Emilia Clarke has been heating up watercooler talk for severals years now in HBO’s monster hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, that the world calls Game of Thrones.
Even as a veteran multiple double-digit rereader of all of the books in the series that jumped on the literature before the turn of the century, I never thought that I’d see the day that “Khaleesi” would enter pop culture vernacular, a thought that was smashed when I got my 5-year old niece an “I’m not a Princess I’m a Khaleesi” t-shirt and she knew what it was.
In other words, move over Arthur C. and Susanna, Emilia is the Clarke of both speculative and reality based affections.
I was introduced to the series hiding in a public library by my house, waiting for my mom to go to work, so my parents wouldn’t know I had been suspended (this is when you could simply intercept snail mail and turn off your house phone line’s ringer for a day to avoid parental knowledge of your in-school punishments).
I wasn’t a geek, then or now, but upon reflection it always made me laugh that so many of my hours of getting in trouble for being a jackass in school resulted in me reading the vast majority of books that would later become the fuel and ammo of my future initial foray into being a webmaster and operating a small business.
To be fair I was already by most measures very comfortable or at least on the path to be well off in life at that time and the book thing was I think in some way a return to only child childhood huddled with a book you reread dozens of times (sorry Chapterhouse: Dune, Foucault’s Pendulum, Call of the Wild, Elfstones and Wishsong of Shannara.)
Martin would kick off A Song of Ice and Fire with A Game of Thrones but it wasn’t the first A Song of Ice and Fire published material that the general public could be exposed too. Much like other classics of the speculative fiction like Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, it would be in a genre magazine that we’d get our first taste of a work that would have thousands if not millions spend an inordinate part of their life reflecting on R + L = J.
A month before A Game of Thrones would land in bookstores, and even before George R.R. Martin would be interviewed by just any idiot anywhere, the novella “Blood of the Dragon” was published in the July 1996 issue of Asimov’s. The story was Daenerys Targaryen-centric, offering a mash of her A Game of Thrones POV chapters, and wasn’t exactly under the radar, as it went on to win the year’s Hugo Award for best novella, and be the cover (as seen above — by Paul Youll) story of the issue. The interior illustrations are by Darryl Elliot.
Not quite two decades later the popularity of Game of Thrones would give us renditions of Dany of all types across the globe like these I have from Japan:
…and GRMM is so baller now he just releases preview chapters on his own, reaching far more people.
I know some segments of fandom of any mega-popular property hate seeing interpretations that aren’t lifted straight out of the source material or stray too far from traditional but after awhile you often have to go overseas to see anything that isn’t sterile in my opinion, minus some random Jeffrey Catherine Jones and John Howe covers.
While I was reviewing books every week for years I’d often get both the U.S. and UK version of the same book sent to me and marvel at how very few times the american version appealed to me more (which has nothing to do with quality of artists just what they are commissioned to do and by whom – some standout tho, I recall both Tor and Orbit having a real good run of covers).
I do think it has improved as of late, though admittedly I’m less day-by-day in the field than I used to be when I saw almost literally everything. Personally now, in my digital world, book covers on new books are largely irrelevant to me. That’s not a knock on incredible artists and art directors (I buy original art) but typically I know what writers I’m buying and the appeal of the cover is not going to change that.
I actually thought about the cover as I was reading The Ruin of Kings. It must be a dilemma or maybe the opposite. It reminds me of the reissues paperback of the A Song of Ice and Fire books during the Game of Thrones tv show boom. Kind of bland, what marketing has deemed presentable to civilians, “hey it’s a dragon!” but as a design function or ornament more than anything else.
Again, not a knock on publishers who obviously have market research that points them in that direction. I’m more intrigued of the notion that people will be more prone to buy an epic fantasy book as long as the cover doesn’t make it look like a fantasy book. There’s something to that and I think if you see look at those Japanese covers I posted above it speaks of a society that owns liking rad shit.
Anyway, back to Daenerys, I’m actually unsure what Asimov’s circulation numbers were in 1996 but this is one of the more fun A Song of Ice and Fire items to hoard for me. I have collected as many galleys/ARCS as the next guy, foreign and domestic, but I have an extra affection for paraphernalia like this that was made available for public consumption but still feels like you are diggin’ in the crates to find.
Game of Thrones is, after all, now perhaps the ultimate non-live sports shared fan experience monoculture activity we have in entertainment and with the proliferation of on-demand lifestyles perhaps the last one we will have on tv.