George Raymond Martin (he later adopted the confirmation name Richard at 13 years old) was born on September 20, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey, the son of longshoreman Raymond Collins Martin and his wife Margaret Brady Martin. He has two younger sisters, Darleen and Janet. His father was of half Italian descent, while his mother was of half Irish ancestry. He also has French, English, Welsh and German roots.
The family first lived in a house on Broadway, belonging to Martin's great-grandmother. In 1953, they moved to a federal housing project near the Bayonne docks. During Martin's childhood, his world consisted predominantly of "First Street to Fifth Street", between his grade school and his home; this limited world made him want to travel and experience other places, but the only way of doing so was through his imagination, so he became a voracious reader. The young Martin began writing and selling monster stories for pennies to other neighborhood children, dramatic readings included. He also wrote stories about a mythical kingdom populated by his pet turtles; the turtles died frequently in their toy castle, so he finally decided they were killing each other off in "sinister plots".
Martin attended Mary Jane Donohoe School and then later Marist High School. While there he became an avid comic-book fan, developing a strong interest in the superheroes being published by Marvel Comics. A letter Martin wrote to the editor of Fantastic Four was printed in issue No. 20 (Nov 1963); it was the first of many sent, e.g., FF #32, #34, and others. Fans who read his letters then wrote him letters in turn, and through such contacts, Martin joined the fledgling comics fandom of the era, writing fiction for various fanzines; he was the first to register for an early comic book convention held in New York in 1964. In 1965, Martin won comic fandom's Alley Award for Best fan fiction for his prose superhero story "Powerman vs. The Blue Barrier".
In 1970, Martin earned a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude; he went on to complete his M.S. in Journalism in 1971, also from Northwestern. Eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War, to which he objected, Martin applied for and obtained conscientious objector status; he instead did alternative service work for two years (1972–1974) as a VISTA volunteer, attached to the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. An expert chess player, he also directed chess tournaments for the Continental Chess Association from 1973 to 1976.
In the mid-1970s, Martin met English professor George Guthridge from Dubuque, Iowa, at a science fiction convention in Milwaukee. Martin persuaded Guthridge (who confesses that at that time he despised science fiction and fantasy) not only to give speculative fiction a second look, but to write in the field himself. (Guthridge has since been a finalist for the Hugo Award and twice for the Nebula Award for science fiction and fantasy. In 1998, Guthridge & Janet Berliner won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in the Novel for their Children of the Dust.)
In turn, Guthridge helped Martin find a job at Clarke University (then Clarke College). Martin "wasn't making enough money to stay alive", from writing and the chess tournaments, says Guthridge. From 1976 to 1978, Martin was an English and journalism instructor at Clarke, and he became Writer In Residence at the college from 1978 to 1979.
While he enjoyed teaching, the sudden death of friend and fellow author Tom Reamy in late 1977 made Martin reevaluate his own life, and he eventually decided to try to become a full-time writer. He resigned from his job, and being tired of the hard winters in Dubuque, he moved to Santa Fe in 1979.
Martin began selling science fiction short stories professionally in 1970, at age 21. His first sale was "The Hero", sold to Galaxy magazine and published in its February 1971 issue; other sales soon followed. His first story to be nominated for the Hugo Award and Nebula Awards was "With Morning Comes Mistfall", published in 1973 in Analog magazine. In 1975 his story "...for a single yesterday" about a post-apocalyptic timetripper was selected for inclusion in Epoch, a science fiction anthology edited by Roger Elwood and Robert Silverberg. His first novel, Dying of the Light, was published in 1977.
Martin is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Martin became the organization's Southwest Regional Director from 1977 to 1979; he served as its vice-president from 1996 to 1998. In 1976, for Kansas City's MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), Martin and his friend and fellow writer-editor Gardner Dozois conceived of and organized the first Hugo Losers' Party for the benefit of all past and present Hugo-losing writers, their friends and families, the evening following the convention's Hugo Awards ceremony. Martin was nominated for two Hugos that year but lost both awards, for the novelette "...and Seven Times Never Kill Man" and the novella The Storms of Windhaven, co-written with Lisa Tuttle. The Hugo Losers' Party became an annual Worldcon event thereafter, and its formal title later changed.
Although Martin often writes fantasy or horror, a number of his earlier works are science fiction tales occurring in a loosely defined future history, known informally as "The Thousand Worlds" or "The Manrealm". He has also written at least one piece of political-military fiction, "Night of the Vampyres", collected in Harry Turtledove's anthology The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century (2001).
