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)).