George R. R. Martin: A Lifetime Of Fantasy

George R. R. Martin | © Gage Skidmore/Flickr
George R. R. Martin | © Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Photo of Sean Scarisbrick
24 April 2017

People know George R. R. Martin for his incredible book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but there is much more to Martin than this series. He began writing stories for his friends, and he was a prolific science-fiction and horror writer. Here’s a look at Martin, a writer whose life has been profoundly shaped by fantasy.

George R. R. Martin | © Gage Skidmore/Flickr

George R. R. Martin’s life has revolved around fantasy. His full name is George Raymond Richard Martin, and he was born on September 20, 1948. He grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. It was from his hometown that he first looked toward the fantastical, as he watched ships traveling the straight of Kill Van Kull from around the world. He felt transported around the world as he watched foreign trade ships in constant movement.

He also began writing fantasy as a child, and he sold – and dramatically read – his stories to his friends. In Marist High School, Martin became more heavily involved in the comic book world, and began writing short stories set in these fantastical worlds. He gained a following at comic book conventions, and people often looked forward to reading his innovative works. When he was 21, he sold ‘The Hero’ to Galaxy, thus marking his first professional sale.

He studied journalism at Northwestern University, and he graduated with a B.S. in 1970 and M.S. in 1971. At this time, Martin became eligible to be drafted for the Vietnam War, but he was a staunch advocate against the war; he received conscientious-objector status and served instead as a VISTA volunteer from 1972 to 1974.

A Song of Ice and Fire Hardcover | © Robert/Flickr

Later on, Martin became a professor at Clarke University and a chess teacher. He taught journalism from 1976 to 1979, when he realized that his true passion was writing. He quit his job at Clarke and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to pursue his dream of writing.

The projection of his writing career is incredibly interesting, especially since we are familiar with Martin’s current works. In fact, he began his career not with fantasy but writing science-fiction and horror. When his book, The Armageddon Rag (1983), did not receive the success he had hoped for, he moved onto television. He worked on the television shows, Twilight Zone, Max Headroom, and Beauty and the Beast.

In 1991, Martin began writing what he is most famous for, A Song of Ice and Fire. This marked his move from science-fiction and horror, as A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy series that was inspired by the War of the Roses, a tumultuous time in England when the Lancasters and Yorks fought for power, and Ivanhoe, a story of medieval England written by Sir Walter Scott.

A Storm of Swords | © Giacomo/Flickr

A Song of Ice and Fire is a seven-part series of fantasy written for adults. A Game of Thrones was published in 1996, A Clash of Kings in 1998, A Storm of Swords in 2000, A Feast for Crows in 2005, and A Dance with Dragons in 2011.

Martin writes each chapter from the perspective of a specific character, providing a limited point of view for each section. The reader is able to understand the inner workings of the individual, but the reader is barred from an omnipotent understanding of the text. The world he has created has magic, but there is much more than that. While magic exists, it exists on the periphery, and the inner turmoil of the characters is much more important.

His work also has a level of realness that is astonishing in a work of fantasy. Characters are imperfect, and many make questionable moral choices. In the end, however, Martin shows that both good and bad happen to both the morally elevated and the corrupt. He has made it clear that any character can die at any point, which has led to a lot of heartbreak from readers.

343/365 – Game of Thrones | © Derek Hatfield/Flickr

In 2011, A Song of Ice and Fire became a television series titled Game of Thrones. Martin has been closely involved with the production. It has currently run for six seasons, and viewers anxiously await the seventh season to answer their questions from the season six finale.

His fans are also waiting for The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, the next books in the series, to answer the questions Martin and the television show have not yet addressed. Martin, however, has no plans to rush. He has made it clear that he will continue to write the books while working on the television show and writing other novels. The television producers know the ultimate trajectory for the series, and the show has in some cases spread beyond the scope of the book.

In addition to the novels in the series, he has published A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, a story that is set in the same world as A Song of Ice and Fire. He wrote the parts of this book throughout the course of writing the original series, showing his versatility and admirable stubbornness to continue writing as he desires.

George R. R. Martin | © Gage Skidmore/Flickr

But how will the story continue” What is going to happen in Westeros, and more importantly: when are we going to find out” Martin’s skill as a writer has kept readers and viewers enthralled. Many hope he will finish the next book before the next season of the show begins, but no one knows with Martin. He always keeps his readers guessing.
By Sean Scarisbrick

Sean is a graduate student at Hunter College, where he studies Middle Eastern history. He is particularly interested in cultural history and language’s contribution to culture. He loves Shakespeare, Malala Yousafzai, Game of Thrones, foreign languages (Arabic, Spanish, and French), and Arabic street art.

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