Tuf Voyaging is, in effect, a sub-series set within George R.R. Martin’s Thousand Worlds universe consisting of nearly 25 stories in total. They began in the mid 1970’s, repackaged in the 1980’s, and consist of seven stories plus a prologue. Only the Tuf stories feature a recurring and connected theme that connect them to each other whereas the other Thousand World stories can exist as stand-alone if necessary.
However, no matter which story by GRRM you are reading, there are plenty of thematic and archetypal carryover themes we see readdressed in A Song of Ice and Fire. That is part of the purpose of these rereads, to use Martin to help decode Martin. These are all clever stories, but also ones that have a common thread to them: rather than facing a naturally-occurring disaster, the problems Tuf encounters are the result of human hubris greed, stupidity and fanaticism. But don’t take my word for it…
“The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr” was my first pure fantasy as a pro. Fantastic published it in 1976. Keen-eyed readers will notice certain names and motifs that go all the way back to “Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark,” and other names and motifs that I would pick up and use again in later works. In my fiction, as in real life, I never throw anything away. You can never tell when you might find another use for it. Sharra and her dark crown were originally meant for the Dr. Weird mythos that Howard Keltner once asked me to create. By 1976, however, my fanzine days were almost a decade behind me and Dr. Weird had folded up shop, so I felt free to reclaim the ideas and rework them for a different sort of tale.”
–George R. R. Martin, Dreamsongs: Volume I
The Tuf Voyaging stories are decades old at this point, so why reread them now? Because we all need cool SciFi stories in our lives. Because in a November 10, 2019 Not A Blog post made by Martin titled A Tip o’the Crown, he slid in a tad bit of very exciting information that applies to anyone is interested in Martinworld:
- TI MIKKEL came to the show from my own Fevre River Packet Company, where she’s served as a writer’s assistant, helped in the development of a series of short films I hope to produce, and is spearheading the development of TUF VOYAGING as a television series… when she’s not working on her own novel.
What do we know about Ti Mikkel? Honestly, only little bits until another in the fandom, the Dragon Demands, shared with me on Twitter that Ti Mikkel provided a picture for her bio information on the show fandom Game of Thrones wiki page and it is all a big Yay! from me.
- As of 2019, Mikkel has been working as a writer’s assistant to George R.R. Martin on the A Song of Ice & Fire series itself. She is also working on her own novel.
The prologue (below) is only about 1500 words, but since this blog will cover all storytelling avenues of the sub-series that tells the tales of the cat loving, Ark handling, questionably ethical, ecological-engineer Haviland Tuf, we need to start back to the beginning of Tuf.
From a February 9, 2013 Not A Blog post titled Tuf Returns:
- … PS I am often asked if I will ever write any more Tuf stories. The answer is yes, I would love to, and I have plenty of ideas for the further adventures of Tuf and Dax and the ARK. It’s just a question of finding the time. Right now, as some of you know, I am kind of busy with the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE novels and GAME OF THRONES tv show, not to mention Wild Cards and my other anthologies. So Tuf will need to wait. But he’s a patient guy, and I do hope to get back to him one of these days.PPS It has also been suggested that I make TUF into a TV series. Hey, love to. But it’s not up to me. I need to find a studio and network willing to back a new space show to the tune of many millions of dollars, and that’s not easy. I have pitched Tuf before, and hope to pitch him again, Real Soon Now, but honestly, he’s a tough sell. Television likes its starship captains sexy, like Kirk and Captain Tightpants and Rocky Jones. Tuf is a towering, hairless, fat, pompouse fellow who talks like Alfred Hitchcock and loves pussycats. Not an easy part to cast either… but hey, every time I see Conleth Hill playing Varys, I go “Hmmmmmmmm.”
But let’s keep going back. From my experience in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, most readers know of the two stories that were published in Dreamsongs vol.2; A Beast for Norn, and, Guardians. However, when we take a look at what Martin has to say about Tuf, it might not be the same Tuf some know from Dreamsongs…
- My career is littered with the corpses of dead series.
I launched my star ring series with “The Second Kind of Loneliness” and “Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring,” then lost interest and never did a third story.
“A Peripheral Affair” was meant to be followed by the further adventures of the starship Mjolnir and the Good Ship Lollipop. None ever appeared, for the simple reason that none was ever written.
My corpse handler series went all the way to three: “Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg” began it, “Override” followed, and “Meathouse Man” brought it to … well, a finish, if not an end. A fourth story exists as a four-page fragment, and there are ideas in my files for a dozen more. I once intended to write them all, publish them in the magazines, then collect them all together in a book I’d call Songs the Dead Men Sing. But that fourth story never got finished, and the others never got started. When I did finally use the title Songs the Dead Men Sing for a collection (from Dark Harvest, in 1983), “Meathouse Man” was the only corpse story to make the cut.
