Or, Egregious Use Of The Word “Authority” by S.R. Torris
I have heard the praise and rabid fanaticism associated with HBO’s “Game Of Thrones” and, yes, I’ve been told, “I can’t believe you don’t watch it?” and “You have to watch it!” a dozen times. Why not let myself be taken away by a great fantasy story? I’d done it before with the “Harry Potter” series and “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy; this could be another world added to the many I visit during those times when the journey of this world becomes less than hospitable.
So I watched an 18:31 long critique on YouTube (as seen above) posted by a guy who calls himself, “theblackauth0rity”. I clicked “play” and listened to some compelling points, which quelled my curiosity regarding the show. I’d concluded, perhaps it’s best to go to the original source material, the books.
If only I had stopped the video at 7:17 or if I’d just bothered to read the summary: “Black Authority takes a critical analysis of the hit TV show Game of Thrones and the inherent racial stereotypes that run throughout the series. We also discuss how Black society’s lack of literary skills has created this one sided assault, the current crop of Black writers who actually help enable this situation to exist. . . and what we SHOULD be doing about it.”
I would have saved myself the pain in my eyes from rolling them so hard.
“We also discuss how Black society’s lack of literary skills has created this one sided assault, the current crop of Black writers who actually help enable this situation to exist…”
Is this guy serious?
If you haven’t guessed or assumed, worked out or configured, I am a writer. I am blessed and enriched with what scientists of this planet call melanin, so by the standard of many (including myself) that makes me “Black” – and I am thoroughly insulted by this sweeping generalization of my peers and me. But his insults don’t stop in the summary, oh no, folks! He asks the question, “So why is it no Black author has given us a gripping sword and sandals epic of the magnitude of George R.R. Martin’s novels?” then he answers the question pronouncing boldly, “I’ll tell you why!”
He does tell us why, boldly.
“It’s because Black writers don’t have the literary capacity or intellectual competence to write such a story.”
Commencing eye roll, jaw drop, “Say what?” sequence in T-minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
Say what? We don’t have the literary capacity OR the intellectual competence? Can it get any more offensive? Why, yes. Yes it can.
“In order to write a story of the quality and gravity of ‘Game of Thrones’, you have to be able to have mastered the English language. But when people tell their kids being able to read and spell is, ‘talking white’, then this is the result. If you can’t even master the dictionary, then you can forget about writing a sweeping fifteen-hundred page novel with compelling dialogue and interesting characters. And more than just mastering the language, you also need to have a knowledge about geography, world history, geo-politics of that era, the cultural practices and societal norms of that time, as well as knowledge of the weaponry and technology available in those ages. But, once again, this is where the average Black writer fails. Because most Black writers have no knowledge of anything other than pimping hoes and hearing women complain about not being able to find a man.” – theblackauth0rity
Let’s start with the hero of his story, Mr. George R. R. Martin, shall we? Mr. GRRM, as some of his fans call him, is a fantasy writer. Contrary to the bluster “theblackauth0rity” is trying to force down your throat, the key ingredient needed to write a fantasy story is a vivid imagination. See, there are these things called editors if your writing skills aren’t up to par; they are there to assist you in that area. Your story being an imaginative gem makes the job that much easier for them and I’m sure they’d have no problem working with you on a second, third, or fourth book. Now, if you have no idea how to write at all, but boy do you have a hell-of-a story that should be shared, there are these things called ghostwriters where you tell them the story and they write it down, all fancy-like.
What of the geo-politics and geography? Well, we’re talking about fantasy and the fantastic. Just because you’re Black, Chinese, Brazilian, or Filipino does not mean that your story needs to be set in Africa, China, Brazil, or the Philippines. Your character can have an eighteen-letters-long-consonant-filled name, who you decide to call “Tim”. “Tim” could live on the planet Gul’thux on the largest forested continent, Gul’thux Myyur’dak, which in “Tim’s” language means, “the planet’s big hairy brush”. “Tim” could also be at war with the people who live in the great volcano called, “Stiipa’fyor” and thus, the fun begins – oh yeah, “Tim”, let’s make “Tim” a girl. This is how fantasy works. You imagine your own world, your own wars and conflicts, your royal families, your own maps, towers, bridges, and villages. If you need basic knowledge on the functions of government branches, courts; if you are looking for certain weapons to modify or whether firing a disco ball out a cannon will fly along a particular trajectory; if you are looking for the shape of certain land masses, then that’s when you try and remember all the stuff in school you thought you’d never use or go to the library – if you’re an old schooler. Those who are from the new school will hop on the Internet and let their fingers do the clicking; either way, you’re getting the knowledge that you need to enhance the fantasy. But it goes nowhere without your imagination.
