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We're Number One...

... in graphic novels.

The second volume of the GAME OF THRONES graphic novel debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list:


(And, hey, the following week's list is out, and we're still number one).

My thanks and congratulations to Daniel Abraham (who wrote the script) and Tommy Patterson (who drew the pictures) and Mike S. Miller (who did the covers). They do all the real work on this one. This is their triumph, much more than mine.

I'm glad so many of you are enjoying the funny book.


Jul. 6th, 2013 12:45 am (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
My racial background is one that is not represented in "western fantasy" often, if ever, and I don't expect characters with my own racial appearance to exist in ASOIAF. But the reason why I write is because I do know a lot of fans who saw themselves visually in the Rhoynar and yes, in House Martell.

Many of your readers of color (from all sorts of racial/ethnic backgrounds) read that Oberyn had olive skin, black hair, and "saturnine" features. They read that Joffrey japed about "a Dornishman and a cowflop." From Oakheart they saw the Dornish described as hypersexualized with "peppers and strange spices." They read about Alleras and how she was "dark as teak" and "brown as a nut" and disparaged as a "monkey." . (If she's part Summer Islander, why qualify brown with 'light'?) We related to those experiences and those misunderstandings. We read interviews where--while cautioning against direct analogies--you noted Palestinian, Moorish, and Welsh influences. We identified with the concept of a Targ king sorting the Dornish by phenotypical traits as part of the conquest. We saw that portrait of Arianne and we recognized that perhaps she would be the only PoV who is a woman of color.

Maybe we were just imagining what we wanted to see: a more diverse Westeros with a level of verisimilitude closer to that of actual medieval Europe rather than modern fantasy's monochrome. Dorne gave your readers of color hope that they could be seen as a part of a medieval fantasy world, just as people of color were a part of medieval history and lore. Sir Palamedes, Safir, and Segwarides sat at Arthur's roundtable--surely nonwhite characters could sit on a Westerosi Small Council. If Alessandro de'Medici was the Duke of Florence, why not a brown man as the Prince of Dorne? Even now, with your description of Dorne as "Mediterranean," I immediately think of the vastness of the region, which saw so much North African and Middle Eastern influence.

When I asked about the Martell casting, I wasn't asking that black actors specifically be cast as Martells, and I was thrown off guard when you made such a distinction between "Mediterranean" and "African." In addition to the countries you mentioned (all regions with Moorish influence), there are coastal countries like Libya, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and even Morocco (GOT filming site.) Many of these countries are peopled with dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. Why limit Dorne to Mediterranean countries in Europe?

I am relieved to hear that D&D/HBO favor having a diverse cast. They've explored opportunities to cast characters differently from your text. But please, please understand that these characters don't carry the same meaning as having a noble house with leaders of color. I, too, hope for black actors for the Cinnamon Wind, but ultimately, these characters--Dothraki, Sallhador, Missandei, Kojja, etc. all function as otherized supports to the stories of white PoV characters (Dany, Davos, Sam, etc.) With Dorne, with characters like Oberyn and Arianne, it was different, it was incredible, to imagine characters of color as players of the Game of Thrones.

A huge part of reading fantasy is being able to imagine yourself in another character's experience. I don't deny that, but I also think it is important to acknowledge why it might be refreshing and relieving for someone from an underrepresented group to see themselves reflected in literature or on screen.

Mr. Martin, I really wanted to see major characters of color in Westeros. I really wanted to see an actor with brown skin play Oberyn, since I don't think your story necessarily affords this kind of big role to actors of color anywhere else. There was just something soul-crushing, something heartbreaking, for me when I read what you wrote. (And I know that by writing you again here I am continuing to open myself up to vitriol from my fellow fans.)

I can't argue with your authorial intent, vision, or fiat. I can express, though, that after reading your comment, my view of Westeros has changed. Some of the verisimilitude has faded, the world of Ice and Fire feels more plastic and shiny.

So again I ask: what can fans like me do to encourage the show to cast the upcoming Martells diversely?

Respectfully yours,
Jul. 6th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
I hear what you're saying, and I appreciate knowing your thoughts and feelings on these issues, which you've stated very eloquently.

No one meant to break your heart or crush your soul, certainly. There are a number of complicated issues involved here, and I don't have the time or the energy to address them all. ((Might make for an interesting discussion at a con, if we had a hour or two and a good cross-sample of people of good will and differing viewpoints)).

