Romance and SciFi: Happily Ever After?

I must be honest. I've never been a really big fan of the romance novel, and I've almost always passed on them ever since seeing some cheesy covers with swooning women with torn dresses, lying askew in the arms of a shirtless beefcake specimen whose hair is as long as hers. There weren't any books in the Romance section that ever appealed to me based on the covers that I saw there 15-25 years ago, and despite some crossovers with mystery, thriller, fantasy, and paranormal flavor, they still appear to dominate those shelves.

Don't get me wrong... I appreciate the beefcake. Keith Hamilton Cobb in a chainmail vest: Best thing in SF TV, EVER. But I digress.

I am not familiar with the rules of romance. I had no idea that there were distinct lines between what defines a "romance" and what defines a "love story", nor that there were so many rules for the other types of romantic tales. But the readers are passionately familiar with them, and passionately pissed off when certain rules are broken for certain types of tales.

I have been discovering this after reading a blog post that commented on Show #243, on paranormal romance. After reading some of the many comments, and adding a few myself, it occurs to me that some of what they are arguing about reflects a bit on our earlier discussion. I wonder if the bigger picture goes beyond endangered indie stores and a little into poor marketing strategies that are adversely affecting many aspects of bookselling. If all of the books are called "romances", how is someone outside of the genre supposed to know that there's a huge difference between the types of romances? I wouldn't know, not from walking through the section at a Borders or Barnes & Noble, nor down the aisles of used bookstores such as Bookman's.

Fantastical tales with romantic relationship elements between characters is fine with me... but I wouldn't call that a romance, nor a love story. A love story might be a subplot of the main story, but you can't call the book a love story because of it. So why are so many books that focus on romantic relationships all called "Romance" when that definition no longer holds in the minds of the readers who are consuming these books? Doesn't it dawn on the marketers that these readers will also actively and rabidly seek out new books that fit their expectations, so making them harder to find hurts both sides?

I mention this because of the fantasy crossover angle. Should the paranormal romance, or the romantic fantasy tales be shelved in both SF/F and Romance? I know some guys who have used crossover stories to lure their wives and girlfriends in SF/F, but I don't know of anyone using them to accomplish the reverse. While I personally don't have any interest in the traditional fare of the Romance novel, there might be a number of SF/F readers who would be, but like me, wouldn't normally go into the Romance section to see what's there. So what's the best way to attract the interest of the casual reader, the one who wouldn't know ahead of time where to look for a book because they'd already seen or read about it online?

There's not a simple answer here (unless it's "put Love Story instead of Romance" as the category on the cover), but I'm definitely getting an education in the process.

addendum: The original definition of "romance" states: a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory AND a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.

So, by definition, all of those stories that a number of us have been taken to task for calling romances do actually fit the original definition of the word. So, about that rigid adherence to romantic definitions... it doesn't seem like it's something to get so upset about anymore, not with so many other genres crossing over into Romance that have been lining up their relationships according to the old ways.

That said, I'm going to add a little bit to the smoldering bonfire: Calling it paranormal romance is right. It's the definition of Romance that maybe needs to be updated and clarified. Define and describe current descriptions of the genre, as well as those that are considered to be outdated and derogatory so that people outside the genre can learn without being attacked for an innocent slipup. Make a history lesson out of it. If you want people not familiar with the genre to understand, update things for the 21st century and move on from there.

I say this because covering genres beyond science fiction, fantasy and horror is where The Dragon Page is headed. It's only a matter of time before Romance sticks it's foot in the door, and I don't want there to be an angry mob behind it, upset only because of novice confusion between "romance" and "love story". That's a waste of everyone's time and energy, and I'd rather avoid it from the jump.

Why am I pushing it? Because the major attitude seems to be that any romance novel that doesn't have a "happily ever after" ending doesn't belong in the Romance section of the bookstore, nor should it be labeled "Romance"; that it should go in Fantasy or General Fiction instead.

Why not come up with ways to extend "Romance" to be inclusive rather than exclusive? Why not call a love story that ends badly a "Tragic Romance"? It lets people know that it's a romantic story, but that there isn't a happily ever after ending. Why can't that go in the Romance section, now that it's more clearly labeled? And why can't other romantic tales be so labeled, and make everyone from readers to marketing departments happier?


  1. Chief firestorm starter here. I think that romance readers are willing to venture outside the genre and into other genre fiction aisles. I know that I go to the mystery section to read PJ Tracy and Jan Burke. I've gone into the Sci Fi/Fantasy section to pick up Sharon Shinn, a Luna title, Anne Bishop, Jacqueline Carey, Juliet Marillier and Lois McMaster Bujold.

    But if I find a book in the romance section, I certainly have certain expectations. I expect that there will be one couple (I've read gay fiction and so long as the blurb denotes that I am fine with it) achieving a happy ever after together. If that genre parameter is not met then I don't want it in the romance aisle.

    As for marketing, isn't that the age old question every midlist author has? How can I get my book into the hands of the right reader? And if we knew the answer to that, wouldn't everyone be getting it right?

    I don't think that, in the long term, marketing that deceives or misleads the general expectation of the reader, will benefit the genre, author or the publisher in the long run. It may mean short term gains for a few authors but overall, publishing will suffer.

  2. I guess I don't see it as malicious intent or intentionally misleading potential readers, but rather as a lack of creativity from the marketing departments, or decision making based on not wanting to be too complex in pigeonholing books.

    It's taken a very long time, but television shows have become more complex as they mix in elements from more than one genre. It makes the shows better, and as a result brings in more viewers. Heroes, LOST, Battlestar Galactica are my examples here, with The 4400, The Dead Zone and possibly Jericho following closely behind.

    Stories in many genres have become more complex, and become richer and better tales because of mixing in elements from more than one genre, yet the publishing industry has seen this as a marketing problem rather than a potential windfall of readers outside of the "norms" that book might have reached previously.

    People say that the bookshelf problem is the reason for that, but hasn't television overcome the fears that having more channels would mean that people would give up looking at new channels? That was the wrong idea then, and as more and more niche channels pop up with acceptable or better viewership levels, the old guard ideas continue to be seen as not quite on the money.

    Is it time for bookstores to break into the niche markets? If someone opened up a store that focused on SF/F, I'd first go in because of curiosity, but if their selection was tasty, I'd keep coming back. I think that's how DreamHaven Books operates, and while I'm no expert, it has to be how The Poisoned Pen is surviving, too.

    If there was a specialty store called Borders Romantica, or Borders SciFi, I think they'd do pretty well. Have a decent network of info kiosks where people can search up what they're looking for and have a Netflix or Library Thing relational results of other books the searcher might find interesting, and you're gold.

    Maybe I'm optimistic, or idealistic, or nuts, but why hasn't this been at least tried before at the chain level? The bottleneck is at the store level. The publishers I'm sure would love to sell more copies of older books, but getting them to the places where they'd sell and keep selling is the sticking point. Once a supposedly new book becomes hard to find, and you send people online to find copies of a book that's only 6-8 months old, you send the message that maybe they should keep on searching online because they know that a local store isn't likely to carry it.

    Silly question: is the term "midlist author" more commonly used for those in the fiction genres, SF/F/H, mystery, romance, and the others? I've never heard that term applied to non-fic or business writers, so I don't mind looking silly by asking.

  3. Wow, you ruffled quite a number of feathers on their blog! But understandable from their point of view, though. I get that way when people talk down about scifi for being about aliens... and they just can't relate to aliens.

