My Fiction Site

In the right sidebar are clickable images of the covers of my novels, which will take you to their Amazon listings. Other posts will link to available free works – mostly shorter ones – and assorted thoughts on the writing of fiction.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Romance In Science Fiction

     This is a subject about which some writers get defensive, and others become apoplectic. It’s become a front-burner issue over the past few years, as unprecedented numbers of women have begun writing books heavy with romance and romantic themes, but nevertheless are billed SF.

     No, they haven’t gone to the “bodice ripper” cover styles yet. And let’s be judicious about dismissing all such books as “romances disguised and marketed as SF.” Some of them are quite worthy. They merely contain more romance than earlier, predominantly male SF writers injected.

     I have to declare a particular bias here, as my books are “cross-genre” too. That’s why I had to go independent: the conventional publishing houses have so much difficulty marketing cross-genre work that a writer of such has to strike them as the next James Michener to have a decent chance of getting their approval. (The odds are somewhat better for a writer who: 1) writes explicitly for a susceptible demographic, such as teenagers; and: 2) conforms to one of the trendy fads: e.g., vampires.) So I have a certain sympathy for lady writers who find themselves drawn powerfully to opportunities to insert romantic motifs into the topically neutral genre of science fiction, as lady writers have been throughout history.

     I suppose the question is which “feel” predominates: the idea-and-adventure oriented “feel” of SF or the emotion-oriented “feel” of romance. There’s a fat gray area in there, which is why the fusillades over it have been so furious.

     What frosts a number of fannies in the “SF world,” if it’s at all proper to speak of such things in the wake of the Sad Puppies controversy, is that the writers of romance / SF hybrids, including some whose books might have borne the Harlequin Silhouette sigil a few years ago, have acquired considerable popularity, and their fans have become active within SF fandom. In consequence, a substantial cohort of voters for the major SF awards now give their votes to such books, which some of the older, “traditionalist” writers and readers have come to resent. A few of the “traditionalists” have been vocal about it, on occasion to their own detriment.

     Ultimately, of course, for conventionally published SF it’s entirely a matter of bucks for the publishers, and of course the tastes the readers exhibit with their purchases. Publishing is and will remain a business, and businesses exist first and foremost to make money. That’s not a slam against publishers, merely a recognition of the realities. Therefore, they’ll continue to publish books they believe, on the strength of the sales of other books, will sell well, and will ignore books that don’t accord with those parameters. The fires of the controversy will be hottest when conventions and awards are involved, as such things have been important to a writer’s sales in the past, and though they’ve proved less so in recent years, the future is...well, the future.

     Indie writers don’t have such problems; we only want to write and gather readers. Those of us who don’t dream of conventional publication and the riches of Croesus, at least.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Feel-Good Story

     Yes, yes, it’s been a while. Forgive me.

     Quite recently I penned a group of short romances, all of which are available at Smashwords and most of which are free of charge. None of them have any great degree of tension or conflict in them. They’re essentially “feel-good” stories, happy narratives that don’t involve the sort of weighty problem that’s “supposed” to be at the center of a good piece of drama. Nevertheless, I’m happy to have written them, and from the feedback I’ve received, my readers are happy as well.

     There’s a place for feel-good stories. There’s certainly enough going on to feel bad about, especially as regards relations between the sexes, and counteraction is easy to justify. All the same, the “critics” – why yes, those are “sneer quotes” – are merciless about such things. Their critical treatment of feel-good fiction is about half a degree warmer than what they give to Harlequin romances. (That’s half a degree Fahrenheit, not Centigrade.)

     Why? Dogmatism, perhaps. Also, quite a bit of the “literary” world has a relatively dark, pessimistic Weltanschauung. It serves them in strange and inscrutable ways. Must be a bitch to get the wine and Brie stains off it, though. (Is there anyone out there who actually enjoys Brie? To me it tastes like ammonia. Well, de gustibus and all that.)

     Among movies produced outside the “Hollywood system,” one of the most successful of recent memory is Nia Vardalos’s 2002 gem My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In case you haven’t seen it, this movie is feel-good fiction on the big screen. Viewers’ reaction to it was almost unanimously positive. Oh yes, they all agree that it’s “fluff,” without “important social impact,” destined to be forgotten if it hasn’t been already. But they enjoyed it. They don’t regret paying the price of admission. And no few of them sneak it onto their DVD players when the kids and the Significant Other are conveniently otherwise occupied.

     In short, there’s a market for such fiction. You can make a few bucks writing it, if you have the chops. If you don’t have the chops, the easy-to-write, creatively unchallenging feel-good story is one way to develop them.

     What was I, the relentlessly serious and intolerably sententious author of Chosen One, Which Art In Hope, Priestesses, and similarly weighty fare, doing writing such mental candy floss? Relaxing, dude! Trying to shrug a little of the weight of the world off my increasingly overburdened shoulders. And perhaps pandering a wee bit to my own need for such things. I’m not so rock-solidly self-assured that I never need a break from the load.

     In a way, this is about “guilty pleasures.” There are some pleasures about which one should and must feel guilty -- licking the doughnuts and putting them back on the store shelf is one -- but preferring one sort of innocent entertainment to others, rather than requiring yourself to endure what other people say you “ought to like” is not among them.

     Anyway, don’t you want to feel good, at least now and then? Isn’t that what we all want? Why else do masochists keep company with sadists, after all? (Cf. the above comment about people who claim to enjoy Brie...and the people who serve it to them.)

     Enjoy what you want. Write what you want. Let the critics gnash their teeth. A little harmless Schadenfreude won’t keep you out of heaven. Probably not, anyway. Though I think I’ll say an extra decade of the Rosary tonight. You know, just in case.

     (No German philosophers were harmed in the making of this post.)