets. HarperVoyager and blinkbox Books newsletter subscribers will be first to hear about tickets, http://harpervoyagerbooks.co.uk/subscribe/
About George RR Martin
George R. R. Martin is the author of fourteen novels, including five volumes of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, several collections of short stories and numerous screen plays for television drama and feature films. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. George R. R. Martin’s series A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE has now sold over 15 million copies worldwide and has been adapted by HBO into major TV series GAME OF THRONES which has been a critical and commercial success since its premiere in 2011. The fourth series aired in the UK on Sky Atlantic in 2014.
About Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb is one of the world’s finest writers of epic fiction. She was born in California in 1952 but raised in Alaska, where she learned how to raise a wolf cub, to skin a moose and to survive in the wilderness. When she married a fisherman who fished herring and the Kodiak salmon-run for half the year, these skills would stand her in good stead. She raised her family, ran a smallholding, delivered post to her remote community, all at the same time as writing stories and novels. She succeeded on all fronts, raising four children and becoming an internationally best-selling writer. She lives in Tacoma, Washington State.