Sure, it can be annoying when someone who only pretends familiarity with romance novels makes blanket statements that are demonstrably false. ("They all have those bodice-ripping covers." "They're all full of sex, sex, and more sex." "All of the stories all wildly unrealistic.") But I'm not offended when someone who has never read a romance novel says flatly, "I don't care for romance." Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the consensus of my fellow romance writers. From every angle, I'm getting the message that if one doesn't like romance, one hasn't read romance. Or hasn't read enough romance. Or hasn't read the right kind of romance.
It's ludicrous to assume there's a romance subgenre for every taste, and that all a reader has to do is experiment until she finds something she likes. Yet that is exactly what is being suggested in the post. And take a look at this:
I’d like to think that when I say “I don’t like it” ... I’m basing my statements on experience. And not just one experience, because maybe I picked up an example that’s not representative of the genre, or the basic storyline.
Apparently, we're meant to conclude that the "fairminded" individual will make a sincere effort to fully investigate the genre or subgenre before deciding that she doesn't care for it. Here's more:
I don’t know about the rest of you, but it irks me to hear someone say “I’d never read a romance, ever, because I know I wouldn’t like it.” Or “I read one a long time ago and I didn’t like it, so I know I wouldn’t like them.”
No, that doesn't irk me in the least. That's hardly a mean-spirited trashing of the genre. "I don't like it" is merely an expression of personal preference. But look how Ms. James attempts to engage our ire:
Now, insert the genre you write (or the format—ie ebooks). Imagine your peers—your fellow romance writers—are saying this about your genre. The very people who you hope will help build up romance, cutting down parts of it. I don’t like AA romance. I don’t like erotic romance. I don’t like inspirational romance.
Again, I don't agree that "I don't like..." statements should be construed as "cutting down" anything. And Ms. James failed to ring my little righteous-anger bell by mentioning my subgenre. It doesn't hurt me to know that people don't like my books. As it happens, NRJW has a number of very good friends who have made it plain that they're not going to read my books or any other inspirational romances. Sure, I'd love to change their minds, but I don't regard them as stubborn fools, and I fully support their right to stick their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la-la-la whenever I mention my books here on the blog.
Playing on my iPod right now is Weezer's "Perfect Situation." I've always loved that song. The banging drums on the intro suck me in every time, and that screaming guitar line shoots me into the stratosphere of bliss. But maybe you've never heard of Weezer, or maybe you don't like them, or maybe you don't see what's so great about that song. If you gave me half a chance, I'd try to convert you. But what I won't do is suggest that your refusal to give me that chance constitutes pigheadedness. To criticize you for not being "open-minded" would only demonstrate my own lack of tolerance.
The RTB post concludes with an admonition to writers to be "fair" and support each others' subgenres:
If we can’t give each other a fair chance, how can we expect people outside the romance industry to do so? Are we expecting more from others than we ask of ourselves?
They say it takes a toddler sometimes up to ten times of trying a new food before they “like” it. When do you think it’s okay to say there’s a romance genre/plot/storyline you don’t like?
Again, note the implication that there are times when it's not okay to say, "I don't like that." Ms. James answers her own question in this excerpt from her final paragraph:
I’m not entirely sure of what the answer is, but I do think that it’s about absolutes and about not ripping apart something you’ve never tried. If you can’t speak from experience (and one book doesn’t make you experienced, just as performing one haircut doesn’t make a barber experienced) then sweeping absolutes and grand statements about knowing how much you’d dislike it or how bad the genre/format is, should probably be avoided.
Yow. And Angela James is just one voice in the crowd that's been harping on this topic for some time. The mob yammers about "fairness," but they're the ones who aren't being fair because they're implying that people have no moral right to dislike things they haven't tried. People do have that right. Taste has never been about "fairness."
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