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A Sense of Wonder

I've made my life in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, and an awful lot of people helped me along the way. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. But if I may echo something that Robert A. Heinlein once said, you can never pay back the people who helped you when you were starting out... but you can pay forward, and give a hand to those coming after.

With that in mind, I'm pleased to announce that I will be funding a new scholarship for the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop. Held every summer at the University of California San Diego under the auspices of the Clarion Foundation, the workshop's roots go back the 1960s and Clarion College in Pennsylvania, where it was founded by Robin Scott Wilson, Damon Knight, and Kate Wilhelm. Its alumni include more professional sf and fantasy writers than I can possibly hope to name, and the list of Clarion instructors over the years is a veritable Who's Who of our genre.

Many of the students at Clarion already receive financial aid through a variety of existing scholarships and grants that cover all or part of their expenses, but there's always need and there's never enough money, and it's my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to one more worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the experience. It will be a full scholarship, given annually, and covering tuition, fees, and lodging for a single student for the full six weeks of intensive writing and criticism that is Clarion.

We'll be calling it the Sense of Wonder scholarship.

The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The only criteria will be literary.

The first science fiction novel I ever read was Heinlein's HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL, a book that begins with a boy named Kip in a used spacesuit standing in his back yard, and goes on to take him (and us) to the moon, and Pluto, and the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, along the way encountering aliens both horrifying (the Wormfaces) and benevolent (the Mother Thing), as well as a girl named Peewee. In the end it's up to Kip and Peewee to defend the entire human race when Earth is put on trial. I had never read anything like it, and from the moment I finished I wanted more; more Heinlein, more science fiction, more aliens and spacesuits and starships... more of the vast interstellar vistas that had opened before me.

Since then I have read thousands of other science fiction novels, and written a few myself. Modern imaginative fiction is a house with many rooms, and I've visited most of them. Cyberpunk, New Wave, magic realism, slipstream, military SF, dystopias, utopias, urban fantasy, high fantasy, splatterpunk, the new weird, the new space opera, you name it. I've sampled all of it, and I'm glad it's all there, but when it comes right down it, the SF I love best is still the SF that gives me that sense of wonder I found in that Heinlein book almost sixty years ago, and afterwards in the works of Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Alfred Bester, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance, Andre Norton, the early Chip Delany, Jack Vance, Frank Herbert, Robert Silverberg, Jack Vance, Eric Frank Russell, Cordwainer Smith, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, and so many more. (Did I mention Jack Vance?) I love the aliens, be they threatening or benevolent, the more alien the better. I dream of starships, strange worlds beneath the light of distant suns. I want the sights and sounds and smells of times and places and cultures colorful and exotic. That was the sort of science fiction that I tried to write myself with the Thousand Worlds stories that made my name in the 70s, when I was just breaking in as a writer.

It's my hope that this new Clarion scholarship will help find and encourage young aspiring writers who dream the same sort of dreams, that it will give a small boost up to the next Roger Zelazny, the next Ursula Le Guin, the next Jack Vance.

One student will be selected every year. The recipient of the first award is LUCY SMITH, an English writer and recent student of archaeology who has been making stories for most of her life. She has just begun tweeting at @subterranape, and can usually be found in London. I have yet to meet her, but I hope that she enjoys her six weeks at Clarion, and that the lessons she learns there will help her develop her talent and master her craft. And in the years and books to come, I hope that Lucy Smith will take us to the stars, and show us wonders.


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Jack Smith
Apr. 10th, 2017 06:09 pm (UTC)
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
I also loved Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel. It was not the first sci-fi novel I read, but I was very young--10 or 11, I think. Heinlein's book had a vast range and provoked wonder. I wanted to travel in space and meet aliens, but I have not yet had the chance.
David Levin
Apr. 10th, 2017 06:18 pm (UTC)
Congratulations Lucy Smith.

The scholarship is such a great idea. GRRM, you continue to improve lives. Your writing has improved mine.

