As Martin emerged into the light, the first 400 fans to arrive — some lining the aisles, others waving from the balcony — yelled as loud as an army going into battle. Martin took his place in a velvet-roped clearing, and a hundred flip cams emerged from pockets throughout the crowd.
The author delivered his speech from a standing microphone, 10 feet from the nearest fan. He joked about what took him so long to complete A Dance with Dragons, promising the audience he wouldn't take another six years to write the follow-up. He suggested books to read in the interim, sending some into fits of high-fives when he named an author they liked.
When it was time to take questions, Martin called on James Scott, the Nashua high schooler. "If you had a dire wolf, what would you name it?" Scott asked.
"It depends on the dire wolf," Martin said. He stepped down in less than 30 minutes.
Martin's supplicants, some as sunburnt as clay pots, moved in to have their books signed. The line advanced briskly. Universally, after their audience with Martin, fans left the signing table with rapturous expressions. On his way to the exit, one starry-eyed man with a neck tattoo and spiky hair began pumping his fist.
"Now I have them all signed," he told his companion. "Yes!"
At nine, an employee capped the line, which by then had shrunk to three rows snaking along the back of the store. The bookseller dragged a cone hung with police tape behind four men deep in conversation. Three of them had been through the line once already and had returned to evade the two-book limit.
The other one, Steve Cox of Newton, had shown up late. He carried a structured plastic case containing an iPad and a single copy of Game of Thrones. Fifteen years ago, he had purchased the hardcover from the Barnes & Noble sale table. Recently, while reading Martin's blog, he discovered he had purchased a first edition.
"Once he signs this, it'll be worth $1200," Cox said.
David Gee, a mustachioed fellow in a blue T-shirt from Cranston, Rhode Island, whistled at that number. He carried a backpack filled with the complete series. This was his second time through the line and his third Martin signing — the largest by far.
"HBO is the problem," he said. Not only has the show caused Martin's fan base to swell to unmanageable proportions, but Gee thinks it might distract Martin from his writing.
"The worst thing that could happen is what happened to [fantasy author] Robert Jordan, and he dies before the last one comes out," Gee said, considering the possibility. After all, Martin is the one true king of Westeros — he has no line of succession.