Connect with us

Analysis

The Game of Thrones Book Snob Glossary

Julia

Published

on

Updated through Season 7, and co-written by Julia and Kylie.

See also the Season 6 and Season 5 glossaries.

Here at The Fandomentals, we are rather staunch Game of Thrones (GoT)…er…detractors. We know this might come as a shock.

However, this isn’t because we’re disinterested in the genre or have forgotten our inner child. That’s pretty much all we remember. We also are not the types of people who object to the depiction of upsetting material on principle, because there’s times that such things can be done well and have a valuable takeaway for the reader/watcher. Case in point, we are huge, huge fans of A Song of Ice and Fire (aSoIaF), the books this show is supposedly “based on.”

Sadly for us, the showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) seem to be bigger fans of their own, Bold™ ideas than the ones George R.R. Martin put on paper, to the point where we came to realize how the show has absolutely nothing to do with the books, so #StopTheConflation.

There’s many ways you can join in on this totally official campaign, such as yelling incoherently at social gatherings when GoT inevitably comes up, or wearing a t-shirt with the text of Septon Meribald’s “broken man speech” printed on the front in size 6 font (or try this one on for size). But we have another way to set the right tone for fandom dialogue—that is, a tone where aSoIaF could absolutely never be confused with its farblunget adaptation—and that’s by creating a new system of terms and character names.

“Jaime Lannister isn’t on the show,” you’ll tell your third cousins at your grandmother’s birthday party. “Jaime Lannister is a nuanced character whose plotline revolves around his struggle with identity and conception of internal vs. external honor as he adjusts to his new disability while subsequently realizing just how damaging his relationship with his sister has been.” (You speak very fast, of course.) “It’s Larry Lannister who’s on the show: the charmingly befuddled knight who doesn’t blink twice at the demolition of an entire religious organization, but a simple lie to a political enemy is just too far!”

See? It’s fool-proof. Or at least it will prevent us from crying onto our copies of A Dance with Dragons as we’re forced to call that creature Indira Varma played, “Ellaria Sand.” So without further ado, Julia and Kylie give you the Book Snob Glossary and all the ironic trademarks money can buy.


General Terms

D&D Logic: There are just so many twists and turns in GoT. And don’t forget the shocks! However, where many a viewer may spend time actually, you know, trying to “figure everything out,” we’re here to explain to you that D&D Logic doesn’t exactly conform to Earth Logic. Suggest a truce to your political adversaries when they pose no threat to you and you have nothing to offer them! Appease your murderous sister with judicial murder! Command your army of the dead to forge giants chains! All D&D Logic requires is the opening thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…” It’s best just to embrace this.

Dramatic Satisfaction: Dramatic Satisfaction is the feeling we get when we look to the west watch GoT. Our spirits are certainly crying. D&D and their writers Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill work overtime to make sure of it, and boy do they know what the audience loves: gothic horrors! And memes. Thanks!

Plausible Impossibilities: It’s what you, as a storyteller, try to achieve once you realize that you are working on a show that’s doing pretty well, so therefore there’s no incentive to actually put effort into it. People only hate it because they care, and it’s totally better than the horrid impossible plausibilities.

Merch coming plausibily soon

The Off-Screen Zone: A magical plane of existence where everything necessary to drive the plot and/or character development occurs. We promise you it happened, it totally made sense for it to happen, and we don’t understand why you have to be spoon fed everything and insist on seeing it. The Off-Screen Zone is where Sansa, Bran, and Arya bonded and plotted together, and where Deadpan and Jonny fell in love. Cheryl and Eur-off also hang out here a lot as they lay their intense political strategy.

Honeypotting/The Honeypot Phenomenon: As we noted, D&D Logic doesn’t adhere to normal logic, and the Off-Screen Zone is a happening place. That can make watching the show itself quite confusing. Luckily for D&D, their fans are far more intelligent and creative than they are, and willing to think up well thought-out theories in an attempt to make sense of everything. In other words…they’re doing the writers’ jobs.

The most famous example of this, and the titular example for that reason, was that of the “Lannister Honeypot Theory,” where everyone figured that Talisa was such a stupid invention on the part of D&D that there had to be more to her than met the eye. Once she began writing letters in Volantine to her mommy, the theory was that she was really a Lannister spy sent to seduce Robb into breaking his vows; a honeypot trap set by Tywin to enable the Red Wedding to occur.

But no. Like Talisa, the Lannister Honeypot Theory was stabbed repeatedly in 03×09. She was exactly what she appeared: a noblewoman from Volantis who was such an awesome feminist that she would walk around battlefields without a chaperone, sass-talking a king.

It may be tempting to honeypot things along the way such as, “Sansa and Arya are totally playing Littlefinger with this animosity.” Nope. Arya wanted to cut her face off and wear it. “It would make way more sense if a week had passed North of the Wall for the raven to fly to Dragonstone.” Yes, it would makes more sense. And yet it was totally just one night. Would that we had honeypotters actually writing the scripts instead, because then we’d probably have a coherent show.

Weisseroff’s Razor: Weisseroff’s razor is how we know that honeypots are never accurate — they’re far too clever by a half. On GoT, it’s always the most idiotic and straight-forward answer possible. Trust us. Weisseroff’s Razor demands it.

Reverse Honeypotting: Honeypots can sort of be thought of as very intelligent stories or plot-points that D&D didn’t tell. However, a reverse honeypot is when there’s a story that is told, usually due to Unfortunate Implications, that D&D had no effing clue was on our screens (else maybe some of these implications would have actually had follow-ups). Our favorite example of a Reverse Honeypot is the noble tale of Hizdahr zo Sansa (may he rest in peace), and his completely awesome, Sansa-in-A Clash of Kings-esque, resistance narrative. Our least favorite example of a Reverse Honeypot is where Tommen was a rape victim of Margaery Tyrell, and his suicide was a horrific exploration of why we have statutory laws. There’s many stories in between, too.

The Checklist Effect: Who cares about context, themes, or characterizations? The stuff that happens in a story can be viewed as a discrete set of plot-points to tick off. And those who do successfully tick them off are therefore great adaptors living at the spirit of the original author! We can point to things in the past like Jon’s death or the existence of Arthur Dayne, but now that we’re beyond the books (in many ways) it becomes hard to to parse out what is a checkbox in the first place. Jonny’s parents are Rhaegar and Lyanna? Well let’s tick that one off by having an expo-dump over a sex scene. We can’t wait to get our copies of The Winds of Winter and see just how well these masters of drama adapted some discrete plot points.

Plot Theory of Relativity: In any frame of reference, time will progress exactly as fast as plot demands. No more, no less. This includes the flying speed of ravens and the running speed of Gendrys.

Empowered™ Women: In Weisseroff, women are strong in the D&D way. They can, for example, become a Total Badass™, who is either an awesome warrior or just a chick getting high off of violence. There’s nothing more empowering, and reasonable, than slaying all those awful dudes. That’s what feminism is. Bonus points for mocking the “feminine” traits of others. Who needs to knit socks? The other way is to be a super sexy manipulator. Even more bonus points if you use your wiles to manipulate a child. There are no other options, unless you are a very rare-breed of time-traveling feminist field nurse.

Real Men™: In Weisseroff, men are Strong™. They kill men. They have sex. They win over a boat-full of their countrymen for stupid missions by beating people to death. They never show weakness, or fear. It’s almost as though all they do is fuck and fight, fight and fuck. Oh wait…

Hot Potato: D&D’s favorite game! Let’s set up plotlines and forget about them! Or at least for a few seasons, until they run out of things to do and want to pick them back up again! What happened to half of Stannis’s army that just pissed off at the end of autumn in the heart of the North? Wait, what’s Gendry doing here? Who’s ruling Porne now? Where do Edmures go?

Subtle Pie: D&D don’t care much for humble pie, but boy are they skilled at the art of subtlety. Could there possibly be DRAGONGLASS on DRAGONSTONE? However can we gently clue the audience in on Jonny’s parentage? However can we gently clue the audience in on Jonny’s parentage…AGAIN? Where are Walder Frey’s missing sons? *wink*

Shocking™ Moments: Even though subtlety is great, sometimes D&D don’t want the sneaky audience to see their big moments coming. Therefore, they keep everyone guessing by having characters pull random 180°’s that make us gasp. We did not see that coming! Because we could not see that coming. Because you literally presented the opposite situation to us and then just randomly flipped it. Wow. Give them all the Emmys.

The Key Jingling Effect: Hey guys, wouldn’t it be awesome if we had an ICE DRAGON made of CGI? What a stunning shot of Larry charging towards a dragon? A bonus to all this SUPER AWESOMENESS is that just like jingling keys in front of a baby, it will make the audience forget about all of the offensive or illogical bull you’ve pulled on them, and they will decide that you are the best writers ever. Well…usually, at least.

The 600 Masks Effect/Shiny Shiny: News flash, GoT has a ginormous budget. Great things can be done with the amount of money they have at their disposal. Like the famous 600 unique masks in the Hall of Faces in Season 5. Unfortunately, some of the budget allocation decisions made are… questionable. For instance, as awe-inspiring as that Beauty and the Beast library was for Sam, why did it even exist when his plotline was somehow less significant than a beer fart? We can question the value of an ice dragon at the cost of all logic as well, but hey. That might just be D&D Logic at its fullest effect.

Outside the Episodes: Because of all the characters who “earned it off-screen,” there are times that D&D must provide interviews that help explain what they just wrote. These “Outside the Episode” specials are particularly insightful. Did you know Arya saying “that’s not you” to Nymeria (and making half the fandom think it, in fact, wasn’t her) was just a fun season 1 callback? Or that the Plot Convenience Pond during the wight trip was a result of them writing the plotline backwards? Or that Deadpan burning people alive is her being a rational actor? Neither did we, but thank the Seven we have the Outside the Episodes to tell us.

