Arthur Chu interviewed medievalist and journalist David Perry on TechCrunch:
Perry: [W]hen I hear people talk about Nordic fantasy as white supremacist, I like talking about the diverse ways the Vikings interacted with people around the world. They often intermarried local populations, they very quickly adopted local religions when it was useful. The Viking experience in Russia is really not the story they want to tell. You can try to make it that way, but the story in Russia is really state-building, collaboration with Slavic peoples, connections to the Eastern Mediterranean, both the Islamic and the Greek Orthodox world — and quite a diverse Islamic world at that. The story to me is that the greatest Nordic civilization is this wonderful Kievan polyglot, polyethnic society.
That’s not the story that the racists want to tell and they’re not gonna listen, but people asking “Is this true? Is their way the only way to do it?”, you can really work with that.
You can also tell the story of medieval democracy in Iceland, for instance, with a very non-authoritarian, collaborative element — where violence still played a very prominent role. I try to complicate this vision of Vikings as all about dominance and conquest.
Chu: It seems that we’re drawn to idealized versions of medieval times one way or another — some forms of fantasy that depict those times as a romantic ideal, a “simpler time” filled with pageantry and honor, and then Game of Thrones subversions that focus on rape and mutilation and horrible suffering, but rarely anything in between.
Perry: These are all things that tell us a lot more about ourselves than about the Middle Ages. Not that rape and torture didn’t happen in the Middle Ages, it certainly did, and not that it wasn’t responded to in ways that are different than ways we would respond to it today.
But, you know, we pick and choose, the creators pick and choose, they want to show something that will be disturbing or controversial or will be a political tool and they try to say history supports us in this. And then they throw in dragons and zombies and then they say that’s unrealistic but that’s okay, that’s just storytelling.
That comes back to what I try to say — it’s okay to draw from history, but history does not wholeheartedly support any one of these fictional depictions. These come from creators making choices. And the choices they make have consequences.