Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Your Honor, I Object!

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Romancing The Blog about sex, religion and RWA's RITA award. It's been a hot button topic discussed on a variety of romance related blogs over the last several weeks, and the comments are continuing to fly.

I personally find the whole thing very amusing in a hypocritical sort of way.

The authors are now turning on themselves. They're now accusing each other of what they've been accusing reviewers of for years. That is, the question of objectivity.

I've seen countless authors suggest that reviewers shouldn't review books they know they'll dislike. So hardline traditional Regency fans shouldn't review wallpaper historicals, inspirational fans shouldn't review the latest Emma Holly book and so on.


Yeah, you heard me.

Let's go with an ancedote shall we? I started reviewing back in 1999. To this day I still remember the e-mail conversation I had with TRR's editor. She essentially wanted to know what I "liked to read." Being relatively new to the romance genre, I told her I would read anything - "except paranormals."

Anyone want to guess how long that lasted? Not very long. Either she forgot this e-mail exchange or she ignored it (who knows), but I soon got a couple of paranormals. Light fantasy fare really. And shock of all shocks, I enjoyed some of them. I also hated some of them - but that goes with any sub genre. You win some, you lose some.

TRR has also kept me honest over the years and proven the fact that I (at times) can be an idiot. The best example of this was when I reviewed Light My Fire by Jane Graves last year. When I got that book in the mail I was pissed. No other way to put it really. I had reviewed an earlier effort by Graves and loathed it. I mean, I hated that book. To this day I hate that book. So you can imagine that I wasn't real excited about reviewing another one of this author's books.

Turns out I was full of shit. I loved Light My Fire. In fact, it was one of my favorite books of last year. And I can say that honestly. Even though I despised that other book, I could still objectively review another book by the same author. Pretty sweet huh?

So why can't everybody do this? I'm not sure. I certainly don't think I'm special. Maybe it's because I'm a librarian and have the occupational hazard of reading anything not tied down? Somehow that doesn't seem right. Am I special because I can literally go from reading erotica to reading a sweet traditional romance? Am I special because I can enjoy both types of stories and judge them on their own merits? I'd like to think not. Hell, if I can do it - why can't other people? And if they can't do this - they shouldn't be judging or reviewing anything.

I think the larger issue of this discussion is how flawed the RITA awards are. Honestly. Only authors who submit their work and pay the entrance fee are entered. Then those entries are judged by other RWA members. Why not get readers in on it? Why not open up the entries? Frankly, I pay so little attention to the RITAs these days because some very good books never make it to the ballot. Or the book that wins whatever category (in my opinion) weren't nearly as good as the book by Author X that didn't make the final cut. All subjective and opinionated on my part, but there you have it.

And as for sex discussion - oh lighten up already people. If you don't like it, don't read it. Personally, I think Americans are way too uptight about sex as is. It's fun folks! And if sex isn't fun for you - pssst, you're not doing it right. That's the great thing about well done romantica and erotica novels. Sex is about a lot more than just love. Hey, love is great - don't get me wrong. But sex can also be happy, sad, angry, funny, sweet, destructive, and passionately all-consuming. Good sex encompasses a little bit of all of that and more.

And again, if it doesn't.....psst, you're not doing it right.

And that concludes our soapbox rant for today.


Kate R said...

aaaawwww wendy, I just plain adore you.

Wendy said...

Thanks Kate! I adore you too :)

Angela James said...

I'm not an author, so I'm speculating, but from the way I've had the RITA's explained to me is that it is supposed to be an award of the author's peers. Published authors. There are alot of reader awards already out there and this one was supposed to be a type of "industry" award I think. I think.

Wendy said...

Yeah, it's an industry award - but authors have to "pay an entrance fee" and that's the part I'm not wild about. I mean, I know RWA does need to make some money - but that fee (I thought I read $50 somewhere) is the sticking point I have. So if an author doesn't want to (or can't) pay that fee - that's one less book entered for consideration. I wonder how many outstanding books aren't entered because of that?

That's why the RITA has come to mean less to me as a reader over the years. It only represents the romance fiction that was entered into the contest. Not romance fiction as a whole.