Steve the Intern: Poor Steve. After finding out that his doctorate in Comparative Literature with an emphasis on Folklore and Mythology was worth little to employers, he was thrilled to get an unpaid internship in the Game of Thrones writers’ room, because such is the state of our world. But things quickly went south for poor Steve. He was told to produce a three page summary of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, which he managed by using size 8 font, but he’s quite sure D&D didn’t even read that. He spends most of this time trying to explain to Dave Hill what a literary theme is, but he just gets blank looks in return.

Locations

Weisseroff: A magical place with size and population fluctuations according to the needs of the episode. Patriarchy doesn’t exist in Weisseroff, except when it does for a woman to be raped, or when Walder Frey needs a new child bride. Sometimes Weisseroff is a loose collection of feudal holdings, and sometimes it’s a Nation State that people can be citizens of and feel loyalty towards. There’s also a bullet train system or something that runs off the power of the Plot Relatively Field. Also everyone is terrible to each other and everything sucks.

Winterhell: Winterhell is a castle that once resembled Winterfell, the castle where the Stark family happily lived and ruled. However in Winterhell, all the Starks randomly hate each other (except when they don’t) and will gleefully bring up each other’s traumas to freak their siblings out (except if they’ve worked through everything off-screen). The Northern Lords get incredibly confused at Winterhell from all the Stark fighting and agree with whoever speaks last and loudest. But hey, at least they got the castle back from those jerk Boltons!

“Wait, who’s our leader again?”

The Riverblands: Oh look, these exist again. Wait…no. No they don’t. The riverblands are in a pocket dimension of Weisseroff that can be warped in and out of from anywhere at will. Apparently, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Shire was situated in one small area of the riverblands, where winter is far away, and Hot Pie and Ed Sheeran were quite content. But now that every single Frey has been murdered, this geographical region may as well not exist. Again.

Riverroundabout: The ancestral home of the Tullys where Edmure may or may not be hanging out alive in, and which may or may not ever be mentioned again.

Carol’s Landing: Carol’s Landing is where Carol lives.

Cheryl’s Landing: Cheryl’s Landing is where Cheryl lives. And rules.

Casterly Castle: Casterly Castle is the ancestral home of the Lannisters, which didn’t have a sewage system until Tyrion created one fifteen years ago. Tywin built this stronghold from the ground up, probably from a Build A Generic Castle Lego set 6085-1. Though that silly forgot to put a moat in! What an impregnable fortress.

The Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension: This island, just east of Cheryl’s Landing, is so unimportant that no one bothered to guard it. Or live there. However, when Deadpan returned to claim this ancestral seat of her house, the doors had luckily been left unlocked. Now she’s able to have her boyfriend over for some sexy eye-schtupping as she sits atop her geologically significant throne. At some point, Children of the Forest doodled some stick figures in the mines full of DRAGONGLASS. These are very scary stick figures that can convince political rulers to shift their entire plans, so proceed with caution.

The Plot Convenience Pond: North of the Wall strange things can happen. Like little dinky islands willing themselves into existence in the middle of little dinky ponds. At the Plot Convenience Pond, time passes based on emotion experience, so that a group can experience just one night, while the rest of the continent experiences what must be weeks. The Plot Convenience Pond also has a very specific freezing temperature based entirely on narrative requirements. When main characters fall in, it conveniently heats up to prevent hypothermia. We suppose.

Olenna’s Cottage: Our Dowager Sasstress has the finest house in all of Weisseroff, but an army who can’t fight because they like flowers, making it the worst defensive stronghold. If only they grew grapes instead maybe those Lannister forces would have slipped on the steps. At least the cottage has the right ambiance for heart-to-hearts.

Oldtown State: Give us a C! Give us an I! Give us a T! Give us ADEL! The fightin’ white ravens offer the best in higher education. Their Maester College is particularly renowned, with its aspiring scholars sharpening their most important skills: emptying chamber pots, slopping soup, and cleaning up after other people’s science experiments. The professors at Oldtown State are second-to-none. These old skeptics are so genre-savvy that they know exactly what plot-relevant books to hide in the restricted section of the library, right next to their copy of Moste Potente Potions.

A novice.

Horn Faire: The Horn Faire is such fun to attend! It’s where empowered women assert their Empowerment™. Like Tiffany Tarly, who is probably now ruling The Reach with her imaginary sisters and extra bedrooms.

Porne: Porne is a small area shaped like the birthmark on a man’s ass that consists of the Water Gardens and some desert. It was conceived when someone involved in the production asked their racist grandmother from 1880 what “the orient” was like. There are three things the Pornish do: have sex, kill and/or mutilate people with little or no reason (bonus points for family members), and talk with a goofy accent. We’re actually not sure who’s running Porne right now, since their maybe-Princess Faullaria…Sand? Uller? is mostly dead. But she had ten thousand brothers and sisters, so we shouldn’t be too worried.

Simplified Bay of Dragons: Remember that entire region that Deadpan Cardborn invaded and ruled, and then pissed off from, leaving it in the hands of her unqualified sellsword boyfriend? We’re sure Faabio Naharis is keeping things running well! Also, somewhere in the area are the now-super empowered Dosh Khaleen, who had their patriarchy burned to the ground. Wait…why are they still stuck in Vaes Dothrak?

People

GoT is rather known for its sprawling cast, so as a result, we have subdivided this section by character locations in Season 7. More or less. There was a lot of teleporting, but we did what we could.

Very Northern Theater

Shogun: The Lord of the White Walkers. This guy can raise the dead, is great with babies, and looks damn stylin’ in his samurai armor. He’s also able to train wights how to swim and forge metal. He got himself a sweet Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher to ride, so take his loot seriously, please.

Skyr: Skyr is an industrious troop leader who even lets lost boy scouts follow him. He’s a father of about fifteen.

“Are we there yet, Dad?”

Benjen Coldhands: OMG it’s Benjen! We’ve seen him before, you guys! He can kill skeletons and tell stories about himself! Why D&D opted to adapt the one fan-theory that Martin has staunchly rejected is beyond us, but I guess they just know about Dramatically Satisfying media more. Aaaand he’s gone.

Beardy: We don’t know who this Icelandic fellow with an impressive beard is, or why people are calling him “Tormund.” As far as we can tell, he has no personality traits whatsoever, with the exception of intense homophobia. It’s okay Beardy, we get it. You’re not gay. You don’t have to beat anyone to death or creep on any women that are clearly disinterested in you to prove it. Calm it down. It’s pussy for you.

The Brotherhood with Vague Continuity: Formerly the “Brotherhood Without Continuity,” these merry men finally managed to be in two seasons in a row, and with same motivation: going north. Horray! They’re great for rounding out any RPG group with their priest and paladin.

The Canine: This jolly companion of the Brotherhood without Continuity is good at digging graves and seeing incredibly detailed preview footage of Episode 6 in a fire. We’re sure there’s significance to this because of his scar, and because we were told there was. Unfortunately, whatever this significance is hasn’t manifested in any sort of character development, since he still fixates on killing his brother, just like in Season 1. Bad doggie!

Vincent Expendable: Poor guy, you barely beamed up North before you were cruelly taken from this world. If only you had been given one line of dialogue.

But he’s doing his best, so that’s what counts.

Winterhell

BranBot 1000: This cyborg is basically a sitting CCTV department who will let anyone watch his screens if they ask nicely. However, robots cannot love, and it’s very sad for all of us, especially Meera. Robots also cannot understand human trauma and will accidentally freak out their siblings by recounting their histories at inappropriate times.

The Three Eyed Raven: It’s difficult to explain.

Brittany Stark: Sansa fans rejoice! D&D have finally settled on a character for Sophie Turner to play, and it’s Brittany, bitch! She is awesome and the only one who knows how to do literally anything. From making breastplates to screening visitors to making all the socks that Lyanna Mormont is too empowered to sew, Brittany proves herself as the only person who should be trusted to make the slightest decision. That includes her dumbass half-brother, who was such a present King in the North that he’s not even in this section of the glossary.

Sadly, the world isn’t ready for Brittany’s empowerment, and she still gets blamed for stuff she did years ago while under duress. This also makes her disloyal and exactly like Cheryl.

“Am I the only person who’s lived in this climate before?”

Arya Todd: Attend the tale of Arya Todd. She learned to assail from abroad. She stole the faces of noblemen, who never thereafter were heard from again. She trod a path that few have trod…did Arya Todd. The Empowered™ assassin of the Starks.

She made her home in Winterhell. She kept skins in bags to hide their smell. And what if Sansa displayed competency? She’d expose her “crimes” for all Lords to see. For family warmth she deserves a nod…does Arya Todd. The Empowered™ assassin of the Starks.

Swing your Needle wide, Arya! Swing it to the skies! Freely flows the blood of foes, except Ed Sheeran!

Lyanna, the Littlest Feminist: Lyanna Mormont knows what’s dumb! Sewing! Also anything vaguely feminine and/or pragmatic. This awesome training-bra-burner understands how everyone should be soldiers consuming resources, and nobody should produce anything because that’s for stupid girls. This makes her very feminist. Every time she speaks, everyone agrees with her right away, because of the girth of her empowerment.

The Wind-Vane Lords: You might think the Northern Lords have convictions, since the Northern Lords are super duper loyal, and at one point we were told “the North Remembers.” But nope. These wind-vane lords just agree with whoever spoke last. When their king has left for more than 24 hours, they want to support whoever is there instead.

“We like you for now!”

