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Boy Fiction?

I usually make it a policy not to comment on reviews, especially negative reviewers. When you put your art out there in the marketplace on public view, some are going to like and some are going to hate it. Comes with the territory. And like Superchicken always said, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Normally, I would not even comment on something as spectacularly wrong-headed and condescending as the review of the HBO series GAME OF THRONES recenltly published in the NEW YORK TIMES. There have been dozens and dozens of reviews of the show coming out all over the place, in newspaper and magazines, on television and radio, and of course on the web. Most, I am pleased to say, have been very good, but of course there are some bad ones as well. C'est la vie.

((Okay, I will confess, it does cheese me when I come across a reviewer who simply hates all fantasy. I had hoped that kind of literary snobbism was extinct, or nearly so. Maybe not.))

But the startling assertion in the TIMES review that women could not possibly like fantasy unless a lot of graphic sex was added to it (??) has prompted me to break my "no comment" rule. At least to extent of this post.

I see this morning that legions of female fantasy readers and self-proclaimed "geek girls" and "scifi chicks" have risen up all over the internet to say all the things that I'm too polite and too busy to say. And a lot more besides. I'd link to their blogs and posts here, but it would take hours. Google will lead you to them, if you're interested. It would seem that so many outraged emails and posts poured into the TIMES that they had to shut down the comments section for the review.

I am not going to get into it myself, except to say
(1) if I am writing "boy fiction," who are all those boys with breasts who keep turning up by the hundreds at my signings and readings?
and
(2) thank you, geek girls! I love you all.

Comments

( 389 comments )
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nycfalcon
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
What is the point of the review?
I'm confused by that review. It seems to me to be mere ramblings. Once I read "...HBO’s forgettable “Rome” (predictable betrayals spiced up with toga parties)...", how could I take anything else she wrote seriously? I wonder what she thought of I Claudius? No doubt because it was a BBC production and shown on PBS she absolutely loved it.

In one of my favorite movies (didn't see the play) Biloxi Blues there's a scene wherein Eugene has his journal read aloud and at that point he realizes that people will believe whatever is written. That was one of those milestone moments in my life. A candle in my consciousness which continues to shine to this day. What she wrote was bunk. No need for it to upset anyone. Although, the fact that she wrote if for a prestigious publication is, upsetting.

vita_ganieda
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Not commenting on reviews is good policy, but that thing wasn't a review, it was a few hundred words of unfiltered brain-to-page nonsense published under a reputable banner. A "review" would require engaging with the weaknesses of the show, rather than the critic's dislike of an entire genre.

But I'm willing to let the "Fantasy? Quality? Surely not!" attitude pass with an eye roll because it's boorish, but kind of expected. I am PISSED OFF about the gendering of an entire sub-genre because you'd think an NYT critic would know better, and because darnit, I have had this argument one too many times this week, and my thesis remains the same: this kind of brainless stereotyping screws over everyone.

I also can't help but wonder what the review would be like were the books written by a woman. Same plot, /maybe/ a slightly different tone, maybe not. Would the emphasis on families and relationships, the amount of talking that goes on, and the prevalence of women in positions of power have then made it a show "for girls" with some nudity thrown in to avoid scaring off the straight guys? There are a lot of things that need to be said about gender and speculative fiction. This? Not helping the conversation.

Okay, enough ranting from me. I need to go flip through some books looking for sexytimes, since my ladybrain just can't seem to handle plot.
koft2009
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC)
NYT Review
I had written in another LJ my thoughts on this article, but it was the most ridiculous, narrow minded review ever. First, it insults my intelligence and all the other fab geek chics, and women out there who love fantasy. Hey, if I wanted to read about sex and romance,I'd go to the romance novel isle.

Personally, these books, to me, are for those who enjoy complex writing. What do I mean? I mean that they have a lot of characters, places, grudges, etc..to remember, and you need to be smart and want to engage in that type of reading. Most people are not able to follow, nor do they want to. I do not like simplicity in my TV or my reading, so I am a huge scifi geek. No shame here people! I am even going to an event to celebrate Judgement Day! And I am a sorority girl, former ad girl, and now teacher; believe me, I am the most unlikely scifi/fantasy geek, and I have always taken pride in it.

