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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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Apr. 17th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
I sent a nastygram to the writer of the article. The NYT should be ashamed of itself.
Jack Gignac
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
Women love your series, too. I got my girlfriend to read ASOIAF when we first started going out, and to summarize, we have a 4 month old baby boy named Drake (as in old English for dragon, not for coincidental Canadian rappers) and we've been dying for tonight & July 12th. Fantasy by definition will always have its haters, and the critics of all people chose snobbery as a profession, rather than doing real work. I respect the Eberts of this world as much they should be considering the only thing they've directed is themselves to the snack bar, and their creativity is dependent on articles about creators. If someone disrespects an entire genre, they shouldn't be reviewing something within it. ASOIAF is character-driven drama for the most part, with splashes of fantasy.
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
i just read this review and i am positive, super positive that she did not watch the premiere (i'm assuming it was sent to her) nor did she do any research on the books. no, no, i'm assuming she instead spent her day reading RedBook then finished it up with graphic sexual scenes from the internet. I'm sorry, was that prejudice and sexist? so was her review :(
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
Hey, wait, NYT. I'm a girl!
So, um.. I'm a girl. And seriously, if you started putting a lot of sex in your show, I am remarkably sure I wouldn't watch it. I don't want some weird fantasy sex scene in any fantasy I watch/read/whatever - I want amazing characters, a great story line, and something that grabs me and never lets go. Sweaty half mortal men don't fit that grab thing - especially if it's some anorexic bimbo with unbelievably fake parts. You know, the type they use in every other mainstream show in the world.

Thanks for not giving in, and thanks for standing up to the NYT.
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
I guess that reviewer never read Ursula K. Le Guin, this is not only the journalist fault but also the editor that probably didn´t know or didn´t have time to check if the story was correct. I am an editor, it happens all the time, some reporters assume things but the editor task is put him in place. this was not the case. bad nyt.
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
I'm...not even going to touch the boy fiction parts of it.

But, what was up with the global warming comment? I mean, how can you miss all the "Winter is Coming" slogans? It's not a global warming horror story. No warming is happening. At least call it climate change, which would be slightly more accurate. Sheesh.
Jon Miltimore
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
NYT and Slate
What snobby, condescending, and lazy reviews from Ms. Bellafante and Mr. Patterson. To allow their own ignorance of a genre shape their reviews to such an extent is fairly embarrassing.

I happen to think a lot of fantasy writing out there is schlock. But great writing and great story telling stand for themselves, and Mr. Martin takes a backseat to no one in this department--not McCarthy, Mcewan, Roth or Wolfe.

I am more excited about this series than anything on TV in years. I hope it's great and expect it to be. But if it's not it will not diminish the genre or GRRM's superb novels. You're the bomb George!
Apr. 17th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
The review is... sexist and pathetic.

That said, have you ever come across anyone else who interpreted your work as a big global warming allegory? I had never conceived of it that way, and was curious if anyone else had.

Keep the Faith sir, your work is superb.
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Girls don't read fantasy?! That's HORSEPUCKY!

I'm not a huge high fantasy fan (more of a sci-fi chica, myself...) but I'll read anything with decent story legs on it. period. If it is good, I'll read it, genre be damned.

It's about a deliciously escapist storyline, not belonging to a social stereotype...
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
BOOO ! The Times
I am definitely not a boy.nor do fantasies have to contain sexual content to spark my interest. I have loved fantasy ever since my grade school Teacher "Mrs. C" (note also not a boy!) read our class "The Hobbit" and the entire "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy out loud during story time over the course of Three Years. BOO! and FIE ! to any who slap a generic label on what appeals to a large demographic group ! The Keltess
Tags: game of thrones
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
"people fiction"
You have every right to be annoyed, Mr. Martin. I'm a 23 year old woman and I've been reading fantasy since I was 13. It's my favorite genre and "A Song of Ice and Fire" is my favorite series in the genre. One of the reasons why I like your books so much is because they portray people (both men and women) so well. Anyone can find a character to relate to. It's ludicrous to say that this series is "boy fiction" when you have such strong female characters as Catelyn, Cersei, Arya, Sansa, Dany, and the list goes on. I'd rather characterize your work as "people fiction", because it speaks to everyone.

We geek girls love you too!
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Aside from having breasts....
I love that you quote from SuperChicken.
I have loved sci-fi / fantasy since I first read Lord of the Rings in 6th grade. (After Azimov and Zelazney and Clarke...)
90% of my reading materials are sci/fi fantasy.
I also read historical biographys and non-fiction.
I am proudly female, and am not an ubergeek, but damn, sci-fi stopped being a boys thing in the early 70's as far as I am concerned...
Apr. 17th, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
My wife, sweetheartwhale asks "which fuckwit said that about fantasy in the NYT review?" Especially seeing as so much of fantasy is written by, well, women.

(As if being a fan of the book wasn't enough, the presence of Sean Bean will guarantee to have her glued to the screen when the UK gets the premiere tomorrow...)
Liz Vikla
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
I actually am speechless for once... but not typeless!
That's a pretty hilarious presumption. I actually am not fond of books that have graphic sex FOR NO REASON... if it furthers the plot, then fine.

