Sunday, December 16, 2007

The horror that is twincest--veinglory

The latest comment on the horror of twincest as romance pariah of the month (following Karen Scott) comes from Dear Author: "Once your top selling book is a twincest threesome novel, I’ve lost interest in your books. If you are looking for Daddy/Daughter roleplaying stories, I’m not interested in your collection, no matter how diverse it might be". Now I love and read both blogs but there would be no need to have my own blog if I saw everything exactly the same way that Karen and the Janes do.

As a new post adds a development that solidified a feeling I have been having over the last several days. Karen's response could be summed up as 'ewww'. Which seems quite reasonable to me. Of course some people don't like some kinks and as more kinks are catered to, more people will stumble across their squicks from time to time. Dear Author seems to combine proving kinkfic with being a fly-by-night company, unprofessional and providing a poor quality product. Or at least all of these things appear, undistinguished within a few paragraphs.

So what is my thought? Well there is a phenomenon called 'moral panic' that connects deviant sexualities with a threat to a whole community--in this case presumably the mythical romance community. I say mythical because although I enjoy mixing and mingling with many writers, readers, bloggers and other participant in the romance genre more often than not the message I get from any given spokesperson for the community at large could be summed up as 'you are not really one of us'.

I would concede the point if I thought there was some kind of monolithic democracy community that determines what romance is or isn't. I don't read 99% of fiction that is shelved under the romance banner. I look forward to the day when everyone is in that same boat because romance will be as diverse as, well, people are. And what is the difference between the moral panic and a real menace. That is simple: the actual magnitude of the threat.

A lot of epublishers suck, but the worst that happens is a few writers learn a lesson, a few readers get a bad book and gravitate to publishers that are objectively good, and subjective appropriate for their tastes. And maybe along the way they learn these these are two different things. Or maybe they don't. These new epublishers will not "alienate more epress fans" because we are not a monolithic club of like minded people. That is why Dark Eden has a twincest book as a top seller. They have found a niche and attracted readers to it, those that are repelled should not, unless their cognitive powers are very limited, be repelled from ebooks in general but only from Dark Eden in particular.

A lot of epublishers are spreading into niches that the current alpha presses like Ellora's Cave don't cater too. Or at least the smart ones like Dark Eden and Noble Romance are. So twincest readers can and do buy that material, the writer sells, the readers get what they clearly want a few people go 'ewww' and go elsewhere. Viva la difference, more people get more of what they want. Romance cater to more people. Some in the former alphaphile majority will no longer be able to choose books at random of the internet, or off the shelf, and know it will always cater to the kink-formerly-known-as-'normal' (you know, whiteheterofemmesubbaldchestedrichguyphillia--now found at the back of the store between vegephillia and horse flogging fetish.)

And unless you believe letting these people read their kinks is polluting the genre or our society as a whole diversity is a good thing. And if you do think one of these things, take a good long look at your own material and whether it truly is blameless or perhaps just reflecting the perversion of the majority. I may not share your kink, but I will defend to the out-of-breath your right to write, read and distribute it--and if it includes love and a happy ending--to call it romance. I don't care if it is a story of two post-apocalyptic cockroaches or a man and his sentient My Little Pony. I don't need to like it to think that it 'counts' or even accept that it is a good story (just not for me). (Okay, maybe the pony one).


Anonymous said...

Caveat: I am not an ebook reader, so my opinion is probably wroth zilch.

However, I disagree with this statement: "A lot of epublishers suck, but the worst that happens is a few writers learn a lesson, a few readers get a bad book and gravitate to publishers that are objectively good, and subjective appropriate for their tastes."

In fact, the worst that happens is that people like me, who are already leery of technology (i.e., ereaders formats, storage, devices, what have you), have something else to be leery of.

Why? Because bad apples, like bad news, make much more noise than good guys. Basically, reading the few blogs I do, all I've heard this year is how so-and-so went down in flames, while so-and-so turned crazy(er), and so-and-so is back to her old tricks (fleecing authors?). Only three or perhaps four epublishers get named consistently as good people/honest enterprises.

