- A note on historical romance sales in print – Courtney Milan breaks out some hard sales figures to speak about how Harlequin doesn’t have a record of successfully selling historical romance in print and how “China-set historicals don’t sell” is not the best conclusion to draw from Jeannie Lin’s print run being canceled.
Jeannie’s books mean a lot to me. It almost physically hurts to hear people saying, “This is proof that Chinese-set historicals don’t sell.” When I wrote my English-set historicals and had craptastic print sales, I had the benefit of other authors’ experience to prove that English-set historicals can sell in print. Nobody pinned the hopes of the entire subgenre on my shoulders. Using Jeannie’s books as a stand in for an entire sub-genre is really, really unfair to both her and the class of Chinese-set historicals. It’s disturbing to take a book that features non-white people in a non-European setting, to have it perform precisely the same way as books that are written about white people in a European setting, and to then say that this is proof that books about non-white people do not succeed.
Before we say that readers won’t read Chinese-set historicals, we should give Chinese-set historicals a chance. And that chance has to be bigger than one author, writing in a subgenre where the bookbuyers are already wary, publishing with a house that has a less than sterling-record with historical romance.
- Reading beyond your comfort setting – Sunita builds off Milan’s great post with some important observations about what people mean when they refer to POC romance. It made me reevaluate my ideas of what to look for and deemphasize books with a fish-out-of-water motif.
That second point, that most of the books are set in dominant-culture countries or settings (sometimes it’s the colonial white culture within the POC country), means that the reader is not reading about POC countries or cultures, or at least not for very long. We are reading fish-out-of-water stories without realizing it.
And that perspective is more comfortable for the non-POC reader, because even in these so-called POC stories, the POC character is the odd person out; everything else in the book conforms to dominant-culture standards. The handsome half-Indian (or full Indian) hero making his way in aristocratic English society. The half-Chinese heroine coming back to England and adjusting to her English family and culture. The black hero making his career in a white man’s world. It’s the non-standard person making the adjustments in the story, and all the reader has to adjust to is the presence of one or a handful of POC characters. Much of the time that character is half white, so the adjustment is even less arduous.
- SFF in Conversation: Kameron Hurley on “A Complexity of Desires: Expectations of Sex & Sexuality in Science Fiction” – I’m really enjoying these posts at the Book Smugglers. This was an insightful look at the mental gymnastics needed to redefine the “default” in worldbuilding.
I had to rebuild the default narrative of “assume everyone’s only attracted to people of the opposite biological sex” (and the assumption that intersex and trans folks don’t exist) from the ground up.
Obviously, that expected default is a lie. It’s always been a lie. But readers carry it. Writers carry it. Society carries it. Challenging it is a monumental task.
- Incest Isn’t the Punchline – Twitter got a little glib with incest jokes the other night due to Flowers in the Attic, and this post is a good reminder that the fictional device you find entertaining looks like someone else’s real trauma.
I don’t understand how anyone could think incest is the punchline to a joke. How some of those making jokes are people I consider my friends and it never occurred to them that incest is code for sexual assault and rape done to someone by a family member.
The outcome of those jokes is huge to me (and I suspect to others who have abuse in their past). I don’t know who I can trust now. How much of my online community found that hilarious? How many didn’t tweet the jokes but laughed anyway? How can I know when I look someone in the eye if the trauma that still wakes me up with nightmares decades later is something they might find worthy of a quip in 140 characters or less?
- SINATRA’S COLD IS CONTAGIOUS: Hostile Subjects, Vulnerable Sources & The Ethics of Outing – Maria Dahvana Headley breaks down that awful Grantland article about Dr. V and the golf putter and all the ways it fails journalistic ethics and basic human decency.
The story is not the only thing that matters. As a writer, it is not simply important to consider the repercussions of your research on persons who would otherwise be private citizens, it is important to consider that your source may be vulnerable. That your need for a good “tale” does not trump their need to survive. Do not, as a writer, value your narrative over someone’s life.
Your writing is not more important than someone’s life. It is only writing.
- Dead Trans Women in the Print Guillotine — Justice For Dr V – Finally, trans blogger Aoifeschatology offers her take on the ways the media utterly dehumanizes trans people in the name of curiosity.
To paraphrase a discussion I had last night — her transition had been framed as the eyeball roll climax of a fraud narrative; and this sort of dehumanizing, reductionistic abuse is truly appalling. If you care about golf clubs, what has her history as a trans person to offer any relevance? Where’s the sport in that, compared to publicly outing her and marketing her trans identity as the publicized apex of a “ha-ha got you!” revealing con … especially knowing she had a history of self-harm? The privilege and abdication of responsibility. The disgusting disavowal of her dignity. Fatality for reader views. That’s what a dead trans woman looks like after the print guillotine does its awful indiscretions as a public spectre to boost a view count. They outed her, she commits suicide, and they publish their article with prim righteousness about telling a bewildering story. And thinking themselves of the so very clever for turning what started out as a banal tale concerning magic putters into a vignette of execution.
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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.