Saturday, 16 April 2011

Looks like I'm not alone against the Game of Thrones pundits

"You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant."
 - Harlan Ellison

No sooner do I have my say about the useless media coverage around A Game of Thrones, then Cimmerian Shield Wall alum Brian Murphy has a comprehensive round-up of some of the absolute worst, some of which I was going to comment on, but then I realised Brian did more in his swift dismissal than I could. Especially since most, like that utterly odious piece from The Guardian (that old Bête Noire) which I hated the most for its attempt to come off as so very mature that ends up doing the very opposite, aren't even worth the effort of point-by-point disintegration.

Luckily, there are others.

The One Ring has a sample of rebuttals to the breathtakingly stupid piece from the New York Times, which has this astounding declaration:

While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first.

Good grief. Gotta love that "well I've never met a single one of these people, so they cannot possibly exist in any relevant numbers!" "argument."  I also wonder if she thinks there are no men who read "women's fiction," in which case I must defenestrate my Brontes, Alcotts, Montgomerys, Austens and Atwoods forthwith, lest I undergo a crisis of existence!  Better chuck my le Guins, Shelleys, Moores, Bracketts and Cherryhs just to be on the safe side!

So, I'm going to highlight some of these reactions.  They are a joy to behold.

"Boy fiction?" What the hell is "boy fiction?" And since when do television producers put sex into a show in order to draw in more women? I thought that was what they did to get MEN to watch. But there I go, generalizing, just like Ms. Belafante.
 - The Nerdy Bird

“The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise.”
“No woman alive”. Wow, that seems just a tad excessive a remark to make about the series. If we can’t keep up with the plot and the many characters, “If you can’t count cards, please return to reruns of ‘Sex and the City.’”
That’s right, ladies, no need to tune in if we simply can’t wrap our little heads around it.
 - Geek Girl on the Street

I’m a 31 year old woman and a sci-fi/fantasy fan since I was a little girl. I’m a huge fan of sci-fi like Star Trek, Fringe, and Doctor Who, fantasy like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the ultimate sci-fi/fantasy blend that is Star Wars, and I write for several websites including, which is a geeky site that caters specifically to women. All the fans of Game of Thrones that I know are female. It saddens me that a female reviewer would paint all women with the same brush. “I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who…” Ms Bellafante clearly has a homogeneous group of friends! Most people do. Doesn’t mean she should sell limited experience as fact. Why has she never met such a woman? Because those women start their OWN book clubs where reading SFF is par for the course!
 - Teresa Jusino

The series is hardly “boy fiction.” Where does this phrase come from?  Is it automatically for boys because there are swords and mutton?  The series weaves an intricate tale of power spread across a vast kingdom. The major houses play the game of thrones, and the lesser houses and peasants deal with the fallout. A vast Wall to the north keeps out Wildlings and supernatural beings. The seasons have no determined length and winter is coming. The characters are rich and layered (and yes, numerous), and none of them are safe. There are also a lot of kick-ass women and girls. Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Catelyn Stark, Arya Stark – they all survive hardships and fight in the best ways they know how. They fight for power, their families, and for their lives.
 - Amy Ratcliffe

So a female audience, who obviously couldn’t have such “focused memory,” should be contented with sex scenes ?
I don’t play bridge. But I was okay keeping track of all Martin’s characters and storylines during my reading. And I read all the books, not only watched the first episode of the first season of the show. I’m quite confident I can speak for all geek girls here: not only have we brains, which I’m sure Ms. Bellafante is aware of since she’s a woman herself, but we are able to focus on fictional issues, like remembering characters’ names and stories, and not only on practical issues, like keeping track of the laundry’s schedule. How amazing we are!

 - Geek Mom

Don't even get me started on a major subplot of the series, which revolves around Daenerys, a woman who becomes queen of the horse-riding, nomadic Dothraki people across the water from the kingdom where the Starks and Lannisters spend all their time gossiping and sleeping around. Daenerys secures her power by taming her savage husband with sex, munching on raw animal hearts, and bringing new direction to a powerful nation nearly ready to invade Westeros. Similarly, the King's wife Cersei Lannister basically goes around murdering and fucking everybody in sight - including her brother - to consolidate her family's power and rob her husband of his throne. Seriously, can you imagine a guy getting into these stories about women taking power and ordering everybody around?
 - Annalee Newitz in a wonderful article that turns the article upside down, using the same broad generalizations as the original piece to prove how "no living man would watch A Game of Thrones."

On a related note, I'd like to tie this in to something interesting that happened today.

