So hey let’s talk about romance for a sec

Because I think it’s appropriate at this juncture.

Warning: This might be whiny, though I’m also trying to talk about what I see as a persistent and troubling issue in how genres are marketed and how Feelings in SF are seen by some. Skip if none of that sounds appealing.

A day or so on Tumblr I saw a post making the rounds wherein someone was begging for reqs for non-romance genre fiction that nevertheless had a romantic sub-plot (queer in nature). Like any good self-serving author I was tempted to jump in with HEY I HAVE THIS BOOK CALLED LINE AND ORBIT THAT FITS THE BILL MAYBE YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK IT OUT OKAY PEACE

I didn’t, partly because it seemed like it might be obnoxious, but also because Line and Orbit is a science fantasy/space opera novel that is both categorized and marketed as gay romance, and it would look like I was effing lying.

I find myself in this position a lot when it comes to trying to get more mainstream SF-crowd attention for this book, the position of feeling like I need to say LOOK IT’S NOT ACTUALLY ROMANCE DON’T GET SCARED WAIT WHERE ARE YOU GOING COME BACK. I hate the idea of saying that, partly because, while the romantic relationship between Adam Yuga and Lochlan d’Bideshi is not really the primary focus of the book, it is nevertheless very, very important, and it probably is fair to categorize it as SF romance. But I also hate saying it because it makes me feel like I’m complicit in the disparaging of romance as a genre, which – let’s face it – tends to be misogynist in a really gross way as well as being silly and baseless, especially coming from SF&F, a genre wherein no one should be putting on airs.

But either way, I do feel like – I could be completely wrong about this – I’m fighting a general probable reaction of “oh, romance, that just doesn’t sound like it’s for me.”

I also feel like I’m fighting a less general but nevertheless very existent reaction of EW LADYFEELINGS IN MY SF but you know what basically fuck those people. They aren’t my audience and I don’t want them. There’s plenty of stuff out there for them.

The thing is, I’ve read books recently that were every bit as heavy on the romance as Line and Orbit, but were marketed as SF, and I do feel like those books have an easier time of it in terms of attracting attention from that crowd. Which, duh, marketing counts for a lot and ends up meaning that certain things are on people’s radar and certain things just aren’t, and that’s mostly fine. I’m also aware that sometimes people just don’t like a book, and that’s fine too; I do not mean to suggest that I think that PEOPLE AREN’T READING MY THING BECAUSE SEXISM. But at the end of the day, I still feel like I’m in an uncomfortable authorial position brought about by relationships within genre that are intensely problematic and also unlikely to change anytime soon.

This is all to say: I wish lines between genres weren’t so damn robust sometimes. I wish it didn’t get really, really sexist. I wish I was less clumsy at promotion. I wish I had a million dollars and a pile of kittens.

But I do hope that writing these kinds of books might, in a tiny little way, help. There should be a place for romance in science fiction and fantasy (and also vice versa, because I also get the sense that a lot of romance readers – rightly – feel very unwelcome in SF and don’t tend to go there), and really I think the two are natural partners – it’s there already. There should be absolutely no shame in it. And people shouldn’t be afraid of writing it or talking about it or liking it or just checking it out sometimes.

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2 responses to “So hey let’s talk about romance for a sec

  1. E. Catherine Tobler

    Yep. This.

  2. Hmmm….great post, but definitely has my thoughts flying in all different directions. I read genre romance – love the good (non-misogynistic bullshit) ones and hate the bad ones – but it’s very one-dimensional in terms of life/plot, right? It’s ABOUT the romance, period (it’s not about life struggles, saving the universe, getting the big promotion, etc. It’s just focused on that one facet of life). Separate, random thought (these connect in a second): I happen to love “literary SF/F” like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Sparrow, The Night Circus, Peony in Love, Cloud of Sparrows, Her Fearful Symmetry, The Lovely Bones, etc. and think there is WAAAYYY too little of it out in the world. So there are cross-genre works, including those that are SF/F with “lady feelings” in them 🙂 They’re out there, but yes, not enough of them.

    Now, how these thoughts connect: the difference (in my mind) between something like The Princess Bride (category romance in a fantasy setting/with fantasy elements) and Lord of the Rings (category fantasy with romance elements) (I’m talking the movie versions here since I haven’t read the books) is that the former is all about the romance plot line and everything else is framework for that, and the latter is all about the fantasy elements (saving the imperiled kingdom) and everything else (including the romance) is a framework for that. So in terms of marketing your book, I think that’s what it comes down to. It sounds like yours is the latter. So I don’t think I’d even mention the lady feelings at all 🙂 Or, conversely, books often aren’t just ONE thing. They have multiple elements. So we always have to match the facet/message to the audience. To the romance readers, you market the book as a romance/highlight the romance elements. To the SF readers, you market it as a straight/mainly SF.

    LOL – sorry for the novel here…this is a topic near and dear to my hear b/c my novel is a cross-genre work, too, and I’ve been struggling with this for 2 years. My book is paranormal, so it appeals to the Urban Fantasy crowd, but they then want to know where the romance is, since it doesn’t have any. But to the straight up fantasy crowd, they’re like “hey…lady feelings!” because there’s a love story (but not a romance). 🙂 We need a support group or something I think 🙂

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