Archive for the 'Romance' Category

20
Nov
09

RWA-MWA Drama, Contest Winner!

No post today, folks. Since I spent a good chunk of yesterday in jury duty, I lost a day of writing, and as I’m already behind on Book 3, today was catch-up. I did, however, post a little rant on my own blog about the “Harlequin Horizons” drama and how it impacts me as a fantasy writer. Check it out.

And I haven’t forgotten that today is the end of my ARC giveaway contest! I got a lot of great entries by email and in the comments of the post, for a total of sixteen magnificently made-up gods. Thanks to all who participated!

The choice was tough. Frankly I wish I had more ARCs, because some of the entries were hilarious or just beautifully-written; our own Rachel Aaron’s was a case in the latter point. In the end, though, I was seduced by Jackie M’s entry:

Elena Niobe is the goddess of Falling Things. She has no home, and no homeland, and is most often found in the company of caravaners, nomads and transients. She has control over waterfalls and rain storms, market prices and dominoes, meteors and stars tumbling into black holes. She is a perfect savant with numbers, and can speak any language, but she is completely illiterate.

The color of her skin and shape of her face changes to blend in with her current company, but her eyes are always black, and her dark hair is always streaked with gray. To discover Elena Niobe in human form brings immense fortune; to break her trust by revealing her to others brings the worst of calamities. And she cannot stay for too long in one place–for while she always has the power to make things fall down, the longer she makes a home for herself, the less able she is to stop things from falling. Her favorite lovers have all a bad habit of dying abruptly and tragically.

The best way of winning her favor is to do something truly kind for someone who has either lost their home, or who has never had one. Conversely, she does not look well on those who exploit the vulnerable.

Lovely. So, Jackie, please send me your mailing address and I’ll drop the ARC in the mail to you ASAP!

23
May
09

Bitches and Bosoms, oh boy!

I’m doing something a little different here this week. Those of you who’ve followed my posts here for a while know that I have a tendency to rant write about the “ghetto” of science fiction, whether it’s perceived or real, and how much of it is self-created. Well, today I’m mixing things up and interviewing a representative from the neighboring ghetto of Romance fiction. Sarah Wendell is one half of the Smart Bitches at smartbitchestrashybooks.com, and co-author (with fellow Smart Bitch, Candy Tan) of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels.  This book is not only a wickedly fun read, but it also gives interesting and thought-provoking insights into the history, the tropes, the future, and the shame of Romance. (I dare anyone who has ever dismissed Romance as being formulaic or shallow to give this book a read. I can definitely say that my eyes were opened on a number of topics!)

DR: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! Sales of romance novels dominate the book industry. Why do you think it’s such a huge market?

SW: Courtships stories have been part of narrative tradition since someone decided it might be a good idea to have a narrative tradition. It’s the most consistent drama humans face that is most often happy – attraction, arousal, allure, and the commitment that may follow are intensely powerful events for people, no matter how blasé or cool they might seem. So reading about that experience and knowing that it ends happily is a consistent element of storytelling. Plus, just about every other fictional narrative contains a romance element. Whether romance is the main focus or an ancillary element, like Prego, it’s in there.

DR: I’ve blogged before about science fiction and fantasy being a “ghetto” of sorts. Do you think that romance is also a ghetto, albeit a much larger one?

SW: As Candy said in this blog post at Powells: http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=5980

…it’s the genre ghetto’s genre ghetto. Romance is the country music of literature: “at least I don’t like romance novels” will justify admiration of anything that skirts the line of questionable taste.

DR: There are many genre readers who will never venture near the romance section of the bookstore, even though they will gladly pick up books in the SF/F section that clearly have romantic subplots. Is there anything you could think to say to these people to encourage them to dip their toes in the romance pool?

SW: Three words: Lois McMaster Bujold. She will lead you to the light and the truth that the romance, it kicks the ass. From there, the world is your throbbing pink oyster.

DR: There’s a pervasive view that romance readers are just bored housewives, and science fiction/fantasy readers are nerds who live in their mother’s garage. Why do you think these stereotypes still persist even when the genres have clearly moved beyond them?

SW: I think deep down we carry high school with us, and are often afraid of being permanently labeled “uncool” or  being marginalized because we enjoy something off-beat and different. It’s easier to stick with stereotypes than actually ponder the nuances and sophisticated elements at work in your average science fiction/fantasy novel, or romance novel.

