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SEATTLE — "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin is clearing the decks to finish the next book in his wildly popular swords-and-sorcery series, but that's not the only project on his plate. His to-do list includes a vampire tale, an 1890s-era murder mystery — and "Captain Cosmos," a potential HBO series about a sci-fi show set in 1949, at the dawn of the television era.
"That should be a lot of fun if we can get it going," Martin told a roomful of fans here at the Norwescon science-fiction and fantasy convention. "We're writing a pilot."
Martin said he's developing the "Captain Cosmos" project with Michael Cassutt, who's a writer and producer for Syfy's "Z Nation" and a former collaborator of Martin's on "The Twilight Zone" and "Beauty and the Beast." He said the other writing projects on tap include a sequel to "Fevre Dream," a vampire novel published in 1982; and the completion of "Black and White and Red All Over," an unfinished novel about a Jack-the-Ripperesque killing in the 1890s.
But the saga that inspired HBO's "Game of Thrones" is uppermost on Martin's mind right now. He's already canceled some public appearances to devote more time to the sixth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series, titled "The Winds of Winter."
This week he unveiled a fresh excerpt from the forthcoming book, focusing on Sansa Stark (a.k.a. Alayne) and her scheming protector, Petyr Baelish (a.k.a. Littlefinger). Martin has been quoted as saying he hopes to finish writing "The Winds of Winter" within a year.
The fact that HBO is catching up with the most recently published installment, 2011's "A Dance With Dragons," is a powerful motivator. The HBO show's fifth season, which premieres on April 12, is rumored to take some of the tale's myriad plot threads into uncharted territory. But Martin said that's only to be expected, due to the differences between the written word and the TV medium.
This season will demonstrate what Martin says is the TV-script analog to the "Butterfly Effect" — the idea that the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Beijing could eventually stir up a tornado in Texas. On "Game of Thrones," the fact that a seemingly minor female character was glossed over in HBO's first season "has a huge effect by the time you hit Season 5," Martin said.
"There was a reason she was in the first book," he said.
Martin said he doesn't think authors should be typecast as fantasy writers, or science-fiction writers, or horror writers. He's all of the above, and he worries that novels are getting pigeonholed into increasingly narrow sections in the bookstores.
"I like where I am now, in the bestseller section," he joked.
He also addressed a couple of questions that often come up about "Game of Thrones": Why does he kill off some of his most popular characters? Why is his writing so dark? "Life is tragic, what can I tell ya? Valar morghulis, all men must die," said Martin, using a phrase from the books.
"The Cambridge guy says the first person to live a thousand years is alive today," Martin said. "I would like to be that person. Then I could finish all these books."