From Westeros to College Station
George R. R. Martin to give milestone book to Texas A&M
By Robert Faires,
4:00PM, Thu. Jan. 29, 2015
Say you're Texas A&M and you want to commemorate the five millionth volume acquired by your library, who would you get to make that gift and what would the book be? Rick Perry and Fed Up!? Robert Earl Keen and Cormac McCarthy's The Road? How about Game of Thrones' George R. R. Martin and The Hobbit?
Well, the last option may not be your choice, but that's what the real A&M is going with at the end of next month. The announcement came from College Station this morning that the award-winning author of A Song of Fire and Ice will visit the Aggie campus on Feb. 27 to present a a first edition of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic to the University Libraries in a ceremony in Rudder Auditorium, during which he'll read a few pages from the book.
Having a New Jersey native and writer of epic fantasy do this honor to a hardcore scientific research and military school deep in the heart of Texas isn't quite the stretch it might seem at first blush if you know about the hardcore community of science fiction and fantasy fans that's been active at A&M since the Sixties at least. The year that Neil and Buzz set foot on the moon, some students banded together under the name Cepheid Variable launched AggieCon, the first science fiction convention to be sponsored by a college or a college student organization and now the longest-running con of its kind in the country. (AggieCon 46 is set for March 26-29.)
Some of those students had library connections and began amassing sci-fi and fantasy books, pulps, and comics for the school, as well as manuscripts and unpublished writings from the authors that attended the con. In the Seventies, a gang of up-and-coming Lone Star sf writers that had formed the Turkey City Writer's Workshop – among them, Steven Utley, Lisa Tuttle, Tom Reamy, Bruce Sterling, and Howard Waldrop became popular with the AggieCon crowd, and through them, Martin – who had been corresponding with Waldrop since the early Sixties, when they were teens absorbed with superhero comics – made his way to College Station. And he kept coming back. And in time, as Martin's writing career took off, he was invited back as a Guest of Honor at AggieCon. In 1986, the first time that happened, he was given a tour of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection, which had grown into an archive of international repute and was now being housed in a climate-controlled room in the Cushing Memorial Library. And on that tour, the head of the library's special collections – a longtime sf fan named Don Dyal – asked Martin to consider donating his papers to the collection.
He did. And six years later, the first 24 boxes were carted from Martin's home in Santa Fe to College Station. And many, many more have joined them since. And, of course, since Game of Thrones started airing, the collection – and Martin – have attained an entirely new prominence. Two years ago, TAMU put some of its holdings on display in an exhibition called "Deeper Than Swords," for which Martin came and gave a speech.
That's why it's fitting for the guy who made Daenerys a household word to present the Aggie library with its five millionth book. As for why The Hobbit, well, since Martin has been dubbed "the American Tolkien," and since we might not have Westeros if it weren't for Middle Earth, it creates a bit of continuity for a library with such an, ahem, legendary collection of fantasy books. (And since it wasn't going to be a first printing of The Winds of Winter, it might as well be Bilbo's book.)
The public is welcome at the book presentation ceremony and it is free, but space is limited and entry is first-come, first-served.
So while you're waiting for Martin's latest return to Texas (to say nothing of the start of Game of Thrones Season 5), why not revisit the Chronicle's extensive interview with Martin when he was in these parts for the 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio?