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When the Fandom Racism Is Approved From Above

racist fans ruin everything

Early this month, Variety released an article pointing out that some fans were calling for a boycott of an upcoming George R.R. Martin tie-in book due to the racism associated with the book’s co-authors, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson. Initially, I was slow to cover it because more often than not, these boycotts are a few vocal fans who care, against the masses who either don’t know or don’t care enough. Currently on Amazon, the book in question, The Rise of the Dragon, is “1 New Release in TV, Movie & Game Tie-In Fiction” and is due to release on the 25th of October 2022. Although Martin’s name is unsurprisingly big and bold on the book’s cover, “Antonsson has publicly stated that all Martin wrote for The Rise of the Dragon ‘was his name on a contract,'” according to Entertainment Weekly.

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For background, Antonsson and García created online forum Westeros.org in 1999 and have since made it into George R.R. Martin’s circle. He brought them on as fact-checkers for A Feast for Crows and they coauthored 2014’s The World of Ice & Fire with him. These are people who have reached the biggest layer of Big Name Fans to become such authorities on the text that even Martin uses and relies on them. That is a level of approval, even if it is just passive, that says because of their knowledge of the books, blatant racism expressed online doesn’t matter.

Like many within the fantasy genre, they use things like world building and faithfulness to the books as a shield against the fact that they don’t want Black and Brown people in these stories except for their assigned roles. I mean as angry as they are about Corlys being Black on House of the Dragon, were they as mad about the erasure of Chataya and Alayaya in exchange for Roz? No.

In response to the backlash against them, Antonsson told Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building” and that she “has no issue with inclusive casting,” but she strongly believes that “diversity should not trump story.” The same thing we hear every time.

“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,” Antonsson told Variety. She also added that she claims Martin “is ‘very much aware’ of the arguments she and García have had online with fans. She adds that while Martin ‘doesn’t see the point in engaging with people’ on social media, ‘he has not suggested we should stop sharing our opinions.'”

Antonsson calls these claims of racism “cherry-picking” despite there being tons of receipts from across decades. As someone who was in the fandom during this time and on Tumblr—the shit is not made up. Fundamentally, what I feel is missing and needs to just be said blatantly is this: every time this happens it hurts Black and Brown people. Some of us have formed calluses around our engagement with fandom from the beginning because we know our presence is unwanted. If it is unwanted as people portraying the characters, then why would we be wanted in these fandoms? What are we supposed to think when our presence in any medium is seen as political, seen as distraction, seen as a corruption the text and “world building”?

If we are treated as a parasite in the fandom experience then that is very blatantly racism. And working with these authors, co-signing them, and adding validity to their treatment of fans of color because they know the minutia of A Song of Ice & Fire is an endorsement of their racism. I love A Song of Ice & Fire despite my typos and mistakes, it is a franchise that has a hold on my heart and mind. I love reading the wikis, I am relistening to the series on audiobook. I even really like George R.R. Martin, who was so nice when I met him at Strand and told him Sansa was my favorite character.

I care about the characters. I care about it being done right. But being done right doesn’t mean Black and Brown people can’t be in the story. Especially when all we do is die anyway.

(via Variety, image: Ten Speed Press)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.