20 years on, George RR Martin remembers the Game of Thrones book signing where no-one turned up…

"It has been a helluva twenty years," writes the author, as he introduces an illustrated anniversary edition

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It’s been two decades to the day since George RR Martin first introduced the world to Westeros – and the 67-year-old is feeling suitably nostalgic. 

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“It was twenty years ago today… 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,” Martin wrote on his website NotABlog this morning.

And how times have changed…

While Martin reports that “reviews were generally good, sales were… well, okay. Solid”, he admits there was one particular occasion in those early days when absolutely no-one turned up for one of his book signings. These days you have to queue…

“I went on a book tour around that same time… 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…”

“But my oh my, things have changed a bit in these last twenty years,” he continues. “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,.” 

It does indeed. And to mark the anniversary of “the fantasy masterpiece that started a cultural phenomenon” Martin is releasing a “special illustrated edition.”

Game of Thrones: the Illustrated Edition includes an intro “by the World Famous Nebula Toastmaster John Hodgman” as well as 73 illustrations, 48 of which are completely new. 

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,” he concludes. “But here I am, twenty years later… still working on book six… ((and no, sorry, I have no announcement to make on that front)).”

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Game of Thrones: the Illustrated Edition goes on sale 18th October