So that's it for here, I shall write in my blog as well, aggh!
But tomorrow night is the big night!! I have to go finish my reread now
K
frontdoorangel
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
I just read the review and I guess I'm not a real woman since I don't know who Lorrie Moore is...
dedalus681
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:47 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure Ginia Bellafante only considers herself and her circle of friends to be real women. What a strange world that would be to live in.
(no subject) - pandarus - Apr. 17th, 2011 10:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - frontdoorangel - Apr. 18th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC) - Expand
dodger_winslow
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
Amen.
akirakitano
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
I will not express how insulted I am at the review posted by the New York Times here, but I wanted to say that yes, I am a Geek Girl, yes, I read Game of Thrones, and as a Geek Girl, I love you too <3
jesspark
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:05 am (UTC)
We love you, too, sir.

Am I the only one who's considering purchasing a copy of The Hobbit (there's no way I'm giving up mine, sorry) and sending it to The New York Times, addressed to Ms. Bellafante? Since, you know, apparently her book club has yet to discuss it.

(I'd send A Game of Thrones, but I honestly don't think she could handle it. I first read The Hobbit as a grade-schooler, however, so I'm hoping it's simple enough on the surface for her to understand without, ahem, possessing the ability to count cards.)
akirakitano
Apr. 23rd, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
You think she'd know what to do with it?
mintsthesmurf
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:07 am (UTC)
My biggest question is why boys don't like graphic sex scenes. That's only for the ladies?
akirakitano
Apr. 23rd, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Right?
delux_vivens
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
thank you.

ariandar
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Bwahahaha! That flowchart kicks ass!
(no subject) - delux_vivens - Apr. 17th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
firlachiel
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
Dammit... so the Times says I'm a guy? I knew there was something wrong with me. But hey - then I don't have to shave my legs anymore. Great ^^

Well as one of many geek girls here: I love you too :)
weloveshidorfc
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
Outraged!
I can't believe this. Oh of course, I only like the series because of the sex, not because of the characters, or the storyline, or anything else. Yes, I like television and book series based solely on the quality of the sex scenes.

I'm proud that we managed to at least get some sort of response from the new york times. Honestly, you'd think that they would have stopped this rubbish from being published in the first place.
oteckre
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Outraged!
what response did we get?
yuri_aoki
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:27 am (UTC)
Bah!
Bah, literary snobbism? I see that all the time when some reviewer decides to tear apart horror, fantasy, sci-fi or some other genre just because they are too set on their views of how a genre should be written. Or they think anything which comes out of a certain genre must be bad. And then, these reviews are often filled with ranting which have little to do with the pertaining subject. *shakes head* You should see how people treat Joss Whedon's writing or even series like Supernatural. It's a tragedy many of these critics' followers buy every word they say and repeat every word, as though it's The Law you must abide by on Earth. I'll bet if you threw some of these people a series like Doctor Who, most of them would tear it to pieces because it violates a ton of rules: how it structures plot, how it crams in details about the universe, the lack of high-end special effects, no sex, little violence, etc.

Going back to the main topic: Then there's the time where a negative review is made because the site merely wanted to generate more hits. And I see this really often when the reviewers have nothing to do and spend their time beating up some series just because it's, say, aimed at females(sometimes male posturing comes in) or some target demographic. It's especially bad when you hear adults beating up some series aimed at children or teens. Of course the writing will be shallow! They haven't lived through much to gain enough life experiences to be deep, duh.

I'm sorry and sad that you got caught up too, in the game of "let's allow the reviewer to spill something, even IF she has never watched anything from that genre. Or quite possibly, she only likes 1 to 2 series from that genre and thinks the rest are crap without really delving into them." Giving a series a cursory glance and penning some throwaway comments is hot air, btw.
yuri_aoki
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:29 am (UTC)
Oops.
My reply was written in regards to TV series, btw. And yes, it could apply to books though.
hotclaws
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:50 am (UTC)
Has the reviewer mixed up fantasy with fan slash fic? Never mind,you will be remembered for your glorious work long after he isn't here.
lahela_sga
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:09 am (UTC)
The Hobbit was the first novel I read, waaaaay back when I was eight years old. Nearly 40 years later, I still read as much good quality fantasy as I can get my hands on. A huge and heartfelt thank you from this geek girl, George, for writing some of the best!
sonnet94
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:21 am (UTC)
We love you, George! You, and... Jaime Lannister...
i_open_doors
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:06 am (UTC)
And we love you, George! If I have a choice between reading your "boy fiction" (with intricate, well written characters and plot) and the typical fluff novels out there...
...Well, there's really no contest, is there?
anirien
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:23 am (UTC)
I would just like to say to the author of that article: I first started reading these books because my sister and a female friend spent two hours thoroughly ignoring me so they could gush about the series. I am having a viewing party tonight and 80% of the attendees are women.
bojojoti
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:25 am (UTC)
I've loved science fiction and fantasy since I was a child. Back before computers, my geekiness wasn't acknowledged, because I didn't know anyone else--male or female--who liked the same things I did. The Internet allowed geeks to discover we weren't alone, and I've found all kinds of women who love sci-fi and fantasy. Our numbers are growing, too, so silly writers at the New York Times need to look past their preconceived notions.

