This is topic Sandkings: or, George R. R. Martin CAN write after all in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
Some of you know that I wasn't overly impressed by A Game of Thrones, to the extent that I'm not reading it sequels (something that would ordinarily be nearly unthinkable for me). Anyway, I've been reading an anthology of Sci-Fi (selected by OSC, no less) that happens to contain Martin's short Sandkings -- a little SF vignette that brushes with horror.

It's fantastic. The guy can really write. His prose is evocative, his characterizations are outstanding, and the story really does give you chills, just like the best of H. P. Lovecraft.

So there you go. While I still don't have any real desire to read the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire, I certainly have a new respect for Martin as an author.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
"Sandkings" might just be my favorite short story, ever.

[ September 08, 2004, 09:23 AM: Message edited by: Sara Sasse ]
Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
I think mine is The Nine Billion Names of God. [Smile]
Posted by Dead_Horse (Member # 3027) on :
I still have that OMNI magazine. I read it laying on my stomach on the living room carpet while eating dinner. Now I get the weirdest feeling when I eat the same thing, even after almost 30 years. It's an amazing story.

Posted by mr_porteiro_head (Member # 4644) on :
I love that story. It freaked out my wife, though.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
"Sandkings" is definitely a great short story, although I don't think that it qualifies as my favorite piece of short fiction. That honor would have to go to William Sanders' "The Undiscovered". "Sandkings" is up there though. Martin's "Portraits of His Children" is pretty high on the list as well.

Twinky, have you read Martin's contributions to the Legends anthologies? They're set in the same universe as the Ice and Fire series, but take place about 100 years earlier than the series. I'd be curious to see what you think of them, or at least the first one.
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
I think mine is The Nine Billion Names of God.
Oh, I love that one...

I don't know if I can pick a favorite. I loved Flowers for Algernon, but it was turned into a novel, so it may not count anymore.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
"Sandkings" may be my favorite, but that doesn't mean I think it was the best-constructed or the best-written. "Favorites" can be very personal things that are meaningful for very personal reasons.

It was just exactly what I needed to read, just exactly when I needed to read it. The reflection of the changing face of their god in the ants' graven images, the way praise from those you favor can be just the other side of fear or hatred from those whose selves you trample -- wow.

What a shadowy thing is praise. How illusory to guide your life by whether you are worshipped.

Whhha-bang, right between the eyes. Thank you, George. [Smile]

[ September 08, 2004, 09:28 AM: Message edited by: Sara Sasse ]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
[Smile] Yeah, I wasn't arguing for "The Undiscovered" being best on some emperical scale or anything--just the story that has resonated most with me, on reading it.

Sara, have you ever read "One Horse Town" by Howard Waldrop and Leigh Kennedy? It's one that I love.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
It's a retelling of the Trojan horse, yes? I remember that you showed it to me before.



I remember this, but I didn't see page 2 the first time. There's more.

And I recall linking to the story behind L Cohen's "Alexandra Leaving" for you, and that you -- like me -- had favor for these lines:

You who had the honor of her evening,
And by that honor had your own restored---
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving,
Alexandra leaving with her lord.

With praise due to Constantine P. Cavafy for The God Abandons Antony as the inspiration.

I will finish reading "One Horse Town" now. The grace of undiscovered second pages! I had thought we were ended on the forboding gaze of Cassandra.

[ September 08, 2004, 10:57 AM: Message edited by: Sara Sasse ]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Amazing lines. Based on an amazing poem. I'd forgotten all about that conversation--I'm glad that you reminded me of it! I'm also glad that you're seeing the second page of "One Horse Town". Some of the best stuff is yet to come in the story, but it's funny what a good ending the end of page 1 is, isn't it?
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
Yeah. Page 1 worked for me as a stand-alone. Amazing.

[still reading]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
I love the way they show the germs of ideas that Homer has that work themselves into the Illiad. Very deftly done, I thought.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
Yes. On the second page it blooms. The sails, the tale of Hector, the eternal cry ("Oh, gods, why have you abandoned us?"). The digging.

You know, I think this pins an area of ignorance for me. Do you know of any formal analysis of the story? (Have you writen one yourself?)

Speaking of story analysis, I also think San-xiang is in some ways much like Cassandra.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Hm. A formal analysis of The Illiad? Nothing is springing to mind. I've read various articles and books on the subject, of course, but that was years ago. I wonder if Dante or kat or another of our classicists of a more recent vintage might have a recommendation? In terms of translations, I've always liked Lattimore's and there is a great companion written to it that is basically like a book's worth of footnotes. If you're interested in that I could probably dredge up the title and author, but it's buried fairly deeply, so it might take a little while. I also like Stan Lombardo's translation. I know that David Bowles has a translation that he loves as well, but I can't remember the name of the translator. I'll ask him over on Grenme though.

San-Xiang being a lot like Cassandra? That's interesting! I'm getting ready to reread CMZ here before too long; I'll keep that in mind when I do so. In the meantime, I'd be curious to hear more about it if you're feeling so inclined.
Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
To respond to an earlier comment, I've never read the stuff of Martin's you pointed me to, Noemon. I'll look into it. [Smile]
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
Hm. A formal analysis of The Illiad?
I was thinking more of "One Horse Town." The Illiad is more than I can tackle at this time. *grin

I mean as far as tracing the subtler references made in the short story, like The Annotated Pratchett does for the Discworld novels (at L-space ). I think I am missing some of this story, like the reference to the color of the sails in Homer's ship, which I almost missed but think I figured out, or maybe I'm just confused.

For OT fun: Which Discworld Character Are You?

Yours truly,
Susan Sto Helit

PS: I will reread CMZ with you. San-xiang seemed caught up in forces larger than herself. I think the rape was a playing out of what it is to be reborn and what beauty and innocence mean in (our, more-or-less) culture.

[ September 08, 2004, 12:37 PM: Message edited by: Sara Sasse ]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Ah! I misunderstood you! I've never read an analysis of One Horse Town, and to be honest I've never actually come across anyone who has read to story, other than those I've suggested it to. Might be fun to write something like that. Hmmm...I'll tell you what. I'm going to have a little extra time this fall, once I get my role playing world finished up. If I have time I'll write something then, and send it to you. Feel free to remind me if you haven't seen anything by...oh, say November or so.

Rereading CMZ together sounds great! Right now celia and I are reading McHugh's Mission Child (have you read that, by the way? I think that you'd love it. It's probably my second favorite of her novels after CMZ). Let me know when you're ready to pick it up and I'll work it in. Maybe I can talk celia into reading it with us. That'd be fun.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
I have it, Noemon. I bought it on your recommendation. Let me see if I can dig it up.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
See, my memory is terrible. Glad yours is better Sara.
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
Wow, we're all in trouble. Mine is abysmal. [Smile]
Posted by Sara Sasse (Member # 6804) on :
(although I'd adore seeing your thoughts on OHT, and I will remember to remind you)
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Mine is terrible too. Wait...did I just say that?

You're getting me all excited about writing an essay! I haven't written an essay in years! ::really looking forward to this now!::
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
If you read the Wild Cards series, you'll see that George R.R. Martin can indeed write.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Well, in all fairness, he didn't really write *much* of the Wildcard series. The parts of it that he wrote, though, are definitely the highlights of the series. Well, except for Howard Waldrop's chapter.
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
I know he didn't write much of the Wildcard series. But I also love the parts he wrote. Some of the best in the whole series.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Oh, far and above (again, except for Waldrop's chapter. I really wish that he'd provided more of the content than he did). Have you read the full series Eduardo? I kind of stalled out at book 8 or 9 or so, but have been thinking of picking up where I left off. I don't think that the later books have generally been as good as the earlier ones. I think that my favorites have probably been the first one and the fourth (Aces Abroad).
Posted by beverly (Member # 6246) on :
I love that story. It freaked out my wife, though.
It did? I thought it freaked you out and I was expecting to be more freaked out than I actually was because of your reaction. I wasn't as impressed by it as you were. [Smile]

Good story, though.
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
I did read all of them. The best parts, for me, were the Aces abroad and the Bloat/Jumpers saga.

