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You Can Go Home Again

November 22, 2019 at 10:02 am
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The last stop on my October travels was Asbury Park, New Jersey, where I was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

I was born and raised in Bayonne, as most of my readers probably know by now, but I left New Jersey in 1966 for Evanston, Illinois, to start my college education at Northwestern University.   I never really returned, except for visits… but I do visit often, since almost all of my family is still in Jersey, along with a few old friends, a lot of memories (mostly good, some less so), and a big piece of my heart.   Also, New Jersey still has the best pizza in the world (New York and Connecticut are very close, though).   You can take the boy out of Jersey, I guess, but you can’t take Jersey out of the boy.

Asbury Park is one of the iconic Jersey shore towns.  When I was growing up, a lot of my friends and schoolmates spent their summers down on the Jersey Shore.   If not at Asbury Park, then at Atlantic City, Seaside, Tom’s River, Keansburg, or one of the other shore towns.   Splashing on the beaches, eating salt water taffy, strolling the boardwalks, riding roller coasters and other rides in the old amusement parks.   Not me.   We were projects kids, we did not even own a car, so we spent our summers in Bayonne, mostly.   Water all around, but no beaches (though once or twice each summer we’d get to take an excursion boat from Brady’s Dock across the street from the projects to Rye Beach or Far Rockaway).   The only amusement park I got to visit was Uncle Milty’s, right down First Street, where I could blow my allowance playing Skee-Ball… and would eventually land my first job, running the Tubs O’ Fun for the kiddies one summer.   I think I got paid twelve dollars a week (in a pay envelope, with a ten and, yes, a two-dollar bill).

I had never been to Asbury Park before this visit, but I have to say, I was charmed by the place.   The sand, the surf, the boardwalk… iconic old bars like the Stone Poney and the Wonderbar… lovely grand houses and old hotels, a downtown that felt like stepping back in time… all in all, a cool town to visit.  And of course the awards ceremony was great fun.  As a Mets fan, it was a great honor for me to be inducted by Ed Kranepool of the Amazin’ Mets of 1969, and Todd Frazier of the current squad… and to share the night with Jason Alexander, Harry Carson, Bart Oates, Martha Stewart, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and many more incredible Jerseyites.

Before the ceremony, I was also thrilled to be able to meet a couple of my favorite Giants from the Superbowl champions of 1986, Harry Carson and Bart Oates.   Bart actually let me try on his Superbowl ring!  And Harry showed me his Hall of Fame ring, which was big enough for four of my fingers.

Having my family present for the induction ceremony made it even more special.

I am told the permanent home of the New Jersey Hall of Fame will be in American Dream, the new mega-mall that just opened in the Meadowlands across the parking lot from Giants Stadium.   Yes, the former Xanadu, decades in the building.   Meanwhile, there are plaques of us at Newark Airport.   That’s cool.   I like the idea of being on an airport wall down from the Boss.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

World’s Greatest Award

November 16, 2019 at 9:17 am
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In between Washington and New York City on my awards tour of America, I dropped by my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey to visit my family.

While I was there, my sisters Darleen and Janet presented me with the WORLD’S GREATEST AWARD.  They said they did not want to be the only stop I made in October where I did not get an award.

It’s a wonderful award, and I was delighted.   The trophy was accompanied by a Jersey bar pie (best pizza in the world) and some Judicke’s sprinkle donuts (best sprinkle donuts in the world).

I also got to check in with the youngest members of my family… my great nephew Brady and my great nieces Arielle and Emma.   Yes, my nephews Jeff and Sean have been busy.   I am a great uncle three times over.   Grunkle George.

Current Mood: amused amused

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On to Washington

November 8, 2019 at 2:39 pm
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After Chicago, I moved on to Washington, D.C. with my faithful minion Sid.   There, on the evening of October 17, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation presented me with the 2019 Sir Arthur Clarke Imagination Award.  Scott Shannon of Random House, my publisher, came down from New York to introduce me and help present the award, to my delight.