In 1983, Martin published a vampire novel titled Fevre Dream set in the 19th century on the Mississippi River. Unlike traditional vampire novels, in Fevre Dream vampires are not supernatural creatures, but are rather a different species related to humans created by evolution with superhuman powers. Critic Don D'Amassa has praised Fevre Dream for its strong 19th century atmosphere and wrote: "This is without question one of the greatest vampire novels of all time". Martin followed up Fevre Dream with another horror novel, The Armageddon Rag. The unexpected commercial failure of The Armageddon Rag (1984), "essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time", he recalled. However, that failure led him to seek a career in television after a Hollywood option on that novel led to him being hired, first as a staff writer and then as an Executive Story Consultant, for the revival of the Twilight Zone. After the CBS series was cancelled, Martin migrated over to the already-underway satirical science fiction series Max Headroom. He worked on scripts and created the show's "Ped Xing" character. However, before his scripts could go into production, the ABC show was cancelled in the middle of its second season. Martin was then hired as a writer-producer on the new dramatic fantasy series Beauty and the Beast; in 1989, he became the show's co-supervising producer and wrote 14 of its episodes.
In 1987, Martin published a collection of short horror stories in Portraits of His Children. During this same period, Martin continued working in print media as a book-series editor, this time overseeing the development of the multi-author Wild Cards book series, which takes place in a shared universe in which a small slice of post–World War II humanity gains superpowers after the release of an alien-engineered virus; new titles are still being published in the ongoing series from Tor Books. In Second Person, Martin "gives a personal account of the close-knit role-playing game (RPG) culture that gave rise to his Wild Cards shared-world anthologies". An important element in the creation of the multiple author series was a campaign of Chaosium's role-playing game Superworld (1983) that Martin ran in Albuquerque. Admitting he became completely obsessed with the game, he stopped writing literature for about a year, but his shrinking bank accounts made him realize he had to come up with something, and got the idea that perhaps the stories and characters created in Superworld could somehow become profitable. Martin's own contributions to Wild Cards have included Thomas Tudbury, "The Great and Powerful Turtle", a powerful psychokinetic whose flying "shell" consisted of an armored VW Beetle. As of June 2011, 21 Wild Cards volumes had been published in the series; earlier that same year, Martin signed the contract for the 22nd volume, Low Ball (2014), published by Tor Books. In early 2012, Martin signed another Tor contract for the 23rd Wild Cards volume, High Stakes, which was released in August 2016.
In August 2016 Martin announced that Universal Cable Productions had acquired the rights to adapt the Wild Cards novels into a television series.
Martin's novella Nightflyers (1980) was adapted into a 1987 feature film of the same name. He was unhappy about having to cut plot elements for the screenplay's scenario in order to accommodate the film's small budget.
In 2017, Martin confirmed he will serve as an executive producer of the HBO television series adaptation of the 2010 novel Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.
In 1991, Martin briefly returned to writing novels. He had grown frustrated that his TV pilots and screenplays were not getting made and that TV-related production limitations like budgets and episode lengths were forcing him to cut characters and trim battle scenes. This pushed Martin back towards writing books, where he did not have to worry about compromising the size of his imagination. Admiring the works of J. R. R. Tolkien in his childhood, he wanted to write an epic fantasy, though he did not have any specific ideas.
This would eventually turn into his epic fantasy series: A Song of Ice and Fire, which was inspired by the Wars of the Roses, The Accursed Kings and Ivanhoe. Martin originally conceptualised it as being three volumes. It is currently intended to comprise seven volumes. The first, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996. In November 2005, A Feast for Crows, the fourth novel in this series, became The New York Times No. 1 Bestseller and also achieved No. 1 ranking on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list. In addition, in September 2006, A Feast for Crows was nominated for both a Quill Award and the British Fantasy Award. The fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, was published July 12, 2011, and quickly became an international bestseller, including achieving a No. 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List and many others; it remained on the New York Times list for 88 weeks. The series has received praise from authors, readers, and critics alike. In 2012, A Dance With Dragons made the final ballot for science fiction and fantasy's Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, Locus Poll Award, and the British Fantasy Award; the novel went on to win the Locus Poll Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Two more novels are planned and still being written in the series: The Winds of Winter and the final volume A Dream of Spring.
