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Friday, February 27, 2009

ConDFW, part 3

I'm not going to dwell on the rest of these panels much. My notes are sketchy which means that the panels didn't use a clear cut punch list of items for discussion.

The panel on E-publishing: Dealing with the Internet was led by Priscilla Spencer, Michael Finn, Teresa Patterson, Kit O’Connell. What surprised me was that at least one of the panelists had only been traditionally published, still she was a major advocate for e-publishing.

The thing that was brought up loud and clear was that e-publishing was here to stay. It's not a fad or the domain of a fringe reading crowd. It's wholesale and spreading. The panel agreed that the generation growing up right now might grow up reading on an e-reader or i-phone rather than a print book.

There seemed to be huge interest on the floor. People wanted to KNOW about e-publishing. I was very pleased to see so much interest. It really deserved a longer, more in depth discussion on this subject.

***

One of the other panels was on Supernatural Romance. Other than the fact there were a lot of notable authors, this panel drifted off topic a bit and seemed to get stuck on where supernatural romance was shelved in bookstores and what defines romance. The panel consisted of Rachel Caine, Shannon Butcher, Sue Sinor, and PN Elrod.

There were a few aggravating minutes when a man from the audience asked if women were deluding themselves into believing in the fantasies portrayed in romance novels. Maybe I was tired and cranky that day, but I found myself doing an eye roll. Who believes stuff like this any more? And could he have been any more insulting to women?

This was an older man and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was stuck in the old myth that women were reading romance as a substitute for what was missing in their real lives. But the other day, I realized that such misconceptions had far reaching repercussions.

What is it about people who make blanket statements about romance without having read widely in the genre? Things have changed so much in the past decade alone I don't dare call it the highly insulting moniker of "bodice ripper".

I don't mind people having firm opinions, but please do your research. Telling us about a romance novel you "heard" about fifteen years ago does not qualify you as a good judge of romance fiction. Read a couple dozen books published in the last couple of years and then we can talk.

The other day JK Coi was giving an interview on a radio program and it was obvious the interviewer knew nothing about the romance genre, insisting that "others" call it pornographic.

First of all, if you're interviewing someone, focus on the work, not the hype. Secondly, anyone who did their homework would know that romance spans everything from inspirational to erotica. The spectrum is so huge there is no way to categorize it as simply romance.

I write SF and fantasy with romantic elements. There's no bodice ripping and I even go the extra mile and include a plot. I'm such an anarchist!

Then there is inspirational, sweet romance, contemporary, historical, time travel, Western, Regency, erotica and paranormal. There are also at least a dozen other subgenres I haven't mentioned, everything from hen lit to suspense. Romance is way too broad a genre to package neatly--which goes back to the panel discussion on why romance is shelved in such strange places.

The more I read romance, the more humbled I am when I encounter authors who buck the genre tropes and give us real stories with real relationships and a happy ever after.

I, a hard core SF reader hardly ever reads plain SF any more. SF romance is far more intriguing and has a depth (and sometimes ray guns!) that makes me want to read more.

**Sorry for going into soapbox mode, but two people griping back to back about things they never took the trouble to investigate annoys the heck out of me. JK handled herself beautifully throughout the radio interview though. I was very proud.

I walked away from the Supernatural Romance panel more frustrated than pleased.

***

The last panel was interesting. It was called Mythological Plotholes and it was hosted by Selina Rosen, Shanna Swendson, Mel White, Frances May and J.M. McDermott.

The panelists discussed which myths haven't been overused. Among the list were:

• Midrashic themes

• kelpies (one of my crit partners just finished a kelpie story!)

• naiads

• Aboriginal themes

• the lesser known Grimm's Brothers tales

• Sumerian vampires

The myth isn't nearly as important as the execution. It's how you tell the story that makes the difference, even if it's a well worn trope.

The topic of using myths from American Indian or Aborigines was discussed, but I'm afraid I didn't agree with the reigning wisdom from a couple of panelists. I think it was Mel White who said it would be more respectful to get approval from the governing chief or tribal leader when publishing work containing their myths. (I was sitting way in the back, but I think this is how she phrased it.)

While I agree that one should always write with respect to tribal myths, I don't think it's wise to seek approval. It sets a precedent whereby your work must be reviewed and deemed worthy (ie, favorable to the myth or tribe).

My other concern is that such a review is subjective at best. One tribal leader might think an author's work is sensitive and honest. Another leader might think it's subversive. Works by Rushdie, or Sherry Jones, author of The Jewel Of Medina come to mind.

I don't plan on writing Aboriginal or Native American myths, so it's not an issue for me. But I wonder how others feel.

Do you use such myths in your work? Would you feel the need for validation from the tribal leaders?

Just curious...

5 comments:

dawtheminstrel said...

You're so right that there's strong writing in every genre. You don't have to read it if it doesn't fit your interests, but that's no excuse for ignorantly dissing it.

J.K. Coi said...

Maria, I was so surprised to have gotten that kind of attitude during the interview. I know that romance (in whatever form) isn't going to appeal to everyone and that's fine. But I didn't know people still thought that poorlu about the genre, since I've been lucky so far to have encountered fairly open-minded readers.

Granted, I think the host was trying to play devil's advocate, it just didn't work very well for him.

dawtheminstrel said...

I was thinking some more about that "do women believe this?" comment, and it's really a deeper question that it looks. Or it could be. We don't believe in vampires (probably) but something in that book rings true to us. So what do we believe in a book?

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Daw!
Ref: "do women believe this?" comment...

I think it's more a matter of (mis)perception by those that don't read in the genre. I will admit I thought the same thing not too long ago. It wasn't until I actually started reading that I realized it's not about living in a fantasy at all. It's escapism, the same way straight fantasy is escapism.

Nobody 'believes' in vampires, but they're willing to suspend disbelief in order to get more out of the story.

SF readers are similarly snubbed by other genres readers but romance readers are really slammed, and there's no good reason for it.

As I said. I made the same mistake. Once. But once I started reading broadly, I realized how wrong I was.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi JK!

I think you're right. He was trying to play devil's advocate. It just didn't come out that way.

You were wonderful though!

PS Sorry you're sick, hon.