(It should be noted that there is another Arthur C. Clarke Award.   That one is a juried award given in the UK for the best novel of the year.   This award is not that award, though both of them are sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation).

I never had the honor of meeting Sir Arthur C. Clarke, but of course I read his work… pretty much all of his work, to the best of my recollection.   Clarke was one of the giants of science fiction, and his stories and books had a profound influence on generations of writers who came after him.  CHILDHOOOD’S END, A RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA, “The Nine Billion Names of God,” “The Star,” 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, AGAINST THE FALL OF NIGHT… the list goes on and on, a body of work that has few equals.  He was also an articulate and progressive voice on the issues of the day, and an unfailing champion of science… something sorely needed in these troubled times.   I am pleased and proud to be the winner of an award bearing his name.

Imagination is also sorely needed in these times, a subject I spoke about after receiving the award, while being interviewed by Alyssa Rosenberg, the arts and culture columnist for the Washington Post.   This was the first time I’d met Alyssa, but I’ve been reading her for years; her columns about GAME OF THRONES were always accurate and insightful, and she conducted a terrific interview… albeit one that got somewhat dark towards the end, as I contemplated the future of our planet.   Not a lot of laughs there, truth be told, but I hope we gave the audience some things to think about.   Clarke was all about thinking.

I did not attend any baseball games in Washington, but it was a kick being in town when the Nationals won the pennant and punched their ticket to the World Series.  The whole town was giddy.   And we also enjoyed our visit to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum.  It’s being renovated at the moment, so some exhibits were closed… but the remainder was just as wondrous as I recalled it from my last visit, years ago.   The curators seemed somewhat surprised that I knew so much about the Bell X-1 and Friendship 7 and the various rockets on display.   Hey, long before I set foot in Westeros, I was writing SF about starships, aliens, and distant suns.   Pinto Vortando loves his rocket ships!

Thank you, Washington, for the warm reception, and thank you, Clarke Foundation.

 

 

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

A Visit to Chicago

November 6, 2019 at 9:16 am
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On October 10, in the City of Big Shoulders, I was presented with the Carl Sandburg Literary Award at the annual gala sponsored by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

It’s a lovely award, and quite an honor.   Last year’s winners were Judy Blume and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.   Previous winners have included such luminaries as Alice Walker, Larry McMurtry, Margaret Atwood, Scott Turow, Isabel Allende, Roger Ebert, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, and many many others.   That’s a club that I am thrilled and proud to belong to.

I was also happy to share the evening with the amazing Dr. Eve Ewing, who won the foundation’s 21st Century Award, along with 82 other writers from Chicago and the surrounding area, all of whom were brought on stage for a bow (among them were several folks from the SF world, including Mary Robinette Kowal and Alec Nevala-Lee).

The gala was lovely and the award prestigious, and I also got to meet Chicago’s new mayor.  But  the very best part of the evening was being told afterward that we had raised two-and-a-half million dollars for the Chicago Public Library.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment-and-culture/2019/10/9/20906847/george-r-r-martin-sandburg-award-chicago-public-library-game-of-thrones-humanities-festival

The day after the Sandburg dinner, I appeared at the Chicago Symphony as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.  One of the most amazing things about that event was the way they sent out the invitations to it — by raven.

The birds did their job admirably, and a huge crowd attended.  Once again I shared the stage with the incredible Eve Ewing, who did a terrific interview of me.   But the fun started with our entrance.   They took us down into the basement and stood us on a riser, and as the Spektral Quartet played the theme to GAME OF THRONES, Eve and I rose up dramatically from below through clouds of dry ice mist.   Now if only I could persuade CoNZealand to do the same next August, when I emcee the Hugo Awards.

http://https://depauliaonline.com/43361/artslife/george-r-r-martin-gives-candid-look-at-what-informs-his-craft-during-chicago-humanities-festival/

After the two big events, I went up to Evanston one day to meet with the dean of the Medill School of Journalism on the Northwestern campus (quite a few changes since my day), and talk to some current Medill students, all of them impossibly young and formidably smart.   Back in the Loop, I also met with some M.F.A. candidates from the Communications department about writing for television and film, and even sat down with the VISTA Volunteers now serving with Chicago Legal Aid… where I served as a VISTA from 1971-1973.

