Pixel Scroll 8/1/20 Scrollers Tick
In Vain

(1) WORLDCON ENDS: FILM AT ELEVEN. Watching CoNZealand’s Closing Ceremonies brought back a memory —

When Winnipeg started its bid for the 1994 Worldcon, chair John Mansfield had everybody on the committee fill out a questionnaire about their interests. On the last day of the convention he returned these forms to everyone saying, “Okay. Here’s your life back.”

At today’s Closing Ceremonies the gavel passed to DisCon III’s Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard.

(2) TABLE SERVICE. Camestros Felapton illustrates an aspect of the 2020 Hugo Award nomination process in “EPH Fan Writer”.

… As each person is eliminated, the points get redistributed. By looking at the change in points for each surviving nominee, you can calculate the proportion of points that the survivor gets from the eliminated.

(3) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. There are several good rundowns on the problems with last night’s Hugo Awards ceremony, including this one from Sean Reads Sci-Fi, “Uh-Oh, the Hugos Were a Hot Mess!”, which includes some good excerpts from the acceptance speeches.

…Some of the history was admittedly interesting, but I kept waiting for Martin to catch up to the present day, to illustrate how the long arc of the Hugos has bent toward justice, how the field continues to evolve to this day. He never did. He stayed rooted firmly in the past, and as the night wore on his stubborn refusal to acknowledge current movements in SF/F began to feel pointedly exclusionary rather than just incidentally so.

And I haven’t even mentioned the names! To mispronounce someone’s name live is one thing. As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that you will occasionally get someone’s name wrong on the first day. But (a) they had plenty of time to practice, (b) they almost certainly were given pronunciation guides by most authors, and (c) this doesn’t excuse the constant mispronunciations during pre-recoded segments, unless, of course, Martin refused to re-record them, which is its own set of problems. The folks behind the scenes should have done more to vet these segments, and should have pushed back harder when it became clear what Martin was doing.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is how the awards themselves drew such a sharp contrast to the nostalgic navel-gazing of the toastmaster. It really felt like the past and the future colliding – and the future won. Literally! The winners often talked about systemic problems within the industry, about the fights that we still have to fight, about the hard work that women, people of color, queer folks, and others have to do in order to even be considered alongside the white/cis/het fuddy-duddies running last night’s show. It was such a welcome breath of fresh air, for instance, when R.F. Kuang, one of the first winners, emphasized the barriers that she faced getting into the field:

If I were talking to a new writer coming to the genre in 2020, I would tell them, well, if you are an author of color, you will very likely be paid only a fraction of the advance that white writers are getting. You will be pigeon-holed, you will be miscategorized, you will be lumped in with other authors of color whose work doesn’t remotely resemble yours. Chances are very high that you will be sexually harassed at conventions or the target of racist micro-aggressions or very often just overt racism. People will mispronounce your name, repeatedly, and in public, even people who are on your publishing team. Your cover art will be racist, and the way people talk about you and your literature will be tied to identity and your personal trauma instead of the stories you are actually trying to tell. If I had known all of that when I went into the industry, I don’t know if I would have done it, so I think that the best way we can celebrate new writers is to make this industry more welcoming for everyone.

R.F. KUANG, ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW SF WRITER

This was refreshing precisely because it’s an aspect of the history of the awards and of the fandom in general that George R.R. Martin, in his endless panegyrics to days gone by, refused to even acknowledge. Pointing out the deep-rooted, structural, and personal racism and sexism at the heart of the industry isn’t a sign of ingratitude – it’s a sign of strength and resolve in the face of tough barriers. As Ng put it in her speech:

Pulling down memorials to dead racists is not the erasing of history, it is how we make history … It would be irresponsible for me to stand here and congratulate us as a community without reminding us that the fight isn’t over and that it extends well beyond the pages of our books … Let us be better than the legacies that have been left us. Let them not be prophecies. Let there be a revolution in our time.

JEANNETTE NG, BEST RELATED WORK

That revolution was in strong form last night, as most winners took the time to celebrate marginalized voices and denounce the forces that marginalized them in the first place. I keep coming back to Martine’s speech, as well – to the knife that hurts all the more because you loved it before it cut you. A trenchant description of an industry and a genre that many loved but were excluded from for so long. That is, thankfully, changing. Not fast enough to prevent last night’s debacle – but fast enough to allow for last night’s inspiring wins

(4) GRRM RESPONSE. George R.R. Martin has commented here on File 770 about some of the reports and criticisms in circulation, beginning with – http://file770.com/2020-hugo-awards/comment-page-2/#comment-1205393

Whoever is circulating the story that I was asked to re-record portions of my Hugo hosting to correct mispronounced names, and that I refused, is (1) mistaken, or (2) lying. Never happened.

CoNZealand did ask me to re-record three of my videos, all for reasons for quality control: poor lighting, poor sound, wobbly camera. I complied with their request on two of the videos, the two that opened the evening; I re-did those live from the JCC. (The originals had been done in my cabin on an iPhone, when we were just trying to get the hang of this thing). The third segment they wanted re-recorded was the bit about the Hugo trophy, where I had some fun with the juicer, the Alfie, and the like. In that case, we decided to stay with the first take, since I no longer had the props on hand and could not easily have reproduced what I’d done at the cabin, which everyone seemed to like.

There is also a story out there that I was provided with the correct phonetic pronunciations of all the names. That too is completely untrue….

(5) YOUR NEW HUGO LOSERS HOSTS. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?

(6) GROWING PAINS. Scott Edelman stirred up some memories that were called out by his sister-in-law in service of an anti-Vietnam War protest.

(7) LEM STORY DRAMATIZED. “Review: A Sci-Fi Classic Featuring a Multiverse of Stooges” comes recommended by a New York Times reviewer.

…You wouldn’t think that the 4-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall space, approximately the same shape as an iPhone screen, would be big enough for a play, let alone an avant-garde company. Yet the closet, only 2 feet deep, is one of the stars of Gelb’s Theater in Quarantine series, which since late March has produced, on a biweekly schedule, some of the new medium’s most imaginative work from some of its simplest materials. As in silent movies, clowning, movement and mime are usually part of the mix.

“The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy,” which was livestreamed on Thursday evening and will remain available in perpetuity on Gelb’s YouTube channel, has all of those and then some. Based on a 1957 story by Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer most famous for “Solaris,” it concerns an astronaut named Egon who, passing through a minefield of gravitational vortexes, is caught in a causal loop paradox that bombards him with innumerable (and insufferable) alternative selves.

Lem’s story is a satire of the infinite human capacity for self-defeat, with the various Egon incarnations bickering and undermining one another as the gyrations of space-time bend them into conflict. When “a meteor no bigger than a pea” pierces the ship’s hull, destroying the rudder, everyone has ideas about fixing it — but since it’s a two-man job, making cooperation essential, nothing actually gets done.

