Although best known as a Hugo and Nebula Award—winning novelist, George R.R. Martin is also a former television screenwriter, editor and ardent comic book fan. His epic fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, possesses a similar cross-media versatility, with its most recent installment hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Marvel Comics and the Dabel Brothers are publishing his edgy Knight prequel novellas as a comic book series, and a potential HBO production, based on the Song of Ice and Fire series is in the works.
Martin will also soon return as editor and writer for the superhero novel and comic book anthology series Wild Cards, which will be published by Tor Books and the Dabel Brothers respectively. [As PWCW went to press, the Dabel Brothers and Marvel ended their publishing relationship and it is unclear what will happen to previously announced titles.]
PWCW: Was it hard for you, initially, to take your world [A Song of Ice and Fire] and turn it over to another writer [Mike Miller] for the comic book?
George R.R. Martin: Well, you know, you get a little nervous. I worked in Hollywood for 10 years, and you see, especially with film and television, a lot of terrible things where someone adapts a book or short story, and it [becomes] unrecognizable. And it’s almost never improved. It’s always worse.
So you do get a little nervous, whenever you’re licensing out your child for someone else to play with, but I think the best you can do is try to get good people involved, and I was lucky enough to do that.
PWCW: Speaking of Hollywood, how is the Song of Ice and Fire HBO show progressing?
GRRM: The writers on that have just completed the first draft of the script, so we’re waiting to hear what HBO thinks of it. It’s very early in the process, so there’s no telling. There’ll be rewrites, and there’ll be changes. It may not get the green light and actually be filmed. All of that is part of the process of developing something for television, which is slow, but we’re at the beginning of the road in any case.
Once again, you get a little nervous that it doesn’t get messed up. Television has a checkered record. Something like the Dune miniseries that was on the Sci-Fi Channel was a wonderful adaptation. They really did a beautiful, beautiful job with Dune.
But then again, the same people did Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, and it was terrible. Ursula had to write letters disowning it—they just messed it up totally. They changed things, moved things around and made it really dumb. So you never know what’s going to come out. But if something of the quality level of the Dune adaptation comes out, that would be wonderful.
And once again, as with comics, I’ve got great people involved. The screenwriters are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and I’ve had several meetings with them. They really know the books, they love the books, they’re determined to do a faithful adaptation, and they’re both terrific writers in their own right. Both of them are also novelists and short story writers, so I’ve sampled some of their own prose work, which was first-rate. So I think I’m in good hands.
PWCW: When you finish all of the novels you have planned, is that going to be the end of Westeros, or do you see yourself continuing to write stories in this world?
GRRM: I think that having created the world in such detail—and it is such a huge world—I think there are other stories to tell there. They would not be a continuation of A Song of Ice and Fire, though; they would be stories from other periods of history, about other characters. Maybe not even part of the Seven Kingdoms, maybe some of the kingdoms across the sea, a thousand years in the past or whatever.
On the other hand, there are also other stories I want to do in some of the other series I’ve worked with. Science fiction, horror stories, a sequel to Fevre Dream, another [Haviland] Tuf book, more Wild Cards books and so forth. The Wild Cards series, which is probably my most comiclike series, is being revived by Tor Books in a big new trilogy that starts in January. I also have a deal with Marvel and the Dabels for a Wild Card comic book, so that’ll start coming out next year, too.
PWCW: What brought the Wild Cards series back to comics?
GRRM: Wild Cards kind of grew out of comics [and] my love for comics. When I was a kid, after that fan letter[I had published] in Fantastic Four, the first stories that I published in high school were superhero stories in amateur magazines, comic fanzines that were published during the ’60s, of heroes that I made up myself. Of course, I couldn’t draw, so I wrote these stories, but they were in prose. So I was never cut out to be a comic artist, but I loved the whole superhero mythos. In the ’80s, we launched this Wild Cards line of books, initially with Bantam Books, and it was quite successful. We had a long run. We did 15 of them. But around the mid-’90s, sales were falling off and the series ended.
I was the editor, and I wrote some of them; there were about 20 different writers involved. We did these as mosaic novels, creating our own version of the Marvel or DC Universe, but much more realistic. And I think we always loved that universe, and we loved the characters we created. So we had an opportunity after Wild Cards had been asleep for seven years to bring it back. Initially with a little company called iBooks, we launched a series and we found some new readers, but unfortunately iBooks then went bankrupt, so then we came up with this new deal with Tor Books, and now we’re seeing a general Wild Cards revival all across the board, and the comics are part of that. There’ll be new books, there’ll be new comics, and there’ll be a lot of new characters. It’s the same universe, but with new characters.
PWCW: I know you attended the New York Comic-Con earlier this year. Tell us about your experiences with comics conventions like San Diego.
GRRM: San Diego is a wonderful city. The Comic-con, however, is frightening.
PWCW: More frightening than the New York Comic Convention?
GRRM: Well, it’s five times the size. Last year, they had 130,000 people there. And sometimes, on Saturday, [it seemed] they were all in one room. It was like the French Quarter in New Orleans during Mardi Gras making your way between the aisles.
I’m really revealing my ancient age here, but I attended the very first comic convention ever held. It was 1963, New York City, down at a little hotel, on Saturday afternoon. It was held in one room of this rundown old hotel in Greenwich Village. I lived in Bayonne, N.J., and I came over on the bus to attend it. I was in high school. There were about 30 people there, so it’s come a long way from 30 people to 130,000.