March 2014 - Cover Story: George R.R. Martin
Many have witnessed the thrill of the HBO series Game of Thrones. But there are those who have been fans for years because of the writer, the 5'6" bearded legend we know as Martin - George R.R. Martin. Going as far back as 1971, George has been writing science fiction for the mass. He began with publishing more then fifty short stories by 1977. His first novel was published in 1977, hitting a total of four by the early eighties. The fourth novel called The Armageddon Rag was a contemporary novel set in the 1980's. It got great reviews, but it was a commercial disaster. With a black mark on his record, he couldn’t find a publisher who would touch him.
“Luckily for me when that door was closing, another door was opening in Hollywood,” shared Martin.
The book that almost ended his career was optioned for a film adaptation. Although the movie was never made, it introduced George to movie making. CBS at the time was looking to bring back The Twilight Zone. The shows producer turned to science fiction writers to create scripts for the shows, even writers with no screenwriting experience. Martin did a script for the show, followed by another, and then, before he knew it, he was on staff out in Los Angeles. He never left Santa Fe, needing a calm place to call home. Working in Los Angeles was an amazing time and he worked with some marvelous people, but he wanted to come back and live in New Mexico.
After his time in Hollywood, he decided it was time to put his own shows in development. It was a time of learning in his life. In Hollywood, you can pour a year of your life into developing characters and a story, and, through no fault of your own, they will kill your show idea. Martin decided, at that point, he needed an audience that he could entertain. He wanted to create things that people could enjoy, no matter what four guys in suits had to say. With this in mind, he went back to his first love - writing. He put his effort into writing Ice and Fire, which became Game of Thrones, currently playing on HBO. After five years of trying to write something that would turn into a TV show, his most long and complicated work becomes a hit. Martin loves the way the show has turned out, being that the books are his babies. Each one is about 1500 words. These take him years to write, so he found a great team - David Benioff and D.B. Wiess - to handle the majority of the show's writing. They write about seven, out of the ten, episodes a season. He does write one script a season for the show. He wishes they could run for twelve episodes so that they could get more of the books into the show itself.
Martin continues to be an acclaimed writer and is now a theater owner. He re-opened the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2013. The theater had originally opened in the 1970's and George had watched many movies there in his time. Citing his main reasons - one of them being they had the best popcorn in all of Santa Fe - the darkened theater sitting empty made him sad. After months of wondering why someone wasn’t reopening the theater, he realized he should be the one to take on the challenge. Now, they show movies, music, and magicians in the theater. If you’re lucky, you can catch the showings of Game of Thrones. “A little piece of Santa Fe history and the Santa Fe community bought back to life," says Martin, who is involved in picking out what comes through the theater, but most of the decision runs through Jon who manages the theater. Jon has ties with the film community in Santa Fe and sets up great finds for everyone, of every taste, to come and enjoy at the theater. “I occasionally chime in from the owner’s box and say I want to see Red Planet,” jokes Martin. "We opened with my favorite science fiction movie and we had Robbie the Robot here.” In case there are a few of you out there who are not into theater, they also have book signings and author events from time to time at the theater. There is no excuse if you live in Santa Fe to miss out on this little theater.
When Martin has some down time, he spends it with his wife, Parris, who both offer support to The Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in New Mexico. He also does a lot of reading these days and science fiction & fantasy has been his go-to for literature. It started at a very young age with comic books and has just continued to grow. Nickel paperbacks to full novels, he has never been able to kick his habit. He likes to throw in a good mystery, or historical fiction, every once in a while.
When asked what he would like his legacy to be, he turned to one of his most inspired writers, J. R. R. Tolkien. "I think every writer dreams that his books will last. That's what I hope of." says Martin. “I was very flattered a number of years ago when People magazine called me the ‘American Tolkien’ because I'm a huge fan. I read him in high school. He was the man who redefined modern fantasy. Just being mentioned in the same reference as him is a great compliment. And if my books are read 100 years after I wrote them and I can become a candidate of fantasy like Tolkien's books have, that would be enough legacy for me.” He has a goal for the theater as well. “I hope that the Jean Cocteau will last. I hope the revived Cocteau last another 22 years where people can watch movies, listen to music and eat our popcorn, which is still the best popcorn in New Mexico, with real butter!”
George R.R. Martin is a multitalented individual who puts his heart and soul into everything he does, hoping to entertain people along the way. Make sure you check out the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe and enjoy the hit series Game of Thrones on the big screen or pick up the book. Either way, you will step into a world beyond your wildest imagination