I’m reading a book at the moment. While that is odd enough in itself it’s not the topic of this blog. (You may be asking why I don’t get a lot of time to read anymore. Let me just say I’ve been asking God for an extra two hours per day for a while now, and he’s not delivering. 24 hours in a day is just not cutting it for me anymore).
The topic of this blog is why people look down their noses at M/M. (Stemming from this article http://cdanews.com/2015/10/plagiarism-accusations-lead-to-taking-aim-at-gay-romance-writers/)
Let me take a step back. Once upon a time (ha – author joke there) I used to read M/F romance like it was the thing that kept me alive. Maybe it was. For a couple of hours a day I could escape into a different world and not be in my crappy life. I read a lot of different subgenres, but it was always romance. I did Vikings, Vampires and Victorian. I did erotic and neurotic. I did shorter reads and longer reads. And I used to “hide” what I read, because people would laugh at me. At work and on the bus going to work, I would pull out my “intellectual reads” such as Jane Austen because I believe that we should at least try and read these classics once in our lifetime. However I left the ones with titles such as “The Virgin Bridegroom” and “Mistress to the Boss” on the bedside drawers.
Some people would see my love of reading and try to engage me, saying, “Have you read [insert the latest blockbuster here]?” My stock answer to them was, “If it doesn’t have a picture of two people kissing on the front, I don’t read it.”
Not strictly true, but they got the point and usually wandered off to find a “more intelligent” person for a literary conversation.
Non-romantic stories usually didn’t hold my interest. And to a certain degree, that is still true.
Nowadays I read mostly M/M, but because there are so many M/M books out there I want to read, I never stray. Why read something I’m only half-hearted about when there are so many great books in M/M to experience?
So when I say I am 71% into a book that is not M/M, you can take it as a WOW moment. It is The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s recently been released as a major film starring Matt Damon, but the film looked so great in the previews, I just really needed the WHOLE story. Not just the bits Hollywood decided to leave in.
(If you haven’t heard of the story, basic plot is that NASA astronaut Mark is stranded on Mars after his team think he is dead. Now he has to figure out how to survive Mars long enough for them to rescue him.)
I’m a little nervous about finishing the book, because I know that someone will die (someone always dies in these types of novels, which is why I stick to romance with their sappy endings) but I’m really enjoying the experience. Reading a well written novel is always a good experience.
Which brings me to the inspiration of my blog. Some 7 days ago I bought The Martian on Amazon. As I was checking it out, I happened to notice this book had over 20,000 ratings. It was a wow-what-if moment for me. I’m an author. Andy Weir is an author. We both write books – but he has 20,000 ratings on his book. My top is 71 ratings. Wow, what if I could get 20,000 ratings on one of my books?
Extrapolating out, I had a rough estimate of how many books I think he may have sold. Wow.
Yes, I admit that the first thought in my brain was “How much money would that bring me?” but it was followed be a few other thoughts like “What would it be like to have that many people read the words you’ve written?” and “Wouldn’t it be great if that many people read the genre of M/M and enjoyed it?” and “Wouldn’t it be great if that many people were secure enough about LGBT that they would pick up a M/M book?”
I settled down to read The Martian and have been enjoying myself ever since. But there is one thing that bothers me. This is hard to say, Andy, so forgive me if you’re reading this and you have a delicate ego.
I don’t think the writing in this book is any better or worse than the stuff in M/M.
Oh, I know that people have different tastes in books, and genre accounts for a lot, but when I think of all the people out there in the world that look down their noses at the genres of M/M and Romance because “Really? That is just fluff” I get angry.
Why do people sneer at M/M?
What if I said, “I don’t think there is any racism in the world, because I walk down the street in my white skin and don’t see it happening”? I would be crucified if I said that. What if I denied that child marriage existed or that slavery was still happening, because I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes?
I can’t make a statement on how a black person feels about racism, because I’m not black. I’ve never lived in my life as a black person. I’ve never experienced it.
