Previous parts in this series on Genre:
And here is a July 2014 update on e-book Bestsellers on Amazon -- showing how few of the top selling e-books are put up by a single person rather than a publisher. Small publishers do better than self-publishing for authors. A small publisher can offer an array of books all narrowly focused to a particular readership, drilling down to the root of passion for those readers.
And now we'll look at genre as the root of all passion.
I found this article when klout.com emailed me they had a new interface design, so I went over to klout.com to check that out. (showing I had a klout of 56)
The article on io9.com is a couple excerpted paragraphs from Salon.com -- here is an excerpt of the excerpt.
--------from io9.com ----------
.... The result of all this baggage is a preposterous, resentful pecking order in which readers get way too much pleasure out of pissing on other readers' preferences and/or jumping, on the slightest pretext, to the conclusion that their own are being ridiculed. ....
Here's the whole, original article:
The title on Salon.com is
Is the literary world elitist?
What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture
-----excerpt from end of full article-----------
If, however, I did fear, deep inside, that my inability to appreciate any celebrated book betrayed my complete intellectual and aesthetic inadequacy, I would probably be pretty angry. I’d feel the need to stick my oar in and announce that “The Adventures of Augie March” is actually a crap novel, that it is objectively boring and that the critics who praise it are charlatans. Even if I couldn’t explain exactly why I dislike it, I might want to register that dislike because somebody should be speaking out against this hoax being perpetrated on the public by the literary establishment. I’d resent that establishment and the snooty, Bellovian way it expresses itself, with fancy words like “crepuscular.” And I’d want everyone else who, like me, could see through this emperor’s new clothes to know that they are not alone, and get them to tell me I’m not alone. It’s usually those with the least faith in their own opinions who become the most outraged when the consensus does not agree with them.
If I did feel that way, it also probably wouldn’t be my fault. If I had such attitudes, chances are it would be because at some early — or even later — stage in my life, someone with similar anxieties would have taken them out on me and made me feel small and stupid and tacky. And to make myself feel better, I might do something similar to someone else: for example, mock my little brother for reading George R.R. Martin. Petty abuses like this get passed on in pretty much the same way the bigger ones do. All the same, even if we’re not to blame for our insecurities, we are responsible for recognizing them for what they are. And for growing up and getting over it.
What leaps out at me is, "It's usually those with the least faith in their own opinions who become the most outraged when the consensus does not agree with them."
Faith in one's own opinion often comes about when you, yourself, have worked the problem, systematically applying the axioms and postulates of your own personal philosophy and/or religion -- an internally consistent theory about Life, the Universe, and Everything -- and arrived at your own understanding. When that much exertion results in a conclusion, there can't be much intellectual insecurity about the conclusion.
When, however, your opinions are based on what other people tell you your opinion should be, there is little chance you will have anything but intellectual insecurity and go through life striking out in impotent rage.
From the first quote from io9.com, what leaps out at me is "resentful pecking order."
We all recognize that "pecking order" in the way Romance is "pecked at" especially for the HEA.
Almost any plot-development based on a thoughtful evaluation of another person's emotional reality will be vilified by anti-Happily-Ever-After devotees.
This article on Salon.com suggests that those who oppose the exploration of the paths to an HEA do so because they are intellectually insecure in their rejection of the existence of the HEA. Could that explain the viciousness of the attack?
I believe that reading Romance genre sensitizes readers to the way the world looks from another person's point of view -- something all good Literature does. Romance is not a genre to be looked down on, but a Literature to be looked up at.
The core essence of Romance is a heightened sensitivity to how another person feels, a sensitivity to emotion that pierces the intellect.
Romance is a state of mind as well as heart, an altered consciousness that we can attain most easily when under the dissolving impact of a Neptune transit.
Older astrology books taught that the Neptune transit signified a state of mind in which one's perceptions of reality were "blurred" or dissolved in a way that made one's views "false."
