Today's post continues my series on who influences my writing. You can read my write up of the previous posts here on Robert E. Howard and here on Glen Cook.

George R. R. Martin is a man who has had his hands in several different areas of literature. He’s written short stories, novellas, standalone novels, series, screenplays, television scripts and pilots, etc. He’s written in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. On top of all of this he’s also edited many anthologies as well as the ongoing Wild Card series.

That being said, his most popular work is the Song of Ice and Fire series. It had already sold millions of copies before HBO decided to bring the work to TV. Now, it is even popular among those unfamiliar with the fantasy genre. However, within the science fiction/fantasy community you’ll find few who haven’t read something by George R. R. Martin. And most new authors in the last 15-20 years have cited him as one of their influences. He helped change the overall tone of the genre to something that more accurately reflects the real world, with various shades of gray rather than the standard black and white characters.

The Song of Ice and Fire series was actually the second fantasy series I read after making my way through several of Robert E. Howard’s books. I remembered reading Game of Thrones (the first book) and thinking to myself how insanely different it was than anything else I’ve ever read, regardless of genre. Though some his books are stronger than others, each one blows me away on some level. I’ve read each of the books twice at this point and actually enjoyed them more the second time around as you start to pick up on things cleverly foreshadowed very early in the series that didn’t pay off until much later.

Martin does many things well as a writer but two in particular stand out to me. One of these things is his genius at weaving a ridiculously complicated plot together while juggling hundreds of subplots within the overall narrative. Again, I appreciated it more on the second read through. The second thing and probably his greatest strength as a writer are his characters. Each Point of View’s voice is completely unique and the minor characters all feel just as real as the major characters. It really blows my mind the voice and personality he can impart on an individual with just a few sentences.

Now, the biggest knock on Martin is that he is a slow writer and on top of that takes on too many projects at once. Considering his last book was over 420,000 words, most of his fans are upset that he doesn’t focus all his effort on the Song of Ice and Fire series while putting aside the other projects until the series is complete.

I can see the point fans make but I guess I find solace in knowing that even if the series is never completed, the first few books are so good and influential, it’s worth it. How often do you hear someone say that a series without an ending is that good? Ha.

Here are a few snippets from his books:
A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good. Each should have its own reward.

We hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.

The Sorrowful Men were an ancient sacred guild of assassins, so named because they always whispered, "I am so sorry" to their victims before they killed them. The Qartheen were nothing if not polite.

"Arya, what did you think to do with this . . . Needle? Who did you hope to skewer? Your sister? Septa Mordane? Do you know the first thing about sword fighting?"

All she could think of was the lesson Jon had given her. "Stick them with the pointy end," she blurted out.

"Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" he heard his own voice saying, small and far away.

And his father's voice replied to him. "That is the only time a man can be brave."

“So many vows … they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or another.”

“I swear to you, sitting a throne is a thousand times harder than winning one.”

“People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up.”

“Every once in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold.”

Unfortunately, those few snippets don’t do his writing justice. Just do yourself a favor, buy and read Game of Thrones. It’s worth your time and money.

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One Response so far.

  1. Mike says:

    Good read, but I have a question: How much longer do I have to wait for the post about J.K. Rowling?!?!

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