Thursday, April 24, 2008

On The Same Page

I personally felt there was quite a bit of coverage about the Romantic Times Convention this year, which I found to be ahem interesting reading.

I've always said that if RT ever decides to hit the west coast, that I would entertain the idea of going. After reading all this? I'm thinking not. The costume balls, the cover models, the plethora of fangirls - nope, not my scene. And the whole time I was reading the coverage I had to stop myself from saying out loud, "Oh cripes, you've got to be kidding me!"

Actually the first person I thought of while I was reading about all the... hmmm, words really do fail... was my brother-in-law. The Big Sis' husband loves comic books. Big time. Batman, Spiderman, the X-Men. Frank Miller is God! You get the idea. He's a smart guy. A well-spoken guy. Loves him some comic books. I wouldn't say comic books are deadly serious for him, but he's the sort that wants people to view the genre in a positive light. It's not fluffy. It's not trite. Heck, there are some well written and well drawn comics out there. He wants you to acknowledge that. Then all his hard work begins to unravel by the guy walking around dressed like the Green Lantern at some comic book convention.

Which is sort of where I am with romance. I've talked on this blog a time or two (or three) that the genre still has serious detractors among librarians. Yes, people in my profession. People who should frankly be jumping for joy that people are reading anything. Period. They tell me that their library patrons, "don't read bodice rippers," that there is no "need" or that I shouldn't "spend their money on them." Well they're right. Their patrons don't read "bodice rippers" because they chased off all the romance readers years ago. Just because you don't read something doesn't make it wrong.

So here I am. The librarian who has been labeled amongst fellow staff as "loving romance novels." Talking about how the genre is viable, entertaining, thought-provoking, fun, uplifting, validating, feminist - all the things that romance readers have been saying to detractors ad nauseam over the years.

Then RT comes along and I feel like I'm pissin' in the wind.

I tell myself that just because dressing in a Halloween costume and oogling bare-chested models isn't my scene doesn't make it wrong. RT serves it's purpose. It's a chance for readers and authors to get together. A chance for people with a like-minded interest to mingle. A chance to attend some interesting workshops. But it's all the other "stuff." The costumes, the models, the entire Ellora's Cave shindig....

And I'm not sure we can have it both ways. I'm not sure we can talk out of both sides of our mouth. On one hand "we" want respect. We want people to stop sneering at the genre. On the other we have the Star-Trek-like convention atmosphere of RT. Can both concepts co-exist together? I'm not so sure. Is it working for the comic book world? Maybe, but it hasn't been a slam dunk. I know librarians who only put up with graphic novels because they circulate very well until they eventually get stolen.

It's an issue I'm torn on. I don't want to deny anyone their fun, certainly no one should take themselves too seriously, and naysayers are notoriously stubborn anyway - so what exactly am I worried about? Possibly that when I tell professionals in my chosen career that I love to read romance novels they'll immediately think I like to grope Chippendales wannabes in my spare time.

Um no.

I'd be the girl who would point and laugh.

So where does that leave me? Back where I started. I'm a notoriously live and let live kind of person, and there is no denying that a segment of the romance reading community genuinely enjoys what RT offers. Just because it doesn't appeal to me doesn't make it bad or wrong. Still, there's that little part of me that wishes the genre would separate itself from all the influences that have made it nigh to impossible for it to be taken seriously over the years.

Which leaves me back to pissin' in the wind.


Big Sis said...

You CAN have it both ways.
Hey, I like Star Trek. Even the old cheesy James T. Kirk shows. But you don't see me dressing up in a red mini dress enterprise uniform and going to conventions.
Your BIL just avoids the fan geeks at comic book conventions. There is other stuff to do there.
Look at it this way, those fan geeks spend a lot of money on the genre and it keeps publishers printing those books. People who look down their noses at your favorite genre always will, bodice rippers or not. Closed minded people rarely change.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

If I went to RT does that mean I would have to go to Party City and find some ball witchy type gowns?
But those EC men... well...

azteclady said...

I'm too boring for all these shenanigans--and I'm trying hard not to be judgemental, but the entire pageantry and over the top ah... cheesiness? puts me off.

Still, many readers adore it. Who am I to judge it? I just wish the other side of the coin--the more *cough* staid *cough* readership--would get more air time in the news, you know?

Stephanie Feagan said...

I'll join you in pissdom, Wendy, and raise you a spit on the forest fire.

