Bestselling fantasy author and “House of the Dragon” executive producer George R.R. Martin is caught in the crossfire of the heated battle over inclusive casting — and some of his fans are calling for a boycott of his upcoming book due to comments by its coauthors.
Out Oct. 25, “The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One” is being touted as a “deluxe reference book” for those itching to learn more about Westeros’ most powerful family. When Martin publicized it on social media last week, thousands of fans responded in outrage, many calling out the problematic behavior and “history of racism” of his coauthors, married couple Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García Jr. “I will not be buying anything with Linda and Elio attached to it,” one wrote, while others urged Martin to sever ties with the pair.
Now the coauthors are fighting back, with Antonsson insisting to Variety that she is not a racist and García saying he feels under attack for sticking to his views about Martin’s original works.
The “Game of Thrones” superfans have been collaborating with Martin since before HBO’s hit adaptation of his “A Song of Ice and Fire” books. Soon after Antonsson and García created online forum Westeros.org in 1999, Martin recruited them as fact-checkers for his book “A Feast for Crows.” In 2014, they served as coauthors on “The World of Ice & Fire,” an illustrated companion book for the series of novels.
Critics have taken issue with Antonsson’s blog posts, some dating to more than a decade ago, in which she decries the casting of people of color in “Game of Thrones” to play characters that are white in Martin’s books. In one post from March 2012, for example, Antonsson complained about Nonso Anozie, a Black man, getting cast in the role of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who is described as pale in the books. Five months later, she celebrated the fact that white actor Ed Skrein was cast to play Daario Naharis, despite a rumor claiming the network was looking to fill the role with someone of another ethnicity.
More recently, Antonsson wrote that the character of Corlys, portrayed by Steve Toussaint on “House of the Dragon,” was miscast. “There are no Black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show,” she said of the common ancestors of Velaryons and Targaryens.
Antonsson contends that upset fans are criticizing “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” She tells Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” According to the author, she has no issue with inclusive casting, but she strongly believes that “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,” Antonsson says.
Inclusive casting in fantasy has become a hot-button issue recently, with Black actors in “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” facing racist comments online. Toussaint recently noted that some fans who object to his playing a “rich Black guy” have no issue buying into the existence of dragons.
But Antonsson dismisses Toussaint’s comments as a “false dichotomy which completely misses the point of how secondary world fantasy functions.” Changing the ethnic makeup of characters “raises all sorts of logical questions,” she contends.
Antonsson notes that her gripes with “House of the Dragon” aren’t limited to its casting choices: she takes issue with the specifics of one character’s death because it differs from Martin’s source material, as well as the lack of repercussions for Ser Criston Cole’s actions in Episode 5. García adds that the duo tried to “stir up a #FixASeahorse campaign” after the series changed the Velaryon house sigil from an actual seahorse to a mythical half-horse half-fish, but they were “too late.” Still, Antonsson and García say they’re both really enjoying “House of the Dragon” and credit showrunner Ryan Condal as “someone who clearly cares about the source material.”
As for Martin, who declined to speak with Variety for this story, Antonsson says he 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.”
Finally, Antonsson supports boycotting authors she doesn’t agree with — she just wishes fans were doing it “because of our actual opinions rather than those they project on us.”
Ten Speed Press, the publisher behind “Rise of the Dragon,” did not respond to Variety‘s request for comment.