At Tor.com, Jo Walton discusses her conflicted relationship with the romance genre and Georgette Heyer. It’s a good post and even the discussion in comments is surprisingly good, given the population of regular commenters at Tor.com, and goes into how the worldbuilding aspects of Heyer’s Regency England appeal to SF fans.
Though I am a bit surprised that Jo Walton lists Mary Stewart, Anya Seton and Madeleine Brent as among the authors who turned her off to the romance genre, since Mary Stewart and Anya Seton were among the better writers of the gothic romance period. And Madeleine Brent was Peter O’Donnell of Modesty Blaise fame who gave us an arsekicking heroine long before that sort of thing was common.
What initially turned me off from the romance genre were the bodice rippers of the 1970s and 1980s with their violence towards women and often outright rape disguised as love. But then Jo Walton is British and the bodice ripper genre was never as popular in Britain and continental Europe for that matter as in the US, so it’s very possible that she escaped those. And indeed, the bodice rippers that turned me off from the entire genre for a long time were second hand import paperbacks from the US that a local bookstore was selling for one or two deutschmarks a pop.
For the past week or so, everybody has been talking about 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, an indie published erotica trilogy that started its life as BDSM themed Twilight fanfic and became a word-of-mouth smash hit, when James “filed off the serial numbers” so to say and indie published the trilogy.
Now my interest in the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon is mainly due to the Twilight link. However, there are no vampires in 50 Shades of Grey, just a kinky millionaire, so it’s not really my topic. Still, following the mainstream media coverage of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, I couldn’t help but notice how condescending most of it was with its talk about “mommy porn”. Here’s one example from the Los Angeles Times. There are others and what unites them all is that the main thrust of the articles is that people are shocked that women – including well off adult married women, i.e. the right sort of women, the women who belong to the target demographic of the papers in question, and even, horror of horrors, mothers – like sex and like reading about it.
Now Smart Bitches, Trashy Books takes on the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and particularly on the condescending media coverage, which once again seems to equate romance novels with porn. It’s a great post. Plus, it’s very telling in general that the best discussion of 50 Shades of Grey has been found on romance blogs, while the mainstream media just talks about “mommy porn” and “horny housewives”.
However, once in a while the mainstream media does manage a non-condescending article. For example, in Time Erika Christakis also takes on the condescension dripping from most articles about 50 Shades of Grey and asks why people are still shocked that women have sexual desires.
Interestingly, indie writers – while usually eagerly jumping on any story of a plucky indie writer jumping to bestseller status – have been surprisingly silent about the success of 50 Shades of Grey. Probably because it’s erotica and many indie writers don’t feel comfortable with erotic fiction.
Moving to the opposite side of the literary spectrum, the 2012 award of the Leipzig Book Fair goes to Berlin writer Wolfgang Herrndorf for his novel Sand. Herrndorf was unable to attend the ceremony, because he is suffering from a brain tumor. He blogs, too.
The German political blog Nachdenkseiten has read Joachim Gauck’s book Freiheit (Freedom), so we don’t have to. Now Freiheit is a quick cash-in bestseller, if there ever was one – a slim non-fiction tome rushed into publication, when his chances at becoming president became clear. Plus, nothing in the post makes me inclined to change my opinion about Joachim Gauck.
And regarding Gauck’s predecessor Christian Wulff, Nachdenkseiten also raises the question whether calling for reisgnations whenever there is a criminal investigation conducted against the prominent politicians (and investigation, not a trial or even a judgment) is harmful for both democracy and the justice system, because politicans who may well be found not guilty of whatever the problem is lose their offices over a mere shadow of a doubt, while prosecutors are reluctant to open investigations against a prominent politician, unless they have overwhelming evidence, because even the slightest suspicion can trigger resignations.