Linkspam, 4/26/13 Edition

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.
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April 26, 2013

Floral Porcelain Skulls by NooN

Floral Porcelain Skulls by NooN

Well. This has been an interesting few days here at the Radish. Hello, everyone! At least it feels like everyone.

First off–I’ve said this elsewhere but I need to say it here as well: I am extremely grateful to Strange Horizons for listening to my concerns and responding in such a positive and constructive manner. They’re one of my favorite speculative fiction magazines and I’m very glad they stepped up to the plate. It really means a lot to me and, I think, to the hard-working people at RT.

Onwards to the weekly linkspam! There’s a lot of good stuff this week. (Incidentally, I’ve started using Mammoth and their Chrome extension for collecting links and it is aces.)

Then, well, this happened:

Low tolerance for this sort of comment today? Check. Person who has written some books I really, truly love pushing one of my buttons? Check. Sadness and upset on my part? Check. There was some back and forth and I then made the decision to not engage any further because my heart was breaking into tiny little pieces–at which point this happened:

 

I was, not exactly happy, more like relieved that Kay was willing to step back and look at what he said and how it was interpreted by a number of other people and engage on the subject and then apologize. And I can’t help but respect that because getting called out really is not fun and so often brings out the worst in people.

Kay’s initial comment is very similar to many other comments I’ve heard about romance from the speculative fiction community and, as E ! pointed out, it really is punching down.  And it definitely hit a nerve on my part and I am glad I spoke up. The more I speak up the easier it seems to get.

Romance is the easy target for a two main reasons: it is the single largest segment of the fiction market and it is dominated by women. And since 90% of everything is crap and there’s so much romance in the market, it can be challenging finding the really good stories amongst the crap. And, of course, what makes a good story is so subjective–each person has their own set of reasons for preferring some kinds of stories over others.

Sometimes the type of story being told is significantly more important than the way in which it is told–I suspect that this is why Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey have been so successful: they feed into the id vortex in ways other works don’t. They touch something deep within some readers in a way that allows to reader to disregard terrible plotting, problematic gender dynamics, slipshod grammar, et cetera.  Most of the readers recognize that these–and other hugely popular novels–are of dubious literary merit and yet: they find value in them anyhow. I’m not arguing for the abolition of editing and proof-reading–I’m just saying that sometimes, for readers, the story trumps all those things.

Judging other people for the kinds of books they read or where they go to get recommendations is something that I think needs to be unlearned. I know I used to be a bit of a book snob (via) myself–I never openly talked about reading romance, I totally did it on the sly and only read science fiction, fantasy, or mysteries in public (with occasional forays into literary fiction). Do you know what cured me of that? Writing for RT and getting to know so many people who read, write, and love romance.  Every book really does have its reader–it’s just a matter of bringing the two together (and that, ultimately, is what reviewing is: matchmaking).

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