Lay down your arms, trolls, and review genre pieces objectively
Why do you pointy-headed trolls hate genre? And not just my genre (Undergrad alt-hist techno thriller war porn), but any genre? I went through a whole book tour for my last novel, smiling sweetly, counting my royalty cheques, and ignoring the slings and snarky arrows of one snot nosed crit after another who simply could not believe I was doing it for real.
And I’m a nobody!
My genre work is just a bit of fun with some thinky and jokes thrown in between the 'splosions for those so inclined.
What must the peeps at HBO who took a punt on Game of Thrones be feeling about the gang rape of their hugely popular adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s hugely popular multi-tome fantasy epic. Because some uptight mainstreamers are incapable of viewing this work on its own terms. Troy Patterson at Slate, a TV writer whose work I normally admire, disgraced himself with this wretched piece of self indulgence. It’s worth reading as a world class example of how not to review, starting with an early bitch-shot that Thrones is “quasi-medieval, dragon-ridden fantasy crap".
A lot of everything is crap, including but not limited to dialogue driven character-studies where nothing happens and unreadable big 'L' literature where nothing happens
"That's not a comment on its quality,” wrote Patterson, "but a definition of its type."
Surely if that’s Patterson’s honest opinion he shouldn’t have taken on the gig to review the series. He brings nothing to it but his fear and ignorance.
As did the New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante, who bemoaned how many bonus series of Mad Men she could have had for the money wasted on Game of Thrones. Both critics soon found themselves assailed, not just by fans of the books and the adaptation, but unfortunately for them, by other writers who are every bit as talented, but not nearly so ignorant nor dismissive of the genre type. Huffpost’s Ilana Teitelbaum had at Bellafante in fine style, while Patterson was assailed by his own readers at Slate in such voluble terms that he had to come back and try again. With no noticeable improvement.
Where does it come from, this need to rake down something different just because it’s different? Sure, a lot of genre is crap, but a lot of everything is crap, including but not limited to dialogue driven character-studies where nothing happens, unreadable big 'L' literature where nothing happens, and impenetrable cinematic ruminations on the human condition where nothing happens.
It’s possible, just possible, that coming at something like Thrones as a reviewer with your ignorance pre-loaded and your hostility amp dialled up to 11, that you might just end up looking more foolish than the piece of work you were hoping to traduce for a few cheap laughs.
I suppose a more appropriate question is why do media outlets assign reviewers to projects that they’ve already decided to hate, before they’ve even peeled the shrinkwrap from the freebie discs? For instance, how many of the millions of words about to be published in the mainstream on LA Noire will actually address the game on its own merits. And how many will try to rake over the fear and loathing that attended Rockstar's previous crime thrillers in the GTA series. How many of the crits who'll weigh into LA Noire will even know their way around a controller?
In her take down of Thrones, The Wall Street Journal’s Nancy Dewolf Smith, confesses herself someone "who generally is not drawn to any era when leather clothing was in fashion". Why then have her review the damn thing?
Like, really, Wall Street Journal, WTF?
It would be like getting me to write up the soccer. Or, as Pam Newton comments below, "more akin to sending a vegan to do a food review of a Churrascaria."
There may well be any number of legitimate criticisms to be made of genre efforts, but neither the artists nor the public are served by reviewers who come to the process with their biases set.
As for Game of Thrones, I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve watched it on blu-ray or pulled it down from iTunes. I could easily bit torrent it like thousands of fans have already done here in Oz, but as somebody who makes his living from intellectual property that would be … wrong.