All The Points That Are Fit To Miss

Yesterday, the New York Times continued to disappoint by printing a poorly written review of the upcoming HBO series “Game of Thrones.” You can read the article here, but to sum up it’s dismissive of the genre of fantasy and can be considered insulting (or at least mildly annoying) to fans of the same. So I decided to send an email to the Times in respone:

I am writing in response to Ginia Bellafante’s “review” of the upcoming HBO series, “Game of Thrones.” It’s upsetting to see something like this in print, not because it’s a negative review, but because it gives two clear impressions:

1) She never bothered to watch the show, let alone with any sense of critical thought or having done some research before hand.

Nowhere in this article does she discuss the plot, characters, actors or anything else that goes into an episode of television. In doing so, she has not performed her job, plain and simple.

For example, the weather in Westeros is not some “vague global-warming horror story.” Had Ms. Bellafante done a smidgen of research, she would have known that is the norm for the setting, not an exception. What George R.R. Martin has with this series, in my opinion, is a thought experiment: “What would a feudal society be like if seasons were measured in years, and winter was coming?” If Ms. Bellafante cannot handle the concept of thought experiments combined with cold climates in works of fiction, I recommend she avoid reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s exemplary work “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

2) In not applying any critical thought to this write-up (I refuse to call it a review), Ms. Bellafante appears to be on a “literary high horse.”

This strikes me more as willfully ignorant and dismissive of genre fiction, and fantasy in particular. A viable and expansive market exists for this, lest we forget the success of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. “Game of Thrones” is not “boy fiction.” I can safely say that while reading these books I was repulsed by the way some of the women and children were treated. However, being of critical mind, I considered that this was how people lived in that era in our own history. It didn’t make it any less repulsive, but instead gave the story a very realistic feel that kept me reading. This is not a romanticized Arthurian fantasy, but a mirror held up to our own past.

What Ms. Bellafante also ignores is that in the writing of “Game of Thrones,” Martin takes many of the tropes and cliches of fantasy fiction and turns them on their ear. As going into depth on this subject would risk spoiling either the book or television series, I will just say that prophecies made can turn out to be abandoned, and grace both gained and lost can come in ways one might not expect.

While Ms. Bellafante may not have liked the show — and such is right and her opinion — showing such disdain for the genre shows a lacking in professionalism. While studying for my Master’s at Seton Hill University, I was made to read works from a variety of genres, including romance, horror, young adult and mainstream fiction. In that time, I made the discovery that good writing happens regardless of genre and deserves to be promoted and read.

In saying that the sexual content was “tossed in as a little something for the ladies,” Ms. Bellafante just comes across as insulting to any woman who has read and enjoyed fantasy. This was not added to the screenplay in an attempt to appeal to a market statistic — again, this is the sort of thing that happened in our own history. Ms. Bellafante gives the impression of ignorance in that regard as well.

I know many women who are avid fans of Martin’s work, and it’s not just for the sex. Politics, intrigue, dark powers, heroes, villains — all of these can appeal to any reader without regard to gender. In all honesty I don’t know what kind of point Ms. Bellafante is trying to make by referencing Lorrie Moore, an author I’ve never heard of, and whose list of credits appears rather thin. Perhaps if she tried referring to someone more prolific like Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Oryx and Crake”) or someone closer to the genre like Marion Zimmer Bradley (“Mists of Avalon”, The “Darkover” series) her intent would be made clearly.

Again, it is a shame that this made it into print. Like the series or no, “Game of Thrones” deserves better than this hackneyed dismissal.

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