TV Shows, Books, Pop Culture

An open letter to Game of Thrones fans from a A Song of Ice and Fire nerd

We didn’t sustain our love for this story because of dragons and boobies. We’ve already got plenty of other series for that, including a couple where dragons can actually grow boobies.

Dear Game of Thrones fans,

As you know, us book nerds have been riding atop our snooty Highgarden horses, lording our superior knowledge over you and generally behaving like assholes for a few years.  And you may think that’s going to change now that ‘the show has caught up to/surpassed the books,’ but it won’t.

We have way too much on the line.

Book nerds need the holy trinity of engagement to enjoy even watching Game of Thrones.

We need to know the source material, aka the books, inside and out and we need to watch the show for new developments.  But we also need an enormous community of keyboard know-it-alls to argue, appreciate and analyze what’s on the page and what’s on screen.

We care way more about why something happened than what happened.

That is why some of us book nerds are increasingly flinty and exasperated with show fans.

Us book nerds had to do a lot of defending to new fans when Game of Thrones started.  Those Monday mornings were more awkward than a Bolton family dinner.  The material is deeply problematic and yet, a ton of smart people love it.

It’s hard for us nerds to express to outsiders our frighteningly deep obsession with the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which is even more fucked up than what they put on HBO as Game of Thrones.

“Daenerys Targaryen is 13 in the books,” we interject to our friends, and then immediately we feel as if we just confessed to something dirty.  We also wonder why we felt the need to tell our friends that our version of Game of Thrones has way more child rape.

Tired of those kinds of difficult conversations, we nerds default to pedantry.  Books vs. Show.  But it’s not a real conversation.

[bctt tweet=”I’m with my own kind, trash talking other nerds in our common language.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It’s just an opportunity for us book nerds to call you a bunch of filthy casuals, and be cruelly smug about character deaths whilst dropping terms like “canon.”

That is because there are big differences between an A Song of Ice and Fire nerd and a Game of Thrones fan. Everyone can watch Game of Thrones but really obsessing about A Song of Ice and Fire is an exercise in nerd hazing.

Do you know how many opportunities there would have been for cute character building moments between Brienne and Tormund, aka Briemund, in A Song of Ice and Fire?  Zero.  The books are 100% humorless – bleak and dark and boring as fuck.

And nerds love them, because plenty of nerds are emo assholes.

If a character sneezes once toward the east but never again – a nerd has written an essay about it. Other nerds will respond in rebuttal essays with even more footnotes than the original.  We have dueling A Song of Ice and Fire wiki sites because that’s how nerds feud with each other.

If you think I’m joking about this level of detail look up Jeyne Westerling.

Actually, fuck it, I’ll tell you  – because I’m one of the aforementioned essay writing emo nerd assholes and know this by heart.

Jeyne Westerling is Robb Starks wife. Jeyne does not die in the books, Jeyne is not even at the Red Wedding. Book Robb leaves Jeyne at home because he doesn’t want to rub his secret marriage in Walder Frey’s face since he needs all 700 of Walder’s children to fortify his army.

Jeyne Westerling’s name was changed in the show to Talisa Maegyr, and her backstory was changed from noble-child pawn to a field medic past the age of consent. The showrunners thought Robb was a hunk and wanted to give him a love interest on his level.

Fun fact I: Oona Chaplin, who played Talisa, is the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and the great-granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.

See? We nerd fans can occasionally take a break from our smothering pedantry to briefly remember Game of Thrones can be fun. Then we go back to our essays about dragonglass and direwolves, and how Ser Random Clownface, Lord of House Circus Peanut, is a secret Targaryen who will sit on the Iron Throne and demand to be addressed as, “Your Graceface.”

Anyway, the changes from Jeyne Westerling to Talisa Maegyr set us book nerds off big-time.

There have literally been multiple Q&A sessions at comic-cons to squeeze answers out of George R. R. Martin and the showrunners about if Jeyne and Talisa are the same person or not.  The showrunners deflect or say crap like ‘we were going for ethnic Volantene in Talisa,’ that is so fucking esoterically vague, it temporarily shuts up a room full of outraged book nerds.

When asked the same questions, George R. R. Martin just pisses on the front row of the audience then goes back to counting his money.

In the books, Robb invaded Jeyne’s castle because her parents are Lannister bannermen and she’s only there because her father tried to pimp her out to the Lannisters, but they don’t want her.

