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So long, and thanks for your money

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Romance readers and authors get a lot of derision thrown their way. So much so that many have a mental checklist that runs every time they read mainstream media articles about romance or the people who write it.  We know that even the most well-intentioned pieces will use terms like “bodice ripper” and make mention of Fabio; some will praise the genre for moving past the days of clinch covers and towards more palatable packaging. Many will speak of the elusive “well-written romance”, which may or may not exist. Recently, author Diana Gabaldon deployed each of these trite views of the genre–a genre whose readers have supported her with their enthusiasm and their dollars to the tune of an acclaimed bestselling series and a highly-rated television phenomenon. In an interview with Vulture she insisted that her books don’t fit the romance mold:

A romance is a courtship story. In the 19th century, the definition of the romance genre was an escape from daily life that included adventure and love and battle. But in the 20th century, that term changed, and now it’s deemed only a love story, specifically a courtship story.

On Twitter, Gabaldon–a self-professed non-romance writer–expanded on this point:

It’s difficult to take Gabaldon’s definition of the genre seriously when she seems so painfully out of touch with it. E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, easily the most profitable and talked-about novel of the century so far, spent its sequels following the married life and personal tribulations of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, who remain the protagonists throughout the series. Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, another blockbuster in the vein of Fifty Shades, follows a single couple through five books. Both are “so labeled and packaged” as romance novels. According to a FAQ on Gabaldon’s website, romance authors themselves feel Outlander and its sequels are not romance novels:

I joined GEnie (one of the big online “information services” available in the late 80’s—well before the Web as it is now existed) shortly after winning the award, and one (quite well known) author sent me a private e-mail, saying that she thought she had better come out and tell me, since there were several messages from her on the board saying so, that she felt it was not right for Outlander to have won, since “it wasn’t really a romance–there wasn’t enough concentration on the relationship between the hero and heroine, she was older than him (hey, everybody knows you can’t do that! (You want to know how many times I’ve heard “You can’t do THAT in a romance!”–from romance writers at romance conventions?) they didn’t meet until page 69, you didn’t know he was the hero until much later, it was much too long, and it had all that HIStory, it was in the first person!! (an utterly heinous crime in that genre, apparently), and as for what I did to Jamie…!!

While Gabaldon may be content to cling to the attitudes of romance readers and writers as they stood twenty-five years ago, the genre has moved on. Today, Romance Writers of America has a much broader, more inclusive definition for what does and does not constitute a romance novel:

All romances have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending. Beyond that, however, romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality. Romance fiction may be classified into various subgenres depending on setting and plot elements.

Gabaldon’s series fulfills each of those requirements. Her books, while including time travel and historical intrigues, are at their very heart a love story about Jamie and Claire. And while on her website Gabaldon asserts that romances must have happy endings, the RWA only stresses the need for “an emotionally satisfying ending.” Though Gabaldon’s books sometimes end on distressing cliffhangers, they’re far from dissatisfying. By today’s definition, Outlander is most certainly a romance. Yet she still chooses to push the genre away:

If you call it a romance, it will never be reviewed by the New York Times or any other respectable literary venue. And that’s okay. I can live with that. But more importantly, you will cut off the entire male half of my readership. They would say, “Oh, well, it’s probably not for me.”

Though Outlander in its television form has drawn in male viewers, and male readers of the series undoubtedly exist, the audience the series has attracted is undeniably, overwhelmingly female. And Gabaldon’s concern about her male readership didn’t stop her from marketing the book as a romance to begin with. In the interview, Gabaldon explains why she was fine with the idea of marketing Outlander as a romance when it was first published:

So my agent said, “Well, we could insist that they call it science-fiction or fantasy, because of the weird elements, but bear in mind that a bestseller in sci-fi is 50,000 in paperback. A bestseller in romance is 500,000.” And I said, “Well, you’ve got a point!”

In other words, Gabaldon’s agent and publisher knew that Outlander best fit the romance mold, and would sell like crazy there. Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor came out in 1989, sparking an entire subgenre of time travel romance, whose readers eagerly embraced mingled aspects of historical romance and science fiction. Marketing Outlander as a romance novel was the smartest move Gabaldon and her team made, a move Gabaldon was fine with at the time, provided she wouldn’t be saddled with the stigma of romance for the rest of her career:

Provided we had dignified covers — we wouldn’t have bosoms and Fabio and things like that — and also that if the books became visible, they would reposition them as fiction. Which they did. When Voyager, the third book of the series, hit the New York Times bestseller list, they very honorably redesigned the covers and started calling them fiction.

