George R.R. Martin's 2001 Loss To J.K. Rowling Is Still A Sore Subject

Thirteen years after George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords” lost to J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” for Best Novel in the 2001 Hugo Awards, Martin’s fans and perhaps Martin himself are still bitter.

An old quote from Martin regarding the loss that appeared on a fan site recently went crazy on Reddit:

“Eat your heart out, Rowling,” Martin wrote. “Maybe you have billions of dollars and my Hugo, but you don’t have readers like these.”

In 2012, Martin, author of the
A Song of Ice and Fire” series (adapted for HBO as “Game of Thrones“), elaborated on his feelings. “I wish I have beaten her, what can I say! I would have liked to win that award and I don’t think Rowling cares much about it,” Martin told the blog Adria’s News. “And she didn’t send anyone to accept the award, which is certainly annoying.”

Posted by Reddit user gorgagon, the comment spurred a fierce debate generating more than 1,800 comments. Some called Martin’s attitude presumptuous.

But many stood up for him, like Reddit user greym84:

He’s not being petty here. Rowling has outright disowned the fantasy genre, pretending her obvious fantasy series wasn’t really fantasy, as if she’s some kind of transcendental author too good for a Hugo award, which she never bothered to accept. … So GRRM as a die hard SFF [science fiction and fantasy] writer, for decades on end, loses a SFF-specific award to a person who has spurned the genre and doesn’t even care about the reward. … So he takes a jab at Rowling, but the main point is to acknowledge that he doesn’t write for awards, but for his fans. As for Rowling, I love Harry Potter and I think she’s overall a decent person. I just think she was grossly out of line on this issue and GRRM, as a major voice in SFF, was well within his rights to acknowledge his readers at her expense.

For her part, Rowling may not care or even be aware of Martin’s criticisms, since she has said in the past that she doesn’t read fantasy or science fiction.

Interestingly, Martin doesn’t even list his 2001 Hugo nomination for Best Novel on his website, although he lists his 2006 and 2012 Hugo Best Novel nominations for the next two books in his series (which he lost to different authors). Perhaps his loss to Rowling was more upsetting than his loss to subsequent authors, as his comments would suggest. And maybe Martin had high expectations in 2001 because he had already won Hugo awards in 1979 and 1997 for Best Novelette, Short Story, and Novella — and since by most accounts “A Storm Of Swords” is the best book of his epic series.

Separate from his comments about the Hugo award, Martin has indicated that he is not particularly fond of “Harry Potter.” In 2008, he rejoiced that President Obama collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics. “That’s so cool that I’m willing to forgive him for being a Harry Potter fan,” wrote Martin in his LiveJournal.

His grudge may have led him to poke fun at “Harry Potter” within the pages of the next book in his series, “A Feast for Crows,” The Wire reported. In a passage of that book, Martin described a fight between the female knight Brienne of Tarth and two male knights. “She had ridden over Harry Sawyer and broken Robin Potter’s helm, giving him a nasty scar,” Martin wrote.

Aside from the obvious reference to Harry Potter by combining those names, Martin took care to mention one of the knights received a scar on his head after she broke his helmet. That brings to mind the forehead scar that distinguishes Rowling’s Harry Potter.

But Martin has also made it clear that he respects Rowling for her valuable contributions to the fantasy genre. “[S]he has done great stuff for fantasy and many of my readers are people who started with Harry Potter; they have grown up and she got them to reading, she got them to fantasy,” he told Adria’s News. “J.K. Rowling has grown up an entire generation of children into the field and for that I applaud her.”

24 million copies of “A Song of Ice and Fire” books had been sold in North America by Random’s Bantam Books as of September 2o13, including print, digital, and audio formats, Reuters reported.

As popular as the series is, however, its sales are dwarfed by the “Harry Potter” books, which had sold 450 million copies by mid-2011, publishers Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States told the BBC.

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