Batfinger: Batfinger is a mysterious man. He has a voice like the Marlboro Man and an accent that…morphs on a sliding scale between Lucky the Leprechaun and Captain Barbosa. As of Season 7, his teleporter was stolen, which means that he gets stuck against his Wall Spot of Sneaking. He creates chaos because chaos is a ladder, but he also has a vision board of marrying Brittany and sitting the Iron Throne. The best way to do this is to make her not like her sister, for reasons. In the end though, Batfinger felt what it was to be a GoT viewer, when a random bait-and-switch was his undoing. Let’s hope he found that shock dramatically satisfying.

Brienne the Brute: She added so much. Also she’s not overly concerned with honor. That sounds right!

Pod the Rod: It’s very important that all viewers of GoT understand that Pod has a magical cock. Everyone wants to suck it, and we need to have this crucial point come up at least once a season. Do your part and spread awareness of Pod. And his penis. Which is magical.

Jonny, King in the North: See entry in Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension section, as he only spent a weekend here.

Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension

Deadpan Card-born: Technically, her full name is “Deadpan Card-born, the Unemotional, Queen of Simplified Bay, Queen of the Anachronisms and the Clichéd, Khaleesi of Faux-Empowerment, Breaker of Suspended Disbelief, and part-time Mother of Dragons.” And boy is she Empowered™! Look how dignified and confident she is! Watch as she talks about breaking the wheel for the umpteenth time without once changing her expression! Watch her stand in the background and nod as men explain her plans to her! Now, Deadpan might be a bit crazy—those darn women, amirite?—but she’s not like, Cheryl crazy. You see, she has the redeeming quality of listening to Saint Tyrion. Now that’s what we call empowerment!

Jonny Cardboard: Jonny Cardboard is a king now! And only kings can talk to Khaleesis. Except everyone else who does. So that totally justifies why this unproblematic action hero abandoned his kingdom two days after getting the gig, so he could march his face into yet another trap that he was warned about by his much smarter sister. Don’t worry though: this mouth-breather extraordinaire never tells lies ever. He’s like George Washington! Or maybe the cherry tree with that wooden acting. Either way, his staunch commitment to idiocy and always revealing his hand (apparently) makes us totally understand why people follow him, and why we should be excited that he’s secretly the RIGHTFUL HEIR OF WEISSEROFF. Here’s hoping no one’s trying to break the wheel or claiming that throne could get awkward.

Oh yeah, he was also dead for half a second, though since he doesn’t seem to care about it, we’re not sure why we should either.

#BoatSex: The official shipname of Jonny and Deadpan. When has your auntie/nephew combo ever? These two have such crackling sexual chemistry that everyone around them ships this, just in case the audience missed it. We have a sneaking suspicion that it’s so well-written, D&D actually got help from their buddy George Lucas.

Saint Tyrion: Saint Tyrion is the unproblematic fave who can do no wrong, even when he does wrong and it’s there for all to see on the screen. He totally respects the personhood of sex workers and the contribution they make to the economy! Because #notallmen! He’s also mad sorry that he killed his father. He had no choice! However, Saint Tyrion lately has been in a bind. You see, there’s an out-of-control woman, and only he can save the day by explaining how to use her dragons more. It’s so stressful for him to be the emotional core of this administration. Let’s not even touch his unrequited love for her, that was 100% in evidence.

Varys Marx: Smallfolk of the World Unite! Varys Marx is some random eunuch from Lys who is REALLY into fiscal responsibility and kissing Saint Tyrion’s ass. He’s so committed to good governance that, after meeting Illyrio Mopatis in a “Robert Totes Sucks Club” meeting, he and his “colleague” decided that Viserys Targaryen was the way to go and that a plan to invade Westeros with an army of rapists who are afraid of water would totally work. And now Deadpan is the way to go, because she’s so good at listening to Saint Tyrion. You see, it’s always been about the good of realm for him, and she can respect that, just like we’re sure Viserys would have. Varys Marx is really glad he doesn’t have “debts of affection,” or a backstory or anything like that to complicate matters.

MissWorm: The ship name for Missandei and Grey Worm, a touching and genuine romance that we suspect was written by Ronald D. Moore.

Meli-sans-bra: This red priestess once had a great time flashing the camera every chance she got, but ever since the reveal that she’s OLD, they’re staying firmly in her robes. Instead, her hobbies now include shipping Deadpan, staring sadly off into the middle-distance, and pissing off when the writers can’t come up with anything for her to do. Fear not though: she will die in Weisseroff, so we’re sure to see her again. That’s some pretty deft foreshadowing.

Ironboor: The inhabitants of the Iron Islands have a deep and rich culture, which includes tending their lush forests and following the men who speak about their genitals. In fact, genitalia figures very prominently into their leadership selection process, so long as what’s between their legs can be turned into a fighting strength.

Yara, the Swashbuckling Lesibian Bisexual: Finally, the positive representation we’ve been waiting for.

Princess Faullaria Sand (or maybe Uller?): Showberyn’s beloved paramour, Faullaria Sand hates timid sex and loves the torturing of small children in the name of revenge. In fact, her defining feature may be her love of revenge. She loves it so much that she will murder Showberyn’s whole family and name herself the Princess of Porne (maybe?), because that’s what he would have wanted. It worked out so well for her. We’d say that this was intricate commentary on the futility of revenge, except her downfall was someone else’s revenge. It’s clearly too deep for us to comprehend.

The Sand Fakes: Who are these three women? And which one is which? Whatever, they’ve been meditating about it a lot and decided that for a change of pace, they want revenge. FOR SHOWBERYN! The Fakes have quirky, individualized weapons and the inability to be nice to one another. They’re very useful at being an object lesson of “hoisted by your own petard.” So significant.

Yeah, us too Tyene.

Snake-Fu: A unique style of fighting practiced only in Porne that includes futile spinning, futile spinning of weapons, and futile mincing steps. All weapons must be dipped with boner-activated poisons. Snake-Fu is dizzying, yet deadly, and can drop a dude twice your size with a single small blade to the back. If you reach an especially high level, then you get to learn the ultimate skill: double sword spinning! However, it is a Snake-Fu rule that eventually, you will fall to your own weapon. #poetry

Cheryl’s Landing

Carol Lannister: Carol is a relatable, struggling super-mom. She is a devoted mother to her kids Chase, Madison, and TomTom. And a victim. She lost a baby and sympathizes with Cat Stark about it. But then she also lives her life believing a prophecy that her first baby should have negated. She almost had to poison her son to prevent him from being harmed more. And now… she tried to protect her kids and rule wisely and well, but the patriarchy was just too much for her. But being slut-shamed by fanatics won’t stop our Unproblematic Fave from trying her best to do her job. Even if the cool kids all leave the table when she sits down, or her uncle banishes her to the gallery, or her son changes the law to screw her over. Poor Carol!

Cheryl Lannister: When you push a super-mom too far… She randomly morphs into a mass murderer in metal shoulder pads. Cheryl likes wine, blowing things up, torturing enemies, and she knows a cardigan is a great alternative to a blazer in a business casual environment. She’s an entirely reasonable actor given the political nightmare she’s found herself in, but everyone around her believes that she’s horrible and insane, which we’re sure has nothing to do with that thing that starts with “s” and ends in “exism.” Luckily for Cheryl, the smallfolk are okay with her, since she’s freed them from superstition. What a classic!

Larry Lannister: Larry Lannister is a charmingly befuddled knight. The second-oldest Lannister deserves our pity, because he seems to operate in a continual state of confusion. He’s lucky that he has his long-term girlfriend, Cheryl, to patiently explain everything for him. Larry loves Cheryl, but he’s beginning to think she’s a little bit problematic. Not because she blew up the entire religious institution of Cheryl’s Landing, or that she gets sexually turned on by violence…those are normal bumps in the road. But one time Cheryl lied to Jonny Cardboard, her political adversary. Unforgivable.

The Cherry Bomb: This fetus from the OTP (Cheryl+Larry=Cherry) added so much to the show! Such as…granting its mother anachronistic knowledge of fetal alcohol syndrome. We await the Cherry Bomb with baited breath, and hope for a future where they can marry the #BoatSex spawn.

The Bro-nns: Larry goes nowhere without his best bud, Bronn, and together, they bro it up all over Weisseroff. Bronn, however, is hopelessly in love with Larry. He tries to put on the face of a hardened mercenary, but he just can’t seem to quit him! Maybe genital jokes will throw Larry off the scent.

Dickon Tarly Redux: Dickon? Dick-on. Hee hee hee.

Dowager Sasstress: Poor Carol may have to deal with the patriarchy, but if you’re sassy, like our beloved Dowager Sasstress, then you get to suddenly be the head of the House you married into, as well as the Lord Paramount of the Reach. (Or something.) The Dowager Sasstress is dead now, but her sassy ways will live on and empower us all. #BeADragon

Eurovision: This big bad, who totally makes Ramsay Sue look like a little kid, is running late for a My Chemical Romance concert. However, he has the power of ~illusions~ on his side, and an armada that can magically teleport wherever the plot needs it to. He may have a different personality every episode, but that’s because “All of the psychopaths I’ve met in my lifetime have multiple personalities”. We’re not sure why he does anything at all, but that’s just part of the ~mystery~. Except for potentially having butt sex with Cheryl, which would totally compel anyone to attack Unsullied at Casterly Castle. We’d go on, but he spent the night dancing and is drunk, we suppose. If it looks like he’s laughing, he’s really just asking to leave.

Oldtown State

Showboating Sam: Showboating Sam was so happy to finally achieve his dream of arriving at the improbably giant library in Oldtown State, but college life isn’t all that he expected it to be. First he has to clean up poop, then those stodgy old maesters won’t let him into the restricted section! But after curing Greyscale Jorah of an incurable disease, (re)discovering how to save the world from Ice Demons, and having his girlfriend stumble upon a political bombshell about his best bud, he decides that this is lame and he should take his father’s advice, drop out, and go be the Real Man™ we all know he is.

Gilly in a Corner: Gilly’s still here, we guess. This once-assertive dame still likes to read. We guess that’s what she does all day while her boyfriend is in class. They belong together, after all, so there’s no way she only exists for him to vent his own frustrations at.

The Amazing Expandable Baby: While originally it seemed like good ol’ Sam-Sam Parr had been shrinking given his perpetual infanthood while Madison Lannister wasted away for years in Porne, it’s now clear that there was no problem at all! Gilly’s son simply has the magical ability to grow and shrink at will. Watch him be suddenly big enough to laugh at Sam’s emotional breakdown. Don’t worry though, he’ll never get too old to actually need characterization or lines. That’d be really inconvenient.

Ser Hilariously Friend-zoned/Greyscale Jorah: We had concerns that Jorah would no longer be hilariously friend-zoned ever since he became infected with the plague. However, as everyone who reads secret Maester books knows, the key to curing yourself of a disease so deadly that the nobility sent their infected family members off to a colony to die is simply proper exfoliation. Once Showboating Sam had him all sparkling new, Jorah was ready to once again be hilariously friend-zoned. Though he seems oddly fine with it now. Yes. It is his lot in life and this is very romantic.

Maester Slughorn: Maester Slughorn doesn’t know anything about White Walkers, and he wouldn’t tell you even if he did! His pedagogical practices could use a bit of honing, but damn if he can’t spot an alcoholic’s liver.

Prince Ragger: Ragger’s favorite A Song of Ice and Fire character is Viserys Targaryen, and he makes sure to always cosplay as Harry Lloyd’s interpretation of him, even during his wedding. Ragger is very by-the-book, making sure to legally annul his marriage to the mother of two of his children/future heirs to the Iron Throne in a procedure that only one person knew about. That totally covers his ass so that he can marry Liability Stark for love in the middle of a civil war while his family slaughters hers. It’s LOVE.

Ragger loved his Lady Liability and went with snappy casual for their ceremony.

Lady Liability Stark: We know oh-so-much about Lady Liability. She rides horses and was nice to a young Hodor. She’s totally developed and not at all just a pretty vehicle for Jonny’s Pop Secret Audience Surprise! Who wouldn’t screw over their wife and the entire line of succession for her?

A Jon: Ragger’s favorite name in the whole wide world is Jon, so much so that he’s tried to have not one, but two sons named this. However, every time he suggests it to his baby mama(s), he phrases it as, “he’s a Jon to me!”, which hilariously keeps being misheard as “Aegon.” Why else would this name be repeated? In a twist of dramatic irony, Ned, by trying to distance Liability’s baby from his ~secret Targaryen identity~, ended up giving Jon the name Ragger always intended.


There you have it, the official Book Snob Glossary. May you be strong like our patron saint Book Snob Shireen, and never cease to evoke these terms in your quest to stop the conflation of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. If you’re lucky, you might even get to explain to someone what a literary theme is.


Images courtesy of HBO

Advertisement
36 Comments

36
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
36 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
Stephanie SchuerTony MooreTimothy McLeanThe Dragon Demands Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
trackback

[…] always, our nicknames can all be found in the Book Snob Glossary, along with an explanation of our terms. But here’s the down-and-dirty on who you’ll need to […]

trackback

[…] bonding is Showboating Sam and Assertive Gilly. Sam confidently tells Gilly that he doesn’t need to train because he’s a mighty warrior, what […]

trackback

[…] The Game of Thrones Book Snob Glossary […]

trackback

[…] You can find the most updated version of the glossary HERE. […]

trackback

[…] right folks, everyone’s favorite ceremony is back: The Carol Awards! (This year, in memoriam: Carol Lannister, who was cruelly written off the show with her personality flip to Cheryl Lannister, mass murderer, […]

trackback

[…] Kylie and Julia, Julie, provided you with a thrilling play-by-play of the events that took place in Cheryl’s Landing—a reminder so that we might immerse ourselves showrunners’ David Benioff and Dan Weiss […]

trackback

[…] alcoholism), and he refused sex from a merry sex-slave, all while being showered with praise from Varys Marx. Then Jorah captured him, and after seeing Drogon fly overhead, Tyrion was magically cured of his […]

trackback

[…] steelman is similar to a “honeypot”—that is, a story that consumer of a piece of media has to invent in order to make an […]

trackback

[…] this season Ezra’s personality seems to change from episode to episode. In the grand tradition of Fandomentals Analysis we have decided to use separate names to refer to the different personalities Ezra […]

trackback

[…] of the friendzone and male entitlement be without Ser Hilariously Friendzoned himself (as our book snob glossary likes to call him): Jorah […]

trackback

[…] society, and focus on the survival of the entire species. They are very Marxist. (Hence the name Varys Marx) Since the revival of magic on Planetos, they can now use their networks to cross worlds and bridge […]

trackback

[…] Carol was kind enough to cosplay as Cersei for some of these […]

trackback

[…] Even though this plotline might have had fun ASoIaF winks in it, we are ever-vigilant to stop the conflation between the two narratives. As a result, we’ve come up with some handy names for the show characters to avoid any confusion. For fuller explanations, please refer to the Book Snob Glossary. […]

trackback

[…] year, the Carol Awards are being held to honor the life, and the works, of Good Queen Carol. Though she was tragically taken from us when the Evil Cheryl stole her skin, will we always […]

trackback

[…] sit back, relax, and pull out your salt thrones as we enter what I lovingly refer to as Game of […]

trackback

[…] when I read early tumblr reactions to the show I thought that by mentions of Cheryl and Jason Julia and Kylie’s Game of Thrones Character Glossary hit mainstream. Sadly, we still have to wait.) Aforementioned Cheryl and Jason Blossom? Bloomberg? […]

trackback

[…] Since just not wearing an out-of-place dress is a perfectly viable option, there isn’t much honeypotting that can excuse the Watsonian problems of this […]

The Dragon Demands
Guest
The Dragon Demands

I’m going to point all of this out more in future articles but…..regarding Honeypotting, there’s strong evidence that they *actually were* going to do some things but they’re abandoned plotlines. That isn’t a defense of them, it’s an accusation. It’s not “it would have made more sense, judging from the setup, if Talisa was a spy, but we were wrong” it’s “you idiots….we can tell you were setting up Talisa as a spy but then abandoned that subplot, stop lying to us”. And okay, maybe there was a good reason to abandon it. Something wasn’t working, I don’t know. Yes… Read more »

trackback

[…] For full explanations of these nicknames, as well as the ones we just casually throw out because of habit (like “Deadpan” for Dany) please visit the world-famous (but only around here) Book Snob Glossary. […]

trackback

[…] I think Rothenberg was particularly inspired by that part of D&D’s Emmy winning writing. Arya Todd would be impressed with Octavia’s ability to survive a 300 foot drop into a roaring river with […]

trackback

[…] scene of the very first episode of the season “The Wars to Come” already features our girl Carol, because, of course, she comes first. And be very, very afraid friends, because we’re quite sure […]

trackback

[…] sigils spinning around and crumbling, while we hear old dialogue from past seasons. Looks like Deadpan was serious about “breaking the wheel.” And I’m crying happy tears that […]

trackback

[…] at the end of the day, that’s no more than a honeypot, albeit a reasonable one. After talking around in circles for almost two hours (or was it three?), […]

trackback

[…] a situation that reminded me a lot of the “Grand Porne Fiasco of 2k15” (aka Game of Thrones season 5) when Larry and Bro-nn came to rescue Madison at the same time […]

trackback

[…] also means Littlefinger (can I just start calling him “Batfinger” now?) was likely the person who reached out to Roose first, with no assurances that Roose […]

trackback

[…] always, the full explanation behind these exceedingly clever fandom nicknames can be found in our book snob glossary. We should also note that a lack of a fandom nickname does not mean that a character is well […]

trackback

[…] sister, The Sansa Stark Construct, luckily bailed him out of this, but he was made king. […]

trackback

[…] entirely new personality within the same episode. Kylie actually thought we were exaggerating the Brittany/Sandra distinction, but no: after spending two episodes sassing everyone and asserting her authority often […]

trackback

[…] It’s not exactly a secret that Game of Thrones (GoT) negativity is sort of…our niche here on The Fandomentals. I mean, when we’re not writing meticulously-crafted, fifteen thousand word dissections of specific plot-lines (or five thousand words on the show’s insidious sexism for some light reading), we’re kind of memeing. Hard. […]

trackback

[…] the good: that throne Deadpan (or Daenerys, whoever…) is sitting on looks kind of rad. And she’s finally wearing some […]

trackback

[…] Naming conventions are a touch…different here. For a full explanation as to why, along the meaning of each nickname, please refer to the Book Snob Glossary. […]

Timothy McLean
Guest
Timothy McLean

I have a lot of questions about why certain names were used. Like, why Larry and Cheryl? Why Brittany? Why Tom? (That’s Sexy Jesus Tom, not TomTom Tom.) And for that matter, what happened to calling Tyrion “St. Tyrone”? (That was a thing once, right?)

trackback

[…] on the season five and six plotlines of King’s Landing to fully appreciate the shift from Cersei to Carol to Cheryl. To break it down for the purposes of this article you can think of them as the […]

Tony Moore
Guest
Tony Moore

Well put – and very funny.

trackback

[…] has finally arrived! What do you get when you put nothing with nothing? The ship of the century….Deadpan and Cardboard! Those pseudonyms couldn’t possibly more accurately describe these […]

Stephanie Schuer
Guest
Stephanie Schuer

I agree 100% and I laughed much harder than I should have. But the worst part is, you can point all of that out and people still believe what they see in season 6+7, because “George has told D&D everything”.

Analysis

In Scorpion, I like my women…oppositional

Patrycja

Published

on

Scorpion had many flaws and there were plots that could have been handled better. Thankfully with a small exception they were able to write decent female characters which gave us a variety of characteristics and strengths. While leaving the characters on opposite sides of the spectrum.

The waitress liaison

When we meet Paige she’s a waitress at a diner who’s barely getting by. She works two jobs and everything she earns goes to her son Ralph.

We know very little about Paige. There were just a few details that we know. Her father died and her estranged mother is a con women. Their relationship wasn’t the best but they managed to repair it. (Although Veronica leaves at the end of episode 3×14.) Not without leaving some cash for her daughter and grandson. It’s clear to see that Paige tried very hard not to become a mother like her own. She’s very attentive to Ralph’s needs and even though she isn’t aware that he’s a genius in the beginning, she tries very hard to connect with and understand him. She protects her son fiercely.

Paige is a college drop out. During the show she took some night classes in European history to finish her education. Although Paige isn’t a genius, she often contributes some useful ideas to solve problems or offers a comment that helps the others to find a solution.

Throughout the course of the show, she starts understanding and learning more of the science. Her main area of expertise is communication with clients and other people that the team meets. That’s why Walter hired her. She’s supposed to be their liaison to the normal world. She also often takes charge and helps the team to refocus as their minds tend to wander. Paige isn’t a mom only to Ralph—she has to take care of the whole team as they do things like forget to eat.

The waitress had some problems fitting in at the beginning. She didn’t really know her place or role, but with time she became a natural at her job and solidified her position on the team. She did have some trouble with Happy, but they worked it out while dangling on a broken cable in the air.

As wonderful as she sounds, Paige is only human and has flaws like any of us. She is stubborn to a fault and doesn’t like to admit defeat, which doesn’t always sit well with Walter. She can be overprotective of Ralph. Paige has abandonment issues. They can originate from her mother or Drew leaving her when Ralph was little. She was also cheated on. Even though she had abandonment issues, she often used her own fear against Walter who has the same problem. She left him at the end of season 1…which was understandable since Ralphs life was in danger but after that she did it again. Sometimes she lets her emotions cloud her judgement.

Paige is the epitome of a struggling single mom who pushes trough no matter what. Most of her actions are dictated by her heart and the love for her son. Although flawed, she is an excellent example on how to master life’s challenges

The mechanical prodigy

Happy Quinn is a genius mechanic with a rough exterior. She often seems as if she doesn’t care or feel. It’s not true because under the tough shell hides a loving women.

She grew up in a foster home after her mother died. She didn’t see her father until she grew up and found him. Her dad (Patrick) has an Auto repair shop, which can be viewed as the source of her mechanical talent. Repairing stuff is also how she bonds with him.

Her father isn’t the only special man in her life. She shares a profound bond with Cabe, who has kind of stepped up to the role of her father. He was the one who gave her away on her wedding.

Although she may not seem like it, she cares about a selected few very much. Especially team Scorpion. She nursed Walter back to health after he spent some time in the rabbit hole, showcasing her gentle side. She even married him so he didn’t get deported to Ireland.

Happy shared a special relationship with Toby. They got married after she divorced Walter and planned to start a family together. They tried to get pregnant but even then they met another obstacle. Sadly we’ll never know how that plot ended because of the shows cancellation, but I digress.

What I find special about their relationship is the strong foundation in friendship and how well they know and trust in each other. Toby is the only one who didn’t abandon or betray her.

Happy is a representation of every women who makes it in a field dominated by man and was hurt by life. Regardless of that she, was able to build a family and gain success.

The new chemist on the block

We meet Florence as the new chemist who moves to the building next door to the garage. She isn’t a genius, but she’s very smart. She started her own company but lost it. She then moved to start a new business venture.
She can’t really get along with the team in the beginning. Within the course of the show, however, their relationship starts to get better.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy this character. She was created to be a competition to Paige and to show a really smart individual who isn’t a genius but has the same problem as them. Sadly the character comes off as inexpressive and bleak. Her story and problems didn’t manage to get my attention or interest me.

I enjoyed her growing relationship with Sylvester, but it went down the drill since Flo had to have a crush on Walter. The character had potential and maybe with time she could grow on me but alas we’ll never know

The genius whispering sister

Megan was Walter’s older sister. She was a sickly child with a happy attitude. She was one of the few people who understood or tried to understand Walter and build a relationship with him no matter how different he was. She was very ill. She had multiple sclerosis (MS), which eventually killed her.

Even though she was deadly ill, she soldiered on and always saw the glass as half full. She was always kind and lived her life to the fullest. Megan inspired everyone around her, and comforted them when needed. This included Walter and Sylvester in the same episode, at one point (1×12).

She always supported and stood by Walter. Megan was her brother’s biggest cheerleader. Being ill didn’t stop her from having her own opinion. She didn’t want to be on a respirator and she got her way.

Something worth mentioning is her relationship with Sylvester. This particular romance was sweet like a middle school one—the feeling was strong and build on a foundation of trust. Megan gave Sylvester enough strength and courage to go against Walter’s wishes and marry her. Even if they only had a short time together, they were very happy and Megan died having lived a full life.

Megan was the character that showed us that even in the darkest times there’s always hope and a chance to be happy.

Although the woman of Scorpion are on opposite sides of the spectrum, they are united by one characteristic. Strength. Every female character showed strength in her life and soldiering on, making them prime examples on how to handle obstacles.


Images courtesy of CBS

Continue Reading

Analysis

Game of Thrones 3×02 Rewatch: Long Things, Dumb Words

Kylie

Published

on

By

Tuesday means one thing on TheFandomentals: we’re back with another installment of The Wars to Come, a deep dive into Game of Thrones early seasons in an attempt to understand what happened. Last week, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) penned a fairly competent opening to the third season. This week, Kylie, Julia, and Jana are ready for another of Vanessa Taylor’s finest, with “Dark Wings, Dark Words.”

Episode Recap

Beyond the Wall, Mance makes it clear to Jon that he won’t hesitate to kill him if he finds out he’s faking his allegiance. After all, the reason he united everyone was to get them to understand they’d all die if they didn’t move south, so he is very focused. Mance then takes Jon to meet Orell, a skinchanger who entered the mind of a bird overhead. Once he comes back to, he informs the group that he spied “dead crows.”

Speaking of those crows, the Night’s Watch brothers began their slow journey back to the Wall. The exhaustion gets to Sam, who kneels down to give up after some taunting by Rast. Edd and Grenn do what they can to rouse him again, but it’s Commander Mormont who gets them all moving by assigning Rast to Sam. If Sam doesn’t make it back, then neither will Rast.

Heading up to the Wall meanwhile are Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor. Bran is still having his crow dreams, though in this one, a strange boy about his age appears, telling Bran he can’t kill the crow since it is him. Later in real life, the same boy manages to sneak up on Bran’s camp. When Osha threatens to kill him if he takes another step towards Bran, the boy’s sister holds a knife to Osha’s throat. He introduces himself as Jojen Reed, with his sister Meera. He explains to Bran that he does have prophetic dreams, though Bran is also a warg thanks to his ability to control his direwolf. He also says the raven is something else entirely, and that it “brings the sight.” Osha tells Meera it’s shameful that she has to protect her brother, though Meera just shrugs it off.

At Robb’s camp, news arrives from both Riverrun and Winterfell. The former is that Hoster Tully, Cat’s father, has died. The second letter explains about the burning of Winterfell, and no sign of Bran and Rickon. Robb tells this to Cat, who grieves and asks if she’ll have to wear manacles to her father’s funeral. Robb turns his army to march to Riverrun, though it’s clear not all the Northern Lords want to go. On the way, Talisa approaches Cat to try and talk to her. Cat makes it clear that she blames herself for everything that’s befallen her family and cites her treatment of Jon Snow as her selfishness that doomed them.

Someone whose self-blame is a bit more deserved is Theon, who finds himself tied up in a dimly lit room underground. He is tortured, while he is asked his motivations for taking Winterfell. However, it’s clear they’re not interested in his answer. A man sweeping the floor comes up to Theon after the others leave and slightly eases the tension in the device for him, saying that he was sent by Yara and plans to save Theon later that night.

Elsewhere, Arya continues her travels with Hot Pie and Gendry, the latter of whom teases Arya for her terrible choices in the three names Jaqen gave her. They are soon found on the road by a group of men who easily outnumber them, including Thoros of Myr and Anguy. They call themselves the “Brotherhood without Banners,” and quickly piece together that they escaped Harrenhal. The brotherhood buy the trio food at an inn, and Arya lies about their escape, saying that Gendry forged them weapons and they fought their way out. Thoros says they’re free to go, but just as they’re heading out, Sandor Clegane comes in, who instantly recognizes Arya and identifies her to the room.

Speaking of trying to avoid tension, Jaime and Brienne continue their travels, as Jaime tries to make conversation by figuring out Brienne’s former allegiance. He guesses that she was in love with Renly, though the mocking stops when an old man with a loaded horse passes by. Jaime says Brienne should kill him, but she refuses. Later, they have to cross a bridge together, and Jaime sits down, purposely dragging out the process. Brienne tries to rush him up, but Jaime manages to grab hold of one of her swords. They fight, and just as Brienne manages to best him, a group of men displaying the Bolton sigil appear. As it turns out, the old man did recognize them, and they are taken captive by the Bolton troops.

Finally, down in King’s Landing, Cersei tries to talk to Joffrey about his view of Margaery, no doubt concerned at her son’s fondness. She points out that Margaery had been engaged to Renly not so long before. Meanwhile, Shae tries to warn Sansa of Littlefinger, implying that he wants to have sex with her. Their conversation is cut short when Sansa is summoned by the Tyrells. Loras walks her to where Margaery and her grandmother Olenna wait. Olenna is very critical of the men in her family and makes it clear that she has a strong grasp of the political situation. The two women ask Sansa about Joffrey, since Margaery is to marry him. They promise no harm will come to her, and Sansa tells them that he’s a monster.

Margaery gets to see that fully on display, when Joffrey summons her and ask if the bedside of a traitor was her proper place. She quickly turns the conversation around, puffing up Joffrey’s ego and feigning interest in his new crossbow. She then hints at killing something with it and letting him watch her do so. Shae is also trying to sort out sexual interests in a conversation with Tyrion. She goes to him to try and figure out what to do about Littlefinger because of Ros’s warning, but quickly becomes jealous of Tyrion’s past purchasing of Ros’s services, as well as his comments about Sansa being attractive. However, they have sex, temporarily resolving that situation.

Does Tyrion want Sansa? Did Cat doom everyone? And will Margaery really have to kill something for Joffrey’s enjoyment? We’ll find out next week, but for now, let’s break down what we just saw.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Well, there’s that cliff the show begins to fall off in Season 3. There were a lot of parts of this episode that worked well, and I genuinely enjoyed. But there’s just so much invented that doesn’t quite work, and it’s quite obviously done with the intent of “improving” the plots. The drop in quality is not subtle for those moments. In fact, just writing that recap the drop in quality is not subtle, but how the hell else do you frame that Shae conversation?

Jana: This is where you start getting whiplash from the draaaastic fluctuations in quality between scenes. I’d say about 75% of this episode was fine or even good, and then we have a self-flagellating Cat doing a crafting project on the road.

Julia: The one thing about this episode was how LONG it was. Seriously, it just kept going and going. There were actual highs this time, but my eyes hurt from all the rolling in other parts.

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: Marg was my highlight last week, just for a pretty effortless performance that’s enjoyable to watch. This week that’s still the case, but my annoyance at her scripting has finally caught up. However, I will give a highlight to Jack Gleeson in his performance. I think the material is a little mixed in terms of how well it worked (and some of it is the result of trying to age up Joffrey), however he is such a talented actor that it makes up for a lot of it. He has this ability to turn the mood of a scene on a dime, and you see his entitlement, his cruelty, and his vulnerabilities all at once. It’s really brilliant.

My lowlight was the Reeds’ introduction. It wasn’t the most unpleasant thing to watch in this episode by a long shot, but just…why? What are we supposed to make of them from this? They’re mystical? Dramatic? It just came across as random, forced tension, when it would have been genuinely nice to have a pleasant interaction as an opening. A reminder why it is Northern Lords are so loyal and everything.

Jana: The Time Warp Trifecta was really working for it this week, at least for me. Though Margaery’s scene with Joffrey was supposed to be cringey, I guess. And Talisa was the least worst thing about her scene with Catelyn. That conversation between Tyrion and Shae, though… What even was that?

Julia: Omg, “The Time Warp Trifecta.” Thank you so much for being part of my life, Jana.

Jana: Nevertheless, nothing makes me scream more than Catelyn self-flagellating over… Not loving Jon enough? Even though in the same breath she mentions doing things for him most highborn women wouldn’t even do for their own children? And what’s this bullshit about wanting to ask Ned to legitimize him? And being jealous of Jon’s mother? Good god, what a mess.

(Never forget, three seasons from now, all of Book!Catelyn’s fears about Jon threatening her children’s claims will come true. Too bad Show!Catelyn had completely different concerns, apparently.)

Highlights… Hm. I mean, any scene that gives Sansa something to do that resembles her book storyline is nice, and Diana Rigg is a treasure. I feel like this Sansa maybe gave in a little too quickly, but other than that, I guess that’s my easy highlight to pick. Followed closely by Brienne and Jaime fighting on the bridge.

Julia: Lemon cakes is a very easy highlight. There were even some women doing needlework in the background! And cheese boy! Bless his heart. And it’s kind of all I can think of for an unironic highlight.

An ironic highlight might be the patriarchy magically appearing in King’s Landing, because god did it come hard. Wise women obey, guys! And what even is anal sex? Fun times.

The Cat thing was so horrible on many levels, especially the ones Jana mentioned. Legitimating Jon, Cat’s concerns being framed as primarily jealousy… but did we forgot the torture scenes? Maybe we tried to.

Quality of writing

Jana: Varied, is the word I’d use here. Some scenes were really well and tightly written and enjoyable, and then others, the quality just dropped. And there wasn’t even a Littlefinger around to blame! Though admittedly, the scene where Shae and Tyrion talked about him had probably the worst writing. Was anything Shae said even remotely coherent from one sentence to another?

Julia: Is she just really committed to the Girlfriend Experience or are we supposed to think this is a real relationship? Like, why is this sex worker upset that he once engaged the services of another sex worker?

I think it’s at least a soft original material-book scene dichotomy this week. The best written original scene was probably the one with Carol Cersei and Joff, but then you had… all the other stuff. There were scenes that were just middling, I guess, like where Mance explains his backstory.

Kylie: The Jaime and Brienne scenes were some of the best writing in the episode, and also some of the only scenes that included book content as they were supposed to be. But Jana is right; we’d go from that one moment to the horror of Shae and Tyrion’s nonversation. Possibly the first true nonversation of the show?

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Julia: Well the title is kind of appropriate because Robb got those two bad news ravens. Not that they quoted the proverb. Also, why is Lord Karstark delivering messages now?

I’m kind of nowhere in terms of overall theme. The best I can do is that people are bonding and consolidating relationships. I’m thinking especially of Marg and Joff, Cat and Talisa, Jamie and Brienne, and Jon and Mance. There are also new relationships that will be important later; Sansa and Marg, the Reeds and Bran, Arya and the Hound, (who never really interacted before, as far as I can recall) Ramsay and Theon (barf).

Jana: Yes, I was considering something along those lines as well. Uneasy alliances, maybe? False friends? Though that might be more hindsight than anything substantial in this episode.

Kylie: “People in groups of varying sizes doing things.” No, “uneasy alliances” is the closest at making sense, and it actually works fairly well. Don’t forget Rast and Sam, too.

The Butterfly Effect

Kylie: Biggest one I see in effect here is with Cat’s scripting. D&D made no efforts to sympathize with her or her viewpoint in Season 1, which is why we get Cat telling Ned to stay in Winterfell. The political advancement of her family? The legitimate concerns over Jon’s potential claim? Never in evidence, so now we get her mistreatment of him played as just…she was petty and jealous and couldn’t love a baby because he had a stranger’s brown eyes.

Jana: No kidding. If I didn’t know any better, you could almost say that Catelyn’s dynastic worries were completely taken out of the show to make it more palpable for the average watcher when Jon becomes king, and that’d be a great move. But that’s also assuming the writers planned more than one season at a time, and, well…

Julia: They just don’t see Cat as a political actor at all. Even when she went to talk to Renly it was only because Robb asked her to, remember. All this personal and political stuff goes right over their heads. The closest they ever got was with Theon, and we all saw how that turned out.

Kylie: It’s early Season 3 and we’re already at the point of legitimizing a bastard being painted as an unquestionably good thing. GAH.

Julia: Okay, I know I’ve been mentioning this every week, but why do they continue to dig this Shae hole? Now she’s defending other woman from sexual exploitation?

Jana: I actually kind of like the scenes with Sansa and Shae, at least right now. I mean, it is clearly a different Shae than the one in the books, and those moments at least make her somewhat likable. I also think that in theory, having someone for Sansa to bounce her inner monologue off of could have helped the show, a lot, with its portrayal of Sansa, buuuut that sure as hell isn’t happening here.

Kylie: I do think Sansa needs someone for that (and why Dontos couldn’t have fill the role is beyond me). But it’s not really in the service of Sansa at all. In fact, the scenes are mostly just Shae imparting worldly advice on the continually naive Sansa, and then whipping out some weird ‘empowered’ lines, like how she’s totally going to make Littlefinger stop. I guess because she runs around with daggers? Or goes to Tyrion with her problems?

I guess I’m torn on it, is what I mean. I like Sansa having someone she can be nice to, even if this is all going to get thrown out the window. But Shae’s scripting is a sore thumb for this worldbuilding.

Remember adaptation?

Jana: They’re doing an all in all okay job with Jaime and Brienne. Yes, she’s more of a brute, and yes, maybe he goes on about Renly being gay a little too much, but other than that… Or maybe I’m just distracted by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (NCW) getting to actually do something again. God, he used to be so good as Jaime when he was allowed to be kind of clever and not just Carol’s beleaguered brother-lover.

Julia: You mean befuddled.

Jana: Larry was very much both beleaguered and befuddled.

Kylie: Agreed. And to be honest, I adore the way NCW and Gwendoline Christie play off of each other. This is what happens when you give actors actual content and motivation. From what I can tell NCW still tries to make sense of things. Poor guy.

Jana: Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here yelling about how they’re PERFECT AND THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GREAT AAAAAH but instead we try to normalize twincest for a few years, no biggie.

Julia: I just realized that the changes to Shae and her foregrounding have effectively made Sansa’s plot all about Tyrion even before they get married. But can we please indulge me and talk about why we think the stuff with Shae is happening?

Jana: My best guess as to why the Shae stuff is happening is basically that Tyrion, the precious saint-like audience avatar main protagonist hero, can’t just be fucking a regular sex worker who doesn’t care about him and his amazingness, which is why Shae is given a personality, traits that make her likable (see above points about caring for Sansa), and an informed knack for intrigue. And like, if it didn’t end the way it did, having Ros and Shae meddle with the politics of the big boys might have been a worthwhile plotline. Shae might have been a really nice example for how ladies-in-waiting are used to spy and all that. However, there was still an endpoint to get to, so all the crumbs we’re thrown here are completely meaningless in the long run.

Kylie: It’s so hard for me to understand what they were trying for with Ros in this. Because there is a bit of a throughline about maids and sex workers spying and having outcomes on the politics of the Highborn for sure. But yeah, it was a plotline without space for it, so it just ended up being this…weirdness that gets thrown out the window.

The most confusing part for me is how Martin has praised Shae’s scripting, and not an inconsequential number of times.

Jana: Eh, he is good friends with the actor. And to be fair, Shae is an actual character who at least occasionally seems to genuinely care about Tyrion and has character traits other than being out for self-preservation and good at playing the role she’s being paid to play. It paints Tyrion in a better light and make him more likable in the long run. But that only work if that was GRRM’s actual goal for Tyrion, which I doubt. I’m pretty sure Tyrion being flawed the way he is is very much the point of the character… Or maybe not. It’s hard to say at this point. The Shae thing is going to collapse hard next season, so for now it just seems like too much effort put into the wrong thing.

Julia: Right!? She just has so much screen time. Is it true or apocryphal that she has more lines than Cat this season?

Jana: I don’t have the numbers, but she definitely…does more than Cat. Has more agency than Cat, which is admittedly a low bar to clear, but nothing an ascended extra should be able to do next to a POV character.

Kylie: If it helps, Catelyn’s end tally is more than Shae’s across all their seasons? I feel like it doesn’t help.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: I’m leaning towards Carol. We had nice slut-shaming digs at Marg’s wardrobe that could have gone either way, but we’re beginning to get that sad mom who can’t control her wild kid framing of it all.

Julia: Yeah, I’m going for full Carol. She’s totally right about the sinister nature of Marg’s risque wardrobe. And the patriarchy!

Jana: No kidding. And Joffrey yelling at her about what wise women do is very much like how people are going to be mean to Carol in the future. What happened to the woman who slapped Joffrey for talking back to her last season?

Kylie: It’s official then:

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Julia: Um, Jojen gave us some myth arc exposition, I guess. We learn about anal sex? And FYI, Lord Karstark, it probably snows all the time in Dorne. They have mountains.

Jana: The guy yelling at Sam was kind of telling us What Happened So Far, but it made sense in context, I guess, and the only reason I noticed it was because I was looking for it.

If you’re generous, Joffrey tries to give us exposition about Westerosi views on homosexuality that are somehow not shared by anyone else making fun of Renly and Loras this episode. Did we mention that in the themes? People make fun of Renly and/or Loras being gay a lot this episode.

Kylie: The most seamless exposition was over lemon cakes, when Olenna was complaining about her various family members and her views on their political alliance. But we can’t exactly credit Vanessa Taylor for that one, can we?

I will say one bit of subtle exposition was that Theon is captive of the Boltons. He was on the wooden cross, and then we see the men displaying that later, which Jaime calls attention to with his, “a bit gruesome for my taste.” It was enough to preserve suspense, but it rewards a close watch, which is not anything I can say about the show now.

Julia: The problem with good exposition is that you don’t always notice it.

Kylie: Why do I feel like we should make that into a shirt?

How was the pacing?

Julia: This episode was 57 minutes long, so maybe it wasn’t the pacing that made it feel like it was taking forever. Though I do remember screaming, “am I seriously only 25 minutes in!?” at one point.

Jana: They had a LOT of scenes that were just going nowhere, or had especially frustrating content like the Cat Self Roast and Shae wildly fluctuating between actual nagging girlfriend and the girlfriend experience bought and paid for. Those scenes and the torture scenes dragged somewhat, the rest was fine.

Kylie: It was endless, absolutely endless. Griffin asked me, “Is it over now?” about three times, and I was just as horrified to discover it wasn’t too. It’s interesting, because the pace wasn’t slower in the way Season 7 scenes are slower, where people just walk across the screen for thirty seconds without saying anything. Instead, each scene itself felt pretty packed, but just packed with nothing.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Kylie: Most sexual aspect of this episode was Marg explaining Renly’s gayness to Joff, and then getting him turned on with a crossbow. I guess there was also Shae’s blowjob to Tyrion after yelling about his attraction to Ros and Sansa.

I don’t know what to do with Marg to be honest. It seems so sinister now, knowing that Littlefinger will give Sansa the advise of “make him yours” to Ramsey, and her failure to do so resulted in her brutalization (at least, the framing of it). Here, we have the successful “make him yours” campaign by Margaery, and boy does she just wield her sexuality so effectively. I understand Vanessa Taylor wrote this episode, but this entire plotline was scripted by D&D, and it’s clear they think women really can successful control “monsters” if they weaponize their womanly bodies properly.

Jana: I’m also just gonna call it— Natalie Dormer already looks way too old for these interactions to not feel an entirely different kind of creepy than they’re meant to be. I know the show is very vague on their ages and all, but there’s at least a 10 year age difference there and Joffrey is in his teens. Not a good look. Nothing compared to what comes later, but already not a good look.

Julia: Does Shae explaining to Sansa “the only thing that men ever want” count as sexual content? Why am I so effing obsessed with Shae?

Kylie: Someone’s gotta teach Sansa about the awfulness of the world, since she’s sure as hell not learning about it inherently or having a survival narrative. Isn’t this the year where we find out she doesn’t know the word, “shit”?

Jana: Well, remember how Sansa is such a slow learner? How could she have figured any of this out if not for the help of others? But yes, the sheep shift scene is in episode 10, newlyweds being nice to each other for some reason, juuust before the news of the Red Wedding arrives. I have no idea why any of that happened, but hey. Eight episodes to go until then.

In memoriam…Hoster Tully

Julia: Did anyone die?

Jana: Catelyn’s self-respect and self-worth. That died. And from what I recall, also her relevance for the rest of the season.

Oh and I guess we find out about Hoster Tully dying off-screen.

Kylie: Just Hoster Tully. I actually liked Cat’s lines about her manacles in relation to that, though may have been more effective if the guy had ever been mentioned prior to this episode. I miss the Whispering Wood monologue.

Julia: I just miss Cat.

Jana: I miss Cat’s plot.

Kylie: I miss Your Sister.

Maybe she’ll be back next week? We’ll have to wait to find out, but that’s a wrap for today. What did you guys think of the episode? Did the Cat/Shae/Margaery stuff overshadow everything else for you, or were they not as bad as we were making them out?

We certainly look forward to continuing on in Season 3, to see what’s in store for us in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

Continue Reading

Analysis

My First Queer: 90s Fantasy Novels

Published

on

This article is part of the My First Queer series, a site-wide series of articles written by some of our non-straight Fandomentals contributors. Each will contain their thoughts on their first experiences with queer media and what it meant to them. Enjoy!

Oh look, Gretchen is going to be writing about books, big surprise! Like Kristen before me in this series, I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up. Books were my escape, especially fantasy books. As conservative evangelical Christians, my parents were all about making sure our little child brains were as free from the ‘corrupting influences of the world’ as possible, hence why I watched so little TV and why it took me so long to figure out I was queer. Fortunately for me, my parents trusted my instincts with books. Granted, I was a compliant child who didn’t go out of my way to find anything subversive. If the cover art wasn’t scandalous and the dust jacket seemed free of ‘questionable content’, I could read it.

With literally hundreds of books passing through my hands over the first decade and a half of my life, if I still remember a scene from a book I read only once and decades ago, it meant something to me. Sometime last year, I reflected on these handful of books seared into my soul. Once you look at them, it’s pretty telling why these are the stories I remember.

The Eagle and The Nightingales by Mercedes Lackey (1995)

Sometime in late middle school/early high school, I picked up one of Mercedes Lackey’s books at the local library and proceeded to devour every available book of hers I could get my hands on. I can’t remember which book of hers I read first, but they left an indelible impression on me.

Part of Lackey’s Bardic Voices series, The Eagle and The Nightingales tells the story of Nightingale a Free Bard (someone who wields magic through music) tasked with finding out why the human king and churches are growing overtly hostile to non-human sentient beings and other classes of people they cannot directly control. She joins forces with T’yfrr a member of the Haspur, a race of humanoid eagles who has an angelic voice. Over the course of the book, the two become not only quest partners, but lovers.

So what? I can imagine you thinking. What does a bard and a bird-man have to do with ‘my first queer’? Fair point, dear reader. On the surface, T’yfrr and Nightingale are differently gendered and so seem to fit a heterosexual mold. However, as a young teen, an interspecies relationship felt as ‘forbidden’ and ‘taboo’ as anything overtly gay. There was something…queer about it even if it featured a female human and a male humanoid eagle. Especially in the story’s context of non-humans being persecuted by the church (*cough cough*) and interspecies relationships being considered taboo by the church but accepted in T’yfrr’s culture. Conversations Nightingale has with T’yfrr mirror conversations Vanyel, one of Lackey’s openly gay characters, has about being attracted to men.

Ultimately, it’s a story about discrimination against marginalized people groups and finding love in unexpected places that your society might find taboo but that’s just their (wrong, bigoted) opinion. That struck a chord with me that I couldn’t label. I just really, really liked it okay? And it made a lot of sense to me and made me feel seen for some reason. (Like I said, really telling looking back.) It was also a really well-written story, the best of the Free Bard series (of which this is the third book), in my opinion. We won’t talk about Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I like to pretend that book never happened.