Robb sustained a flesh wound on his leg from killing all of Jeyne’s people who had the nerve to fight back.  But he still manages to jump Jeyne’s bones when she comes in to give him Westerosi medical care, aka a wet rag with staph, because that’s fucking sexy.

Jeyne is slim with a pretty face.  Robb is sixteen in the books at this point, and thus makes the kind of carefully considered nuanced judgements that teenagers are known for.

He wifes up Jeyne the next day after he deflowers her, because it’s honorable or some other same pile of horseshit so large a Dothraki is praying to it right now.

Jeyne’s dad is basically like,”Are you fucking kidding me? Now I have to pledge my house and all 50 of the soldiers I have left to these assholes who busted up my castle – and my daughter – and you are telling me these assholes are fucking. not. even. Lannisters?!”

Then as you know, all this bullshit caused Walder Frey to go old-man-ballistic and we get the Red Wedding.

Book Jeyne is alive and in another castle, but now she’s held hostage by her own family because she was briefly the Queen of the North, and they are hoping to – have you guessed it, yet?

Yep, they are still trying to pimp her out to the Lannisters.

What would be better than having the widowed queen of a traitor hanging out at King’s Landing to show that really the Lannisters do always pay their debts?  Jeyne would be a walking Rains of Castamere.

Yeah, she’s not a virgin but the primary purpose of that is to make sure the heir actually belongs to the dude who boned her.

[bctt tweet=”Yep, they are still trying to pimp her out to the Lannisters.” username=”wearethetempest”]

And the Lannisters are like, “Hmm. You have a point,” and they send Jamie down to the Riverlands to make sure Jeyne’s not pregnant, which would give the North a reason to rally around Robb’s heir.

So Jamie’s like, “Hey, Jeyne, are you pregnant?”

And Jeyne’s mom pops-up like the evil witch in Snow White announcing, “I’ve been giving her birth-control control all along, and telling her it was fertility drugs!”

And Jamie’s like, “Kay. Why?”

And Jeyne’s mom is like, “Because I’ve been trying to pimp her out to you guys, and I can’t if she’s got King of the North Jr. brewing.”

And Jamie’s like, “Kay.  Hey, Jeyne, are you pregnant?”

And Jeyne’s like, “Nope.”

And Jamie’s like, “Kay.  But just in case, I’m going to have these twenty armed dudes follow you everywhere for two years to make sure the whole Seven Kingdoms knows any kid you have is not the heir of the King in the North.  And if you are lying about being pregnant, these guys have orders to kill you and dump your body in Blackwater Bay.”

And Jeyne’s like, “Kay.”

And Jeyne’s mom is like, “Does that mean you’re finally taking her??”

And Jamie’s like, “Eh, maybe a test drive later? Why don’t you guys go hang out somewhere and I’ll raven-text you?”

And Jeyne’s like, “Kay. Cya.”

And as she leaves Jamie thinks to himself, “Damn, Jeyne’s got a King’s Landing face, but a Riverrun booty.”

This is all condensed by the way, the above happens over 1,000 pages spanning two books.  You are welcome.

And HBO Jeyne/Talisa?  She DIES, nothing, nada – none of that bullshit.

Because it totally was bullshit, but it was cherished bullshit that launched a billion essays. The entire theory hinged on the fact Jeyne was once referred to as hot and slim but Jamie thought she was hot and thick.


For show Jeyne? Sorry nerds, not only does she matter so little we changed her name to Talisa, we are stabbing her multiple times in the stomach to show you exactly how dead your Talisa/Jeyne Westerling pregnancy-truther beliefs are.

[bctt tweet=”And HBO Jeyne/Talisa? She DIES, nothing, nada – none of that bullshit.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Please know that I don’t have hobbies – just imaginary graduate degrees in shit like this. So if you think I was exaggerating about “a character sneezes once toward the east” essays existing – look what I just did off the cuff and without a single footnote.

You can take your best guess as to if I have ever written an annotated essay titled, “Jeyne Westerling is not fucking pregnant you guys.”

I’ve had literally years to argue about stuff like this because actually, arguing about it is fun as fucking hell. I’m with my own kind, trash talking other nerds in our common language of research and essays, as we write like we are trying to maintain our 4.0 in Westerosi Political Science.

Nerds like the longform essay way of discussion because most of us have social anxiety.

