Coauthors of George R.R. Martin’s new book face backlash over racism

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 25: Writer George R.R. Martin attends the Sony Pictures presentation during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 25, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 25: Writer George R.R. Martin attends the Sony Pictures presentation during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 25, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) /

There’s some drama in Westeros today. George R.R. Martin (kind of) has a new book out coming October 25, called The Rise of the Dragon. It’s an illustrated edition of his book Fire & Blood, packaged similarly to the 2014 coffee table world book The World of Ice and Fire. And like The World of Ice and FireThe Rise of the Dragon is coauthored by the founders of the fansite, married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr.

That’s the background; the story is that George R.R. Martin’s official Twitter account publicized the book’s release last week, and was met with pushback across the Twitter-verse from fans calling out Martin’s coauthors for problematic behavior and a “history of racism,” with some insisting they would not buy the book so long as it had Antonsson and García’s names attached to it.

Fans on Twitter call for boycott of George R.R. Martin’s new book The Rise of the Dragon due to problematic coauthors

The issue comes mostly down to Antonsson criticizing HBO for casting people of color in its shows based on Martin’s works. Back in 2012, Antonsson decried the casting of actor Nonso Anozie as Xaro Xhoan Daxos on Game of Thronesowing to the fact that Daxos has pale skin in the novels and Anozie is Black. A few months later, she celebrated the casting of white actor Ed Skrein as Dario Naharis after rumors that an actor of color was being considered for the role, per Variety.

Recently, Antonsson and García came under scrutiny do to repeated arguments against the casting of Black actors to play members of House Velaryon in House of the Dragon. In Fire & Blood, it’s said that the Velaryons look similar to the pale-skinned Targaryens.

Actor Steve Toussaint, who plays Corlys Velaryon, has spoken at length about the racial abuse he has had to deal with since his casting was announced, saying that some viewers could accept dragons flying around and people with violet eyes and white hair, but the idea of a “rich Black guy” was “beyond the pale.”

Antonsson disagrees with Toussaint, saying his statements create a “false dichotomy which completely misses the point of how secondary world fantasy functions.” According to her, changing the race of characters “raises all sorts of logical questions.”

Antonsson isn’t wrong that secondary world fantasy novels often uses ethnic makeup to convey things about geopolitics to readers. However, holding too tightly to that idea can give the impression that secondary world nations are racially homogenous, which suggests that race is being used as a trope. Martin is generally more thoughtful in the way he builds his worlds.

Meanwhile, there’s more to this issue than just textual accuracy. Book publishers and Hollywood studios have been going through their own reckonings when it comes to racial representation, so there are lots of factors to consider.

Antonsson has been more than a little combustible when discussing this topic over the years, so it’s hard to blame people for being wary of her intentions. For instance, in 2021, she took to Twitter to defend her stance that HBO shouldn’t have gone the “valyrian drow” route when casting Corlys as a Black man with white hair, “drow” being a reference to the racially coded Dark Elves of Dungeons & Dragons. “Take your woke fucking stupidity and shove it up your ass. Corlys is miscast, there are no black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show,” Antonsson wrote.

The Rise of the Dragon coauthors respond to allegations of racism

Antonsson and García have been working with Martin since before HBO’s Game of Thrones premiered in 2011; they were first brought onto the author’s team as fact-checkers when he was working on A Feast for Crows before going on to coauthor The World of Ice and Fire with him. Martin has so far not responded to these complaints, though according to Antonsson, he is apparently “very much aware” of the discourse surrounding his coauthors and hasn’t hasn’t yet “suggested [they] stop sharing [their] opinions.” Both Martin and The Rise of the Dragon’s publisher Ten Speed Press declined to speak to Variety about the matter.

Antonsson and García Jr., on the other hand, doubled down on their stances, with García saying that he feels under attack for holding to his views about deviating from Martin’s written words. Antonsson feels that people have “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” She said it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building,” and claims she has no issues with inclusive casting but feels “diversity should not trump story.”

"If George had indeed made the Valyrians Black instead of white, as he mused on his ‘Not a Blog’ in 2013, and this new show proposed to make the Velaryons anything other than Black, we would have had the same issue with it and would have shared the same opinion."

The couple note that their gripes with House of the Dragon as an adaptation extend beyond the cast; they don’t like the fact that Criston Cole faced no repercussions for murdering Ser Joffrey Lonmouth at a wedding during Episode 5, for instance, or how the show changed the House Velaryon family sigil from a literal seahorse to the mythical half-equine half-fish icon. García said they even tried to “stir up a #FixASeahorse campaign,” but were “too late.”

Despite all that, they note that they’re enjoying House of the Dragon and believe showrunner Ryan Condal is “someone who clearly cares about the source material.”

This is a pretty positive change from Game of Thrones, where Antonsson previously made headlines for a tirade about showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss “spoiling” Shireen Baratheon’s death for book-readers by confirming that the plot point came from George R.R. Martin. “There aren’t enough misfortunes I could wish on them for doing this and they deserve all the hatred they will get,” she wrote.

All George R.R. Martin wrote for The Rise of the Dragon was “his name on a contract”

Antonsson also wrote on Twitter that “pretty much all GRRM wrote for [The Rise of the Dragon] was his name on a contract.” Some readers are pointing to this as both a sign of disrespect for Martin as well as a good reason not to buy The Rise of the Dragon, since that makes it sound like it’s much more García and Antonsson’s work than it is his.

For context, Antonsson said this specifically to defend Martin against complaints that he was putting out The Rise of the Dragon instead of working on The Winds of Winter. The point she was making is that Martin wasn’t taking time away from Winds to work on Rise.

At the end of the day, Antonsson and García are entitled to their opinions as other fans as entitled to theirs. But I will say that I don’t think the tone deafness of some of these arguments is helping their case. Context is important, but so are the actual words you say.

Next. The child fight scene on House of the Dragon was hilarious between takes. dark

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