George R.R. Martin, well-known as the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, spoke at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday about The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien and fantasy literature.
GRRM is well-known as a “friendly critic” of Tolkien. Although he has criticised some plot elements in the past, Martin has always spoken of the significant influence J.R.R. Tolkien has had on his own writing. In the interview yesterday, Martin said:
I revere Lord of the Rings, I reread it every few years, it had an enormous effect on me as a kid. In some sense, when I started this saga I was replying to Tolkien, but even more to his modern imitators.
He then went on to talk about how Tolkien can be the father of modern fantasy but how other authors had undermined it:
But they cheapened it. The audience were being sold degraded goods. I thought: “This is not how it should be done.” Writers would take the structure of medieval times – castles, princesses, etc – but writing it from a 20th-century point of view. I wanted to combine the wonder and image of Tolkien fantasy with the gloom of historical fiction.
Martin also commented on the prejudice against science fiction.
There’s a lot of prejudice against science fiction, particularly against genre fiction. And it’s still there but it’s not nearly what it was. I think these things are breaking down. Literary fiction in its present form is a genre itself and we should recognise it as that. The real test is what books are going to survive. Tolkien has certainly survived. All you can do is write the best story you can and put it in the hands of posterity. The fact that people are arguing about my books is a sign that I take very well. A writer’s real enemy is obscurity.