An Archive of Ice and Fire

By Jeremy Brett | 11-11-2020

Humorous cartoon by Paul Karasik, showing medieval warriors in the Cushing Library’s stacks; the librarian says to visitors: “Most folks don’t realize how extensive our Game of Thrones collection really is.”
Cartoon by Paul Karasik, 2020. Copyright by Paul Karasik. The Cushing Memorial Library and Archives/Texas A&M University Libraries have the right to display, distribute, and reproduce the image, in perpetuity.



We may not be the Citadel of the Maesters in Oldtown, but we do all right.

Cushing Memorial Library & Archives is home to one of the largest research collections devoted to science fiction and fantasy in the world. Among that collection’s archival treasures are the papers of the bestselling science fiction and fantasy author George R.R. Martin. Martin, best known for his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice & Fire and HBO’s adaptation Game of Thrones, has been depositing his manuscripts and other archival materials at Cushing since the late 1990s. Naturally enough, the collection from this author renowned for his massive novels is equally huge, encompassing over 300 archives boxes of paper materials, numerous books, and numbers of artifacts that include games, action figures, wargame miniatures, DVDs, and various artifacts relating to the merchandising of his work.

We’re often asked, “Why is Martin’s collection here at Texas A&M?” It’s a reasonable question, especially when you consider that Martin is not an Aggie (he went to Northwestern University), he’s not from Texas (he’s from New Jersey), and he doesn’t live in Texas (he’s resided for decades in New Mexico). TAMU being the home for Martin’s materials, rather, demonstrates the power of emotional and personal connections in donor decisions about choosing a repository. Martin’s materials are here, in brief, because he likes us.

Since 1969, Texas A&M has been the site for AggieCon, a science fiction convention run by the student group Cepheid Variable. It’s the largest and longest-running student-run convention in the United States, and over the decades has attracted guests like Anne McCaffrey, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, and Michael Moorcock. Martin has been a frequent attendee (he was the Guest of Honor in 1986, and again in 2013). Over time he developed good relations with Cepheid and with Texas A&M, and became fond of the College Station area. (Supposedly this is where he developed a love for Texas barbeque!) He entered into discussions with then-Director of Cushing Don Dyal about the possibility of depositing his papers with us as part of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection, where they would join the papers of Martin’s friends and associates such as Lisa Tuttle and Howard Waldrop.  Finally, in 1992, the first shipment of Martin’s collection arrived at Cushing! We’ve been adding to that seed and making the tree grow ever since.

The George R.R. Martin Collection is a wonderful example of both the variety of material documenting a famed and prolific author, and the possibilities for research in a large archival collection. The manuscript portion of the collection contains drafts, edited versions, and proofs from Martin’s earliest stories to his Wild Cards shared universe series to his Ice & Fire novels and associated works. Also included are materials documenting Martin’s television career with shows like Beauty and the Beast and the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot. Much of this portion of the collection consists of correspondence to and from Martin, which are critical for understanding his career.

The collection contains over 1500 books, as well. This rich assemblage includes first editions of all of Martin’s works, beautifully made special small-press editions of many titles, fun oddities like a Game of Thrones pop-up book, and hundreds of foreign-language editions from dozens of countries (primarily recent translations of A Song of Ice & Fire, reflecting the worldwide popularity of Game of Thrones), many of them with wonderful illustrations.

But perhaps the most striking portion of the collection consists of the myriad artifacts, most of them the result of heavy merchandising of both Ice & Fire and Game of Thrones. Not only are there so many interesting items, but collectively they document the widespread appeal that popular literature can have and the associated materials it can generate. Here are calendars, pieces of art, action figures and Funko POP! dolls, small statues, tiny metal miniatures, and many other objects. This portion of the collection also contains what is without question one of the most popular series of materials in not only the Martin Collection, but in Cushing Memorial Library and Archives as a whole. These are the replica weapons, made by the company Valyrian Steel – display copies of weapons from the Ice & Fire books and the television series: swords, daggers, axes, and other, more unusual weapons. So popular that we keep many of them on permanent display, the weapons are gateway artifacts that have brought many people into Cushing that might otherwise have never known about it.  This is just another reason why the Martin Collection is such a boon to and a treasure for Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, and why we welcome many more years of happy relations with George R.R. Martin.

Tags: Martin, George R. R.; Game of Thrones; Fantasy; replica weapons; Cushing Memorial Library and Archives; Texas A&M University Libraries.

Cushing Memorial Library and Archives Collections: George R. R. Martin Collection; Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection (Note: we are migrating to a new online system, and a new link will be available soon).

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Jeremy Brett

Jeremy Brett is an Associate Professor at Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, where he is both Processing Archivist, and the Curator of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection. He has also worked at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the National Archives and Records Administration-Pacific Region, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. He received his MLS and his MA in History from the University of Maryland – College Park in 1999.

Paul Karasik

Two-time Eisner Award Winning cartoonist, Paul Karasik, lectures and teaches internationally and at the Rhode Island School of Design and Boston University. He was a Thomas A. Bullock Chair Visiting Professor at the School of Visualization at TAMU, spring 2020. His most recent work, co-written with Mark Newgarden, is “How To Read Nancy”, a scholarly investigation into the language of comics. His cartoons appear in The New Yorker.
Photo Credit: Photo by Ray Ewing and Paul Karasik, 2020.