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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 02:32 am (UTC)
We love you too <3
And all of our girl AND guy friends!

I admit that I balk at the mention of crime or mystery novels. While I don't agree with what the Times reviewer had to say, I guess most everyone has their "literary turn-off".

I'm bummed that I don't have a TV subscription, or a TV for that matter; but I'll find a way to see the HBO show somehow. It could have Tyrion as a tall, dark and handsome knight and I'd still find a way to watch it.
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
And we adore you, GRRM <3 <3 <3
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
What crap they can come up with! I am a fantasy lover from many moons ago and female as well so what does that make me? Surely a woman over 50 is no "girl" but apparently the only thing I look for in a novel is romance?

I just was talking about the Fire and Ice series today and commented that one thing that I liked about it was the complete development of characters and the sense of purpose. Rather thank tying it up with bawdy "details", you have written in a way that "flows" most like our lives.

I thank you. To read and re-read your novels is like visiting old friends.

Your forever fan: Earth Mother Geek
Apr. 17th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
Times author has no clue
A Game of Thrones was the first fantasy book that my fiance has ever been able to get all the way through, and she loved it. She's currently reading A Clash of Kings.

To say women only read fantasy if it involves graphic sex has got to be one of the most off base comments I've heard in a long time. Most women fantasy readers out there that I know read it for the same reasons (escape, intrigue, adventure, I could go on and on) that most of the men red it. Those reasons transcend any gender boundaries that this author is imagining. Sure, there are women out there that only enjoy fantasy novels if they involve graphic sex, but they are FAR from the majority.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
Just poking my head in to leave my $.02... geek girl here, and the sex scenes are far from being my favorite parts of ASOIAF. The politicking, the depth of the characters, the overall plot - you know, the elements of a really good story - are the things that keep me coming back for more.

Thank YOU, Mr. Martin :-)
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Oh, lord, HOW boggled and furious was I? And all the more so by the fact that although it looks like the article is set up to accept comments, I've found it impossible to get the site to accept any of mine. (Or indeed to let me rate the review, although happily other people have managed to give it a pretty tellingly low rating.)

I'm sure I won't be the only person in your comments linking to my own blog post on the matter - and, yes, had it been a matter of the reviewer saying that fantasy wasn't her cup of tea, or indeed coming up with something that sounded like a cogent critique, I'd simply have shrugged.

But positing that real women prefer 'Sex And The City' to a complex narrative with multiple plot threads dealing with power and politics and relationships, and because we're too squeamish to enjoy action or violence...


On a much cheerier note - my God, I am SO excited about the TV show! It looks like a wonderful adaptation, and I've been getting increasingly psyched watching the teasers on YouTube.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Absolutely disgusting
My name is Jennifer. I am a young writer in both prose and screenplays. I first read martin's novel series when I was 13. I mean that. Ethics aside, these novels taught me almost everything I know today about writing. From complex character development, to spoon feeding exposition to the audience, to even little rules, like how to never have your characters answer a direct question without dire need, else dialogue gets boring.

One thing I did not read it for was for the sex. In fact, I found that sex had it's own set of themes in the novel, and that it showed character development, only in a more honest, brutal way. When Dany was first taken by Drogo, we saw her character change. When we saw how Tyrion interacted with Shae, we saw his character come through in ways that we wouldn't have seen in less intimate scenes. We even saw characteristics of Ned and Catelyn that we wouldn't have otherwise seen.

This bigoted chauvinistic reporter CLEARLY has no idea what women read fantasy for, and I'm sick of it. I've heard this for years, and I'm only seventeen. I simply don't understand it. Sigmund Freud's theory that women have "penis-envy", when brought up, is almost always considered a load of crap by the general public nowadays. Yet, this reviewer seems to think that the only reason women are into fantasy series is for the sexual endeavors.

Not only that though, I've heard this from people the other way around - that women get turned off by the book because it's so sexual. And I just...I don't get that either. Martin has a very good, level comprehension of the female psyche. Not all of his females are strong go-getters. Just ask Sansa. Or Margaery. And even the ones that are exhibit their femininity often and well. This book isn't misogynistic, or clearly "boy fiction". I've READ "boy fiction", and wrinkled my nose at it. The women are always beautiful, always fall to men's desires in the end, or they make a man succumb to them. Either way, it's flawed, flat, and glorified porn.

Not every character in Martin's novels is pretty. Ask Brienne the Beauty. Ask Asha. or Shagga. Not all of them want to be women roles. Not all of them want sexual relations, and NONE are flat in character - even when they are flat in chest. That's the draw of his novels, as a woman. He's not afraid to make his world more realistic for the sake of story.

I am a woman. I am a nerd. I have read fantasy all my life. And I firmly say to whatever narrow-minded pig, male OR female, that wants to stereotype me or any other female fantasy nerd as some sexually deprived, ill-informed airhead: Try me. I will GLADLY prove you, and the rest of your kind, wrong.

...I will now dismount from my soapbox. Thanks. I had to vent about this one!
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
It's one thing to write a negative review of something. I'd have been perfectly willing to accept a negative review of GoT, as much as I love the series, as long as it was well-written and made fair points. But this review is full of a bunch trite stereotypes of fantasy fans that hasn't even been accurate for 30 years now. It's true that fantasy used to be very male oriented and had a lot of works written by hacks. And even Tolkien, as great of an author as he was, barely made any mention of women at all. But, in the past 30 years or so, both male and female fantasy authors have made interesting, three dimensional female characters, in addition to telling stories that are far from lame sword and sorcery cliches that made literary types hate fantasy novels. And not to be a shameless sycophant or anything, but ASOIF is about as far from all those old fantasy cliches as it gets. So, basically, this reviewer wasn't even focusing on the merits (or lack thereof) of the plot, the acting, and the source material. It's a very weak review when a reviewer tries to show you how clever they are and not comment on most of the elements of something. I got nothing out of the review about any of the actors' performances, the reviewer's take on the plot, or anything useful, for that matter. Just a bunch of lame stereotypes about fantasy fans. I mean, seriously, maybe in 1980 she might've had a point. But this? This doesn't make any sense.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:49 am (UTC)
We love you too!

This woman has no idea what she is talking about. This review sounds like she was reading a book or something while she was watching. A bad book. Like Twilight.
Apr. 17th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
we love you too, sir! don't listen to those morons.
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC)
Compelled to comment as a "boy with breasts" myself :D I've read a lot of the rebuttals and they have been great. I think some geek girls might even start reading the books now just because that review angered them so much.

Also it was great meeting you at the food truck last week!
Bess Cozby
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:26 am (UTC)
George, oh dearest, genius George, reading this forced me to get angry on my blog. It's the first (and hopefully the last) time, but I'm glad to do it on your behalf.

Keep swinging. They're small fish compared to you.

Apr. 17th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
<----geek girl and scifi chick who likes your books

Just wanted to add my support to the deluge of comments :)
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
Geek boy married to a geek girl here. That review was painful and frustrating. It's a reminder that no matter how much books like yours and other mainstream SF and Fantasy series have helped make the genre more openly acceptable, there's still a long way to go.

I read the review and hated it. I'm glad you responded. Your response and all these comments have made my day.
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.

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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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