On fractures and changing communities

Superlibrarian wrote a really good post on the fracturing of the Romland online community last week, and Sunita followed it up with a second post.  I don’t have anything material to add to their posts or the thoughtful comments.

Both posts made me think about my participation in the community online over the last several years. (Dear godlings, I just checked my archive, I’ve been blogging intermittently since 2005…I am a crone in internet years.)  Some very thoughtful reader-bloggers have come and gone as I’ve stood on the sidelines.  (I hope they left in good health and are doing well in real life, and just left Romland as their interest/time waned, but don’t always know.)  Other bloggers, like Superlibrarian and Rosario, just keep reviewing with a consistency that I find amazing.  AAR went from being Laurie Gold’s to not.  ATBF changed its board/commenting.  Authors had message boards that got closed down due to flame wars.  First the big blog platforms were LiveJournal and Blogger, and then it was WordPress.

Later came other platforms and social media, both of which integrated marketing and selling to a degree that was much more obtrusive than earlier platforms, IMO.  GoodReads never felt particularly welcoming to me, so I didn’t join the migration there.  Amazon boards felt like a free-for-all when I visited, so I clicked back as fast as I could.  I used to be much more active on Twitter, but have mostly let that go over the last year or so; all the romance Twitter-folk I followed seem to RT a lot of promotional material that I just was not interested in.  For all the community noise about DA and SB being reader-blogs, I’ve felt like they were author (SB) or industry (DA & SB) blogs for a long time now, well before the Jen/Jane brouhaha.

My impatience with the constant promotion on social media corresponded with a giant reading slump.  Add in a market shift to subgenres I’m not interested in, and a marked drop in editorial values across the board, especially noticeable in self-published work?  Well, I’ll find some other entertainment, thanks but no thanks.

I’m spending probably the same amount of leisure time online…but it’s less likely to be in Romland spaces.  Instead it is in fandom spaces.  Someone getting the geography of Pittsburgh slightly wrong in a 100k fic might make me roll my eyes, but doesn’t make me want to bang my head on my e-reader the way a content or continuity error like that in a boutique-pubbed $8.99 ebook will.  (And that kind of things is *definitely* out there; it’s the reason I delete samples and return books.)

I’ve sort of lost the thread at this point.  Which means it’s a good thing I am posting this on my own blog, where I can be self-indulgent, rather than wasting comment space on Superlibrarian’s or Sunita’s blog.

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10 responses to “On fractures and changing communities

  1. I’m spending probably the same amount of leisure time online…but it’s less likely to be in Romland spaces. Instead it is in fandom spaces. Someone getting the geography of Pittsburgh slightly wrong in a 100k fic might make me roll my eyes, but doesn’t make me want to bang my head on my e-reader the way a content or continuity error like that in a boutique-pubbed $8.99 ebook will.

    YES. I am much more forgiving of errors in fanfic because it’s being offered freely. And where I would be annoyed by tropes in for-profit fiction, I love them ridiculously in fanfic (accidental marriage? Marriage of convenience? Secret baby? BRING IT ON.).

    I’ve become extremely cynical in my non-fandom reading – so much of it started to seem blatantly formulaic (in a way that promoted cranking out words/books/product as fast as possible) and repetitive, both within the m/m romance community and outside of it. The sense of the writer enjoying/having passion for writing was completely gone, while it’s generally very present in fandom writing. These days, I’m either reading fanfic (specifically hockey rpf, exclusively) or nonfiction (primarily from the library). I’m a lot happier in my reading life, plus saving an amazing amount of $$ not buying books.

    • I’ve read a lot of hockey RPF in the last year (although there are some pairings – mostly the biggest pairing – that I’m just not interested in), and original fic by people I found via RPF, along with Vorkosigan and Peter Grant. Although, tbh, the Rivers of London fic that I’m willing to read is kind of thin, because for me canon Peter Grant is so firmly heterosexual that I can’t even squint at the Peter/Nightingale stuff. You’re right though – there are that tropes I *hate* in other fiction are like gravy there for me.

      I agree with the formulaic description, too. It’s odd, because I recognize that all genre fiction is formulaic to some degree, but I’ve stopped reading m/m by authors and publishers I used to love because the books felt very much the same.

      • “I agree with the formulaic description, too. It’s odd, because I recognize that all genre fiction is formulaic to some degree, but I’ve stopped reading m/m by authors and publishers I used to love because the books felt very much the same.”

        EXACTLY. Especially since the quality of the writing and editing seem to be slipping as everyone cranks up the speed of production. :/

        Re hockey rpf: Fortunately, I can deal with fic about the biggest pairing, altho I don’t tend to reread it much. It helps that my otp is the second biggest pairing and I can happily reread the good stuff.

      • There is some really good stuff out there 🙂

  2. D’oh. Ignore/delete this comment – I forgot to subscribe to comments with the previous. 🙂

  3. Great post, J. Despite continuing to review at DA (mostly because I like my DA colleagues and like the conversation), I’ve drifted further away from Romland more generally, and definitely from most of the new releases. I agree with Chris on the formulaic and crank-it-out nature. I don’t mind formulas, I’m a category reader after all, but the combination of repetition AND crank-it-out means that the books feel less individual to me. Even with old Harlequins, I can see the formula at work but the specific author imbues it with her own style. I also feel as if even the popular, oft-cited authors today are basically writing to their fans, not to new readers, because they can make enough money off them (especially if they self-publish). I don’t think it’s at all good for the genre but I don’t see a way out; market incentives are hard to overcome.

    I’m not reading fanfic but I’m reading more vintage romance and non-romance books.

    • I used to be an avid category reader, but moved away from them as a lot of authors I liked moved into single titles. Do you feel they are less distinguishable than they used to be? Every so often, I buy a handful of old, old HPs, and am amazed by the variation of setting and professions for the heroines, in a way that seems less likely today, even as they are full of other stereotypes and tropes.

      I should qualify: when I say “industry”, that’s not a negative. And I recognize that individual DA reviewers are just that, reader-reviewers. It’s more the website as a whole that feels like an industry participant to me, because of traffic/volume/advertising/etc., rather than being a pure reader-blog.

      • Oh I didn’t take it as a negative, I agree completely. DA has been an industry blog for a while. When you are a spokesperson for the romance genre, run blogger cons, get lots of emails about genre issues, etc., you are clearly important to the industry. I think what has changed is that it is difficult *not* to be an industry blog if you’re big, and more and more people are connected to big blogs or to authors, even if they’re not obviously part of the industry. And so many people in romland are aspiring authors (or editors). Maybe that was always true and I didn’t realize it, but I sure do now.

        I think there are still some great voices in category romance, but I find that the quality varies more. The editing is usually still good (and I’ll often think authors’ category books are better than their self-pubbed books), but there are fewer “wow” books for me. But then part of that has to be that writers have more options.

  4. Keishon

    Great post. I think my participation in romance forum kind of died when AAR changed message boards. Then DA came along and I had fun commenting there and still do. I’m so glad I read mystery now because quite honestly, fair or not fair, I’m just not interested in the writers who are writing romances now unless they were writing them back in the 80’s or 90’s. I still seek out backlist of terrific writers whose works have become buried. I’m excited to see Kathleen Gilles Seidel backlist of four romances finally become digitized. I guess I prefer old school type romances vs. the ones these days that must conform to everybody’s sensibilities. I still love Sandra Brown even though I find her stories implausible but she writes some of the best sexual chemistry and some memorable heroes (I’m more hero-oriented). I won’t claim that her stories are good. Some are and some are not but she’s still kicking it and doing well.

  5. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity’s jammin’ with Paul Bunyan

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