For those of you not aware, I'm part of a group of enterprising young chaps interested in comics.  We originally met up attending a course last year, but we all clicked so well that we started meeting up at the library since then to talk all things comics, cinematic, literary, gaming, popular culture, politics, religion and whatnot.  The elephant in the room, of course, is that we were all dudes.  Understandable: comics and such have long been a bit of a boy's only club, and considering my town's a good twenty five years behind the rest of the world it's perhaps natural that female comics fans are rare.

We had a fair number of girls on the course, about three, but they never took up the offer to come along afterwards. Perhaps intimidated by our masculine presence (hah!) or just not particularly interested in being The Girl, I guess. However, today the Greenock Comics Group played host to our first female.

Now, there are certain things I shouldn't have to say in regards to releasing an attractive 19 year old girl who knows what you're talking about when you mention Akira or Planet of the Apes, but I like to think we acquitted ourselves fairly well.  If the surging panic of our treehouse being invaded by a g-g-g-g-girl was present in some of our younger members, it didn't drive her away.  Perhaps it's because she's Irish.  Irish girls are fearless when it comes to men. Still, I was intrigued to note that... nothing much changed.

Sure, she was a girl, and the injection of a certain combination of chromosomes into a largely similarly-chromosomed environment** is always going to cause some ripples.  The fact that she dressed up as what appeared to be Pippi Longstocking in her Tim Burton phase - complete with striped stockings and a black tank top that said something about vampires that I felt too bashful to read due to the word placement - certainly didn't help matters. But even with all the things that should have us excitable males gibbering like apes, we found what she had to say somehow overrode male impulses. Mostly it was controversial opinions on things.  Perhaps snark is the great unifier.

This, I believe, is why us fantasy fans have to stick together - male and female. I have my problems with A Game of Thrones, but when something I enjoy is criticized - and, despite what you might think, I did enjoy parts of A Game of Thrones - I feel moved to act.  Fantasy fandom can't be this elitist, snooty club where only the Cool Guys are allowed if it wants to survive.  There will always be a cult of fandom, but that should be part of a greater whole, not the whole itself.  I could never understand the Boy's Club thing (mostly because I was a member of many Boy's Clubs), especially that subset that's critical of girls who are, apparently, only in it for the attention, enjoying the feeling of wrapping gormless men around their little finger.  And no doubt some will accuse me (as has happened in the past) of being some sort of disingenuous internet crusader who's defending girls under the misplaced belief that doing so will get me in their good graces, or even that the simple gratitude of the ladies will sate my thirst for female contact.  Quite the web of conspiracies these people have.

So, I applaud all the geek girls wearing their badge on their sleeve, and hope that the mainstream can eventually forget about such silly ideas as "boy's fiction" and "girl's fiction," and recognize that many fantasy fans see them as fantasy fans first, and divide themselves along gender/sexual/racial/national lines second.

*Thanks to Charles R. Rutledge for the brilliant Ellison quote.
**And thanks to Tex for pointing out the utterly baffling science(!) in that sentence, since amended.


  1. Thanks for the hat-tip Al. If you haven't seen, old George himself has responded, too:

    Love the Ellison quote. Nice job, Charles.

  2. Liz, my Dark And Scary Tech Goddess, has something to say about Ginia, the NYT cow...

    (and they wonder why the circulation's dropping at the NYT)

    PS--Ya got yer chromosomes backwards, Bub.

  3. Thanks for the hat-tip Al. If you haven't seen, old George himself has responded, too:

    So he did. Very classy response, though I can think of a very unkind retort to that "who are all these boys with breasts" remark regarding the old cliche of fantasy fans' physiques! But that would be mean.

    Liz, my Dark And Scary Tech Goddess, has something to say about Ginia, the NYT cow...

    Your Goddess speaks wisely!

    PS--Ya got yer chromosomes backwards, Bub.

    Backwards... or am I the only one who has it right? The answer is... no. Dammit. Cheers for the correction.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. In Spain, two young and very atractive girls, more or less famous for some quiz and talent shows mentions A song of ice and fire in theirs favourite readings, for the young sin ger is even his favourite reading, they have in common been urban girls, with university studies, speaking english and other languages and being fluent in computers and internet
    Laura Gonzalo, the winner of 300,000 or so € in a cultural show, a geek girl, we called them frikis (freaks) in Spain, fan of heavy and power metal being Savatage and Virgin Steel among her favourites, fan of Star Wars too she can even speak in elfic language... in other words the dream of every geek boy...
    Rocio Torralba, Roxio, from Operacion triunfo, a kind of X factor
    By the way it seems that in Spain, at least in some cities, comic girls are common, in the Granada Salon del comic, you can see a lot of sexy girls disguised as their favourite characters