Genre shouldn't matter as much as a story well told, especially an epic tale with engaging characters and compelling plot lines.

The geek girls love you, too, Mr. Martin. :)
blane_firewing
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:28 am (UTC)
We love you too! :)
serapheen
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
I am, and have always been, a HUGE bookworm. I'll happily curl up with just about anything (I tend to shun non-fiction usually, but a few have made it onto my shelf), but Fantasy and Sci-fi have always been my drug of choice.

And I'm sorry, but yes your story has sex in it, but if I wanted smut I'd read a romance novel. You give enough details to get the point across, but it's done in a tasteful way (in fact, even my boyfriend's 72 year old Grandmother agreed with me on that point, after I got her hooked on ASOIAF).

if your books are boy fiction, then I guess I'm proud to be one of your 'boys with boobs' readers too!
biliki
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:54 am (UTC)
I know, that TIMES review was terrible, and I can't believe how it was approved for posting!
If ''geek'' is what I should be called, because I love fantasy and epics and I laugh at ''Sex and the City'' for showing women as consumerism freaks with no personality whatsoever, then geek I am, and a very proud one! I think fantasy is the best type of art, because it is about imagination and greatness and artistic liberty, and I, too, can't believe there are still people out there who hate fantasy just because ''the author can decide winter lasts ten years'' and ''I'm too much of a reality freak to accept that without a scientific explanation''. And it's not that I don't love/adore other types of shows and books. I watch dramas, silly girly dramas, comedies, historical shows, epics, and I watch fantasy. And I appreciate quality where I see it. When I was 9 I read Harry Potter. It did not get me into reading because I was already a bookworm, but it did get me into fantasy and magic and dragons. Then along came Lord of the Rings, which was incomparable to HP, and I spent my whole teenage years reading and re-reading Tolkien. Now I'm 18, and I for about 2 years I had been searching for a new epic, great series to immerse myself into, and ASOIAF came along. I live in Greece where nobody knows about it, so I was lucky to learn about it through livejournal. And I think it's the best series I've ever read. I can only laugh at those people who hate fantasy just because they can't get their imaginations to work. Bad for them, good for us!
weetoh
Apr. 17th, 2011 10:44 am (UTC)
I am a boy. I was not interested in fantasy
My mate suggested your books. I was never a fantasy fan and I guess I am still not. Some things are just well done.

Critics are paid. Critics have individual tastes. Critics have to be outspoken to avoid the "articulate fan" title. They are just educated forum posters. The article was insulting towards TV viewers in one breath and an attempt to conceptualise HBO's efforts in another. You happened to get caught in the middle. Like your smallfolk.

A good critic can help you, a bad critic, you just happen to be the focus of the moment... and they have to say something... a lot like Shae.
megabitch
Apr. 17th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC)
Terry Pratchett frequently refers to the "fact" that all of his fans are "14 year old boys named Kevin, who wear anoraks and are good at maths... even the 78 year old grandmothers" (we won't go into the legions of young women wearing corsetry that turn up at the Discworld Conventions that happen worldwide) because of the attitude many interviewers and reviewers have to fantasy literature and films. It's getting better, but still not considered mainstream by literary snobs.
escarboucle
Apr. 17th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC)
I've been kinda used to it, being part of the very few girls who indeed play roleplaying games (you know, the pen and paper kind) since the 90's, when it was merely for geeks and very few girls played it (wait.. it's still that I think). And I've been playing MMORPGs on the net since 2000, when the only women you'd find were guys in disguise XD

I've read The Hobbit and LOTR when I was 11 and 12 respectively... oddly, no graphic sex, and I loved it.

Geek girls who love fantasy and don't need sex in it to love it do exist. But it's a bit disturbing for those guys to find girls who can talk on an even ground with them, I suppose.

Aside that.

Good writing IS good writing, whatever the genre is; it's the writer himself who can transcend the genre and make (nearly) everyone like his works. To say "such genre is for such people" is so narrow-minded.

Thanks for your words. They are appreciated by this geek woman.
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