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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?
(2) thank you, geek girls! I love you all.


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Adi Infernity Berman
Apr. 17th, 2011 11:25 am (UTC)
Put the Foolish Wench to the Sword.
Gawd, this review was OUTRAGEOUS!

This stupid wench has obviously never read the books.
She simply said so many retarded things!
As much as I love D&D and the world of Forgotten Realms, it's not even comparable, it's absolutely different, a unique masterpiece that shouldn't even get bad reviews at all ( I speak of the book here, I am yet to have started watching it).

She has never met girls who like it because she simply never sought them up because she's a closed-minded fool who only reads Times and probably never got laid either.
I never met any drug dealer in my life, let us then assume drug dealers are but an urban legend! Ugh so stupid.

This woman should seriously be put to the sword (or maybe if she's to be put to a cock she will think more lucidly).
Apr. 17th, 2011 11:52 am (UTC)
I'm not particularly geeky and I love your Game of Thrones series. =D. After I read through it yet again, I plan to find other books of yours and seeing how they compare.

So here's a flag from the non-geek girls population. We love you too.
Apr. 17th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
Seriously WTF
Thanks for posting this GRRM, I did't catch this review erlier.
And its nice to post something new on Facebook after reading this review: "I hate you Ginia Bellafante... What kind of name is this anyway?!"
Everthing is perfect I can't wait to watch the first episode tonight, don't let this annoy you, you're simply the Best :)
Jackie Morris
Apr. 17th, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC)
geek girls
I have only just begun reading Ice and Fire despite having been sent the books by Jane Johnson a few years back when I was working on covers for Robin Hobb's books. Brilliant. Love them. My son did too. Your women characters are as wonderful as your men. Only just starting the second book and just so glad to be reading them for the first time.
Just curious to know, what do you read Mr Martin.
Oh, and I wish you a long and happy life, not because i want you to ; get on and finish the series' but just because.
Thank you.
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:07 pm (UTC)
Well. There's no need to comment about stupidity and ignorance.
I'm a woman and i like fantasy (and not so much sex, in literature). There's a problem about that?
(sorry for my bad English -___- )
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
I just find it silly that there's apparently this very strong idea that genres are still gender-specific. It's so absurd.

That being said, as a "boy with breasts", thanks for saying something. :)
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC)
I'm perplexed
Back in the heyday of second-wave feminism, or slightly thereafter (late '70s through the '80s), I went through a period of only buying sf and fantasy books written by women. (In those days it was almost a given cliche that "boys did sf and women did fantasy," which of course was hogwash, but still...) It was really rewarding to take a break from the constant "white male lead" sf/fantasy books I'd read as a teenager, and reinforced the idea in my head that much of it was (and still is, for all I know) fleshed-out fairy tales, which I adored as a girl and which are still by and large marketed to girls. (Superhero comics, which I also read and which my husband draws, also seem to stem from the same type of source.) I can't believe we're still having this kind of conversation thirty years later.
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
To think that I reached the ripe age of 44 without realizing I really was a man. The horror!
Really that so called review is nothing but a whole load of you-know-what that menages to insult just about everyone with its idiocy.

'Non ragioniam di lor ma guarda e passa' said good old Dante in his Comedy:'Speak not of them, but look, and pass them by'.

And about Tolkien and female characters...Galadriel and Eowyn anyone? Not to mention that much of what Aragorn does is because of Arwen.

Apr. 17th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
"Imagine if a review of "Deadwood" had mocked the very idea of a Western series telling morally complex adult stories, or if a review of "The Sopranos" proceeded from the assumption that gangster tales are inherently worthless as popular art. You can't. It's unthinkable."

