Disclaimer: What follows is a frothy little confection of rancid creaky ‘we know this stuff already, geez!’ and meandering musings on being a writer. I did warn you.
Danger noodle sub-primal screams aside, I had a thought. Several. M’kay. Ahem.
About romance novel men and fantasies for the ladies. Lines between the sublime and the limeade section of fiction. Commercial fiction versus other fiction that doesn’t sell but looks important sitting on a shelf. Because why not. And since I’m a, ahem, serious playwright writerly writer sort of lady [or broad or gal or female type with assumed female parts attached in some fashion], I get to laugh, of course, along with others about such manly men.
What maniac said women don’t like to look at men? Are you insane?? Of course we do. And gay women like to look at women and so forth and so on. There’s so many categories of desire and who’s lusting after what these days that I am frankly backlogged and need to Netflix myself into 2017 territory on that whole subject.
PLEASE DON’T WORRY. THIS IS NOT GOING WHERE YOU THINK IT IS. I PROMISE. TRUST ME.
Now the following is going to be about books, not movies or youtube bits or mini movies posted on whatever. Books.
Of course, if one actually bothers to read those books –with the titles and covers that make one cringe like a mofo yet salivate over, because you already know the damn story by heart. It’s comforting! It’s like cheese and crackers! It’s like toast made out of Wonder Bread smeared with Blue Bonnet margarine– shit, where was I?
If one bothers to read a few [a lot] of those romance-y romance books–I hear now there’s something called Kindle, and other little machines…I know!– then one notices the rather florid sexy parts. Which at times induce giggles rather than “Mama needs some lemonade right now, ‘scuse me” moments.
There’s even contests out there to see who can write the worst purple prose and awards given for most cringe-worthy depictions of the act of making the beast with two backs. But, but. Those florid flowery overly written and breathless passages! Those descriptions! Of stuff and things! I noticed something. Bigly.
It isn’t about gals who like to cuddle. I don’t see pages and pages written on gals who like to cuddle. Uh no. It’s pages and pages of her having a world-shattering good one. As in her partner/kidnapper/pirate king really really really knows what he’s doing. I’m sure there are LGTBQ versions. In fact, yeah, there are. Not to mention frothy fiction that features people who are not products of lab-level Aryan breeding. As in some other skin color than milk white and sun-tanned.
So, yeah, the infamous scenes are pretty torrid. It’s not polite, nice or realistic. Well, Barbara Cartland keeps it a bit vague, but how realistic are her stories? Yeah. So your basic cookie cutter romance heroine. She gets that La Petite Mort. And often a castle at the end to go with it.
Ah. And we, the audience for all this frothiness, get a very safe taste of some biological urges. At the hands of a very safe and controllable sort. Unless you go back into the rather, ahem, early days of bodice rippers, where the gal’s bodice got ripped for real and…yeah.
I remember the Wolf and the Dove, Kathleen Woodiwiss, about a Norman guy who took over a Saxon household and uh, made a slave of the gal and actually had her chained to the bed and…oh yeah, read that one more than once. As did my friends at school. Fantasy. Dark dark fantasy. For girls. Ahem. Fairly unsettling view of relationship goals, ahem! But. We still got to put the book down. We can come back later, without much of a dent in our ordinary outer surfaces. When people still read books! Instead of downloading them to their devices and binge-watching The Real Housewives of Boise instead. I know what year it is!
Fantasy, after all, is neat and tidy. We can explore, safely, and then tuck it all away, safely, and carry on with no one the wiser. No one’s going to know about your foray into some Highlander-studded daddy dungeon where he…Unless you tell someone this. And then face being looked at as if you’d murdered an entire litter of Golden Retriever puppies as you took a poo on the US Constitution.
I doubt even that would hoist Tangerine Vader from some people’s hearts. Or would it??
So I’m not really surprised by this whole 50 Shades hoo-ha. At all.
He’s the alpha male from pretty much every romance novel ever written or conceived, the stereotypical guy who will magically change the minute he meets you…
Now, this topic has been beaten to death, it’s a dead horse and then some. Expectations versus reality. [You can’t make nothing but a man out of him, according to Jill Conner Browne, who wrote the Sweet Potato Queens books, which are gut-busting funny. Well, to me, anyway.]