Mr. GRRM was lucky enough to allow himself to get lost in all kinds of books, even comic books, when he was just a young boy from New Jersey. As a kid, he used to write his own little stories that he sold to other kids. He continued to write books, eventually got into television writing, and then he concentrated on his “A Game Of Thrones” when he was continually told his imagination was too big for the show’s budget – the show being the “Twilight Zone”. According to an interview Mr. GRRM did for The Telegraph, “…in 1994, he left television to get back to writing a book ‘as big as my imagination’ that he started in the summer of 1991. Two years later ‘A Game of Thrones’ was published, initially to little fanfare.” Notice Mr. GRRM didn’t say his story was as “big as his knowledge of the social constructs of 13th Century Great Britain”! I would also point out that “A Game Of Thrones” was published without the hype and splendor it’s receiving now, which brings me to my next point.
Imagination is a wonderful thing but much to my great disappointment, a lot (not all) of fantasy writers, readers, and illustrators don’t have much of it when it comes to Africans or people who aren’t white. This saddens me because many Black fantasy writers fall in this category either by habit or circumstance. If white supremacy is rampant in the arts of those who are supposed to be enlightened, what chance does the rest of the world have?
“A Game Of Thrones” wasn’t the great phenomena it is today, when it was first released. Guess what? Neither was “The Lord Of The Rings”; it took publishers forever to be convinced that the “Harry Potter” novels were books children would read; and there are “Twi-Hards” walking around today who mistake L.J. Smith’s “Vampire Diaries” as a rip off of the “Twilight” series, when Smith’s novels were published almost a decade before. These are only minute examples of the lunacy that happens in publishing – to people who are armed with “white privilege”. If it’s this crazy for some of your favorite paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy authors, who are white, what kind of pill-popping schizophrenia must Blacks be going through to get novels in those genres published?
One of the most critically acclaimed shows on television was “The Wire” and it almost got canceled in its early seasons. You know one of the reasons why? Because the white viewers couldn’t imagine young Black men as the head of, organizing, and running a multi-million dollar elicit drug operation. The quick thinking producers changed the focus of the show to corrupt politicians and placed the location by the docks, instead of The Hood; it saved the life of the show and they gradually brought it back to The Hood. Those of us who lived near, were involved in, or had family in the game, knew 20 year-old Black kingpins were possible because we witnessed the reality of it. But, you stick a .45mm in an Italian-American’s hand, give him a colorful name, tell him to say “whack” a couple of times, and you have no problem convincing anyone that “Tony” is serious and is going to put a bullet in someone’s head. In fact, many root for him to do so.
But they don’t root for the Black dragon slayer, or the Black wizard, or the Black medicine woman. There are no tears shed for the Black warrior, who oftentimes gets killed early in the story, the Black blacksmith, farmer, friar or the Black King – and definitely not the Black Queen. The drug game is what people, book buyers, seem to understand when it comes to Black “fantasy” or “adventure”. You have a lot of white folks and many suburban Blacks who go on their “ghetto safari” through these books, and rap music is the soundtrack that goes with it. If they loved Tony Soprano, you can believe they are thoroughly entertained by Corey from the block, who shouts he’s “that nigga”, “runs through bitches” and is trying his best not to get “knocked by the man” or let “the game” eat him alive. Just ask suburban kids who’ve never had to sell a drug in their life, how and why they can identify so much with Jay-Z but can’t picture a wizard named Gandalf being Black?
I am not going to knock the hustle of Street Lit and Black Chick Lit authors because they also had to struggle to get to where they are. St. Martin’s Press and other major publishing companies show themselves to be lazy, rank opportunists. People consume Street Lit and Black Chick Lit a lot more than any of them realized. Once word went up the food chain, they swooped in to scoop up an already made package, replete with fans, street teams, marketing and sales, sales, sales!
If you have people that are trying to write for a living and Street Lit or Black Chick Lit pays the bills, why wouldn’t they write in that genre? Remember, Mr. GRRM wrote for television as he continued to work on “A Game Of Thrones”. To assume that Black writers only have knowledge of pimpin’, hoein’, bitches complainin’, and churchifyin’, not to mention lookin’ fo’ a man, and that Black writers are only writing about those subjects is presumptuous, arrogant, and dismisses Blacks as being unimaginative dullards. Author, L.A. Banks wrote several books about vampires, vampire hunters, and werewolves. Where was Hollywood? They’ve adapted for the movies and television: “Twilight”, “True Blood”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Interview With A Vampire”, “Queen Of The Damned” – all books written by white authors.
So the broad paintbrush used by “theblackauth0rity” only serves to display his ignorance, begging the question, “What the hell have you been reading?”
Please, do not continue to abuse the word “authority”, or even call yourself one, if you haven’t done the research that you readily accuse us of not doing. I implore you to speak softer for you lack the knowledge that you would say my peers and I don’t have, and I say this with no remorse – your own words damn you.