Here, here.
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
journalism these days is, for the most part, really mediocre. It was nice to see though, that before I saw this post, or the negative NYT review, I was reading Salon, and a Salon writer went out of their way to publish an item going after the NYT review and a similar Slate review. As many have pointed out, both reviewers seem to be writing pieces about themselves and the fact that they don't like the genre in and of itself, and how clever they are for not liking it. Don't like fantasy? cool. However, if you don't, given that many do, the review should be handed over to someone who can approach the work being reviewed in its own right. Anyway, long preface over here's the link http://www.salon.com/entertainment/tv/game_of_thrones/index.html?story=/ent/tv/feature/2011/04/16/game_of_thrones_review_of_reviewers
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
It is so very sad and disappointing that this world of ours, now, in year 2011, among all our civilized freedoms, between branches of our high tech politeness and hard earned egalitarianisms breeds this kind of offensive gender inequality. And by whom? By women who read books!?! :( Bah, I’m appalled by these prejudices. I’m annoyed by this amount of malice. But more than ever, I’m proud to be this “nonexistent” kind of woman and a geek!

I would be inclined to forgive (better disregard) ignorance of middle-aged judgmental critics such as Ginia Bellafante, if it was only another anti fantasy I-don’t-like-it-why-should-anyone comment, but it wasn’t. This article of hers was vile and offensive to our gender. She suggested that we do not have sufficient mental capacity to remember more than 4 main characters (that’s the magic number for “Sex and the city” though), that we cannot possibly enjoy any type of literature that is not based solely on romance (because our gentle hearts strive only towards happy pink endings (not that I’m not especially eager for few matches to happen in the books to come, but then again so is my big brother)), that we can’t read subtitles and comprehended at the same time, nor have enough imagination to appreciate esthetics that is not hip and (again) pinkish… It infuriates me to see that someone in New York Times thought this article should even been published.

Other thing that completely escapes me is that there even are self proclaimed readers who would use expression like “boy literature”?!? What does that actually mean? Is penis a reading organ?? Used for acquiring specific taste in literature and comprehending? Hmmm, nobody told me that (and I’m biologist, I should know these things). As if we girls can’t read about wars, weapons or disembowelment and enjoy it just as any male? There is no “boy” literature and “girl” literature, only good and bad type. And the book that made me laugh and cry, that reconnected me with some people and gave me hours of good time, the book that I recommended to my father (who is as much into it as I) and my mother (elderly woman! go figure!), to all my best friends and to some new, the book that in a word (sincerely) changed my life…
Well in my opinion, that is one of a hell good book!
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
I prefer my fantasy without a lot of sex and so do most of my friends, many of whom, like me, are females. Oh, and did I mention we're middle-aged females with some mileage behind us? What utter idiocy. It's no wonder the NYT is flailing and failing. They obviously do NOT have their pulse on the American reading public or on the hordes of female fantasy fans.
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
yeah, we love you too. Another impetus to start an open blog, as a geek girl who also works in fashion journalism.
I'm tired of seeing women interested in fantasy and SF portrayed as socially inept, fashion-challenged, dateless wonders who don't know what a tube of mascara is, and who don't have college degrees, frankly.
People need to be clued in: 1) We're smart 2) We look amazing, whether you see is at DragonCon, in the SCA, in Civil War reenactment groups, Steampunk attire, burlesque attire ( really there are so many types of crossovers) - or heading to work on your average freakin' Monday 3) W
e're largely better read and educated than the rest of the population and 4) We are not figments of your imagination.

Oddly, I find it's mostly insecure women who write about other women not having a place in fantasy and SF - perhaps because they don't like their significant other's interest in it? I read a terrible piece in a local alternative paper a couple of years back in which a "cool" girl grudgingly went along to DragonCon with her new BF - and proceeded to trash the experience and the people participating. She had the reverse effect to what she'd hoped for: Everyone was turned off by her complaining and whining.

I've also seen the male equivalent - best exemplified by books like "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks" in which geek boys approaching middle age fear they'll never get awesome girlfriends because they like role playing games and fantasy movies. Wow. Insecure much? I beg to differ.

Maybe at some point in some upper crust or deeply entrenched middle class communities back in the 70s, it wasn't cool to be a girl who liked fantasy - or who admitted it. Well, that wasn't my generation... but from talking to fellow fangirls of all ages, I can honestly say anytime after 1980, near as I can tell, that stereotype went away.