I understand that Salladhor Saan and Missandei and Xaro Xhoan Daxos are not major characters, certainly... but it does trouble me to have them dismissed as "otherized supports to... white PoV characters." Yes, they are supporting characters; they're not protagonists, they don't have chapters from their own viewpoint. But Oberyn Martell is a supporting character as well. Which is not to say he is unimportant. Robb Stark never had a viewpoint chapter either.

I try to make ALL my characters fully-fleshed and human, whether they are secondary or tertiary characters, minor players, or spearcarriers who only have one line. I grant you, I may not always succeed, given that I have literally thousands of characters, but the intent is there. I should also point out that I am not done writing the books. If you've read my novels, you'll know that sometimes a character who seems very minor in one book assumes great importance in later volumes... and sometimes even becomes a POV. Let me hasten to add, this does not mean I am promising to make Salladhor Saan a POV character... but it does mean I am not done with him. (Of course, in the books Saan is white, a Lyseni of Valyrian descent, so that may not help much).

Speaking of Valyria... right from the start I wanted the Targaryens, and by extension the Valryians from whom they were descended, to be a race apart, with distinctive features that set them apart from the rest of Westeros, and helped explain their obsession with the purity of their blood. To do this, I made a conventional 'high fantasy' choice, and gave them silver-gold hair, purple and violet eyes, fine chiseled aristocratic features. That worked well enough, at least in the books (on the show, less so).

But in recent years, it has occured to me from time to time that it might have made for an interesting twist if instead I had made the dragonlords of Valyria... and therefore the Targaryens... black. Maybe I could have kept the silver hair too, though... no, that comes too close to 'dark elf' territory, but still... if I'd had dark-skinned dragonlords invade and conquer and dominate a largely white Westeros... though that choice would have brought its own perils. The Targaryens have not all been heroic, after all... some of them have been monsters, madmen, so...

Well, it's all moot. The idea came to me about twenty years too late.

In any case... I hope no one heaps any vitriol on you for stating your views. I may not agree with all you've said, but I respect where you've coming from, and you've been nothing but polite. You do not deserve abuse for that, and if anyone tries to heap some on you here I will delete their posts (I have no control over what happens elsewhere, alas, but I can at least keep my own blog civil).

FWIW, though, I do not think David, Dan, HBO, Nine Gold deserve the vitriol being heaped upon them elsewhere on the internet either (NOT in your post, let me stress). And I especially don't like to see poor Pedro Pascal getting abused, before he's even delivered a line. By all reports he is a terrific actor who gave a great reading at his audition. THAT's why he got the role.

Jul. 8th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
I can't agree with people always asking authors to create characters tailored to satisfy their needs of representation. One of the things I like about Game of Thrones is that it really has a really solid background based on historical reality. Thus, having your work tainted by the wants of others who are not intimate with the creativity and workings of your mind and world would really be disgraceful. Just like when people complained when a white woman was cast to play Cleopatra in a recent work, even though she is white according to historical records. People just need to being to feel represented in the ideas and not in the color of skin, and perhaps then we might be able to overcome racism and other serious problems the world suffers nowadays.
Jul. 12th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
Nobody is asking anyone to tailor anything. People are simply asking for authors, directors, whomever to reflect the world in which we live in. I don't see the harm in that. People act like diversity is such a chore. It should be embraced instead of maligned all the time.
Jul. 17th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
"Nobody is asking anyone to tailor anything. People are simply asking for authors, directors, whomever to reflect the world in which we live in. I don't see the harm in that."

That is exactly the meaning of "tailor made". The author has one responsibility and one responsibility only: to reflect his own world. And seriously? You ask George Martin to reflect the world you live in? You might start by killing off some dragons and direwolves as well!
Jul. 14th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
I hope I made it clear in my earlier comments that I was not trying to satisfy any personal need for representation (as I would never be seen as Dornish no matter how you slice it). I also tried to make it clear that I can't argue with the "creativity and workings" of GRRM's mind and I that I'm not in the business of tainting it--though I don't consider including people of color to be "tainting."

I do think it is important to address the notion of "historical reality" and how our exposure to media can impact (taint?) our assumptions about "historical reality." This is is why I noted the Saracen knights, Moors of al-Andalus, etc. The truth is that the ancient world was less white than is traditionally depicted in literature and TV. The Mediterranean Sea easily facilitated trade interactions between Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Carthage was in northern Africa and they had a huge war with Rome. The Roman Empire spanned past Judea. (As for Cleopatra, it's rather nebulous...the race of her mother is unknown and Cleo was the only member of her entire family to bother to learn Egyptian. As a Ptolemy she was at least half Egyptian Greek, but we will probably never know how exactly she looked, so I don't fault people for wondering why she's always alabaster white.)

