Friday, September 23, 2011

Romantic fantasy is everywhere

With regards to the post title, romantic fantasy--that is, fantasy books that intersect in their conventions, tropes and execution with the romance genre--has been around almost as long as I've been reading fantasy.  Stuff by Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, and others was always on the shelf, and frankly, stuff by Anne McCaffrey or Marion Zimmer Bradley didn't fall too far from that angle either, in regards to the market they were hoping to corner with their feminist or romantic-tendency books.  I actually think that that's probably a good thing for fantasy, and I've said many times before that I think fantasy tends to become too insular, and needs to be aware of and take advantage of trends in other genres.  Plus, hey, romance is the biggest genre of fiction out there, and crossing that into fantasy breeds a lot more fantasy readers, which in turn breeds a lot more fantasy getting published.

That said--I don't really have any interest in reading romantic fantasy.  Not too long ago, it wasn't hard to figure out which fantasy was going to go down that route.  There were visual cues in the cover art, there were relatively fewer authors, and the descriptions had a lot of key words that made it kinda obvious.  So, I could mostly avoid what I wasn't interested in, and read other stuff instead.

Now, however, I notice that it's not nearly as obvious as it once was.  I've been caught "off guard" a good half a dozen times recently with stuff that was very overtly romance genre fantasy, without any obvious clues beforehand that that's what I was going to be reading.  I suspect, perhaps, that some of the authors themselves would maybe dispute the label, and maybe that's why.  But I'm a bit of a purist; I don't mind watching romcoms with my wife (in fact, I usually enjoy them unless they're badly done--but that's true of any kind of movie) but a number of books I've read recently have an obvious target audience of women, not men in fantasy, and as part of that, they are heavily draped in conventions, character-types, and scenarios that are common to the romance genre.

Am I just really out of touch?  Has there been a major change?  Why am I getting "suckered" into checking out books from the library--and occasionally even buying--that clearly are not intending me as the target audience?

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