Links: Thursday, February 20th

February 20, 2014 Links 10

A white woman with red hair holds a sword in her right hand and is dressed in a white shirt, black waistcoat, red blazer and long brown skirt.Women Cosplay as Male Characters from The Hobbit

  • SBHM Feature: Sasha Devlin – Author Sasha Devlin talks about growing up as a black child in a largely white community and wanting romance novels she could see herself in.

    I WANTED to want to read those books. Same with the interracial books which really broke my heart. As I was often the only black kid in my classes, my crushes were my white classmates, but I was afraid to admit that. A book that portrayed that in a positive light would have meant the world to me.

    Didn’t happen. And worse, I felt guilty. There were books by black authors, featuring black and interracial couples and I wasn’t reading them. Did that mean I was ashamed of being black? Did I value white authors more? (Sidenote: I’m willing to bet money that no white reader has ever questioned her racial loyalty just because she didn’t want to read a book by a white author.)

  • Thoughts on Waterstone’s guide to Science fiction and fantasy – I apologize that this tumblr post is image-heavy and probably inaccessible to screen readers, but the gist of it is that someone went to the bookstore Waterstone’s and noticed that every book on the “If you like Game of Thrones” table was by a male author. They also noticed a laminated guide to SFF in the genre area, and it wasn’t much better. This is how “women don’t write epic fantasy” stereotypes happen.

    So, to be clear: of the one hundred and thirteen authors listed in the genre-specific sections, there are a grand total of nine women and, as far as I can tell, zero POC. In the final two pages – the “If you like this, you’ll love-” section, things are little better: of the ten authors with suggestions after their names, two are women; but of the 101 authors recommended as comparisons, only twelve are women – and, tellingly, of those twelve, a whopping eight are listed as being similar to another female author. As far as this list is concerned, women have essentially become a speciality category, almost exclusively recommended because their work resembles that of another female author, and not because of their contributions to various other genres. As for POC authors, as far I can tell, there’s not a single one on any of the lists.

  • John Green Privilege – John Green is no stranger to Twitter controversies, and he was at it again Wednesday night, when he helpfully decided what sexism and misogyny was and defined it as “criticizing Twilight.” Women argued the point with him for hours, but he stood firm… until Ron Hogan said something to him, and he acknowledged that he might be wrong. Blogger Ceilidh goes into the problem that is John Green.

    John Green will never experience sexism. He will never have to scream and shout to have his opinion even acknowledged because of the platform he has and the fact that he’s a straight cis white man. He gets to be the saviour of YA while women who wrote stories like his for many years before him are long forgotten or left in the shadows. The sad thing is that his opinions on this issue will be held up as a wonderful example because we’ve lowered the bar for success so much to the point where a man acknowledging that women are people makes him worthy of a gold star. He is awarded for acknowledging issues that female writers have been discussing for generations, including in YA. John Green writes tales of universal appeal where women talking the same topics write romance.

    This is an issue. This is privilege.

  • Verdigris Blog: Pulp Fiction – If you’ve ever wondered what happened to pulped mass-market paperbacks, this post reports that the UK uses pulped Mills & Boon novels in their road tarmac.

    We recently came across an environmental story that is just too good to be true, and yet it is true. It seems that in every mile of the M6 Toll motorway in the UK there are 92,000 pulped copies of Mills & Boon romantic novels. A novel approach to reuse indeed.

    Mills & Boon has built its reputation on slushy tales of romance, however millions of unsold copies of the publisher’s books get returned every year. The unwanted copies are sold on to recycling companies, where they are pulped for subsequent use. Tarmac Central, the company that built the road, used the pulp to improve the road’s quality.

  • I Write Letters – Melissa McEwan writes an open letter to Jimmy Fallon to urge him to support viewers who have experienced rape or abuse and not have people like Mike Tyson and Charlie Sheen on his show in the future.

    You also talked about how it’s your job to entertain people, to make them laugh. I will never understand why someone wants to be the guy who invokes rape in jokes, or overlooks a history of violence against women, in the guise of humor or entertainment.

    Why do you want to be a guy who obliges a survivor, who tunes into your show for a laugh after a hard day, to ignore the specter of violent men who have repeatedly hurt women? Why do you want to be a guy who gives those men no professional consequences, who thus communicates to them that what they did doesn’t matter?

    If you really want to be a nice guy, Jimmy Fallon, then there can be no place for abusers on your show.

  • Media is ‘failing women’ — sports journalism particularly so – One of my favorite sports journalists right now is Katie Baker, who covers hockey for Grantland. I wonder how many other great women writers are out there going unread because sports newsrooms continue to be a boys’ club.

    An Associated Press Sports Editors-commissioned report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that there was an increase in women of color sports journalists, but it still wasn’t enough to merit more than an F grade for gender representation in columnists and editors. And the majority of female columnists and editors worked for ESPN, which the report notes has made an effort to diversify its newsroom. Without ESPN, things would be far worse. As it is, 90 percent of sports editors are white and 90 percent are male.

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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.