    I've read two romance books that I would classify, were it my job, under Romance - Fantasy. One was a Dark Hunters book and one was Christina Feehan and had vampires. There were both extremely formulaic, imo.

    In the vampire one, Alpha male is big, dark, and broody. And it's his job over the course of the book to tame Modern Strong Willed Woman and make her see how she really loves him after all, because apparently all that Strong Will and Having Your Own Opinions is just a rouse. What she -really- wanted was to be controlled and forced, in every sense of the word.

    How excellently archaic. Feminists are rolling in their graves, I'm sure. And that's why I never read another book in either series. I mean, nice sex scenes and all, but damn. Hello 14th century.

    And that's been my impression of the genre. Essentially, I picked things that seemed like they might have elements I'd like (vampires, arcane hunters) and tried a new genre. And what I got was anti-feminist claptrap that made me mad the more I thought about it.

    Now, the "paranormal romance" for reallly lack of a better term at the moment, seems like it should be different. And it seems like something I should fine more acceptable. Hell, I'm ok with happy endings. I'm ok with sex scenes. The Kushiel's series are some of my favorite books ever. But I'm not ok with what I've experience as the Romance formula. So maybe I am that crossover person they're looking for. But I don't think that someone who read the books above and -liked- them would like whatever this new genre is.

    Maybe it needs a new name.

  4. On an entirely different note, I'm not sure how well a Borders SciFi would do. I mean, you'd be running into the same problem, wouldn't you? What goes under SciFi? Romance - Fantasy? Is there stuff in the Literature section that could potentially go there? Something like Like Water for Chocolate?

    A big enough population could potentially support it. But I wonder if maybe the reason that some of the owner/operator speciality book stores work is because they have a character that customers can get to know. And they want to know it. To go to the little store run by someone they're familiar with who always seems to have a good suggestion.

    Or maybe it's that Borders SciFi would have nothing to offer. I mean, what would such a store look like? Science Fiction broken into sub genres. A much smaller store. Probably a decently expanded selection from what they currently have. But 99% of the books you'd never have heard of.

    It would take, I think, a redefinition of roles.
    Think about electronics. Panasonic convinces you to buy the TV. Best Buy sells it to you.
    It is the publisher's job to convince you to buy the book through whatever marketing scheme they've come up with. It's Borders' job to sell it to you. It's not their job to suggest to you what you might like. It's kind of not their job to convince you into any purchase in particular. They put up displays of what they think will sell, not what they think you would like to buy.

    That's what makes Amazon's approach so different. Not only do they let you buy books, they direct you to things and market things to you that the publisher did not succeed in marketing to you.

    If you're going to focus on just one genre, there's going to be much fewer big names that sell themselves, and a lot fewer books that come with built-in publisher marketing to sell themselves. By starting off by limiting yourself, you've got a much smaller pool of things that people will think they should buy because they've heard of it or seen that ad.

    To work better, the store might want to personalize the experience in the same way that amazon does. Come in the store, swipe your membership card, get a list of suggested new titles based on past purchases which you could rate at the kiosk if they really wanted to get technical about it.

  5. I don't think so... my idea was that you'd have something about half the size of a regular Borders, but because it's genre specific, you'd have more room to have more categories. No need to worry about the travel books and the cookbooks and the history and current events and such. Keep the sections that would have something remotely scifi, say the film and television section, but stock it with ONLY the SF/F related titles.

    And if it were a Borders, sure, personalize the experience with the Borders card you've already got. If you're already receiving their emails, make those email targeted more towards what people are buying. I can't tell you how absolutely useless most of the emails Borders sends me about things on sale and new releases are... not once have I received a book related one that contained a book in any genre I've bought since I got the card. So, what was the point of me getting that card again? If it's only saving a few bucks, it's not worth it to me in the long run because the information isn't helping me one damned bit.

    If this is such a hard thing, then again I ask, why does the niche market approach work for stores like The Poisoned Pen, and DreamHaven Books, and Borderlands Books in the Bay Area? I'm assuming it also works for Forbidden Planet chain in the UK, but they delve into movies, gaming, comics and figures in addition to books. There are plenty of niche market bookstores, but they are so few and far between they can't help the consumer who wants the bookstore experience.

    Now, Poisoned Pen seems to branch out into any genre that involves a true mystery or detective bent to it when they want. Charlie Huston (Already Dead, No Dominion) is going to be at the Scottsdale store on January 18, for a reading and signing I believe.

    There has to be a way to do this. I know it can work, given the right people behind it and a good place to draw in that clientele... start in a city that can support such a model, and try it out for 3 years, minimum. Hell, Borders can even repurpose all those Waldenbooks spaces they're closing down... wouldn't a Romance only bookstore be a great replacement in a shopping mall?

    I can't be the only one who thinks this idea has a shot. It's better than continuing with models we know aren't working anymore.

  6. I dunno. Is there maybe something to the "small bookstore" experience that makes you more likely to go there than the regular Borders now, even though you could probably get the same book in both places?

  7. What do you think... waithndil (lover of people) or melpennas (love story), both in elvish. That says fantasy romance, right? 🙂

  8. This might be slightly OT, but Magess, I think you're confusing the romance formula (one hero, one heroine, happy romantic ending) with certain character archetypes (alpha male) within the genre. Not all romance characters fit this archetype, although it is more dominant in, say, male vampire stories.

    Back on topic...I understand that the dictionary definition of "romance" encompasses more than just a HEA. But romance as a genre in fiction has very specific requirements that don't meet the broader definition of the word "romance", just as in classical music "Romance" alludes to a style within a particular period, and when we talk about "Romance languages" we refer to languages that meet a very narrow set of criteria. Likewise, tthe HEA is crucial to the accepted - and, for readers, EXPECTED - definition of romance as a genre in fiction. Any change to that expectation has to come from its readership and not forced on us by publishers or readers from other genres. As the commenters on Dear Author have said many times, we're not averse to reading non-HEA fiction, and books in other genres, but if you tell us it fits under the romance genre then it will be with the promise that the story fulfills the HEA requirement.

  9. Kat, my current issue is with romance readers taking people who don't know that there's a big difference between "Romance" (the overarching description given to all the novels that end up in that book section because of marketing reasons) and "romance" (the "there had better be a Happy Ever After ending, or you'll die wishing that I'd treated you as well as Paul Sheldon was in Misery").

    Not many people outside of romance readers know there's a distinct and treasured difference, and tearing them apart because they don't know that doesn't really encourage them to stick around and learn. 🙂

    About 7-8 years ago, I went to the RWA website, and several chapter websites, and I honestly do not recall ever seeing a list of definitions of the different types of stories found in the Romance section of the bookstores. I'm a geek, and seeing a list of terms would have encouraged my curiosity. Maybe that's changed on the websites since then, but I haven't gone to look. If it hasn't changed, or isn't more prominently featured in a "Are you new to Romance?" section, then maybe it should be.

    Oh, and to a recent comment over on Dear Author, there are a number of stories in SF/F where the perceived bad guy wins at the end, and I have yet to a cry go out to take the author's livelihood away from them. Her assumption that SF/F readers would as a whole would reject the story because of that is wrong.

    I don't care if the ending of the story is "happy" or "cruel", as long as the story is complete and internally consistent. And yeah, Harry Potter may well die, but if he does, I'd be he does so while taking Voldemort with him in a final sort of fashion. I can live with that, and it seems sort of fitting. I know that would seriously piss off a lot of people, but I wouldn't hate Rowling because of it.

