“I’ve always preferred writing about grey characters and human characters. Whether they are giants or elves or dwarves, or whatever they are, they’re still human, and the human heart is still in conflict with itself.”
One of the most influential writers of the 21st Century, George R.R. Martin has become a towering figure in modern culture. Behind the fantastic stories is a fascinating man, so let’s take a look at some fiery facts about the author.
George R.R. Martin Facts
1. Double R
First things first. What in the heck does “R.R.” stand for? Could it be made up as an elaborate ruse with actual reveals all of the answers to A Song of Ice and Fire? Nope. It’s quite simple, actually. R.R. stands for Raymond Richard.
2. Humble Beginnings
Martin’s first big publication wasn’t a story of any sort, and came when he was a young teenager. In 1963, Marvel published a fan letter that he addressed to them about an issue of Fantastic Four. In the letter, Martin gushes over the quality of the comic.
3. Fanfic Superstar
This wouldn’t be the last time his letters were published. Martin would become a regular contributor to comic fandom, which was growing rapidly. In 1965, he would even win the Alley Award for Best Fan Fiction for a prose piece he wrote called “Powerman vs. The Blue Barrier.”
4. Confirmed as a Richard
Martin was actually born George Raymond Martin, but adopted Richard when it was chosen for his confirmation name.
5. The Man Upstairs
Though he is confirmed as a Catholic, Martin does not consider himself religious, but rather an agnostic atheist. However, he does find spirituality to be fascinating.
6. Street Cred
Martin was a massive comic fanboy in his youth, and has some serious cred: He claims to have been the first in line for the first New York City Comic Convention, and to have received a “#1 comic-fan” badge for his triumph. He is still a convention goer and is known to attend regional sci-fi and fantasy conventions on the regular.
7. Doomed Fate
Martin has professed that his favorite Marvel character is the short-lived Wonder-Man. He was able to forge a connection with Wonder-Man because the character was tragically doomed from the start. Martin has always had a thing for tragic characters; they are who he’s always responded to in literature.
8. Shaolin Island
Like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Martin is a native of the New York City Metropolitan area, and grew up by the docks of Bayonne, New Jersey, where his father was a longshoreman. As an insular youth, he developed an imagination in order to experience the rest of the world, and became a voracious reader. He’s stated that the shores of Staten Island were like his own Shangri-La. As a native of Staten Island, I hope he never visited and was able to keep this wonderful depiction intact.
9. House of Turtle
Another large inspiration for Martin were his pet turtles, who would often die in their toy castle, leading him to the only conclusion one can deduce from this: that the turtles were killing each other off in “sinister plots.” Sound familiar?
10. Lost Bets
The character of Ser Patrek in A Dance With Dragons is derived from his friend Patrick St. Denis, and was created after Martin lost a bet to him based on the NFL rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
11. Tormented Fandom
As a diehard sports fan, notably of the New York Jets and the New York Mets, Martin is clearly obsessed with games in general. During college, he actually spent his summers working as a sportswriter covering baseball in Bayonne.
12. Trained Writer
Martin took his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, where he would graduate with a Bachelor’s in journalism. It seems safe to say he knew from day one what he wanted to do with his life.
13. Side Hustle
Speaking of games, chess was a large part of Martin’s life, and helped him to make a living early in his career. While most young writers have to find the time to hone their craft around a day job, Martin used the spike of chess’s popularity—after Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky at the World Chess Championship in the ’70s—to pay the bills. He would end up working for a company that put on chess tournaments throughout the midwest.
14. How To Be A Celebrity
Martin has made some recent film cameos, once in the modern cinema classic Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, in which he dies a violent death, and as a zombified version of himself in 2015’s Z Nation.
15. Sexy Conversation
According to Martin, his favorite TV series was another HBO product, Rome. This cult favorite was cut short at only 3 seasons, and, like many of its fans, Martin wishes it was given more of a run. Rome is also a precursor to the famous “sexposition” of Game of Thrones, where characters often have important conversations while naked in order to hold the viewer’s attention.
16. Rivaled Families
Just in case you’re not up on your A Song of Ice and Fire history, the series is mostly based on the English civil war known as the War of the Roses. While he has also drawn deeply from French and Scottish history, the War of the Roses is at the center of the whole thing for Martin, as he parallels the Lancaster and York dynasties with the Lannisters and Starks.
17. Keep Out
That’s not the only part of British history that Martin has used in A Song of Ice and Fire. He also used Hadrian’s Wall, built in Northern England in the 2nd century to mark the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire, as inspiration for The Wall in his books.
18. Married Life
Martin is currently married to Parris McBride, and they tied the knot in 2011. However, their relationship dates way back. They first met in 1975, the same year in which Martin married his first wife Gale Burnick. Perhaps setting the tone for their marriage, Burnick and Martin’s wedding song was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and they would divorce four years later.