But the higher truth is that if you have exerted yourself in training your mind and emotions to work on a theory of reality that is without internal contradictions, then the Neptune transits responsible for Love At First Sight will sharpen your judgement of human nature and your ability to perceive the emotions of others and plumb the depths of character.
You will see that Love and know, at the first glimpse, what you're looking at.
Read what I've said here again and note the interweaving of "thought" and "mind" and various references to emotion such as "feel" blended into "know."
There is a psychological study which asserts that some people perceive the world through emotion, while others perceive through thought or logic -- and that this cognitive style is inherent in you, not under your control, not a choice, not something you can acquire or change.
There are spiritual approaches to understanding the state of being human that encompass both the emotion based reality, and the logical or intellectual based reality.
Such spiritual disciplines strive to get the emotional and logical faculties to interact in a balanced way.
I suspect that exactly where that "logic/emotion balance point" is for an individual is a matter of inherent traits, but getting to that balance point is a struggle for everyone.
One essential ingredient in a life securely ensconced in such a "logic/emotion balance point" is the presence of the right opposite number with the complementary attributes -- e.g. The Spouse.
There is also another tenet of classic Astrology that holds that the physical appearance of a person is indicated in the natal chart. For example, people with long-shaped faces generally have a prominent Capricorn or Saturn or both.
Note President Obama seems (by the published official Birth Certificate) to have Saturn in its own sign Capricorn with Jupiter in conjunction, emphasizing his Capricorn nature. (his Sun is in Leo.)
Now check out the proportions of his face -- also his slender build is typical of strong Saturn or Capricorn -- his reputation for being "no-drama-Obama" (such a Capricorn trait, though Leo is famous for drama) was acquired while that conjunction was activated by transit -- and he was able to convince the Nation that he would be a great manager for the Executive (Capricorn) Branch because he looks (and sounds) like a Manager -- which is what Capricorn is really good at, what Saturn is all about -- organization - while Leo is about commanding.
So Love At First Sight might be based on seeing that complementary natal chart, that Spouse material, in another person's appearance.
Love at First Sight might also have an aura component -- a psychic perceptibility activated in a unique way by this particular individual. Pheromones would figure in that.
That's the bottom line in any Romance Novel -- two unique individuals fitting together, hand in glove, and recognizing that fit, even if only subconsciously.
Now consider the problem of resolving the Romance Triangle situation -- where two different characters are opposite numbers for a third.
A woman beset by two lovers has to choose one of them. Each one is "perfect" because each completes her in a unique way. So she has to choose one on the basis of which side of her personality she wants shape her life.
The Romantic Triangle novel gives the writer the opportunity to display decision making tools, both cognitive and emotional.
One thing I've noted in our current world is a lack of decision-making precision, a lack of understanding of the process of decision making, and a lack of hard-practice at the process.
That lack has led to a distrust of the individual's judgement. You see this in things like trying to make a single rule that everyone follows before pulling a Fire Alarm at a school -- or a whole list of procedures that have to be followed in a particular situation. It's as if nobody dares risk relying on another person's judgement for anything.
That's the world your reader is living in, so consider it carefully. Small wonder there's intellectual insecurity.
All real-life decisions are a leap into the dark, deep-end of the pool -- you are diving in blind, you do not have sufficient information, nor will you ever have it. Risk-Risk everything's a risk, and intellectual insecurity leaves one with a paralyzing terror in the face of possible failure.
But you must use all the information you have to arrive at a decision that is the best you can make (logically), so that in retrospect, no matter what goes wrong you will not waste resources revisiting that decision but devote all your energy to solving the current problem. When you have become a strong character with strong decision making skills, you can boldly go where no one has gone before with the confidence that you can surmount any challenge that dares to meet you.
This kind of decision making process is most evident in Romance novels, and thus Romance gives readers the most practice you can get vicariously.
This exercise in virtual decision making is especially salutary when the writer can step the reader through a rigorous logical evaluation of a character, and then through an equally rigorous emotional evaluation of that character.