I fared somewhat better with the Windhaven series, perhaps because Lisa Tuttle and I were collaborating on that one, so I had someone to give me a swift kick whenever my creative juices dried up (Lisa also added some swell creative juices of her own). We started out trying to write a short story, which turned into the novella “The Storms of Windhaven” (a Hugo and Nebula loser) at the prompting of Analog editor Ben Bova. “One-Wing” and “The Fall” followed, two more novellas. Then Lisa and I put the three of them together, added a prologue and epilogue, and published Windhaven, a classic example of the “fix-up” novel; a novel made by cobbling together a series of previously published short stories or novellas.
Windhaven wasn’t supposed to be the end of Windhaven, however. Lisa and I meant to continue the tale through two more books and two more generations, showing how the changes Maris started in “The Storms of Windhaven” continued to transform her world. The second book was to be entitled Painted Wings. The protagonist would be the little girl we’d introduced in “The Fall,” all grown up.
We never wrote it. We talked about writing it for years, but the timing never worked out. When I was free, Lisa was in the throes of a novel. When she was free, I was out in Hollywood, or doing Wild Cards, or a novel of my own. We were a thousand miles apart even when we were closest; then I went west (to Santa Fe and Los Angeles) and she went east (to England and Scotland), and we saw each other less and less often. Also, as we grew older, our voices and styles and ways of looking at the world became more and more distinct, which would have made collaborating far more challenging. Literary collaboration is a game for young writers, I think … or for old, cynical ones trying to cash in on their names. So our Painted Wings never took flight.[Stannis’s Proudwing moment]
My other series all proved to be even shorter, as I’ve mentioned here and there throughout these commentaries. There was the Steel Angel series (one story). The Sharra series (one story). The Gray Alys series (one story). The Wo & Shade series (one story). The Skin Trade series (one story). It’s enough to make one suspect a terminal case of creatus interruptus.
Ah, but then comes Tuf.
Haviland Tuf, ecological engineer, master of the Ark, and the protagonist of Tuf Voyaging, which is either a collection of short stories or a fix-up novel, depending on whether you’re a critic or a publisher. ’Twas Tuf who broke my series bugaboo for good and all, and opened up the gates for Wild Cards and A Song of Ice and Fire.
As a reader, I had my own favorite series characters. In fantasy, I was drawn to Moorcock’s Elric and Howard’s Solomon Kane, and I loved Fritz Leiber’s dashing rogues, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. In SF, I was fond of Retief, of Dominic Flandry, of Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw. But my favorites had to be Jack Vance’s galactic effectuator Magnus Ridolph and Poul Anderson’s fat, scheming merchant prince of the spaceways, Nicholas van Rijn.
As a writer, I still had dreams of establishing a popular, long-running series of my own. I had an idea that I was certain could sustain one as well. It was 1975, and “ecology” was a word on everyone’s lips. It seemed to me that a series about some sort of biogenetic engineer, who moves from world to world solving (or in some cases, creating) ecological problems, would offer no end of story possibilities. The subject matter would allow me to explore all sorts of juicy issues … and best of all, no one else had done anything remotely like it, so far as I knew.
But who was this fellow? It seemed to me I had a terrific concept, but to sustain a series I needed a terrific character as well, someone the readers would enjoy following story after story. With that in mind, I went back and looked at some of the characters that I loved as a reader. Nicholas van Rijn. Conan. Sherlock Holmes. Mowgli. Travis McGee. Horatio Hornblower. Elric of Melnibone. Batman. Northwest Smith. Flashman. Fafhrd and the Mouser. Retief. Susan Calvin. Magnus Ridolph. A diverse bunch, certainly. I wanted to see if they shared any traits in common.
Two things leapt out at me. One, they all had great names, names that fit them perfectly. Memorable names. Singular names. You were not likely to meet two Horatio Hornblowers. Melnibone’s phone book would not list four Elrics. Northwest Smith was not required to use his middle initials to distinguish himself from all the other Northwest Smiths.
Secondly, every one of them was larger than life. No average joes in this bunch. No danger of any of them vanishing into the wallpaper. Many of them are supreme in their own spheres, be that naval warfare (Hornblower), deduction (Holmes), hand-to-hand combat (Conan), or cowardice and lechery (Flashman). Most of them are severely idiosyncratic, to say the least. There is surely a place in fiction for small, commonplace, realistic characters, subtly rendered … but not as the star of an ongoing series.