    I wonder if those same people would be pissed off if Harry lived at the end, but somehow had lost his magical abilities while destroying Voldemort, thus losing forever his ability to live in the world of wizards? Yes, I've been pondering situations, seeing how she could live up to her promise to end the series in such a way that neither she nor anyone else could write more Harry Potter stories after this final novel. And for the record, the only ending that would piss me off is the "it was all a dream" ending.

  10. "Not many people outside of romance readers know there’s a distinct and treasured difference, and tearing them apart because they don’t know that doesn’t really encourage them to stick around and learn." --> I think most of the commenters take issue with publishers who market books as romance or include "romance" in its marketing description, because there is clearly a romance genre with its aforementioned requirements and publishers, of all people, should know this. The author, however, becomes a casualty since it's her name on lights printed on the cover. (The later comments by Nora Roberts sum it up nicely.) There's also the suspicion that publishers are trying to cash in on the large romance market. There's no problem with long as you don't screw around with the romance!

    And I think the comment at DA that you're talking about was mine, too! *lol* The comparison with good guys winning probably isn't the best, but it was the closest I could think of (apart from a crime/mystery novel where the mystery isn't actually solved). In romance, the HEA can be a question of degree - happiness forever, marriage, a commitment, and sometimes just finally getting together. But the definition of a "romance" by most readers of the genre requires the HEA. Just as a mystery requires a mystery. The genre definition of romance is more limited than its dictionary definition. And as far as I know, the RWA is more inclusive in its definition of what kinds of authors it's targeting (it's not about defining the genre - they tried to do that once, I believe, and HUGE dramas ensued). Believe it or not, there are boundaries, such as infidelity, being pushed with the HEA constraints. The genre is by no means static.

    I can't speak for every reader but the reason I don't want to broaden the definition of the romance genre to extend beyond the HEA is because I can find non-HEA love stories outside the genre quite easily. If I wanted some unpredictability to the ending, I'd go to another section of the bookstore. But when I want a comfort read where I know I'll be smiling at the end, I go to the romance shelves. Having a label such as "Tragic Romance" is, I think, missing the point. The point is that the ending is part of the genre. That's why erotica isn't considered as romance by most readers even though it would probably fit into the stereotype of what non-readers believe they will find in a romance book.

    I also think a lot of commenters were insulted by the "ten foot pole", "hazmat suit" and "bodice rippers" comments. They were insulting because many of us are also big SF/F fans and DO read romance, so the generalisation about SF/F readers was inaccurate to begin with, not to mention that it perpetuates the worst kinds of stereotypes about romance books and readers. I can guarantee you that the staff at my local SF/F bookshop can point out which books have the HEA because I've asked them to on several occasions. So to comment on a romance-focused site about how abhorrent you find the genre was probably never going to go down well with the majority of its visitors. Especially if you then try to push extending the boundaries of this genre that you freely admit you will probably never read.

    As for Harry...well, as neither the YA nor the SF/F genres carry the expectation that the main protagonists can't die, I won't hold it against JKR if she kills him off. No matter how disappointed I'd be.

  11. You know, before you start making suggestions about how romances should be defined, labeled and/or marketed, maybe you should actually read a certain number of them. Say like a hundred or so. Or more. Browse around some of the romance related sites. Get to know the recommended books. Find some to your tastes. Get to know the genre a little better.

    And as to your suggestion about offering, what was it, newbie pages. I spent a couple of hours the other day browsing several SF/F sites trying to find out what fans were really saying about "paranormal romance" and didn't see any explanations about definitions and sub-genres to clarify anything for a newbie.

    Amazingly, I also didn't see find any reviews that seemed to think paranormal romances were supposed to be anything other than romances in the genre sense either. Strange.

  12. Kat and Bev, my comments weren't trying to clarify things for me personally, but to try to clarify things for those SF/F readers who might be interested in romance if they knew about the many differences. Just because I'm not one of the ones who'll cross over into the real romance novels doesn't mean I won't try to help others who are curious.

    I was curious how the standard romance reader (I'm trying to use neutral terminology here because I still don't know what's what) reacted to the paranormal romance interview I did, and when reading the first set of comments, my inquisitiveness was triggered, my opinion was harshly and soundly bashed, to my dismay.

    My issue here is that I was taken to task because of a lack of knowledge, and accused of being disdainful of millions of readers because I personally didn't want to read hundreds of romance novels to gain that knowledge. I had no idea that "bodice ripper" was an archaic term. I thought it was patently clear that MINE was the only opinion I was talking about, and I personally don't have the time to read the books I need to read for here, much less to add more books to my reading pile from a genre I'm not interested in reading or in writing.

    That's disrespectful towards me, don'tcha think? The fact that I never once said to or about anyone that they were stupid and uneducated because they read romance novels, and I was attacked for saying those things I never said made things worse.

    Many of the Dear Author comments seemed to gleefully stand up and point out that my opinion and personal feelings don't matter until after I (or anyone who doesn't like romance) had read a minimum of 100 books in the genre. As if that were a requirement before being allowed to make a decision or evaluation on my own likes and dislikes, and before being allowed to come back and talk to them. That's insulting to me, because it means that those readers believe I'm too stupid to make a choice about what I like and don't like after reading 3 or 4 novels.

    That's like forcing someone who doesn't like sushi or Thai food or Latin food to continue eating it, because they can't possibly have developed the taste buds to make an educated evaluation on what they do or don't like, and they can't possibly talk about food until they've done so.

    That's what's truly insulting. Nothing I said was insulting, not intentionally, but that attack on me was definitely insulting and disrespectful of me and my feelings.

    I don't read cookbooks, but it doesn't mean I don't understand cooking and food. I don't read romance novels, but it doesn't mean I don't understand genre fans and the people who write the books. I just don't understand the vicious defense of the genre and the vicious attacking of newbies who don't know all the codewords and secret handshakes.
    SFF people tend to be encouraging to people who are new to the genre... seeing that romance fans seem to be the opposite was a little shocking to me.

    All it would have taken was someone saying "Hey, there are more crossover SF/Romance readers than you think", and that would have been fine. I don't personally know any, and that's either because they don't read romance, or they haven't or aren't telling me they also read romance. I've never seen anyone traveling to or from or at a SF Convention with a romance novel. I've never seen anyone in the SF section of a bookstore who was also carrying new Romance novels. I've never heard anyone complain when we've talked about books that had romantic elements in them that we got any terminology wrong or anything like that.

    So in my personal experience, I haven't run across it much. And my recent experience at Dear Author doesn't exactly encourage me to want to expand that experience. Which is a shame, because in delving into romance topics in the future here at Dragon Page, I'd love to talk to Nora Roberts since she's a longtime author, but since she seems to hate me for various innocent assumptions, I'll just guess that interview request would be a pass 🙂

    I just want more people to read, and thus create more opportunities for more authors and books that barely get a chance. What I see in the Romance section of the bookstore is what I've based my opinions on... if so many of the books in that section are labeled as romance but aren't truly romance, how is that any newbie's fault? If the publishers don't respect the genre's rules, then what possible hope could newbies have of determining that from the store shelves? And why take that frustration out on someone not familiar with any of this?

    And yes, Fantasy readers don't seem to be interested in paranormal romance because of the romance tag, but it's too new right now. I'd never heard of it until last November, which is when that interview was done. It suffers from needing to be marketed to two separate and for the most part non-crossing genres (meaning, sections in the bookstore), and how do you do that so that romance readers who'd never read SF/F might pick it up, and SF/F readers who would never read romance pick it up?

