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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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romantic shenanigans are like music, you just need to know what you're hearing
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
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.


*meekly raises hand*
I'm about 25,000 words through the shameless SGA harlequin I'm writing now. At least I know I'm not alone...

*gives you a hundred brownies*

I adore that John/Bates fight all out of proportion

THEY FOUGHT OVER RODNEY. OH MY GOD. I WAS PASTING THAT TO EVERYONE IN AIM GOING "OH MY GOD."

God I loved that. And John with all the wanting to claim and then like going to Carson for a nervous breakdown and I am yelling "CLAIM HIS ASS. CLAIM IT. HE'LL LIKE IT! HE WILL!" at the screen.


I will cautiously raise my hand, here. I have to be in the right mood to read these fics and others like them, and I'm seldom in that mood. But when I am, I am glued to my screen.

*nod* It *is* definitely a mood thing, but romance is my total comfort and happy place. I am in the mood a *lot*. *g*

It would be nice if people weren't shamed out of ever writing such stories...

I agree completely. Do not even start me on the disrespect romance gets in general.

"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."

I think I started laughing hysterically here and then didn't stop until

But they're in love! They're in love!"

Because yeah, I totally get where you're coming from:)

I want my romance, dammit. I mean, all the other stuff is great, but we need more romance too.

I sulk about this a lot.

::nodnodnod:: ::nodnodnod::

(No, really, that's all I've got. Except maybe for this: WORD.)

*glee* I knew there were more of us!

I loved the Harlequin challenge deeply. I am not ashamed. I love reading fanfic based on soap operas. I love reading fanfic based on romantic movies. I love *wrestling* when it has romantic storylines, and I read *that* fanfic. I *wrote* fanfic in wrestling and soap operas!

Fic in any form that makes people happy is never shameful. These people do God's work.

They totally do. And they give me duels to the death. *hearts*

I'm with you on this. There are things that fall into this category that I just personally find over the top and can't read, but I get where you're coming from.

Acafan moment:

Janice Radway says some really interesting things about romance readers. She talks a lot about the readers she interviewed valuing romances for the story's ability to show the "essential importance of love to a full, human life" and romances vicariously supplying "attention, nurturance, and care" the women (the readers were all women) didn't always receive in daily life (and as far as the novels go, they're not expected to dispense care, etc. in return).

The quotes are from
Radway, Janice A. "Reading is Not Eating: Mass-Produced Literature and the Theoretical, Methodological, and Political Consequences of a Metaphor." Book Research Quarterly 2 (Fall 1986): 7-29.

which I recently read, though I think her book _Reading the Romance_ is better known, not to mention easier to find than a journal from the 80s.

*nods* Oh, completely. And some I don't like because of whatever random reason, but the genre itself is one of my favorites.

I need to read that. There's a lot of focus on social and etc issues in current meta, but a real lack of it on the importance of genre as well, and the fact that we are more than our intensive studies of the value of the genderfuck and mpreg as symbols of something or other.

(I am rabidly non-intellectual. *g*)

Stray surfer you don't know, here...

but I just had to leave a comment saying YES!


YES

Those two fics are two of my most read ones, and I unashamedly adore them.

Re: Stray surfer you don't know, here...

Not only in my folder, but in one of my del.icio.us accounts, *just in case* i want to read them and I don't have my laptop.

I need my hit, dammit.

I am with you. I am WITH you. It's one of the reasons I completely love (and have abandoned all shame in admitting that I love) soulbonding fic, mindbonding fic, One True Love fic, that perfect focus on the Pair That Is Beyond Perfect For Each Other.

It's escapist, yes, and sometimes it wanders over the edge into completely unrealistic. But I don't CARE, I love it, I eat it up. I want my two characters to be so necessary for each other that if one is oblivious, or goes away, the other pines and doesn't eat and fades, slowly, heartbroken. I want the two of them (three of them? Whatever) to be utterly necessary to each others' survival.

It's my very favorite thing. So I thank you for making this post, because it made me stood up and cheer and say "YES YES THAT EXACTLY!" out loud!

I want my two characters to be so necessary for each other that if one is oblivious, or goes away, the other pines and doesn't eat and fades, slowly, heartbroken.

YES! THAT RIGHT THERE.

There has got to be more soulbonding and mindbonding and all of it. MUST BE THERE. It is the highest pinnacle of freaking one true love romance; YOU GET INTO THEIR MINDS TOO.

I am totally getting high *thinking* about it.

YES. (And do not get me started on how much crap I see romance readers getting from fanfic readers/writers in general. Grrrrrrr.)

I *love* romance novels. LOVE them. And when a piece of fanfic manages to capture that, it's even better.

It really is awesome when fanfic does it right, because it's like my two favorite things--my fandom and One True Love. HAPPY!

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

I... think I've read that book. Or possibly it was a Norman warrior. Or a sheikh. Or a medieval Italian mercenary captain.

I do believe I squeed over the John/Bates fight in Coming Home. And I'm totally with you on the rivals fighting and people growling over their mates.

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.

This reminds me so much of Spike in BtVS - and a discussion I read somewhere that was suggesting the reason Buffy has difficulty with his love is because it is that huge romantic kind of love and we are taught now that this isn't entirely healthy. Which I think is probably true that this attitude comes through, or why would so many of us feel that enoying that kind of romance in fiction is a guilty pleasure?

There are definitely books and fics that I would... be ashamed of liking isn't quite the right phrase, but I would feel a defensive need to explain why I liked them.



I didn't, before fandom. Before slash, actually, and I started reading more and more meta on it and what people recced and it became--problematic for me to admit that I liked the beautifully written exploration of Clark and his world and superpowers--but I was sort of panting over the one where Lex was mindcontrolling Clark in his Fortress Lair. Just--yeah, no way to get that one across well.

Okay, y'all, that fight was *epic*. There should be *odes* about that damn fight. *glee*

Hmm. First of all I HAVE NO SUCH FOLDER *shifty*

..*proves your point* *G*

I think-- for me at least-- I get annoyed by certain romance fic in fandom because if I'm not in the right mood I hate hate hate my sekrit guilty stories even as I'm reading them because in order for some of them to exist, what I have to IGNORE (in characterization at least) is huge and vast and really annoying.

It's not that I hate the genre, because I too sometimes deeply deeply crave OMGONETRUELOVE romance. See: Why Ami stuck around in TPM for so long and still goes back there from time to time. It's that I'd LOVE that to read that genre in FANFIC (because it's not the same issue if I pick up a romance novel, at least in terms of canonical characterization) and not have to ignore ignore ignore everything that is completely illogical and/or out of character. ...follow?

(edited for clarity.)

Edited at 2008-02-17 11:04 pm (UTC)

*nods* And I understand the characterization issues on taht one, because to do it real, to do romance like it has to be, characterization has to be bent. Well, for all fanfic, characterization has to be bent, but for some reason, we tend to think for some reason it can't be bent for romance. No clue what is up with that.

AMEN SISTER.

When you find these fics, plz do not keep to yourself! :D :D :D

*grins* When my instinctive knee jerk will *stop*, I'll be a lot happier.

While I don't necessarily agree with you on those particular stories, I do agree about the genre in general and how it is awesome. I mean, I own like a billion of them and nothing is better than reading John and Rodney in one.

Are you familiar with Smart Bitches, Trashy Books? I go to them when I am feeling guilty about my love of the genre. They make me feel better. *G*

Edited at 2008-02-17 11:12 pm (UTC)

yes! I've been casually reading there to see what's new.