And of course I had to make a couple of visits to Greektown for saganaki and moussaka.  Opaa!  Opaa!  Nobody sets fire to cheese better than the good folks at the Greek Islands.

Chicago remains one of my favorite cities in the world, and it was wonderful to return there for a few days.  While I failed to find my lost youth, it was fun to revisit the scenes of the crimes and meet some of my successors.   My thanks to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and Northwestern University for all their hospitality.

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Irish Book Awards

October 7, 2019 at 11:30 am
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The days are rushing by faster and faster, it seems.  We’re already into October and I haven’t yet mentioned all the highlights of our travels to London, Dublin, and Belfast in August.

One of those highlights, beyond a doubt, was when I was presented with the An Post Irish Book Award in Dublin.

The presentation was made at Dublin’s historic General Post Office, the center of the 1916 Easter Rising… the Irish Alamo.  The significance of the site was not lost on me, and inspired my remarks, which centered around history and the need to learn from it.

Accounts of the presentation can be found online at:

https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/2019/0820/1069905-george-rr-martin-to-receive-irish-book-awards

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/george-r-r-martin-wins-international-recognition-award-irish-book-awards-1070641

https://www.irishpost.com/news/game-thrones-author-george-r-r-martin-honoured-irish-book-awards-170445

In addition to the trophy shown in the photographs above, I was also presented with a marvelous bronze statue of the Irish warrior  hero Cuchulainn.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Double Butter, Please

October 6, 2019 at 4:30 pm
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I am tickled to report that GAME OF THRONES has taken another award.

This time it’s the MTV Golden Popcorn Award.

Here’s the list of this year’s winners.

http://www.mtv.com/news/3128177/2019-mtv-movie-tv-awards-winners-list/

The trophy just arrived, and it is certainly eye-catching.  (And heavy!)

I usually take butter (real butter please, not “golden flavor”) on my popcorn, but gold makes for a nice substitute.

Thank you, all.

I want my MTV.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

Emmy Times Four

October 2, 2019 at 10:01 pm
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I’m just back from ten days in LA, and the Emmy Awards… where GAME OF THRONES once again won the Big One as the Best Drama.  It’s the fourth win for GOT… and, along with Peter Dinklage’s fourth victory as Best Supporting Actor in a drama, and all the trophies our amazing crew snagged the previous weekend at the Creative Arts awards, helped HBO once again take home more Emmys than any other network, channel, or streaming service.

Of course, we lost a few as well.   Alfie Allen and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau were also finalists in Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Peter.   GAME OF THRONES had three directors nominated (David Nutter, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and Miguel Sapochnik), David & Dan were up again for writing, and  we had no fewer than FOUR finalists in Best Supporting Actress in a drama (Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, and Gwendoline Christine, all of them superb), but as often happens when a show has more than one nominee in a category, they ended up splitting the GOT vote.  Kit Harrington was nominated as Best Actor in a leading role, and Emilia Clarke as Best Actress, but the Emmys went to others.   The Emmys are nothing if not competitive, and there were some wonderful performances last year… from a whole host of shows.

But it IS a honor just to be nominated, especially now, in this day and age of peak television… a sentiment all of our finalists share.   They can all be proud of the work they did, and of the recognition they received from the members of the Academy.

