Ernest Cline was planning to drive his tricked-out DeLorean to Austin for a talk about his upcoming novel Armada, but Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin called him up and asked for it. Cline said he could borrow the car for as long as he wanted to, but asked for a dragon egg in return. Martin obliged.

When I meet Cline, a DeLorean Motor Company T-shirt peeks out from behind his black blazer. He looks like a grizzlier Milton from Office Space, his bright blue eyes framed by thick black glasses. Two gray patches of hair in his beard are the only signs that he isn’t still a kid. He’s the archetypal geek that never quite grew up — except this geek became one of the world’s most acclaimed new science fiction writers.

Cline has only published one book, Ready Player One, the tale of a penniless teenager’s journey through cyberspace to find hidden treasures and save the world from an evil corporation. Ready Player One was a New York Times bestseller, and Warner Bros. bought the rights to a film adaptation before it was even published. Now Cline has finished writing Armada, another novel about another teenager with the power to save the world from an alien invasion. Universal Pictures has already bought the film rights.