Okay, I thought to myself, I can do that.
Thus was born Haviland Tuf, merchant, cat lover, vegetarian, big and bald, drinking mushroom wine and playing god, a fussy man and formal, who has long since veered past idiosyncrasy into out-and-out eccentricity. There’s some of Holmes and Ridolph in him, a pinch of Nicholas van Rijn, a little Hercule Poirot and a lot of Alfred Hitchcock … but not much me at all. Of all my protagonists, Tuf is the least like myself (although I did own a cat named Dax, though he was not telepathic).
The name? Well, “Haviland” was a surname I noticed on the wall charts at a chess tournament I was directing. I’m not at all certain where the “Tuf” came from. When I put the two of them together, though, that was him, and never a doubt.
Back in the ’70s, I was still trying to place my stories in as wide a variety of markets as possible. I wanted to prove that I could sell to anybody, not just the same few editors. Also, I figured that every time I had a story in a new market I would reach new readers, who might then go on to look for my stuff elsewhere.
Working on that theory, I sold the first Haviland Tuf story to a British hardcover anthology called Andromeda, edited by Peter Weston. Perhaps “A Beast for Norn” did indeed win me legions of new British readers, I couldn’t say; unfortunately, very few of my old American readers ever found the story until St. Martin’s printed an American edition of Andromeda three years later. By that time, I had already published the second Tuf story, “Call Him Moses.” I’d sold that one to Ben Bova. Thereafter Tuf became a familiar figure in the pages of Analog. Ben and his successor Stanley Schmidt got first look at each new Tuf story, and bought them all.
Not that there were a great many. Tuf was fun, but he was by no means the only fish in my frypan. In the late ’70s I was still teaching at Clarke College, so my writing time was limited, and I had other stories I wanted to tell. And when I moved to Santa Fe at the end of 1979, to try and make a go of it as a full-time writer, my attention shifted to novels. Fevre Dream occupied most of my writing time in 1981, The Armageddon Rag in 1982, Black and White and Red All Over in 1984. (We won’t talk about 1983, my Lost Year.) The Tuf series might well have petered out at three or four stories, but for Betsy Mitchell.
Betsy had been the assistant editor at Analog under Stan Schmidt, but in 1984 she left the magazine to become an editor at Baen Books. Not long after joining Baen she phoned to ask if I had ever considered doing a collection of Haviland Tuf’s adventures. I had, of course … but that was for “eventually,” some future time when I had accumulated enough Tuf stories to make a book.
In 1984 I had maybe half a book at best. Still, Betsy’s offer was not one I could refuse. My career was in serious trouble just then. The readers had ignored The Armageddon Rag in droves, and as a result no editor would touch Black and White and Red All Over. This was a chance to get back into the game. I could write some more Tuf tales, sell first serial rights to Stan Schmidt at Analog, put them all together for Betsy, and make enough money to pay my mortgage for a little while longer.
So I wrote “The Plague Star,” the tale of how Tuf came to be the master of the Ark, followed by the S’uthlam triptych, which gave the book a spine. Baen published Tuf Voyaging in February, 1986, as a novel. My fifth novel, some say … though I’ve always counted Tuf Voyaging as a short story collection. (In my own mind, Black and White and Red All Over will forever be my fifth novel, broken and unfinished though it is.)
No sampling of my checkered career could possibly be complete without a taste of Tuf, so I’ve included two stories here. The rest can be found in Tuf Voyaging, for those who want more.
“A Beast for Norn” was the earliest Tuf story, written in 1975 and published in 1976. When it came time for me to assemble Tuf Voyaging for Betsy in 1985, a decade had passed, and Haviland Tuf had changed somewhat, coming more into focus, as it were. The Tuf of “A Beast for Norn” no longer quite fit, so I decided to revise and expand the story, to bring the proto-Tuf more in line with the character as he’d evolved in the later stories. It is the revised version of “A Beast for Norn” that appears in Tuf Voyaging. For this retrospective [Dreamsongs vol 2], however, I thought it might be interesting to go back to my first take on Tuf. So what follows is the original version of “A Beast for Norn,” as it appeared in Andromeda in 1976.
“Guardians” is of somewhat later vintage, having first been published in Analog in October, 1981. It was the most popular entry in the series with the readers, winning the Locus poll as Best Novelette of the year, and garnering a Hugo nomination. It finished second in the final balloting, losing the award to Roger Zelazny’s superb “Unicorn Variations.” (Roger was a dear friend of mine, and I had suggested the idea for “Unicorn Variations” to him jokingly one day, as we drove to Albuquerque for a writers’ lunch. Roger acknowledged that with a tip o’ the hat by naming his protagonist Martin … and then went right out and took my Hugo.)