    My question was complicated by the fact that "romance" to the romance reader has a completely different definition than what I and many others not familiar with the genre thought: "Romance means love story, with lots of drama and sex and relationship issues". I had no idea that "romance" was a strict, HEA ONLY ending. So calling the genre Romance and then strangling it to only mean a certain type of love story is what's confusing the hell outta me.

    And for that I was insulted, attacked, and chased away, probably never to return. That's the real shame. I am glad for Kat's expanded explanation here, but it would have been a lot more helpful and soothing a few days ago 🙂

  13. So, let me get all this straight.

    You want to help SF/F readers find "real" romance novels at the same time that you try to convince everyone that romance really shouldn't mean what it means within the romance genre? But you have absolutely no idea why dedicated romance readers might get any wrong ideas about your motives, huh? Or why they might keep suggesting you might want to read some of the books before helping anyone to find them?

    It boggles the mind how we could dare be so unreasonable and insulting.

    As to the other, to be honest, the reaction you got to the use of bodice ripper was actually quite mild to what it could've and probably would've been on some romance forums. There are many romance readers who are extremely tired of hearing the term used by people who claim never to have read a romance in the very next breath. So don't expect apologies for their reactions. You won't get them. I'm sure there are trigger terms that set fantasy and science fiction readers off too.

    Look, you may truly find it insulting for someone to suggest you read a few books but that isn't how it was intended. You bring up the analogy of sampling food and you're absolutely right, but first someone does has to sample it. I'm not sure trying one or two books counts. Would that have told your what your true taste in SF/F was?

    The use of hundreds may be an over-exaggeration but also a reaction to your stated intention to begin helping people find romances. Do you even know how many romances are published each month?

  14. No, I wanted to help fantasy readers find paranormal romances, and help romance readers find paranormal romances. I want genre-crossing stories to find readers in both genres without being ignored by both. I want to try to cut down confusion so that unwarranted terminology wars like this don't have to waste everyone's time and energy.

    If someone like me (a brilliant geek girl with net savvy going back to the early 80s) can't figure out what's what without having to do a week's worth of research online before asking, don't you think there's a problem that needs to be cleared up?

    And Bev, I NEVER said I wanted to help SF/F readers cross over to "real" romances... not once, not anywhere. Directing them to the romance section of the bookstore to find a paranormal romance is a different story (if they find something non-paranormal they like while in there, that's their personal choice). Making sure the publisher gets the book shelved in both sections of the book store, sure. So no, I don't know how many romance novels are printed each month. I'm guessing it's in the hundreds, but I'm not all that interested in finding out. Romance doesn't need my help or my criticism... but crossover stories by SF/F authors I'm familiar with are books I have no problem trying to find a way to cross promote between genres because I know their publishers won't do so.

    I never got the chance to fully express myself because I got caught up in trying to fend off attacks about what I was told I said.

    Quite a number of things I said were twisted with unreal jumps of logic over at Dear Author, and I'll be damned if I know why that's happening. I don't know where you got the idea that I wanted to cross SF/F readers into real romances, and I don't know where you thought I wanted apologies either... I was not fishing for any apologies, and frankly, I don't care... it's not my style. But I will not just sit back and take being attacked and maligned for things I never said.

    I did not know that ROMANCE only meant "happily ever after". I have never known that until this past week. Knowing that now, the idea that categorizing the type of romantic story enclosed between the covers seemed like a good idea to help everyone around, one that was echoed in the many continuing comments in that discussion that vent anger towards the publishers' marketing techniques, which seems much more warranted than attacks on me and my romance ignorance.

    That said, what would you call it besides paranormal romance, to let romance readers know that these are love stories that may or may not have an HEA ending, and to let fantasy readers know that these are hot love stories containing vampire sex or furry sex or the relationship problems between a werewolf and a succubus? You tell me, because every time I think I'm helping, I seem to make it worse, which is not and never was my intent.

    Now, I will read paranormal romance stories from the fantasy section now and then, and I'll probably stick with the short stories rather than the novels, because as of yet, I haven't read anything that appealed to me. Also, from what I've seen, romance isn't a genre that caters to the short form. If I'm wrong about that, then please inform me, but most of the collections I've seen are erotica, not romance (that's one I know the difference between).

    Since the novel length stories aren't what I'd would gravitate towards, no, I don't feel as if I need to read extensively in the exclusive romance genre. And what constitutes a few books? More than a few people told me to "go read 100 books" before coming back and being worthy of talking to them. Thank you, but no. I read 3 Linda Howard books, and I only liked one of them. I tried to read a Danielle Steel, a Jayne Ann Krentz and yes, a Nora Roberts. I appreciated the writing, but couldn't make myself finish any of the books. I decided that to continue to read the same kinds of stories and expect a different result (that I would love the genre) was irrational and possibly insane on my part. I didn't count them because I didn't finish reading them. I think I have done enough to know that I personally don't want to continue to try reading them, and attacking me for that stance while still being open to helping SF/F readers find paranormal romance seems crazy.

    And before you get harsh about that, there have been plenty of SF, Fantasy and Horror novels that I got bored with, wasn't impressed with, or absolutely hated, and I didn't finish those either. No, it didn't turn me off from the whole genre, but there have been SF books I've thrown against a wall and refused to continue reading, and there was even one novel that I slowly tore page from page and tossed into a fireplace. I haven't done that with a romance novel, ever, but then again I don't plan to read any more of them, either.

    But I did want to know why the romance fans are so up in arms about using the word romance to describe a romantic story that doesn't have a HEA, or why there's such a feeling of malice for mislabeling them as romances. I understand that part a little better now... I may not understand why there's such an investment in it, but I understand it exists, just in the same way that I understand Star Trek fans will always defend Trek to death, and Star Wars fans will forever debate Empire vs Rebel Alliance.

    No one on the romance reader side has yet answered that question of mine, without resorting to name calling and insults.

  15. "But I did want to know why the romance fans are so up in arms about using the word romance to describe a romantic story that doesn’t have a HEA, or why there’s such a feeling of malice for mislabeling them as romances." --> Because the HEA (or, the happy ending - as I said, it's a question of degree) is what we EXPECT from a book shelved in the romance aisles. That's pretty much the botom line. If someone stuffs that up, we're all back to reading the back of the book to figure out if it's going to be a comfort read or something else. The bad vibes...well, you visited a snarky blog so you shouldn't have expected much of the nicey-nicey. You probably got off lightly. There are romance bloggers out there who are nicer, but the DA style is more confrontational - that's one of the reasons I love going there. *g* If it's any consolation, they don't hold back for other romance readers and authors, either.

    You might find this post interesting: It's a less...emotional analysis of what constitutes a paranormal romance, from a romance reader's point of view. Sarah, the poster, cites one of my current favourites, the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. I'm also a big fan of Nalini Singh's Slave to Sensation (the cover is very romancey so it might be a little off-putting). But as Bev mentioned, there's a wide range of worlds, themes and quality of writing within what romance readers consider paranormal romance, so it's a bit of a crapshoot to think you'll find one that appeals after a few books. I personally didn't get into paranormal romance until a friend forced me to read one...which I ended up loving (she and I have similar tastes). But if I'd picked one up, just based on hype or whatever, I probably would not have enjoyed it that much. And I'm also a SF/F reader - McKillip, Feist (his old stuff) and JV Jones are my favourites, but I'm open to whatever else my family leaves lying around in the toilet! *lol*

  16. I just wanted to say that I've been following this controversy and find it fascinating. Obviously people are very attached to their terms. Short of splintering the local bookstore sections into micro-genres, marketing cross-genre novels are going to be problematic. As one of those rare sf/f readers who also happens to read romance (I don't personally know anyone else who does), I'd have to ask, does it have to be called "paranormal romance"? What's wrong with coming up with another term? I think it would be more accurate to call it romantic sf/f indicating that there are romantic elements but not necessarily a happily ever after.

