The one thing that's hard for me to admit in fandom is, ironically, my shameless love of the classic bodice-ripper. I mean, as a woman, they hit my non-con and etc buttons, but--there's this part of me that wallows in the delicious rippling pecs of the Viking warrior as he kidnaps the tiny buxom Saxon maiden from her father's keep and takes her to his mountainous fortress for hours and hours of ravishing. Hours and hours of ravishing.
It's like, not only am I going to hell in a handbasket, I bring the tea and scones along with me.
I really, really want more of this in fandom.
It actually is something I was talking about with amireal while we were furtively doing a compare/contrast in our Folders and Bookmarks of Silence we do not talk about and set off my desperate search for Wraith!Queen Rodney, because mind-control is an occasional kink. And in Serious Good Fic I like it--but I roll over like a log when it comes with h/c and delicious delicious angst and magic healing sex attached and more angst and mass disapproval and then Everyone Is Sorry and then more healing sex. And a plus if someone somewhere tries to kill themselves before the healing sex, because that just makes it better.
It's even more annoying because the structure of a romance is usually considered badfic, and it's hard, hard to explain that when I recognize the structure of what I'm reading, how I read and interact with the text changes dramatically. Romance protagonists don't act like people, just like Great Literature people don't act like people, but you're a lot more likely to have people muttering about OOC in romance than Great Literature in fandom. The rules are different, and for some reason, it's really, really hard to argue literary merit.
And try convincing people that romance is not only legitimate but damn good and you will not only get the eye-roll but also the Oh Guilty Pleasure, which is true and makes me ashamed of the fact that I do it, too. And that, I think, is something I learned from fandom. I can compare and contrast romance authors I love with coworkers from system analysts to programmers to project managers to supervisors without missing a beat, but here? It might as well be a sign stating "Ah, those lowbrow interests! How quaint!" before they like, wonder about the state of your high school education and you know, there's a reason I don't drag out my credentials on literature--I don't have any. There's a reason. I never loved literature the way I love romance.
I am, however, a woman, and romance has long been associated with woman--women and bon-bons and soap operas and other, lesser forms of entertainment. You know, much different than Serious Social Issue Fiction and Serious Not-Dramatic But Very Deep Fiction or Serious and Not Over the Top Mission Fiction. Which are all totally awesome, because that's a different structure entirely. And satisfying, except they never have anyone fall desperately, passionately in love and duel to the death for someone, and when I want that, it's surprisingly hard to get.
I like romance. I like deathless proclamations of love and obsession and possessiveness and rivals fighting to the death. I love the word 'claiming' used mid-coital and anyone growling over their mate. I love characters using the word "mate" non-ironically. My fantasy fic is Rodney systematically killing every person John has ever, ever slept with in his entire life while John watches (and likes it!). It's just--call it reptile brain and lowbrow entertainment but it's not something that's easy to find since my flist does not rec this. None of us do. It's sad but true.
(Except for those of us in chat who furtively pass along links with "Oh my God you have to read this" and we dont' even bother with a disclaim of shame, because shame only belongs in the public eye. In private, I sit around debating the merits of Rodney's unwilling pregnancy and John trying to claw his way of the infirmary to get to his mate and sigh. God. Where is that link anyway?)
Well, I did, twice, and both times, the angst level beforehand was hysterical. Angsting over a rec.
My top two romance novels in fandom:
An Affair to Remember by Tira Nog
Coming Home by Xanthe
Once I tried to explain my instinctive reaction to Coming Home (possibly the most read fic in my folder) with "But then they fought over Rodney! I mean--he was going to kill Bates! And then John wanted to claim him! And was having a nervous breakdown about it! And there was bonding! They were soulmates! SOULMATES." And I will never get over the fact we do not get to see John hunt down Kolya after he cut up Rodney and John killing Bates (oh my God, I bet they did it barehanded and right in front of Rodney and I need to lie down and swoon now). I am going to live the rest of my life without that and it hurts, because in romance, nothing stands in the way of true love and there's a body count to prove it. And I want that. I'd pay for that. I have contemplated offering Xanthe money if she will write the rest of this series for me, because this is the fic I will keep the rest of my life and read until I'm eighty. It always has context, and I won't need the fandom to read it. It's romance. It's perfect the way it is.
That conversation did not go well. *sighs* And still doesn't. Pick a person, I try to explain that one, and it's--wow. I have yet to find anyone willing to sit and squee with me over that John and Bates fight. I hate the world so much.
An Affair to Remember was even harder for some reason--I kept having to flail and say "But his legs! And he was afraid he wasn't going to be loved! And the hat! And Monte Carlo! And first-time bottoming angst!" It was surreal. I could not comprehend why no one else was picking up on this. I just kept quoting things and saying "But they're in love! They're in love!" And it was like speaking Greek.
(This one, I have found squee-ers, but they refuse to divulge their names. Bastards.)
And Jesus God do I miss Karen McFaydden (spelling?). Now that was a woman who knew her hurt/comfort--not quite genre romance but close enough. That's art, that's romance, that's changing the baseline of the universe to say, this matters. Nothing else. And that shit is hard. I've tried and I've failed to do anything like these authors. It's not in me to absorb that structure so perfectly that I can make anything possible. I still try, but hitting the level of purity they pull off? I don't know I'll ever have the discipline or the focus or the ability to pursue that single thing without checking myself and thinking, but what will people say?
Romance--not all of it, but personal experience having read a wide swathe of it--the best stuff, the best stuff is the stuff that fucks off everything but the story. Everything is finding and keeping that one true love. People, animals, countries, planets in the way? Screw it. Bring out the swords, stunners, muskets, or phasers (or Doranda level bombs); it's pure in a way that no other fiction really is, focusing and honing itself on that single, shining goal of true love, no matter what, no matter what happens, bring it on because they will totally fucking conquer it.
The thing is--minisinoo once said that a lot of fanfic fell under the genre, and I half agree, but the truth is, if we are, we suck at it very badly. And I speak only for myself, mass consumer of the romance genre market from Harlequin Regency right down to Virginia Henley of the unlikely penis sizes and desperately small women to Johanna Lindsay and Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught and Amanda Quick and Catherine Coulter. We do not do what they do. None of us narrow the universe down to two people and the dynamics between them, the choices they make that are entirely personal and intimate, the bright, shining focus on them. And it's a gift as much as any other, and an art that's so desperately unappreciated it blows my mind.
*sighs* I miss healing sex and angsty hurt/comfort and true love forever. I don't like all of it (I barely like what I write, much less what other people write), but when it's right, when I feel that flicker of recognition--sometimes in the first word, sometimes not for pages (Coming Home hit me out of nowhere; I didn't know what I was reading until the second part when I saw what it was, and then I was sitting at her lj every week waiting for an update and yelling at svmadelyn for every minute it was delayed), when the familiar structure of it falls around me and the part of my mind that's looking for it unfolds and wakes up warily to see "Is this it? This one? Are you sure? Because it sucks to almost get it and then it be something else."
And I get to say, "Yes. Yes. Finally. This one."
When I find it, it's perfect. It's a reading high like no other, and one I can come back to three fandoms later and wallow in, because the structure is still there and I still love what it is.
The thing is--the thing is, it's not bad, and I shouldn't be guilty that I love it. And you'd think that I could break the habit of years in fandom with the prize going to Deep, Meaningful, Socially Relevant, or Choose Your Issue.
I really need to run through the archives again. I know there has to be more of it.
- romantic shenanigans are like music, you just need to know what you're hearing