I've been to RT several times, the last in Daytona, and swore I would never return. For me, it's a huge waste of money. I have writing buddies who go to 'meet readers' and booksellers, etc., but both times I went, as a published author, with books to sign and goodies to give away, etc., I felt like a grain of sand on a beach filled with starfish and conch shells - nekkid ones who hand out condoms on a stick and have some mantitty on either side. I spent a ton o' money for promo, and would have been easily as rewarded had I spent the money on a trip to Cabo, wherein I might have sold an equal number of books to beach bums drinking tequila.

I'm an anal retentive, slightly shy CPA who happens to write romance novels. The whole act out your fantasy thing just ain't my bag. I went to the EC Hidden Desire party in a robe and slippers, because my hidden desire is to be at home, in my robe and slippers.

It could be that I just don't get it. That happens sometimes. But I can stay home and not get it and save a couple grand, which is why I won't go back to RT. Live and let live, but I confess openly that some of the goings on at RT embarrass the hell out of me as a member of the romance community. Birds of a feather and all that.

Kristie (J) said...

I'm with you Wendy and agree 100%. While a lot of the stuff that goes on at the RT may be to some readers liking - it's not really to mine.

Liz Maverick said...

Interesting post. I see both sides of the issue, really. Just some thoughts here...

I happen to love to dress up in costumes and run around conference. (As I guess you can tell if you saw the website)

I don't happen to love the squicky oversexed bits of conference [ and I mean "bits" both literally and figuratively ;) ] but then again, I don't write erotica.

As an author, I guess what I love most about the event is that the ultra-casual, "fun" atmosphere makes me more accessible to readers than I seem to be in other situations.

At a "normal" event, it's often hard for readers to just walk up to me -- and sometimes it's hard for me to walk up to readers.

The bottom line is that I had a tremendous amount of fun, I met new authors, new readers and new booksellers, and I sold a lot of books. (Yay!)

It's not everyone's thing, but I don't think it can be held responsible for pushing the perception of our genre backwards. The quality of our genre's books and the book covers have a lot to answer for when it comes to that.

Cheers! Liz Maverick

azteclady said...

I may be wrong, but I don't read Wendy's post as holding RT responsible for the overall image of the romance genre, its writers and readers. I does contribute to reinforcing said image, though, IMnotsoHO

Wendy said...

Heavens no, I don't think RT is solely responsible for the perception of the genre. RT is a monster, but they don't have THAT much power. No, the criticism of the romantic fiction genre goes back hundreds of years; plus there are a great many naysayers who still tar and feather the genre with the 1970s bodice ripper brush.

(Although secretly I love me a good bodice ripper in a guilty pleasure sort of way - so there you go.)

This is honestly a subject I'm torn over. There are readers who love RT and if they enjoy it, live and let live. And while I've long said I was going to stop justifying my reading choices to close-minded morons, as a librarian I still feel a certain responsibility to put up a good fight. I guess it all boils down to what Azteclady said: RT is not responsible for the genre's image, but there is some reinforcing going on. And that's the part I wrestle with....

Jennie said...

Well said, Wendy. I'd never heard much about the RT convention until this year when there was so much coverage at SBTB -- and I definitely had a WTF reaction to most of the goings-on. Not to be a party pooper, but I think it does reinforce a negative image of romance. Definitely not my cup of tea.

CindyS said...

Yep. Exactly. I do wonder if my friends think I would fall all over cover models because of what I read. Uh, no.

From what Liz Maverick said it sounds like its fun for those authors and fans who are extroverted. Knowing I'm not going to 'get' a lot of what is going on I wouldn't bother.

I think it would be fun to be a person who could play dress up. Being the Star Wars fan I am my hubby took me to the opening show of the final movie. Bob was a little freaked out by the Leias, Chewbacas, StormTroopers etc. I guess I have gotten used to them and find them fun (although the smell of pot in the air was a bit much).

I guess there is more of a disconnect for people when it comes to romance. Everyone knows that there are different forms of fandom for comic books, sci-fi movies etc, but for romance, I think most people think of RT like conventions.

Hell, I think they were even covered in the 80s by Entertainment Tonight. Ugh.


azteclady said...

I just read a post by Lori Foster over at Running with Quills, and it seems there are more out there who are concerned about the general public conflating all romance readers and writers with some of the more outrageous antics happening at RT.

blackromancereader said...

Ugh Wendy, I know what you mean. I've taken an intro to the library class (flirted with the thought becoming one), and a few librarians in the class sneered over the fact that the patrons in my local district have used the interlibrary loan primarily for "ugh, romance novels." "There's no accounting for taste." My instructor replied.

As for RT, I'd be way too embarrassed to attend. I like to party, but I can't see the costumes.