George R.R. Martin's fantasy series "A Song of Ice and Fire" came into my life when a friend recommended the books to me, shortly after the third volume in the saga, "A Storm of Swords," was published in 2000. I had my doubts -- the cover was awful, and I thought the R.R. was a silly gimmick (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling--great fantasy writers tend to have initials in their names somewhere).