In celebration of the inaugural Harris Collection Literary Award this past Thursday, the Brown University Library organization awarded and interviewed author George R.R. Martin and publisher Tom Doherty. While Tom Doherty, founder of Tor Books, is renowned in the world of fantasy novel publishing, it was Martin who attracted crowds of students and Providence residents alike.
Martin, a plump man with a friendly face, talked about his upbringing in Bayonne, New Jersey and his childhood love of comic books nearly as often as he mentioned the famous book series that has launched him to international fame. Yet his reputation and popularity were clear; the Salomon auditorium was approaching full capacity thirty minutes before the event and the following reception was crowded with fans.
That famous book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which began in 1991 and has gained a resurgence in popularity since the arrival of its HBO television adaption, Game of Thrones, was the hot topic of the night. Not unlike the comic books he loved so much as a child, Martin’s book series has become a franchise in its own right, producing not only a television series, but action figures, pop-up museums and board games.
Yet Martin does not consider this franchising to be a slight on his product, even going as far to say “Fitzgerald would’ve sold it in a minute.” He spoke on his conditions of approvals and notes before the releasing of a franchise product, even mentioning early disputes with HBO over such rights that could have endangered the television show.
The book series, along with Game of Thrones, has become famous for its unexpected deaths and atypical storytelling techniques. Martin has been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien, though he expressed his resistance to reusing the Lord of the Rings author’s images and tropes unlike many other fantasy writers.
Instead, he utilized techniques picked up from his screenwriting days during which he worked on shows such as Beauty and the Beast and Twilight Zone. “Each chapter leaves you wanting more,” Martin said of his novels, which are lauded for their usage of numerous point-of-view characters and usage of suspense.