(8) HEARING A DISCOURAGING WORD. Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich asks “Why are all these science-fiction shows so awful?”

Science fiction was once a niche TV commodity, but March brought three major live-action genre projects. Star Trek: Picard finished its debut season on CBS All Access. FX shared Devs with Hulu, pitching the miniseries as prestige bait for the chattering class. Season 3 of Westworld was HBO’s new hope for a buzzy, sexy-violent epic. And they were all terrible….

I get it: We are all scared of phones, and bots, and the Algorithm. Yet by demonizing technology, these projects oddly exonerate the people behind that technology. CEOs with tragic origin stories in Westworld or Devs are puppets for machines they can’t control. Higher-tech powers in Brave New World and “You May Also Like” control whole civilizations comprised of unaware humans.

(9) LIBRARIES TAKE HEAT IN CANADA. Publishers Weekly has the story:“Canadian Libraries Respond to ‘Globe and Mail’ Essay Attacking Public Libraries”.

[Intro] Editors Note: In a nearly 3,000 word opinion piece published on July 25 in ‘The Globe and Mail’ Kenneth Whyte, publisher of Toronto-based indie Sutherland House Books, pinned the troubles of Canada’s independent bookstores and publishers on the work of public libraries….

Publishers Weekly reprinted the Canadian Urban Libraries Council’s response:

It is otherwise hard to understand why public libraries are to blame when bookstores and libraries have coexisted harmoniously and supported each other for decades.

So what’s changed? While there are a lot of changes that point to shifts in the marketplace, such as the research identifying a decline in leisure reading, coupled with less and less space for literary reviews in major news outlets, these are minor compared to the two major developments that have dramatically altered the book and reading landscape—and they have nothing to do with public libraries. First is the explosive growth in popularity of e-books and digital audiobooks. Second, is the increasing dominance of Amazon in the book retail and publishing marketplace.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 1, 1986Howard The Duck premiered. Directed by Water Huyck and produced by Gloria Katz who were also the screenplay writers.  George Lucas was executive producer. Its human stars were Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. Howard The Duck was Ed Gale in the suit with the voice being Chip Zien. Critics almost unanimously hated it, it bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 38% rating. It would be the last Marvel Film until Captain American twenty-one years later. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville.  Without debating – though some do – how far Moby-Dick is fantasy, we can claim some more clearly – hmm, maybe not the best word with this writer – anyway, “Bartleby”, “The Tartarus of Maids”, “The Encantadas”, let’s say nine or ten.  John Clute would include The Confidence-Man.  (Died 1891) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1898 – William Ziff.  I mean Ziff Sr., though Ziff Jr. is noteworthy too.  The elder was the Ziff in Ziff-Davis Publishing, which took over Amazing from Hugo Gernsback, added Fantastic Adventures, comics with art director Jerry Siegel and e.g. John Buscema.  I happen to think this cover for Weird Adventures 10 is feminist – look how the man is fascinated while the woman with him knows they should fear – but then I think Glory Road is feminist, and how many see that?  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May, 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1914 – Edd Cartier.  Oh, how great he was.  Eventually we put him on two Retrospective Hugo ballots.  We think of him as a comedian; true enough, but see this cover for Foundation and Empire.  Vince Di Fate knew; see his treatment of EC in Infinite Worlds.  World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Died 2008)  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1923 Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best-remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1945 – Yvonne Rousseau, 75.  Author, editor, critic, long-time fan.  Australian SF Review, 2nd Series with J. & R. Blackford, Foyster, Sussex, Webb.  Three short stories and a novelette.  Contributor to Banana WingsChungaFlagFoundationJourney PlanetThe Metaphysical Review, Riverside QuarterlySF CommentarySF Eye.  Fan Guest of Honour at ConFictionary, where the fire alarm went off and the hotel actually was on fire.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 66. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us in that he writes genre reviews which are collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.  (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 65. Director who was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1969 – Dirk Berger, 51.  Five dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Sucker Punch.  Here is Empire Dreams.  Here is Nova 23.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 41. I knew I’d seen him before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film franchise and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for its entire run. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1993 – Tomi Adeyemi, 27.  Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Virtue and Vengeance, both NY Times Best Sellers.  Norton Award, Waterstones Book Prize, Lodestar Award.  Parents thought she’d be better off if they didn’t teach her their native tongue (they’re Yoruba), so with an honors degree from Harvard she got a fellowship to study it in Brazil.  Website here.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers a suggestion on how to get started on that post-apocalyptic novel.

(13) BE PREPARED. A Public Service Announcement from the Dread Pirate Roberts channeling Inigo Montoya.

(14) ADVICE FOR SFF POETS. Veteran editor of Star*Line and Mobius: A Journal for Social Change “gives some surprising insights on submissions” in this interview conducted by Melane Stormm at SPECPO.

A must watch for any writer, but especially if you identify as female or if you’re feeling hesitant to submit your work someplace.

(15) ON BRADBURY’S SHELVES. The second installment of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 100 podcast had dropped.

My guest is Jason Aukerman, Managing Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The “Bradbury Center”, as it’s known for short, is the place where Ray’s working papers are held in archive, along with the contents of Ray’s personal library, and many of his professional and personal artefacts such as awards, videotapes and film prints.

(16) BALESTRIERI JOINS READ-A-THON. A Bradbury Read-A-Thon is planned as part of the author’s centenary celebration: “Iowan to join top authors, celebs in sci-fi ‘read-a-thon’” RadioIowa has the story.

A library curator at the University of Iowa will join “Star Trek” actor William Shatner and a list of other celebrities, authors and science fiction experts in a Ray Bradbury Read-a-thon next month. The event on August 22nd will mark what would have been the famed author’s 100th birthday.

Peter Balestrieri, curator of science fiction and popular culture collections at the UI Libraries, says he’s thrilled to be taking part.

“The Read-a-thon will be about 40 people reading segments of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” Balestrieri says. “All of the clips from all of the different readers will be put together into one seamless audio-visual book.”

Balestrieri will read a six-minute portion of the book as part of the roughly-four-hour event. Top sci-fi authors who will also read aloud include Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Liu and Steven Barnes, as well as former NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

(17) THAT’S NOT GOOD NEWS. “Nasa: Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has gone into hibernation, space agency says” at Yahoo! News.

Nasa‘s Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has sent itself into hibernation, the space agency has said.

The spacecraft was sent to space Thursday in a launch that had no technical problems – even despite an earthquake that struck just before liftoff, and a preparation period that came during the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after it was launched, Nasa announced that it had received its first signal from the spacecraft.

But soon after it was in space and headed towards Mars, it became apparent that something had gone wrong with the craft. After that initial signal, mission controllers received more detailed telemetry or spacecraft data that showed there had been a problem.

