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Five Fascinating Facts about George R. R. Martin

Interesting George R. R. Martin trivia

1. Contrary to popular belief, George R. R. Martin’s middle initials are not a homage to J. R. R. Tolkien. Although George R. R. Martin is often referred to as ‘the American Tolkien’, it would appear that the two middle initials shared by both masters of fantasy literature are a coincidence and not a direct tribute to Tolkien on Martin’s part. Martin was born George Raymond Martin, and adopted a further middle name Richard upon his Catholic confirmation at age 13 (as, in fact, Martin himself confirms – as it were – in this video, at around 8:30 minutes in).

2. Martin began his writing ‘career’ by penning short stories, which he’d sell to classmates and neighbouring children. Many of the stories would feature monsters, and the going rate was just one cent. As well as providing a copy of the story, the young Martin would also throw in a spine-chilling performance of the tale.

3. The young George R. R. Martin also wrote about his pet turtles – and this provided the germ of the central idea of A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin would dream up stories involving ‘sinister plots’ hatched by the George R R Martinturtles. As the turtles kept dying in their toy castle, the young Martin imagined that they must be jostling for position, trying to kill of their rivals for the turtle-throne. Martin explained in 2012, ‘I had an entire toy castle filled with dime-store turtles. I gave them all names, and since they were living in a toy castle, I decided they were all knights and kings … and I made up stories about how they killed each other and betrayed each other and fought for the kingdom. So, Game of Thrones actually began with turtles.’ (This is probably our favourite of all the George R. R. Martin facts we’ve discovered so far.)

4. Meanwhile, the title of Martin’s most famous series of novels was partly inspired by a Robert Frost poem. Frost’s short 1920 poem ‘Fire and Ice‘ has been named by Martin as part of the inspiration behind the title A Song of Ice and Fire.

5. George R. R. Martin gave up writing novels back in the early 1980s because one of his books was a flop. Martin’s fourth novel, The Armageddon Rag (1983), failed to sell, after his first few novels had done well. So he moved to Hollywood and started writing for various TV shows, including the revived Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. Martin has attributed the taut plotting (and deft management of dozens of characters) of A Song of Ice and Fire to the ‘training’ he undertook while working in Hollywood. When asked what he likes to write about, he is fond of quoting William Faulkner: ‘the human heart in conflict with itself’. There is no simple good/evil binary on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy universe.

If you enjoyed these facts about George R. R. Martin, you might enjoy our J. R. R. Tolkien facts.

Image: George R. R. Martin speaking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International (photo credit: Gage Skidmore), Wikimedia Commons.

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About interestingliterature

A blog dedicated to rooting out the interesting stuff about classic books and authors.

Posted on April 15, 2016, in Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ha, I’ve also contemplated using my confirmation name once I figure out what my pen name will be. So interesting, I did not know that about the turtles :)

  2. I’m sorry but you’re wrong. Martin was born and grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. He moved to Santa Fe later in life. This is from his autobiographical essays which are included in a two-volume collection of his short stories, Dreamsongs.

  3. Really loved the turtle story. It’s always cool to hear when and where inspiration strikes an artist. Never would have imagined turtles had anything to do with Martin later creating Game of Thrones.

  4. I heard George Martin talk at World Fantasycon when he said his inspiration for The Song of Fire and Ice was the events in Europe during the 30 years war when the royal houses were fighting for ascendancy…

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