The Game of Thrones creator is among the most acclaimed and successful sci-fi and fantasy authors ever, thanks to works like the epic A Song of Ice and Fire, the superhero series Wild Cards and scripts for the Beauty and the Beast TV series. And like many lovers of all things genre, he can trace it back to one particular book—which just happened to be a Christmas present.
Martin is one of two dozen authors participating in a new USA Today feature focusing on memorable books each author received for Christmas. For Martin, it was a work by sci-fi master Robert A. Heinlein: Have Space Suit, Will Travel:
"It was given to me by an old childhood friend of my mother when I was still in grade school. Up to then, my reading had been largely confined to schoolbooks and comics, but this was a real book, a hardcover from Scribner, the latest in the celebrated series of juvenile novels that Heinlein wrote for them through the '50s, one every year. Looking back, I'd say that Have Space Suit, Will Travel was the best of them."
From there, according to Martin, a chain reaction was set off. He became something we're all quite familiar with: a sci-fi fan. From there, he became a writer, and from there he became the bestselling sci-fi and fantasy icon we know today.
"For more than a decade it was the only hardcover book I owned, but from that Christmas on I started setting aside some of my comic book money to buy 35-cent paperbacks from the spinner rack in the candy store. And of course, in due time, I started making SF stories of my own. That book set me on the course to where I am today. And yes, I still have it. The dustjacket, sadly, is falling to pieces, but the story still holds up."
Martin isn't the only genre writer on the list. Among the others are supernatural thriller author Dean Koontz, who remembers Kenneth Grahame's classic The Wind in the Willows, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians author Rick Riordan, who remembers Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. For the full list, which includes everyone from Mo Willems to Janet Evanovich to David McCullough, head over to USA Today.