Also I am so excited about the show tonight I am about to pass out from gasping.
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
WTH?? That review is totally bogus. At least in Spain, one would think a girl would not like fantasy if it had a lot of graphic sex, not the other way round, that's guys! I had to re-read it 10 times to make sure I had read it correctly the first time!
Usually women are thought to enjoy the story, while men look forward to the sex scenes. Isn't that right? I've heard of lots of guys who like Daenerys because of that. Girls here usually like Bran, so I dunno... I feel like that review makes no sense, is it different in the States or what?

My shock makes me comment only that part, but I'm actually against that "boy fiction" statement. And I can't stand those fantasyphobic people. Everything is fiction, even history, get over it!
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
And we love you! I will not go into a long rant about the absolute ignorance of the review you mentioned, instead I just want to say this:

I love the series for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is the fact that the women in it are strong, complicated people. And many are just plain BADASS. I have always felt that the series has strong feminist views. Anyone who misses that is just too simpleminded to see it perhaps.

Also, I was never one for Fantasy...well, actually I'm not a big Fiction fan in general really. But my husband (BF at the time) convinced me to read it and I was hooked. Now I am totally one of those "fangurls". Your books opened up my mind to a whole world of GREAT fiction- it made me realize that not ALL Sci-Fi and Fantasy was mediocre plot lines and 2-D characters made more interesting by strange creatures or complicated tech doo-hickies.

What makes great Fantasy/Sci-Fi is what makes great LITERATURE, no matter the genre. And your book was the 1st to help me realize that. Now I can really appreciate the drama and intrigue of Robin Hobb's books, or the linguistics and history woven into Tolkien's world (that of which I could write whole research papers on...actually, I have, but that's a story for another time).

Liking something has nothing to do with gender, and everything o do with preferences and tastes. I know many women who LOVE sports and just as many men who find it boring. I know plenty of men who love bubble baths and spas, and I know a bunch of women who would rather go camping. It's the same for entertainment- you like what you like because of your personality and your intellectual level. So, smart fun-loving people with imaginations will like something like Game of Thrones, while the more simple people in need of escape might prefer something about party-loving, superficial sisters painting Miami/LA/NY red; Or perhaps a good made for TV movie about kidnapping/untimely death/lost love what-have-you (what my family likes to call "Woo-Woo" movies)

Ya know, to each their own ;)

I know what I prefer though and I pick imagination and intellectual stimulation 'most every time.
Apr. 17th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
we love you too! <3 best.fantasy.writer.ever.
Apr. 17th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
I'm not gonna lie, I haven't read your books, but as a most definitely female fantasy/sci-fi geek, now I'm interested. I probably would have remained totally oblivious to this series if not for that article, so ... I guess maybe it did something good?
Apr. 18th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
A) Who the heck is Lorrie Moore? I TOTALLY went for Tolkien in the book clubs.
B) BOY fiction? Are we not in the 21st century? Does "boy" fiction still exist? I'm a little insulted that I apparently need a penis transplant, a breast reduction, and some testosterone injections to like ASOIAF.
C) Geek girls FTW.
Apr. 18th, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
I know this has been said about 331 times over already, but thank you. As a geek girl, as a fantasy enthusiast, and as a person, I was pretty deeply offended by that review. The idea that fantasy is necessarily "boy fiction," let alone ASoIaF, which has a large, well-rounded, and diverse female cast, makes me fume incoherently.

Thank you for writing fantasy that is as worthy of the term "literature" as any non-genre fiction. Thank you for writing characters who are people--heroic and admirable and flawed and fallible and grey--before they are a gender or a stereotype. Thank you for managing to write characters like Sansa, whose early chapters remind me almost painfully of my middle school self, and Catelyn, who is the mother anyone would want. At the same time, thank you for writing the exhilarating fight scenes, dense political intrigue, unapologetically gritty and realistic worlds, and yes, revealing and character-developing sexual situations that apparently only appeal to boys.

I look forward to seeing the show.
Apr. 18th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
Dropping in to share the sentiment. I could take a picture of my bookshelves and post them like a lot of others are doing, but that's a lot of photos. XD
Apr. 18th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
I am a geek girl.
My name is Legion for we are many.
Apr. 18th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post.
Chrissy Olinger
Apr. 18th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
What a twerp
I got so mad about this I blogged before I'd known Mr. Martin had already responded.

One of the things that really made me chuckle was her confusion about GOT being FANTASY, not HISTORY.

It's nasty, nasty sexism. And it's doubly insulting when arrogant women preach about who women must be in order to validate their ignorance.

THIS chick digs chainmail.
Apr. 18th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
Geek Girls Sounding Off
As a girl who is devoted to fantasy and to ASOIAF, I was extremely annoyed by this review. It seemed clear to me that this reviewer had not read the books before watching the show. She couldn't think that the sex scenes were added in if she had. It's also so disappointing that she thinks so badly of women that she believes we won't watch a fantasy show if there's no sex in it. GRRM, keep on rocking the books and the tv. The girls will keep on watching.
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George R.R. Martin
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