The signal, which arrived on Thursday afternoon, showed that the spacecraft had entered a state known as “safe mode”. That shuts down all but its essential systems, until it receives new messages from ission control.

The hibernation state is intended to allow the spacecraft to protect itself in the case of unexpected conditions, and will be triggered when the onboard computer receives data that shows something is not as expected.

Nasa’s engineers think that the state was triggered because part of the spacecraft was colder than expected while it was still in Earth’s shadow. The spacecraft has now left that shadow and temperatures are now normal, Nasa said in an update.

Mission controllers will now conduct a “full health assessment”, the space agency said, and are “working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars”.

(18) TOLKIEN SAYS. At BookRiot: “28 J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes From His Books, Essays, And Letters”.

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —The Fellowship of the Ring

(19) NAVIGATING ON VIRTUAL SEAS. Mlex reports  on the Cyberpunk Culture Con (July 9-10), with some commentary on other virtual cons (BaltiCon, ConZealand, Fantastikon): “Cyberpunk Culture Conference”.

…I want to report on the recent virtual con, the Cyberpunk Culture Conference (Jul 9-10, 2020), which managed to swim perfectly through the fantastic milieu of the future that has already become the past, and floated out from the wreckage on that frenzied ouroboros of possibility waves as easily as a swimmer takes to an inflated tire inner tube on a summer pond.

The conference sprang up around recent books published by Routledge, which are quite excellent, I should add…

(20) 3D. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Great article about racing and 3D printing — “3-D Printing, a Boon for Racers, Inches Closer for Carmakers” — in the New York Times. Here’s two key ‘graphs from the top:

The Belgian racing team Heli had an engine problem. Specifically, under race conditions, the manifold of the four-cylinder turbo diesel in its BMW 1-series exploded, bursting along an ultrasonically welded seam that held together the manifold’s two halves.

…In 2018 Heli took the problem to ZiggZagg, a Belgian company that fabricates parts using an HP 3-D printer. ZiggZagg made a digital scan of the two-piece manifold and after 10 hours had a digital blueprint for a stronger, lighter, one-piece manifold. In its first race with the new manifold, printed using what is known as PA 12 nylon, the part held up and Heli took third. That same manifold lasted until the car was retired earlier this year.

(21) THE DRAGON RETURNING – MAYBE. NPR reports “Astronauts Set To Return To Earth In First U.S. Splashdown In Decades”.

The two astronauts that blasted off in the first private space vehicle to take people to the International Space Station are about to return to Earth — by splashing down in the waters around Florida.

This will be the first planned splashdown for space travelers since 1975, although a Russian Soyuz capsule did have to do an emergency lake landing in 1976.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley says that he and his crewmate Robert Behnken are prepared for the possibility of seasickness.

“Just like on an airliner, there are bags if you need them. And we’ll have those handy,” Hurley said in a press conference held on Friday, while on board the station. “And if that needs to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that that’s happened in a space vehicle. It will be the first time in this particular vehicle, if we do.”

The astronauts will come home in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that took them up on May 30. Their flight marked the first time people had been launched to orbit from U. S. soil since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011.

The success of their trip in the SpaceX vehicle has been a major milestone for commercial space travel, and a vindication of NASA’s long-term plan to rely on space taxis for routine flights to and from the orbiting outpost—while the government agency focuses on developing vehicles for a return to the moon.

The current plan is for the Dragon “Endeavour” capsule to undock from the International Space Station on Saturday at 7:34 p.m. ET, with scheduled splashdown at 2:42 p.m. ET on Sunday. There are potential splashdown zones both in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. With a hurricane headed towards Florida, however, it’s unclear if the weather will cooperate with the plan.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Virtual Viewing:  Disney’s Cruise Line’s Tangled, The Musical” on YouTube is an hour-long musical, with three songs composed by Alan Menken, that was performed on Disney’s Cruise Line and is worth seeing for people who need a Disney musical fix.  (Hat tip to Mark Evanier.)

[Thanks to Darrah Chavey, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mlex, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

157 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/1/20 Scrollers Tick
In Vain

  1. @chip @cat @meredith did none of you read the twitter thread which I referenced? Go do so and tell me my defense is worse than that tweet thread. He is an old man – a fact, not ageist – and old folks are prone to maunder about old times – another fact, not ageist. Which GRRM did, and I’ve read dozens of criticisms (some extremely mean) of him for doing so in the last few days. I thought and still think that the criticisms I’ve read, both on File770 and many other sites were unfair because they failed to take into account the context of the speaker – namely, his age. When it was mentioned, it was done in an insulting manner. I know he’s a bright guy but elders love to talk about times past. Let’s let ‘em without viciously insulting them, is my stance.

    Tl;dr I’m trying to be empathetic and cut an honored elder some slack while others are trying to cut him down for ageist, sexist, racist reasons. +1 to Miles.

  2. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    @CHip

    Glory Road is punctiliously written from the viewpoint of Scar (or if you prefer, E.C.) Gordon.

    The opening passage shows he hasn’t learned a thing – though we only see that after reading all the way through.

    He really is a hero – or he wouldn’t be what Star needed – and the satire would be trivial.

    The whole book is his man-gaze, if I’m using that term right.

    Even when he learns who and what Star is, he doesn’t get it.

    Even when he learns who and what Rufo is.

    What happened to Herr Doktor Professor Ingenieur Gordon? Gone without a trace.

    He does try to engage in aesthetics. So he takes up jewelry design. Not painting, or poetry, or music, but any art can be great. However, it’s trivial to him, and he gives up.

    With twenty universes at his feet he is bored. I wish I’d originated “Much, maybe most, of boredom is in the boree” – not the alleged borer.

    Star, showing a depth and maturity of love that would make me ashamed for Oscar if I’d never known my grandfather’s “If it weren’t my fool, I’d laugh”, says she realizes he can’t be happy there, and sends him back to adventure – no strings attached.

    The book leaves me thinking “How patient all these women have been for so long!” and hearing “When will they [meaning heterosexual men, like me] ever learn? When will they e-e-ver learn!”

  3. Miles Carter pats himself on the back: Tl;dr I’m trying to be empathetic and cut an honored elder some slack while others are trying to cut him down for ageist, sexist, racist reasons. +1 to Miles.

    No, that won’t do. All humans continue to learn as they are, or as Jefferson Starship put it, we’re no better than the rocks. I’m not going to cut him slack for ignoring the vibrant fandom culture that exists now in favor of I old stories about Heinlein hiding in the kitchen. it was a trite story when it was originally told and now it’s a sad story.

    Not sure where the racist accusation comes in. I never accused of being that. Nor did I say anything about him being sexist. I just think that they picked the wrong person for that task and made it infinitely worse by having horrid taped pieces as well.