After eight seasons, GAME OF THRONES leaves the air with more Emmys than any other primetime series, comedy or drama, in the entire history of television.   Not too shabby, I’d say.   I am very pleased to have been a part of setting that record.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, though… it was wonderful to share the moment with all the friends I’ve made during our run, but there was a bittersweet feel to the occasion as well, knowing that this would be the last time all of us would be together.   I could not help but think back to my days on TWILIGHT ZONE and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in the 80s.  I still see some of the writers and actors I met on those shows from time to time, but others I have lost track of entirely.   That’s the way it goes in television and film.  Will I ever again have the privilege of working with some of these incredible talents who helped bring my books to life?  One never knows…

One thing I do know.   I’m not done with Westeros, and HBO isn’t either.   I have WINDS OF WINTER to finish… and A DREAM OF SPRING… and more Dunk & Egg stories… and the second volume of Archmaester Gyldayn’s history.   And we hope to have some exciting news about the successor shows soon as well.

Stay tuned.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

A Very Special Award

September 15, 2019 at 9:17 am
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The Hugo Awards are the most famous prizes handed out annually at the World Science Fiction Convention… but they are by no means the only ones.   The Hugo ceremonies also include the presentation of two “Not A Hugo” awards, the Lodestar for YA novels and the best new writer award (the John W. Campbell Award from 1973 until last month, subsequently renamed).  In years past the Big Heart Award (which has undergone quite a bit of renaming itself) and the First Fandom Awards were also presented on Hugo night.   In days now long forgotten there was also the Gandalf… and more recently there have been the Retr0-Hugos, though those traditionally have a separate ceremony of their own.

But the rules also allow each year’s concom to give a special committee award, if they choose to.   This year, the Dublin concom chose to… and to my surprise and delight, they gave the award to my wife Parris and myself.

James Bacon presented the award to us at Dublin’s closing ceremonies.   We were deeply touched.

In the spirit of the Alfies, the trophy is made from an old automobile hood ornament.   Though I am damned if I know what model car it came from… it is certainly very different from the sleek 50s rockets and jets that we cannibalize for the Alfies.   Makes no matter.   It’s cool looking, and we love what it represents.

Parris has often told the story of walking into her first con, the 1974 worldcon in Washington DC, and thinking, “At last, I’ve found my people.”   I started a few years before her, attending my first cons in 1971, but I had the same feeling.

We’ve both found a family in fandom, a warm and welcoming community that has become a huge part of our lives.  And we both believe in giving back, in paying it forward as RAH once urged us all to do.   Also, we’re both descended from Irish immigrants (the Bradys for me, the Moynihans for Parris), so getting this award at an Irish worldcon was especially meaningful.

Thanks, James.  Thanks, Dublin.   Thanks, fandom.

Fandom IS a way of life.

Current Mood: happy happy

What’s It All About, Alfie?

September 14, 2019 at 8:28 am
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It’s about achievement…

One of my great pleasures since reclaiming the Hugo Losers Party (originated in 1976 at Big Mac, by Gardner Dozois and I) has been presenting the Alfie Awards, named after the late great Alfred Bester, who won the first Best Novel Hugo in 1953 for his novel THE DEMOLISHED MAN.

With the worldcon across the pond this year, it seemed only appropriate to award the Alfies to two titans of British publishing, Jane Johnson of Harper Collins Voyager and Malcolm Edwards of Gollancz/ Orion.  My wife Parris helped me present the trophies at midnight (the traditional hour for presenting the Alfies) during this year’s Hugo Losers Party at Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.   (That’s her in the neck brace.   Yes, she recently had surgery, and thank you for your concern.   She’s recovering well). 

Like some of the original Hugo Awards, the Alfies are made from hood ornaments off 1950s automobiles… smoothed, polished, and restored to a fine silver sheen by Tyler Eugene Smith, who also provided the bases.

I’ve had the honor of working with both Jane and Malcolm.   Amazing editors, both of them, and stalwart champions for their writers and for our field.   It was long past time they got some recognition from the community that they have given so much to over the decades.

I received a number of awards and honors last month during my trip to England and Ireland (posted about the Burke Medal below and will be talking about the others in posts to come).  But giving is as big a thrill as receiving, and Parris and I loved being able to make this presentation to Malcolm and Jane.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Hugo Night 2019

September 8, 2019 at 10:00 am
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The annual presentation of the Hugo Awards is always one of the high points of worldcon.   I have been attending the Hugo ceremony since my very first worldcon in 1971.   The awards were presented at a dinner back then, and I could not afford a ticket (they were priced outrageously, at something like seven bucks), so I watched the proceedings from a balcony, standing.   Robert Silverberg presided, and it was all incredibly exciting.