Now, on the "kink =/= romance" and "kink =/= quality" thing, I agree with you. It may not be for me, but I get my back up when told that if it doesn't work for a moral majority then it simply isn't romance.

Teddy Pig said...

My Little Pony!

Tell me, was it Triple Treat or Twinkle Twirl?
I figured Triple Treat likes the menage but Twinkle, she's gotta be all about the golden showers.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Epublishing is a new technology. Growing pains should be expected. Yes, we must be on guard against shady deals and shoddy business practices. My question is can't we do that without bringing the WHOLE INDUSTRY to task?
Honestly, I have a tough time understanding some of the criticism. If crazy shoot your mouth off owners/editors or treating authors who disagree as "problem authors" is a criteria for possible epub demise, I can think of at least two publishers who do this and get raves elsewhere. And not because people haven't said something.
I think there's an expectation that because epublishing is this cozy little corner where everyone knows everyone else we're somehow immune from the crap that has always plagued publishing.

Katrina Strauss said...

I agree that there are some crappy e-pubs out there, as the Dear Author post pointed out. However, it bothers me when "envelope-pushing erotica" ranks right up there with shoddy editing, unoriginal stories, unprofessionalism and lack of ethics as a reason to immediately discount a new e-house. And while I expect the trad/fluff crowd to want to draw line between romance and erotic romance, I am baffled and dismayed to see certain fellow erotic romance authors who then want to draw lines between erotic romance and erotica simply because they disagree with certain erotic elements as somehow less acceptable than their take on things. Oh well, as I pointed out on Dear Author, time will tell who means business and takes their craft seriously -- even amongst those of us who, gasp, dare to step outside of others' comfort zones. (Last time I checked, a good author is supposed to make people think, are we not? Or is that not allowed in erotic romance?)

Anonymous said...

Katrina, I certainly try to make people think and seriously challenge their pre-conceived notions. (After all: erotic gay pagan inspirational romance?)

I pushed the envelope out the door a long time ago. What irks me about vanilla folks grumbling about us pervsters is that they use the same language as the anti-romance people. "That can't be good for you. It gives you false ideas."

People got cranky when EC started allowing the GLBT writers to play. Now, EC has trouble keeping up with the demand.

FTR: I've written twincest. I've written it unknowing. I've written it non-consensual and presented the survivor as dealing with it years later. I've written it solely as a performance for spectators, a la Playboy's Dutch twins issue. (and boy I just dated myself there) And I've written it with the cliche of "we're the same person, really, just in two bodies."

Then again, when it comes to the creative side of writing, I "think morals are pictures on walls and scruples are money in Russia."

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with this of Katrina's...'However, it bothers me when "envelope-pushing erotica" ranks right up there with shoddy editing, unoriginal stories, unprofessionalism and lack of ethics as a reason to immediately discount a new e-house.'

Since when does a particular type of story that gets published equate with a bad company, bad editing, or shady business deals.

I publish twincest. Do I agree with it? Doesnt matter. Do I read it personally? That doesnt matter either. What matters is that other people read it and buy it, there is a reason my two twincest stories are the best selling books for my company. Because there are plenty of people who want a stories like this that are well written, that do not have the stigma of 'porn' that is bought in the dark nasty store in another town.

But in case no one is aware...we also publish mainstream romance, erotica, and are even thinking of doing a couple non erotic stories or anths.

I have been following the blogs that discuss this issue, and so far have kept quiet. The main reason for this is that I dont agree that any attention brought to us is good attention, and because I have a temper. So I keep my mouth shut, and intend to keep doing so most of the time. Unlike some other company people I have seen, who spend a huge amount of time on blogs and forums wrapped up in everything that is said, I have a business to run and dont have the time to do anything but that. Some authors, and some company owners need to learn to do the same thing. One bad house, one bad company owner, one bad author that spouts off at the mouth or goes insane, gives all of us a bad name, makes us all look bad. ALL of us.

This is a conversation I make sure and have several times a month on my author group.

