It has been three years since GAME OF THRONES wound up its run on HBO… and way way longer since we began the development of the successor series that eventually became HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.
You have been reading all about it for days… or weeks… or months… depending on how closely you follow the news out of Westeros. Me, I’ve done more interviews that I can count. We had a huge panel in Hall H at San Diego Comicon, and red carpet premieres in Los Angeles, Amsterdam, London, India, Sweden… sundry other place… and right here in Santa Fe at the Jean Cocteau Cinema. There’s an amazing 3D billboard in NYC overlooking Times Square. There’s more content on YouTube than anyone can keep track of. Archmaester Gyldayn’s history FIRE & BLOOD is back on the bestseller lists and climbing (you can get signed copies from Beastly Books). Reviews have been pouring in, most good, some bad.
I don’t know what else I can possibly say, except…
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON premieres tonight on HBO and HBO Max.
Whatever happens from here, my sincere thanks go out to Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, to one of the most astonishing casts it has ever been been my honor to work with, to an incredible crew, to an amazing writing staff, to my friends at HBO, past and present, who have worked for years to bring HOT D to fruition… and to the fans, without whom none of this would be possible.
And a tip of my cap to my editors, publishers, and readers as well. It all began forty odd years ago… with a book.
Let me be clear. I do not know Salman Rushdie. Oh, I know OF him, of course. He has been one of the world’s most celebrated authors for decades now. I have seen him on television, read about him in newspapers and magazines, listened to his interviews. We have some mutual friends and acquaintances, I believe, for the world of publishing is a small one, but we’ve never been in the same place at the same time that I recall. I doubt that he has ever read any of my work, and I am abashed to admit that I have never read any of his.
Not for any particular reason. There are hundreds of authors whose books I keep meaning to read, without ever quite getting to them. My unread shelves hold more books than I could possibly read if I lived to be a hundred and did nothing between now and then but read, all day, every day. There are classics of English literature that I know only from the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED comic books I read in the 50s. There are major seminal works of science fiction and fantasy gathering dust on my shelves. One day, I tell myself, one day. There are books I have loved… yet other titles by the same writers remain “to be read.” So my neglect of Rushdie really had nothing at all to do with him, and everything to do with how many books there are in the world, and how few hours in the day.
Not (yet) having read Rushdie’s novels did not keep me from admiring the man… from afar, as it were. Along with the rest of the world, I read of the turmoil around THE SATANIC VERSES and the fatwa declared against him by the ayatollahs of Iran. For the “crime” of writing a book that some people did not like, he was forced to spend a decade in hiding, surrounded by guards, wearing disguises when he dared leave his house. Through it all, he displayed courage, compassion, and grace under fire, while holding firm to his principles and yielding not an inch to the haters. In more recent years, the danger finally seemed to have ebbed, and Rushdie was once again able to speak and travel and appear in public.
He emerged as one of the world’s leading defenders of free speech, which only deepened my admiration for him. Freedom of speech is a central pillar of our democracy, and every other democracy in the world. There is nothing, but nothing, that I believe in more strongly.
And these days freedom of speech needs defenders, for when I look around, I find it under attack everywhere. Blacklisting, cancel culture, libraries being closed or defunded, classic works of literature being banned or bowdlerized or removed from classrooms, an ever growing list of “toxic” words the mere utterance of which is now forbidden no matter the context or intent, the erosion of civility in discourse. Both the Rabid Right and the Woke Left seem more intent on silencing those whose views they disagree with, rather than besting them in debate. And the consequences for those who dare to say things deemed offensive have been growing ever more dire; jobs lost, careers ended, books cancelled, “deplatforming.”
And now, it seems, attempted murder.
I cannot begin to express how horrified I am by the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York as he was about to give a speech. He was stabbed multiple times by a masked man who leapt onto the stage and rushed at Rushdie before he could say a word. The latest report I’ve read says that Rushdie is off the ventilator and improving, but he will never entirely recover. He suffered damage to his liver, and to his arm. He may lose an eye. The attack took place in front of a large audience who had come to hear him speak… ironically, about America as a haven for dissidents.
