Friday News: Violence against women in GoT, digitizing backlists, 19th C literary reviews, and book trailers
George R.R. Martin explains why there’s violence against women on Game of Thrones – In which George R.R. Martin uses the history excuse to explain the violence against women in his work. Because even though he writes about dragons, which are clearly fantasy, he sticks to “history” when it comes to gender roles. And because he’s writing about war, it would be “fundamentally dishonest” to leave rape out of it. I’ve seen Outlander fans make the same arguments about those books, as well, and what I find most frustrating is how little actual discussion there is about the quality, accuracy, selectivity, and adaptation of the historical research. Can we have that discussion now, please?
“The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism. It was very classist, dividing people into three classes. And they had strong ideas about the roles of women. One of the charges against Joan of Arc that got her burned at the stake was that she wore men’s clothing—that was not a small thing. There were, of course, some strong and competent women. It still doesn’t change the nature of the society. And if you look at the books, my heroes and viewpoint characters are all misfits. They’re outliers. They don’t fit the roles society has for them. They’re ‘cripples, bastards, and broken things‘—a dwarf, a fat guy who can’t fight, a bastard, and women who don’t fit comfortably into the roles society has for them (though there are also those who do—like Sansa and Catelyn). –Entertainment Weekly
The Authors Guild Partners With Open Road Media to Get Members’ Backlists On the Market – Although I would not describe Open Road as a “new” publisher (they started in 2009, if I remember correctly), I agree with Nate Hoffelder that they’ve become known for offering digital versions of books in print with other publishers (e.g. Julie of the Wolves). I’m actually not so sure why there needs to be a “partnership” between the Authors Guild and Open Road to publish more author backlists, unless the assumption is that a large portion of AG members aren’t digitally savvy. In any case, Open Road will be working with AG to offer its members a digital publishing contract:
The new deal won’t be going into effect until the fall, which should give the two parties time to work out details including exactly how ORM is going to handle creating the audiobooks mentioned above; that is not an option mentioned on the ORM website.
The website does make it clear, however, that ORM can help authors get their works back on the market. This startup can generate an ebook from a PDF or other source document, or even scan a print book and OCR the text.
They’ll create an ebook and POD source file, distribute both to the usual channels, and pay the author 80% of net proceeds (according to the website). –Ink, Bits & Pixels (aka The Digital Reader)
Daggers Drawn – For those authors who think that Amazon reviewers are conspiring to ruin their careers and disparage their creative “babies,” this essay on literary criticism of the early 19th C, especially among Scottish literary magazines, should be an eye-opener. “Reviewers ruled the world,” as Frances Wilson asserts, and the insults aimed at works now considered literary classics make most of today’s reviewing language look genteel in the extreme. Just ask John Scott, London Magazine‘s editor, who was killed in a duel over reviews in a competing magazine (Blackwood’s).
The magazines competed for the cruellest contributors but, as everyone knew, the most fearless wrote for Blackwood’s, which was known as Maga (from the editor William Blackwood’s way of calling it, in his Scottish accent, the mahgazine). Maga, said Mary Russell Mitford, was ‘a very libelous, naughty, wicked, scandalous, story-telling, entertaining work’. The scandalous assessment in Blackwood’s of Keats’s ‘Endymion’, for example, was that the life of ‘a starved apothecary’ was preferable to that of ‘a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to “plasters, pills, and ointment boxes”‘. The reviewer was John Gibson Lockhart, whose proud father-in-law, Sir Walter Scott, described Maga as the ‘mother of mischief’. More recently, the late, great Karl Miller, one of the founders of the London Review of Books and himself a product of the Scottish school of rough house, described Blackwood’s as a journal of ‘squabash, bam and balaam’. ‘”Squabash”‘, Miller explained, ‘meant putting people down or cutting them up. A “bam” was a trick or a leg-pull. And “balaam” meant rejected or unsolicited material (“slush” in the modern parlance).’ –Literary Review
Aziz Ansari’s book trailer is great, unlike every single other book trailer – I’m not convinced that Ansari’s book trailer is so fantastic, but I wanted to post this because two other trailers featured in the piece — one for Going West, and one for Gary Shteyngart’s memoir — are pretty terrific. I also didn’t realize that Melville House’s Dennis Johnson created the Moby Awards, which recognizes the best and worst book trailers each year (and by the way, Melville House has some great bloggish content on their website). Anyway, check out the trailers and see if you agree with Johnson about Ansari’s trailer:
“It’s better than 99.9 percent of the trailers being made today,” said Dennis Johnson, the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House Publishing. “It’s two minutes of good comedy.” If they seem pointless, that’s because they largely are, Johnson said. What exactly, is the point of them? It’s a passive medium that’s hoping to hook someone and convince them to buy something that requires active engagement and imagination. The ones that make it onto television, like the trailers for James Patterson’s books, are laughably over-the-top.–Washington Post
I always find book trailers just a bit startling.
