Thursday, March 15, 2012

What He Says... Where M/M Romance is Headed

Barely three years ago I, for shame, had no idea M/M romance existed. I stumbled onto it by accident. Teased really, by characters in the sub-plot of a mainstream novel. I had to have more, and my thirst was quenched when I found this fabulous niche. Now I can't imagine life without out it. It's all I want to read, all I want to write, and all I want is more.

Let's see what the guys have to say about where M/M romance is headed...

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Stuart Wakefield:
As an Indie author I think the possibilities are limitless. I’m amazed at the inventiveness of the authors in the genre. It seems that no kinky little stone is left unturned. While I do sometimes tire of endless tales of sweaty man-love, there is some interesting world-building going on to spice things up and keep readers on their toes.

Charles Edward:
What Stu said. Think of all the literature and all the stories that have been explored over the centuries—every kind of story we’ve ever read. Until recently, you couldn’t find gay characters as heroes or positively portrayed lead characters. If we appeared at all, it was as villains, minstrel-type characters, or (at best) the female lead’s confidante. Now, thanks to the growth of small presses and the improving attitudes in our society, all those types of stories are open to interpretation with gay lead characters. We can finally be heroes as well as villains.

Edmond Manning:
My book is a novel first and a M/M romance second. I sought out a famous/well-published M/M writer as a mentor and after some lovely conversation, he asked to read my work. When finished, he emailed me (quite snottily), “This (King Perry) isn’t a gay romance, it’s literature. And I don’t do literature.” To him, I violated important conventions of the M/M romance field. Personally, I think it’s time to break out of the limitations of that heading, and instead write quality books that anyone might want to read. Maybe there’s romance, maybe there’s sex...and maybe not. Maybe there’s a HFN ending. Maybe a HEA. But what if we invented more than those two options?

Damon Suede:
Homo romance is growing up. It’s sloughing off its amateur roots in slash, and starting to actually pull on its big-boy pants. Career-focused writers have narrative bones to pick and they’re picking them. Readers expect more from us (as they should), and authors and publishers are giving it to them. Increased sales volume demands a level of editorial expertise and promotional diligence. Many M/M covers equal anything you find with mass market genre fiction, which (to be clear) says more about their bottom line than our design footprint. We have matured into a legitimate going concern as a sub-genre and that means BIG changes to the way business gets done. The same-old doesn’t cut it anymore; there are no corners to cut. And anyone who thinks the big six publishing’s incipient push into e-fiction doesn’t spell ruthless competition and shrinking opportunities needs a fucking brain transplant, and a history lesson after. If we want to stay relevant, if we want to succeed, we must evolve.
    Where is M/M and gay romance headed? Onto unlikely shelves and into unexpected hands because more and more people are figuring out that when a story is great, the gender simply doesn’t matter. Genre fiction has always been the backbone of publishing, and we as a community are poised to change things for the better. I remember being a teenager and WISHING I could find a gay novel in which no one committed suicide or got the tar beaten out of them. The world has cooled considerably since then. :P

D.H. Starr:
Hmm, my esteemed blogmates have covered this topic rather well. I think as our society becomes more open-minded and accepting, the genre of M/M romance will have to adapt and adjust to meet changing sensibilities. I like the idea of gay guys being able to be both heroes and villains. I totally agree with Edmond in allowing the book and characters to be what they are and to shed the confines of what is expected. I do think that “romance” should be honored and within that genre, people expect a HEA (or at the very least a HFN). That’s simply part of the genre’s definition. But does romance equal sex? If it’s “erotic romance” I think the answer is yes. Even then, the sex doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be gratuitous. It should move the story forward.
    I’d like to see greater tolerance of such taboos as cheating. That’s real. People cheat and sometimes they are forgiven, and other times they aren’t. One of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun, starts off with a mid-life beauty, Diane Lane, getting divorced because her scumbag husband left her for another woman. I consider that a wonderful romance; not because she finds a man at the end, but because she finds herself. The movie romanticizes self-discovery and acceptance and redefining what it means to be happy. I’d like to see M/M romance move in that direction, and for readers to come to expect a story to provide that kind of experience. A fellow author who I used to critique within a group wrote the book Happy Birthday Nancy Tobin, and I reviewed this book giving it the highest rating. It reminded me of Under the Tuscan Sun and my enjoyment of the book didn’t come from the sex (although the sex was good), but from the journey.

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Where do you think M/M romance is headed?

Thursday, March 29th the boys are back with their thoughts on the age-old debate: Does size matter?

And don't forget, if you have any topics, questions or photos you'd like the guys to tackle, just shoot them my way. We'll make sure you get the credit.

Previous topics:
   Condoms
   Cross-Dressing
   New Year's Resolutions

11 comments:

  1. The cheating comment is interesting. People won't read one of my books because adultery is a central theme. I feel like saying this happens, get over it. But it is a strong no-no for many readers.

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  2. Interesting post. I think this genre is at a serious crossroads...There are writers that I think are almost being held back by trying to fit into the "romance" aspect of this genre. But there are also so many new writers that are coming in, so are adding value and some are taking it away...IMO

    The publishers also have a huge role in this...It's not fun and games anymore. This kind of increase in demand for this kind of fiction means something and it needs to be taken seriously...Anyways thanks for the post. Interesting stuff.

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  3. The inherent question is whether gay literature should distance itself from the often formulaic shackles of MM romance, the straightjacket storylines, and happily ever after endings that are required. I want to read about men as they exist not how women think they are. A prominent MM author with many "titles" under her belt told me she knows men better than men know themselves. Her arrogance stunned me. Men do NOT expect HEA or HFN in their worlds and that MM straightjacket ONLY exists because this is all written for women who want to pretend they are "down with the gays" but who really would be offended if any realism came in. We're talking chicks with dicks stories here anyway so it's gay in name only. To be taken seriously MM will have to let go of the HFN and HEA. It will have to make the sex scenes more the way gay men would actually behave in them. In short, men will need to take it back and purge the demeaning and sexist stereotypes promulgated in the genre if we can even call it a literary genre in the first place. MM may make a lot of money, but so does McDonalds with the Big Mac. MM is all about the "billions sold" mentality. While there is certainly nothing wrong with targeting easy sales, to pretend it is literature is pretty laughable.

    Matthew Darringer

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  4. Before the men storm the publishers and take back their genre, I would just like to say that as a female I don't want the HEA's and HFN's with every single dang on read I pick up. I read the MM genre because of how diverse it is. I want to see into someone else's life for a while. I want to learn and challenge myself not only as a reader but a writer as well.

    I agree Matthew, there are some people who enjoy the cute tied in a pink bow type of stories who would be offended if they ever got to see the bigger truth. I however do not believe that it is only the females. I laugh every time this one male stops reading a book because the couples rim one another.

    I think there needs to be some honest talk about gay romance vs. gay literature. The publishers, readers, and writers all need to ask themselves this very blog post question.

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  5. Sue, I was a little put off this year when the MM group did the anthology pictures. With almost every picture/prompt the reader asked for no cheating, no threesomes, and for everything to end HEA. It really made me sad to think of the stories that could really be told without the strings attached. Write me this, but don't add any truth to the situation. :(

    I'm sorry your book is getting shorted.

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  6. Edmond, whoever said that to you is an asshole (can I say that here? If not, delete me, LC). M/M needs literature. We need to broaden our scope. Part of what I love about writing M/M is the freedom we have to invent new conventions and tropes. Even if we can't find a publisher...

    And yeah, I also found the cheating comment interesting. It's something I didn't think I could deal with in het, but in M/M it's something I'm finding interesting more than a turn off. I still haven't written it, but I think I might be headed there.

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  7. It's interesting to read many people's expectation in this genre.

    Romance has always been formulaic, in het or M/M romance, therefor, readers expecting HEA in their romance are legitimate in their demand. It's not realistic to expect every story with gay characters end up the way readers want to though. I think there should be a distinction of stories with gay characters and M/M romance. Different genre, different rules & expectation.

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  9. Let's try this again. ;-)

    I'll admit, I'm not too crazy about many of the tropes that bind us, especially the sillier ones: instagay (or, worse yet, instagay-for-you, which I find monumentally offensive); instalove; Harlequin-type heroes; unshakable fidelity; limits on MC's ages and age differences . . . and more.

    What I'd love to see, both as a writer and as a reader, is the emergence of an "all-purpose" e-pub -- i.e., one that offers the best in gay romance and literature, and doesn't mind blurring the boundaries between the two. Stories centering on love do not, after all, have to be cheesy. And they don't have to be consigned to some pop-fiction ghetto.

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  10. M/M Romance is definitely its own genre, as is het romance, and bring its own expectations of HEAs and HFNs. If people want to read slit-your-wrists fiction why on earth would they be reading M/M Romance, unless it is to take cheap potshots.

    Within that framework surely it can use some realism as well as fluff.

    The genre is establishing itself with quality authors, and for a genre in relative infancy, from what I've read seems to be coming a long way.

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  11. Wow, Edmond, I have to say, I'm really surprised that someone had the nerve to say that to you.

    And Sue, I've read a number of M/M (and non-M/M, for that matter) books that go into topics that I may not be comfortable with: if they're done well, then the author has me on their side all the way. On paper, there are situations that may not be attractive to me (by the way, infidelity isn't one of them), but it's all in the execution.

    Romance aside, I was looking at an article and list of books recently, which noted Michael Cunningham and Jeannette Winterson (to name two) as gay authors. It also posted some books from James Baldwin, which I remember reading more than 30 years ago in school. Do I think of them as gay authors focusing on gay topics? No - they're great authors whose books have made an impact on me. Were there gay characters in them? Sure - but the stories had impact on me as a human being, because the characters were people not two-dimensional placeholders (this is probably most to your point, Charles, and having said that, I totally see what you mean about public perceptions having come a long way, even as there's further to go).

    As always, I'm babbling a bit. Sorry, LC. I haven't had lunch (or dinner yet!) If I'm totally full of it, I am pleading low blood sugar!!

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