As our first Giant of Fantasy, George R. R. Martin is incredibly well-known among fantasy readers (and HBO viewers) and needs little introduction. He is getting one anyway. Martin’s professional writing career began with science fiction short stories, several of which were nominated for industry awards before he won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1975 with A Song for Lya. Shortly thereafter his first novel, Dying of the Light, was published in 1977.
After producing four books that garnered numerous award nominations, Martin set aside writing novels for almost a decade to pursue writing in television during the 1980s. His most significant work was done on The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. However, Martin found himself frustrated with the necessary restriction that television production budgets placed on his ability to tell stories and returned to novel writing in 1991. A Game of Thrones, the first entry in A Song of Ice and Fire, was released in 1996. Since then, the popularity of the series has carried it to the peak of the epic fantasy genre, culminating in HBO’s decision to greenlight the television adaptation, Game of Thrones.
George in real life
I had the immense privilege of meeting George at Worldcon (Aussiecon IV) in Melbourne, Australia in September 2010. His first scheduled event was a reading (he read the prologue of A Dance with Dragons). Aussiecon was by no means a large con, but it was standing room only. Hearing a master story teller read his work was inspiring, but there was no time to let it sink in because I had to rush to join the queue for his signing (far and away the biggest signing of the con). A conversation in the line netted me an invite to a party thrown by the Brotherhood without Banners, the official Martin fan club, which George and Peter V. Brett were attending. Unfortunately the party was essentially in a nightclub, so talking to anybody, let alone George, was not easy. Nonetheless it was awesome to see a writer of George R. R. Martin’s stature come and mix it up so willingly and informally with his fans.
Up close and personal
The following day, by arriving a few hours early to line up, I was fortunate enough to be inGeorge’s coffee klatch. My enthusiasm hadn’t been dulled by partying near George the night before (to say I was partying with him would just be a lie). For whatever reason, somebody who didn’t even know who George was lined up for an hour or so to join the group, and opened with, “So George, I don’t actually know who you are.”
To which George replied, “That’s ok, I don’t know who the fuck you are either.” At that, any in the group who weren’t already sold were totally won over.
George spoke graciously and candidly about his writing. He was eager to talk about his other projects like the Wild Cards series and the various anthologies he edits and contributes to. He was very excited to discuss his plans for future Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas. He mentioned that he is saddened by how readily fans tear into him about the time he spends on projects other than A Song of Ice and Fire and described the pressure that comes with a new entry in the series. In fact, George admitted that even at this stage of his career he can be insecure about his writing. The immense praise he has received doesn’t really change that. Has that impacted on the delayed release of A Dance with Dragons? In George’s words (to the best of my memory): “If they’re saying you’re the American Tolkien, and you sit down to write, you can’t help thinking ‘This better be pretty fucking good.’”