George R. R. Martin

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In real life, the hardest aspect of the battle between good and evil is determining which is which.

George Raymond Richard Martin (born George Raymond Martin September 20, 1948) is an American novelist and short story writer in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, a screenwriter, and television producer. He is best known for A Song of Ice and Fire, his international bestselling series of epic fantasy novels that HBO adapted for its dramatic series Game of Thrones.

See also:
A Song of Ice and Fire


Ten years from now, no one is going to care how quickly the books came out. The only thing that will matter, the only thing anyone will remember, is how good they were. That's my main concern, and always will be.
Art is not a democracy. People don't get to vote on how it ends.
George R. R. Martin
I think that for science fiction, fantasy, and even horror to some extent, the differences are skin-deep. ...The real difference, to my mind, is between romantic fiction, which all these genres are a part of, and mimetic fiction, or naturalistic fiction.
My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones.
Nobody is a villain in their own story. We're all the heroes of our own stories.
  • I'm not an "American First" (and maybe because I read science fiction) I'm a "Terran First". I'm a human being first. And I have this sympathy for other human beings no matter what side of the giant ice wall they happen to be born on.
  • Of all the bright cruel lies they tell you, the crudest is the one called love.
    • Meathouse Man (1976)
  • Been on the river thirty years, York. Rafted down to New Orleans when I was just a boy, and worked flatboats and keelboats both before steamers. I been a pilot and a mate and a striker, even a mud clerk. Been everything there is to be in this business, but one thing I never been, and that's a sharper.
    • Abner Marsh to Joshua York when York questions his honesty, Fevre Dream (1982)
  • The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real... for a moment at least... that long magic moment before we wake. Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smoke-stacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
    We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the song the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever, somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
    They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to Middle Earth.
    • The Faces of Fantasy (1996)
  • Art is not a democracy. People don't get to vote on how it ends.
    • Interview with GamePro magazine (8 April 2003)
  • Back at the Philadelphia Worldcon (which seems a million years ago), I announced the famous five-year gap: I was going to skip five years forward in the story, to allow some of the younger characters to grow older and the dragons to grow larger, and for various other reasons. I started out writing on that basis in 2001, and it worked very well for some of my myriad characters but not at all for others, because you can't just have nothing happen for five years. If things do happen you have to write flashbacks, a lot of internal retrospection, and that's not a good way to present it. I struggled with that essentially wrong direction for about a year before finally throwing it out, realizing there had to be another interim book. That became A Feast for Crows, where the action is pretty much continuous from the preceding book. Even so, that only accounts for one year. Why the four after that? I don't know, except that this was a very tough book to write -- and it remains so, because I've only finished half. Going in, I thought I could do something about the length of the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings, roughly 1,200 pages in manuscript. But I passed that and there was a lot more to write. Then I passed the length of the third book, A Storm of Swords, which was something like 1,500 pages in manuscript and gave my publishers all around the world lots of production problems. I didn't really want to make any cuts because I had this huge story to tell. We started thinking about dividing it in two and doing it as A Feast for Crows, Parts One and Two, but the more I thought about that the more I really did not like it. Part One would have had no resolution whatsoever for 18 viewpoint characters and their 18 stories. Of course this is all part of a huge megaseries so there is not a complete resolution yet in any of the volumes, but I try to give a certain sense of completion at the end of each volume -- that a movement of the symphony has wrapped up, so to speak.
    • Interview with Locus magazine (November 2005)
  • Sure. Some of the reviews have been very flattering, but the series is not finished yet. The end needs to be as strong as the beginning.
    • Talking about his magnum opus, A Song of Ice and Fire, in an interview with Patrick St-Denis on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist (1 May 2006)
  • I've been killing characters my entire career, maybe I'm just a bloody minded bastard, I don't know, [but] when my characters are in danger, I want you to be afraid to turn the page (and to do that) you need to show right from the beginning that you're playing for keeps.
  • As a writer, my goal, (which I'm never going to achieve, and I know that, and no writer can achieve that,) but my goal is to make you almost live the books... I want you to fall through that page and feel as if these things are happening to you.
