Linda Antonsson and Elio M García Jr have hit back against accusations of racism after Game of Thrones fans called for a boycott of their upcoming book.
The married couple, who have been collaborating with George RR Martin for two decades, were recruited to write The Rise of the Dragon: An Illustrated History of the Targaryen Dynasty, Volume One, called “a deluxe reference book”.
But after Martin shared the news on Twitter, there was fan outcry with many suggesting a boycott linked to posts by Antonsson sharing frustration over the casting of actors of colour.
In March 2012, Antonsson spoke out against Black actor Nonso Anonzie playing Xaro Xhoan Daxos, referred to as pale in the books while recently decrying Black actor Steve Toussaint playing Corlys in recent prequel series House of the Dragon. “There are no Black Valyrians and there should not be any in the show,” she wrote.
After the casting of Toussaint, Antonsson also tweeted: “And there we go throwing consistency and worldbuilding in House of the Dragon out the window on the altar of political correctness.”
Toussaint has spoken publicly about racist abuse he has received from fans over his casting. “I kind of thought: ‘Oh, I get it’. When we were criminals and pirates and slaves in the other show, you were OK with that,” he said to the Radio Times. “But as this guy is the richest [character] in the show and he’s a nobleman, now you have a problem with it.” He added: “I don’t want this to be my story. But I’m not going to deny that it happened. Because it does. It’s out there. And it should never be something that puts someone off from doing something they want to do.”
House of the Dragon, now airing on HBO, has also been praised by many for adding diversity to a world which had been criticised for its lack in previous years. “It was very important for Miguel [Sapochnik] and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” the House of the Dragon co-creator Ryan Condal said to Entertainment Weekly earlier this year. “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.”
Antonsson told Variety that fans have “cherry-picked statements stripped of context” and that it hurts her to be “labeled a racist, when my focus has been solely on the world building”. She also said she has no trouble with more inclusive casting but that “diversity should not trump story”. She contends that changing the race of certain characters “raises all sorts of logical questions.” García Jr also said that the pair will not be “silenced by people who are happy to lie”.
When asked if Martin is aware of the controversy, Antonsson said he was but that he “doesn’t see the point in engaging with people” on social media and would rather they stopped sharing their opinions.
The pair created online forum Westeros.org in 1999 and then worked on A Feast for Crows and The World of Ice & Fire.
The news follows “racism, threats, harassment and abuse” directed toward actors of colour who were cast in Amazon’s recent Lord of the Rings series. “We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it,” read an official statement. Both shows have been ratings hits.