    I watched all of it while in-hospital and in bed with the alarm turn on as I had a black-out a few weeks back. I watched all of it without break and no, GRRM didn’t do a good job.

    So Miles, you don’t get to +1 yourself.

  4. @Chip Hitchcock
    True, some of the Harlequin and Mills & Boon category romance lines can be quite formulaic, but then romance is a huge and varied genre and can no more be judged by the Harlequin and Mills & Boon category romances than SFF can be judged solely by extruded big fat fantasy product, extruded military SF product and media tie-ins. Besides, there are some very good works in the category lines on occasion, just as there are excellent media tie-ins.

  5. Miles Carter: He is an old man – a fact, not ageist – and old folks are prone to maunder about old times

    Please stop infantilizing GRRM. He may be 71, but he’s still sharp as a tack, and there is nothing wrong with his mental acuity. He has the sense to know better than to do what he did, he just chose not to use it.

  6. @Miles Carter

    If you still can’t see the insult or prejudice in condescendingly low expectations based on someone’s age then I’m hardly going to change your mind with a second attempt.

  7. @Cora and @Chip, Harlequin also publishes some very good fantasy, notably Michelle Sagara West’s Chronicles of Elantra (the “Cast In…” books.) A lot of excellent romance writers, including the hilarious Jennifer Crusie, were first published in one Harlequin line or another.

  8. @Madame Hardy: you miss several of my points and emphasize one of them. A couple of key points:
    * Requiring an optimistic ending cuts off a lot of possibilities that exist in SF; I’m surprised to find this an overall definition of romance rather than a part of certain formulae.
    * Of course some SF is formulaic. However, with the exception of certain authors (I expect every Filer has different examples), formula is randomly scattered; there is no label that says not only “this is formula” but “this is formula X rather than formula W”. What I have read did not sound ignorant, like some mundane discussion of SF; instead it reported that a part of romance publishing consists of lines that follow very specific formulae. If I could find those articles I would post them for people to prop up or tear down. I’m interested in your report that lines mutate rapidly, but not impressed by the claim that used bookstores are full of romance because readers are done with that and want a different formula; that simply suggests that some lines are what Leiber called “wordwooze” (see The silver Eggheads).
    And note that I deliberately did not use the term “romance”; as I said to Xtifr, I know it encompasses much more than such examples.

    @Xtifr: nowhere in my discussion have I said that writers of formula lack talent, or that people with talent can’t dip into formula and bend it fascinatingly; I liked Cherryh’s L&C novel (although I would love to know whether she bent the show as far as she bent Liavek in her entry to that shared universe), but for me Ford’s two OST novels are the ultimate examples of how good a master can be with stock (or sub-stock) ingredients.
    But you’re still speaking as if the existence of cases that don’t fit a class refute the existence of the class. An acquaintance tells me that his daughter reads the last page of a book, then the rest if she cares how the story got there; I was asking about reported cases where it’s possible to look at the label and/or the house author-name and know what the end is (and several of the intermediate steps, by contrast to @Madame Hardy’s quote) without even looking at it. I don’t know whether this still holds; I remember reading of rigorous labels at least 10 years ago. And I’m not surprised by a claim that women buy more books than men, given factoids such as Modesitt’s report that his fantasy sells a lot better than his science fiction along with his guess that this is because women buy fantasy much more than science fiction. But you stated that the imbalance in sales is huge; I asked how much of that came from work that was not simply formulaic but predictable.

    @Miles Carter: you should see a doctor — you’ve sprained a shoulder patting yourself on the back. Your observation of elders does not correspond to mine or to direct reports.

    @Cat Eldridge: I think you’re quoting Airplane (“Crown of Creation”), not Starship — and that’s a quote that IIUC they had to get permission from Wyndham’s estate for.

  9. @Madame Hardy

    Harlequin also publishes some very good fantasy, notably Michelle Sagara West’s Chronicles of Elantra (the “Cast In…” books.) A lot of excellent romance writers, including the hilarious Jennifer Crusie, were first published in one Harlequin line or another.

    I have a shelf full of Jennifer Crusie’s Harlequin novels, so I know she did good work for Harlequin, as did Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockman, Carla Kelly, Jeannie Lin and others. And Harlequin’s Luna and Mira imprints, which aren’t considered part of the category lines, published and continue to publish a lot of good work, including SFF.

    @Chip Hitchcock
    The optimistic ending is very important to romance readers, because they don’t want to be depressed by their choice of reading material, which is perfectly fair. Besides, “A central love story with an optimistic ending” is no more restrictive than “There must be a crime and it must be solved” for mystery.You can tell dozens of stories with this basic framework.

    I understand if romance is not to your taste. But please don’t denigrate a whole genre.,

  10. Chip says to me: : I think you’re quoting Airplane (“Crown of Creation”), not Starship — and that’s a quote that IIUC they had to get permission from Wyndham’s estate for.

    Could well be. I didn’t look it up to see which version of the band it was as Airplane lives permanently in my brain. And the Wyndham connection is way cool.

  11. @ Cat Eldridge

    One of my favorite 60s San Francisco music scene/science fiction connections is in Phil Lesh’s autobiography, where he compares the Grateful Dead’s collective improvisation to the combined transcendent entity in Sturgeon’s More Than Human.

  12. @Cora: please stop putting words into my mouth; it’s still unsanitary. Read what I wrote — I deliberately did not use a simple genre term because I was addressing one thread of the genre rather than the genre as a whole. And while I acknowledge that there is an element of formula to a traditional mystery (which is a decreasing part of what I see with the label “mystery”) I would argue that solving the mystery need not make the principles (let alone anyone else) happy — there’s no promise that the answer won’t cause as many problems as it solves. Trivial example: in Death at Victoria Dock (Phryne Fisher #4 — random example that I just finished) the answer to “where did Alice run away to?” is “Fur ena orpnhfr ure byqre oebgure fgbccrq fperjvat ure naq tbg uvf fgrczbgure certanag vafgrnq, fb gur fgrczbgure unq ure pbzzvggrq gb n Serhqvna jub jbhyq gel gb pbaivapr ure gung rirelguvat fur xarj jnf snagnfl.”

  13. @Chip: You seem to be saying that requiring a happy ending wouldn’t necessarily work in other genres. True. And requiring that there be a mystery, and that it be solved by somebody (if only the reader) wouldn’t work in science fiction. Different genres have different basic rules.

    The point I was making, and continue to make, is that the fundamental rules of romance are not overall any more limiting than those of any other genre. As I said, there are people writing supernatural romances, time-travel romances, recovery from trauma romances, science fiction romances, … a wide (and constantly expanding) spectrum. Like any other genre, romance has broad-brush expectations, but within those expectations you can publish a wide variety of books. Harlequin exists, and has stricter rules, but Harlequin/Mills and Boon isn’t the genre.

