George R.R. Martin fans have much to be happy about this month. For one thing, their long wait for the next book in their beloved "Song of Ice and Fire" series is about to come to an end. ("A Dance with Dragons," book 5 in the series, goes on sale this summer.)
For another, HBO's extravagant (162 speaking parts) "Game of Thrones" series, a 10-part televised version of the first book in the "Song of Ice and Fire" cycle, premiered last Sunday night, and so far the TV series has received largely positive reviews.
However, it seems that about half of Martin's fans spent the week on the warpath. That would be the female half.
Their target? Gina Bellafante, whose "Game of Thrones" review in the New York Times suggested that “ 'Game of Thrones' is boy fiction patronizingly turned out" (ie, laced with sexuality) "to reach the population’s other half." Bellafante also opined that women are not naturally fans of fantasy fiction. "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," she wrote.
Bellafante must not pal around with women like the the Geek with Curves. She was just one of many female Martin fans to take to the Internet this week. "How dare anyone say that Game of Thrones is 'boy fiction,' " she fumed. "What a crude and useless phrase. I am proof that it is not the case, and I am not alone."
She certainly is not. George R.R. Martin himself jumped into the controversy the day after Bellafante's review appeared. "I see this morning that legions of female fantasy readers and self-proclaimed 'geek girls' and 'scifi chicks' have risen up all over the internet to say all the things that I'm too polite and too busy to say," he noted in his Not a Blog. "And a lot more besides. I'd link to their blogs and posts here, but it would take hours."
There clearly are "legions" of female Martin fans. However, it should also be acknowledged that Bellafante is not alone in feeling that "Game of Thrones" is not a natural draw for women. Whitney Matheson, pop culture writer for USA Today, admits to "a soft spot for fantasy." But when it comes to "Game of Thrones" (or at least the first episode), she writes,"[T]his fantasy comes with a caveat: It seems to be just for men.... As a female viewer, I found little to love about G0T."
Maybe, she speculated, "Maybe it was all the pointless, sexualized female nudity."
Now we're only two days away from episode 2 and there are already trailers posted online. To judge from the ones that I've seen, female sexuality will play – if anything – a larger role in the next episode. Will it help to draw female viewers (Bellafante's theory) or turn them away (Matheson's)?
Only next week's blogs will tell. But safe to say that the discussion about women and "Game of Thrones" seems far from concluded.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.