And the whole whips and chains and spanking angle, been there, done that. Romance novels used to abound in that stuff. It was their bread and butter. The dominant male, the submission to his will…come on now!! Who hasn’t thrilled to that moment when the fragile little heroine finally gave in to her passion? Oh my! [If you have read even one romance novel, you know this moment. It might be disguised a bit, but it’s there. That ‘give in to passion’ trope. He chases, she demurs, blah blah. When she stops and lets him catch her…that moment. You’re all squirmy right now, right? Ashamed but grinning? You know, that moment. Uh huh.]
Of course, if a real guy showed up at the door with a broadsword, in furs, I’d probably hide. Or call in the local SWAT team or the local squad of golfers. [They have clubs. Yeah. I went there.]
As I would assume this fur-wearing, broadsword-carrying sort was not there to sell me siding or talk to me about Jesus and earthquakes in Japan. I’d have to assume he’s there to be a total murderous dickweed. And so act accordingly.
I watch Vikings over on the History Channel! They’re not looking for a soul mate in the screaming nobodies they cut in two without a thought. I feel so lied to! I read romance novels where Vikings turned out to be muscled teddy bears full of soft lovehearts and sweet sighs…not murderous plunderers looking for glory, gold and plotting against their own kin! I know, expectations versus reality. It’s a bitchkitty.
That’s why we have fantasy!
Duh! We can control everything. We can take those characters writers blurf out and dance said characters around in our own dark and rich ballrooms.
We can make that Viking Highlander English Lord Cowboy Pirate King Vampire Sir Beast [and there are subgenres here…] waltz us until we need a cigarette. And then tuck that man/men away until next time we wish to imagine something fun, frothy, hot, sweet, quick, long, adventurous, scary…mm.
Vampires, come on. Neck lovin’! Monsters as romantic leads…the broody alpha with the dead beating heart that beats just for us…mm. And they’d know what to do, being uh, long-lived and all. They’d have lots of knowledge and stamina and chains and whips from Roman days and…sigh. Mama needs some lemonade! BRB. Just kidding. Sort of.
Now, there’s a whole tangent about horror and monsters and the dark and that sort of needed fantasy and release. Which I probably should have explored with a barely working flashlight and a rock in my other hand because what is that noise? What is that…OH! Maybe another bloggie post about all that. Because I need to practice writing. I never seem to get any better at it. Tangent girl is back!
Now. Romance writing, to me, is just fairy tales with the sex scenes put back in. Beauty and the Beast? There’s lots of, ahem, speculation about that Beast. And of course everyone seems to prefer the Beast from the Disney version to the dud that showed up after the change. Go ahead, do a little private polling on this subject. I’ll wait.
Though actual unedited fairy tales were pretty raunchy, awful, raw and bloody. Sleeping Beauty raped by the prince, for instance. She wakes up to her twins, conceived by that rape, crawling up to her boobs because they’re hungry…shit. I just. Oh! Hey Disney, gritty reboot? But that version of Sleeping Beauty, where the prince treats her like a sock puppet and then goes away, rings a little more true than the nice version. Which is probably just me being a gloomy Gussie.
Notice I am not going off into tangents! I want that noticed! Well, except for when I do. Don’t notice that. Thanks.
Yeah, romance writing, it’s porn for girls. Yeah. We know. I know. We all know.
There’s lots of stuff written about just what gals like and don’t in that way. I mean reams. Books. Trilogies. Entire encyclopedia lines. Women like to cuddle, men like to hunt. That’s pretty much what people have come up with after, what five or six thousand years of deliberating on the sexy natures of men and ladies?
How old is writing? Maybe those cave paintings and such were about how women, allegedly, just want to cuddle and men just want to hunt everything that moves and then stab it, a lot. Stab. Get it??
I and others seem to think that humans are bit more complex than that. But that’s not comforting or comfortable, it’s certainly not a couple pieces of Wonder Bread smeared with Blue Bonnet level of contentment. We humans do like our stereotypes and our comfy blanket versions of human behavior, oh yes we do!
Religion gets its licks in– women don’t like sex, women are unnatural if they like sex, women just want babies that’s why they put up with sex, etc. You’ve heard them. I’ve heard them.
We get them trotted out when there’s votes to be won. Abortion, the pre-born, rape–women can shut down their bodies during a rape, and shouldn’t go out in public, shouldn’t wear this, that, the other, etc; women don’t get paid as much because they have babies and that’s their choice and it’s just biology and…There’s a gigantic bullshit swamp here to dive into. Watch out for gators.
Ah, where is this going and why is yours truly musing about fantasy very safe and controllable Highlander Viking Cowboys and turning stomachs with the Real Story of Sleeping Beauty?