My favorite hereo?

The Mighty Turtle
(*Plays supermouse music) [Big Grin]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Yeah, The Turtle is my favorite hero too. Favorite character,'s a tie between The Turtle and Croyd.

Who is your favorite bad guy? Mine is probably that thing from Haiti. His name escapes me at the moment.

[ September 09, 2004, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: Noemon ]
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
The thing from Haiti, yes...that was a creepy one. His (its) name was Ti Malice.

But my favorite bad guy is still "The Astronomer", tied with Blaise, Dr. Tachyon's nephew.

But favorite character would be Bloat, no doubts. I just don't know how to classify him. Hero? Bad Guy? Hard to tell. [Dont Know]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Ti Malice, that's right. That is one creepy little beast, isn't it? More so than the Astronomer, I thought. mind's drawing a blank on that one. Refresh my memory?

My least favorite "ace" is the King Kong guy, I think.
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
Bloat, the bloated guy who ruled Ellis Island. He could bend reality, create stuff from nowere, etc. He was a geek who used to run a D&D game (my kin, hehehe) before his Wild Card activated. He was one of the main characters (probably the main one) in the Ellis Island saga. He appears in Wild Cards VIII (One-Eyed Jacks) and XI (Dealer's Choice).

Remember now?

[ September 09, 2004, 01:42 PM: Message edited by: Eduardo_Sauron ]
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Vaguely. It was around there that I got distracted and lost interest in the series. The good news is, that's where I'll be picking up with it, so pretty soon I'll be reading about one of your favorite characters.

By the way, if a person were to arrange to have a layover in Rio de Janiero, would you be able to meet them at the airport for a meal or something? I'm not certain that I'll be able to manage it, but there is a chance that I'll be heading down to Chile in late Nov. or Dec, and if I do there is some chance that I'll be able to route my flight through Rio de Janiero.
Posted by Eduardo_Sauron (Member # 5827) on :
I'd probably be able to, Noemon, if it isn't at night (until 22:00) because I'd be teaching then. Any other time it would be fair game. Let's talk again if you manange it. I guess my e-mail is in my profile.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Sounds good. I'll email you as I know more.
Posted by Irami Osei-Frimpong (Member # 2229) on :
Noemon, you mentioned the Wildcard books on another thread, and as we have similar taste in books, I picked up a copy of the first volume.

Thanks, I'm having a great time, so far. I read a story or two before I go to bed. I'm a just a bit old for it now, but this is the kind of stuff I wish I would have read in high school.
Posted by Primal Curve (Member # 3587) on :
I found Martin's contributions to the Wildcard books to be superb, but just about everything else after volume II (admittedly, I only read about half of volume IV) to be absolute garbage.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
They're very light--I seem to remember that they're based on an RPG that Martin and a lot of the other authors were playing when the series started, and that information definitely fit with the feel of the books.

I'm the same way, Irami, in that they're definitely something that I'd have apprecaited more in high school, but they're still fun for me.

Primal Curve, there is definitely some crap stirred into the mix, but I didn't think that it was all horrible. I seem to remember vol. 3 being a low point, though.

I saw on Martin's site the other day that they're starting the series back up, set in the present day. Some of the aces from previous books will show up now and then, but they won't be the focus. I'll be checking them out from the library, but won't be buying them.

One interesting thing--when I was at a signing for A Feast For Crows, I asked him if Waldrop would be contributing to future volumes. He said that he'd agreed to write the final short story in the series, with his two stories serving as bookends. The problem is that with something as meandering and open ended as Wildcards, there's nowhere you can point and say "Here--here's the end". It's more something that will just peter out. Since Waldrop is apparently adamant about not writing anything other than the final story I'm doubting that he'll be contributing anything more to it.

You know, in reading over this thread I realize that I never wrote that analysis of One Horse Town. It's going to be raining this weekend; maybe I'll get a start on it. I should probably reread the Iliad first though, I suppose.