    Anyways, until the booksellers in real life start emulating the online retailers with the "if you like this, you might like these" recommendations, I'm probably going to continue ignoring the rather arbitrary genre divisions. (Heck, I don't even trust them in shelving the non-fiction...)

  17. Summer, FWIW, here's the comment that got you in trouble at DA: Juno titles are being put in the SF/F section, and knowing that like me, most SF/F readers won’t touch anything “romance� with a 10-ft pole and a hazmat suit . . .

    Yeah, some readers over there were insulted by that and struck back. I personally don't think you were tarred and feathered, but each of us have a different perception of online exchanges.

    If you have no interest and no liking for Romance novels, no matter how many or how few you have read, I don't think you should be required to read any more of them. But at the same time, I DO think it's difficult to argue effectively or persuasively that that genre defintion should be broadened. As Kat said, the Romance genre is very dynamic, and its reader some of the most widely read I've seen. I'm not sure the 1911 dictionary definition for "romance" is particularly illuminating, either. For example, we know that all television, film, and theater media is generally classed as "drama," but no one would call "When Harry Met Sally" a drama or "War of the Worlds" a romantic comedy. Romance fiction, as a genre term, is specific because it presents a paradigm, much like Mystery fiction, for example. Just because a book contains a mystery doesn't mean it necessary conforms to the generic definition of Mystery as those genre readers and authors know it.

    Personally, I don't think that if genre Romance comprised the lion's share of the mm pb market that the term would be of much value, for exactly the reason your pole and your hazmat suit suggest. I can see where people who aren't invested in genre Romance might want to redefine the term, but I have to say it surprises me when the call is from other genre readers, because genres, by their very nature, are rule-based classes of literature (think of a sonnet, for example).

    It's become less relevant to me over time that some folks have a derogatory impression of genre Romance, because I used to be one of them until I started reading the genre two -plus years ago. I don't think it's any more sexist -- as a general rule -- than SF fiction, which has a somewhat notorious history in that regard, too. Yeah, it would be great if more some of the most wonderful Romances I've read weren't marked with that scarlet letter, but I don't think changing the generic definition is going to accomplish that, nor do I think it's necessarily the best thing for the more hybridized novels that Juno publishes.

  18. Robin, is there an explanation for why the definition of a romantic movie is so broad, but for a romantic novel it's so narrow?

    My main question is with why romance readers (at least the ones in that thread) are so against the crossovers being called "paranormal romance", and that seems to hinge on the word "romance" as a definition of a type of story, rather than the broader, more overarching term used to define the genre. Because from what I've seen, there are plenty of non-HEA books in the Romance section of the bookstore... they don't seem to be getting shelved under General Fiction.

    Or am I still misunderstanding what stories fall into the genre of romance, rather than the strict story category of romance? I guess I'm just trying to find a way where small publishers of crossover stories are rewarded rather than punished for pushing envelopes.

    Also, I didn't think that that statement of mine was that inflammatory... I thought it was obvious that my personal tastes, as well as the personal tastes of a lot of primary SF/F readers, do not lean towards romantic relationships as the primary focus of the story, rather than being an element of a bigger story. That was my intent behind the statement, in any event. I can see where it could have been misconstrued, but that's done now.

  19. My main question is with why romance readers (at least the ones in that thread) are so against the crossovers being called “paranormal romance�, and that seems to hinge on the word “romance� as a definition of a type of story, rather than the broader, more overarching term used to define the genre. Because from what I’ve seen, there are plenty of non-HEA books in the Romance section of the bookstore… they don’t seem to be getting shelved under General Fiction.

    The mainstream of genre Romance readers want an HEA ending, and I have to say that in my bookstore, only books with a happy ending are shelved in Romance. I don't need the HEA (optimistic is fine for me, as per the RWA definition), but more traditional Romance readers feel the HEA is an unequivocal part of the generic defintion. The bare bones definition, though, is a story that centrally focuses on a love relationship and an optimistic ending. We argue within the genre all the time about whether polyamory counts, for example, or about where the line between erotica and erotic Romance is, etc. But those arguments are carried out by people who read the genre and have a different stake and take on it. I actually like reading the comments of people outside the genre, because sometimes it brings another perspective to intra-genre dialogue. And I tend to love boundary pushing Romance. But even I as a very liberal reader (generically speaking, that is, well, and politically so, but that's nto so important here) do believe that there are rules, or at least a discernable paradigm in which genre Romance must fit to conform to the genre. And really, there are only two main requirements.

    As for your question about romantic movies and books, you actually answered it yourself without realizing it. "Romantic" is a much broader term than genre Romance fiction, and after all, genre Romance is a class of literature, not film, so IMO it doesn't have to match up to film categorizations, in the same way film genres have their own unique nomenclanture (i.e. film noir).

    I think that those publishers who want to put out hybridized books (thank goodness for them, too!) would be better with a term like romantic paranormal or paranormal adventure or even just paranormal fiction -- something that doesn't appear to advertise itself as synonymous with an established generic phrase, especially one that's currently as hot as "Paranormal Romance" in genre Romance.

  20. I guess having the word "romance" be both a fiction genre and at the same time a specific category in that genre exclusive of other categories in that genre of the same name is where the stumbling block is.

    If people are trying to market to the broader genre and not the specific category, how to do that without pissing off the people expecting "romance"? I know they aren't adverse to other categories of romantic fiction, but since calling it romance is what most people outside of romance recognize the entire genre as, how to word it so that the majority of genre and non-genre readers can know and FIND the books?

    Shoot, this may be harder to figure out than world peace 🙂

  21. Wow. After reading all of this back and forth, back and forth I agree with some points on all sides.

    Now I think that most fans of ANY genre would feel "out to defend" their likes and would take offense at any such comments that they felt were derogatory to their genre. That said, I would hope that sites that are geared towards a genre would have a FAQ of some sort, an overview of the genre to help those who are new to said genre. I think it would clear up a lot of misconceptions and hurt feelings. That also said, I mean come on people it's not the END OF THE WORLD when someone comes stumbling in like a bull in the china shop. Take a moment, be a decent human being, send them a nice email saying, "Excuse me. I do believe you might have commited a faux pas." and go on to explain what they did, in a kind manner instead of belitting and nasty.

    I know that there are beginning to be a lot of blending of genres. I mean, every author wants to grab their known readership and maybe entice the folks on the edge of another genre. I believe it often comes down to bookstores only have a broad generalization for a particular genre, in a particular space. It's only been within the past 2 years that comics/manga have gotten their own sections in big U.S. stores.

    I believe that the current model of stores only allows that broadness to exist. Space is at a premium and unless you can sell, you're gone. I think that in certain areas a niche market could be sustainable for a time but for how long? I mean even the Poison Pen has broken from the "pure" mystery books to sustain it's place.

    All of this being said, I would agree with the point Summer made about getting people to read. That is the ultimate goal, getting folks to just READ! It doesn't matter if it's a romance novel, a spy thriller, a murder mystery or a science fiction tale, just read.

    Thanks again for all the great input we've seen here. It has been enlighting to me, especially since my exposure to the romance genre is limited and many, many years ago.