    As far as Harlequin itself goes, go expand the submission guidelines for “Harlequin Special Edition” here.

    These are compelling, contemporary romance novels—with happy endings!
    Harlequin Special Edition Key Elements:
    Focus on the romance! However, secondary characters and subplots are welcome if they further the romantic relationship in a meaningful way.
    Hero and heroine must both be proactive, dynamic, and good at heart—even if they are resistant to love at first!
    Wide variety of themes welcome: families, babies, brides, cowboys, Westerns, reunion romances, and more!
    Fresh twists on classic plot elements
    Range of sensuality, from subtle to sizzling
    Emotional depth of both story and character is paramount
    Strong internal and external conflicts
    Word count of 60,000

    That’s not “have sex on page 20” or “alpha males only”. That’s pretty loose. Some of the other guidelines are more limiting, but none of them enforces specified beats in a specified order.

    As far as “predict the ending”, the same goes for a mystery. If I pick up a mystery, I expect the mystery to be solved. If I pick up a romance, I expect the couple(s) to get together, because otherwise it isn’t a romance.

    SF readers have suffered through decades of “ray guns and monsters ripping space suits”; it ill behooves us to throw cliches at other genres.

  14. @ Cat Eldridge

    Madame Hardy says You don’t have to know an author themself –awkward, I know– to gatekeep content that you find alien or political or “not what our audience wants to read”. That is disproportionately going to silence authors writing from non-majority experiences.

    Huh? It effects all writers equally. And frankly it doesn’t surprise me at all as a lot of such publishers appeal to largely conservative readerships. You write to the Book or you don’t.

    You’re having a mapping failure. Your conclusion is “the gatekeeping against writing marginalized characters affects all writers equally because all writers are equally discouraged from writing marginalized characters.”

    The relevant mapping is “the gatekeeping disproportionately affects marginalized authors because marginalized authors are discouraged from writing characters sharing their identities while non-marginalized authors are free to write characters sharing their identities.”

    It’s the metaphorical equivalent of saying that “healthcare that pays for Viagra but not for pre-natal care is not sexist because all genders have equal access to Viagra and no gender is singled out as barred from pre-natal care.”

  15. Heather Rose Jones say: The relevant mapping is “the gatekeeping disproportionately affects marginalized authors because marginalized authors are discouraged from writing characters sharing their identities while non-marginalized authors are free to write characters sharing their identities.”

    Really? White and beautiful and lusting after the male with the great chest? They’re not sharing their cultural identities, they writing to spec about characters who are about as real as the characters were in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

    Most Romance fiction is formula. Not all I grant you, but a lot is. You don’t write it because you want to express your creative side — you write it because it pays the bills. And because if you’re good at it, it can be very profitable.

    Genre fiction has these too though you rarely see them brought here as they have different market channels. I listen to the Rogue Angel series which is now sixty books deep. Same writer for most of them but not all. And house names rarely tell you did a given work.

  16. You don’t write it because you want to express your creative side — you write it because it pays the bills. And because if you’re good at it, it can be very profitable.

    [citation needed].

    To expand, I know a fair number of romance authors, a few face-to-face and many more online. They care passionately about craft. They work hard on constantly improving as writers. They aren’t cynical about their work or their readers.

    It is notorious within the romance-writing community that people come in all the time who think they can write shit and get paid. It doesn’t work. You can write shit passionately (see Twilight) and get paid, but doing it out of cynicism is almost always a recipe for failure.

    “White and beautiful and lusting after the male with the great chest?”

    The romance organization RWA got taken to the ground last year precisely because the authors of color were tired of being treated like shit, and because the board tried to force out Courtney Milan, a bestselling Chinese-American author who had called out another author for racist tropes in her books. There were a lot of writers of color in the fight, and a lot of allies. Romance isn’t all-white. A lot of heroines aren’t beautiful. And the male with the great chest, Fabio, was a big deal in the ’80s and ’90s.

    Here’s a Courtney Milan cover. Here’s a Nora Roberts cover. Here’s a Beverly Jenkins cover. All of these are big damn names. Sure, there are a lot of bare chests on covers, but I think there’s a proverb about that… can’t quite bring it to mind.

  17. @Cat —

    You don’t write it because you want to express your creative side — you write it because it pays the bills. And because if you’re good at it, it can be very profitable.

    Cat, that’s just insulting — and unnecessarily so.

    I used to be a staff editor at a small romance publishing house. I assure you, those authors were plenty creative and plenty passionate — and very few of them were getting rich, or even “paying the bills”.

    As others have already mentioned, romance as a category is no more limiting creatively than any other genre. Every genre has rules — a solved crime in mystery, an element of the fantastic in fantasy, a scientifically plausible (or at least convincingly handwaveable) element of unreality in sf, whatever. But that doesn’t mean any of those genres are more limited than any others — and, in fact, all of them can be mixed in one way or another. Most of the books I edited at that publishing house were fantasy or science fiction romances, but romance comes in all flavors — historical, mystery, thriller, steampunk, whatever. Claiming that the authors who come up with all those ideas are somehow less passionate or less creative than any other authors is just dumb.

  18. Seconding what Contrarius and Madame Hardy said, a lot of romance authors work very hard on their craft and do a lot of research on anything from historical fashions to Navy SEAL tactics. They write those books not just because they sell, but because those are the stories they want to tell. And writers who come into romance thinking that it’s an easy and well-paying gig usually quickly find out that you can no more slum it in romance than in any other genre.

    Also, every genre has certain requirements: Mystery/crime fiction requires a crime that is resolved in such a way that at least the reader knows what happened, even if the characters don’t. Fantasy requires fantastic, paranormal or supernatural elements. Horror must be scary. Science fiction requires some kind of scientifically plausible speculative element. Historical fiction must be set in the past. Westerns must be set on the frontiers of North America. And romance requires an optimistic ending and a central love story, regardless of the number, genders and species of participants.

  19. If I was GRRM I’d rather people be offended by what I said during the Hugos than make patronizing excuses for me due to age. If he had talked some about contemporary SF/F authors his reminisces would’ve been better received.

  20. I would add that genre boundaries are not so much boundaries as vague overlapping clouds. You could shelve Shards of Honor in the romance section, and romance readers would gobble it up. (Indeed, many are very fond of it.) You could shelve Nora Roberts’s J.D. Robb science-fiction/mystery/romances in any of the three sections. Back when I still hit bookstores (thanks, disability) the Robb books were usually found in either mystery or romance, and occasionally in both.

  21. The idea that the formulae of Romance are overly limiting seems hard to support when you have examples like Dr. Catherine Asaro, who seems to enjoy writing to those formulae, despite being published under an SF imprint rather than a Romance one. And the result has been that she can add “Rita finalist” as well as “Nebula winner” to her list of accolades, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t her motivation.