Still, to me, the distinction should be "tradition," not "historical accuracy." (After all, Mr. Martin notes there are no direct parallels to culture/history in his story.) Our notions of historical accuracy are often driven by our storytelling traditions.

Part of what I love about ASOIAF is it's willingness to subvert fantasy traditions. I guess I just thought that also extended to including brown people as major players in the Game of Thrones. I don't think it is at all unreasonable for fans to look at what we know about history in the Mediterranean region, to read the books (and see characters described as having darker features, from a desert region, where blondes are apparently hard for a guy like Oberyn to find) and assume and even expect that these characters would be represented by nonwhite people. Or unreasonable to expect for Dorne to be represented visually by groups we don't see often in traditional fantasy, since these groups did engage with Europeans historically. (When I saw Tyrion on the show exoticize Dornish girls as the "strangest thing he's ever eaten," I didn't think Tyrion was just referring to brunettes.)

I do want to say though--if people of color, if women, if LGBT people, were unable to feel represented in "the ideas" and not in the color of skin or other trappings of social identity, then there wouldn't be much for us to enjoy in mainstream media at all. So of course people from underrepresented groups are able to feel represented in "the ideas." We're great at it! We have to be, if we want to have as much fun as everyone else.

People relate to "the ideas" for these characters or there wouldn't be such a diverse fandom. What we lack, where there is a disparity, is representation in those other ways. Gender. Skin Tone. Sexual orientation. and so on. It is so easy, for example, for men to find relatable examples of strong protagonists in fantasy lit who share their gender. It is much harder for women--which is part of the reason why ASOIAF is so respected. Telling a woman fan of The Avengers who wants a Miss Marvel movie "You just need to feel represented by the ideas of Iron Man and Thor, perhaps then we can overcome sexism and serious problems" would not address or overcome the gendered issues in Marvel movies at all. These fans are not the reason why the world can't overcome systemic inequalities.

I'd also hazard to say that telling readers of color--particularly the segment that was invested in seeing the Martells as PoC--that they should feel represented by "the ideas"--when white readers are represented both by "the ideas" and by the all-white PoV characters--doesn't tell us to do anything different from what we were already doing. Sometimes it's nice to have a little more than just "the ideas." With the Martells, before this week, a lot of fans thought we had that.

You don't have to agree, but please try to understand.
Jul. 8th, 2013 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
ML: I just wanted to say that I thought your post was really beautifully written.

(And of course, I appreciate the fact that GRRM took the time to read it and write a thoughtful response.)
Jul. 10th, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: House Martell Casting
Good day. I started watching the show because I work at a telecommunications company & representatives from HBO came down to promote it before the first season premiered. After the first season, I got into the books & loved them ever since. I have to say I have been reading (not)blogs from this site for a long time, but your post made me actually create an account.

I have to admit this is a concern I share as I myself am a person of color. I felt the same way about Avatar: The Last Airbender when he-who-shall-not-be-named decided to alter the cast radically when fans of the cartoon series grew up with a specific cast type in mind. There was a huge uproar on the ASN forums when the cast was shown.

It appears that the cast of GoT is hardly going to have a colored character of worth or substance, if at all. SS was a pirate who wanted to rape the ruling (white)queen , Missandei is a translator & XXD is a con man who wanted to trick the rightful(white)queen. The Dothraki are savage brutes; The Horde of Westeros akin to the Huns or Mongols.

The same way I wanted to know how Prince Zuko who was Chinese in the ATLA cartoon series was turned into an Indian for the live action movie & how Aang (Chinese in the cartoon series), Sokka (Inuit)& Katara (Inuit) became white in the live action movie, I also want to know how this pale man is the Red Viper. I imagined someone along the lines of Oded Fehr not necessarily black (although I would not be opposed to someone "brown as a nut").

GRRM himself admits to the lack of serious colored characters from the books (Strong Belwas was a kick in the balls). I mean what is going on? Are they trying to prevent the backlash of people who do NOT want people of color on the show? I remembered the racial fury from Hunger Games when viewers saw specific characters portrayed as colored actors/actresses on the show even though they were described as being colored/black IN the book.


Come on D&D.


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

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