I find myself fascinated, lately, but different explorations of the story and characters of the Iliad. I'm rereading the various Greek tragedys that involve the characters (god I love Euripides), and have read (and am thinking about rereading) Dan Simmons' Ilium and [Olympos[/i]. I've also been reading Shanower's phenomenally well researched Age of Bronze. Very good stuff. I'm incredibly impressed by the degree of historical accuracy in the drawings of the tools, weapons, clothes, pots, and architecture in that series. The story's good too--I'm really enjoying his take on Clytemnestra.
Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
John Miller's Wildcards book is already out, and it's set in the present day. The Wildcards antho Dueces Down is a few years old, but set in more or less the present day. I've read the first draft of Miller's book, but gather substantial changes were made before the final, so I really can't say what it's like. The first draft had a lot of good humor in it.

I only read one first draft of one story for the antho, Melinda Snodgrass's, which was hilarious. But, to be honest, I feel like I don't know enough of the backstory to really understand some of the more recent works. I always provide the "new reader" perspective at critique sessions and tell everyone what I don't get because it was explained ten books ago and said book is out of print. I've also watched them come up with new ideas for new characters. (This is the group that plays the RPG together. I'm not sure if that's where the original idea came from, though.)

I've recently read the treatment for a screenplay set in the Wildcards universe is really, really great. That is also set in the present day with a very clever device for bridging from the older books to the modern day setting books.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
I forgot that you knew Martin, Walter Jon Williams, and all of those guys, OlavMah.

I seem to remember him talking about The Turtle being based very closely on a character he'd been playing in a superhero RPG--he'd MIN/MAXed the character to the point that he was almost incapable of independent movement, with all of his stat points poured into his telekenetic abilities. He made the Wildcards version of the character more of a normal guy, apart from his strong telepathy. It's possible that I'm misremembering, of course.

Miller's book has been out for a little while now, hasn't it? I was talking about the three books that they just signed with Tor for. I think that they're in the very earliest stages of getting the stories down on paper.

Interesting about the screenplay treatment. Would it be violating Martin and everyone's trust to talk a bit more about the device for bridging the old and new books? If not I'd love to hear about it.
Posted by ElJay (Member # 6358) on :
Jake, I picked up Dueces Down randomly at a book sale last summer. Without having read any of the previous ones, and having no idea of the backstory beyond what was in the intro, I found it enjoyable, although not spectacular. You're welcome to borrow it when I see you in July, if you like.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
[Smile] I'll take you up on that, but only if you don't mind if it takes me a while to get it back to you; I've got quite the backlog when it comes to my reading list.
Posted by ElJay (Member # 6358) on :
I'll never miss it, and when it eventually comes back it will be a plesant surprise. [Wink] No worries.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
In that case, I will happily accept.
Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
Well, the version I saw had a lesser known character from the early days end up in the present day. In the present day, Jokertown isn't lively anymore, many of the famous aces from before are dead or disappeared, and so the backstory is elegantly woven into the first scenes of the movie. And yes, it is elegant and well done, no long, clunky "As you know, Bob, what happed with the Wild Cards virus was such and so." "Really, Joe? What about all this other extranneous information from the books that doesn't have anything to do with the movie?"
"Well, Bob, that's a good point, let's stop all action in this movie to dwell on it!"

Now see, I was under the impression that Miller's book was the first of that trilogy you're talking about, but I could be wrong. Perhaps there has been a new deal inked. I'll ask.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
As you know, Bob, what happed with the Wild Cards virus was such and so." "Really, Joe? What about all this other extranneous information from the books that doesn't have anything to do with the movie?"
"Well, Bob, that's a good point, let's stop all action in this movie to dwell on it!"

[Laugh] OlavMah. Well put.