Bringing the two branches of the decision tree together in the final pages of the novel lets the reader arrive at their own answer to the question "which one should I marry?" before the character decides -- and then the reader can test their resolution against the main character's resolution and go away arguing the case.
Even writers can re-think which two characters should get together finally. You all read about J. K. Rowling rethinking Harry Potter's link-up?
As the Romance field has grown, and branched into hybrid genres such as Paranormal Romance or Interstellar Adventure-Romance, the opportunity for series that move the characters through the "I love you" point to the "I do" point, and on to the "We're pregnant" point and even beyond to the "I don't know what to do with your child!" point.
When the structure of a Relationship, or the destiny (I married a medical student; now he's a successful doctor and I feel like a widow, or single-mother) seems just plain wrong for your personality and ambitions -- what do you do about it?
Did you choose the wrong one of your two suitors? What is the life of the other man's wife like today?
How do you work this problem? How do you define this problem?
The permutations and variations on this essential life conflict have barely been touched on by the Romance field.
My favorite of the current works-in-progress on this theme is Gini Koch's ALIEN series. Book 9, ALIEN COLLECTIVE came out in May 2014:
Kitty Kat, the heroine of the ALIEN novels, is an ordinary human at the start, acquires some new traits along the way, but even when kicked way off her center, she returns to her own stable intellect/emotion point and continues to function. Her marriage to an alien is as much in spite-of as because-of, the insane hyper-sexuality between them. She chose this man not just for the sex, but because of his strong character that complemented her own.
We often grapple with the definition of a strong character. Editors mean one thing by the term, writers another, readers yet another. There is a very real core to all three definitions.
What it takes to be a "strong character" is balance at a stable point inside you where Intellect and Emotion conjoin, co-mingle, and become indistinguishable from one another. Such a person, Saint-Class-Human, would have all emotional impulses not "under control" but "programmed" to give intellectually correct answers. Such a person can leap before looking and always nail the landing.
For a strong character, every life-choice must satisfy both emotional preferences and intellectual honesty. A "strong character" is on his/her way to that saint-class-human.
Even if the character has a morality or an ethic that is non-human, or what the reader would consider criminal, or culturally unacceptable, if that character's emotional responses are stringently consistent with his/her intellectual standards (impeccable logic, given the premises) then the character will be seen as "strong." Not stubborn -- strong.
Such a character, with fully integrated emotions and thinking, will absorb the impact of shattering events with just a bit of recoil, then surge back into the fray with renewed determination. That's what strong characters do. They don't give up. They don't give in. They don't crumble.
Where does such "strength" of character come from? It comes from the stability at the balance point where emotion and logic join into a single, clear assessment of any life-situation.
For such a fully integrated character, a Neptune transit (falling in love, ga-ga infatuated, unable to think of anything else) will be FUN, not an occasion for actions destructive to the life or career that's been built so far. What has been built so far will be strong enough to absorb the impact of True Love, integrate the new Spouse into all the on-going affairs, and make progress even while courting.
A Romance novel gains plausibility when these improbable Events happen to an integrated personality.
Stories like that "work" because in reality, we all know how the integrated personalities around us seem to just sail through vicissitudes unscathed while everyone else is smashed to pieces.
A person may appear to have a strong Saturn or Capricorn (look like a great manager) but not have that "strength of character" that can be achieved only by stabilizing at that emotion/logic balance point.
A lover will judge not just by good looks, but also by performance under stress.
That's why we love Science Fiction Romance where lovers get to see their prospective spouse under the impact of bizarre, unthinkable, and screw-ball stress. Smart women flee from men who crumble. Smart men flee from women who crumble. We aren't all that smart, so we love reading about smart characters.
But with practice, with determination and unrelenting striving, one can get to be that smart.
That's the hope all humans harbor. You can't change "who" you are -- but you can be a strong version of you, rather than a weak version.
