If ever there was a success story coming out of the field of literary science fiction and fantasy, it has to be the story of George R.R. Martin.
These days, Martin is famous because of HBO's adaptation of his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, an ongoing, multivolume series of epic fantasy novels depicting the struggle for control over the fictional continent of Westeros.
Read more books by George R.R. Martin.
But long before the drama unfolded in House Lannister, Martin was involved in many other worthwhile projects. He was an editor for the New Voices in Science Fiction anthology series from 1977 to 1981. In the mid-’80s, Martin wrote the teleplays for the revived Twilight Zone TV series and, perhaps more well known, the prime-time show Beauty and the Beast. Since 1987, he has been fulfilling the role of editor for the Wild Cards anthology series, a superhero-inspired shared universe.
And of course, Martin was writing books, too. Here's a list of five books that he wrote before the first book in the his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones...
Dying of the Light (1977)
Martin's first novel takes place on a dying planet named Worlorn, whose unconventional orbit is slowly taking it away from its sun. Against this bleak, decaying backdrop, a love story of sorts plays out in which Dirk t'Larien, pining for the woman he lost (Gwen Delvano), must win her back from the man that claimed her as dictated by Worlorn's societal rules; outdated rules that were born of a longstanding culture adapted to cope with years of interstellar war.
Co-written with Lisa Tuttle, this novel is named after the planet on which it takes place. Windhaven, founded by humans of past generations after their colony starship crash-landed there, is mostly oceanic. The disparate islands are homes to individual groups and communication between them is possible only by the now-elite Flyer class who brave the harsh environmental conditions to cross the raging seas. Within this caste system, Martin and Tuttle explore class-based differences as a woman tries to join the elite cadre of Flyers.
Fevre Dream (1982)
Fevre Dream is Martin's gothic treatment of vampires, set on the Mississippi River beginning in 1857. In it, a mysterious well-to-do aristocrat named Joshua York lures steamboat captain Abner Marsh into a business partnership. What's in it for Abner is gold and a new steamboat; but what Joshua York hopes to gain is anyone's guess. However, during the course of their maiden voyage down the Mississippi, York's sinister plans become more evident...and more terrifying.
The Armageddon Rag (1983)
Part murder mystery, part meditation on rock music culture, The Armageddon Rag is about Sandy Blair, an underground journalist investigating the strange death of rock music promoter Jamie Lynch. The investigation soon leads Blair to a reunion tour by one of Lynch's rock bands, Nazgûl. Much to Sandy's surprise, the tour, which is partly a front for devil worship, begins to eerily mimic a deadly concert from long ago.
Hunter's Run (2007)
Co-written with Gardener Dozois, and Daniel Abraham (and based on the trio's wonderful novella "Shadow Twin"), Hunter's Run is the story of a human prospector named Ramón Espejo who is captured by aliens and forced to hunt down another human on the distant planet of São Paulo. Although Ramón is trying to escape, he may learn that he is his own worst enemy.
But Wait! There's More!
Martin was a very prolific short fiction writer, with his many stories collected in various ways in various books. If you have to pick only one—and woe to the person who has to choose!—look for Dreamsongs, a huge, career-spanning retrospective published in one giant hardback or two-volume paperbacks. This collection holds great treasures like "A Song for Lya," "The Way of Cross and Dragon," "Sandkings" (adapted as a graphic novel and an episode of The Outer Limits), "Nightflyers" (adapted for film in 1987), as well a novella set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire called "The Hedge Knight."
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.