HBO Productions purchased the television rights for the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series in 2007 and began airing the fantasy series on their US premium cable channel on April 17, 2011. Titled Game of Thrones, it ran weekly for ten episodes, each approximately an hour long. Although busy completing A Dance With Dragons and other projects, George R. R. Martin was heavily involved in the production of the television series adaptation of his books. Martin's involvement included the selection of a production team and participation in scriptwriting; the opening credits list him as a co-executive producer of the series. The series was renewed shortly after the first episode aired.
The first season was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, ultimately winning two: one for its opening title credits, and one for Peter Dinklage as Best Supporting Actor.
The first season was also nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award, fantasy and science fiction's oldest award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society each year at the annual Worldcon; the show went on to win the 2012 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, at Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, in Chicago, Illinois. Martin took home one of the three Hugo Award trophies awarded in that collaborative category, the other two going to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
The second season, based on the second A Song of Ice and Fire novel A Clash of Kings, began airing on HBO in the US on April 1, 2012. The second season was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards, including another Supporting Actor nomination for Dinklage. It went on to win six of those Emmys in the Technical Arts categories, which were awarded the week before the regular televised 2012 awards show. The second-season episode "Blackwater", written by George R.R. Martin, was nominated the following year for the 2013 Hugo Award in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category; that episode went on to win the Hugo Award at LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention, in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to Martin, showrunners Benioff and Weiss (who contributed several scenes to the final screenplay) and episode director Neil Marshal (who expanded the scope of the episode on set) received Hugo statuettes.
Seasons 5 and 6 each won a dozen Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.
By the end of 2016, all seasons up to season 6 (which premiered on April 24, 2016) had been aired on HBO and all seasons had been released on DVD and/or Blu-Ray for home viewing (see List of Game of Thrones episodes). The company confirmed on July 18, 2016 that season 7 would consist of seven episodes instead of the usual ten, and would premiere later than usual, in mid-2017, because of the later filming schedule. This was necessary in order to be shooting during the winter season in Europe. Season 7 was expected to air in mid 2017. The first footage from the season was revealed in a new promotional video that featured clips from its new and returning original shows for the coming year on November 28, 2016, showcasing Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark. Like the previous season, it will largely consist of original content currently not found in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but also adapts material from the upcoming sixth and seventh novels: The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
HBO confirmed that season 8 has been ordered and that it would be the last of the series; it will be aired in 2018. In November 2016, President of Programming Casey Bloys indicated that he had had preliminary discussions about a prequel spinoff to the Game of Thrones series with Martin. In May 2017, HBO commissioned five screenwriters – Max Borenstein, Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland, Carly Wray and Bryan Cogman – to develop individual spin-offs. All of the writers are to be working individually with George R. R. Martin. According to Casey Bloys, Martin is co-writing two of the four announced scripts.
Martin's work has been described by the Los Angeles Times as having "complex story lines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, perfect pacing". While the New York Times sees it as "fantasy for grown ups", others feel it is dark and cynical. Martin's first novel, Dying of the Light, set the tone for some of his future work; it unfolds on a mostly abandoned planet that is slowly becoming uninhabitable as it moves away from its sun. This story has a strong sense of melancholy. His characters are often unhappy or, at least, unsatisfied, in many cases holding on to idealisms in spite of an otherwise chaotic and ruthless world, and often troubled by their own self-seeking or violent actions, even as they undertake them. Many have elements of tragic heroes or antiheroes in them; reviewer T. M. Wagner writes: "Let it never be said Martin doesn't share Shakespeare's fondness for the senselessly tragic."
The overall gloominess of A Song of Ice and Fire can be an obstacle for some readers; the Inchoatus Group writes that, "If this absence of joy is going to trouble you, or you're looking for something more affirming, then you should probably seek elsewhere." However, for many fans, it is precisely this level of "realness" and "completeness"–including many characters' imperfections, moral and ethical ambiguity, and (often sudden) consequential plot twists–that is endearing about Martin's work. Many find that this is what makes the series' story arcs compelling enough to keep following despite its sheer brutality and intricately messy and interwoven plotlines; as TM Wagner points out:
There's great tragedy here, but there's also excitement, humor, heroism even in weaklings, nobility even in villains, and, now and then, a taste of justice after all. It's a rare gift when a writer can invest his story with that much humanity.
Martin's characters are multifaceted, each with intricate pasts, aspirations, and ambitions. Publishers Weekly writes of his ongoing epic fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire: "The complexity of characters such as Daenerys, Arya and the Kingslayer will keep readers turning even the vast number of pages contained in this volume, for the author, like Tolkien or Jordan, makes us care about their fates." Misfortune, injury, and death (including false death and reanimation) often befall major or minor characters, no matter how attached the reader has become. Martin has described his penchant for killing off important characters as being necessary for the story's depth: "when my characters are in danger, I want you to be afraid to turn the page, (so) you need to show right from the beginning that you're playing for keeps".