Professionalism is of the utmost importance, especially with all the disasters that I have watched like a bad car accident this past year.

Do I care what the blog referenced here has to say? Nope. And apparently neither do DEP's readers as my sales have been steadily climbing since we opened.

I do care that the assumption is made that if I publish twincest than DEP must be involved in shoddy business practices, our editors apparantly cannot edit worth a crap, and in general we are a 'here today, gone tomorrow' company.

As I am already looking towards 2009's release schedule...I would have to beg to differ, and I think my authors would also.

Dark Eden Press

Anonymous said...

Love that pic, Em. I'm still trying to figure out what the chick in the back is supposed to be though. :)

As for what should be considered romance and what shouldn't ... shrug ... shouldn't we just leave it up to the readers? Every time you turn around there's a new argument bubbling up. It hasn't been that long since paranormal romance wasn't accepted and look how that turned out.


Anonymous said...

When I was referred to the Dear Author Blog I immediately said to myself, "Oh, God. Controversy." And I don't want to be in the middle of any controversy. I like going along life happily writing and promoting.

But there was no way I could escape all the things I was thinking when I read that blog.

And then two very dear friends reminded me of some very important things.

There was a time not so long ago that EC was frowned upon...Erotic Romance? The devil you say! GLBT? Now both are the norm.

I don't have to agree with what every writer writes. I don't have to like it. It's not up to me.

The fact is I have a contract with Dark Eden for a series. How did I find Dark Eden? I looked everywhere for a publisher that didn't require a happily ever after or a happily for now. Dark Eden allowed for a hanging end and saw the potential for my series. Now I see that a few other publishers are accepting these Bad Boy stories too. Can we say COPYCAT? Just joking.

The other thing I was reminded of this morning is this: Why I stay with Dark Eden.

The owners are incredible to work with. And no. Deb Durham did not speak to me about this blog and did not tell me to come and post. Nor has she asked any author to do so. If you knew that lady you would know it is just not her style. So let's not go there.

The fact is the communication at Dark Eden is incredible. The editors are amazing people. And the cover art is out of this world! Even the webmistress is great. The entire staff is both friendly and helpful. Ready to jump at a chance to go the extra mile for any of their authors. What's not to like?

Coming out of a bad situation with another publisher...I can tell you...Dark Eden is like a breath of fresh air.

It was also pointed out that the fact the Twincest stories are top sellers will bring readers to other books there. I certainly hope so because there are some pretty amazing authors at Dark Eden.

The bottom line is this. I believe it is truly irresponsible for anyone to say I'm not going to look at anymore small or new epubs just because they don't agree with the topic of a few books.

And I defend the right of my publisher to publish good well written manuscripts. The authors in question are friendly, helpful, and talented people who have the right to tell their stories as they see fit.

Just as we all have the right to choose what we do and do not read.

Dark Eden has so much to offer
readers. I challenge anyone who reads this to stop by Dark Eden and check out the catalog.

Well I hope I haven't offended anyone. It's just my two cents and sometimes that's not even worth a penny. lol

Barbara Sheridan said...

I started out writing (and still like to write) the more traditional one man/one woman HEA stories that are the backbone of RWA, but I'm so tired of hearing "But that's not romance!"

If the story characters overcome conflict/obstacles and end up with someone who makes their life feel more complete then yeah that to me is a romance even if it's two guys who get turned on by cutting little symbols into each other's back.

And Emily you may want to change Noble House to read the full name of Noble Romance Publishing or NRP because I think "Noble House" is an old subsidy publisher that the new company is not.

Anonymous said...

I think it might come down to reader expectations online vs reader expectations IRL. I think a lot of people who want to draw a line between acceptable erotic romance and unacceptable erotic romance are more or less accustomed to being in the majority, taste-wise. Harlequin will never publish twincest, I doubt they'll ever publish m/m or f/f. Same holds true for all the other big New York publishers.

