Sunday, August 13, 2006

In Praise of George R. R. Martin

I've become a fan of George R. R. Martin. Strangely, I hadn't read him before completing Acacia: The War with the Mein. Actually, it had been a while since I'd read any fantasy, and most of the titles that inspired me were the classics of the genre: works by Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and some sci-fi like Frank Herbert's Dune. Author's like these had a lot to do with why I came to write a fantasy. Thing is, having finished my book, I started thinking I'd better catch up on what had been done in fantasy the last twenty years or so. For all I knew I'd rehashed themes that other writers had been working on since I was a teenager. I began sampling some of the better known authors in the genre.

Fortunately, I didn't find many other writers who approached their alternative world as I did. Quite a bit of what I read was disappointing, really, but from the first pages of A Game of Thrones. I knew I'd found something inspired. I ended up loving the book, and I look forward to carrying on with the series. I loved it that Martin wrote complex, conflicted, duplicitous characters living out their lives in a grand, expansive world. I loved it that unexpected tragedy could befall even the main characters. I loved it that sentence for sentence he's a solid, mature writer in control of craft, plot, dialogue. And I loved it that good and evil aren't delineated in black and white. This last point was particularly important to me. So it was reassuring to see that another writer had chosen to break out of the mold of so much fantasy - and that he'd managed to win a loyal (and massive) base of fans.

I noticed this quote on the subject in an interview George R. R. Martin gave to Publishers Weekly. He said...

"I wanted - in writing this series - to get away from the traditional good guys and bad guys cliches of so much of contemporary fantasy. I'm a huge fan of Tolkien, but some of the things he did very well, in lesser hands, the hands of his imitators, have become terrible weights on the field of fantasy. One of them is the notion of absolute good versus absolute evil, of a dark lord who's responsible for everything and is brooding there and sending forth his evil minions in order to plunge the entire world into darkness. The struggle between good and evil is certainly a legitimate topic; but that struggle is not waged against dark lords with evil minions. It's waged within the individual human heart. All of us have good and evil in us; the question is, what choices will we make when we're confronted with difficult and dangerous situations? That's the approach [to fantasy] that I wanted to take."

I'd say he succeeded at it brilliantly.

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Blogger Steve Allan said...

I have to agree with you that A Game of Thrones was a very good book. I first heard about Martin while watching some book panel on C-Span2 (How pathetic is that? I'm not even cool enough to watch C-Span 1). His name came up during a discussion that included Alice Sebold and Ian McEwan. This came at a time when I was saturated with crime fiction and needed a break. I wanted to read some fantasy, but was afraid that I would just find junk. I tried Robert Jordan's series a few years before, but I could not get into it and I didn't have high hopes of finding anything worthy of my delicate tastes. :) But I really enjoyed the first book and I look forward to reading the next one

12:22 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks for writing. I couldn't agree more. So nice to discover good writing and have more of it to look forward to. Reminds me of some of what inspired me to be a writer in the first place.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Steve Allan said...

Let me know when you read A Clash of Kings (that's the second one, right?). I hope it's as good as the first.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey david Jamie's friend Jim here.

HAve you read any Neal Stephenson?

Reading Quicksilver at the moment you might like it

7:24 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Nice to hear from you. Are you in Scotland? Just got a long email from Helen regarding the couple's exploits in New Zealand. Don't know if they're ever coming home...

Yes, I have read Stephenson and I'm a fan. I began Quicksilver and enjoyed it, but I had to back away because of other reading pressures. It's quite an undertaking. I have read Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, though. Enjoyed them both, particularly The Diamond Age.

I read an interview wherein Stephenson said writing historical fiction is much the same as sci-fi because of the importance of world building in both cases. I agree with him. That's part of why it didn't really feel that strange to shift from historical novels to a novel of an alternative world.

I trust you're still writing also?

12:05 PM  

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