I have a post on the Here Be Magic blog coming up soon, and I was going to save this for that, but fuck it, I want to post this now.
So yeah, as y’all can tell if you regularly read me, I’ve been keeping up with the recent SFWA explosions. However, on one of the posts I was monitoring, a generally reasonable discussion about the controversies at hand, somebody surfaced this morning to not only whinge about the dangers of OHNOEZ CENSORSHIP if people (read: women) complain about art involving absurd chainmail bikinis, but also to take a potshot at the romance genre. Which he described using the words ’emotional porn’.
I promptly unsubscribed from the thread on the general principle of oh fuck you. But I’ve been seeing red about this all day as a result.
Because you guys, I am sick and goddamn tired of genre readers snarking on each other’s tastes. Especially when the snark flows in the SF/F->romance direction, because c’mon, people, we know how it feels to have our reading tastes belittled. To be bullied and mocked because we like reading stuff with spaceships and robots and magic swords and unicorns and elves. To have our reading material derided as “not REAL literature”, to be dismissed as socially inept losers. And if we happen to be women, to have the added slam of being “fake geek girls” thrown at us, and to have our worthiness to be reading and enjoying these books, comics, movies, TV shows, etc., constantly assaulted and challenged.
Yet a lot of us keep turning around and leveling the exact same bullshit over at the romance readers.
A lot of it is sexist, for the reasons romance readers have been getting hammered with for years: patriarchal dismissal of stories primarily written by and for women, and therefore unworthy of standing on the same level as anything written by and for men. Though a lot of that isn’t even exclusively coming from men–I’ve seen this shit coming from women, too.
But a lot of it is also just general bullshit, on the grounds that certainly in the vast majority of SF/F I’ve ever read, y’know what’s front and center with the spaceships, robots, magic swords, unicorns, and elves? Yeah, that’s right, epic love stories. To name three out of Tolkien alone: Arwen and Aragorn, Lúthien and Beren, and Éowyn and Faramir. Here are a few more: Tarzan and Jane, Superman and Lois Lane, Han Solo and Princess Leia, Leetah and Cutter, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, and Buffy and Angel.
The same applies if you go back and dig into mythologies and fairy tales from any corner of the world you care to name. Hell, you can’t swing a stick in Greek mythology without hitting a story involving a relationship of some kind–often highly screwed up, because the Greek gods were after all a pantheon of raging asshats for the most part. Ditto for the classic fairy tales, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. At the core of almost all of them you’ll find a love story of some kind.
The point is, love stories are a fundamental part of just about every story ever told, because love is a fundamental part of human existence.
So why the hell, SF/F readers, do you keep snarking on romance?
Because if you’re doing it because we think that every romance novel is a bodice ripper full of prose so purple that it’s practically ultraviolet, I have three words for you: Eye of Argon.
If you’re doing it because we’re dismissing stories that focus on love, again I say: have you actually read your genre?
If you’re doing it because you’re dismissing novels with a lot of sex in them, because yes, a lot of romance novels do have sex in them, yet again I say: have you actually read your genre? Why is it okay to have fantasy novels wherein practically ever single female character gets raped at some point, but it’s not okay to have novels where the heroine and hero tear each other’s clothes off because they both want to?
If you’re doing it because your only conception of a romance novel is Twilight or 50 Shades, I challenge you to remember that those are the outliers in the genre, and no, actually, they’re not representational of the genre as a whole. No more than Harry Potter is representational of all children’s books in the world, or Tolkien is representative of all fantasy, or Star Wars is representational of all science fiction. I challenge you to find the authors that the regular readers of the genre are reading, so you can see what the current state of the genre is like. I will be happy to provide recommendations, or to point you right over to Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Like it says on the tin over there, “all of the romance, none of the bullshit”. And as you might guess, I do like my reading bullshit-free.
There. Now maybe I can let my blood pressure go back down for the weekend, hmm?