  22. "If people are trying to market to the broader genre and not the specific category, how to do that without pissing off the people expecting “romance�?" --> I think Robin's previous suggestions were OK. She also raised an important point that non-romance genre readers probably aren't aware of, and it's that "Paranormal Romance" as a subgenre in Romance is very hot at the moment. This might also be why readers seem cynical when a publisher tries to redefine that phrase.

    At the heart of it, though, is the question of WHY? Why bother marketing a romance to paranormal fans whose primary interest isn't the central love story? Why bother marketing a paranormal to romance readers who expect an HEA where there is no promise of one?

  23. I've been following this discussion on both boards since it began. I have to say Summer, that if you feel your treatment on Dear Author was harsh, don't ever get involved with sports message boards! Or at least have some mercy on the next poor fool that gets onto a SF board and says something foolish out of ignorance.

    I'm curious; are romantic/sexual relationships between SF/F characters so completely new that we need a new title for the concept? I do read some SF/F, (Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher(both series), Charles deLint, Sharon Shinn, MZ Bradley); and while I wouldn't classify them as romances it seems like many of the books I've read have had characters involved in love affairs or casual sex. Granted, I've yet to read furry sex, although I think Harry Dresden came pretty close once.

    That's why I personally feel that the desire to openly label books "paranormal romance" is only about pulling in the romance reader dollars. I would imagine that genre fiction-you, us, and those wacky mystery people-probably account for the vast majority of sales. I know that the romance genre fiction, with HEA intact, accounts for the largest chunk of bookstore sales. I'm sure Luna, and other SF imprints, would love some of that.
    The furry sex/vampire sex was new to romance a few years ago; so romance readers did start referring to it as paranormal romance. Maybe it hadn't been rubber stamped by the industry; but just us plain folk new it meant that the hero or heroine would be a werewolf or a vampire, or a shapeshifter. With a happy ending, of course.

  24. Laura, sports boards I'm not worried about in the least! I know sports, and there's far less of a learning curve! Give me an argument instead in football, baseball, soccer or college basketball any day... even hockey! 🙂

    Romantic relationships aren't new in SF/F, but it's not expected to the primary focus of the tale as it seems to be in the romance novel. Honestly, off the top of my head, I can't think of one story that's in SF/F but whose primary storyline is the romance or romantic relationship rather than the high concept SF idea or the space adventure or the mythic quest. The romance/romantic relationship may be a secondary or tertiary aspect, or a minor or major plot point, but I can't think of a story where it's the main thrust of the plot, with a HEA ending for the lovers (or one pair of lovers in the story with different relationships/characters). And no, I don't count fairy tales in there.

    As for wanting a piece of the largest publishing dollar pie out there, is it so wrong to push genre boundaries to see what might work, instead of assuming that readers want the same stuff over and over again, all of the time? I just thought that paranormal romance might sell better in the Romance section than in the SF/F section. I'm not sure I'm totally right anymore, but I'm also not convinced I'm totally wrong about it, either.

    So, if it contains paranormal elements, and the main plot/storyline is the romantic relationship between a pair of lovers, HEA ending or not, where to shelve that book so it would attract it's largest number of potential readers?

    Now, I had no idea that the romance readers started calling those tales paranormal romance... that makes the distinction and the argument that much more confusing. If they labeled it then, but want to unlabel it now... I'm so lost. 🙂

  25. I was/am one of the posters who was offended by the “ten foot pole� and “hazmat suit� comment, much more then your differing views on what should and shouldn't be labeled "Paranormal Romance". Whether or not you're trying you ARE implying with these comments that Romance as a genre is somehow abhorrent, this then passes this same implication on to Romance readers.

    Honestly, I can understand someone outside of the genre not knowing that "boddice ripper" is offensive in the same way I'm sure you may be offended by my misusing a cliche from sf/f.

    So, if it contains paranormal elements, and the main plot/storyline is the romantic relationship between a pair of lovers, HEA ending or not, where to shelve that book so it would attract it’s largest number of potential readers?

    You're still missing the point. As readers we may not have a full understanding of other genres, you may not have known that "Romance" on the spine has a specific definition to romance readers but PUBLISHERS do, and mismarketing to genre readers may make them money in the short term, they will hurt new authors in the long one by not marketing their books correctly. Because you as a sf/f reader may be interested in a tale with "paranormal elements, and the main plot/storyline is the romantic relationship between a pair of lovers, HEA ending or not" but a romance reader is anticipating and expecting a HEA. So you may buy this author again, but the average romance reader will not.

    And if you wouldn't enter a Romance section of a "10 foot pole" and "a hazmat suit" how are you going to be able to find these mismarketed paranormals in the first place?

  26. Oops that was supposed to say...

    And if you wouldn’t enter a Romance section of a bookstore with “10 foot pole� and “a hazmat suit� how are you going to be able to find these mismarketed paranormals in the first place?

  27. Magess said:

    I’ve read two romance books that I would classify, were it my job, under Romance - Fantasy. One was a Dark Hunters book and one was Christina Feehan and had vampires. There were both extremely formulaic, imo.

    Yikes!! PLEASE do not judge Romance or Paranormal Romance by Christine Feehan. Her "Dark..." series are some of the worst books I've ever read. PLEASE do try Meljean Brook's debut novel Demon Angel, a wonderful book and not formulaic. You may also like to try Lynn Viehl's Darkyn Series or Susan Squires Companion series (though the last in the Companion series wasn't that good) both technically write "Paranormal Romance" because the books end with a HEA but both are vampire series but much different from the angst of Ms. Feehan's pathetically brooding, self-absorbed heros and spineless heroines.

  28. Tara, just because I might not read the paranormals doesn't mean I want them to be harder to find for SF/F people who do want to read them. Same applies for if they were in the SF section only... I'd want the Romance readers who don't read outside the genre to know about them to give them a try. Some of the stories do follow the romance rules, but some of them won't... wouldn't the ones that do be appealing to romance readers? Why should they have to search harder to find them, in that case?

    And please, if you know which paranormals are good and which ones to avoid, provide me a list, and I'll even add it as a post here! Even better, provide me with full reviews of the recommended ones, and they definitely don't have to be HEA.

  29. I guess having the word “romance� be both a fiction genre and at the same time a specific category in that genre exclusive of other categories in that genre of the same name is where the stumbling block is.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean here, so I don't know how to respond. If you're talking about romance in the large adventure, quest sense v. the Romance novel, I still think there are some clear distinctions. For example, if you look at some of the fiction from the early and mid19th century, epecially that which women wrote -- i.e. Uncle Tom's Cabin -- we refer to it under the term "Sentimental novel," which has specific generic characteristics. The modern and contemporary Romance novel isn't synonymous with Sir Gawain, and, as Tara Marie said, publishers absolutely know this. So as far as genre fiction per se goes, the term Romance novel means love story + happy ending. Because I have a PhD in English, I can trace many of the forbears of the Romance novel, but I wouldn't call any of them that because they have other names (the captivity narrative, for example, or sentimental fiction, or classical Comedy like that which Shakespeare wrote).

    As for "Paranormal Romance," it has been a subgenre of Romance novels for 20 years, I guess, at least according to the article Cynthia Ward wrote for the SF Review. In the past 5 years or so, though, it has been one of the hottest subgenres of the Romance novel, so popular that even authors writing in other subs have crossed over to grab the readership. Now if that wasn't that case, and Juno came along and called their books "paranormal romance," I'd be feeling less jaded about their intentions. What concerns me, though, is the possibility that one of the reasons they want to use the term is to cash in on Romance novel readers bucks and not simply to revive an older genre and definition, so when the idea of "broadening" the genre comes from those outside it, and the readers who feel taken advantage of also comprise a HUGE piece of the market, it feels less about trying to effectively designate a hybrid and more about trying to penetrate the Romance and SF/F markets as directly as possible (but without the goods in some case, at least for traditional Romance readers).

