I've been reading Martin all summer. Books one through five of a soon-to-be seven book series. I cannot put these books down, and at near or over 1000 pages each, I am seeing lords and ladies in my sleep. The first four books I bought came in one of those paperback sets so the print is teeny weenie and my eyeballs are a lovely shade of red. The HBO series based on the books, Game of Thrones (the title of the first book), is just as enthralling, with some wonderful writing, stunning sets, and perfect performances, especially from the great Peter Dinklage. It also has the coolest opening of any show on TV. I bow at the altar of Martin. His descriptive prose, while off-putting to some, is perfect for the fantasy genre. He's describing a world none of us have ever seen before. He needs to be descriptive. He is a master and his work will be read a hundred years from now.
As much as I love his writing and his style there is one thing that irks me. These books are filled with sex. That, of course, doesn't bother me. This is a grown up fantasy series after all. There are no Yellow Brick Roads, talking mice, or gateway wardrobes. There are pirates, but they're more prone to rape you and then cut out your tongue rather than chase you and your pixie around some island. Martin is very explicit with his sex scenes. There's not a lot of romance, but there is quite a bit of the knocking of the boots. Male/female couplings are, of course, present, as are a couple of intense lesbian scenes involving key players in the tale (with wet, dripping vaginas, I might add...ew), yet the male gay characters don't get so much as a kiss. In fact, their relationships are implied rather than shown, and that implication is lost if the reader is not looking for it. It is suggested in the books that Lord Renly and the Knight of Flowers are lovers, but the reader isn't privy to any affection between the two. The HBO series deals more explicitly with their relationship. The same is true for Lord Connington, an older gay lord and a very interesting character. One line implies he is gay, but that's all we get. There are other minor characters who we are told prefer the ween to the vagina, but we don't get any proof. Prove it, I say! I'm not saying I want a whole POV chapter revolved around a game of "hide the sausage" - this isn't erotica, after all - but a sweet romantic kiss wouldn't be too much to ask, would it?
The truth is, I believe Martin would be absolutely fine with writing scenes of affection between two men. I can tell that in his writing. It's the fantasy audience and the publisher that might be holding him back from doing so. Fantasy and sci-fi readers have a strange history of not being as open-minded as you would think when it comes to sex or romance. Remember, Star Trek never had a single gay character in any one of its 465 different series (and no, the Dax episode does not count. She was a slug!). For some reason the fantasy genre is not the most accepting of same-sex lovin'. That is changing, and I believe it's changing quickly, but it strikes me as bizarre that that barrier has remained standing as long as it has.
Still, Martin is an amazing writer. The third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, is now on my list of the 100 greatest books I've ever read. It's that damn good. If you're a fantasy fan, you will love these books. Hell, if you're a reader at all, you'll love these books. I cannot praise them enough. I'm going to have a hard time finding something to read after I'm through with the fifth book (I've only 100 pages to go) and an even harder time with the withdrawal and the waiting for books six and seven. Seven hells! I haven't been this obsessed with something since LOST.