George RR Martin’s New Scholarship Gives Aspiring Fantasy Authors A Leg Up

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – AUGUST 17, 2017: George R.R. Martin, an American novelist, author of a series of fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted into TV series Game of Thrones, signing autographs at a Bukvoyed bookshop. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

Calling aspiring sci-fi authors, fantasy writers and worldbuilders everywhere: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin is funding a new scholarship that will put one winner through the intensive six-week Clarion West Writers Workshop entirely for free.

Termed the “Worldbuilder” scholarship, the annual scholarship covers tuition, fees, and lodging for one student per year at the Seattle, Washington-based workshop. The application will be available to all, worldwide.

“The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study,” Martin explained on his site. “The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes.”

The application deadline for the 2018 summer workshop is March 1, and the session will be held from June 17 until July 27, 2018. Clarion West is “one of the longest-running and most successful workshops in the world,” according to Martin, and the instructors’ roster includes Yoon Ha Lee, Daniel Abraham, Karen Lord, Ken MacLeod, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ellen Datlow.

The total cost to attend the workshop is $4,200, according to the Clarion West website, though that number only partially covers board in addition to fully covering room and tuition.

This isn’t the first such scholarship Martin has funded: In April 2017, the Song of Fire and Ice author announced plans for a horror-writing scholarship to the Odyssey workshop, an annual, six-week program located in Manchester, New Hampshire. It’s an ongoing scholarship, so aspiring horror writers shouldn’t feel left out of the Worldbuilder Scholarship if they aren’t fans of the fantasy or sci-fi genres.

On January 12, 2018, Martin announced a second scholarship, aimed at bringing “an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country” to the Taos Toolbox, a writing workshop in northern New Mexico run by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. The Taos Toolbox is another world-class graduate-level workshop: It has only been around for the last ten years, but its graduates have already been nominated for eight Hugo awards. Martin termed this scholarship the “Terran” scholarship and his Odyssey scholarship the “Miskatonic” scholarship, in a clear example of his penchant for fantastical references. “The future belongs to all the peoples of the world,” he said of the Terran scholarship. With these three charitable programs, Martin is proving his ambitions to level the playing field of publishing success.

The rise of the ebook has already freed genre fiction to earn the profits it deserves, thanks to the democratizing power of the internet. Now, with the advent of scholarships like Martin’s, genre fiction might get a few fascinating new authors who otherwise wouldn’t have the financial security to pursue their passion. It’s tempting to claim that the scholarship could surface the next George RR Martin, but the author himself clearly hopes any aspiring authors that he gives a boost will bring a decidedly unique perspective to their genre. As he phrased it in his announcement post for the Worldbuilder scholarship, the world is “more in need of wonder than ever before” and he wishes the scholarship will “help the next great fantasist on the long journey ahead.”