In distinguishing his work from others, Martin makes a point of emphasizing realism and plausible social dynamics above an over-reliance on magic and a simplistic "good versus evil" dichotomy, which contemporary fantasy writing is often criticized for. Notably, Martin's work makes a sharp departure from the prevalent "heroic knights and chivalry" schema that has become a mainstay in fantasy as derived from The Lord of the Rings series of J.R.R. Tolkien. He specifically critiques the oversimplification of Tolkien's themes and devices by imitators in ways that he has humorously described as "Disneyland Middle Ages", which gloss over or even ignore major differences between medieval and modern societies, particularly social structures, ways of living, and political arrangements. Martin has been described as "the American Tolkien" by literary critics. While Martin finds inspiration in Tolkien's legacy, he aims to go beyond what he sees as Tolkien's "medieval philosophy" of "if the king was a good man, the land would prosper" to delve into the complexities, ambiguities, and vagaries of real-life power: "We look at real history and it's not that simple ... Just having good intentions doesn't make you a wise king."
The author makes a point of grounding his work on a foundation of historical fiction, which he channels to evoke important social and political elements of primarily the European medieval era that differ markedly from elements of modern times, including the multigenerational, rigid, and often brutally consequential nature of the hierarchical class system of feudal societies that is in many cases overlooked in fantasy writing. Even as A Song of Ice and Fire is a fantasy series that employs magic and the surreal as central to the genre, Martin is keen to ensure that magic is merely one element of many that moves his work forward, not a generic deus ex machina that is itself the focus of his stories, which is something he has been very conscious about since reading Tolkien; "If you look at The Lord of the Rings, what strikes you, it certainly struck me, is that although the world is infused with this great sense of magic, there is very little onstage magic. So you have a sense of magic, but it's kept under very tight control, and I really took that to heart when I was starting my own series." Martin's ultimate aim is an exploration of the internal conflicts that define the human condition, which, in deriving inspiration from William Faulkner, he ultimately describes as the only reason to read any literature, regardless of genre.
Martin actively contributes to his blog, Not a Blog. He still does all his "writing on an old DOS machine running Wordstar 4.0".
Martin is known for his regular attendance through the decades at science fiction conventions and comics conventions, and his accessibility to fans. In the early 1980s, critic and writer Thomas Disch identified Martin as a member of the "Labor Day Group", writers who regularly congregated at the annual Worldcon, usually held on or around the Labor Day weekend. Since the early 1970s, he has also attended regional science fiction conventions, and since 1986 Martin has participated annually in Albuquerque's smaller regional convention Bubonicon, near his New Mexico home. He was the Guest of Honor at the 61st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, held in 2003.
In December 2016, Martin was a key speaker at the Guadalajara International Book Fair 2016 in Mexico where the author provided hints about the next two books in the series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Martin's official fan club is the "Brotherhood Without Banners", which has a regular posting board at the Forum of the website westeros.org, which is focused on his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. At the annual World Science Fiction Convention every year, the BWB hosts a large, on-going hospitality suite that is open to all members of the Worldcon; their suite frequently wins by popular vote the convention's best party award.
Martin has been criticized by some of his readers for the long periods between books in the Ice and Fire series, notably the six-year gap between the fourth volume, A Feast for Crows (2005), and the fifth volume, A Dance with Dragons (2011). The previous year, in 2010, Martin had responded to fan criticisms by saying he was unwilling to write only his Ice and Fire series, noting that working on other prose and compiling and editing different book projects have always been part of his working process. Writer Neil Gaiman famously wrote on his blog in 2009 to a critic of Martin's pace, "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch." Gaiman later went on to state that writers are not machines and that they have every right to work on other projects if they want to.
Martin is opposed to fan fiction, which he views as copyright infringement and a bad exercise for aspiring writers in terms of developing skills in world-building and character development.
In the early 1970s, Martin was in a relationship with fellow science-fiction/fantasy author Lisa Tuttle, with whom he co-wrote Windhaven.
While attending an East Coast science fiction convention he met his first wife, Gale Burnick; they were married in 1975, but the marriage ended in divorce, without issue, in 1979. On February 15, 2011, Martin married his longtime partner Parris McBride during a small ceremony at their Santa Fe home. On August 19, 2011, they held a larger wedding ceremony and reception at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, in Reno, Nevada.
