A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin‘s first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, was published almost 20 years ago and that book, as well as the following books, has won numerous awards. However, now with HBO’s adaptation of his books, some of the content transferred from the books have faced some criticism.
The New York Times have brought these up to the author to respond to the sexual violence that is included not only in his books, but in the cable show.
Q. Why have you included incidents of rape or sexual violence in your “Song of Ice and Fire” novels? What larger themes are you trying to bring out with these scenes?
A. An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil.
Q. Some critics of the books have said that even if such scenes are meant to illustrate that the world of Westeros is often a dark and depraved place, there is an overreliance on these moments over the course of the novels, and at a certain point they are no longer shocking and become titillating. How do you respond to this criticism?
A. I have to take issue with the notion that Westeros is a “dark and depraved place.” It’s not the Disneyland Middle Ages, no, and that was quite deliberate … but it is no darker nor more depraved than our own world. History is written in blood. The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.
As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.I will say that my philosophy as a writer, since the very start of my career, has been one of “show, don’t tell.” Whatever might be happening in my books, I try to put the reader into the middle of it, rather than summarizing the action. That requires vivid sensory detail. I don’t want distance, I want to put you there. When the scene in question is a sex scene, some readers find that intensely uncomfortable… and that’s ten times as true for scenes of sexual violence.
But that is as it should be. Certain scenes are meant to be uncomfortable, disturbing, hard to read.
Read the whole article at NYTimes.com.