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10 Responses to “Links: Thursday, February 20th”

  1. Roslyn Holcomb

    I find that article by Sasha Devlin both annoying and confusing. I really don’t care what she writes, but I would appreciate if she wouldn’t perpetuate stereotypes about my genre. This notion that black romances is full of “issues” is pure bullshit. I’ve been reading them for twenty years and they run the gamut just as white romances do. I don’t understand how she went from wanting to see black/IR romances, but then choosing to write white characters, but whatev. I write romance because I wanted to see that, but I can certainly understand someone feeling differently. What I can’t understand is being black, saying that you wanted to read black romances, then when given an opportunity, not doing so, but I’ve encountered this mindset a lot. I gave up understanding them a long time ago and choose to write for the people who WANT to read my books. Next.

  2. J.

    I don’t know if I should feel glad to see my irrational hatred of John Green justified.

  3. nu

    @Roslyn Holcomb: I think it’s just internalized racism. A lot of us start out writing white protagonists very early on, but even I knew it was programmed. I don’t like the excuse that “these characters just come to me, they just happen to be exclusively white.” Nope, there’s no reason a character of color can’t be hot or heroic, especially if you claim not to see color, lol. It is funny because people usually make both of these statements in the same breath.

  4. Roslyn Holcomb

    You know Nu, I’m trying really hard not to believe that, but I see your point. I was talking to some people over at tumblr who said they wrote white characters when they were young. It makes sense, since white culture is so pervasive. Oddly enough, despite being nearly fifty years old and being one of the first to integrate my elementary school in Alabama, I never did. I started writing when I was five or six, and my stories were about the people in my neighborhood. I was a big fan of Westerns like Maverick and Gunsmoke. So I’d put my next door neighbor who had two husbands (no, she really did!) in a saloon girl outfit like Miss Kitty. I, of course, didn’t know saloon girls were hookers, I just loved the frilly outfits, and I didn’t know there were black cowboys, I just assumed there were. I guess, growing up in an all-black neighborhood it never occurred to me that there weren’t black people everywhere doing everything. My life was very segregated, with very limited television, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe that wasn’t actually better.

  5. mel burns

    @J: John Green is an ass.

    It makes me furious when Mike Tyson shows up in films and on T.V as just another affable retired sports figure. He’s a convicted rapist!*^%$%^! When he showed up on The Tonight Show’s opening night…..I went to bed.

  6. Tina

    Given some of his antics, I would say that hatred of John Green is not actually irrational.

    @Roslyn Holcomb:
    I too was puzzled by this. When black romances began to finally got published, it was clear that a lot of the black writers who were writing them were fully using the templates established by the genre. In many ways the themes, tropes, plots etc. were exactly the same as you would find in the books with white heroes/heroines.

    Yes, AA fiction that became more popular in the 90s with writers like Bebe Moore Campbell, E. Lynn Harris and Terry MacMillan relied more on relationship dramas like she describes. But these were mainstream fiction. They were not considered romance and as such would not meet the criteria of the genre.

    Also, I want to know where all these IR romances from the mid-90s she was talking about. Outside of Sandra Kitt, I didn’t see many IR romances start to trickle in til the early 2000’s. Believe me, I was a heat seeking missile with those. Seressia Glass was one of the first I can think of when her ‘No Commitment Required’ came out in 2001 and that plot was straight out of Harlequin. And Genesis Press was really cranking out some good quality AA and IR romance well into the mid-2000s, before ebooks took off and before Kimani became really established.

    I get that she was talking about her own experiences, but her generalizations are misleading. It seems to me like she is just simply more comfortable writing white characters. Which is perfectly fine. And it is too bad she has to justify that because honestly, she shouldn’t have to. But the article feels like a justification with bad information.

  7. nu

    @Roslyn Holcomb: I admire that, that you never bought into it. It might have something to do, too, with the fact that race was more visible and discussed at that time. Kids are not taught about it anymore, very often, thanks to the erroneous notion that “we’ve solved racism,” so I feel like they are more likely to internalize things without realizing.

  8. Roslyn Holcomb

    @Tina, glad to know I’m not the only one confused by her post. Other than Sandra Kitt’s The Color of Love, and Margaret Johnson-Hodge’s The Real Deal there were no interracial romance books in the early to mid nineties. And I submit that The Real Deal is not a romance, but mainstream fiction, much like Kim McLarin’s The Meeting of the Waters. And black romances of that time most definitely followed the same template of other romances, indeed they went much further. For instance, the secret baby, which is a very popular trope, is not to be seen because all the black pubs forbid unwed pregnancies. Obviously those type things are fine in mainstream fiction, but yeah, calling those books romances is like calling Jackie Collins a romance writer.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to write white (or any other race) characters. She’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last. Frankly, I strongly recommend it if one is actually interested in selling in New York or making a best sellers list. The only thing that bothers me is the way she slandered black romance. That’s effing ridiculous and uncalled for.

    @Nu, you might have a point. I do think we’ve done younger generations a MAJOR disservice.