While it can be super fun that newbie fans have flooded into the fold, the demise of some of our sincerely held and beloved pet theories has sent us book nerds into a bipolar death spiral.

We’re ecstatic that the show is giving out closure and catharsis, but we’re crushed that our font of content is drying up.  We love the fact that Tormund and Brianne can have a meet cute, but we are furious that it’s becoming increasingly clear our conspiracy theories are more creative than the source material.

It makes us book nerds feel like fucking idiots to find out we have fallen for so many red herrings, because as show fans that’s actually supposed to be your job.

Us conspiracy theorists need ambiguous and open ended ‘source material,’ so we can bestow our wokeness on you sheeple and that’s not happening any more and NERD SMASH.

Ahem. After my rage-tantrum I can admit: the show has surpassed the books in terms of quality.

Some may think that I’m bitter, and those people would be correct, but I think it’s justified.

Neil Gaiman nerd-famously wrote a post on his blog called, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch,” that slammed us nerds for feeling entitled to Martin finishing his series.

The post was as whiny and white as you’d expect.

Ironically, Gaiman is telling one of his own fans to “get on with your life” in this post, not realizing that doing a drive-by opinion on a topic that has nothing to do with you is pretty fucking entitled behavior.

Gaiman’s point was that fans should just be grateful for the artist’s work, without worrying our pretty little heads about trifles like: Is Martin going to die before we find out who sits on the Iron Throne?  Because he doesn’t look like a healthy man.

But us book nerds are not pulling this macabre scenario out of our collective asses.

Robert Jordan, a very beloved epic-fantasy author, passed away suddenly in 2007 without getting the chance to finish his epic 14 book series, The Wheel of Time. Brandon Sanderson, another beloved fantasy author, was hand-picked by Jordan to finish the last three books from his notes to give us an ending.

Twenty three years after the first Wheel of Time book we finally got joyous closure.  Nerds can be patient. Martin’s series, like Jordan’s, are considered not books, but rather the literature of the fantasy genre so an ending is extremely important to us.

Both series are precious cornerstones of shared nerd culture.  Authors can slam nerds all they want for being needy and entitled but they are they ones who decided to be creators, which really means producers, of art in a consumer environment.

We aren’t George R.R. Martin’s bitches either.

Game of Thrones, the book which gave the HBO series its name, was published in 1996 with the next book, A Clash of Kings, dropping in 1998.  But since the millennium, our wait between books has been as short as three years or as long as eleven years.

Show fans who complain about a year in between seasons make us laugh.

“Oh, my sweet summer fans.  You know nothing of the long winters when new content hides its face for years. When the excuses fall a hundred  feet deep and you watch your nerd-boners for this story shrivel and die.”

A Song of Ice and Fire nerd has to have the staying power of an NFL fan while cultivating the same appetite for disappointment that comes from rooting for a team like the Browns.  Also, for the analogy to be accurate, the Browns would only play one game per year but still issue press releases in the downtime about why fans should be grateful the Browns even play for you at all, you over-privileged shit-stains.

My long-term reader relationship with George R.R. Martin is rocky at present and that allows me to admit that the show is really fucking good right now you guys without feeling disloyal.  Although, of course I am still participating in heated nerd-skirmishes about who we ultimately want to pledge our nerd-banners to: the books or the show.

If you are wondering: nerd-banners feature four arguments on a field of white snow.

A Song of Ice and Fire are awesome books, but the series has turned in a high-fantasy shaggy-dog story.

The storytelling on Game of Thrones is better than A Song of Ice and Fire, even if nerds are loathe to admit it because we are so invested in our theories. We’ve created our own content about someone else’s story because we love the story, and we would like to interact with it more than once every ten years.

Nerds can’t be passively entertained by Game of Thrones, because nerds would rather have issues.

We can’t enjoy the hunkiness of HBO Robb Stark without also harping at every opportunity that, in the books, the King in the North is a teenage rapist.

The dreamy version of Robb is sanitized because Robb needed to be a sympathetic character, so that fans would remember to care when Catelyn Stark got her throat slit since the showrunners accidentally made her kind of a bitch. Book Robb wasn’t sexy – he was a poor decision maker that got his awesome mom killed.

Thus, there is a large contingent of book nerds who blame the existence of show fans for dialing up the sexual assault to eleven on Game of Thrones.

HBO believes dragons pair exquisitely a bunch of grody rapes. The showrunners think viewers have no attention span and need to be titillated by areola and sexual violence every twenty minutes. Many nerds are greatly bothered by this.

