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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. 16th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
You should have seen the look on my husband's face when I told him, "The New York Times thinks we're a same-sex couple!" :)
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
We love you too, George!
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
You write human fiction, George. And, shockingly, some of those humans are boys, and some are girls. Who woulda thought?!
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
I have a feeling that Bellafante will receive more flack about this particular review than any other. I don't believe that I have previously read a review that was as insulting to women by declaring that they have such limitations to their interests.
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
I can't believe someone wrote an review (deserves this name?) so narrow-minded and prejudiced. I know not everyone likes fantasy and it's their right, but dismiss completely an opus like yours only because of its genre it's something incredibly stupid.

Regarding the "boy fiction" comment... I'm a 30 years old woman who loves to read all kinds of books, and I always thought every genre has good and bad representatives. Good literature transcends sex, countries, religion, etc. They don't matter. Ms Bellafant, as a "reviewer" (again, deserves the name?) should know all this better than anyone.

Mr. Martin, as a very proud geek girl, I love your books. And I'm counting the minutes to watch Game of Thrones (in Brazil, May 8th!)
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Boys with breasts
Those are just the fat dudes, George. Instead you should instead focus on the girls who visit you at cons.
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
I wanted to comment on that review but couldn't find a place to do it when I read it yesterday. The "boy fiction" remark was the one that really got to me, too. Of the 30+ friends of mine who are fans of the books, probably a full half of them are women, some of them among the most rabid, too (and I'm not even counting the people I know from westeros.org).

Most of the people I've seen reading the books in public on the subway and buses in NYC over the years have been women - in fact all of them have, and it's served in a couple of occasions as a nice way for me to start a conversation with them ;-).

What I found really lame about the comment in the review is that it was made about the books as an assumption, without ever having read the source material herself, nor having done any research into what percentages of readers are male or female. She just made a pronouncement, "it must be like this!"

Apr. 16th, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
This doesn't even qualify as a review, since it never gets around to unimportant things like PLOT or CHARACTERS. (And neither does dismissing a genera out of hand qualify as a review. It's an opinion.)

And speaking of fallacies - wasn't it just metaphorical yesterday that i was reading about how women won't read/see somethng if it's porn, or too much like porn? So how did we get here?

I am reminded of all the reviewers who tried to tell us that the numbers proved Lord of the Rings was for boys (because approximately 51% of viewers were male)

It annoys me, especially in this economy, that someone is being paid to review an audience instead of a movie/book. (and without doing proper research even for that)
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
I am female, a bonafide "literary" book aficionado, and a shrieky Martin fangirl. YES, IT'S TRUE -- ALL THREE AT ONCE. The NYT review, as well as the one run by Slate, disgusts me. Just adding my voice to the deafening chorus of female indignation.

(I've actually been thinking quite a bit about the representation of female characters in ASoIaF lately. Most of the female fans I know don't take issue with the presentation of female characters in the series, but one reader I know does make the point that some of the earlier characters seem very type-cast: you have the mama grizzly; the evil, beautiful queen, literally named after a sorceress in a Homer epic who seduces men and turns them to swine; the runtish tomboy; the spoiled, bratty princess; and so on. The question is, are these harmful, stereotypical portrayals, adhering as they do to certain feminine archetypes? Harmful, in the sense that it flattens out the possibility of a range of women personalities, reducing womankind to a handful of rote roles? And my answer, after thinking about it for all of 1.2 nanoseconds, has got to be a resounding no. Unlike books by certain other scifi/fantasy authors who I will, cough, politely refrain from naming, George's portrayal of these women characters invites us to sympathize with them on an unusually deep level. They are too readily humanized by the narrative to be "only" the protective mother, the rebellious tomboy, the conniving b*tch. Even Cersei, who is arguably one of the most straightforwardedly evil characters in the series, becomes more dimensional when her motivations re: her children are taken into account. Put simply, we are too deep into these characters; how can they then be objectified, or made to prance around in metal bikinis to satisfy the fanboys, in a light-hearted, haha-dancing-girls-bursting-from-a-cake, manner? It ain't gonna happen, if George has the respect for these characters that he seems to have.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the NYT reviewer is dead wrong. Dead, dead wrong.)

You are my hero, George. You keep on writing your awesome girl characters, I'll keep on reading.
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
What a steaming pile of BS! I love your books, and there is a lot of sexy in them, but the later is not the cause of the former. You write awesome characters and plots. Even if you "faded to black" every time, they would still be fantastic reads. My other favourite fantasy authors are J.K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce, neither of whom, so far as I am aware, are known for graphic sex (outside of fanfic, that is!). What a weird assertion to make.
Apr. 16th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
We love you too, Mr. Martin. :-)
Apr. 16th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
Having read Ms. Bellafante's rant I can't help wondering what criteria the New York Times has for hiring reviewers. I imagine the good ones are probably allowed some leeway in terms of content, but judging from some of Ms. Bellafante's other "reviews" I don't think that adjective applies to her so why, then, is she allowed to go on her little personal slagfest and ignore the subject she's supposed to be discussing? The only bits relevant to Game of Thrones would lead you to believe that it's an epic tale of illicit sex and global warming. That would be... inaccurate, to say the least.

I'd also like to know how the New York Times goes about assigning materials. Again, I'm sure there's a hierarchy involved, but wouldn't it behoove them to make at least a token effort to match stuff to a reviewer's taste? If for no other reason than to avoid what has happened here: a reviewer who so loathes the genre she's reviewing that she doesn't even pretend to understand or care about its actual content? This isn't the first time Ms. Bellafante has been forced to review SF&F; her rant about Supernatural, for instance, is another sight to behold. Why, then, is she being forced to do it?

Slag the lady all you want, but she's clearly repulsed by the very idea of fantasy so she's hardly likely to offer up a fair and comprehensive review of anything that is outside her "comfort zone." I know that as a geek girl if someone forced me to write reviews of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives I'd find it virtually impossible not to express my complete abhorrence of the shows and of the reality TV genre itself.

What Bellafante did was wrong and unfair, but she only did it because it was assigned to her by the New York Times... and they let her get away with it.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 16th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
If only Arya or Brienne could trundle up and 'stick her with the pointy end'. That would make her more inclined to keep her stereotypical, misogynistic and ignorant views on women to herself.

Love a boy with breasts.
Victor M. Yeste
Apr. 16th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
The world is full of people that don't think before they write about something. But it's incredible that a review of a very famous newspaper falled to that kind of nonsense.

Thanks for writing books so good and, well, fantasious! You're the best, and I am sure that almost everybody thinks so, boys and girls :)
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George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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