11 Surprising Facts About George R.R. Martin

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Game of Thrones fans know the epic HBO series is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, but beyond the TV show, how much do they really know about the author? Sure, they know it’s taking him a really long time to finish The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the series, but what about him as a person? Here are a few things you might not know about the man who brought us the world of Westeros.

1. As a kid, he made money selling monster stories.

The famed author grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, where his father was a longshoreman. "When I was living in Bayonne, I desperately wanted to get away," Martin told The Independent. "Not because Bayonne was a bad place, mind you. Bayonne was a very nice place in some ways. But we were poor. We had no money. We never went anywhere."

Though his family didn't have the means to travel outside of Bayonne, Martin began to develop a love of reading and writing at a very young age, which allowed him to imagine fantastical worlds beyond his New Jersey hometown. He also learned that writing could be a profitable endeavor: he began selling his stories to other kids in the neighborhood for a penny apiece. (He later raised his prices to a nickel.) Martin's entrepreneurial efforts came to an end when his stories began giving one of his kid customers nightmares, which eventually got back to Martin's mom.

2. He is obsessed with comic books.

In 2014, Martin sat down for a Q&A about his career at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Though, given his love of fantasy worlds, it might not be surprising to learn that Martin is a comic book fan, he also credits the genre with inspiring him to begin writing in the first place.

"I’m so grateful for comic books because they were really the thing that made me a reader, which in return made me a writer," Martin said. "In the 1950s in America, we had these books that taught you to read, and they were all about Dick and Jane, who were the most boring family you ever wanted to meet ... I didn’t know anyone who lived like that, and it just seemed like a horrible thing. But Batman and Superman, they had a much more interesting life. Gotham City was much more interesting than wherever it was where Dick and Jane lived.”

3. He built a library tower in Santa Fe.

In 2009, Martin bought the home across the street from his house in Santa Fe, New Mexico and turned it into an office space with a library tower built inside. The tower is only two stories tall, because of city building restrictions, but it seems only fitting that the author/history buff would want to be surrounded with books while he writes.

4. A fan letter got his professional writing career started.

Martin's love of comic books is what got his professional career rolling, too. "I had a letter published in Fantastic Four, and because my address was in there I started getting these fanzines and I started writing stories for them," Martin said during the same Santa Fe Q&A. "Funny enough, people writing stories in these fanzines at the time were just awful. They were just really bad, which was good because I looked at these awful stories and knew I could do better than that. I may not have been Shakespeare or J.R.R. Tolkien, but I was certain I could write better than the crap in the fanzines, and indeed I could."

5. A failed novel led to a television writing career.

More than 10 years before A Song of Ice and Fire debuted in 1996, Martin wrote a book called The Armageddon Rag in 1983. Though it was a critical disappointment, producer Phil DeGuere was interested in adapting the project with Martin's help. While that never came to fruition, DeGuere thought of Martin when they were rebooting The Twilight Zone in the mid-1980s and brought him on board to write a handful of episodes. He later did some writing for the live-action Beauty and the Beast series, starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton.

6. Network television standards were not a fit for Martin's style of writing.

Though Martin found success as a television writer, the constant back-and-forth about what they were or were not allowed to show proved to be too much for the writer. "[T]here were constant limitations. It wore me down," Martin told Rolling Stone. "There were battles over censorship, how sexual things could be, whether a scene was too 'politically charged,' how violent things could be. Don’t want to disturb anyone. We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people ... The character had to remain likable."

7. He owns an independent movie theater.

In 2006, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe closed its doors, which saddened many locals who were regular patrons, Martin among them. Several years later, Martin decided to give the theater a second life and, after a slight makeover, reopened its doors in 2013. Today, in addition to independent films, the theater holds regular special events—including screenings of Game of Thrones episodes. There's also an onsite bar that serves Game of Thrones-themed cocktails, like the signature White Walker.

8. Martin credits HBO with changing the rules of television.

Network television standards may have been too tame and regimented for Martin's tastes, but all that changed with HBO and The Sopranos, which he credits as paving the way for a series like Game of Thrones to exist in its current form at all.

"I credit HBO with smashing the damn trope that everybody had to be likable on television," Martin told Rolling Stone. "The Sopranos turned it around. When you meet Tony Soprano, he’s in the psychiatrist office, he’s talking about the ducks, his depression and that stuff, and you like this guy. Then he gets in his car and he’s driving away and he sees someone who owes him money, and he jumps out and he starts stomping him. Now how likable was he? Well you didn’t care, because they already had you. A character like Walter White on Breaking Bad could never have existed before HBO."

9. Martin thinks it's important for writers to break the rules.

While he's an admitted fan of William Goldman, Martin has a very different opinion of noted screenplay expert Syd Field. "There is a book out there by Syd and it’s his guide to writing screenplays and it’s probably one of the most harmful things that has ever been done for the movie industry,” Martin said. “For some perverse reason, it has become the bible not for writers but for what we call 'the suits,' the guys at the studios whose job it is to develop properties and give notes to supervise screenplays. They take Syd Field’s course and they buy the book and they start criticizing screenplays like, ‘Well you know, the first turn is supposed to be on page 12 and yours is not until page 17, so obviously this won’t do!'"