Here is Martin's press release about the new books:
The WILD CARDS series is back in business. We've just signed a contract with Tor Books for a new triad of WILD CARDS mosaic novels, to be titled Inside Straight, Busted Flush, and Suicide Kings. Work on the books has already commenced. Tor hopes to release the first volume in hardcover in 2007, with the subsequent volumes following a year apart.
The three new books will be volumes eighteen, nineteen, and twenty in the overall chronology, but they will also represent a new beginning for the series. A few of our older characters will make appearances in the new books, but the spotlight this time around will be on the next generation of aces and jokers, coming of age in a world transformed by xenovirus Takis-A. "It's 2007. Do you know where your children are?"
Here's a first peek at ten of our new cast members, courtesy of Mike S. Miller. From L to R, let me present (back row) Jonathan Hive, Double Helix, Drummer Boy, and Lohengrin, and (front row) Hoodoo Mama, Little Fat Boy, John Fortune, Curveball, Dragon Girl, and The Genetrix.
Many of the writers who helped make the original WILD CARDS series so popular will be contributing to the new books as well, including Walter Jon Williams, John Jos. Miller, Michael Cassutt, Walton (Bud) Simons, Stephen Leigh, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and others. They will be joined by Daniel Abraham, who made his WILD CARDS debut in volume sixteen, and newcomers Christopher Rowe, Caroline Spector, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn. As with previous volumes, George R.R. Martin will edit the books, with the able assistance of Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The WILD CARDS series made its debut in 1987, during the heydey of the shared world anthology, when a dozen different series from as many publishers were competing for rack space. Twelve volumes were published by Bantam from 1987 through 1993, and three by Baen Books from 1993 to 1995. After a seven-year hiatus, iBooks revived the series in 2002, reprinting six of the old Bantam titles and adding two new volumes, the anthology Deuces Down and a solo novel by John J. Miller, Death Draws Five, before going into bankrutcy. The series has also spawned a comic mini-series from Marvel/ Epic, a role-playing game from Steve Jackson Games, and several film options. WILD CARDS has outlasted all the other shared world anthologies of the 80s to become the longest-running series in the history of our genre... and with a little help from our readers, we hope to run for another twenty years at least.
If you haven't visited the Wild Cards universe yet, it is never too late. You can find the old books on ABE, ebay, and Amazon, and a few are even available here on my Signed Books page. Check 'em out.

Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
Yes, okay, you're right. A new deal was inked. Cool. And Ian and Carrie are *great* additions to the writing team. Carrie's got a couple of novels out. Ian's a recent Clarion grad and is freakishly (in a good way) talented.
Posted by Lupus (Member # 6516) on :
You should pick up "George RR Martin: A RRetrospective"

It is a collection of Martin's short stories. Many of them are very good. Personally, I prefer him as a short story writer to a novel writer. While I did read the first couple of his series, I never picked up the new one, since I lost interest...but I tore through all of his short stories.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Originally posted by OlavMah:
Yes, okay, you're right.

::frowns:: Hm. I hope I didn't come across as trying to belligerantly prove a point or something. If I did I'm sorry--that wasn't my intention.

I'll second Lupus's recommendation on GRRM: A Retrospective. It's a great collection.
Posted by zgator (Member # 3833) on :
I've been wanting to get that, Lupus. Unfortunately, the price tag on it makes a little heavy to pick up.

edit: referring to RRetrospective
Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
Noemon, no, not at all. I'm his acquaintance, not an expert on everything he says and does. Many of his fans are way more in the loop than I am.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
Ah, good. I was preceiving a tone to what you said that wasn't intended then--glad to hear it.

I don't know that I'd really consider myself a fan of Martin's exactly. Well, I don't know--I guess you could argue that I am. I do check his site every month or so to see if there are any updates, and I did take a good number of books to a signing with me when A Feast for Crows first came out, both of which seems a bit fanish. He's an author I'll buy in hardback without hesitation, which is pretty rare (actually, he's one of only three authors still living that I can say that about, now that Octavia Butler has died), which again could be considered fannish.

I don't quite self identify as a fan though. I could just be smoking crack on that one.

Do you know Steven Leigh? I ended up chatting with him, and with his wife (whose name escapes me), and with an extraordinarily elderly local guy from Dayton (whose name also escapes me) at the signing for quite a while, and all three of them struck me as great people.
Posted by Rakeesh (Member # 2001) on :
Hehe, I think you're smokin' the crack on that one, Noemon.
Posted by Noemon (Member # 1115) on :
[Big Grin]

I think you may be right.
Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
Yes, kind of. We're on a common listserv.

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