A Pirate King Highlander Chieftain Viking Lord combo set in a gloomy dungeon-heavy castle full of broody immortals…mm!
Mama needs some lemonade!! Oh dang it…are there any books out there with Highlander Viking Cowboys and Sassy Spirited Missies who just need to find love and give up their careers? My brain is tired! It’s tired of SERIOUS STUFF. And wants a real break from TANGERINE ‘MURICA. Checking Hallmark Channel right now.
Or I could just write it myself, because I am a writer but I’d probably start laughing so hard someone from a Tennessee Williams play would have to show up to escort me to the local lobotomy clinic.
Oh my, remember when women were hauled off and brain-gutted because they were ‘acting up’ and their families were okay with this? Lobotomies for the gal who’s a bit out of control! Don’t believe me? Look up Williams’s sister Rose and his play Suddenly Last Summer. Go ahead. I dare ya.
Wait, what? Oh. Where is all this frothy goodness heading?
Excellent question, gentle readers!! Excellent. Thank you for asking.
I don’t write things that sell. I don’t. I’m not a popular author. I write dark twisted probably far too honest and not honest enough bits of this and that.
I need to improve.
I need to either embrace my Satanic Rob Zombie-ish demonic drearscapes or turn to light little mass consumer-wanted tomes that are read at beaches and then forgotten about, but which pay for a beach house so I can watch people read my forgettable words while I write my ‘real’ novels and ‘real’ plays and…ahem.
“You’re so funny,” someone said to me once. “Why don’t you write like that?” I wonder if anyone has ever said that to Norman Mailer. Or if they said that to Chekhov. Or Cormac McCarthy. You need to lighten up there, Cormac! Put some damn jokes in Blood Meridian! Make the Judge really clumsy! Have you ever considered that your stuff goes over most people’s heads? Fix that, Cormac!
But I digress. Ah. Okay!
Maybe I’m trying to decide, yet, what sort of writer I am instead of just being a god damn writer. You know, one who writes. That kind of writer.
Because people [those others who don’t buy my books or commission my plays] don’t want gritty honesty or drearscapes of dreariness…[unless there’s a Russian surname and even then people just put those books on their bookshelves without actually reading them. I am wise to those tricks!].
Yeah. It’s not the little gritty novel about a woman realizing her life will end in obscurity and being alone, where she’ll die in her apartment and be eaten by her own cats. That she won’t find love or happiness, ever. Unless that ‘slice of life’ tale is written by a Hollywood starlet, ghost written by an out of work and down on their luck playwright…Then, it might sell as a novelty item for a bit.
But. Fifty Shades? Come on. Why did it sell? It’s fun, it’s frothy, it’s familiar, it’s very very safe.
Rosemary Rogers did BDSM so much better on her worst day. As did Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and…anyway! Not to mention Anne Rice and her whole Sleeping Beauty series, gentle readers. You want some fun alone time sexy reading, try those three books. It’s under A. N. Roquelaure. Now, I haven’t read any of the Shades books. But I want to because I want to see if it’s as awful as critics say. And because it’s probably comfortable and easy to digest as toast. Wonder Bread toast at that. And then I can add ‘stalky billionaire’ to my stable of reliable safe studs. [No, I don’t actually have that in my head. Of course not. Nope.]
I guess this is sort of a pep talk. To myself. To hang in there, kitty! [Remember that poster?]
And to take some time to enjoy the trashy and fun stuff out there a bit. And to just write and not worry about what genre or category or subgenre or sub-subgenre I fit into so people can hustle my books or so I can hustle my books in a shameless and rhino-skinned manner.
Also to avoid looking at anything political.
Though sexy for-the-ladies fantasy novels are pretty damn political in and of itself. People point to them and go, see? Women! You’re all such silly rabbits! With all women being the same woman, of course. We’re all the same. We just want six hundred paged slick-covered shallow novels filled with cuddling and descriptions of pretty dresses, of course! Except. Anyone who’s bothered to read even one of those things notices right away it’s barely disguised porn, it’s outright porn, it’s sometimes dark and disturbing porn for Stockholm Syndrome fans.
Anyway! That’s a whole other kettle of bloggery blogness. Huzzah!
Highlander Viking Cowboys. Ignoring, sort of, politics…OMG. What the fuck, America? Really?? Why on earth…! Mama needs some lemonade!!
HEY. BUY MY BOOK/S. ONE IS CALLED OREGON GOTHIC. I’M ALSO IN TEN TEN MINUTE PLAYS, VOLUME II, III. SUPPORT PLAYWRIGHTS, TOO!