“That is why practically all Black novels are about people with messed up love lives or messed up criminal lives. These writers are obviously following one of the cardinal rules of writing, ‘write about what you know’ and apparently all Black writers know are hoes, thugs, and churches where hoes and thugs meet.” – theblackauth0rity
That might be true of a few Black writers but I will go out on a limb here and assume you are not a mind reader – or a writer. Therefore, you can’t possibly know that a person writing a book titled, “Baby Mamma Blues” is also working on one titled, “Of Dragons, Warlocks, and Mbengo’s Crest”. You don’t know how many times a Black writer has submitted manuscripts, partial manuscripts, query letters, and anything else they could, only to be rejected by Literary Agent after Literary Agent explaining that the Black fantasy writer is, “not what they’re looking for at this time”. You can’t know the frustration a Black writer has when a publisher is accepting manuscripts but the “Black ones” must be Street Lit and you’re sitting on a 600 page pirate adventure with a largely African and Asian cast, just dying to take you on the swashbuckling of a lifetime.
Do you even read as much as you would have us believe, “theblackauth0rity”? If one were to judge, strictly by the content of your vlog, one would think you’ve never heard of Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison. If she chose to, she could write horror that would scare Stephen King out of his pants. The surrealism of “The Song Of Solomon” takes you places that many authors wish they could achieve. Walter Dean Myers wrote a wonderful coming-of-age adventure complete with mountains and weapons called “The Legend Of Tarik”. It’s becoming redundant to continue to mention Octavia Butler as a premiere Science Fiction writer but for someone like you, who’s probably never heard of her, I figured I should say something. Sophia Stewart’s work was so good it was stolen from her, made into a multi-billion dollar franchise, “The Matrix”, for which she didn’t receive a penny. The travesty in that is, because she’s a Black woman, many don’t believe her claims even though she has the copyright documents to prove it. You’re probably one of the ones who don’t believe – not enough hoes and thugs in the story for you to scoff at.
I am sorry to say, the lack you speak of is solely your own creation. You let a friend pull you in the hype that is “Game Of Thrones” and began to wonder where the “Black” version was. I know Black authors who’ve asked that question on many occasions, and way before Mr. GRRM decided he would create Westeros and Essos.
When an answer finally resulted from that nagging inquiry, it allowed Black authors to use their imagination to the fullest extent it could take them. There didn’t need to a “Black version” of anything because we would create our own. Anyone is welcome to read, enjoy, and contribute but the characters would be rich, complicated, and not caricatures. There would be no compromise, Black girls wouldn’t be invisible, nor would there be the Black guy who everybody knows is going to be murdered-in-excess by the end of the first chapter. From this renaissance came Steamfunk, Dieselfunk, Rococoa, and your great interest, Sword and Soul. Creative authors like Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade paint vivid pictures of worlds past, with pleasant and exciting twists. There is “Iniko” by Alicia McCalla. Charles R. Sanders (who looks a little like Mr. GRRM) is the author of “Imaro” and “Dossouye”. “Immortal Fantasy” is by Valjeanne Jeffers and author, Jiva Fang, is working on an epic werewolf tale that is definitely for adults, and will have some Japanese folks checking their lineage for lycans. And of course there’s me, S.R. Torris, author of a dystopian tale (getting ready for relaunch) and Book One of the vampire trilogy, “The Conductor: EXODUS”.
So you see, “theblackauth0rity”, I dismiss your authority and, at least on this subject, the degree to which you know Blacks. In your summary, you asked what we should be doing about what you saw as a crisis of creative and adventurous writing within Black society. Fortunately, I see “Black society” is doing something – good writing. What we shouldn’t be doing is going on baseless rants, which by virtue of your moniker, could be propagandized to be fact. It does nothing but fuel white supremacy and continues to perpetrate the vilest of stereotypes.
“We need to demand more from people who want us to read their books. We need to demand bigger adventures. We need to demand more substantive stories. We need to demand full use of the language and a writer who can describe places and things we’ve never seen before, in ways we’ve never seen them. We don’t need stories that are low class, we need stories that are world class!” – theblackauth0rity
Speaking for Black writers, which I do not make a habit of doing, we demand that if you are going to hail yourself as someone who is accepted as a source of reliable information on a subject, an “authority”, that you at least do a little more than reading the summaries of books with “thugs” and “hoes” on the cover. We demand that you open your mind instead of being comfortable in the old racist self-hating attitudes which allow many to ignore talented Black authors that are self-publishing and being self sufficient on many levels, while pursuing their craft.
Why wait for that Black writer, the same you dismiss as having nothing to write that you would be remotely interested in, to create the story you’re so passionate about reading? Write it yourself. That’s how many of us got started.
But, like the “Game Of Thrones” television show executives you speak so highly of in your YouTube diatribe, it’s easier for you to present a façade than it is to make a real contribution for the betterment of the “Black society” you’re so concerned about.
If, for a moment, you took a good look around, you’d be surprised.
Black writers are already doing it.