The attacker was arrested, and is being held without bail. His name is known, but I will not use it here. He already has an attorney, and I read that he will plead “not guilty” to the various charges being brought against him. When you try to kill someone on a stage in plain view of hundreds… well, I have to wonder how his legal team will dispute his guilt. An insanity defense? The devil made him do it? He was just following orders, a soldier of god? Maybe he just did it for the money. There is a considerable bounty on Rushdie’s head, after all. (Would that those who offered that bounty could also be arrested and tried before the World Court). Perhaps the attacker was drunk, or on drugs. Maybe he’d eaten a Twinkie. No doubt we will learn his motive when the case comes to trial. (Will the trial be televised? Will the public follow it as avidly as they did the Johnny Depp/ Amber Heard case? Call me cynical, but somehow I doubt it).
I think we all know what motivated the attack, however. We know what Salman Rushdie did. We have known for many years.
He wrote a book.
A book that a lot of people did not like.
I don’t know Salman Rushdie, as I said. That cannot be helped. There’s not much I can do for him… except to hope that he makes a full recovery, or as much of a recovery as he can possibly make, given his injuries… or maybe I should call them wounds. For that is what they are, wounds received in battle in a war he has been fighting most of his life, a war for freedom of speech, for art, for compassion.
I don’t know Salman Rushdie’s work either, however… and THAT is something I can do something about. I just placed an order for copies of THE SATANIC VERSES, MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, and several of his other books. And I have instructed the managers at Beastly Books, my little bookshop here in Santa Fe, to order every Rushdie title presently in print. Beastly is not an ordinary general interest bookshop (Santa Fe has several of those); almost of the books it stocks are autographed. They carry my own titles, of course, along with books by the authors who have appeared at Beastly Books and the Jean Cocteau Cinema over the years for signings, interviews, readings, and other events. Rushdie’s books would not previously have been on our shelves, no more than those of thousands of other writers who we have never hosted. But that’s changing, as of today. From here on, we will be stocking everything Rushdie wrote…
The man who rushed on stage in Chautauqua with knife in hand wanted to do more than murder Salman Rushdie. He wanted to silence him.
Well, fuck that. I say, let his voice be heard.
I hope that all of you reading this will join me.
If, like me, you have never read his books, if he’s only someone you saw on the news, go out and buy THE SATANIC VERSES. Or any of his books, actually… but SATANIC VERSES is the one that will make the point most clearly. If you already have a copy on your shelves, great… but he has lots of other books, buy some of them. Tell your local bookstore to put his novels on their shelves. Make sure your local library stocks them.
If enough of us out there truly believe in freedom of speech, we can send Salman Rushdie soaring up the bestseller lists again. Nothing would please me more than to see THE SATANIC VERSES rise to #1, decades after its original publication. Nothing would make the point more clearly.
Hey there. It’s me again. I am back in Santa Fe, and once more again seated at my computer(s). My thanks to my mighty minions for holding down the fort in my absence, and especially to the Sensational Sid, who shared my quarantine in Los Angeles and taped those video segments for me… and unfortunately came down with covid herself. Not fun, and sadly it meant she too had to miss the Hot D red carpet premiere and the world premiere of NIGHT OF THE COOTERS a day later at the LA Shorts Film Festival. Her symptoms were as mild as my own, though, and both of us in the end recovered fully.
Which does not change the fact that Covid Sucks, and all of you should avoid it if you can.
I tried my best to do just that. I attended San Diego Comicon, only the second time I’ve left home since the pandemic started in March 2020, but the only thing I did there was the big HOUSE OF THE DRAGON panel in Hall H. I never walked the floor, turned down invites to half a dozen parties, and cancelled all three of my planned autograph sessions, which would have involved me getting close up and personal with hundreds of readers. I wore a mask every time I went out, except at meals… and then only when I was eating. I even upgraded my masks before leaving home. I do not know what else I could have done, except cancel the entire trip. But covid got me anyway.
Oh, wait… I did visit the incredible Red Keep that HBO put up outside the convention center, though I stayed masked for most of that. I claimed a dragon’s egg, and hatched my dragon. He’s green, and growing nicely. Maybe the dragon gave me covid, but I doubt it. Targaryens never get sick, donchaknow? Hey, you guys can hatch a dragon too…
Have fun with that. Post pictures.