  • There are many different kinds of writers, I like to use the analogy of architects and gardeners. There are some writers who are architects, and they plan everything, they blueprint everything, and they know before the drive the first nail into the first board what the house is going to look like and where all the closets are going to be, where the plumbing is going to run, and everything is figured out on the blueprints before they actually begin any work whatsoever. And then there are gardeners who dig a little hole and drop a seed in and water it with their blood and see what comes up, and sort of shape it. They sort of know what seed they've planted — whether it's an oak or an elm, or a horror story or a science fiction story, but they don't how big it's going to be, or what shape it's going to take. I am much more a gardener than an architect.
  • I think that for science fiction, fantasy, and even horror to some extent, the differences are skin-deep. I know there are elements in the field, particularly in science fiction, who feel that the differences are very profound, but I do not agree with that analysis. I think for me it is a matter of the furnishings. An elf or an alien may in some ways fulfill the same function, as a literary trope. It’s almost a matter of flavor. The ice cream can be chocolate or it can be strawberry, but it’s still ice cream. The real difference, to my mind, is between romantic fiction, which all these genres are a part of, and mimetic fiction, or naturalistic fiction.
  • Ten years from now, no one is going to care how quickly the books came out. The only thing that will matter, the only thing anyone will remember, is how good they were. That's my main concern, and always will be.
  • Tolkien made the wrong choice when he brought Gandalf back. Screw Gandalf. He had a great death and the characters should have had to go on without him.
    • On a panel at Odyssey Con 2008 (April 2008)
  • My reading of history has shown me that simply 'being a good man' is not enough. That there are many kings who are good men and yet bad kings. And even good kings sometimes make disastrous decisions. So government is complex, politics is complex.
  • Believe me, no one wants to finish this book more than me.
    • Progress update on A Dance with Dragons via his website (2008)
  • With great power comes great responsibility, Stan Lee once wrote. Spidey's credo articulates the basic premise of every superhero universe, including ours. But Lord Acton wrote that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The tension between those two truths is where the drama comes in. My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results... but it is the effort that's heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.
  • I hear you jeering. Pfui. Those of you who know my work only from A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE may not be aware that I was once considered the most romantic science fiction writer of the 70s, back when I was doing my Thousand Worlds stuff.
    • On romance in science fiction and fantasy, in his blog (January 2010)
  • The House of Fantasy is built of stone and wood and furnished in High Medieval. Its people travel by horse and galley, fight with sword and spell and battle-axe, communicate by palantir or raven, and break bread with elves and dragons.
    The House of Science Fiction is built of duralloy and plastic and furnished in Faux Future. Its people travel by starship and aircar, fight with nukes and tailored germs, communicate by ansible and laser, and break protein bars with aliens.
    The House of Horror is built of bone and cobwebs and furnished in Ghastly Gothick. Its people travel only by night, fight with anything that will kill messily, communicate in screams and shrieks and gibbers, and sip blood with vampires and werewolves.
    • "The Furniture Rule", explaining the differences and similarities between the fields of weird fiction in Dreamsongs
  • The battle between Good and Evil is a theme of much of fantasy. But I think the battle between Good and Evil is fought largely within the individual human heart, by the decisions that we make. It’s not like evil dresses up in black clothing and you know, they’re really ugly. These are some of the things that Tolkien did; he made them work fabulously, but in the hands of his imitators, they become total clichés. I mean the orc-like creatures who always do dress in black and... they’re really ugly and they’ve got facial deformities or something. You can tell that if somebody’s ugly, he must be evil. And then Tolkien’s heroes are all very attractive people and all that, of course, again this became cliché in the hands of the Tolkien imitators.
  • Much as I admire Tolkien, and I do admire Tolkien — he’s been a huge influence on me, and his Lord of the Rings is the mountain that leans over every other fantasy written since and shaped all of modern fantasy — there are things about it, the whole concept of the Dark Lord, and good guys battling bad guys, Good versus Evil, while brilliantly handled in Tolkien, in the hands of many Tolkien successors, it has become kind of a cartoon. We don’t need any more Dark Lords, we don’t need any more, ‘Here are the good guys, they’re in white, there are the bad guys, they’re in black. And also, they’re really ugly, the bad guys.