[bctt tweet=”Nerds can’t be passively entertained by Game of Thrones.” username=”wearethetempest”]

And puhleese, Game of Thrones fans, do not brush off our sincere desire for analytical discussion about the treatment of women in the show with, ‘but it’s based on medieval times when child-rape was called marriage and everyone was a fucking savage,’ just because you want to focus on the badass flying reptiles.

‘Medieval times’ is a long stretch of history across a vast array of cultures. The fact that Western culture built an entire genre to entertain us with all the taboo behavior, like arranged marriages and torture we ascribe to ‘medieval times,’ says way more about us than actual history.

That’s why we fucking named it fantasy, you guys.

While you will get nerds who posit that Hodor is actually a secret agent of the Illuminati, you’ll also get really smart analysis if you choose to engage with us on our level. We’ve read forty actual history books to contextualize A Song of Ice and Fire and plenty of us re-read all series’s books at least once a year.

We also read the leaked chapters of the new books, the Dunk and Egg companion novellas and try our hand at making the recipe for Lemoncakes from A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook using only the ingredients described in the books.

We know what we are talking about. We’re fucking nerds.

And we chafe a little bit when non-nerds treat us like we are Snapple caps dispensing Game of Thrones soundbites while the whole fucking point of being a nerd is to increase context and shared knowledge.

Like I said, we have issues – it’s not personal.

We didn’t sustain our love for this story because of dragons and boobies.  We’ve already got plenty of other series for that, including a couple where dragons can actually grow boobies. Tits and dragons do not distract us from doing the textual analysis on seriously ponderous material because that is how we feel the story best comes to life.

Fun fact II: Wun Wun the giant is named after former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who wore number 11, because George R.R. Martin is a huge Giants and Jets fan.

There are also a couple of lines alluding to Coach Belichick getting gruesomely devoured by a giant as well as shout-outs to Ravens players and the Dallas Cowboys.  But you can look all that shit up for yourself, because I’m a Patriots fan and fuck the Jets and the Giants and George R.R. Martin.

Wringing those kinds of fun facts from the story, plus our willingness to diagram the family trees of the great houses for you in our spare time, are why you show fans love us nerds.  And now you know why book nerds are sometimes super excited to talk to you for the first four sentences, then become cranky for the rest of the conversation and stay cranky for the next seven months.

Because some of us really miss writing annotated essays titled, “Jeyne Westerling is not fucking pregnant you guys.” And you can’t empathize with us about that.

We are trying not to sound like shitty hipsters, but the worlds inhabited by show fans and book nerds has never been further apart, even though we have been through the same six seasons together. Us being a little uppity is your price of admission when you want to pick our brains about why the hell hasn’t Dany left Meereen already? because the answer is really fucking complicated.

We don’t care about the same things.

Watching ice zombies and battles are great, but for plenty of us nerds – our battles over the Jeyne Westerling situation is way more fun. We can’t compartmentalize gender politics away from hunky Rob. Or stop obsessing about George R.R. Martin’s blood cholesterol.  But when it’s just between us nerds we don’t have to do any of that.

We also think you guys are kind of missing out, so we’re trying to give you a lot of additional information.  Which is why you get unhinged ranting about heart trees and the Vale when you ask, so why did they kill the guy with the stones on his eyes on the first episode?  And why we never stop bitching about Dorne.

And why we write essays like this.

Book nerds can be selectively excited about some of the details that only appear on Game of Thrones. It looks like Drogon has recessed fire glands on the sides his dragon mouth, so we spend our weekends debating about the biological possibilities of dragon anatomy with actual herpetologists and organic chemists weighing in.

It’s pretty fucking cool compared to your inferior hobbies like playing softball with humans and walking children in nature.

During shattering events like the Red Wedding debuted, our anguished cries joined yours but for totally different reasons. And yes, we did use your pain about the Red Wedding, Schrodinger’s Snow and Ned Stark losing his mind to cheer ourselves up a little.

But rest assured our nerdy analytical side was busy having an ugly cry in a corner whispering, “Words are wind…” Because for book nerds, shattering events happen every Sunday night on HBO.

I’ll close with a bi-partisan statement to both A Song of Ice and Fire nerds and Game of Thrones fans:

I totally understand if we can no longer be friends because you think I’m fucking crazy.


A Song of Ice and Fire nerd