Dubbed "the American Tolkien" by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.
Gathered here, in Volume I, are the very best of George R.R. Martin's early works, including never-before-published fan pieces, his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker Award-winning stories--plus the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin's New York Times bestselling children's book of the same title originated. A dazzling array that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I, is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.
Martin may be best known for his Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy, but this mammoth collection of short stories (the first of two volumes) highlights his work in numerous genres, including SF, horror and fantasy. Focusing on Martin's early output, volume one features The Second Kind of Loneliness, originally published in 1972, which chronicles a man's insanity-inducing introspection millions of miles from Earth; the 1975 Hugo Award-winning A Song for Lya; The Pear-Shaped Man, a disturbing horror masterpiece about a creepy apartment neighbor; and more obscure works like a 1967 fanzine story starring the Astral Avenger and an unconventional college term paper about the Russo-Swedish War of 1808. An insightful introduction by Gardner Dozois, illustrations by Michael Kaluta and extensive--and candid--author commentary make this much more than just a compilation of stories. Fans, genre historians and aspiring writers alike will find this shelf-bending retrospective as impressive as it is intriguing. (Nov.)
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October 29, 2007
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Excerpt from Dreamsongs: Volume I by George R.R. Martin
A Four-Color Fanboy
In the beginning, I told my tales to no one but myself.
Most of them existed only in my head, but once I learned to read and write I would sometimes put down bits on paper. The oldest surviving example of my writing, which looks like something I might have done in kindergarten or first grade, is an encyclopedia of outer space, block-printed in one of those school tablets with the marbled black and white covers. Each page has a drawing of a planet or a moon, and a few lines about its climate and its people. Real planets like Mars and Venus co-exist happily with ones I'd swiped from Flash Gordon and Rocky Jones, and others that I made up myself.
It's pretty cool, my encyclopedia, but it isn't finished. I was a lot better at starting stories than I was at finishing them. They were only things I made up to amuse myself.
Amusing myself was something I'd learned to do at a very early age. I was born on September 20, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey, the firstborn child of Raymond Collins Martin and Margaret Brady Martin. I don't recall having any playmates my own age until we moved into the projects when I was four. Before that, my parents lived in my great grandmother's house with my great grandmother, her sister, my grandmother, her brother, my parents, and me. Until my sister Darleen was born two years later, I was the only child. We had no kids next door either. Grandma Jones was a stubborn woman who refused to sell her house even after the rest of Broadway had gone commercial, so ours was the only residence for twenty blocks.
When I was four and Darleen was two and Janet was three years shy of being born, my parents finally moved into an apartment of their own in the new federal housing projects down on First Street. The word "projects" conjures up images of decaying high-rises set amongst grim concrete wastelands, but the LaTourette Gardens were not Cabrini-Green. The buildings stood three stories high, with six apartments on each floor. We had playgrounds and basketball courts, and across the street a park ran beside the oily waters of the Kill van Kull. It wasn't a bad place to grow up . . . and unlike Grandma Jones' house, there were other children around.
We swung on swings and slid down slides, went wading in the summer and had snowball fights in the winter, climbed trees and roller-skated, played stickball in the streets. When the other kids weren't around, I had comic books and television and toys to pass the time. Green plastic army men, cowboys with hats and vests and guns that you could swap around, knights and dinosaurs and spacemen. Like every red-blooded American kid, I knew the proper names of all the different dinosaurs (Brontosaurus, damn it, don't tell me any different). I made up the names for the knights and the spacemen.
At Mary Jane Donohoe School on Fifth Street, I learned to read with Dick and Jane and Sally and their dog, Spot. Run, Spot, run. See Spot run. Did you ever wonder why Spot runs so much? He's running away from Dick and Jane and Sally, the dullest family in the world. I wanted to run away from them as well, right back to my comic books . . . or "funny books," as we called them. My first exposure to the seminal works of western literature came through Classics Illustrated comics. I read Archie too, and Uncle Scrooge, and Cosmo the Merry Martian. But the Superman and Batman titles were my favorites . . . especially World's Finest Comics, where the two of them teamed up every month.
The first stories I can remember finishing were written on pages torn from my school tablets. They were scary stories about a monster hunter, and I sold them to the other kids in my building for a penny a page. The first story was a page long, and I got a penny. The next was two pages long, and went for two cents. A free dramatic reading was part of the deal; I was the best reader in the projects, renowned for my werewolf howls. The last story in my monster hunter series was five pages long and sold for a nickel, the price of a Milky Way, my favorite candy bar. I remember thinking I had it made. Write a story, buy a Milky Way. Life was sweet . . .
. . . until my best customer started having bad dreams, and told his mother about my monster stories. She came to my mother, who talked to my father, and that was that. I switched from monsters to spacemen (Jarn of Mars and his gang, I'll talk about them later), and stopped showing my stories to anyone.
But I kept reading comics. I saved them in a bookcase made from an orange crate, and over time my collection grew big enough to fill both shelves. When I was ten years old I read my first science fiction novel, and began buying paperbacks too. That stretched my budget thin. Caught in a financial crunch, at eleven I reached the momentous decision that I had grown "too old" for comics.