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SYFY WIRE George R.R. Martin

Exclusive Preview: Aliens make earth their airport in George R.R. Martin's Starport graphic novel

By Jeff Spry
Starport Hero

Sure, we all know George R. R. Martin as the proud (and slow-writing) father of the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels from which our beloved Game of Thrones TV series was adapted from, but the Santa Fe-based author has a long creative history of other screenplays, short stories, TV series, and novellas in multiple genres.

One of his little-known projects was an unproduced TV script for a failed 1994 sci-fi pilot called Starport. Now that unseen vision is getting a brilliant new 272-page harcover graphic novel adaptation written and illustrated by Hugo Award–nominated artist Raya Golden, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive peek inside.

Starport Cover

Billed as Law & Order meets Men in Black, Starport arrives in stores Tuesday, Mar. 12 from Bantam Books and chronicles the events following the unexpected Earthly arrival of representatives from an interstellar constituency of 314 alien races, inviting Earth to become number 315. A decade later, the Starport in Chicago is in full operation as an exotic destination for scientists, politicians, merchants, and tourists. While inside, these visitors are carefully governed by strict intergalactic treaty, but outside, the boulevards belong to Chicago’s finest.
The storyline concerns an assembly of characters all interacting with this cosmic travel hub: enthusiastic rookie Charlie Baker, freshly promoted to the squad overseeing the Starport district; Lieutenant Bobbi Kelleher, a cop married to her job; and Lyhanne Nhar-Lys, a Starport security commander and one of the galaxy’s most feared warriors.

Starport Slice 2

Also tossed into the mix is undercover Detective Aaron Stein who's wrapped up with a gang of anti-alien extremists when he discovers evidence of a plot to assassinate a controversial trade diplomat with a stash of stolen ray guns. To stop further chaos, the Chicago PD must put an end to their plan before the entire universe is affected.

"Starport was one of those pilots I wrote during my years in development hell," GRRM explains. "In some ways it was my favorite. Gene Roddenberry sold Star Trek as 'Wagon Train to the stars.' HBO bought Game of Thrones as 'the Sopranos in Middle Earth.' I knew how to play that game too, so I pitched Starport as 'Hill Street Blues with aliens.' The idea was that, in the very near future, a great interstellar civilization called the Harmony of Worlds decides that humanity has finally advanced sufficiently to be admitted to the ranks of civilized races, and reveals themselves to us. After first contact, they build three great starports for purposes of trade and diplomacy: one in Singapore, one in Copenhagen, and one in Chicago… out in the lake, where Mayor Daley always wanted to build an airport."

Starport Slice 2
"It was a fun show to write," GRRM recalls. "Fox wanted a 90-minute pilot, which was all the rage back then. My first draft came out closer to two hours, so of course I had to go back in and cut a lot of stuff, but that was pretty much par for the course for me. My first drafts were always too long and too expensive. The development process was pretty much the old Hollywood cliche: they loved it, they loved it, they loved it, they decided to pass. We shopped it around to other networks, but there were only four back then, so finding a second buyer was a long shot. No dice. Starport went in the drawer. Until now."

"Enter Raya Golden. My friend, my minion, the art director for my Fevre River Packet Company, and a very talented comic artist in her own right. A few years ago she adapted 'Meathouse Man,' one of my darker and more twisted short stories, as a comic. It earned a Hugo nomination in the Best Graphic Novel category. Afterward I gave her a much bigger challenge: Starport, both drafts. And she’s been hard at work at it for the past two years, adapting the teleplay to comics format, fixing my dated '90s references and penciling and inking it."

Raya and GRRM

"I hope you all enjoy it," he adds. "For my part, I am thrilled that one of my orphan children has finally escaped the desk drawer to wander out into the wide world. If the book does well enough, I can see the possibility of further issues of Starport down the road. And who knows? Maybe someone will even want to turn it into a television series."

Launch into our exclusive six-page preview in the gallery below and tell us if you'll punch your ticket to a stellar copy of Starport!