    It is certainly a genuine, legitimate topic as the core of fantasy, but I think the battle between Good and Evil is waged within the individual human hearts. We all have good in us and we all have evil in us, and we may do a wonderful good act on Tuesday and a horrible, selfish, bad act on Wednesday, and to me, that’s the great human drama of fiction. I believe in gray characters, as I’ve said before. We all have good and evil in us and there are very few pure paragons and there are very few orcs. A villain is a hero of the other side, as someone said once, and I think there’s a great deal of truth to that, and that’s the interesting thing. In the case of war, that kind of situation, so I think some of that is definitely what I’m aiming at.

  • Sometimes I think some of my fellow novelists who have not worked in television and film are very naive about this process. They get an offer and there's the dump truck full of money and they sign it, they cash the check and then they're not involved in the series. They may get invited to the premiere and they come out of the premiere looking like all of their children had just been gassed, with a stunned look on their face because everything has been changed.
  • I think worship of death is an interesting basis for religion, because after all death is the one universal. It doesn't seem to matter what gods you pray to. We all die, in the real world and in fantasy worlds, and if there was some religion where you did not die I suspect that would be, that god would become very popular. They all promise us eternal life, but whatever.
    • Discussing the influence of real-life faiths on his work and its religious systems, Authors@Google (August 2011)
  • I always felt like Gandalf should have stayed dead. That was such an incredible sequence in Fellowship of the Ring when he faces the Balrog on the Khazad-dûm and he falls into the gulf, and his last words are, “Fly, you fools.”

    What power that had, how that grabbed me. And then he comes back as Gandalf the White, and if anything he's sort of improved. I never liked Gandalf the White as much as Gandalf the Grey, and I never liked him coming back. I think it would have been an even stronger story if Tolkien had left him dead.

  • I think even during the campaign I said that Trump reminded me most of Joffrey. They have the same level of emotional maturity. And Joffrey likes to remind everyone that he's king. And he thinks that gives him the ability to do anything. And we're not an absolute monarchy, like Westeros is. We're a constitutional republic. And yet, Trump doesn't seem to know what that means. He thinks the presidency gives him the power to do anything. And so, yeah, Joffrey is Trump.

infinity plus interview (2001)[edit]

"Sunsets of High Renown : An Interview with George R. R. Martin" by Nick Gevers, at infinity plus (3 February 2001)
  • I was always intensely Romantic, even when I was too young to understand what that meant. But Romanticism has its dark side, as any Romantic soon discovers... which is where the melancholy comes in, I suppose. I don't know if this is a matter of artistic influences so much as it is of temperament. But there's always been something in a twilight that moves me, and a sunset speaks to me in a way that no sunrise ever has.
  • Historical processes have never much interested me, but history is full of stories, full of triumph and tragedy and battles won and lost. It is the people who speak to me, the men and women who once lived and loved and dreamed and grieved, just as we do. Though some may have had crowns on their heads or blood on their hands, in the end they were not so different from you and me, and therein lies their fascination. I suppose I am still a believer in the now unfashionable "heroic" school, which says that history is shaped by individual men and women and the choices that they make, by deeds glorious and terrible.
  • The battle between good and evil is a legitimate theme for a Fantasy (or for any work of fiction, for that matter), but in real life that battle is fought chiefly in the individual human heart. Too many contemporary Fantasies take the easy way out by externalizing the struggle, so the heroic protagonists need only smite the evil minions of the dark power to win the day. And you can tell the evil minions, because they're inevitably ugly and they all wear black.
    I wanted to stand much of that on its head.
    In real life, the hardest aspect of the battle between good and evil is determining which is which.

Quotes about Martin[edit]

The simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:
George R. R. Martin is not your bitch. ~ Neil Gaiman
Alphabetized by author
  • I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:
    George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.
    This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.
    People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.
  • I saw Mr. Martin at Worldcon last year. And I almost went up to him and asked, “How have you gone this long without killing someone?” Because however much flak I happen to get from fans, he has to get a thousand times more.
    In my opinion, he's a saint. If I had to deal with that level of fan dickishness, I would have already lost my shit in some spectacular way. There would be a video of me on youtube, gone all berserk with nerd rage, holding someone up by the neck, shouting "I've got your sequel right here, bitch!"
  • Whenever we got to a George R. R. Martin script, you realized no one thinks like this guy. If the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ staff was a jazz quintet, George R. R. Martin was like John Coltrane, because he plays a solo and you go, ‘How did he do that? How did that juxtaposition of notes ever come into anybody’s head?’ George’s stuff was fluid and funky, weird and kinky, but also had this gravitas, this profound thought, that gave it weight and import. He’s one of the really, really good guys.
  • It is no shame to lose to me, mortal. Even among mythical creatures there are very few who can give a unicorn a good game.

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