On A Song of Ice and Fire
Beyond the Ghetto
How George R.R. Martin Fights the Genre Wars
By Ned Vizzini
What’s the hardest part of writing a book? It’s a good question–one I get often from aspiring authors wary of the pain–but the answer is never what people think. Beginning can be hard, yes, and ending can be downright brutal, as the protracted wait for A Dance with Dragons demonstrated, but the hardest part comes once you’ve finished your book and sold it. Then you must make a searching and fearless moral inventory and try to get blurbs. Securing other authors’ positive comments on your work is the closest you will probably come to asking out your celebrity crush; my strategy is to beg.
When I set out to get blurbs for a young adult novel with fantasy elements that I sold in 2010, the person I wanted to beg most was George R.R. Martin. While reading up on roleplaying games’ influence on American culture, I discovered his work through Dreamsongs: Volume II, which, if you’re already chafing for The Winds of Winter, documents Martin’s creative ventures in Los Angeles with Tyrion-esque cynicism. In Dreamsongs I found that in 1983 Martin started playing the Call of Cthulhu and Superworld games so much that he stopped writing for a year and nearly went broke. As he explained in an introduction to the Wild Cards novels that resulted from his obsession: “[My wife] Parris used to listen at my office door, hoping to hear the clicking of my keyboard from within, only to shudder at the ominous rattle of dice.”
This was the first …