    No, they’re not for everyone, but the same can be said for the formulae of most genres.

    @Chip Hitchcock wrote:

    But you stated that the imbalance in sales is huge; I asked how much of that came from work that was not simply formulaic but predictable.

    I guess this is the heart of the matter? Because, I’ll be honest, I find it a confusing question. I mean, I can provide a simple answer: I have absolutely no idea. But I’m still puzzled why you would ask such a question. What do you think the answer (if we had one) would demonstrate? The inherent inferiority of female readers? I thought I knew you well enough to know you wouldn’t dream of going there. So what did motivate this question?

  22. My favorite example of genre overlap is Sharon Shinn’s The Thirteen Houses series. I thoroughly enjoyed them as fantasies and then I started realizing that there was a pattern in which protagonists met, diverged, and then united for good. Then it hit me—I had been reading romances in a fantasy setting and had not noticed until at least three books in!

  23. Robert Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon is a romance, that a few decades later could easily have been published as a category romance in one of the more restrictive lines. Today, I think it would suffer from its dated social role assumptions.

  24. HRJ patiently explains,

    You’re having a mapping failure. Your conclusion is “the gatekeeping against writing marginalized characters affects all writers equally because all writers are equally discouraged from writing marginalized characters.”

    The relevant mapping is “the gatekeeping disproportionately affects marginalized authors because marginalized authors are discouraged from writing characters sharing their identities while non-marginalized authors are free to write characters sharing their identities.”

    It’s the metaphorical equivalent of saying that “healthcare that pays for Viagra but not for pre-natal care is not sexist because all genders have equal access to Viagra and no gender is singled out as barred from pre-natal care.”

    This whole argument reminds me of the one I ran into during my usenet days when the subject of same-sex marriage came up.

    “Laws in the U.S. against it ought to be struck down under the 14th Amendment,” I’d argue, “because it’s definitely not fair and equal treatment.”

    “Of course it is,” the counterargument went. “Everyone in the U.S. is equally prohibited from marrying someone of the same sex.”

    That this meant some people were functionally prohibited from participating in the institution of marriage meant little to these folks. It was like hearing someone quote the bit about “the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges” unironically, approvingly, in praise of the majestically equality of said law.

    Of course publishers refusing to publish LGBT content hurts LGBT writers more than it hurts straight writers. It hurts LGBT readers, too. When an industry denies a marginalized population any chance of representation in fiction, of seeing their life experience on the page, that marginalizes that population further. I’m flabbergasted to see anyone here arguing otherwise. (Well, anyone who isn’t already in my plonk file for other reasons.)

  25. @Nicole —

    “Of course it is,” the counterargument went. “Everyone in the U.S. is equally prohibited from marrying someone of the same sex.”

    Ohhhhh, so much this. I got this one ALL the time when I took part in those debates. SO tedious.

  26. Ironically, after the Supreme Court ruling, I encountered the argument that it was unfair because it privileged a tiny percentage of the population. I couldn’t even.

  27. When people talk about the constrictive genre conventions of romance, I am always bemused. Each page of the comic WATCHMEN has nine panels. Far more restrictive than “happy ending” but it’s possible to read the entire comic without even noticing, because they are so varied. Every media tie-in novel has infinitely more restrictions—universe, main characters, series bible, and everything must be put back as it was by the end. Does that make THE WOUNDED SKY or THE FINAL REFLECTION formulaic? Set a book in a historical period and you have hard limits on setting, technology, what the characters can even look like—hell, I don’t write Regency, despite loving the genre, because it’s way too much work!

    I can also promise that I do not churn out my self-pubbed fantasy romances for money. My math skills are perhaps not the most finely honed, but even I know a bad ROI when I see it.

    Now, you wanna talk restrictive, let’s talk about being a children’s author…

  28. Honestly, how many books outside of romance don’t have happy endings? I don’t come across that many. It can’t be that restrictive if authors everywhere in every genre are opting for it all the time.

  29. @Meredith

    Honestly, how many books outside of romance don’t have happy endings?

    Happy endings are reasonably frequent within the grimdark subgenre. Ambivalent endings are reasonably common.

    And of course, horror has a non-trivial number of really bad endings.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances. – Thomas Jefferson

  30. @Dann

    Even horror has its fair share of happy endings, really. Even if half the characters are dead by the time you get to it!

  31. @Meredith
    Honestly, how many books outside of romance don’t have happy endings?

    Let me introduce you to the (excellent) works of K J Parker, to say nothing of Iain Banks.

  32. @Madame Hardy: you also are putting words in my mouth; my claim is that no other genre has any requirement as stringent as the one posited for “romance”. scarish quotes because ISTM there are great stories of romance that don’t fit this — “Goodbye Columbus” is a trivial example that comes immediately to mind — so the RWA’s squeezing of the term itches; possibly it needs to be taken away from them until they can play well without a net? IOW, I disagree with your entire 2nd paragraph; SF is particularly about breaking expectations, but good work in other genres also reaches outside bounds.

    @Cora Buhlert: you’re … blurring … the difference between what tropes a story “must” have (quotes because a lot of SF is about how to work against tropes) and how a story must end. There are many ways to get to an ending; there are many more if you don’t start out with “this is the way it ends” — even though sometimes a story can tell you a specific ending at the beginning and make the how-it-gets-there worth reading (cf my comment about a friend’s daughter’s criterion).

    @Xtifr: The inherent inferiority of female readers? Of course not — but it could demonstrate something about the limits part of the population are taught to impose on themselves.

    @Lis Carey: ISTM that BtH has far too much side matter (all that preaching and info-dump!) and goes too far beyond the romantic conclusion to qualify — but it certainly has some of the social assumptions that I’ve seen in jacket copy of decades-past romances.

    @Xtifr, re privileging tiny minority: taking them upside the head with real statistics might have been amusing once or twice but would probably pall; I don’t know whether we ever saw a way to convert your representative’s gesture to “That is not logical”, but it was obviously needed.

    @Red Wombat: I haven’t read The Wounded Sky, but The Final Reflection is widely reputed to have caused several restraints to be added (guessed example: “The story has to be about our characters, not yours!”). Making sure the main characters all survive is restrictive — enough so that Mike advised would-be writers (at a panel — I don’t know whether he said this generally) not to do tie-ins. I also note that he and Hambly found an alternative: writing books in which not even redshirts die, but some major characters might prefer dying of embarassment to continuing.

    @Meredith: how often does horror give you two focal characters you know are going to survive? (Straight question; I avoid anything that looks like it’s horror first and something else second, although some people’s definition of horror disagrees with mine — a friend told me in all seriousness that Last Call was horror.) And are those cases as strong as ones where you aren’t guaranteed that anyone in particular will live?

