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November 27th, 2007

6:14 PM

The party is only going to get hotter...

I've blogged about this very recently, but Emily Veinglory says it better than I can ever could:

...This leads to the usual insistence that nothing of this sort could ever be considered romance in any way (subtext: you freak). It seems to me that whenever a person is being told by self-appointed representative of the romance genre-slash-community that their stuff is too perverted to sell, they may be onto something (exhibit 1: erotic romance, exhibit 2: m/m, exhibit 3: BDSM, exhibit 4: menage -- need I go on?

Here is may own reply at Karen's:

"And I think the romance market is broader than many people realise or are willing to accept. A small publisher, to succeed, needs to have a niche. Not so long ago m/m was perverted, not romance and never going to sell to women. Now several successful publishers make most of their money from it. Then it was menage, BDSM, and now twincest that was not romance, perverted and not going to sell to women. Funny how those books are also selling well to those (largely silent) customers who want to read them.

There is a *big* difference between 'not for me' and 'not romance'. A love story with a happy ending is romance. The rest is a matter of taste and even if it disgusts one person it might delight many others."

I get uncomfortable whenever someone steps into a blog and starts making Moses-like statements about what makes or breaks romance. It doesn't matter if it is Nora Roberts who says it or some blogger. One person's personal preferences shouldn't be confused for What Must Be kind of laws.

But that's not what I want to blog about here, heh. I'm more curious about how things will change in the erotic romance landscape as the lines between traditionally accepted romance conventions and traditionally prevalent erotic fiction conventions meet. What I find rather amusing - ironic even - is that the same people who appoint themselves to tell everyone that incest, et cetera, is not romance are the same people who tore RWA to pieces for trying to declare romance as a heterosexual concept while trying to squash erotic romance authors away from their conventions and stuff.

I think the problem here is that romance readers and erotic fiction readers need not be one and the same but erotic fiction publishers are currently targeting romance readers because that is where the money is. Just look at how Aphrodisia and Black Lace Books market themselves as erotic romance when some of their stories are actually erotica with very little romance in them. Themes that thrive in erotic fiction (incest, rape, prostitution fantasies, "white wife willingly getting impregnated by big strapping Black man while happy wimp hubby watches" cheating fantasies, et cetera - just look at the categories in Literotica if you will, and take note that the biggest and most popular categories are the incest, rape, and adultery stories) may not be themes that romance readers, even erotic romance readers, are ready to deal with.

After all, we are talking about readers who proudly admit to (or publicly pretend to) be against pornography. Personally, yeah, I like pornography. I only don't like pornography if it's bad pornography. But not every romance reader is like me, and in a genre where we have all spent more than a decade trying to tell critics that the genre is not pornography, the blurring of the lines between erotic romance and pornography is not going to make everyone happy. I have mixed feelings about the blurring of the lines myself but I am going to wait and see before I say anything more.

But, theoretically, in a fair world, the genre should be big enough to make everyone happy. So... what's the problem? Why are there angry people insisting that there is only room in the genre for their personal preferences and that everyone who enjoys anything else is a pervert of some sort? Are they scared that they will pick up such perverted stories one day... and enjoy themselves?

Here's an interesting thing. A romance author recently wrote to me saying that she's thinking of switching to erotic romances or maybe outright erotica. She's not the first one to think about this, though. These authors are not doing it for money, mind you, they are tired of the limitations of the more conventional romance genre and they feel that the erotic subgenre allows them to write about things that they can't do otherwise: sexually experienced heroines, darker emotions, et cetera. In this case, I think the rise of erotic romance may not be such a bad thing if it allows romance authors an opportunity to write new things. The "mainstream" romance genre, after all, is sanitized to the point that it seems as if only two or three kinds of characters and storylines are acceptable. Everything else is "immoral", "unromantic", "selfish", "amoral", or even "pornography" if we are to look at outraged reviews on Amazon or romance review websites catering to mainstream tastes. I can only imagine that some authors will feel more free to write in the erotic romance genre without worrying what Big Sister will think or approve.

My only grumble about the rise of erotic romance is the annoying trade paperback formats these books tend to come in. They are too expensive for me to afford. Why else do you think I hardly read Brava, Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, Avon Red, et cetera? I will have to sell my kidneys, all two of them and maybe my liver too, if I want to read them regularly.

But other than that, well, feel free to bring on the anal stuff, the skanky heroines, whatever. BDSM is not my cup of tea in general, but hey, to each his or her own. I'll be curious to see how the first generation "more hardcore" stories will turn out. Personally I'm hoping for stories with naughty priests. Er... why is everyone looking at me like that? I suspect that such mainstream publication of material usually found underground will either find only to a small audience or take off like nobody's business until Ellora's Cave start cramming their Exotica line with similar taboo stories. And then, when everyone is used to such stories, someone will come up with... oh, tentacle romance, I suppose. And then, the same people who have started to enjoy incest romance will then start complaining that tentacle porn is never romance, no way. And the cycle of life, Internet-style, will begin anew.

Oh, and before I go, here are two pretty... interesting covers. I don't know what to make of the codpiece on Mr Talnut while for some reason I can tell at once from the cover that Mr Boomerang is a hero in a gay romance. Click on the covers for bigger versions.

Telnut by JH Wear Boomerang Love by Melissa Lopez

9 comment(s).

Posted by Kat:

"I have mixed feelings about the blurring of the lines myself but I am going to wait and see before I say anything more. "

Do you think this is (partly?) a function of bad writing? Because I've read stuff on Literotica that I'd consider very good erotica, and I've read erotica/erotic-romance-labelled stuff that I'd consider pornography.

"just look at the categories in Literotica if you will, and take note that the biggest and most popular categories are the incest, rape, and adultery stories) may not be themes that romance readers, even erotic romance readers, are ready to deal with.

But is the Literotica audience mostly male or female? That might make a difference. Also, when genre readers talk about romance, everything is automatically framed in terms of what kinds of pairings are acceptable. I'd find it hard to defend incest romance because I personally find it unacceptably *icky*. That said, a long time ago I watched a TV show that featured a brother/sister couple (I think they met when they were older, or they were step-siblings, I can't remember now) who had to deal with their mother finding out about their relationship. While I'd probably still find it icky if I knew those (fictional) people in real life, their story made me cry. So I think perhaps there may be, may be, MAY BE a limited context in which I might, might, MIGHT find it if not readable then at least not entirely unacceptable. (Incidentally, the only reason I watched the show at all was because I had a crush on the actor. *g*)
November 27th, 2007 @ 10:40 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

If we want to play on stereotypes, I'm hard pressed to imagine many guys who visit Literotica. Aren't guys visual types? Some porn sites with videos or pictures may be more to their liking then.

Kat, not to single you out directly, it's okay if you don't like incest fantasies. Not everyone does. But I don't understand why there are always people who feel this need to come out whenever we have topics like this to announce whether the fantasy works or not with them. Authors write those stories and some daring publishers want to sell them to a niche audience. They certainly are not doing what they do for people who don't find the fantasy palatable.

This post is not to get people to come say what fantasies work (or not) for them. I really don't see how a series of "I will NOT accept this!" or "I may accept this!" announcements add to a discussion. I think there are enough of such announcements on Karen Scott's blog without having to repeat a similar trend here.

Also, I don't think it is fair to say that "X fantasy works only for males", if that is what you are trying to say. I have known women who enjoy adultery/submission/rape fantasies as much as men, so it is not entirely true to hint that Literotica has such themes because of the number of male visitors.
November 27th, 2007 @ 11:11 PM

Posted by Kat:

No, I wasn't implying that those fantasies are for males only. I was just genuinely curious when I wondered about the audience and if that would make a difference. I reckon you're probably right, and that males are more likely to seek something visual (in general).

My point (totally convoluted, I realise now) about what I will or won't accept, is that even situations that I've always assumed I'd never find acceptable can be portrayed in a way that I can, which I guess I'm trying to generalise into "other readers might, too". But I take your point that, even then, I wouldn't be the primary audience for that niche.

"But I don't understand why there are always people who feel this need to come out whenever we have topics like this to announce whether the fantasy works or not with them."

I think this is just the nature of online discussion. People want to get their two bobs in, particularly if they're passionate about the topic of the day. I did find it surprising that there was such an outcry over role-playing. And not even an actual story with role-playing--just the fact that the publisher would consider such a story.
November 27th, 2007 @ 11:39 PM

Posted by threedeemented:

"Personally I'm hoping for stories with naughty priests."

meh, did that

"someone will come up with... oh, tentacle romance, I suppose."

meh, did that, too (w/ incest!)
November 28th, 2007 @ 1:19 AM

Posted by veinglory:

The funny thing is that the examples mentioned in the original discussion (rape, daddy/daughter, incest) are all squicks for me. But, ya know what my biggest squick of all is? Alpha males.

We all have to learn how to find the stuff we want rather than demand the whole genre be tailored to the most common Fabio-thug kink and everyone else be declared beyond the pale (or not pale enough)... Viva la difference :)
November 28th, 2007 @ 3:20 AM

Posted by Katie_2:

Another Katie here, and de-lurking. Even if a lot of erotic situations, like a number of BDSM variations, rape, slut, pet, sheikh or gangbang fantasies are beyond my comfort and/or lust zone, I still can accredit them a place in erotic romance . And then there's a line between the "this is not for me" and "this is perverted and sick" zone. I started reading erotic romance in 2003 and even back then, when menages were rare and I still felt a thrill reading them, I tried to avoid "two brothers on one woman" stories, listening to them chanting "oh man, I can feel you, you feel so damn good!" BLEARGH. Incest in any form between consenting adults (I am not even mentioning the the other possibilities, has, IMO, no place in erotic romance and I put it into the same category as golden showers, scat play, bestiality and necrophilia. Erotic fiction is one genre and I know why I mostly read romance and not plain fiction. I love the happy ending, I love the envelope pushing in erotic romance and I naively hope I never have to experience the day when I stumble upon a serious love scene between siblings in an erotic romance. I have read a number of erotic romance stories that sold me many a fantasy I would have never thought possible to think of as sexy, but incest will never be one of them.
November 28th, 2007 @ 4:33 AM

Posted by veinglory:

Which brings us back to... um, other people clearly do find it sexy and romantic. So why should they be denied access to that kind of story because someone deems it too icky?
November 28th, 2007 @ 6:02 AM

Posted by Rhianna Samuels:

What I find interesting is that readers are beginning to publicly admit to enjoying erotica. I attended my first RT/Booklovers convention and found the reader attendees to be vocal on what erotica they wanted. It hasn’t been that long when you hid your pornography in the bedside drawers, along with the electrical equipment.

I have to admit I was surprised when I met a middle aged woman in line and we began talking about books. I asked her favorite genre and she was quick to admit she now had a fondness for Male on Male. I was expecting romantic suspense or historical. The times are a changing and the reader wants choices on the level of sexual play found in their novels.

I wasn't surprised that she liked M/M, I was surprised she admitted to it. The audience it there for erotica, and the small presses are aiming for the market gap that the larger houses ignored...until now.
November 28th, 2007 @ 9:12 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

A part me of wonders how long it will take before the mainstream presses realize what booming business the whole online erotic romance/erotica market is and start making insulting comments about women liking MM stuff. They know about Ellora's Cave, but they have no idea about the extent of the popularity of MM and MMF stuff, right?
November 28th, 2007 @ 6:56 PM