It’s strange to meet a man who is a God to some, an unknown mortal to others. News that I was meeting George R.R. Martin was met by friends and family with two reactions. One was ‘wow, you’re so lucky’, the other was ‘who is George R.R. Martin?’.
And that is the world of genre fiction. Authors are deified by some, unknown to others. If you’re a fan, you’re more than just a fan. If you aren’t, you nearly go out of your way to proclaim ignorance.
As I write this I realise I’ve put all people into two categories, neither of which I actually fall into. Of course I have heard of George R.R. Martin and I was incredibly excited to meet such a huge cultural figure, a wonderful writer, a magnificent storyteller. At least that’s what I’ve been told. You see…
…I haven’t read any books by George R.R. Martin. I am an observer. I love the TV show. Admire him, absolutely. But read him? No, not for me.
So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation I made my way, along with John Purcell, Christopher Cahill and our Sci-Fi & Fantasy specialist Mark Timmony, to the offices of George’s Australian publishers, HarperCollins. Our game plan was simple. Meet George.
Typically at these events the talent makes a late appearance to a soundtrack of whispers, but George R.R. Martin isn’t your typical talent. Our wine barely had a chance to breathe before a bearded man in suspenders began to work the room.
George had entered stage left, and even the ushers didn’t notice him.
It’s easy to miss him in a crowd. He’s a little guy, not prone to loud sweeping conversation. He mingled for a while, pretending not to notice the room who in turn pretended not to stare at him. He sipped his drink and nodded humbly as people told him how much they loved his books. He slowly made his way down the far side of the room before finding refuge in a set of chairs and sat down. It was then we were told our time had come.
‘There he is.’
‘He’s sitting down, this is your chance.’
And so we made our move. We dashed across the floor towards George who had now found himself in conversation with a woman talking so fast with excitement I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I doubt George could either, but he smiled and nodded, raising a glass with her as we stood awkwardly nearby.
Eventually his conversation stopped and he turned to us and put out his hand.
‘Hi, I’m George.’
The conversation was a blur of fantasy references, questions about Booktopia, and Australia’s weather. Christopher and George bonded over their love of J.R.R. Tolkien as John and I took photos of them chatting. It was surreal, being in the company of such an idolised, influential figure. And as quickly as it started, it was over. George still had to press the palms of many more people that night, and we disappeared into the crowd.
So what did we learn from our night with George?
– He has been to Australia quite a few times, both for business and pleasure.
– He has signed 10,000 books since landing here 5 days ago.
– He loves a good champagne.
– His favourite book is Lord of the Rings.
– The next book currently has a working title (which has not been finalised) and is close to being finished.
And that was that. After signing a few books and posing for some photos, George left, and soon after so did we.
So what becomes of a casual observer after a chance meeting? It just so happens this morning I put in an order for The Game of Thrones Boxset.
I mean, now that George is a close personal friend, I owe it to him to at least read his stuff, right?