Author George R.R. Martin doesn't think he'll ever approach the kind of success he had with the HBO series Game of Thrones in TV again. Don't worry, though, he's not letting this slow him down, not even for a moment. If anything he's busier than ever, and he's got a lot to say about TV, film, and life before the internet.
Speaking on the podcast Maltin on Movies, film critic Leonard Matlin and his daughter Jessie engaged in a lively and far-reaching interview with the legendary author. The interview included a discussion about what it's like to watch your creation turn into a cultural icon before your eyes. On the show's massive success, Martin said, “It’s not something anyone could ever anticipate, not something I expect to ever experience again.”
Martin is reportedly working on multiple series for HBO, include three Game of Thrones successor shows that he briefly discussed on his blog back in May. Martin wrote, “The one I am not supposed to call The Long Night will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer. What are they about? I cannot say. But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of Fire & Blood and come up with your own theories.”
Martin took time during the interview to reflect on GoT's success and numerous accolades, including its numerous Emmy Awards. Martin took time to praise HBO for giving the series the budget required to make the epic fantasy work. He also praised the unsung heroes of the show, the extras, costume and set designers who he believes were crucial to making the fantasy world convincing.
Leonard Maltin then hit the rewind button to talk about something the pair have in common. Both he and Martin started out in the world of fanzines. A fanzine is basically an amateur magazine created by fans, for fans. As a big comic book fan, Martin says he was mostly interested in creating comic book fanzines. Both men credit the fanzine for helping to connect them with other like-minded people and fans from all over the world, not an easy task pre-internet!
On online culture, Martin said, "Now, of course, the internet has taken that up several orders of magnitude. Now you can tweet and Facebook, but I don't know that's an improvement! The internet is toxic in a way that the old fanzine culture and the fandoms -- the comic fandom and science fiction fandom -- of those days was not. There were disagreements and there were feuds, but nothing like the sort of madness you see on the internet."
Martin talked about the first story he sold in 1970 to Galaxy Magazine, called "The Hero," for $94 at the age of 21. The author has no qualms about discussing the often difficult life of a writer, including holding down a day job. Martin took several teaching jobs in Chicago and Iowa before briefly settling in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Shortly thereafter, Martin ended up in Hollywood, where he spent a decade working in television, where he worked on series like The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast for CBS. Martin talked about the difficult nature of telling stories for television: "You want to tell your story your own way, and there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. The cooks who write the checks ultimately have the most power."
The author ultimately left Hollywood after five years of having screenplays rejected or canceled for one reason or another. He returned to his home in Santa Fe and started work on a little series called Game of Thrones. Martin speaks regularly and openly about the process of writing, including all the failures and rejection that come along with it.
As the interview progresses, we hear Martin regale us with how GoT got picked up as a TV series and how he had to relinquish creative control to others to see the book properly translated for TV. That job fell to showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. When it comes to the topic of TV, Martin never has a shortage of things to say: "Television has become the place where drama is, and movies have become the space for spectacle."
One thing Martin clearly feels passionately about is how people come by a good story. "There are different ways of approaching what ultimately is the story. The story exists apart from the medium. Going all the way back then to my beginnings, I was a comic book fan. That was the fandom I was involved in, writing superhero stories for little comic fanzines," he said.
The interview took place at The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A longtime film buff, Martin decided to purchase and remodel the theater. While he admits they may not have the largest screen of any movie theater, he does say, "We still have the best popcorn in town."
You can listen to the complete interview here: Maltin on Movies.