The same with those who comment about the romance genre without experiencing it for themselves. Unless you have read extensively through the genre, you cannot make a comment.
Oh, they say, but I did pick up that book and read it once, and it was rubbish.
I once went to a party where there was a black man, and the police didn’t raid the house for drugs while I was there. Does that mean that police never raid the houses where black people are?
I know that most of my readers will agree with this, so I am preaching to the converted, but how about you implement it in your life? How many of you proudly declare at dinner, “Oh, I read this great book last night, let me tell you about it”? There is a lot of sneering going on, and we (ie the readers of romance) are cowering in shame. Why? What is wrong with romance?
So let’s take another step back and analyse the problem from another point of view. Let us assume that the quality of writing within romance and non-romance is equal. (Yes – it’s a giant leap for the doubter out there, but as I said, you haven’t extensively researched the genre so you can’t comment.)
Now let us also assume some gender dynamics. Research as well as anecdotal evidence points to the fact that near 100% of readers of romance are women. So by putting down all romance novels, you are poo-pooing women readers. So we could assume it has something to do with gender. However, just because (near) 100% of romance readers are women, it doesn’t mean 100% of women are romance readers. There are plenty of romance-haters and people who are vocally anti-romance and are of the female gender. Therefore, I have to conclude it is not solely based on gender dynamics.
So if it’s not the quality of writing, and if it’s not the quality of the reader, what is left? The story itself.
Which is where I had my slight epiphany.
People hate other people being happy.
In Australia, we have something we call the Tall PoppySyndrome. Basically it is the need to tear down any successful person and reduce them to a common level. People don’t want others successful if they are not. I think this is the same thing. How dare two fictional characters have a happy life? How dare they have hot sex and their dreams come true? That’s not real life.
Yes. There are a whole bunch of haters out there who can’t stand for anyone else – fictional or not – to be happy. They might call themselves realists – or perhaps they’re pessimists. Whatever they are, they don’t want happy stories and they don’t want people to be happy reading the stories. They want people to die. They want crime and blood, or they want wars and guns, or they want families ripped apart with cheating spouses. And for goodness sake, do not give them that kissing stuff at the end with everyone living happily ever after!
That’s not real life, they cry again as they cling to their latest alien-takes-over-the-world best seller. That’s not real life, they cry again as James Bond executes a perfect high-speed car chase manoeuvre while firing his laser pistol with perfect accuracy.
And then if you happen to mention that you read gay romance the level of hysteria is upped a notch.
Hell, no. You can’t have the gays having a happy life! Jeez – all gays are meant to be miserable and die alone from some sexually transmitted disease. Or if not, then they’re supposed to be hit by a train and everyone will nod and say, “Yes, he deserved it. After all, he was gay.”
It’s like “well, perhaps” you are allowed to have the happy ending in life – but only if you look like Cameron Diaz or that-Channing-dude-who-stripped-in-that-movie. But only beautiful and well deserving people deserve HEAs. All the ugly people need to be blown up, blown away or eaten by a rogue dinosaur.
Yes. The haters of romance out there are not satisfied until they see the bad guys dead, and the good guys deader.
Well, boo-hiss. This little author, sitting in a tiny corner of the Earth, who is currently listening to her washing machine constantly beep at her saying the load is done, and the (lovely, beautiful) rain fall down, says boo-hiss. If you don’t like a happy ending, then go and hug your “and the world blew up, the end” book and leave those who want to be happy alone.
And Andy Weir, if you’re still reading this? I love the book – I hope he doesn’t get deader in the end.
(Edit: it’s now some hours later and I’ve finished the book. I hate you Andy Weir. You CANNOT end the story there! You simply cannot. It’s not logical. Seriously. I hate you. Can you just write one more chapter for me? PLEASE?)
(Second edit: THIS is why romance writers rock. Because they give you the ending to books and don’t leave you hanging.)
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