"Syd just writes downs these ridiculous rules," Martin continued. "If there really was a formula as he says, then every movie would be a blockbuster. We would just connect A, B, and C and we would have a great movie and everyone would pack the theater to see it. But every movie is not a blockbuster. Many movies that follow his rules precisely actually go down the toilet."

10. He’s a skilled chess player.

"I started playing chess when I was quite young, in grade school," Martin told The Independent. "I played it through high school. In college, I founded the chess club. I was captain of the chess team." Eventually, Martin discovered that he could actually make some money off this skill.

"For two or three years, I had a pretty good situation. Most writers who have to have a day job work five days a week and then they have the weekend off to write. These chess tournaments were all on the weekend so I had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but then I had five days off to write. The chess generated enough money for me to pay my bills."

11. He has a very specific way of writing, which is why he hasn't finished the winds of winter.

Fans have been waiting for a while for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Martin has been honest about why it's taking him so long. "Writer’s block isn’t to blame here, it’s distraction," he said. "In recent years, all of the work I’ve been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It’s like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who’s passing up a free trip to Dubai? I don’t write when I travel. I don’t write in hotel rooms. I don’t write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life no body did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day."

Out of Print's Retro Star Wars T-Shirts Pay Homage to an '80s Reading Campaign

Out of Print
Out of Print

If only Luke had known that he could use a book to channel The Force, it might have saved him a whole lot of hassle. Online retailer Out of Print has united two nerdy camps—readers and Star Wars lovers—with its latest collection of retro-inspired T-shirts.

One shirt features Yoda with the text, “Read and The Force is with you.” A Princess Leia tee says, “Read: It’s our only hope,” while one of Darth Vader says, “Read: Use the power of The Force.”

A Star Wars t-shirt
Out of Print

If the graphics look familiar, it’s because they’re from the American Library Association’s Star Wars-themed READ campaign, which first emerged in 1983 with a poster of Yoda holding a book.

“Star Wars is a vehicle to help support and excite young readers,” Todd Lawton, Out of Print’s co-founder, told StarWars.com. “That’s perfectly in line with our mission and we feel that the world’s a better place if people are reading more books. So when you see a character like Yoda or Darth Vader presented in a way that’s supporting this love of reading and the importance of reading, we want to show that and celebrate that as well.”

An Out of Print T-shirt featuring Darth Vader
Out of Print

The shirts are priced at $28 or $30 apiece, depending on whether it’s a classic unisex T-shirt or relaxed fit tee. Kids’ shirts are also available for $20 each.

Out of Print is also selling a Little Golden Books collection of Star Wars hardcovers, including A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and an anthology with seven books in one. For more literary-inspired apparel, totes, accessories, and more, check out the company's website.

New Game of Thrones Theory Predicts That the Night King Won't Be at the Battle of Winterfell

HBO
HBO

Game of Thrones is gearing up for the biggest battle the show has ever seen: At Winterfell, Gendry is forging weapons made of dragonglass, Brienne is training soldiers, and Jon is going through an existential crisis. No one knows who will live or die (or if anyone will live at all).

The White Walkers are very close to Winterfell, but where is their leader? At the end of season 8's second episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," we saw the frontline of White Walkers leading the wights toward Winterfell, but the Night King was nowhere to be seen. We know that the Night King is soaring through the air on Viserion somewhere, but what if his plan doesn't include making an appearance at the battle at all?

As Mashable reported, fans on Reddit have already started predicting that the Night King won't show up for the fight. They believe that he will use the battle as a distraction and that, while his army is attacking Winterfell, he'll fly to King's Landing instead.

The basic argument here is that the Night King is not stupid. He knows that it would be easy for Daenerys's two remaining dragons to fly up to the recently resurrected Viserion and breathe fire on him to kill him. So why not attack another, unguarded target?

"If you have a super weapon that you can't use against a particular target, then you find a different target," one Redditor explained.

So while everyone is expecting him to show up at Winterfell, the Night King could instead be flying to King's Landing in order to kill everyone there and create yet another army of the dead in the south—an army that whoever survives the battle in the north will ultimately have to conquer.

There are a couple of scenes in previous seasons that add some credence to this theory: In season 4, Bran had a series of visions which all came true—except the one where he sees a destroyed throne room and the shadow of a dragon pass over. This could have been the Night King on Viserion, instead of Daenerys and her dragons (as was previously believed). In season 2, Daenerys also had a vision where the throne room was destroyed and covered in snow.

While it does seem like a reasonable theory, we won't know for sure until next week, when audiences will finally witness what is being touted as the biggest battle in Game of Throneshistory.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER