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George R.R. Martin’s Co-Authors Respond to Claims of Racism: ‘Diversity Should Not Trump Story’

Martin's co-author and "fact-checker" Linda Antonsson said that changing the ethnicity or race of fictional characters "raises all sorts of logical questions."

Steve Toussaint in "House of the Dragon"

Steve Toussaint in “House of Dragon”

HBO

George R.R. Martin’s co-authors Linda Antonsson and her husband Elio M. García Jr. are responding to allegations that they are racist for speaking out on the diverse “House of the Dragon” casting.

Game of Thrones” creator and “House of the Dragon” executive producer Martin publicized the release of an upcoming “reference book” on the history of the Targaryen dynasty, “The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One.” However, Martin’s fans called out co-authors Antonsson and García for their past controversial comments on race in the “Game of Thrones” franchise.

Antonsson and García founded the online forum Westeros.org in 1999, leading author Martin to bring the duo on as “fact-checkers” for his novel “A Feast for Crows.” In 2014, Antonsson and García served as co-authors on the illustrated “The World of Ice & Fire.” Antonsson’s blog posts over the past decade have criticized the TV adaptations of Martin’s works with expletive-filled rants about the accuracy of skin color and depictions of sexual violence.

Most recently, Antonsson wrote that the casting of Steve Toussaint as Corlys on “House of the Dragon” was unacceptable because “there are no Black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show.” Actor Toussaint spoke out about being “racially abused on social media” ahead of the series premiere.

Antonsson addressed the claims and fan backlash to her involvement in Martin’s “The Rise of the Dragon” book, telling Variety that fans are only criticizing “cherry-picked statements stripped of context.” Antonsson said it is bothersome to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building.” She noted that “diversity should not trump story” when adapting Martin’s works for the screen.

“If George had indeed made the Valyrians Black instead of white, as he mused on his ‘Not a Blog’ in 2013, and this new show proposed to make the Velaryons anything other than Black, we would have had the same issue with it and would have shared the same opinion,” Antonsson said, while adding that changing the ethnicity or race of fictional characters “raises all sorts of logical questions.”

Yet Antonsson and García noted they both are enjoying “House of the Dragon” overall and credited showrunner Ryan Condal for being “someone who clearly cares about the source material.”

Condal previously told Entertainment Weekly that he and co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik set out to create a more diverse series than “Game of Thrones.”

“It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” Condal said. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”

As the EW piece reported, author Martin “toyed early on with the idea of depicting the Velaryons as Black conquerors who came to Westeros from the west,” which Condal immediately saw as the future of the series.

“Once we had that idea, it just felt like everything fell into place,” Condal said.

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