When Game of Thrones aired on HBO this past spring, there was a lot of conversation and debate about the depiction of sex, rape, and female agency on the show and in the books. How do you feel about the way the show handled those things in comparison with what you tried to do in your novels?
My novels have quite a bit of sex in them. ... I have read some people saying that they added sex scenes, and they did. They also didn't put in some sex scenes that are in the book, so on balance, I think they're the same. A few things were handled differently. Obviously the way I wrote it in the book is the way I would have handled it.
How do you make decisions about the depictions of sexual violence that you include in your writing?
Well, I'm not writing about contemporary sex—it's medieval.
There's a more general question here that doesn't just affect sex or rape, and that's this whole issue of what is gratuitous? What should be depicted? I have gotten letters over the years from readers who don't like the sex, they say it's "gratuitous." I think that word gets thrown around and what it seems to mean is "I didn't like it." This person didn't want to read it, so it's gratuitous to that person. And if I'm guilty of having gratuitous sex, then I'm also guilty of having gratuitous violence, and gratuitous feasting, and gratuitous description of clothes, and gratuitous heraldry, because very little of this is necessary to advance the plot. But my philosophy is that plot advancement is not what the experience of reading fiction is about. If all we care about is advancing the plot, why read novels? We can just read Cliffs Notes.
A novel for me is an immersive experience where I feel as if I have lived it and that I've tasted the food and experienced the sex and experienced the terror of battle. So I want all of the detail, all of the sensory things—whether it's a good experience, or a bad experience, I want to put the reader through it. To that mind, detail is necessary, showing not telling is necessary, and nothing is gratuitous.
Friday, February 10, 2012
at 8:37 PM