I feel sorry for the women who don't let their imaginations take over once in awhile. Maybe Harlequin romances are enough for some - but what do you get but a rehashing of better fairy tales, without the magic or the wonder, in those tawdry love stories - and when do women actually get to be more than forlorn love objects?

No, thanks. I'll take my geek girl credentials any day.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
I am a girl and I have loved fantasy since I was really young and continue to love it. Your 'Song of Ice and Fire' series is my mother's favorite fantasy series and I'm going to read it this summer.

Quite frankly, that reviewer had no idea who she was talking about. Just because SHE doesn't like fantasy doesn't mean ALL women don't.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
I don't mind if she hates the show but telling me I don't exist does piss me off.

We ♥ you too. :)
Maja Wnstrm
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Arya, Sansa, Cersei, Daenays, Brianne, Arienne...
... and so many more. The female characters in A Song of Ice and Fire struggle in their own unique ways to navigate their worlds and negotiate their positions - just like all men and women of passion do. Who are we - the attributes we are given, the ones we cultivate or the ones that we have been told to manifest? Who do I need to pretend to be and if so, when can I let my masks down to show my true complexity? How do I forge a sincere interface between my principles, my actions and their consequences? Thank you Mr. Martin for making the effort to write down this wonderful story where people are no less than human.
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)
We love you George!
I've been a HUGE fan of yours for ages, from Nightflyers (I CRIED at the end!!) and Lair of the Worm (I squirmed, it was so REAL), and Tuf Voyaging (LOVE that one) and all the amazing, interconnected short stories... I've raved to others, tried to get them to read you, too. When I read the Times review, I was SO offended, SO disappointed. I think the problem was some MORON choosing that IDIOT to do the review. Obviously, she didn't WANT to do it, and was in ALL ways a stupid choice. Thank you, George, for all the stories, and all those to come, THIS Nerdgirl love you for it. THIS Nerdgirl happens to enjoy herself some serious, heavy Fantasy AND Science Fiction, sex or no sex, and I always will.
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
We love you Mr Martin!
i've seen the review... and the reviewer is a woman (at least the name is for a girl).
That is incredible!
But don't worry George, we geek girls love your books and the HBO series!
Can't wait for tonight and for the 12 of July! (Amazon is my best friend! I live in Italy :p)
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
I just had to go read the review to see what all the fuss was about, and it's laughable. I've been a die-hard Ice & Fire fan since '97 and it's obvious the hack that wrote the review has never given anything but a cursory glance at the story. I have plenty of female friends that love this "boy fiction" just as much as us dudes. Keep up the awesome work, Mr. Martin, aSoIaF is a masterpiece that changed the face of fantasy fiction, and we eagerly await its television version. Kudos!
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
We love you, too!
That line about "boys with breasts" gave me a hearty laugh. That article was insulting in so many ways. I don't think anyone will be taking the author of it seriously for a while.

I was able to send an e-mail directly to the author, and I was very polite (after venting angrily on blogs), but firmly told her that she was incorrect and should have done more research.

Your response is excellent, Sir. I applaud you and am sure that if you have daughters, they do as well.
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you. What matters is the story--sex is fine, lack of sex fine, but the story and characters and sometimes the kick-ass action is what keeps SOME of us buying the books. The reviewer was condescending and while yes, bad reviews happen, sometimes one comes along that makes you just want to scream.
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
Geek girl....
...and so proud of it! I was actually the one in my family who got all my siblings into your books! While I don't mind graphic sex in my fantasy, a well written or well portrayed piece of fantasy is FAR more important!
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
And we love you!

I was horrified when I read the assumptions the review made. I'm glad to see everyone standing up all over and setting to right the facts. Thank you all!
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
Defending the fans!
I'm really glad you responded to this review. Negative reviews can often be insulting to the creator or to the work itself, and that's a real shame, but this review was insulting to the fans. You came to our defense here, and that's why we love you so much!

<3 <3 <3
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
Good heavens, why did they have a fantasy series reviewed by somebody who is so oblivious to the genre? At least that article convinced me to finally go ahead with my vague plan to buy the books for my kindle in addition to the paper ones I already own. (And yes, "boy with breasts" here too :)
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George R.R. Martin
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