Reading good Romance can provide the vision of what you could be, if you sweat it out and train rigorously to find your emotion/logic balance point. Nobody can tell you where yours is. You have to risk everything to find it. What do you risk? Reliving that emotional pain referenced in "Is the literary world elitist? What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture" that triggered your version of intellectual insecurity.
Either intellectual or emotional insecurity vitiates the strength of character necessary to cope with our real world. By reading Romance, and especially the hybrid genres of Romance, you can evaluate and assess where inside you those insecurities reside, what caused them, and then find what you can do to confront your demons and exorcise them.
In other words, you can find out how to become the kind of "strong character" you so admire in novels.
Concentrate on reading the writers who have the aspect of strength you have set yourself to master.
If there is any criticism of Romance Genre that actually holds up well on scrutiny, it's that many authors of Romance do not themselves train in rigorous internal consistency of philosophy that comes automatically when you live at that stable emotion/logic balance point. But many of the most popular Romance writers do. Very often, they get to their balance point by writing Romance!
Beginning Romance writers just (tell rather than show that this character falls in love with that character on first sight -- and there is no way readers can figure out what "he sees in her" or "she sees in him" because there is nothing to see.
This harks back to THEME that I talk about so much. The writer has to have a thematic rationale for Love At First Sight that the writer wants to explain in this novel -- where does it come from, why does it happen, does it really mean anything in the long-run? Religion can be the explanation, or karma, or life-is-random, or "I'm helpless before my carnal emotions." But the writer has to be saying something with that First Sight Plot Event in such a way that the reader can "hear" it being said, and later "see" it working in their real world.
The weak character is "helpless before carnal emotions." If the character becomes a strong character as a result of striving with carnal emotions, you have a novel series, because this kind of "strength" -- that comes from a totally consistent philosophy of life, consistent with emotional reality and consistent with logical reality -- takes decades of hard living to achieve (sometimes in a past life).
The best source of plot-events to throw at your weak character who is developing strength is the typical Pluto Transit event that I have, in previous posts, identified as the source of Melodrama.
In real life, solid relationships seldom result from lust-at-first-sight where the couple has incompatible personalities.
But even that does happen -- really! Sometimes, such relationships result in 50th Anniversaries with hoards of grandchildren swarming about.
It's a crazy world, and lots of highly improbable things happen. Such improbabilities are the real life venues for stories. You see it in biographies and autobiographies.
Love Conquers All. It really does. And that fact is a mystery humans can't help but probe.
Romance is all about emotion -- and intellectual insecurity (as noted in this article) is a condition that blends both emotion and intellect, body and mind.
You can't have ROMANCE without "mind" -- but you can have sex and lust without "mind."
The Romance Genre is by definition all about finding that balance point within the character's personality where intellect and emotion blend harmoniously. And the Love Conquers All premise behind the Romance Genre is all about how that balance point is attained by partnering with the right opposite number.
A coupling that facilitates the advancement of each character toward their own balance point exerts a strong influence on the course of Events around them -- and perhaps on the destiny of Humanity and perhaps the Universe, depending how mystical you want to get.
Showing rather than assuming or telling this process of balancing intellect and emotion can make Romance genre novels more accessible to those who can't believe in the reality of Happily Ever After.
When you mix Science Fiction with Romance, you can demonstrate the kinds of balance points that are favored by a sensitive dominance of intellect over emotion. You can show how emotion can be trained by the intellect to recognize and react to that which is consistent with the philosophy or religion the character has consciously chosen.
Achieving that intellect/emotion balance point and thus becoming "strong" characters, a couple can indeed and in reality, live a Happily Ever After ending. Just contemplate those 50th Wedding Anniversary celebrations -- some people do make it to the HEA.
The easiest way to get to the HEA is to vanquish your Intellectual Insecurities -- as delineated in this article I cited at the top of this post:
Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 05:00 PM -0700
Is the literary world elitist?
What readers who take offense at unfamiliar words and challenging books are telling us about our culture