At one time there was supposed to be a second Tuf book. Tuf Voyaging did well enough so that Betsy Mitchell suggested a sequel; either another book of collected stories or perhaps a genuine full-length novel. I was willing. I had ideas for another dozen Tuf stories in my files. So contracts were duly drawn up and signed, and the book was even announced in Locus. Our working title was Twice as Tuf, although if I had gone the novel route I would probably have changed that to Tuf Landing.
It never happened. Hollywood intervened, and I found myself out in L.A., making as much money in two weeks as the Twice as Tuf contract would have paid me for a year’s work. I needed money badly at that time, in the wake of Armageddon Rag’s disastrous sales and the failure of Black and White and Red All Over to sell.
When the deadline came and went without a book, I suggested to Betsy that I might bring in a collaborator, who could write the stories from my outlines. I take contracts seriously, and wanted to fulfill mine with Baen if at all possible … but taking on a partner really wasn’t a very good idea. Betsy Mitchell did not think so either, and she talked me out of it. For that I remain grateful. She was right; Tuf stories written by someone else would not have been the same. I would have been cheating Baen Books, my readers, and myself. I ended up settling the Twice as Tuf contract by granting Baen Books the right to reprint some of my older books, so everyone ended up reasonably happy except the Tuf fans.
There are still a number of those about, actually. Every year for a decade or more, a few letters have come trickling in, urging me to stop writing Wild Cards, or those TV shows, or that series of big fat fantasy novels, so I can write some more Haviland Tuf stories instead.
To which I can only say, “Maybe one of these days, when you least expect it …”
So now, welcome to the book club! Like each book club story on this blog, the reading and commenting is done at your own pace. Have fun, share, and enjoy!
I have started transcribing the older works of George R.R. Martin to be able to share my notes and works with anyone interested or may not have access to some of the more rare material. Those can be found on the main book club page. The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.
My typical style of comparison of Martin’s works is to transcribe a story and then add bullet-point notes along the way that can be used as discussion starting points if one so desires. I am not going to do that here (even though I really want to), but I will await what ideas and comparisons that are added in the comments section.
ITEM NUMBER 37433-800912-5442894
SHANDELLOR CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE AND KNOWLEDGE
item description: crystal voice coding
item found: H’ro Brana (co/ords SQ, V7715, I21)
tentative dating: record approx. 2776 standard years ago
slave races, Hrangan
legends & myths, Hruun
trade bases, abandoned
Yes, I see it works. Good.
I am Rarik Hortvenzy, apprentice factor, speaking a warning to whomever finds my words.
Dusk comes now, for me the last. The sun has sunk beneath the western cliffs, staining the land with blood, and now the twilight eats its way toward me inexorably. The stars come out, one by one, but the only star that matters burns night and day, day and night. It is always with me, the brightest thing in the sky but for the sun. It is the plague star.
This day I buried Janeel. With my own hands I buried her, digging in the hard rocky ground from dawn through late afternoon, until my arms were afire with pain. When my ordeal was done, when the last spadeful of this wretched alien dirt had been thrown upon her head, when the last stone had been placed atop her cairn, then I stood over her and spat upon her grave.
It is all her fault. I told her so, not once but many times as she lay dying, and when the end was near she finally admitted her guilt. Her fault that we came here. Her fault that we did not leave when we might have. Her fault that she is dead—yes, no doubt of it—and her fault that I shall rot unburied when my own time comes, my flesh a feast for the beasts of the dark, and the flyers and night-hunters we once hoped to trade with.
The plague star twinkles but little, shines down upon the land with a clear bright light. This is wrong, I told Janeel once; a plague star ought to be red. It ought to glower, to drape itself with scarlet radiance, to whisper into the night hints of fire and of blood. This clear white purity, what has that to do with plague? That was in the first days, when our charter ship had just set us down to open our proud little trade complex, set us down and then moved on. In that time the plague star was but one of fifty first-magnitude stars in these alien skies, hard even to pick out. In that time we smiled at it, at the superstitions of these primitives, these backward brutes who thought sickness came from the sky.
Yet then the plague star began to wax. Night after night it burned more brightly, until it became visible even by day. Long before that time the pestilence had begun.
The flyers wheel against the darkening sky. Gliders, they are, and from afar they have a beauty. They call to my mind the shadowgulls of my homeplace, Budakhar upon the living sea, on the world Razyar. Yet here is no sea, only mountains and hills and dry desolation, and I know too that these flyers have small beauty when close at hand. Lean and terrible creatures they are, half as tall as a man, with skin like tanned leather pulled tight across their strange hollow bones. Their wings are dry and hard as a drumskin, their talons sharp like daggers, and beneath the great bony crest that sweeps back like a hooked blade from their narrow skulls, their eyes are a hideous red.