  33. @Chip, I fail to see how “there must be a crime and it must be solved” is any more or less constraining than “there must be a romance and it must end happily.”

    there are great stories of romance that don’t fit this

    Yes, and now we’re into context. There is the chivalric romance. There are big-R Romantic novels. There are novels about romance. And then there is the genre “romance novel”, which overlaps with some of those but is not the same. “Romance novel” has a meaning just as “science fiction novel’ does, and it’s not the meaning of the individual words. There are many novels about romance that are not romance novels.

    An author can write an excellent novel about the way a crime affects a community, and the way its never being solved changes relationships irretrievably. Even though there’s a mystery in it, it won’t be a mystery novel, and if it’s shelved in the mystery section, mystery readers will feel cheated.

    You are saying that the expectation “there will be a happy ending” is somehow worse than the expectation “the crime will be solved”, and I don’t buy it. Furthermore, I find “possibly it needs to be taken away from them until they can play well without a net?” condescending.

  34. @Madame Hardy

    … Yeees..? I don’t think I was implying – or I certainly wasn’t intending to imply, I had a quick look and perhaps the “all” didn’t come across as the “it happens all the time” as in, “it happens very frequently”, but “literally all the time, no exceptions” which I didn’t mean at all – that unhappy endings don’t exist, but I am arguing that they’re heavily outnumbered. Which they are, at least in my reading experience. The existence of specific unhappy endings doesn’t really change that.

    @Chip Hitchcock

    Not really my genre most of the time, since I’m prone to insomnia and nightmares and horror stories can be a pretty effective way of getting them, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider one of the focal characters dying to be automatically an unhappy ending. I’ve certainly read (and watched) a fair bit of horror with a happy (or at least optimistic, which I’m counting on the basis of it being previously mentioned in the discussion) ending, more so than that with unhappy ones, and I haven’t deliberately tailored my reading habits that way.

  35. Anyway, to bring it back to my main point: Since fiction in general tends to have happy endings, a genre specifically requiring one (in the form of “the main couple gets together”; note that no other form of happiness is required, in the same way that “the mystery is solved” doesn’t necessarily imply unicorns and rainbows and nothing ever hurts again) barely stands out. To fixate on what is in reality a very minor difference seems a bit pointless.

    @Madame Hardy

    That’s quite alright. I assumed it was only a misunderstanding.

  36. @Chip–

    @Lis Carey: ISTM that BtH has far too much side matter (all that preaching and info-dump!) and goes too far beyond the romantic conclusion to qualify — but it certainly has some of the social assumptions that I’ve seen in jacket copy of decades-past romances.

    I read Beyond This Horizon when I was reading a lot of romance, and what stood out to me was how well it fit into the romance genre. That this was a romance novel that, when it first sold, would have failed of selling to a romance line only because they hadn’t started buying romances with sf settings yet.

    Granted it doesn’t fit your definition of “romance novel,” but that’s because you’re insisting on a reading of the basic requirements so narrow that few if any romance readers would regard books written that way as worth their time. Nor would editors for successful lines bother to buy them, for that reason.

    “Must have a happy resolution of the romance,” “must fit our word count requirements,” and for the strictest romance lines, “must have the amount/type of sex expected for this line,” leaves an awful lot of room for creative and original storytelling.

  37. No, Chip, I’m not blurring anything. I’m quoting the definition of the romance genre that the professional organisation of romance writers has laid down and that romance readers expect.

    And indeed there was a big fight at the time over this definition, because there were writers who wanted much stricter limits, for example that the central love story needs to involve exactly one man and one woman or that the optimistic ending has to be marriage.

    Imagine that you were to read something billed as a science fiction novel, only to find that there is no speculative element whatsoever. You’d very likely be angry, because this book, no matter how good otherwise, is not what you were expecting. And romance readers will react very similarly, if they read what they expect to be a romance, only for the couple to break up in the end or for one or both of the partners to die. And romance readers are very vocal. Trust me, they will scream from the rooftops that this book that was sold as a romance does not have the promised optimistic ending.

    Of course, there are many books with a central love story that do not have an optimistic ending. However, Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber, Love Story, The Bridges of Madison County or thos umpteen Nicholas Sparks books are not romance novels. They are either called love stories or novels with romantic elements.

    Besides, most romance readers read other genres as well. But if you offer them a romance novel that does not have an optimistic ending, they will be as pissed off as a science fiction reader would be if they came across a supposed science fiction novel with zero speculative elements.

  38. @Madame Hardy:

    @Chip, I fail to see how “there must be a crime and it must be solved” is any more or less constraining than “there must be a romance and it must end happily.”

    Maybe it depends on whether one thinks plot is more important than people; if one knows that there’s no real risk of loss in the conflicts — that the primaries will achieve their destined matchup — the conflicts lose weight, while (as I said) the solution of a crime doesn’t guarantee anyone’s happiness. I specifically note that in several of the mysteries that @OGH has listed for winning some prize the answer to “whodunnit?” is a sideline to why and the backsplash from that why. There is a huge amount of room for what happens to the people in a mystery; that room is shrunken by the RWA definition of “romance novel”.

    I’m sorry you find the remark condescending; I would find “don’t worry, everything will turn out all right” to be immensely condescending if I read “romance novels”.

    @Lis Carey:

    Granted it doesn’t fit your definition of “romance novel,” but that’s because you’re insisting on a reading of the basic requirements so narrow that few if any romance readers would regard books written that way as worth their time. Nor would editors for successful lines bother to buy them, for that reason.

    Nope; I’m taking the RWA at their word rather than trying to wave circles around a rigid requirement. And if everything where she gets her way in spite of him is a romance regardless of all the other things that happen — or how much time is spent on her and her way with him rather than his other pursuits (contrast BtH with “The Menace from Earth”, and shuffle the ?sex? labels as you wish) that expands the definition of “romance” so much as to make it almost meaningless (let alone eclipsing the other labels that could be applied to works).

    @Cora: you’re simply making my point: other forms provide tropes that the author can plot as they please with, while the romance definition defines the goal of the plot. (I’m thinking of Iron Chef with the final dish as well as some ingredients defined, but I know of the show only through rumors so I can’t swear that’s a good comparison.) @Lis is correct that there is room within requirements, just as there is room within a sonnet (and even more if one junks a rule, as in the currently-noted “Ozymandias”) — but SF can be adventure, or romance, or horror, or even a ~Western (cf The Deep Range) without requiring that characters’ arcs end in any particular location.

    I repeat: a good writer can sometimes make a journey seem interesting even when we know how it ends — but often that knowledge takes away a huge number of options. For some readers the remaining options are enough; others like all options on the table.

  39. @Chip —

    Maybe it depends on whether one thinks plot is more important than people

    Heh. People are kinda the point in romance novels.