I’m not The Authors Guild’s spokesperson, so don’t take this as an official statement, but I thought one of the purposes of the deal. It’s a public reminder of the option and prods members into getting their backlist on the market.
Nothing against GRRM, but this article — THE RAPE OF JAMES BOND — does a brilliant job of challenging the “I’m doing it for the sake of realism” argument when it comes to rape in fiction.
Couple of quotes, to give you a sense of it:
“…in so called Genre fiction, we love to strip away protection from our characters to give them an interesting job of coping on their own; parents are dead or absent or abusive, homesteads are burned down, authority figures are blinkered or oppressive; you can trust no one, for no one can hear you scream… And all these things will, in the real world, heighten a person’s vulnerability to all forms of violence, including sexual violence. So yes, realism does sometimes mean dealing with that vulnerability somehow or other.
But that heightened vulnerability to sexual violence applies to men too. So where are they, all the raped male characters? People say, it would be unrealistic if she wasn’t raped, but take it for granted that of course he wasn’t.
Why is that?”
“Despite being smaller and weaker than most of his male peers, Tyrion does not get raped, nor is he made to fear rape, either when captured by enemy noblemen or surrounded by hundreds of violent, volatile outlaws. They threaten to kill him, even to mutilate him, but not to rape him. Why not? Isn’t this supposed to be a grim, ruthless, realistic world?”
@Susanna Kearsley: All the male rape is mostly in m/m romances these days – plenty to compensate for the lack of such in other books if you ask me.
@Sirius – I am sorry, but I just find your comment very disturbing.
You implied it’s ok that male rape is not given any attention in article because there is a lot of it in m/m genre.
“Plenty to compensate” is not really an argument against male rape, against female rape or against rape in fiction in general.
@LeeF Yes, I don’t understand book trailers at all.
@Tam: I think Sirius was making a tongue-in-cheek remark. Rape is so abundant in m/m that it’s become a sore spot for many readers.
Which says a lot. The only time that male characters are raped is when they’re presented as sexual objects. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Addendum (because I can’t edit my comment): I could be wrong. Not trying to speak for that person, just how I read it.
Thanks for the link. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s disturbed by the bone-deep belief that “man can’t be raped”, whether it be in fiction or real life. Or its companion “rape is just sexual desire” which… no.
@Susanna Kearsley: Thank you for posting that. I know I’ve seen it previously, but don’t remember reading it. This is what hit it for me: I found I couldn’t cope with rape as wallpaper. YES. When I can discern a purpose (and I know this is a function of interpretation and will vary from reader to reader), I have a different response than when it seems like rape is being used as shorthand for something, or to threaten a character (I had to stop reading Shannon McKenna’s RS for this reason), or because there is (an often false) assumption that the cultural context demands it.
There’s also the fact that *realism* and *historical authenticity* are not the same thing. This, I think, is where some of the confusion happens, because the terms are being conflated when they are not synonymous. They are related, but as Martin’s dragons demonstrate, what people accept as *realistic* isn’t always *real* and what people assume as historically accurate often isn’t. Like the myth of the droit du seigneur.
@Evelyn Elliott (ViridianChick) and @Tam: I read Sirius’s comment the same way Evelyn did, although I certainly can’t speak for her.
@Susanna Kearsley, Maite & Janet/Robin: You may also like this great essay about the rape of Sansa in the Game of Thrones TV adaptation (I understand that particular rape was not in the books) in the LA Review of Books.
@Evelyn Elliott (ViridianChick): Yes! Absolutely.
@Janet: That definitely was tongue and cheek remark, oh my goodness. Sorry.
@Sirius: Tongue in cheek.
@Sirius: Yes, I read it the same way Evelyn did. I’m sorry it that wasn’t clear, but you certainly don’t owe me an apology.
So it’s beyond GRRM’s ability to create a fantasy universe without raping women, because history – which he’s not intending to recreate – has women being raped?
Gosh, not much of a writer, is he?
@Ann Somerville: To make matters worse, he also uses the “I’m not sexist; I have female readers” defense:
“I have millions of women readers who love the books, who come up to me and tell me they love the female characters.”
@Nate: Millions of women come up to him to talk to him? No wonder he can’t finish the series.
He’s full of shit.
Regarding the question of the historicity of the George R. R. Martin books, The Mary Sue had a great article on that on Wednesday. But the real problem is that there’s an enormous amount of rape in the books. Spectacularly enormous. And it’s basically wallpaper to show you how horrible people are. And the only two women who get vengeance on their rapists are both villains. The only true protection from being raped is being a POV character, and GRRM has stated that he would never write a scene from the perspective of someone being raped. (He’s already written several from the POV of the rapist, but because they’re from the POV of the rapist who doesn’t really believe they’re raping people, it winds up falling into a grey area.)