Janeel said to me they were sentient. They have a tongue, she said. I have heard their voices, thin keening screeching voices that scrape raw the nerves. I have never learned to speak this tongue, nor did Janeel. Sentient, she said.
We would trade with them. Ho, they wanted no part of us or our trade. They knew enough to steal, yes, and that is where their sentience ended. Yet we and they have this much in common: death.
The flyers die. The night-hunters, with their massive twisted limbs and gnarly two-thumbed hands, with their eyes that burn in their bulging skulls like embers from a dying fire, ho, they die, too. They have a frightening strength, and those strange great eyes can see in the black when stormclouds cover even the plague star. In their caverns the hunters whisper of the great Minds, the masters they served once, the ones who will someday return and call on them to go forth to war once again. Yet the Minds do not
come, and the night-hunters die—even as the flyers, even as those of the more furtive races whose bodies we find in the flint hills, even as the mindless beasts, even as the crops and trees, even as Janeel and I.
Janeel told me this would be a world of gold and gems for us; it is a world of death. H’ro Brana was the name in her ancient charts; I will not call it by that. She knew the names for all its peoples. I recall but one—Hruun.That is the true name of the night-hunters. A slave race, she said, of the Hrangans, the great enemy, gone now, defeated a thousand years past, their slaves abandoned in that long fall. It was a lost colony, she said, a handful of sentients eager for trade. She knew so much and I so little, but now I have
buried her and spat upon her grave and I know the truth of it. If slaves they were, then bad slaves surely, for their masters set them upon a hell, beneath the cruel light of the plague star.
Our last supply ship came through half a year past. We might have gone. Already the plagues had begun. The flyers crawled upon the mountain summits, tumbled from the cliffs. I found them there, their skin inflamed and oozing fluid, great cracks in the leather of their wings. Night-hunters came to us covered with livid boils, and from us they bought umbrellas in great number, to keep them safe from the rays of the plague star. When the ship landed, we might have gone. Yet Janeel said stay. She had names for
these sicknesses that killed the flyers and night-hunters. She had names for the drugs that would cure these ills. To name a thing is to understand, she thought. We might be healers, gain their brutal trust, and our fortunes would be made. She bought all the medicines that ship carried, and sent for others, and we began to treat these plagues that she had named.
When the next plague came, she named it, too. And the next, and the next, and the next. Yet there were plagues beyond counting. First she ran out of drugs, and soon out of names as well, and this dawn I dug her grave. She had been a slender, active female, but in dying she grew very stiff and her limbs puffed up to twice their size. I had to dig a large grave to fit her rigid, swollen corpse. I have named the thing that killed her: Janeel’s Plague, I call it. I have no skill at names. My own plague is different from hers, and has no name. When I move, a living flame runs through my bones, and my skin has gone gray and brittle. Each dawn when I wake I find the bedclothes covered with bits of my flesh that have fallen away from my bones, and stained with blood from the wet raw places beneath.
The plague star is huge and bright above me, and now I understand why it is white. White is the color of purity, ho, and the plague star purifies this land. Yet its touch corrupts and decays. There is a fine irony in that, is there not?
We brought many weapons, sold few. The night-hunters and the flyers can use no weapons against this thing that slays them, and from the first have put more faith in umbrellas than in lasers. I have armed myself with a flamer from our storeroom, and poured myself a glass of dark wine.
I will sit here in the coolness and talk my thoughts to this crystal and I will drink my wine and watch the flyers, the few who still live, as they dance and soar against the night. Far off, they look so like shadowgulls above my living sea. I will drink my wine and remember how that sea sounded when I was but a Budakhar boy who dreamed of stars, and when the wine is gone I will use the flamer.
I can think of no more words to say. Janeel knew many words and many names, but I buried her this morning.
If my voice is ever found…
If this is found after the plague star has waned, as the night-hunters say it will, do not be deceived. This is no fair world, no world for life. Here is death, and plagues beyond numbering. The plague star will shine again.
My wine is gone.
(end of recording)
And if you need a nosh in the meantime…
Thank you for reading. I will be posting the updated book club reads on the blog once a week. The first story up is The Plague Star. Follow along if you so desire.
I have been a busy little GRRMspreader by sharing old Martinworld stories with all in the main book club section. This is the work put in so far if you want to nibble on something in the meantime:
- Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
- Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
- Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
- The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
- A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- A Peripheral Affair (1973)– When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu at the top for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!