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Entertainment / Comics / Feature / An Interview with George R. R. Martin (page 1)
An Interview with George R. R. Martin (page 1)

Feature by: Lodey
George R. R. Martin is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The best-selling series has earned rave reviews for revitalizing and perhaps revolutionizing a genre which has for so long been plagued by Tolkien copy-cats—those who have been re-mixing the tired ingredients of quests, reluctant spell-flinging heroes, bumbling enemies, and pure good triumphing over pure evil, for the past 50 years.

With A Game of Thrones, released in 1996, readers were given quick notice that this was not just another fantasy series. Hitting the mark with a daring style, Martin refused to treat his readers to a safe and controlled story. Instead, he empowered his audience at the same time freeing them—Martin didn’t tell his reader who to cheer for, and good and bad did not come in stark black and whites, but bloody reds, drab browns, and laughing blues. Through a well-orchestrated character point-of-view chapter system, Martin challenged readers to make up their own minds about good and evil and the perception of these ideas through actions and politics.

George R. R. Martin followed up A Game of Thrones with the second volume in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings, in 1998. The third, A Storm of Swords, was released in 2000. Martin is currently working on the fourth volume of the series, A Feast for Crows, due out in 2004.

"The Hedge Knight," a novella surrounding the characters Dunk and Egg, takes place roughly 90 years before the events in A Game of Thrones. The novella was published in the 1998 anthology Legends by Robert Silverberg, featuring tales from the top authors in the fantasy and science fiction genres, including Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, and Tad Williams, just to name a few.

GamePro: Can you give a little history on "The Hedge Knight" from a concept standpoint? How did you get the idea or the inkling to write this tale?

George R. R. Martin: I got a call from Robert Silverberg one day, and I had known him for a number of years. He told me he had sold an anthology called Legends, and the premise of it was intriguing; sort of an all-star anthology of the biggest names in fantasy, all writing in their established worlds, and he was inviting me to be a part of it. It felt like I was being chosen for the all-star team, and it was not something that you wanted to turn down. I leapt at it of course, and accepted the invitation.

I had to decide what I could write for it. To meet the premise, it had to be a story from the Ice and Fire universe. It could not be just a stand-alone fantasy story. I was still in the course of writing the books then, and I knew right away that I did not want to write anything that took place in the same time or after the books. There is just too great a danger of revealing things of how the main stories would come out, so it had to be a prequel. Then it was a matter of looking at my history and picking an appropriate age for it to occur. There were a number of good candidates. Westeros has had a pretty interesting history, but I thought the particular age I picked was a good one. I had the conception right then. I wanted to tell a series of stories of a young man, taking him through much of his life, from youth to his old age. I loved writing the tournament scenes in A Game of Thrones. There’s the Hand Tournament, when Ned is chosen to be Robert’s hand, and that was a lot of fun. I wanted to get back to the tournament setting and do it in a little more detail, with a few differences. That is kind of how it all came together.

GP: Is there another period in A Song of Ice and Fire you might want to write about in the future?

GM: It is always possible. Right now my plate is so full with Ice and Fire itself, and then I do want to write more tales of Dunk and Egg. I have a new one coming out fairly shortly now ("The Sworn Sword" for the upcoming anthology, Legends 2), and I have a number of more I want to write. One of them is partially written and others are still in the thinking stages. I am booked up for many years and I don’t know where I would fit in something else. There are other interesting stories to be told, certainly.

GP: Will these future Dunk & Egg stories be made into comics as well?

GM: It is possible. Right now, Roaring Studios has only licensed the rights to "The Hedge Knight." Everything really depends on whether "The Hedge Knight" is successful or not. If the comic does well enough, and they come back to me and want a license for "The Sworn Sword," I would certainly be willing to consider it. I think they’re doing a beautiful job in terms of the creative and aesthetic aspects. What still remains to be seen is whether anyone is going to buy this or not. If you know comic books at all, for many years now they have been dominated by the costume super hero. Other types of comic books are constantly being published, but not a lot of them sell well. Whether there is actually going to be a sizeable enough market for a fantasy comic book, I think it is something we are about to find out.

GP: In the future, will we see A Song of Ice and Fire in a comic book medium?

GM: Again, it is certainly possible. Although Ice and Fire would require a commitment of such monumental undertaking – many, many, many issues.

GP: Do you think that comic books, from an industry perspective, are as viable today as they were in years past? Has the popularity of home video gaming perhaps hurt the comic industry?

GM: I think the comic industry is in trouble. I don’t think there is any doubt of it. It is in terrible trouble. There are a variety of causes for that. Video gaming may be a part of the cause, but I don’t think it is the only cause, or even the principal one. It certainly may be a factor. This is a twenty-minute discourse here on what went wrong with comics. I think a lot of it has to do with distribution and the narrowing of the market. Comics have become a very narrow niche form of publishing, and not a mass-market form of publishing as they once were. Once upon a time, the best comic books sold millions of copies, and now, the most successful ones sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and many of them sell tens of thousands or thousands of copies, which is not a good sign.

The narrowing of focus is not a good sign, which "The Hedge Knight" is hopefully attempting to correct. I love super heroes, as you can tell from Wild Cards. I was a comics fan growing up, so I don’t have anything against super heroes. But, super heroes should not be the only kind of comic books. That’s like having a Baskin-Robbins where all you can get is vanilla. (laughs)

When I was a kid reading comic books, there were all kinds of comic books. There were romance comic books, Milly the Model comic books for girls, Archie, funny comic books and funny animal comic books. There were Hot Rod comic books. There were war comic books: Sergeant Rock, Sergeant Fury, and Enemy Ace, and all of those things. There were a variety of different genres: mystery comic books and science fiction comic books. Super heroes was a part of it, but it was only one part. Now it is all super heroes, and that is a very bad sign.

GP: With the current increase in movies surrounding super heroes, it looks like this trend will continue. Maybe "The Hedge Knight" will succeed in a comic book medium and then possibly in a film medium.

GM: I certainly hope "The Hedge Knight" comic does well. I don’t think its chances of being a movie are too good, but we’ll see.

GP: What types of video games, past or present, do you enjoy playing the most?

GM: I’ve played Pong in bars in the 70’s, Asteroids, Ms. Pac Man, and games like that. When we entered the computer age, I played primarily strategy games on my home computer. I liked Pirates, or Master of Orion, and Railroad Tycoon. I don’t play the kind of arcade games where you go in and sit in something and drive cars and shoot things. I tend not to play those at all, really. I haven’t played any of the massively multiplayer online role-playing games. They look like they might be interesting, but they also look like they would be a hellacious time-sink, and would make my books three years late – even later than they are now. (laughs) These things are fun…but sometimes you can have too much fun.

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