Love Game of Thrones? Try more of GRRM's work
Do you love George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books?
Do you love HBO’s Game of Thrones?
If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, keep reading, because this is for you. As a GoT fan, I’m sure you know all the house words, and whose crest is a white falcon and crescent moon on a dark blue background. I’m sure you know everyone on the Night’s Watch.
But did you know George R.R. Martin wrote about a lot things that aren’t within the ASOIAF universe?
Since the 1970s, GRRM has written everything from science fiction to historical horror, contemporary horror to urban fantasy, and more.
Mostly short stories, these are available in a number of anthologies that are floating around, and in Martin’s two-volume Dreamsongs collection, which includes about sixteen hundred pages of short fiction, essays, and even a few screen plays. The two volumes of Dreamsongs were published in 2012, so copies are mostly certainly available.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find when you explore Martin’s non-Starky fiction:
Nightflyers, one of my all-time favorites, was nominated for a Hugo in 1981. A space adventure story that quickly escalates to the fear factor of Alien, this story will keep you on your toes. You might guess the ending before the Nightflyer’s poor passengers do, but that doesn’t make the end any less horrific. Way to scare people away from space travel, Martin!
Another favorite, and probably his most famous non-ASOIAF work, is the novella A Song for Lya, which won the Hugo for best novella in 1975. I’ve never been able to get through this novella without crying. Licensed telepaths Lyanna and Robb (hey, those names sound familiar!) are sent to the planet Shkeen to get a better understanding of why the human colonists there are converting to the local Shkeen religion in droves. I wish I could tell you more, but it would wreck the beauty of this story. Just go and read it, you can thank me later.
Moving forward in time a little, and changing genres, we have Fevre Dream, from 1982 (and now available as a graphic novel). And speaking of HBO, I like to call Fevre Dream the original True Blood. On a Mississippi riverboat named the Fevre Dream, a vampire and his faux-blood concoction make their way to New Orleans. If vampires aren’t dependent on humans and animals anymore, can they still see themselves as superior? Most Martin fans count Fevre Dream as one of their favorites, but it was really slow and draggy for me.
If far-future science fiction is more your thing, Dreamsongs Volume 1 will reward you with the Hugo and Nebula award-winning “Sandkings.” Kress, a collector and dealer of rare animals, procures some sandkings. These creatures look like large insects, but act as a hive mind that is mildly telepathic. Kress uses the sandkings for entertainment purposes, but the "kings believe in something grander than themselves." As this story percolates through your brain over the course of a few days or a week, you’ll realize that like Fevre Dream, it’s a lot more complicated than it first seems.
And then there's The Pear-Shaped Man, which won a Bram Stoker in 1988. This story is so disturbing that you can’t believe you’re reading it, and yet, like Cheez Doodles, you can’t stop putting the words in your face. The titular character starts out as a socially awkward neighbor. At first, Jessie avoids him. Then she makes fun of him. Then she feels bad for him. It’s not his fault he’s socially awkward, smells bad, and hasn’t got a clue how to keep his apartment from being covered in empty soda cans and potato chip crumbs—she shouldn’t be so mean. We all know a pear-shaped man. We’ve all had that conversation with ourselves, that it’s childish and cruel to make fun of people. But this pear-shaped man knows something you don’t, and he’s got something he’d like to tell Jessie, something he'd like to whisper in her ear.
Just thinking about that story creeps me out.
On a happier note (because after thinking about The Pear Shaped Man I could really use a unicorn chaser), if none of these sound like something you’d like, and all you want is more Song of Ice and Fire fiction, allow me to introduce you to the stories of Dunk and Egg, which can be found in various anthologies and in the recently published A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. These prequel stories follow Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Egg. Stylistically similar to A Game of Thrones, the Dunk and Egg stories take place around a hundred years before Ned Stark became Hand of the King and thus, fill in some backstory. Not all the backstory, mind you, just some. Just enough to reignite your Song of Ice and Fire obsession.
If you're a GoT fan, do you see you see yourself exploring Martin's other fiction? If you've read some of his other fiction, what did you think of it? How does it compare to Game of Thrones?