    Incidentally, I prefer character-driven mystery too. Also character-driven sff.

    ; if one knows that there’s no real risk of loss in the conflicts — that the primaries will achieve their destined matchup — the conflicts lose weight

    Baloney.

    “If one knows that there’s no real risk that the mystery won’t be solved, the conflicts lose weight.”

    Silly, right?

    As several of us keep trying to tell you, every genre has its own limitations. The limitation of a happy ending is no more limiting than the limitation of a solved mystery — in fact it is less so, since solving a mystery is necessarily going to involve a lot of intermediate steps that the romance is not constrained to.

    People read mysteries in part because they enjoy the satisfaction of the solved puzzle; people read romances in part because they enjoy the comfort of knowing that everything will turn out well in the end. Neither is more laudable than the other.

    , while (as I said) the solution of a crime doesn’t guarantee anyone’s happiness.

    And romance doesn’t guarantee a solved crime. So what? Again — different limitations for different genres.

    There is a huge amount of room for what happens to the people in a mystery; that room is shrunken by the RWA definition of “romance novel”.

    Sigh. Chip, you keep ignoring the limitations of mystery books, and you keep acting as though “happy ending” means “a dictated course of action”. Neither is even a little bit true.

    I’m sorry you find the remark condescending; I would find “don’t worry, everything will turn out all right” to be immensely condescending if I read “romance novels”.

    A significant part of why so many people read romance is that they know they can rely on that “don’t worry, everything will turn out all right” principle. The fact that you look down your nose at what they enjoy is incredibly condescending.

    Maybe try stepping off that high horse.

    @Cora: you’re simply making my point: other forms provide tropes that the author can plot as they please with, while the romance definition defines the goal of the plot.

    I’m rolling my eyes at you now.

    The goal of the plot in a mystery: solve a mystery.

    Which is a lot more constraining than the goal of “arrange for a happy ending”.

    — but SF can be adventure, or romance, or horror, or even a ~Western (cf The Deep Range) without requiring that characters’ arcs end in any particular location.

    And romance can be sf, or adventure, or mystery, or Western, or steampunk, or UF, or historical, or contemporary, or any other genre you can dream up.

    I repeat: a good writer can sometimes make a journey seem interesting even when we know how it ends — but often that knowledge takes away a huge number of options.

    And solving a mystery takes away a huge number of options.

    Really, Chip, you’re not making any headway here.

    You don’t like romance. We get it. But nobody is forcing you to read it. There’s no justification for you to keep ranting about how inferior romance is just because it doesn’t happen to be your cuppa.

  40. Once upon a time, a thriller was marketed as a mystery and I bought it on the understanding that it was a mystery and the book ended and they did not solve the crime.

    I was incandescent with rage. I will never touch another of this author’s books, even knowing that it was probably marketing’s fault. My lip curls when I see the author’s name. That is what a broken genre contract does. (STILL SO ANGRY.)

    If a Romance author had a book marketed as Romance and there was no HEA, I would be similarly wroth.

    Anyway, if you want to believe it’s more restrictive, fine, go for it. No skin off my teeth. Genius can be wrought in restrictions, and often is. (Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space“ comes suddenly to mind.)

  41. When I was working in the scale room at the landfill, I killed time by reading some of the coverless books that had been salvaged. Some of them were romances. I particularly remember one that involved time-travelling characters, where the guy from the past and the guy from the present switched places…setting up a paradox, because the premise involved the guy from the present being a descendant of the guy from the past. I don’t know if a reader who was unfamiliar with SF would have caught that.

  42. Chip Hitchcock:

    Maybe it depends on whether one thinks plot is more important than people; if one knows that there’s no real risk of loss in the conflicts — that the primaries will achieve their destined matchup — the conflicts lose weight, while (as I said) the solution of a crime doesn’t guarantee anyone’s happiness.

    I once read a romance novel (no square quotes) where the lead’s best friend was killed in a horrible way and the lead barely survived. The book made clear that the lead was going to be troubled with PTSD for quite some time if not forever. What made it a romance novel is that the lead ended up with a romantic partner at the end. This was a happy ending in that that the lead was going to have someone caring in her life as she dealt with the trauma, but it wasn’t the pollyanna ending you seem to imply is required by a romance novel. In fact, it is not all that different from a mystery/thriller I read where the lead barely survived and lost people important to her but this was a happy ending in that the mystery was solved and the killer caught. I’m honestly not seeing the romance novel as more constrained and less creative than the mystery.

    One of the things you seem to be missing about the romance genre is that whether the leads end up together is not necessarily the conflict in the story. Therefore, the conflict is not lessened – there is real risk of loss – even in a romance novel.

  43. @RedWomabt
    Things I miss by not going to movies or watching TV. (The novel was early to mid-90s. I think I may still have it, in one of the Magic Boxes.)

  44. RedWombat: I was incandescent with rage. I will never touch another of this author’s books, even knowing that it was probably marketing’s fault. My lip curls when I see the author’s name. That is what a broken genre contract does. (STILL SO ANGRY.)

    Whew! I fear to ask what the half-life of that isotope is!

  45. @RedWombat
    Also, I enjoyed “Defensive Baking” (my starter isn’t carnivorous, but it does need feeding), and I hope Kevin doesn’t need shots.

  46. @Contrarius: maybe you need to get down off your high horse and/or stop being condescending — and maybe read an assortment of contemporary mysteries rather than whatever you’ve been reading. Or you might just read what I’ve written, instead of what you imagine; I said the RWA definition of romance was “limited” — not some scrape-it-off-my-shoe adjective that you impute to me.

    Really, Contrarius, you don’t know what I like and don’t like, and you’re massively reworking what I say to make your own points.

    @RedWombat: different people have different ideas of contracts; the most I expect from a book is that it make something like internal sense, rather than showing the author’s hand as repeated di ex machinae.

  47. @Chip —

    @Contrarius: maybe you need to get down off your high horse and/or stop being condescending — and maybe read an assortment of contemporary mysteries rather than whatever you’ve been reading.

    Heh.

    I’m not the one who has spent multiple posts dedicated to insulting a whole genre of fiction, Chip.

    And as for “contemporary mysteries”, my favorite contemporary series is the Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series by Louise Penny. I also enjoy Longmire, anything written by James Lee Burke, and British historicals, amongst others. In older mysteries, I’m a huge fan of Dick Francis and Josephine Tey in particular, and in general I tend to favor British mystery authors.

    How about you?

    Or you might just read what I’ve written, instead of what you imagine

    Chip, I’m not the only one here who has understood your words in the same way. If you are dissatisfied with our interpretation, perhaps you might take some time to think about why we all interpreted your words thusly.

  48. Contarius: Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series by Louise Penny.

    Interesting — I like those too.

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