Thursday, June 11, 2009

InDescent and Miscellaneous Aversions

Jenre, an honest and insightful reviewer, tackled my m/m urban fantasy InDescent on her Well Read review blog (, devoted primarily to m/m fiction. The review was also put up at Reviews by Jessewave, which you can get to by clicking on the title of this post.

At Jessewave's, the review generated an interesting discussion. It highlights how different readers perceive characters and their motives, and also demonstrates how plot elements that people find distasteful can make or break a book for them. I've already posted a (lengthy) list of things that grind the gears of m/m fiction readers. But they're certainly not alone in their pickiness.

This fascinates me. Aside from the usual gag-inducing/taboo themes (cannibalism, bestiality, "romanticized" or gratuitous rape, torture, incest, sex involving minors, fetishes involving really icky stuff), I'm willing to accept most anything an author puts in his/her work, as long as I'm reading a good story well told. I'm not, for example, a big fan of yaoi. And I'm not a fan of certain character types. But, hey, let Katrina Strauss spin out some yaoi or Frank Tuttle throw a detective (rather, a "Finder") at me, and I am so there. The Age of Sail? Couldn't have cared less . . . until Alex Beecroft came along. I have some issues with BDSM, too, but so many authors handle it so well (and, sometimes, in such original ways) that it no longer automatically hits my recoil button.

Have you ever found one of your reading prejudies vanish in the space of a just-plain damned good book?


Jenre said...

I'm a bit like you KZ, in that I'll give pretty much anything a go unless it's going to make me feel physically sick! I wasn't too keen on BDSM, but I've read quite a number of great ones now.

As for the infidelity thing. I've mentioned elsewhere that it all depends on context. Someone who deliberately goes behind their loved one's back without their knowledge is a big no-no, unless they are made to pay for it later!

One interesting thing is that before I read m/m I hated contemporary romance. I think this was because I always had a hard time identifying with the heroine in romance and to make her contemporary and (usually) from the US caused an even bigger gap in my empathising with her.

K. Z. Snow said...

Most of our likes and dislikes have been shaped by our life experiences, and those are difficult to overcome once they're entrenched. Where we're born, how we're raised, religious beliefs, education, the types of relationships we've been in -- all those things and more are powerful influences.

Re. reading, I'm not sure what the key is to overcoming those influences for the sake of a more open mind. Maybe it's as simple as seeing fiction for what it is. Fiction. I don't think I've ever scorned a book because of its theme(s). Crappy writing, yes, but not content.

I'm going to do a separate post on infidelity, since it's particularly relevant (or can be) to romance fiction. And it's certainly been a factor in plenty of people's lives.

Thanks again for dropping by, Jen. Your comments are always food for thought!

Jeanne said...

BDSM themes until I went to an online workshop about its place in the romance genre and used it as a subtheme in "A Perfect Symmetry", my latest from Liquid Silver Books. In it I tried to present a negative, distorted BDSM scenario contrasted against one that enhanced a relationship.
Despair can lead a person to do something they would never do in other situations...

K. Z. Snow said...

Context and execution, Jeanne. Yuppers, that what's it's all about. (Hm, I didn't know you went out on a new limb in APS. Brave lady! Now I'm really intrigued.)

What you said about despair can be applied to infidelity, too.

Katrina Strauss said...

As a reader, I've often sought books that challenged my comfort levels. As an author, I've learned not all readers want to be challenged, particularly those who seek romance for the escape value. So I try to write a little bit of everything, but I certainly explore some of the more dark and complicated aspects of romance. I just can't help myself!

Jeanne said...

KZ wrote:
What you said about despair can be applied to infidelity, too.

Most definitely. APS is perhaps less action packed than traditional Urban Fantasies. It's also longer like ID. The menage theme in the story allowed me to explore several different scenarios including BDSM and bisexuality. The fighting was confined to the last three chapters or so. One reason I was disappointed in the one review it received by a reviewer who so clearly skipped the middle chapters.

K. Z. Snow said...

Yikes, not good when reviewers skim and skip. That's even worse than when they make blanket criticisms yet give no examples of what they found so egregious.

Y'know, Jeanne, I don't think urban fantasies need to be "action-packed" to qualify as urban fantasies. Genre standards are arbitrary and/or the result of too much "copycatism" (i.e., authors continually riffing off the same characters types, settings, and plot elements ad nauseam).

What's wrong with presenting established genres in new ways? Nothin'. Anne Rice proved it could be done with vampires. Fiction needs its Refresh icon clicked now and then. :-)