I recently finished a big collection of stories by George R.R. Martin, Dreamsongs: Volume 1. The only Martin I've read before this was his occasional story in an SF mag and his work in (and editing on) the Wild Cards series, which mixed alternate history and super-heroes to captivate me in the early 90s (late 80s?). I've been hearing great things about his ongoing fantasy series "A Song of Fire and Ice" and thought I would just dive right into his breadth of material (there is a second volume as well, which came out a few weeks after the first).
The book is broken up into five themed sections and each has an accompanying essay where Martin talks about his background and the formation of the stories in that section. We get a section of his early stories written for comics fanzines, his first sales as a pro, science fiction, fantasy, and horror (with is often cross-bred with another genre).
We get the mood piece of "With Morning Comes Mistfall" and the love story of two telepaths on an alien world of "A Song for Lya." There's the loneliness and weirdness of "The Stone City" and the look at the future of religion in "The Way of Cross and Dragon." There's the dark fable of "In the Lost Lands" and the heart-breakingly wonderful "The Ice Dragon." And that doesn't even cover the delicious horrors of "Nightflyers" and "Sandkings" and so much more.
Martin knows how to unspool a plot and he knows how to write about people, whether human or alien. He knows how to tell a story and this book has almost 700 pages of them. I can't wait to read the next volume and I'll probably dive into "A Song of Fire and Ice" next year too. Great stuff.