Medill inducted George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire books that spawned the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones, into the Medill Hall of Achievement Wednesday at the McCormick Foundation Center Forum. The Hall of Achievement, established in 1997, inducts less than one percent of Medill alumni, according to remarks made by Dean Brad Hamm at the 11 a.m. event.
Martin, a New York Times bestseller who has received multiple awards for his science fiction and fantasy writing, graduated from Medill in 1970 with a bachelor’s of science in journalism. He then received his master’s of science in journalism from Medill in 1971.
George R.R. Martin just entered the room with Starbucks in hand...I identify with that. #GRRMatMedill— Natalie Escobar (@_NatalieEscobar) November 4, 2015
The induction included short speeches from both Hamm and Martin, followed by a Q&A panel. Topics ranged from Martin’s time in Hollywood (“These are careers where you’re only as successful as your last book or as your last TV show”) to his favorite ASoIaF viewpoint character to write (Tyrion).
“Especially if you go the way I’ve gone, in writing fiction, or even working in TV and film,” Martin advised the assembled journalism students, “these are careers where there’s no security. I’ve been washed up at least twice in really a major way.”
He continued, “You need a great belief in yourself. You need a stubbornness. You need a persistence. And of course, it helps to be sensible with your money.”
Other secrets of Martin’s Medill career? The man once dubbed “the American Tolkien” never received a Medill F, but did receive frequent criticism for his “too cute” writing. He also founded Northwestern’s chess club (and later directed chess tournaments to pay the bills).
"You know, I think I've always been a psychopath." -George R.R. Martin on killing off characters #GRRMatMedill— Natalie Escobar (@_NatalieEscobar) November 4, 2015
However, the story that likely received the most applause was Martin’s reasoning for choosing magazine journalism.
“I actually majored in magazines rather than newspapers because even then, I wasn’t too good at this deadline thing,” he told the crowd, who cheered at the reference to his oft-delayed and much-anticipated sixth ASoIaF book.
Following the induction, Martin attended a private luncheon at Scott Hall, held a 4 p.m. Cahn Auditorium Q&A with the larger Northwestern community as well as went to dinner at President Morton Schapiro’s house. Martin will also be honored at the Saturday football game against Penn State.
Hamm promised that Northwestern’s marching band will play Game of Thrones's theme music.