Admittedly, certain aspects of The Eagle and the Nightingales didn’t age well. While the complicated politics and theme of acceptance are still relevant today, the entire Free Bard series features ‘gypsies’ prominently. Lackey’s characterization of the culture she calls ‘gypsy’ is positive, if a bit stereotypical. The real problem is her use of the word ‘gypsy’ at all. I know, I know. This is a fantasy book from the 90s. In that context, her free use of that word to describe a nomadic, Romani-like people is understandable. At the same time, understandable doesn’t mean problem-free and I would be remiss, even in my reminiscences, to overlook that rather glaring issue.

The Last Herald-Mage Series by Mercedes Lackey (1989-1990)

This brings me to the aforementioned Vanyel. The three books in this series—Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price—tell the story of Vanyel Ashkevron, the greatest Herald-Mage in the history of Valdemar. He presents at first as a bored, coddled, vain pretty-boy disinterested in running his family estate. That veneer hides the reality that he’s an emotionally neglected, highly introverted and intuitive, sensitive child who suffers from his father being overbearing and believing he’s ‘not a proper man’. His homophobic father, who fears he is shay’a’chern, the in-universe term for gay, sends him to train as a swordsman to ‘make a man’ out of him.’

Vanyel meets a Herald-Mage trainee, Tylendel, who is openly gay and sparks Vanyel’s understanding of himself. The two become lovers and lifebonded (aka soulmates), but in a magical tragedy, Tylendel dies (don’t worry, I’ll come back to this). The event also awakens Vanyel’s mage gift. In the aftermath, he learns he possesses all of the Heraldic gifts and becomes the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever exist. Eventually he meets another shay’a’chern couple from the mysterious human clan of the Tayledras, the Hawkbrothers known as Moondance and Starwind. Being gay in their society is not taboo, so they teach him to accept his orientation as normal and beautiful. He also meets a bard named Stefan, the reincarnation of his soulmate Tylendel.

Vanyel dies at the end of the series fighting against Valdemar’s enemies. However, that’s not the end for him. He’s given a choice to continue protecting Valdemar, so he, Stefan/Tylendel, and Vanyel’s psycially linked horse Companion Yfandes (it makes sense in context, I promise; she’s like a platonic soulmate who helps him with magic) become spirit protectors on Valdemar’s border.

Admittedly, Lackey killing of Tylendel to awaken Vanyel’s mage gifts doesn’t sit well after recent conversations about the representation of queer characters. Maybe I’m nostalgic and too kind because of what these books meant to me, but the events never struck me as Bury Your Gays (BYG), even as a kid. Lackey goes out of her way to normalize Vanyel’s sexuality, villainize his homophobic father, an even reincarnates Tylendel in the form of Stefan.

Vanyel’s heroic sacrifice at the end doesn’t feel like BYG either. His death isn’t intended to punish him for being gay, which is the root of the BYG trope. In fact, he gets a happy ending, even in death. He, his soulmate Tylendel/Stefan, and his platonic soulmate Companion Yfandes live forever doing what he wanted most in the world: protecting Valdemar.

Oh, and he has four biological children to carry on his legacy, though I honestly can’t remember how the sperm donor thing worked. Twins Brightstar and Firefeather are raised by the Tayledras shay’a’chern couple Vanyel meets. He also fathers Avren, the daughter of lesbian swordfighters in his older sister Lissa’s command. Most important is Jisa, daughter of Shavri, the king’s co-consort. Basically, the king is infertile but no one knows that, so Vanyel agrees to be the donor in secret. As Jisa ends up marrying the heir, the entire rest of the royal line in the Valdemar series descends from Vanyel.

Plus, Vanyel’s story is so central to the worldbuilding and history of Valdemar that without him, the rest of Valdemar wouldn’t make sense. So even in hindsight, I have a hard time labeling this as BYG. He’s just too important a character and everything else about the story resists being boiled down to, “he and Tylendel died because they were gay.”

Anyway, back to why these books were important to me. I related to Vanyel on a deeply personal level. He was introverted, misunderstood, and suffered from both neglect and direct emotional and verbal abuse. He’s deeply emotional and struggles with depression. He’s mocked by friends and family for being ‘moody’ and not fitting into society’s expectations for his gender. Because of the abuse he suffered, he both feared and desperately wanted intimacy yet denied himself the opportunities to open up for fear of getting hurt. Hey! That was me. Reading about Vanyel felt like Lackey had peered into my soul and put what she found on page. And that was aside from him being gay.

Even though reading these books didn’t immediately make me understand my sexuality, following Vanyel’s journey of discovering his sexual orienation deeply impacted me. I got to read it in real time, watch him figure it out, struggle with the implications, and learn to accept and embrace it by being told it was normal. He gave me the first glimpse of something I didn’t realize was true of myself. I just really, really liked and identified with him okay? I was a shay’a’chern…ally.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy (1994)

Before Lackey, there was Lovejoy and Cohen’s Seven Daughters and Seven Sons. I read this in 5th grade, having picked it off of my teacher’s classroom library shelf because it was based on an Iraqi folktale. I loved (and still do love) all kinds of folktales, myths, and fairy tales, especially non-Western stories. Buran’s story became my favorite, though over time I forgot the title and it took me years to track it down again.

Buran is the fourth of seven daughters living in Baghdad. Everyone in the city shuns her father for not having sons; her uncle—father to seven sons—especially like to throw Buran’s family’s poverty and seeming lack of favor from Allah in their face. Not content to see her family suffer, Buran disguises herself as a man, travels to Tyre, and sets up shop as a successful merchant while maintaining her masculine disguise.

Mahmud, the prince of Tyre visits her shop often, and Buran finds herself falling in love with him and he with her, though she’s still disguised as a man. Soon after he realizes his in love with Buran-in-disguise, Mahmud has a moment where he begins to wonder if she is a woman. So, he sets about testing her to prove her gender. Fearing discovery and the loss of friendship and her business she uses to support her family, Buran uses her wits to pass Mahmud’s first two tests. The third, to meet him at the baths, she flees from as it would reveal her identity. Donning women’s clothing, she heads home, encountering two of her male cousins, whose position in life has much diminished since she left. Her family, on the other hand, is rich and her sisters have married well due to her business acumen.

Her family pressures her to marry, but her heart belongs to Mahmud, though she cannot admit it. Rejecting social expectations of her, Buran determines to never marry and leave her fortune to her sisters’ children. However, Prince Mahmud eventually finds her and the two get married and live happily ever after.

Stories about women who disguise themselves as men and have a prince fall in love with them exist in a strange limbo between queer and heteronormative, depending on how the author frames the prince. Lovejoy and Cohen straddle that line in an interesting way. On the one hand, the story lets the prince believe himself in love with Nasir—Buran’s masculine name—for almost two pages. There’s even a highly sexually charged scene between the two of them told from Prince Mahmud’s perspective. But then Mahmud has a rather convenient insight that Nasir is actually a woman in disguise. It simultaneously feels less homophobic than it could have been and as heteronormative as people who don’t want to acknowledge that Li Shang in Mulan was totally in love with Ping and flagrantly bisexual.

Still, as a child, it was eye-opening to read a story about a man who falls in love with another man, only to realize she’s a woman. And Buran was definitely a character I both admired and identified with. I, too, wanted to be more than what my conservative environment said a woman should be. I admired her courage, her intelligence, and her unwillingness to submit to societal expectations for what it meant to be a woman. There’s a bit of Not Like Other Girls, but no more than Vanyel felt like Not Like Other Boys. They’re both characters who didn’t quite fit in and found a way to embrace and celebrate who they were. Once again, to not-yet-aware-of-her-queerness-Gretchen something about Buran and Mahmud struck home.

And then there was the scene where Buran strips naked and looks at herself as a woman after living as a man for years.

“When I got back to my room, my own safe little room in Jihha’s house, I bade the servant leave the candle, and then I dismissed him. I took off all of my clothes, every single piece, and then I stared down at my naked self. I saw the gentle swell of my two breasts, small, but firm and high, with smooth golden flesh giving way to rosy nipples. I saw the slight curve of my belly, which would never, ever be absolutely flat, no matter how thin and hard the rest of me might be. Beneath my narrow waist, my two hips curved like two crescent moons and between my legs, black hair curled in tiny ringlets.” (p. 151-152)

Poor little 10-year-old baby bisexual Gretchen did not know what to do with the confusing feelings reading that passage awakened in her. I’ll be honest, this was the scene that stuck in my mind for years. Until recently, I had no idea why. Looking back now, I can 100% label it as the first viscerally, “Oh shit, I’m queer,” moment of my life. It only took me 20 more years to unpack it, but this book is the piece de resistance of young queer Gretchen.

So these were my first queer inklings. Strange, I know. Two of the stories weren’t even explicitly queer and the other featured a gay protagonist, not a woman-loving-woman (wlw). But they meant something to me. They planted seeds in my repressed, survival-mentality brain that would only come to fruition many years later. For a survivor of CSA and abuse who literally had no framework for understanding being a wlw, these books were the only shreds I had of a part of myself I didn’t have words for. Yes, they were problematic in some ways. Yes, they were imperfect matches to my own experience. But they were literally all I had.

As I said at the outset, these are stories I vividly remembered years later. Even if I couldn’t remember the name of the book, I remembered scenes or interactions that felt…significant to me in some unnamed as yet way. However flawed they are, they hold a special place in my soul.

They’re also the reason why I write mainstream SFF novels. I know there are other kids out there who don’t know they’re queer just like I didn’t. Kids who wouldn’t think to pick up a book explicitly labeled as ‘queer’ either because they don’t think that’s who they are or because their situation at home wouldn’t allow them to. (My parents would have banned any book labeled that way on sight.) Kids waiting to pick up a book about mages or queens or space colonists and see a protagonist who loves in a way they didn’t know was possible.

So in the end, they gave me even more of myself than I ever could have imagined. This is why stories matter.


Images Courtesy of Atheneum Books and DAW Books

Continue Reading

Trending