But the Internet is a different playing field. It feels like the blogs with this controversy are blogs that really, really like the traditional definition, borders, and values of "romance." And really, there's nothing wrong with that. But generally people who turn to the Internet to find their entertainment (whether that be stories, movies, or even music) do not want or need their entertainment watered down for mass-consumption. So twincest is not for everybody, and age-play is not for everybody, and darker stories that lack a HEA or a HFN are not for everybody...and that's fine. Because they're not meant to be. They're meant to be for the people who seek out that sort of story because they know it's what they want to read.

I still am deeply involved with e-publishing because I'm still interested in telling stories that probably are not meant for mass consumption either. I've tried my hand at stories with a broader appeal, and I will continue to do that, but I've long ago accepted the fact that the Internet is the place for niche books and catering to certain kinks. The Internet can be all things to all people. That's the beauty of the e-publishing world. It would be a real shame if that diversity is ever lost. And if the meme that boundary-pushing erotica=bad business practices and poor editing really catches on, then yeah, I worry a little bit about how we'll all suffer as a result.

Anonymous said...

Barbara is right...Noble House is a different publisher and from what I understand they have a "not recommended" status on P&E.

As for all the controversy over new e-publishers...I get it. I've watched what has happened to authors who trusted some of these other houses, and I understand the attitudes of skepticism and even, in some cases, downright hostility. I can only speak for myself and say that I intend to take my time growing NRP -- both our business and our reputation. We'll only accept quality manuscripts for publication, and we'll work our tails off to *earn* the respect of the e-publishing community.

From what I've read, Deb, from Dark Eden, sounds like an intelligent, classy woman. I wish her the best of luck in her business venture. As far as I'm concerned, adding another reputable e-publishing house to the mix is a definite plus for the industry.


Anonymous said...

Tess said, I believe it is truly irresponsible for anyone to say I'm not going to look at anymore small or new epubs just because they don't agree with the topic of a few books.

How is having an opinion and publish said opinion on that person's blog irresponsible?

I don't agree with DA Jane's post, but it is her blog, and that is her opinion, period.

pepper said, "So twincest is not for everybody, and age-play is not for everybody, and darker stories that lack a HEA or a HFN are not for everybody...and that's fine. Because they're not meant to be. They're meant to be for the people who seek out that sort of story because they know it's what they want to read."

I am all for the right of each person to write, and buy, and read, whichever they want and enjoy. I am leery, though, of a story in which there is no happy ending of any kind (even, happy-for-right-now ending) to be marketed as romance. Sue me if you must, but I'd be upset if I bought a story (ebook or paper) marketed as romance that did not have that one defining parameter of the romance genre. Gender, kink, number of partners? That's not necessarily a problem for me--some will work, some won't. But the happy ending, for me personally, is what makes it romance.

In that sense, I'd urge marketing of edgier/darker stories to make sure the potential readers don't feel cheated by the packaging. You want people to come back for more, not to cry foul.

Anonymous said...

I think the thing that is forgotten in the juggernaut that Dear Author, or Smart Bitches or even Karen Scott is that they are only a few people. They are not the romance community at large. Sure they have a platform and people like reading what they have to say on any subject, but I know that I personally don't take anyones personal stance on what is too much for them as a command that it should also be too much for me.
Personally there are a lot of stories I don't care for. I draw my own lines. I think that Jane equating out there sex, with shoddy books, is just her personal look. Jane is a romance reader, OF COURSE Daddy role play or twincest is probably not her cup of tea...

I wouldn't worry about it too much. If enough people want edgy sex stories, someone will fill the market. Hopefully well, because there is a lot of 'free' outlets for out there sex stories.

Barbara Sheridan said...

Harlequin will never publish twincest, I doubt they'll ever publish m/m or f/f. Same holds true for all the other big New York publishers.

You're probably right about Harlequin taking on m/m romance for example but I think other major publishers would if they see enough profit in it.All Through the Night being a prime example that I hope draws attention to our little niche genre.

Once they saw how well EC did in the erotic romance market they began snatching up similar books and e-authors with a following.

Even if they don't e-publishers will be there to fill those niches and the one with solid business foundations will do right by their readers and authors.

veinglory said...

Apologies to Noble Romance for getting the name wrong!