Game of Thrones Author Draws SRO Crowd
George R. R. Martin, author of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, on which HBO developed the hit series Game of Thrones, signs books at ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim.
Authors Lois McMaster Bujold and Blake Charlton.
Whether ALA attendees knew George R. R. Martin from his ongoing book series A Song of Ice and Fire or the hit HBO series Game of Thrones (namesake of book one), a standing-room-only horde of excited fans were on hand Saturday at “Traveling the Spectrum: From Interstellar Adventures to Epic Fantasy, the Influence of Science Fiction and Fantasy on the World Today” to hear him speak about these genres. The program, which also featured Blake Charlton and Lois McMaster Bujold, was sponsored by the Library and Information Technology Association and Tor Books.
Charlton, author of the acclaimed novels Spellwright and Spellbound, kicked off the session with an entertaining and funny PowerPoint presentation detailing the personal experiences of his childhood that influenced his writing. Charlton said he grew up dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until he was 13 or 14 years old. As a result, he was in special education classes and had to ride the “short bus,” he said, referring to the smaller school buses generally used to transport children enrolled in special education. Charlton said he always kept a list of the many cruel things other kids said to him, some of which he good-humoredly shared with the audience. (For example, “Your wheel is spinning but your hamster is dead.”)
He said he has learned to “respect [his] enemies in this life,” and gravitated toward fantasy because it is a “literature of exceptional ability, possibility, and disability.” He eventually went on to graduate from Yale and later pursued medicine at Stanford.
Bujold spoke next, asking what the world would look like if there were no works of speculative fiction. She noted that the genre is not slowing down but is, in fact, speeding up. And despite the advent of ebooks, she said, many people read physical books in places where they are sometimes most necessary, such as hospices. “Fiction gives our minds and souls another place to be,” Bujold said.
Martin spoke last, recounting how the effects of growing up in a federal housing project and having no money influenced his life. For example, the housing projects didn’t allow people to have cats or dogs, so Martin kept pet turtles in bowls with toy castles and eventually began writing stories about them.
But what changed Martin’s life, he said, was reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit—Will Travel, which led him to decide that “I like this ‘reading books’ thing.” Space Suit was a gift and would be the only hardcover he would own for another 15 years because he couldn’t afford to buy many books.
Martin said that the “other thing that saved me was the Fifth Street Library” in his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey. He said the annoying thing about the library “is that they made me give the books back.”
With the introduction of books and the library, he said, “Suddenly I was going places.” All of those places, he said in conclusion, are ones that he remembers vividly. “We are the sum of our experiences. They are experiences we’ve incorporated and made part of ourselves. I remember the books.”