19. Objection to War
Although his books detail war to a great degree, in reality Martin is staunchly anti-war. During the Vietnam War, he was a conscientious objector, and instead served an alternative service with the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation.
20. Heartbreak of Failure
Martin has by now established himself as a fantasy heavyweight, but the world of literature can be harsh. After his fourth book, The Armageddon Rag, commercially flopped in 1983, he was devastated. The novel was a labor of love, and its failure led him to veer away from fiction writing. He then turned his attention to television writing in order to sustain himself financially.
21. Money Doesn’t Equal Happiness
During his venture into television writing, Martin worked for numerous shows such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and even Beauty and the Beast. Though he found financial stability in the world of TV, he was left largely unfulfilled. This would lead him back to novel writing.
22. A Tower of One’s Own
Currently residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Martin works out of a library tower he had built across the street from his home. This tower houses his massive collection of books and serves as his office space. An impressive structure in itself, the building has a set of stained-glass windows featuring the sigils of houses from the Seven Kingdoms.
23. Cinema Lover
A library tower isn’t only the only building of note Martin owns in Santa Fe, as he purchased The Jean Cocteau Cinema in 2010. Originally established as the Collective Fantasy Cinema in 1976, Martin gave the theater a massive makeover and reopened it in 2013. The theater has been a hit, as it holds special screenings in both 35mm and digital formats while supporting local artists.
24. No Worry About Being Hacked
Martin is a dedicated user of the WordStar 4.0 word processor, which was popular in the 1980s. WordStar has been a favorite of writers for years, and Martin still uses it to write to this day.
25. Playing Favorites
According to Martin, the Game of Thrones character he relates to the most is Samwell Tarly.
26. A Story Without Dragons
A Song of Ice and Fire is wonderful in its own right, but can you imagine it without dragons? Well, it almost didn’t have any of these mythical beasts who’ve become fan favorites, as Martin debated including them for some time. Luckily, his friend Phyllis Eisenstein, an author herself, persuaded him not to cut the fire-breathers from the story.
27. Like Choosing A Child
Many may believe that Martin wrote The Red Wedding scene with pleasure for the pain his fans would endure, however this is not the case. While he knew he had to write the scene, he put off the writing of it for a long time, as he dreaded having to kill off his creations in such a manner.
28. Based on Blood
The Red Wedding is also based in history, as it is a blending of two different events from Scotland’s past: the Black Dinner and the Glencoe Massacre. I think you can use your imagination as to how those ended up.
29. Visual Formatting
The success of A Song of Ice and Fire led to many different offers from film and television studios. Given the scope of the novel, Martin didn’t believe it could be adapted into a feature film, so he listened more to TV offers. After declining several offers, he finally agreed to give the rights to HBO after a meeting with the future showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
30. Answer Correctly, Or Else
This meeting between the three men lasted for four hours, starting with a lunch and running right through to dinner. The crucial moment of the meeting came when Martin asked the duo the important question of “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?” as a way to gauge their knowledge of the books. They could only guess, but their answer impressed Martin and was a major factor in his decision to produce the show.
31. Burn The Books
In the case of a sudden death—which, if the books have taught us anything, is always possible—Martin has ordered that all of his manuscripts and related notes be destroyed. He has done this in order to prevent anyone else from working on completing the series. However, he has given the green light for the show to continue on, and the only other people who know the series’ ending are Benioff and Weiss.
32. OG GoT
Martin has eclectic reading taste, but there is one series that he considers to be the “original Game of Thrones”: Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings.
33. Word Usage
The most used word in the series is “Lord,” showing up a ridiculous 6,861 times, while the most-said name is Jon.
34. Choose A Superpower
Since he’s such a massive fanboy, Martin most certainly has a dream superpower. It may not be what you think, though, as he states that he would rather have the ability of Green Lantern over any other superhero, because finding a ring seems way less painful to him than the other options superheroes endure to gain their powers.
35. Picky, Picky
Though Martin was an avid fan fiction writer in his youth, he is against fan fiction of his own work. He argues this is because there is a vital distinction between his early writing and ASOIAF fanfic: that he would create his own plots and original characters.
36. Strong Words
While he undeniably draws from J.R.R. Tolkien, he is critical of at least one aspect of The Lord of the Rings—he thought Gandalf should have stayed dead and never returned as Gandalf the White. *cough* Lady Stoneheart *cough*.
37. Running With Wolves
A passion for wolves has led Martin to become a huge supporter of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a New Mexico charity dedicated to the animal. He has worked together with the charity on several occasions to raise money, in addition to financially backing them with some of his own money.
38. Get Money, Don’t Spend It
Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to throw it around. With an estimated income of over $15 million per year, Martin is nonetheless known for his frugal lifestyle, and still drives his old Mazda.
39. Little Writer
As a child, Martin had a business selling stories that he’d written to neighborhood kids, but he was forced to shut it down immediately when one of the children had terrible nightmares, which is too bad, because while at first he was charging a penny for the stories, demand was so high that he got to start charging a nickel!