We’ve said it before and we, apparently, have to say it again: fantasy worlds are not real. Elves, Jedi, mermaids, and Targaryens are not real. None of these characters belong to any particular race or ethnicity because they are not real. Inclusive casting should not need a special signifier and Halle Bailey’s voice is as magical as the mythical creature she portrays. Got it? We’re all on the same page? Great.
One person who may not be on the same page is the creator of Westeros himself, George R.R. Martin, who is currently facing backlash from fans after it was announced that he would be collaborating with Game Of Thrones blogger Linda Antonsson on his new book, The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One, per Variety.
Antonsson and her husband Elio M. García Jr. (who is also listed as a co-author) founded the fan-forum Westeros.org back in 1999, giving them a direct link to Martin, who took them on as fact-checkers for A Feast For Crows (which gives us pause because, again, Westeros is not real) and later as co-authors for 2014's illustrated ASOIAF companion, The World Of Ice & Fire.
It also gave them a platform to spew racist vitriol in the name of “accuracy,” as argued and documented in this Twitter thread. These posts include a rant from 2012 decrying the casting of a Black actor in the role of Xaro Xoan Daxos (who is described as having “pale skin” in the books), another tirade calling GOT “a travesty of a show” for casting a person of color as Daario Naharis (who Martin originally described as “fair”), and a slew of other transphobic, misogynistic language.
As recently as five months ago, Antonsson took to Twitter once again to call out House Of The Dragon as “woke fucking stupidity” for casting Steve Toussaint, a Black actor, as Corlys Velaryon because “there are no black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show.” (Toussaint recently responded to his critics, pointing out the fact that they had no issue with people of color being cast as “criminals and pirates and slaves”, but now that his character “is the richest... in the show and he’s a nobleman, now you have a problem with it.”)
Martin has yet to comment on this controversy, but Antonsson assured Variety that he is “very much aware” of her and her husband’s online reputation and “he has not suggested we should stop sharing our opinions.”
She also told Variety that it bothers her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” This is, lest we forget, the very same “world” that has fans cheering for incest week after week. And a world which, we will say one final time, is not real.