I'm curious as to why everyone insists upon saying George R. R. Martin's two middle initials. Apparently nobody refers to him as George Martin, and those initials are seemingly inseparable from his name - indeed, I feel like I'm talking about a different person if I don't include the R. R.

Has GRRM stated he prefers to be known this way, or is it just because the name published on his books is invariably "George R. R. Martin"?

(I realise this is not sci-fi relevant, but GRRM does have his own tag.)

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    George Martin simply is a different person. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Martin So why create confusion by calling George R. R. Martin George Martin? – Mr Lister Aug 14 '14 at 8:50
  • @MrLister Sounds like the start of a good answer! – doppelgreener Aug 14 '14 at 8:51
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    Probably for the same reason you don't say John Tolkien or Joanne Rowling. It's kind of a trademark. – TARS Aug 14 '14 at 10:29
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    @ChristianRau I think J.K.Rowling was originally suggested by the publisher(?) as a way of hiding that she was a woman, because they thought boys wouldn't read a book written by a woman. (Or was it K.A.Applegate?) Whichever, there was indeed an original reason – Izkata Aug 14 '14 at 23:25
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    An author decides how to his/her name will be appear, and that is how it should be always used. George R. R. Martin is George R. R. Martin, Edgar Allan Poe is Edgar Allan Poe (not Edgar Poe, E. Poe, E. A. Poe etc), and k.d. lang is k.d. lang - you could ask a librarian for better examples and the rules around author names – jqa Aug 15 '14 at 0:51

(For an answer to the actual question (i.e. why do we call him that), see below.)

I spot two possible factors for why the “R. R.” version of his name is a better choice:

1. It sounds better

Martin himself noted in an interview that as an author, your name is your brand, and therefore having a memorable and unique one like “George R. R. Martin” is advantageous.

He states that his second middle initial comes from his confirmation name “Richard”, which he chose for himself at age 13 (in 1961/2) because his cousin was called Richard.

However — and this is pure speculation — Wikipedia notes that Martin was already writing (and selling!) somewhat mythical stories around this age, and was a voracious reader. Given that Lord of the Rings was published in 1954, it’s possible that J. R. R. Tolkien’s middle initials had some influence over this choice (though I haven’t found any actual evidence to support this).

At the very least, when aiming to successfully sell a complex series of fantasy novels involving several interwoven mythical storylines about kings, battles, monsters and destiny, it’s difficult to believe that no-one at Martin’s publishing company ever raised the idea that having your middle initials be “R. R.” could lead to some positive brand associations. (Although Martin was already publishing under the name “George R. R. Martin” long before the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series was published.)

 2. It avoids disappointing Beatles fans

As Mr Lister noted, George Martin is the name of a pretty famous record producer who signed The Beatles and was closely involved in making their records.

Although it’s not really in the same field, or indeed the same era of popular culture, in the age of Google the top result is everything, and second place is nowhere [citation needed].

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    Here's a fan letter GRRM wrote to Marvel's Fantastic Four in 1961. Interestingly enough, he signs it "George R Martin". – System Down Aug 14 '14 at 17:21
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    @SystemDown: that’s a great find. George, if you’re reading, we need to know when and why you switched. Sadly I’ve got the accepted answer and that clearly shouldn’t change but I’m sure we can get you some upvotes if you chime in. – Paul D. Waite Aug 14 '14 at 22:17
  • Your answer is still good! Just thought I'd add an interesting bit of trivia I ran across. – System Down Aug 14 '14 at 23:35
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    @SystemDown: I wonder if he wrote the letter before or after his confirmation. He turned 13 on 20th September 1961; Fantastic Four #17 (which the letter praises) was published August 10th, and #20 (in which the letter appears) on 10th November. Of course, we don’t know when his actual confirmation was, or at what point stuff like this just turns into stalking. – Paul D. Waite Aug 15 '14 at 7:06
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    It's all in the name of science. I'm sure he'll understand when we turn up outside his house with a pad of paper and pen, asking intimate details of his childhood. – Lou Sep 16 '14 at 12:19

Because the convention is to use the name of authors as given.

George R. R. Martin gives his name on the cover of the book as George R. R. Martin so that is what you call him. Had he put George R. Martin we'd call him that, instead. If he'd chosen G. R. Richard Martin, we'd use that. I think the accepted answer has the probable reasons why he chose to use these initials but that doesn't seem to me to be the question posed.

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    “I think the accepted answer has the probable reasons why he chose to use these initials but that doesn't seem to me to be the question posed.” — I think you’re spot on. I edited the question for clarity after writing my answer, and realised I kind of misunderstood what it was actually asking. – Paul D. Waite Aug 17 '14 at 9:28

There already is a rather famous George Martin, also known as "the fifth Beatle". There are others as well, so the initials are useful to distinguish the writer of A Song of Ice and Fire from the other Georges Martin out there.

Whether it was his own choice to use his initials thus and if so, why; I do not know of a source that answers this.

Community wiki answer since it was based on Mr Lister's comment.


Pen names with initials always look good (arguably better than their fully spelled-out forms), are easy to remember and recognize, and (being shorter) are cheaper to print and easier to throw around in articles and conversation. To cite a few from the top of my head:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • K.A. Applegate
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Arthur C. Clarke

However, per this interesting list, very few such pen names only abbreviate the middle bits.

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  • And there is historical precedent in sf to refer to authors by initials ERB or SRD are just two examples. – Neuromancer Aug 14 '14 at 16:45
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    To be fair, Applegate and Rowling deliberately used (or were made to use by their publishers) their initials to hide the fact that they are women. That sort of thing matters for the children's market where (publishers feel) boys might dismiss a book without giving it a chance because it's "written by a girl". Not sure why because it doesn't seem like it hurt Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary's sales. – Jay Aug 14 '14 at 20:07
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    @Jayraj: no way! Children aren't usually that judgemental. It's the adults that dismiss the book because it's written by a woman. – b_jonas Aug 14 '14 at 21:05
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    @b_jonas That's why I prefaced it with "publishers feel". And also acknowledged two women children's authors who did just fine without hiding behind initials. – Jay Aug 14 '14 at 21:16
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    @Jayraj Applegate and Rowling's target audience for Animorphs and Harry Potter were around the "girls are icky/have cooties" age (HP Book 1 was on the tail end when kids start to grow out of it), and if I recall correctly, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary's target ages were younger, before kids start acting like that – Izkata Aug 14 '14 at 23:30

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