Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Wearing My Scarlet R in SFF Circles
Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
Jackson, of course, is above both activities, as he needs to devote time to thinking Deep Thoughts.
I was having a conversation with a writer friend a bit ago about how I see my career, particularly as a cross-genre writer. For those who don't know, I have a Fantasy Romance series (Covenant of Thorns), one that's more solidly Fantasy, with romantic elements (The Twelve Kingdoms) and right now I'm working up a proposal for an Epic Fantasy with my agent. At the same time, I also write contemporary erotic romances (the Facets of Passion and Falling Under series). I also have a few books that even more gleefully blur these lines, being both erotic and fantastic (Master of the Opera, Petals and Thorns and the Blood Currency series).
Because of all this, I belong to both RWA (Romance Writers of America) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). I've been in RWA much longer, largely because I could join as a newbie, where SFWA requires stiffer publication credentials. So, I'm still learning my way around the SFWA community. While most everyone has been wonderful and welcoming, I am sometimes aware of the scarlet R on my chest. Nobody has openly scoffed or insulted my Fantasy books, but people have kindly said that they don't read books like that or that they don't read romance. With one male fantasy writer I've long admired and read, I screwed up my courage to show him a copy of The Mark of the Tala, telling him it's up for Book of the Year with RT Magazine. He didn't even read the back cover copy - admittedly, this was at an RWA event, so my scarlet R was blazing bright - and he handed it to his wife, saying that it might be the kind of book she'd like.
Yeah, okay - that made me want to kick him.
Still, I know that I can't go around kicking everyone who so blithely dismisses my books because of my scarlet R. I'm pretty sure that doesn't build relationships. I'm really okay with people reading my books and not liking them (I might sulk a little and weep into my whiskey, but I'm reasonably Zen about it), but it irks me to have my books dismissed out of hand. So, while I nursed the hope that The Mark of the Tala might be nominated for a Nebula Award, I wasn't all that surprised that it didn't make the final cut. After all, I'm pretty sure not many SFWA voting members read it.
(The Nebula Awards are different in that we can't enter our books for consideration. They have to be nominated by other members, and then receive enough nominations to make the top six. Unlike RWA's RITA awards, where we pay to enter our books and judges receive a stack to read and score.)
So, as my friend and I sat and drank wine, talking about our writing careers, she suggested to me that I'd have an easier time of it if I downplayed the romance in my fantasies. Or took it out altogether. Believe me, I know plenty of women SFF writers who've done this, in order to be taken more seriously. Oddly enough, I don't know any male writers who've felt they had to do this.
And I think she's right. I could do that. But I'm not going to. People who know me well will tell you I'm stubborn. They'll say it with both love and exasperation. More than once it's been suggested to me that I should be less stubborn. I'm stubborn about that, too. Being stubborn means sticking to what I believe is right, to how I want my books and my stories to be. I see absolutely no reason why I can't have romance in my fantasies. I think men could read my fantasies and not have their masculinity or SFF integrity reduced. I think a man can do better than glance at my book and hand it to his wife before the girl cooties rub off on him.
Thus, I wear my scarlet R openly on the SFWA forums. I refuse to apologize for it, or even downplay that aspect of my work. Yes, it's a more difficult path, but I feel anything less is admitting to some kind of shame or embarrassment - or that romance is somehow a lesser genre. I know some people think that. I don't.
When I explained all of this to my friend, she said, "You should write a blog post about this."
So I have, here at Here be Magic - where romance and SFF meet, blend and have a helluva party.
Labels: Crossing genres, Jeffe Kennedy, Nebula Awards, RITA awards, RWA, SFWA
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of romantic fantasy. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.
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Nooooo! Don't take the romance out of your fantasy! It's exactly what I want to read and it's already so hard to find. It's strange. A lot of my early faves like McAffrey and Hambly wrote similar books to the ones you're writing now. Shouldn't there be more acceptance by now?ReplyDelete
Wouldn't you think so?? It's weird to me that this attitude persists fifty years later. I want to tromp all over it in my stilettos until it's dead, dead, dead!Delete
Great post. For years I felt like I had to hide my romance habit from my SFF friends. Now that I'm older I just shrug. I like both, thanks. And I find it incredibly hypocritical when old-school SFFers complain about being 'ghettoized' but turn around and does the same thing to the romance genre.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Nicole. I know what you mean. I guess being able to ghettoize another genre means you're not at the bottom of the list! *eyeroll*Delete
I agree with Eleri--you must not take the romance out of your fantasy! I really enjoyed The Mark of Tala and the romance was a big part of that. Yes, it would have worked otherwise, but I think love is a great motivator in fantasy and science fiction. It's a great reason for our heroes to do things differently--make mistakes, or step way outside of their comfort zone.ReplyDelete
When I got my first book published, I proudly showed all the cover to my friends and they took one look at the couple leaning together and said "I thought it was supposed to be science fiction". It was kind of a crushing moment because the book was (is) science fiction. But because of the romantic elements, it was immediately dismissed as a book for girls.
Regardless, a couple of my male friends did read it and they really liked it. So, they're still my friends. :D
On the other hand, when I explain I write science fiction to the women I work with, they immediately assume that I write books for teenagers. Um, no.
Preconceptions are stupid things...
Oh, Kelly! Thank you! It makes me so happy that people like you love those books. I think the romance is an important aspect, too. Sorry about your experience with your book - people can be such idiots. I should add that the men who HAVE read my Twelve Kingdoms books and liked them are also my friends. I really appreciate them.Delete
It's funny that nearly every action adventure has some aspect of romance in it. (Even if they are in the midst of running for their lives, with guns blazing.) Yet, no one ever suggests to the men who write them to take out the hot sex scene. Ugh! Good for you on sticking to your guns, Jeffe. Viva la romance!ReplyDelete
Right? Because it makes those manly heroes so much more sympathetic. Thanks, Reese!Delete
I, too, have the scarlet R. But what it comes down to is that we write what we write, and I'm not willing to change...ReplyDelete
Love to write what I write! :-)Delete
Keep the romance! You do it so well and if that's the book that you want to write--regardless of its genre-- then that's what you write. It's yours (and your readers love it!)ReplyDelete
aww - thank you! I do love it. I'm not sure I could keep out the romance if I tried!Delete