  30. Robin, my confusion stems from the fact that I'd always thought any story with a romantic relationship as it's main plot component was a romantic tale, and thus would be found in the Romance section of the bookstores.

    Splitting the distinction between a section in the bookstore and a specific type of love story (HEA only) has been what's hardest to wrap my brain around this past week.

    Until this crossover story discussion thread, I didn't know that having a happy ending made a difference in what to call the story. I had always thought that no matter how the story ended, if it focused on a passionate love affair of any sort, it was still a romance. Period.

    And I know for a fact that I'm not the only non-romance reader who thinks that. It also sounds like some writers are getting non-HEA stories published as romances, and that doesn't help with the confusion.

    So, where do the love stories without HEA endings normally go, as a subgenre of romance or elsewhere in fiction?

  31. Summer, maybe I will put together a list of paranormal romances. But to be completely honest, I am incredibly picky when it comes to this sub-genre of romance and lean more toward the horror and urban fantasy side of it over the more traditional futuristic and time travel romance that's was popular in the early 90's.

    So, what would you be interested in... paranormals (vampires, werewolves, ghosts...), urban fantasy (alternate realities), steampunk (Victorian alternate reality, which I would think you're probably more familiar than I, the term steampunk not steampunk romances), futuristics, time travels... all of the above?

    Conceptually I think a "hybrid" section of a bookstore isn't really a bad idea. It would allow readers to find books from different genres that may have some crossover appeal. But would a person who wouldn't enter romance entire this section either?

  32. So, where do the love stories without HEA endings normally go, as a subgenre of romance or elsewhere in fiction?

    I think this would be a question for the person stocking the shelves at a bookstore. But, it seems to me they would probably be shelved by whatever is on their spine... general fiction, sf, fantasy, mystery, suspense... etc. This is why it's so important for a publisher to market correctly, and label for the correct market.

  33. Personally, I always thought the time travel thing was a little weak to hang a story on, but that's just my personal peeve.

    I would lean more towards urban and paranormal, not so much with the steampunk and time travelers. But I'm sure other readers might be interested in the others, so don't let my personal tastes hold you back.

    As for hybrids, it depends on the genres. I like SF/F crossed with detective or action thrillers. For the relationship story, if someone falls in love with a werewolf and they either go their separate ways or one of them dies at the end (and it's consistent with the story and not just forced in for shock value), then I might read it, but I'd still think of it as a romance novel, or now that I know better, a romantic novel.

    My question should have been stated more clearly: where do the non-hybrid yet relationship focused novels get shelved, if not in the romance section? Do the publishers label those as "Love Story / Fiction", or do they end up in "Romance / Love Story"?

  34. Personally, I always thought the time travel thing was a little weak to hang a story on, but that’s just my personal peeve.

    Something we agree on--LOL. With time travel so much depends on the story itself once the time leap has been made and what the characters ultimate goal is once back/forward in time.

    My question should have been stated more clearly: where do the non-hybrid yet relationship focused novels get shelved, if not in the romance section? Do the publishers label those as “Love Story / Fiction�, or do they end up in “Romance / Love Story�?

    I don't think I've ever seen the words "Love Story" on a book spine. It seems to me you need to wonder through a bookstore and read the spines--LOL.

    Within the Romance section you should only find books with HEA endings. Pretty much anything that qualifies as a "Love Story" that doesn't fall within another genre will be in "General Fiction". Anything by Nicholas Sparks, The Bridges of Madison County, the book Love Story, all will be found in General Fiction.

  35. I really should proof read before "Submit Comment"...

    wander through not wonder through--LOL.

  36. Just for you Tara, I shall add those books to my bookmooch list and maybe read them some day. Given my stack of books to read, though, it may take a long while. 🙂

    So, basically, we're looking for a word for stories with relationship-based fantasy and paranormal decorated plots that will not guarantee you how they end.

    Romantic Fantasy seems like it should work, no? Because "romatic" is a modifier of Fantasy, therefore not implying that it's part of the Romance genre, so those folks wouldn't get tricked.

    Although I'm still in favor of using elvish. 😉

  37. Robin, my confusion stems from the fact that I’d always thought any story with a romantic relationship as it’s main plot component was a romantic tale, and thus would be found in the Romance section of the bookstores.

    But they're not, because Romance novels are marketed very specifically, and if you put "Romance" on the spine, that means it goes on the Romance shelves -- and most general fiction or other genre publishers DON'T want their books going there, for precisely the reasons you and your pole and hazmat suit don't. The next time you're in a bookstore, check the Romance section and you'll see. I, for example, adore Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse/southern vampire series, and while it has very very strong romantic elements, it's not a Romance and it's not shelved in Romance. So I don't know if it's so much splitting your thinking in terms of shelving v. genre labels, because the Romance label is what creates the shelving thing, and the Romance label is a genre label.

    One thing I think it's important to remember, too, is that when we talk about old-style romance, we're sometimes applying a term given retroactively to what we recognize as a genre or perhaps more accurately, a style of writing. The genre of Romance novels are defined contemporaneously with their publication, which is another reason I don't see how it's so easy to just "broaden" the definition in the way that some of these alternative paranormal romance publishers want to. Within the genre, we have all sorts of discussions about broadening or narrowing the genre, but the frame of reference -- at the most basic level -- is the same in that we are all working off the same bare bones paradigm of a central love story with an optimistic ending. So the stakes are different right off the bat.

  38. I understand that anything with vampires, etc would usually go in the SF/F section, but I was talking about non-crossovers for that example.

    And yes, honestly, the last time I wandered through the Romance section, book publishers were not putting genre defs on the back cover or the spine 🙂

  39. I understand that anything with vampires, etc would usually go in the SF/F section, but I was talking about non-crossovers for that example.

    Actually, if it's a Paranormal Romance, within the genre definition, it usually is shelved in Romance (perhaps it's also shelved in SF/F but I don't know about that). The reason the Anita Blake books by Hamilton aren't in the Romance section, for example, is that they don't center on a love relationship and don't conform to the happy ending for the lovers. But there is a ton of genre Romance being published that is written specifically within the genre guidelines, but also features paranormal elements (Sarah Frantz's definition on the Teach Me Tonight blog is very good, IMO) and that is shelved and sold as Romance. And while some of it can get confusing at a point, I think there's enough mainstream Romance published with paranormal elements that most Romance readers are going to view the term "paranormal romance" as synonymous with the mass output of genre Romance with paranormal elements. As Kat said above, why try to market the term "romance" to SF/F or other fiction readers?

  40. In the UK there isn't the same distinction made between Romance (i.e. has a happy ending) and romantic fiction (might, or might not have a happy ending). It seems to me that if, in the US, you want to distinguish between Romance and novels about love-stories that don't end happily, they could be called 'romantic fiction'.

    I wrote a post on defining the modern romance genre and it's here: and I've got a short post on Linnea Sinclair's definition of the difference between science fiction romance, romantic science fiction and futuristics here:

    You're right that the RWA definition is relatively new. I think it was worked out around 2000, and Jenny Crusie's written an article on how the definition was reached, which is here:

    The RWA definition and descriptions of most of the romance sub-genres are available here:

    As I live in the UK, where there mostly aren't any romance or romantic fiction sections (other than in the libraries), I can't really add anything to the debate about labelling or shelving in bookshops, or labelling by publishers (since most of those romances never make it across here).

