George R. R. Martin is an American novelist and short-story writer best known for his epic fantasy novel series, 'A Song of Ice and Fire', which has been adapted into the hugely successful HBO series, 'Game of Thrones'. Martin, who primarily writes in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, has been called "the American Tolkien" by 'Time' journalist Lev Grossman and was included in the magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world once. He is also a screenwriter and television producer who previously worked on the CBS series 'Twilight Zone' and 'Beauty and the Beast', and is now actively involved in the development of the 'Game of Thrones'. Like most of his works, the series showcases "complex story lines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, perfect pacing". While the series has been criticized by some for its violence and gloominess, many consider the imperfections and moral and ethical ambiguity of his characters to be "real".
Childhood & Early Life
George R. R. Martin was born as George Raymond Martin on September 20, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey, and adopted the confirmation name Richard when he was thirteen. He is the eldest child of his parents, longshoreman Raymond Collins Martin and Margaret Brady Martin, and has two sisters named Darleen and Janet.
In 1953, his family moved from his great grandmother's house on Broadway to a federal housing project near the Bayonne docks where he attended grade school. Bored of his limited world of home and school, he began reading books to know about the outside world, and also often wrote monster stories which he sold to other children in the neighborhood.
He first enrolled into Mary Jane Donohoe School, but later moved to Marist High School, a Catholic boy's school, where he played on the chess team and contributed to the school's newspaper for several years. During this time, he became interested in Marvel comic-book superheroes and began writing fan-fiction for comic fanzines, eventually winning the 'Alley Award' for best fan-fiction for the superhero story 'Powerman vs. The Blue Barrier'.
He attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois, from where he graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in journalism in 1970. He then went on to complete his M.S. degree in Journalism from there in the following year.
While he was eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War, he was against America's involvement in Vietnam, later terming it a "terrible mistake", and avoided military service by obtaining conscientious objector status. Instead, he did alternative service with VISTA, attached to Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation, between 1972 and 1974.
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Following Bobby Fischer's world chess championship win in the 1972, George R. R. Martin used his chess skills to bag a job as a tournament director for the Continental Chess Association. He ran chess tournaments in the weekends and worked as a writer five days a week from 1973 to 1976, till the chess craze died down.
He met English professor George Guthridge in mid-1970 and with his help, took a job as an instructor for English and journalism at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa. He worked as a teacher at the college from 1976 to 1978, and later became a 'Writer In Residence' there.
George R. R. Martin's first professionally sold story was 'The Hero', which was bought by 'Galaxy' in 1970 and was published in its February 1971 issue. 'With Morning Comes Mistfall', which was published in the 'Analog' magazine in 1973, was the first of his stories to be nominated for the 'Hugo Award' and 'Nebula Awards'.
He won the 1975 'Hugo Award for Best Novella' for 'A Song for Lya', and went on to win both the 'Hugo Award' and 'Nebula Award' for 'Best Novelette' in 1980 for his story 'Sandkings'. His horror novels saw initial success followed by unexpected commercial failure, but his career was saved after Vista bought the screen and TV rights for his 1980 novella 'Nightflyers' and made a movie in 1987.
After being offered a writing job for the revival of 'Twilight Zone' for CBS, he moved to Hollywood to pursue a new career as a show writer. He was then hired as a writer-producer on another CBS series, the fantasy-drama show 'Beauty and the Beast'.
Martin, who admired the work of J. R. R. Tolkien since he was a child, decided to write his own epic fantasy series, 'A Song of Ice and Fire'. The series was originally supposed to contain three volumes, starting with 'A Game of Thrones', which he began writing in 1991 and finally published in 1996.
However, before moving on to the other two parts of the trilogy, 'A Dance with Dragons' and 'The Winds of Winter', he felt that more installments were needed in between them. The second installment, 'A Clash of Kings', was released in February 1999, followed by 'A Storm of Swords' in November 2000, and both made to the 'New York Times' bestseller list.
The next volume, 'A Dance with Dragons', was supposed to occur five years later, but being unsatisfied with the treatment of several events, he introduced 'A Feast for Crows' as an interim volume. The fourth book finally came out in November 2005, while the fifth book, released in July 2011, took him six years to complete.
HBO bought the television rights of the entire series in 2007 and developed the show 'Game of Thrones', first aired in April 2011, with Martin heavily involved in the production process.
The first season was nominated for numerous awards, including 13 Emmys, and earned Martin a 'Hugo Award' for 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form'. The series continued its successful run for seven seasons, with the eighth and final season set to air in 2019. A prequel spinoff series is also in the works.
The series 'A Song of Ice and Fire' is undoubtedly the best work of George R. R. Martin so far. The books have sold more than 70 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 47 languages, with the last two reaching the top of 'The New York Times' Best Seller lists.
Personal Life & Legacy
George R. R. Martin, who co-wrote the sci-fi fix-up novel 'Windhaven' with Lisa Tuttle, was involved in a relationship with the science-fiction/fantasy author in the early 1970s. He later met Gale Burnick at an East Coast science fiction convention and got married in 1975, but they divorced in 1979.
He married Parris McBride, his longtime partner, during a small ceremony at their Santa Fe home on February 15, 2011. Both of them are supporters of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in New Mexico.
George R. R. Martin was working on the sci-fi novel 'Avalon' when he got the vivid idea of a boy seeing a man's beheading and finding direwolves in the snow. This later became the first non-prologue chapter of 'A Game of Thrones'.