Monday Morning Stepback: With Two Full Weeks' Worth of Ire

The regular links, opinions and personal updates post

Links of Interest

*AnimeJune’s B- review of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander at Gossamer Obsessions is the funniest and truest thing I have read online in weeks. Close your eyes if you are a Jamie fan, because this is how she sums up the book:

Jamie Fraser is Awesome and Everyone Wants to Have Sex with Him. For 800 pages.

*Casablanca author Abigail Reynolds  is wondering Are Regency romances Paranormal by Definition?

*At Novel Readings, Rohan Maitzen links to and discusses three posts about the state of literary blogging, one of which is pretty pessimistic:

Literary blogs are (unwittingly, I hope) abetting the capitalist imperative to get out “product” as quickly as possible. New books appear, are duly noted, presumably consumed, and then we’re on to the next one. ,,, Once the book has passed its “sell by” date, nothing else is heard of it and every book is considered in isolation, as a piece of literary news competing for its 15 seconds.

*I have a special fondness for long time romance readers’ reminiscences about the genre, so I loved the lengthy, detailed post by Ann Marble at All About Romance on the demise of Silhouette:

As I learned from a talk at an RWA Conference, Nora Roberts submitted her first romance to Harlequin in the late 1970s but was rejected because “they already had their American writer.” Whoops. Big mistake, Harlequin. Luckily for Nora, Silhouette was established shortly after that, and the rest is history. American history, that is. Americans were not only hungry for romance, they were hungry for American romances.

*Black Static has a post on representation of women in horror anthologies.

*Over at Promantica, Magadalen relates how she was rude to a well known author at the New Jersey RWA and reframes her experience in terms of her fraught personal history with women and the difficulty of writing in a genre that demands sisterhood.

*I don’t actually read The Awl — the posts are meh — but I subscribe to it in my Google reader because post titles like “Dog Bites Man in Insufficiently Prurient Way”, “Does Stabbing Someone 50 Times Convey Intent to Murder?” and “My Quiet, Mostly Disgusting Adventures with Natural Deodorant” are so hilarious. The Awl has just set up a new sister site, The Hairpin, by and for women. So far, it’s not very funny or interesting or even womeny. But we’ll see.

The New York Times published an interesting piece on The Awl recently:

The very idea of a little digital boutique flies in the face of all manner of conventional wisdom, chief of which is that scale is all that matters in an era of commoditized advertising sales. The Awl is attempting to tunnel under those efforts by building a low-cost site that delivers a certain kind of content for a certain kind of audience. And the owners don’t have to get rich — The Awl has no investors — they just have to eat.


The Awl confronts the tyranny of small numbers in an age when Web behemoths, like Gawker Media and The Huffington Post, get most of the attention. A lot of ad agencies don’t want to deal with any sites under a million unique visitors, and many brands are not necessarily interested in cutting deals with boutique Web sites.

*Sandy at The Good the Bad The Unread wrote a post earlier this month on bad reviews, saying basically they are ok as long as the reviewer is not mean or snarky, and is not too critical. Lynne Connelly, whose books I have never read but whose Ponderings posts at TGTBTU I usually enjoy, wrote this:

I’ve seen quite a few sites springing up recently which seem to exist just for snark, to try to make a name for the site owner rather than the author.

Really? I would love to know which sites these are, because I subscribe to pretty much every romance blog in the known universe, and the ones I see springing up are filled with glowing reviews, fawning author “interviews”, annoying flash ads, and loads of contests, interspersed with the occasional “sponsored post” for some obscure non-book product.

*I blogged two weeks ago about a couple of critical pieces by second wave feminists of today’s young feminists. Here’s a response from Beauty Schooled, a blog I enjoy quite a bit:

Because Pollitt also doesn’t understand why we spend so much time getting worked up about Levi’s Curve ID jeans ads and snack foods that want us to be thinner: Feminism is about getting that stuff out of your head. But if that’s the case, feminism has been a big, fat failure for around 90 percent of women. That stuff is in our heads, and it’s in our little sisters’ heads and our daughters’ heads at a frighteningly young age. You can’t keep on ignoring the beauty myth, hoping it will go away. Because it didn’t.

She argues that we object to Big Beauty and yet remain in its thrall, one explanation of why women today reserve the right to blowout our hair and demand equal pay. But I think what we’re trying to do is much more nuanced and more difficult than that. We’re figuring out how to engage with beauty on our terms, not because it continues to hypnotize us, but because again, it didn’t go anywhere when feminists tried the wholesale rejection approach. So we have to negotiate it, to pick our battles more carefully, and to allow that “choice” does mean women can have different interpretations of what works for them here, and still work together on other issues.

Three Sources of Ire:

1. A while back, I read an article on romance in a peer reviewed feminist journal that bothered me so much, I blogged about all the problems with it. I then emailed the editor with a list of my concerns (compiled and framed with the help of Laura Vivanco of Teach Me Tonight). I felt that the author had misrepresented the work of several scholars, among other problems, and that the journal might want to know this, so that it could take steps to correct the record. I know several people are interested in the outcome, so here it is: the editor replied to my email, essentially rejecting 100% of my complaints.

I may write something up for the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, so that the problems with the essay that I outlined in the blog post can get a more permanent and scholarly home.

2. This cover, which was displayed prominently at the bioethics conference I attended last weekend:

Really, Georgetown? Really?

3. This kind of argument:

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed rereading [Dracula] so much: it reminded me that this is how vampires and vampire stories are meant to be – terrifying, horrifying, violent. This beast is disgusting, amoral and predatory. He hunts, he feeds, he kills. That’s it.

Dracula is not cool, sexy or sensitive. He’ll never be a teenage girl’s ideal sweetheart. He’s not funny or kooky or “just different”. He’s bad to the bone, and Dracula is a visceral, draining and overwhelming horror novel … which is the way it should be.

Maybe some of us find it more terrifying — and interesting — to explore what it means for a fictional protagonist to engage with a morally ambiguous vampire, or to be attracted — not compelled, but willingly attracted — to one. Maybe a monster who is not clearly Other, but who is is thisclose to being one of us is actually scarier. Maybe some of us like the way the new vampires force us to ask the question: who is the monster here?

The way it “should be” is this: writers tell the stories they want to tell about vampires, and readers choose stories they want to read.


I nuked my Facebook account, maybe temporarily, but it feels so good it may be permanent. I loved blogging the minute I started doing it — and still do —  and, while my relationship with Twitter was more fraught,  I have settled into a routine that feels comfortable (esp love my early mornings chats with the Europe and Aussie/NZ folks!). FB never felt right to me. I hated the ads, and frequent requests for things, the need for constant vigilance about privacy settings, my lack of trust in Facebook’s protection of my privacy (click this link for the latest episode — an app developer has sold users’ personal info), and the mixing of so many different people from different aspects of my life, past and present. I hated the constant cheeriness, and the “friends” who feel the need to post flattering pictures of themselves from every possible angle (I was “friends” with some people who had over 100 profile pictures. Is that really necessary?).  I didn’t like reading tweets that I had already read on twitter. It was awkward to reconnect with folks I hadn’t communicated with in 20 years, only to never have another thing to say to them after the first flurry of emails. I think it must be generational, because when I walk through the student union on campus, every laptop is open to Facebook. How do you manage it?

Amazingly, this week does not look like hell, so I may be able to blog some. I hope to write a post on disgust and sex, and a response to a post at another blog on romance readers’ susceptibility to suggestion.


24 responses

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Monday Morning Stepback: With Two Full Weeks’ Worth of Ire | Read React Review: Rethinking romance and other fine fiction --

  2. That review for Outlander is the best I’ve read. I was laughing and nodding my head the entire time, and I liked Outlander.


  3. Cheryl Brooks said in her Casablanca blog: “In a way, the traditional Regency romance really is a paranormal – it’s set in a mutually agreed upon fantasy world that bears a slight resemblence to an actual period in English history, but one in which men are enlightened and sensitive creatures and women far more outrageous than they would ever have dared to be in reality.” These are not the Regencies I read and collect — or should I say — not every Regency conforms to this formula. I have to disagree. I have a considerable collection of OOP Regencies — who would call a standard Emma Lange hero (just to grab an example) an “enlightened and sensitive creature”? Not me.

    Look at the Regencies listed in or … these are my idea of traditional Regencies. Throw in Georgette Heyer and you’ll see that my Regency world is different from the one you’re describing.


