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There’s snow fucking EVERYWHERE. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s miserable, and as I live in West Yorkshire, rather than Westeros, I don’t even have my very own direwolf to make the whole sodding thing bearable.
George R.R. Martin’s epic novel series A Song of Ice and Fire (or ASoIaF for you acronym lovers out there), more famous to some as HBO’s boobs-and-bloodfest Game of Thrones, features harsh, frozen northern landscapes inhabited by tough, grizzly northern people that can’t help but seem uncannily familiar to anyone who’s ever wandered through Leeds city centre in the depths of winter. However, that’s where the similarity ends – Martin’s novels are a gritty fantasy affair, featuring mythical creatures, exotic geographies, prophecies and magic in a world where seasons can last for years. A few days’ worth of snow is proving to be bad enough – I’m not sure I could cope with 7 years of the stuff. And I’ll pass on the Others (White Walkers, if you’ve only seen the television series) too.
That being said, there’s plenty in the novels, and the TV series based on them, which we can recognise in our own world: political unrest, religious strife, conspiracy theories, assassinations – oh, and sex. Loads and loads and loads of sex. Incest, twincest, dwarf orgies, blissfully married sex, sordid extramarital fumblings, and good old-fashioned gay sex – Martin presents us with a veritable cornucopia of copulation. He’s been given plenty of grief by readers of his books over the last few years for the amount of bonking across the series, and he’s not exactly taken it to heart:
“I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”
Hopefully we can all agree that sex is basically a good thing. If you’re planning on reading a book with adult themes and violence, why should you be surprised when the characters start making the beast with two backs (or three, or four, or more, depending on which chapter you’re up to)? And in a series with dozens, if not hundreds, of characters – well, they’re not all going to be straight, are they? Pretender to the Iron Throne Renly Baratheon and his favourite knight Ser Loras Tyrell are at it like big gay rabbits in GoT, but in the books, it’s a bit more blink-and-you’ll-miss-it – a few veiled references to Renly not shagging his pretty wife and that’s about it.
Thankfully, HBO being the big dirty buggers that they are, as well as being consistently recognised for their positive representations of LGBT people, have turned what was nudge-nudge, wink-wink in the books to a bit more poke-poke-grope, bump-n-grind in the TV series. This Westerosi power-couple even have their own dedicated Tumblr. There’s also some girl-on-girl sexytime featuring everybody’s favourite brothel-haunting redhead, Ros, and, obviously, plenty of sex, full-frontal nudity and hot shirtless men throughout. No complaints from me.
The upcoming third season of Game of Thrones will premiere at the end of March. With any luck this trend will continue. I won’t give too much away for fear of epic spoilers, but it’s anyone’s guess as to where show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will go when it comes to representing LGBT characters within the show. There are a few other characters we’ll be introduced to as the show progresses who are gay or bisexual, and there are still two more books in the ASoIaF series to be released (come the fuck on, George!), and there’s every chance we’ll be introduced to a few new LGBT inhabitants of Martin’s universe.
Fantasy might have traditionally been seen as the domain of nerdy straight males who wanted to see busty maidens being saved from monsters by brave knights, but that’s plainly not the market that ASoIaF caters for. Similarly, when Ron Moore’s rebooted Battlestar Galactica outed one of their main characters, Felix Gaeta, as a gay man, it went against decades of LGBT invisibility within mainstream science fiction. As someone who is fairly outspoken in my love for fantasy and sci-fi, I am all for this sort of thing, and I don’t think it’s just lip-service. If you’re striving to create a compelling human story, at the heart of whatever fantastical adventure your protagonists are going on, you have to flesh these people out, and romance and sexuality are ideal bases from which to do this. Basically, more gay sex equals better stories. Everybody wins.
I will adore Season Three of Game of Thrones no matter how much boy-on-boy action they put in it, mostly thanks to the addition of Diana Rigg as Olenna Redwyne, The Queen of Thorns – basically think the Dowager Countess of Westeros. It’s going to be like Downton Abbey meets Lord of the Rings. I think I might need to go for a sit down.