George R. R. Martin, best known for his work on the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Games of Thrones), has gained widespread attention since his works were adapted for HBO. In such limelight, the author has revealed himself to be just as colorful and interesting as the characters he writes. His trademark untamed beard and deep laugh as distinguished as Daenerys’s dragons and Tyrion’s nose (or lack thereof).
Less widely known, Martin has also dabbled in short fiction and now comic books. His novella Skin Trade, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella in 1989, was first published in the short story compilation Dark Visions alongside the work of Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The novella, a great take on the werewolf mythos, has recently been adapted into comic book form. At The Con, Martin was on hand to discuss the Skin Trade adaptation, his affinity for the horror & sci-fi genres and potential film adaptations. For a full recap of the panel, hit the jump.
- Martin on the origin of Skin Trade: Martin was working in Hollywood on the television show Beauty and the Beast when he was asked to contribute to an anthology of horror shorts called Night Visions. The only requirement was that he had to write 30,000 words. Martin had just finished his most successful novel to-date: Fevre Dream, a revisionist take on the vampire mythos. The popularity and success of that book convinced Martin that he could potentially do the same for the werewolf genre. And thus Skin Trade, which focuses on an “asthmatic, hypochondriac and not very formidable werewolf,” was born. Martin laments that he always thought the story “had an even greater potential for the visual medium.” At one point, the story was optioned for television but nothing ever materialized. Its newfound adaptation to the comic visual medium seemed to please the author greatly.
- Martin on why he didn’t write the comic adaptation for Skin Trade himself (the novella has been adapted by Daniel Abraham and illustrated by Mike Wolfer): “Because I still have to write these giant novels. Every time I say I’m going to take a break and work on something else, a mob organizes outside my home,” Martin semi-joked. Martin compared the comic adaptation to his experience working on The Twilight Zone (1986 edition). “Twilight Zone was my first Hollywood job. Philip [DeGuere] decided to employ a lot of prose writers [on the show]. Alan Brennert. Harlan Ellison. Myself… Phil gave us one rule—[the show] will adapt your shorts but you can’t write your own adaptation.” This taught Martin the value in letting another person revise his work. Martin added that adapting his own work has no interest to him because he’s already written it all before. Bringing in another perspective gives the piece new life.
- On his own affinity for comic books: Martin revealed that the first words he ever wrote appeared in a Fantastic Four comic. It was a letter the then thirteen-year-old author had written to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee telling them how much he loved the Fantastic Four series. Martin later stated that he was actually present at the first comic book convention. In 1964, it was held at one room for one day in Grenich, NY. There were about thirty people there. The organizer of the event would later tell Martin that he was actually the first person to buy a ticket for the event. “Thus I was the first comic book fan,” Martin quipped.
- Martin on what makes a successful comic: Writing comics is very similar to writing a screenplay or teleplay. The amount of detail in the writing of the script is what separates comics from each other. There are comic writers, much like screenwriters, who will detail every blow of a fight scene and there are others who will just write ‘and then they fight.’ Martin compared the craft to his time writing on the television show Beauty and the Beast. There was a character introduced in the later seasons—an unscrupulous real estate developer modeled after Donald Trump. A writer of an episode featuring the character had failed to properly describe his office—merely stating INT. OFFICE and then nothing afterwards. The set department built and decorated a fairly rundown office, not realizing the character was incredibly wealthy and thus should have an opulent office. Specificity in details is paramount to good writing for all mediums. Television or comic – the rules remain the same
- Martin on the horror genre: “I’ve always thought of them as monster stories, not horror… Horror, sci-fi and fantasy have always been interchangeable to me. My dad called it ‘the weird stuff.’ “ Martin then recounted his earliest exposure to the horror genre. He picked up a collection of shorts titled Boris Karloff’s Favorite Horror Stories. Within the book there was a short by H.P. Lovecraft called Haunter of the Dark. After that, Martin was hooked and sought out all of H.P. Lovecraft’s books. “There’s something about Lovecraft’s prose that is so terrifying. There’s no blood or gore – but the words themselves [that are terrifying].”
- Martin on film adaptations of his work: Currently an independent producer has the rights to Skin Trade. Martin added that casting would be everything for a hypothetical film adaptation – maybe if they could get “Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy or Steve Buscemi [as the werewolf]…” Martin also added that he would love to see Fevre Dream be made into a movie. He had a meeting with a director at Comic-Con to discuss its production. Despite some prodding, Martin would not reveal the name of the filmmaker.