On Romance

I don't read romance literature.

It's not my thing, which isn't saying much: there's a lot of literature that I don't tend to consider "my thing," for one reason or another. I don't really read fantasy, or horror, and I'm even picky within science fiction. There are enough books out there and there is only so much time. At least that's what I tell myself.

Nevertheless, Susan Groppi wrote a great post about coming out as a reader of romance that I found useful. I'm also reminded of comments that N. K. Jemison made about the in progress merging of the fantasy and romance genres (sorry if I've miss-cited this), and I've been thinking about how I view Romance fiction, and perhaps a bit more generally about genre fiction ghettos.

In general, I think Romance has merit, both because it's entrancing and I think fiction which captures people's imaginations and interest I worthwhile and important to not dismiss because it's commercial, or the readership/writers are largely women. There are potential problems with romance, at least insofar as we typically envision it: with strong hetero tendencies, an idealization of monogamy as a social practice and marriage as an institution, and the potential to accept a very conventional conceptualization of gender. I'm sure some romance literature has been able to engage and trouble these troupes productively, but I think it's a potential concern.

Having said that, I'm not sure that Romance has a lot of future as a genre. This is to say that I think many of the elements of romance--female characters, and an engagement with sexuality and relationships--will increasingly merge into other genres. Romance as an independent genre will linger on, but I think the "cool stuff happening in the Romance field," will probably eventually move out into corners of other genres: thriller, fantasy, maybe science fiction.

Actually, as I think about this, it's probably backwards. I think it's less that Romance doesn't have a future, as it is that the future of most popular literature lies in engaging with romance-elements and other aspects of romance stories the context of non-romance specific styles. This kind of thing is happening, and I think it'll probably continue to happen.

I wish I could speak with greater certainty about the reasons why romance literature enjoy higher readership, or what elements of romance stories can be transplanted to other genres, but I think these are probably questions which are beyond the scope of this post. Thanks for reading!

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