Fast forward to this year’s Hugo Awards in Dublin.   They had their own excitements, perhaps more than any year since 2015 in Spokane, the Year of the Puppies (and, more happily, the Alfies).   Let’s just say they were… fraught, with some amazing high points and a few low ones.   Of course, your view of which points were high and which were low may vary from mine.

There were many worthy winners, to be sure… and as ever, many losers that were also rocket-worthy.   Since I feel more like Thumper than Alice Roosevelt Longworth today, let me focus on my favorite parts.

Like Charles Vess.   The artist category had some amazing talents nominated this year, and I was seated right next to one, the incredible John Picacio.  But John was applauding just as loudly as me when Vess won for Best Professional Artist.  A very well deserved win for an artist not previously honored.   And then, just moments later, Charles returned to the stage to collect the Hugo for Best Art Book as well, for his illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea stories.   A double win!!!   Lots of people win Hugos every year, but winning two in a single night is a rare accomplishment (I did it myself in 1980, the second person to do so, and it remains one of the high points of my career).  And with Charles Vess, it really could not have happened to a nicer guy.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vess in the past… he illustrated the limited edition of A STORM OF SWORDS… and he really is as sweet, genial, and pleasant as he appears, in addition to being enormously gifted.    Nice guys DON’T always finish last, kids.  I am hoping to be able to work with Charles Vess again, soon… I have just the project in mind.   But we shall see.

I will never be able to work with Gardner Dozois again, sadly… but Gardner’s victory as Best Professional Editor (Short Form) was the other highlight of the evening for me… and for many, many, many others who loved Gardner, had the privilege of being edited by him, or the simple joy of knowing him.   I have edited a lot of anthologies of my own over the decades, but I’ve never enjoyed doing any of them so much as I enjoyed the ones I did with Gargy: SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, WARRIORS, DANGEROUS WOMEN, ROGUES, SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH, DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, OLD MARS, OLD VENUS.   We wanted to do more, but alas, it was not to be.   Gardner left us all too soon, and a lot of laughter and love left the world when he did.

But on Hugo night, when his name was read out one last time, a bit of it returned, just for a moment.  His son Christopher Casper was on hand to accept the award for him… and just as Gargy would have, he said the award really belonged to the writers.   Gardner said pretty much the same thing every time he won a Hugo, and he won a lot of them… deservedly.

I am not a believer in any afterlife, and I don’t think that Gardner was either… so as nice as it would be to think that he was looking down on us from the Secret Pro Party in the Sky, I can’t.   But the award certainly meant the world to Christopher, to me, to all of Gardner’s other friends, and to the myriads of writers, the generations of writers, who filled the pages of ASIMOV’S during Gardner’s tenure there, who learned from him at Clarion and other workshops, who were fished out of one slush pile or another by the pre-eminent editor of his times (I was one of those).   No one knew our genre better, no one discovered more new talent, and no one had a better eye for a good story… or a better sense of how to make a flawed story work… than Gardner Dozois.  And no award that was handed out in Dublin last month was more well deserved than Gardner’s last Hugo.

I also want to say a word or two in praise of Michael Scott and Afua Richardson, the hosts and presenters on Hugo night, who kept the ceremony moving at a nice pace under sometimes trying circumstances.   Scott was eloquent and informative, and Richardson provided one of the most moving moments of the night when she spoke of the influence that Nichelle Nichols had upon her life and career.  Afua also sang beautifully and played the flute.

All of which was tremendously intimidating.   Next year worldcon is in New Zealand and I’m the Toastmaster, so it will be be my task to present the Hugos.   Afua is a helluva hard act to follow.   You really don’t want to hear me sing.  Maybe I should start taking flute lessons….

 

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative