Respect or Lack Thereof
So often I hear writers in the romance genre whining and moaning about the lack of respect we get from the rest of the literary world (me included). Some of that disrespect is undeserved. Let’s face it, there’s a lot to be said for excellent character development, good motivation and plotting, all of which can be found in romance books. To have romance called fluff implies that there’s no substance to the writing. If someone calls romance fluff, they’ve clearly not read a romance in many years.
The Darth Vader Effect
Then you have the dark side of romance, and I’m not talking paranormal. This is where some of our lack of respect is well earned. I’m talking about the petty sniping that goes on—particularly on the Internet, whether it’s loops, blogs or email. Anymore it seems that flaming people who disagree with you is standard behavior. Snark, which some people call comedy / satire, is also the norm. I happen to love satire (Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, SNL, SouthPark) but poorly written snark just isn’t funny, and most of the romance snark I’ve seen is, IMHO, a shadowy imitation of amusing.
Recently, I’ve read comments and posts from writers who I would classify as being fairly well-known in the romance industry and possibly outside of the genre. Their commentary has been made in a public or semi-public forum. By semi-public, I mean that nowhere on the Internet is anyone safe from having their words kept private. Even on so-called “private loops” what you say can come back to bite you like a rabid dog. If it’s out there, it can be cut and pasted, etc. While the posts I’m referring to haven’t offended me, they have made me stop and think because of their tone. Do established authors need to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to public comment? I ask this question not because I have an answer (maybe I will by the end of this post *shrug*), but because I’m curious about the possibility the question presents.
How Much Is That Opinion In the Window
When an established author expresses an opinion, I think that opinion carries weight. The higher up the career ladder, the more weight is given to that author’s words primarily because there are writers and readers who look up to that author. So what happens if the author expresses their opinion in a manner that comes across as harsh, abrupt, snide or otherwise less than what might be considered respectful of the opinions of others? If someone from outside the genre sees that comment, and views it in a negative light, does it do damage to the author and/or to the romance genre overall?
Personally, I think that’s a pretty valid question, and I think the answer is yes, it can do damage. When the topic du jour was the RWA graphical standards, I saw industry folks OUTSIDE of the romance community talking about how we were idiots. It sure didn’t earn us brownie points in the respect arena. While I don’t expect romance to get “respect” anytime soon, I do think everything romance writers do to project a professional appearance to the world outside of the romance genre can and does come into play. So if one is a leader in the romance genre, is it reasonable to expect that these lead authors should always present their commentary in a manner that’s thoughtful and balanced with an eye toward the world watching their words?
Straddling the Fence
Straddling the Fence
I’m on the fence about it because I’m not sure how this particular issue really affects others opinions, or if we really care. Maybe it really is all about making a living at the writing, and one needs to just say screw anyone who finds romance fluff. However, I do believe every romance writer is supposed to behave professional at all times. Do we all have opinions and the right to express them? Absolutely. But we are ambassadors for our genre, and as such there is some accountability. God knows, I’ve opened my mouth far too many times and inserted foot much to my regret and chagrin.
The question of how much we express ourselves and the manner in which we do it is really up to each individual author, but I confess that I expect more from the leaders in our genre, simply because their words carry more weight. That might be an unfair expectation on my part, I’m not sure, but it does make one wonder, doesn’t it. So what’s your take? Do you think leaders in the romance genre should weigh their words so that romance is seen in a positive light, or does it even matter?