  41. I understand that anything with vampires, etc would usually go in the SF/F section, but I was talking about non-crossovers for that example.

    Maybe someone should point out that Stephen King's Salem's Lot should be moved out of horror and into SF/F--LOL. I don't think so.

    Not everything with vampires could be considered sf/f, not by a long shot. That's part of this whole "genre" issue, there are stories being written for all different genres that may appeal to other genre readers.

  42. So am I crazy in thinking that most new vampire novels are in the urban fantasy vein? 🙂 I'm not up on the new horror, but it sure seems like there are more vamps in the fantasy section than in the horror section the past 10 years. Is that Buffy's fault? Discuss. But not here... only one argument per thread, please! 🙂

    The only ones I can think of that didn't go into SF/F would be the ones from Tananarive Due, but off the top of my head, I'm drawing a blank on anything else.

    But the paranormals are showing up in SF/F, not in horror, even though the objects of affection could be considered "monsters", so that's where that new generalization came from.

  43. I’m not up on the new horror, but it sure seems like there are more vamps in the fantasy section than in the horror section the past 10 years. Is that Buffy’s fault?

    It must be a case of simultaneous influence, because Romance readers have been complaining of late about the overpopulation of vamps in Romance, too. Actually, it's comforting to me to know that we're not the only ones suffering from this trend. Not that I have anything against vamps; it's just that once something hits it just gets done to death.

    A recommendation for anyone who wants to read a smart Paranormal Romance (as in genre Romance): Demon Angel by Meljean Brook. I just guest reviewed this for the Smart Bitches (long ass review, for which I apologize in advance), and I think Brook has a long and successful career ahead of her.

  44. It's probably pretty difficult to make people afraid of vampires now. Oversaturation. I doubt you could really make them afraid of werewolves either.

    What DOES count as horror now? It's not really a genre I've ever been interested in... I don't read Stephen King, although I did hear part of the book with the old car and the creature that came out of the car, and I still have an icky sense when I think of the description.

  45. I just had an... well I don't know if it's interesting... but it's a thought.

    Is Romance the only genre that tells you how a story ends?
    Science fiction, fantasy, horror, they tell you how a story starts, but not how it ends.

    Maybe mystery tells you how it ends? Is it still a Mystery if the killer isn't caught? If there is no resolution that restores the world to a state of balance and order?

    I dunno if that means anything. Just something that occurred to me.

  46. Is Romance the only genre that tells you how a story ends?
    Science fiction, fantasy, horror, they tell you how a story starts, but not how it ends.

    Maybe mystery tells you how it ends? Is it still a Mystery if the killer isn’t caught? If there is no resolution that restores the world to a state of balance and order?

    I think both Mystery and Romance promise a certain closure -- Romance in terms of a happy ending for the lovers and Mystery in terms of a solution. What I hear from Romance readers over and over is that they (we) love many different forms of fiction, but when we pick up a Romance some of the appeal is that we know there will be an optimistic sense of closure at the end of the book, which I would imagine is similar to the satisfaction a Mystery reader would feel when the puzzle of the novel is solved. Some fiction is pleasurable for the questions it raises and the avenues it opens up, and some fiction is pleasurable for the sense of balance and order at the end. I think the mistake that people often make about genre fiction readers is that they only like ONE type of fiction, whereas I've found that genre fiction fans are often very diverse in their reading tastes and that they are often pretty savvy about the different expectations and pleasures to be had with different types of books. The one real bias I get frustrated with is a bias against literary fiction I tend to run across in some Romance readers. That's one thing I wish would change a little.

  47. Robin, the trend of vamps showing up in SF/F rather than horror did actually begin way earlier than Buffy. The authors on the Vampire Powerhouse panel that's in C2C Show #242 have been writing vampire stories for nearly 30 years now, and I think their books have been getting shelved in SF/F for at least 10-15 years now.

    I really wish Amazon put genre in their listings, because it would help a great deal when I can't see the newer books that are at the studio library.

    Ellen Datlow, horror and dark fantasy maven, and editor extraordinaire, has been co-editing the "Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" collection since Volume 1 (Vol 19 came out in 2006)... I wonder when or if any of the vampire stories she's picked over the years shifted from horror to fantasy.

  48. A recommendation for anyone who wants to read a smart Paranormal Romance (as in genre Romance): Demon Angel by Meljean Brook. I just guest reviewed this for the Smart Bitches (long ass review, for which I apologize in advance), and I think Brook has a long and successful career ahead of her.

    Robin we both recommended Demon Angel, I honestly think she's capable of becoming a superstar.

    There's a new discussion on Dear Author that readers here might find interesting...

  49. I think what would help the genre classification a lot would be to somehow catagorize a book according to a list of tags rather than a definitive genre. For example, Nora Roberts' JD Robb books are a good example of a work crossing into multiple genres. I'd imagine a tag list for them would include SF, Mystery, Crime and Romance. However, I realize this does nothing for the shelving issues of bricks and mortar booksellers.

    This has been an interesting discussion because as a hard SF person married to a Romance person this topic comes up a lot over the dinner table. To me there is a lot more to what defines a book's genre than the main subjects. For instance, my wife does not like to read the JD Robb books because they are too dark and gory. I've read a few and had to laugh when she said that because to me the books feel like someone took a romance, stirred in a liberal dose of 'Law and Order' and dressed it up with some TV computers. Any of the romance crossover books feel very lightweight to me. Comparing the paranormal romance stories to "real" paranormal (Horror/SF/Fantasy) is like comparing 'Matlock' to 'Law and Order'. They have some of the same trappings but are really completely different.

    I think the difference comes down to the readers personality more than anything. I prefer books that allow you to learn things at the same time I am being entertained. I'm a techno-geek and not much of a people person so I'm relatively colorblind to the varying shades of emotion involved in romance. Frankly when I occasionally read a romance-ish book (Or more likely listen to and audio version.) I find myself thinking I've gotten lost somewhere because a chapter has gone by and I can't think of a single thing that actually happened.

    My wife, on the other hand is a psychologist and is all about the feelings and the relationships. She tends to find most SF depressing and likes to read romance because they lift her spirits. Once I made the mistake of telling her about this really good story by Harlan Ellison.... That was fourteen years ago and to this day if I start to tell her about a story she interrupts with "Wait! It's not by that guy who wrote that story is it?"

  50. That was fourteen years ago and to this day if I start to tell her about a story she interrupts with “Wait! It’s not by that guy who wrote that story is it?�

    ROTFL! Oh, I needed that.

    I've had the same experience with my son who is a die-hard Robert Jordan/Wheel of Time enthusiast. Oh, heck, he's just a fan. Period. The few fantasy-type romances I've managed to get him to read have been met with, um, mixed success, shall we say. Although he has quite liked a few. For the worlds, underdeveloped though they are in his opinion, which I've finally convinced him goes with the territory so he's okay with that aspect. He's generally slightly less happy with the romances themselves but for the most part okay there too.

    There have been a couple however that if I even mention the author to him or if he thinks I'm going to mention the author or one of their books or anything like them . . . well, let me just say the conversation is usually over except for him complaining. A lot. Strange thing is that even for all that muttering and grouching I still have really no idea why they hit such a wrong note but they did. Oh, did they.That much I get clearly.

  51. I'm with Summer, here. My sister is a romance book geek. I have known her for a long time. 🙂
    I have read thousands and thousands of books, and I had no idea that there was a set ending type for a romance book, or else people get mad.

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