DR: How has romance embraced concepts that are near and dear to science fiction and fantasy fans? Are you seeing more crossover?

SW: Oh yessssss. Urban fantasy is often a neat blend of two or all three, as are many of the steampunk novels being published. Just about every sci fi or fantasy novel incorporates some romantic elements, even if there’s no happy ever after for the protagonists — the three are very much intertwined.

DR: Why do you think paranormal romance and urban fantasy have become so popular?

SW: My theory: in a world in which we are constantly reminded of the presence of terror, having a villain who is readily identifiable (hairy in moonlight? Driven to commit acts of exsanguination?) and either vanquished by emotional affirmation or utterly and completely decimated is, to put it simply, reassuring. When the villain in the “real world” is unidentifiable, the obvious “other” is captivating in an entirely new way. As for urban fantasy, the reliance on the Kickass Heroine means that a whole new realm of female autonomy, actualization, and sexual agency can be explored, to which I say, HELL TO THE YES.

DR: How do you feel about Cover Shame, i.e. those lurid or obnoxious covers in both romance and sf/f that are almost embarrassing to have?

SW: Neither the authors nor the readers are responsible, and anything that is THAT absurd is epic comedy win.

DR: You have a book! What do you think Beyond Heaving Bosoms can offer people who are not already readers of romance?

SW: The Bosoms? Creative uses of the word “cuntmonkey.” Examinations of what makes a romance novel cover Extra More Gooder.

Seriously: It’s a guide for anyone who loves romance and is tired of taking crap for it, and for anyone who has ever wondered, “What is it about romance novels?” Since, as I mentioned, every fictional narrative contains romantic elements, the appeal is not exclusive, and neither is our book.

 Beyond Heaving Bosoms

Thanks again to Sarah Wendell for stopping in at the Magic District!

11
May
09

Happily ever aftering

by Diana 

This was supposed to be posted on Saturday, but, well…  it wasn’t. Life intrudes. 😛 So now I’m squeezing it in between the Sunday Quickies and the regular Monday post, so that I don’t feel like a total slacker!

So. Happily ever after.  I never realized that this was a Very Big Deal until I started talking to romance novelists. Apparently, the Happily Ever After (or HEA) is considered by most to be THE defining characteristic of a romance novel. The reader who picks up a romance expects that, by the end of the book, the romance will be successfully consummated and that the two lead characters will live happily ever after–or at least will be on the road to happily ever after. There’s a happy ending, a satisfying conclusion.**

Personally, I disagree with the idea that Romance is defined as a story that has the Happily Ever After. After hearing romance folks talk about the importance of the HEA, it got me thinking about other genres. HEA is important in every genre, not just romance.  Ultimately what makes a romance a romance is the fact that the core of the story is about the development of a romantic relationship between characters. But what makes an HEA an HEA is not the fact that the prince and the princess (or whoever) get married in the end. It’s not about two people finding Twu Wuv. It’s about the satisfying conclusion to the tension and conflict that was introduced in the story. Boiling it down to its most basic principles: In a romance, yes, it’s about the resolution of the romantic tension. In a mystery, it’s about finding/catching/stopping the bad guy. In fantasy/science fiction it’s about good triumphing over evil (or variations on that theme.)

Therefore, I would argue that in all commercial fiction ***, the HEA, in one form or another, is a requirement. Depending on genre it might take several books to get to that HEA, and depending on genre that HEA may take on vastly different forms, but at the end of the book or the series, if the storylines are not tied up in a satisfying manner that makes the reader feel glad for at least some of the characters, the reader is going to feel a large measure of disappointment, chagrin, or outright anger.

Thoughts?

** Romance purists will probably have plenty to jump on me about the above summary, but please don’t come down too hard on me. I’m not maligning the genre, I’m just trying to give a brief précis. I have a point. I think. 

*** I know that there are many people who are going to jump up and down and point to a particular title that might happen to be shelved in SF that does not have an HEA. I’m going to go out on another limb here and say that just because a book is shelved in a genre section, does not make it commercial fiction. My personal definition of commercial fiction is fiction that is satisfying entertainment. There’s a lot of literary fiction that is shelved in genre sections simply because it has SF/F elements. I’m not saying that literary fiction can’t be satisfying entertainment, but I don’t believe that it’s the primary goal.