Monday, November 2, 2015

Culture Corner 11.2.15

Before I get into what it is I do for a living, I think I should start with a little musical motivation. 

You might be wondering what this has to do with what I do for a living, and how it is even remotely cultural.

1. Avenue Q was on Broadway, and that, my fellow students, is New York elite culture in a nutshell. (It's too expensive for most to enjoy, it's somewhere vaguely in the land of "I AM NOT GOING TO TIMES SQUARE AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME." and it will shock the hell out of tourists.)

2. I'm getting to my point, trust me.

I am a book reviewer. Yes, that is my title(ish). Technically, I am a blogger/writer/content curator/social media specialist. That's just too long a title.

I specialize in the romance genre. I read and recommend romance titles across the whole of the genre. Paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy romance, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, chick lit, historical romance, time-traveler romance (yes, that gets its own category), horror romance, straight romance, LGBTQ romance, and good old, bodice ripping erotica.

I am sent approximately 15-30 galley copies and ARCs (advanced reader copies) as well as several beta copies of this genre every month. During the Romantic Times Convention, NYCC, and BookCon, I may receive as many as 70 pre-prints in a month.

I do not read everything I'm sent. For one thing, I'd never get to do anything else, for another, I simply don't read what doesn't interest me. If an author's synopsis or blurbs don't catch my attention, it's going into my "not going to happen" pile. I do, however, read quite a bit. About 1000 pages/week of romance. I will say that I am an exceptionally fast reader after 5 years of this, but it is still a lot of time in front of my iPad or paperback. (This is not counting what I'm currently reading for my thesis or my other classes. There is a reason why (wo)man invented audiobooks, and this is it.) While it can become quite tedious to read the same genre over and over again, but overall, I still really enjoy romance literature. I think it's what draws me to medieval and Victorian works in my personal scholarship, SO.MUCH.ROMANCE.

Occasionally, I am sent something so egregious, so mind-bogglingly stupid that it goes into my "what the absolute hell is this dreck," category. Typically, these books are erotica. Bad, bad, erotica.

Yes, there most definitely IS good erotica. I've read it. Interested? Try this. But there is so, so much bad erotica it's almost difficult to categorize all of it. So far, after five years of reading them, I have four categories that most of these fall into.

  1. Nope.
  2. Oh God Why?
  3. I think this is illegal, and I'm offended just from having read it. I need some Gloria Steinem.
  4. BURN THIS BOOK. KILL IT WITH FIRE. (but not until you've told everyone about it.)
Strangely, the first category is consistently added to by female authors who pen male/male erotica. Why? Because they tend to miss very important details in the sexual encounters. Anyone who has ever known, or is a gay man, knows certain things are crucial. Male authors like TJ Klune and Brad Boney never miss these details. I am not saying female authors can't write good M/M erotica--Ella Frank actually manages quite well--but overall, it's difficult. It's hard enough to write from a man's POV, let alone to sink deep enough into their psyche that it becomes believable.

The second category is mostly personal preference. Fantasies that I know some people enjoy, but I just can't get into. Equestrians, huge groups of people, furries, Stockholm Syndrome fantasies, clowns...These are just not my bag, and I have a difficult time suspending my disbelief. 

(I'll just wait here a minute while you google...)

The third category is for the books that make my blood boil. These books (like the infamous 50 Shades), feature situations like dubious consent, physical abuse, unnecessary incidences of rape as a plot point to move the book forward--very common in PNR, unfortunately--overly domineering alpha males, and violent criminals as the love interest. I do not, can not, will not ever understand how making a murdering mob boss the sexy love interest is appealing to anyone. "Hey, remember John Gotti? Wasn't all the blood on his hands just the sexiest? I certainly want him to run them all over my body and hold our eventual children." No. Just, no.

The last category is something else entirely. Ever heard of dinosaur porn-lit? It's a thing. So is Minotaur porn, and caveman porn. Don't ask me why, I have NO CLUE. It's gross and weird, and I tell ABSOLUTELY EVERY READER about it. Someone needs to share my confusion. I sort of hope they exist solely for the purpose of clever Amazon reviews, but I don't think so. I can't imagine the people who write them, and if I knew someone who did, I don't think I'd ever be able to look them in the eye. The American Museum of Natural History's fourth floor should NOT be used as inspiration for a sex scene unless it's between the night guard and a paleontologist.

I love what I do. I love telling people about the good, new, and interesting romance novels available to them. I love writing about a maligned genre in a way that opens minds to the possibility that some of these books are really well-written and worth the time. I love interacting with authors I admire and aspire to emulate. I've made lifelong friends in the community and I wouldn't trade it for all of the T-Rex porn in the world.


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