What else, what else? Oh, well, I do not lug a laptop around on my travels, so I returned home to a thousand emails. I am presently digging out from under. Mostly done.
Oh, and while in quarantine, Sid and I watched Neil Gaiman’s new show, THE SANDMAN. Neil had been kind enough to send up an advance copy. Guys, gals, don’t miss this. If you loved the comics, well, this is a VERY faithful adaptation, Neil saw to that. And if you never read the comic, don’t worry, not required, the TV series stands on its own. It’s a fabulous fantasy, and I rope it will run for many more seasons. There are, after all, many more issues of the comic to adapt.
I hope to wrap up the story line for one of the viewpoint characters of WINDS OF WINTER this week. Maybe even two.
Meanwhile, work continues on all the other GAME OF THRONES successor shows we’re developing for HBO and HBO Max. Animated and live action both. Development is a long and chancy process, of course, and there’s no telling how many series will be green lit in the end… I am really excited about the way some of them are coming along, though. Oh, and there’s also ROADMARKS, another show I’ve been developing for HBO, based on a novel by the late great Roger Zelazny. That’s coming along well too.
Thanks to covid, I could not attend the world premiere of NIGHT OF THE COOTERS at the LA Shorts International Film Festival, but Vincent d’Onofrio and Hopper Penn and several other cast members filled in for me ably, along with scriptwriter Joe Lansdale and the team from Trioscope. I am delighted to report that COOTERS took home the prize for Best Science Fiction Short!!! We’ve entered it in a number of other festivals and hope to have word on that soon. Meanwhile, our second Waldrop film has wrapped and is post-production.
Let’s see, what else. There was something, I’m sure, I….
Oh. Of course.
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. August 21, on HBO and HBO Max.
That’s… hmmm…. nine days away as I type it.
I’ve seen all ten episodes now (albeit in rough cuts), and I love what I’ve seen. Ryan and Miguel and their amazing cast and crew have done some magnificent work. Hot D is all I hoped it would be; dark, powerful, visceral, disturbing, stunning to look at, peopled with complex and very human characters brought to life by some truly amazing actors.
(Oh, and FIRE & BLOOD is back on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list, and rocketing up every week. I wonder if there is any connection).
Anyway…. there’s lots more I could report, but that will need to wait. Stuff to do.
Aces Assemble! You jokers can come too. We have a new book coming for you TODAY.
Our friends at Tor will be releasing FULL HOUSE in hardcover.
FULL HOUSE is the thirty-first volume in the overall Wild Cards series, which began all the way back in 1987, before some of you were born. (Seems like last week to me, though) This one is a little different. It is not our usual mosaic, but rather a collection of stand-alone stories:
“When We Were Heroes” Daniel Abraham
“Evernight” Victor Milan
“Lies My Mother Told Me” Caroline Spector
“Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza” Carrie Vaughn
“Discards” David D. Levine
“The Elephant in the Room” Paul Cornell
“When the Devil Drives” Melinda M. Snodgrass
“The Atonement Tango” Stephen Leigh
“Prompt. Professional. Pop!” Walter Jon Williams
“How to Move Spheres and Influence People” Marko Kloos
Many of those titles may seem familiar to you… if you’re one of our longtime Wild Cards fans. Yes, all of these stories have appeared before. All but one of them were originally published electronically on Tor.com. This will be their first time on paper, though, in an actual book that you can put on your shelf beside all of your other Wild Cards books.
The sole exception is Caroline Spector’s novella, which originally appeared in DANGEROUS WOMEN, one of the big crossgenre anthologies I co-edited with my dear friend, the late great Gardner Dozois. (It was a great fit there. Bubbles and Hoodoo Mama are not to be messed with).
Maybe you’re read all of these. Maybe you missed a few. Maybe you missed all of them. They’re some terrific tales, however, and I’m delighted to have them all together between the same set of covers. And who knows? FULL HOUSE may get these stories a whole new readership — old guys like me who hate reading stuff on a computer, most like, but what the hell.
And if this one does well, there have been enough Wild Cards stories on Tor.com to fill two more collections… and more in the pipeline. So watch for new Wild Cards tales on Tor.com, and enjoy those collected in FULL HOUSE. On sale August 2 from your local bookstore or favorite online bookseller… and signed copies are always available from Beastly Books, via their website.