All These Stories

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

George R.R. Martin started writing A Game of Thrones after moving to Santa Fe:

I was living in Dubuque, Iowa, in the seventies. I was teaching college. And I’d been writing since I was a kid but I started selling in ’71 and had pretty immediate success in a limited way. I was selling everything I wrote. I did short stories for six years and sold my first novel and got a nice payment for my first novel. In 1977 a friend of mine, a brilliant writer, he was like ten years older than me, his name was Tom Reamy, he had won a John Campbell Award for best new writer in his field. He was a little older, he was in his forties, so he’d started writing older than other people, but he’d been a science fiction fan for a long time. Lived in Kansas City. Tom died of a heart attack just a few months after winning the award for best new writer in his field. He was found slumped over his typewriter, seven pages into a new story. Instant. Boom. Killed him. We weren’t super close. I knew him from conventions and I’d admired his writing. But Tom’s death had a profound effect on me, because I was in my early thirties then. I’d been thinking, as I taught, well, I have all these stories that I want to write, all these novels I want to write, and I have all the time in the world to write them, ‘cause I’m a young guy, and then Tom’s death happened, and I said, Boy. Maybe I don’t have all the time in the world. Maybe I’ll die tomorrow. Maybe I’ll die ten years from now. Am I still teaching? I really liked teaching, actually. I was pretty good at it. I was teaching journalism and English and occasionally they would let me teach a science fiction course at this little college in Iowa, Clark College, a Catholic girls’ college. But teaching used up a lot of emotional energy. I would write a few short stories over Christmas break and more stuff over summer break. But I didn’t have time.

I had finished one novel before I took the teaching job and I didn’t know when I would write a second novel. After Tom’s death, I said, “You know, I gotta try this. I don’t know if I can make a living as a full-time writer or not, but who knows how much time I have left? I don’t want to die ten years from now or twenty years from now and say I never told the stories I wanted to tell because I always thought I could do it next week or next year. Maybe I’ll starve to death but then I’ll go back and get another job, if it doesn’t work out.”

Once I handed in my notice, then I said, “Well, I don’t have to stay in Dubuque, Iowa anymore. I can live any place I want.” And in that particular time Dubuque had just had some very, very harsh winters, and I was tired of shoveling out my car out from being buried in snow. I think a lot of the stuff in A Game of Thrones, the snow and ice and freezing, comes from my memories of Dubuque. And I’d seen Santa Fe the previous year while going to a convention in Phoenix, and I loved New Mexico. It was so beautiful. So I decided I would sell my house in Iowa and move to New Mexico. And I’ve never looked back.

George R.R. Martin is not a young man, and A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t done yet.


  1. Al Fin says:

    Martin has clout now where he didn’t before. That’s important for a writer growing old. If he had started the series 20 years earlier, it would probably not have been quite as dark, would have had tighter plot lines, would not have diverged so quickly or so badly, and consequently would have been easier to “finish.”

    Brian Sanderson finished Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. There are plenty of good fantasy writers out there who could probably finish Martin’s series more satisfactorily to most readers than Martin himself could do at this stage.

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