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 V.17 No.5 | January 31 - February 6, 2008 

Author Interview

Inside Straight

Free-form sci-fi

George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin

How is a 50-foot-tall fire-breathing stuffed-toy dragon related to a superhero reality show and a deadly alien virus? It’s George R.R. Martin’s job to figure it out.

The Wild Cards series is a collection of science fiction novels written by a consortium of writers, many of whom, including Martin, are based in New Mexico. Each author contributes his or her ideas to the book and, as the series’ editor, it’s up to Martin to piece together a storyline while being careful not to step on anyone’s toes.

The Wild Card series, which first published in 1987, imagines a pseudo-doomsday scenario where our world is infected by an alien virus that wipes out 90 percent of humankind. Nine out of 10 survivors (the jokers) are deformed, but 10 percent of those who remain (the aces) gain super powers. The latest installment in the series, Inside Straight, hit shelves Jan. 22. The book ushers in a new generation of characters, one that has grown up after the virus was unleashed.

Martin, whose individual work has found its way onto the New York Times Best Sellers list among other honors, is hopeful the new Wild Cards novel will attract fans to the series. He and many of the book’s eight other authors will take part in a book signing at Page One (11018 Montgomery NE) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, to help spread the word. Martin spoke with the Alibi about the Wild Cards writing process, New Mexico’s sci-fi scene and playing god.

How did the Wild Cards series come to be?

The series grew out of a role-playing game that a bunch of the authors were playing. I was the game master, and when you’re the game master, you’re the one designing the adventures for the players. It’s similar to writing, except you don’t get paid for it. We got really absorbed in it and after about a year I said, "We should figure out a way to get some money for all of this work." I contacted some other writers and it went from there.

How does the writing process work?

We all work on it at the same time and then I have to fit it all together. When I’m editing, I’m not necessarily polishing the language; I’m actually changing what happens to make it all work. I take eight or nine stories, and usually they don’t fit, so we have to revise and reconcile their differences. It’s a lot of fun if you have the temperament for it. It’s like musicians sitting down and jamming; bouncing off ideas with each other and having a real give and take.

But, as the editor, you make the final decisions?

Right. I’m god because I have the final say on what goes and what stays.

Is it tough to interweave all the stories into one cohesive work?

Oh yeah. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve been doing it since 1985, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it and am familiar with the process.

How do you like working with other writers?

Normally, when you’re writing novels, it’s an isolated life with just you and your word processor. It’s a nice change of pace to work with other writers, with you throwing ideas at them and them throwing ideas at you.

How does Inside Straight compare with other Wild Card books?

I think it’s one of the best, although it’s the most recent so I’m prejudice. The series follows characters through their whole lives and some of the characters have grown old. There is a new generation of characters we get to introduce in this book, so that’s exciting.

When does the book take place?

It’s essentially a contemporary setting. The world is still the world but with a little twist because we’re not replicating reality. Still, the craze for reality television and the genocides going on in the Middle East right now are all fodder for Inside Straight.

What’s your take on the sci-fi scene in New Mexico?

It’s great. It’s one of the big hotbeds of science fiction and fantasy. Per capita, we probably have more science fiction fans than anywhere in the country.

Talk a bit about the book signing here in Albuquerque.

Eight of the nine authors who wrote Inside Straight will be there and some writers who have worked on other works in the series may be there as well. We’ve got a lot of good sci-fi authors from here in New Mexico, but we’ve also got writers from all over the country. I hope people come and check it out.

George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, Daniel Abraham, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller and Ian Tregillis will sign Inside Straight at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Page One (11018 Montgomery NE, 294-2026). For more info, get wild at


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