It’s like these ideas, these characters, kind of bubble up inside me, and one day they’re not there, and the next day they are there. They’re alive, and they’re whispering in my head and all that stuff, and I want to write about those things.George R.R. Martin
That’s what George R.R. Martin, author of a series of immensely popular and long-running doorstopper high fantasy novels that have been turned into the immensely popular and long-running television series Game of Thrones, had to say (in part) when asked how he had managed to stick with that setting and array of characters for over two decades.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books or their small-screen adaptation and regardless of whether you think that Martin will recede into obscurity in the near future (joining the legions of
writers nobody reads) or you believe that his oeuvre will stand the test of time, it’s invariably interesting to hear what a creator of GRRM‘s stature has to say about their process.
The most interesting bits of the interview are naturally the places where Martin, rather than constraining himself to narrowly answering the questions posed to him by Charlie Jane Anders or discussing the nitty gritty details of particular fictional characters, sets off on brief tangents. For example, when asked whether he was at that time merely fleshing out plot ideas he’d originally hatched twenty years earlier, he spoke instead about having amassed ideas for more tales than he will ever realistically, in the years left to him, be able to turn into finished stories and novels:
You know, I dream up a lot of things, but I don’t necessarily write them all. I have idea files of books that I want to write one of these days, stories I want to write one of these days, but I’ll probably never get to them. Some have been in those files for 40 years. I don’t know, it’s always what do you feel like writing on the particular day that you’re working on it.
The discussion, thanks in no small part to GRRM’s digressions, touches on a wide range of topics that feature in (but are by no means unique to) a writer’s life. The central importance of disciplining oneself to finish one’s projects resonates with anyone who makes things, whether the things in question are fantasy novels, software applications, hand-hewn wooden tables, or robot prototypes:
I had, very early in my career, even before I was a professional writer — I’m going back now to my fanzine days in the 60s and 70s — I was very prone to starting stories and never finishing. I’d have some great idea and I would start a story, and I’d write a few pages, five pages, ten pages, and it would never be as good as when it was in my head. It was this incredible thing, I put it on paper, and it was never as good as I imagined it to be. Then I’d think of some other idea, and I’d go,Yeah, that one would be really magical.And I’d put aside the half-finished one.
We hope that we’ve managed to sufficiently whet your appetite that you’ll want to read the interview in its entirety.
Though we at Accella haven’t (yet!) read any of George R.R. Martin’s works with our students, we have come reasonably close — J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit counts as epic fantasy, right? — and we strive to ensure that the young people with whom we work are exposed to the entire gamut of literary genres. Consequently, at any given moment, the list of books currently being digested in our classes is liable to be eclectic in the extreme. As we prepare to publish this very post, for example, our higher-level students have just begun reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, an eerily-prescient-in-some-respects near-future/post-economic-collapse/anarcho-capitalist thrill ride, and we’re gearing up to delve into Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, a book by Caldecott and Newberry honoree Joyce Sidman that pairs poems with bite-sized science-fact essays to rhapsodize and inform readers about a bewilderingly diverse array of some of Earth’s hardiest but perhaps also most easily overlooked lifeforms.
The brief video clip that tops this blog entry features Adrian W. using the heat of his palm to drive the volatile liquid in a
hand boiler toy from its lower to its upper bulb.