  4. I only know of a few snarky reviewers. They are the same ones everyone knows about and they are known for it for years now. But a crop of new bloggers trying to be snarky to garner attention? I don’t know of them either.

    And I also dispute that people are intentionally snarky in a review to make a name for themselves. I think most reviewers write reviews according to their own personalities and style of expression, not to become a name. You can see it in their non review posts that they write the same way. It’s just who they are and their style.

    Yes, there might be a few who are trying to make a name, but I haven’t come across them.

    About Facebook. I only hang onto mine to see what others are up to. I stopped posting on it and I deleted all the apps, my old posts, my likes and and other personal information after the last round of privacy issues before the app fiasco. I debate with myself constantly if I should just delete it.


  5. Great links as always that quote about the state of the literary blog and getting product out really rang true. I struggled with that big time this past year.

    Also amen on the vampire bit…if you like scary inhuman vampires, fine but don’t tell me I can’t like any other kind. :P


  6. I have a fondness for evil vamps. Just suck my blood and skip the existential moral dilemmas.
    Jamie – my favorite romance hero of all time and yes, 800 pages of wanting to have sex with him and then some. I can skip the rest.
    Facebook – I haven’t decided if it’s a necessary evil or not. I only look at my page if I receive a notification of something. I don’t chat.
    Ah, the feminist movement. I’m a feminist from way back – burned my bra at the age of 14, but I’ve very happily and deliberately been a stay-at-home mom because the way I figure it, the best gift I can give this screwed up planet is kids who won’t make it any worse. My choice. And believe me, I’ve taken a lot of shit for it.


  7. I tend to like my vampires evil – but will still read the occasional Romancelandia vampire hero. I just don’t want a steady diet of ’em.

    I would so nuke my Facebook page in a heartbeat – if it weren’t for my sisters. Lil’ Sis uses her Facebook page like a blog – and it’s an easy way for me to see the latest pictures of the kidlets. Other than that? Meh. If they handed out grades for “good Facebooking” I’d probably be getting a D.


  8. I do apologize: that should have been Abigail Reynolds!! Sorry about that … @Janet W: … but while I’m in apologizing, have you read An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley because Lucien does hit Beth and that did cause quite a controversy. Not being a lawyer, I don’t know the law about hitting wives … I vaguely recall something about diameter of stick but maybe that’s colonial America?


  9. I enjoyed Anime June’s Outlander review last week :) Shared it with the brother-in-law, who reads SF/F and listened to the first 2 books on audio. He laughed himself silly and LOVED her review, then checked out the rest of her blog for more SF/F reviews and lamented that she focuses on romance.


  10. Aloha! Your ability to find these links is astounding!

    Regarding your remark, “ones I see springing up are filled with glowing reviews, fawning author “interviews”, annoying flash ads, and loads of contests, interspersed with the occasional “sponsored post” for some obscure non-book product.”

    Hmm … I resemble two/fifths of the remark! Many authors donate books for me to giveaway to military spouses. Since these authors are new to the spouses, I interview the authors on my blog. I ask offbeat questions but I make the effort to put their best foot, er, book forward. I also have “loads of contests”, giving away “non book” stuff to share the Aloha spirit (this month I am giving away surfboard shaped key chains because it is the start of the Surf Season). But I don’t post reviews, flash ads, or other sponsored stuff.

    Then again, I’m upfront that my blog is open to any reader interested in romance, military issues, and Hawaiian culture.

    Almost time for Hawaii Five O …


  11. Just jumped through the links and loved AnimeJune’s review of ‘Outlander’. I like both sorts of vamps depending on the context that the story creates. Romancelandia vamps can be very angsty which is great. What I don’t like is when they are simply humans with teeth. Being a vamp is as much about being part of a culture as it is about drinking blood and I like to read how that is worked out in the story. Re facebook. I can understand that between twitter and blogging that it isn’t relevant for you. For me facebook connects me with a bunch of people, so that when we meet we have an awareness of what is going on in each other’s lives and this is good when illness keeps me at home a lot. I share links and will occasionally rate my reading on facebook so maybe I use it a bit like a mini-blog.


  12. Oh dear god, I giggled my way through the Outlander review, completely awesome. Thanks for the link.

    Facebook – gave in and got an account a few years ago; I use it more often now than I used to but my reason is being at least about 3000 miles from most of my family and friends. It’s an easier way to keep in touch for me. When I move closer, it may go away. I see it as a communication tool and block most of the apps and other people’s FarmVille.


  13. @katiebabs: Wait. I am not sure I get your question…

    @Victoria Janssen: Always glad to be of service.

    @Las: I know! Glad it’s getting read and enjoyed by lots of people.

    @willaful: Yeah, that alone is not enough, I agree. Isn’t there more to her argument, though? Maybe I didn’t read it carefully.

    @Janet W: I agree that this point only applies to some regencies, but I would be hard pressed to think of a regency that doesn’t bend some history to fit the genre.

    @LVLMLeah: I seriously think that the “snarky blogger” thing is like a genre myth, a genre legend, like urban legend. most people who refer to them cannot even give you a URL. Even the bloggers that come to mind when we think of snark, only write snarky reviews a small percentage of the time. Juts as an urban legend serves to instill fear in an unknown urban environment, I am starting to think the legend of the snarky reviewers exists to terrify writers who are prone to fear of the internet and social media.

    @Julia Rachel Barrett:

    burned my bra at the age of 14

    I hope this is metaphorical. One of the first things I do in my feminist theory classes is make sure everyone understands that bra burning was never a part of the US feminist movement. Bras are very compatible with feminism, as is SAHMhood.

    @Wendy: I know. I miss seeing my cousins’ kids, and a friend put up pics of a hike she took my son on, that I now can;t see. But 90% of it bugs me. I guess I could try it with just a dozen of so friends.

    @Janet W: Yes, I have read that JoBev, and I hated that scene. I felt the book lost steam in the second half, and struggled to finish it.

    @jmc: I am sure every genre wishes they had their own AnimeJune. But they cannot have her. She is ours.

    @Kim in Hawaii: Well, I am a curmudgeon and prone to dislike anything that is too positive. I cannot help it any more than people who are always upbeat can help it.

    On Hawaii 5-0 I watched the premiere, but I found the lead actor, while handsome, so bland. do you like it?

    @Merrian: That’s a good reminder about different ways people can use FB.

    And yes, humans with fangs doesn’t seem to quite cut it, does it? But I react strongly to blanket criticism of the new vampires because so many of them are written and read by women, and the criticism tends to boil down to “vampires were cool when men wrote them and they were horrific and violent, and the chicks have ruined them.”

    @Kate: Yes, I can see that, and my relatives are the people I miss on FB. But I will always have the phone and email…!


  14. The whole thing about who the author was that Harlequin was all gung ho for before Nora submitted her first book to them. I’m asking if you know because you will be shocked to hear who.


  15. @Amy @ My Friend Amy: I think book bloggers have to balance a lot of things, and one of those things is letting their readers know about what’s new and upcoming. And a second providing a lot of new content. Those can work against slower or longer discussions of older books.

    I know that I try not to just talk about the books everyone in my tiny circle is talking about, and consciously try to read older books and blog about them. But the allure of the shiny new, and of reading what “everyone else” seems to be reading, is there.

    @katiebabs: Hmmmm…. Janet Dailey, perhaps? (I only guess that because you tweeted it!)


  16. Didn’t Mary Roach already write something really similar to that text with the WTF picture of the barbie doll? Is there a market for more of those titles? I wouldn’t have thought so.

    Also, I agree with you re: Hawaii Five-O, but my husband keeps watching it. I’m starting to be interested in the supporting characters, but still feel like the lead is a gaping hole where an actor should be.


  17. Re: Facebook, it’s not a generational thing, I don’t think, but more about conversational habits. I prefer Facebook and use it more often than Twitter because I prefer the way I could look my conversations with my friends there. Each post is still there on my Wall and I can catch all the responses that I’d miss on Twitter. Also, on Twitter, it functions more like IM/Chat to me while Facebook is closer to forum/posts, which I prefer. Being a roofer, I could only play on the Net a couple of times a day and it’s tough to Twitter while on the go, unless you have a smart phone, which I don’t.

    My mother, non-English speaking, non-computer user, uses Facebook and likes it because she gets to look at her daughters’ pics (most of us are overseas). I have a separate family acct for that, of course.

    As for privacy, yes, one has to be careful and vigilant. I don’t use any of the game apps or click on the ads that want to access my acct. No. Way.


  18. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: The Return of Linkity!! Now with even more linkity!!

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