He and his wife Parris are supporters of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in New Mexico. In early 2013, he purchased Santa Fe's Jean Cocteau Cinema and Coffee House, which had been closed since 2006. He had the property completely restored, including both its original 35 mm capability to which was added digital projection and sound; the Cocteau officially reopened for business on August 9, 2013. Martin has also supported Meow Wolf, an arts collective in Santa Fe, having pledged $2.7 million towards a new art-space in January 2015.
In response to a question on his religious views, Martin replied: "I suppose I'm a lapsed Catholic. You would consider me an atheist or agnostic. I find religion and spirituality fascinating. I would like to believe this isn't the end and there's something more, but I can't convince the rational part of me that makes any sense whatsoever."
Martin is a fan of the New York Jets and the New York Mets. He is also a fan of the Grateful Dead, and says that the Dead's music may have influenced his work.
Martin made a guest appearance as himself in an episode, "El Skeletorito", of the Adult Swim show Robot Chicken. He also appeared in SyFy's Z Nation as a zombie version of himself in season two's "The Collector", where he is still signing copies of his new novel. He also appeared in the documentary Atari: Game Over.
In 2014, Martin launched a high-profile campaign on Prizeo to raise funds for two charities: Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe. As part of the campaign, Martin offered one donor the chance to accompany him on a trip to the wolf sanctuary, including a helicopter ride and dinner. Martin also offered those donating $20,000 or more the opportunity to have a character named after them in an upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire novel and "killed off". The campaign garnered significant media attention and raised a total of $502,549.
Growing up, Martin avoided the draft to the Vietnam War by being a conscientious objector and did two years of alternative service. He generally opposes war and thought the Vietnam War was a "terrible mistake for America." He also opposes the idea of the glory of war and tries to realistically describe war in his books.
In 2014, Martin endorsed Senator Tom Udall.
In the midst of pressure to pull the 2014 feature film The Interview from theatres, the Jean Cocteau Theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which has been owned by Martin since 2013, decided to show the film. Theatre manager Jon Bowman told the Santa Fe New Mexican: "As a movie theater, we are not just involved in the entertainment business. We are involved in the First Amendment business, protecting our freedoms".
On November 20, 2015, writing on his LiveJournal, Martin advocated for allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. He supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 United States presidential election, and criticized Donald Trump following her defeat in the election.1975 Hugo Award for Best Novella for "A Song for Lya"
1979 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for "Sandkings"
1980 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Sandkings" (This is Martin's only story to win both a Hugo and a Nebula.)
1980 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "The Way of Cross and Dragon"
1985 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for "Portraits of His Children"
1988 Bram Stoker Award for Long Fiction for "The Pear-Shaped Man"
1989 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella for "The Skin Trade"
1997 Hugo Award for Best Novella for "Blood of the Dragon"
2003 Premio Ignotus for Best Foreign Novel for A Game of Thrones
2004 Premio Ignotus for Best Foreign Novel for A Clash of Kings
2003 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel for A Storm of Swords
2006 Premio Ignotus for Best Foreign Novel for A Storm of Swords
2011 Locus Award for Best Original Anthology for Warriors (co-edited with Gardner Dozois)
Declared by Time "One of the Most Influential People of 2011"
2012 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel for A Dance with Dragons
2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form for Game of Thrones, Season 1 (co-executive producer)
2012 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement
2013 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form for Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 9, "Blackwater" (screenwriter)
2014 Locus Award for Best Original Anthology for Old Mars (co-edited with Gardner Dozois)
2015 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series - Game of Thrones, Season 5 (co-executive producer)
2015 Northwestern University Medill Hall of Achievement Award
2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series - Game of Thrones, Season 6 (co-executive producer)
1988 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Beauty and the Beast (as producer)
1989 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Beauty and the Beast (as producer)
2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones, Season 1 (co-executive producer)
2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones, Season 2 (co-executive producer)
2013 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones, Season 3 (co-executive producer)
2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones, Season 4 (co-executive producer)
2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones, Season 6 (co-executive producer)
1997 Nebula Award for Best Novel for A Game of Thrones
1999 Nebula Award for Best Novel for A Clash of Kings
2001 Nebula Award for Best Novel for A Storm of Swords
2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for A Storm of Swords
2006 Hugo Award for Best Novel for A Feast for Crows
2006 Quill Award for A Feast for Crows
British Fantasy Award for A Feast for Crows
2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel for A Dance with Dragons