Yes I am a kiss ass. But George, I am addicted to your writings.
Apr. 10th, 2017 06:35 pm (UTC)
What a gent! Good luck to Lucy and all future recipients.
Apr. 10th, 2017 06:44 pm (UTC)
Dear George, how one can apply for this scholarship?
Apr. 10th, 2017 06:55 pm (UTC)
Contact Clarion. Of course, the scholarship for 2017 has already been awarded, so you'd be applying for 2018.
(no subject) - social_worker - Apr. 10th, 2017 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 10th, 2017 07:08 pm (UTC)
Very good idea. The notice on the bottom made me whine a little inside, however. Two of my favorite authors together on stage and I can't be there to see it. Maybe it will find its way online at some point. If not, I understand. Encouraging paid attendance to support Clarion is more important.
Marlon Soriano
Apr. 10th, 2017 07:23 pm (UTC)
Dear Mr. Martin:

Is it possible to apply for aspiring writers who write in other language than english(say spanish)? as long as they have the required level of english to attend the workshop of course
Apr. 11th, 2017 02:54 am (UTC)
Yes. Other writers have done this already.
Apr. 10th, 2017 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Pete Thompson
Apr. 10th, 2017 07:37 pm (UTC)
Sense of Wonder
Your stories have provided me with a sense of wonder on plenty of occasions, and so have those of a number of the Clarion graduates and instructors. This is a generous and kind thing that you're doing and I know it will make a difference to the lives of writers and their future readers, alike.
Apr. 10th, 2017 08:02 pm (UTC)
Scfi writers
Hello George,

This news is amazing! Congrats to the winner!

Also, thank you for your listing of influential sci-fi writers. I know that there's are many more, but I have always been interested in delving into the vast array of science fiction, but never quite sure where to start. Ray Bradbury peaked my interests in sci-fi and your thousand worlds have only pushed that interest further!

Thanks again and keep up the great work!
Jim Shea
Apr. 10th, 2017 08:09 pm (UTC)
Seeing this event after the fact...
Many events at UCSD -- and especially at the Clarke Center -- are put online at some time after the event. And some turn up on UCSD-TV, which can also be watched online. So there will be the opportunity to see the event! Yay!
Apr. 10th, 2017 09:48 pm (UTC)
I've wanted to attend this in the past, but never have precisely for financial reasons.

Looks like I'll be trying my luck for the 2018 scholarship. Thanks, Herr Martin.
Pinar Iki
Apr. 10th, 2017 10:06 pm (UTC)
you have a golden heart George! and such a aspiring author!
Congrats Lucy! I wish i could write in English as well you do. (English is not my mother tongue and yes unfortunately, i make mistakes) but i am an avid reader, and i hope, i will read your books as well :)
lots of love from Germany & Turkey
Apr. 10th, 2017 10:24 pm (UTC)
This is a fine thing, helping the next generation of writers. After all, your work has inspired me in the writing I am currently doing now, of other societies, of monarchs and nobles, of disputed successions and wars... So thx for that GRRM and may you be the spark of inspiration for many more writers.
Gery McLaughlin
Apr. 10th, 2017 10:36 pm (UTC)
Love what you're doing George. Usually that's the books but this is right up there alongside.

I probably read Heinlein around the same time you did and your description captures perfectly the interest and excitement that captured me way back then. I very recently re-read 'Red Planet', which I didn't instantly recognise from the title or the blurb as a Heinlein I'd read - not many escaped me but publication was often patchy on this side of the Atlantic. However, once I started to read, the Martian landscape of frozen canals and mysterious abandoned cities, together with the genuinely alien Martians and their technology (or perhaps inherent powers?) reminded me of exactly why I'd become a fan in the first place. Indeed I gradually realised that this was probably the book that set my default expectations for what a 'proper' Mars story should have in the background. Not many books these days induce the same sense of wonder but I look forward to finding out that some of your graduates can turn that trick.

I should say that one story I still clearly remember that did invoke that same sense of wonder was a short story I read in a then new sci-fi magazine ... it was 20 years or more later before I realised that the Game of Thrones novels I'd been enjoying were written by the unknown (to me at least) author whose 'Sandkings' I'd so much enjoyed in Omni.

Still love what you're doing George.
Benjamin Sloan
Apr. 10th, 2017 10:57 pm (UTC)
I attended Clarion last summer, and would not have been able to if it weren't for the financial assistance I got through the Susan C Petrey and UCSD Knight Wilhelm Fund scholarships. Thank you, George, for enabling more people like me to have this opportunity in the future.
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George R.R. Martin
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