A Game of Hormones

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. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

I realise this is mostly a gaming blog, but I felt it was probably worth dropping in a quick comment about female geeks. Both me and Spinks are female, and you may have guessed that geekiness runs proudly in our blood. As children we asked for the original D&D boxset to play with our other sister, and we’ve been playing tabletop and computer RPGs ever since. We read sci-fi and fantasy along with more ‘mainstream’ fiction, but honestly, for me the SF fiction IS mainstream, it’s what my friends read, it’s what I enjoy most. We read comics, we understand the tech we use, we love gadgets as much as any of our male friends. And – we both LOVED the Song of Ice and Fire series and are very excited about the forthcoming HBO adaptation of ‘A Game of Thrones’ (starting on sunday 17th in the US and monday 18th in the UK).

The above quotation is a clip from the New York Times preview of the show, written by a woman. It’s quickly becoming infamous, as women around the internet step up to rubbish its claims. It’s worth a read purely because it’s a really bad piece of journalism. Not because the comments about women offend me, but because it makes so few comments  about characterisation, storyline, style – all the things I might want to know about a TV show that’s new. Instead, it comments about the sexual shenanigans and the genre – clearly one the writer doesn’t enjoy one bit. Even in reference to the sex on the show, she writes:

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.

Yeah, I watch shows for the sex scenes, I really do. Especially while my husband can enjoy all the politics, violence and swordplay. What am I looking forward to about the show, for that matter? Well, seeing the deep and rich characters from the books brought to life with sumptuous settings and HBO financing. I’ve read the books, my husband hasn’t, as it happens. We’re going to see how differently we react to the TV show while watching it together. I do love fantasy books, he tends to prefer hard science fiction. But when I recommend ‘A Game of Thrones’ to people (and remember I work in a library so I get to do this a fair bit), it’s because it’s not all swords and sorcery – it’s got incredibly complex characters and storylines, politics plays more of a role than magic and there are NO ELVES (yet!). It’s fantasy but written more like a historical novel (a genre of books that, by the way, seems to appeal to women as much as to men from my basic observations at work). And I think because of all the intrigue and the fantastic setting, it fits really well within the HBO remit that includes True Blood, The Sopranos, Rome and The Wire. In fact, I think it relates more to Rome than to True Blood, if it comes down to it.

The article has received many better responses than I could ever give. Here’s a selection of my favourites:

Reading them gives me hope!

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16 thoughts on “A Game of Hormones

  1. Good point about comparing AGoT to Rome, that’s pretty astute.

    I’ve also no idea who Lorrie Moore is, or if there are any men who’d stand up at a book club and refuse to read ((any manbook)) before everyone had read The Hobbit either.

    But what I do know is that the majority of the book buying public are female, and (even from my brief part time job in a library) plenty of them read fantasy. I wonder if the reviewer ever reads anything …

  2. My reading group is pretty ambivalent about scifi, but have all read Lord of the Rings (they’re mostly 60-80 years old, just for reference).

    They don’t feel any draw to hard sci-fi, though, they LOVE revisionist history novels, even when they touch on fantasy…

    I don’t have the pull to force books on them, but I did show them Grandville to show them how sumptuous graphic novels could be, and they loved the look of it :-)

  3. Monday’s still so far away :/ And there’ll be all the crappy ad-breaks as well. Sigh.

    More on-topic: it’s a shame there are such idiots writing about the TV series in some of the newspapers. Personally, I don’t actually read them much (The Economist, The Week and ye olde Internete serve me well enough) but a family member pointed out The Guardian’s preview of the series, and they essentially said it’s trying too hard not to be Tolkein. I lol’d and facepalmed, but, hey, haters gonna hate.

    Still, looking at some of the preview shots, I was really pissed off about the visual style the series is using. I mean, in my head I imagined it being incredibly close to reality; i.e. plate, mail, hauberks and the like, all fairly dirty, rusty, dented and not overly flamboyant or unrealistic apart from the armour of the ultra-wealthy (i.e. Tywin and Renly’s armour in particular.) Instead it looks like they just went for LOTR 2.0, which kind of misses the point of the series, in that it’s not really all that fantastical, especially if you take out Dany and Melisandre; rather it’s just the medieval era transported into a different setting so that you can enjoy it from another angle.

    Also: was the caption in the paper wrong, or is Ceresi’s hair going to be straight? It’s details like that which will sort of hold the series back for me, if they’re present in bug numbers.

    I really do want to see the Wall, Eyrie and Storm’s End though. I hope they’re epic.

  4. Another female Song of Ice and Fire fan here. And that review just made me go: “What?” It doesn’t even make any sense. The writer already lost me when she referred to the series as a “global-warming horror story”.

  5. I have to admit to not liking Science Fiction. I have read quite a few fantasy books, but I prefer something along the lines of Harry Potter to anything with a lot of fighting and descriptions of blood spurting etc. I don’t read horror or war stories either for that matter.
    I do like watching things like Trueblood and Doctor Who, though, and I love to play WoW. Does that make me a geek?

    Anyway, I have not heard of Game of Thrones before now, but that review was pretty awful; after reading it I still have no idea what GoT is about (or what her article was trying to tell me). Did the reviewer even watch it?

    • It certainly means you’re open to various scifi/fantasy elements in your entertainment. I’m never sure entirely what defines someone as a geek, other than I’m sure I’d make most requirements ;p

  6. I think there’s a real case against the genrification of sci fi and fantasy fiction anyway.

    Homer is full of harpies and gorgons, Shakepeare full of ghosts and witches. People before about 1930 really didn’t distinguish between fiction where some of the characters were made up creatures and fiction where the characters were made up people.

    It started of course with the pulps, which as the name suggests were written as throwaway cheap fiction and I believe the divide is almost wholely rooted in publisher profits rather than any intellectual rigour.

    And that leads us to the current circular arguments that fantasy isn’t literature, that books with witches and goblins in but which are undeniably good are not fantasy but that the definition of fantasy is books with made up creatures like witches and goblins.

    Future generations will laugh at our pseudo-intellectual academics and literary critics and be astonished that the rest of us respect the word of people who are only arguing from the standpoint of their sinecures.

  7. As a man, I’s offended by Ms Bellafonte’s notion what I cain’t enjoy watching a bit of hot and sweaty between the sheets action just as much as a woman. Such stereotypes belong back in the 20th…. I mean the 19th… 15th? Wait, when the hell was it fashionable fer ta think what soft-core porn was just fer the wimmenz?

    As far The Hobbit goes, the reason nobody in her book club ain’t demanding it is prolly ’cause every single damn member (except fer our snobby critic) already done read it.

  8. oh boy…I haven’t watched GoT yet, but I’m really looking forward to Daenerys . GoT isn’t boy fiction. That idea is ridiculous. Sure, there is a lot of using sex as a weapon early on, but damn….Daenerys is so strong. *rolls eyes*

    It’s going to be okay. I won’t kill the ignorant lady.

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