In other words, Gabaldon raked in romance reader dollars and used the genre to make her book a hit. She even won a prestigious RITA award for Best Romance in 1992 from Romance Writers of America (Gabaldon’s website lists this win as “Best Book” and takes pains to point out that non-romances can win the award; RWA’s website lists it as “Best Romance” and every other winner in the now-retired category have been romance novels). Then she took the money and ran.

In a piece at Book Riot, Jessica Tripler points out that many romance readers would agree that Outlander and its sequels aren’t romance novels, but by RWA’s definition, they most certainly could be. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. Romance readers buy more books than any other type of reader. There’s money to be had, and personal recommendations in the romance community are solid gold. So why, then, the reluctance to embrace the title of romance novel/author? Why does Gabaldon feel the need to mention Fabio and bosoms whenever the question arises? Does she believe that she or her books are somehow more legitimate because they’re no longer shelved in romance at Barnes & Noble? She states often that her books are wholly genre-less, but there are no similar sections on her website adamantly insisting that they aren’t science fiction. The only logical conclusion to come to is that “romance” is to authors as “cooties” are to children on a playground.

Romance readers will continue to embrace Gabaldon’s series, because they have no compunction about venturing into other aisles in the book store. They’re passionate about reading, love all types of stories and subgenres, and spend literally a billion dollars a year on books. Gabaldon knew it was a smart business move twenty-five years ago to align herself with the community; now, like a suddenly popular middle school student, she doesn’t know who her old friends are. Without romance readers, Outlander would have never found its audience. Maybe Gabaldon should remember that and be thankful to the genre, rather than fixating on and perpetuating cliches that contribute to the stigma against a genre that has loyally supported her for decades.

 

 

72 Comments

  1. candy apple
    candy apple

    I met Diana Gabaldon once at a book thingy, and I have to say, she came off kind of cunty. I’m not a romance reader — my favorite genres are historical fiction and horror — but I make exceptions for a good story and good writers. I liked Diana’s books because you can’t exactly pigeonhole them, but I would never, ever state that they’re “not romance.” Of course they are. They just incorporate other elements and tell a good tale.

    Or hey, maybe they aren’t, I mean, her obsession with rape is so intense that literally every major character gets raped at some point, and probably the family dog as well, I don’t remember. If you drank a shot of tequila every time someone wanted to force Claire to have sex, you’d need a liver transplant before the end of the third book.

    On another note, I had to laugh when Diana issued a directive to NEVER use her characters in fan fiction. Guess what, lady? You can’t control the entire internet or people’s minds! Google “Outlander fan fiction” sometime, it definitely exists, despite her imperious demand that no one dare write it. And it’s hilarious. Jamie slash fiction, Claire slash fiction, the works. Suck it up, Diana! You put those characters out there, and you can’t control what people write about for fun.

    June 27, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I’ve always found the “no fan fiction” rule to be pretty hilarious, considering she’s openly stated that she was inspired by Doctor Who and wrote Jamie Fraser because of Jamie McCrimmon, the Third Doctor’s companion, played by Frazer Hines.

      But that’s not at all using someone else’s character, right?

      June 27, 2016
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      • Sushi
        Sushi

        *cough*Second Doctor*cough*

        June 27, 2016
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        • JennyTrout
          JennyTrout

          OMFG HOW DID I DO THAT. I AM ON THE SECOND DOCTOR IN MY REWATCH RIGHT NOW. THE SHAME. FOREVER THE SHAME.

          June 27, 2016
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          • Sushi
            Sushi

            Jamie and Three would’ve been an amazing team though, fist-fighting and akido-ing all through UNIT. Which story are you on?

            June 28, 2016
      • Kylie
        Kylie

        OMG. I said something criticizing her stance on Fanfiction and someone snarked back at this and I owned them with some of these exact examples! Pot meet kettle.

        June 27, 2016
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    • That whole thing about NO FANFIC EVER is what initially put me off her. Although knowing now that she was inspired by Doctor Who makes it even more rich.

      June 27, 2016
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      • Maggie
        Maggie

        I know of at least one pro author who was writing fanfic and publishing/selling fanzines, as well as also writing professional tie-in fic, while simultaneously ranting that no one was ever, ever, EVER allowed to write fanfic about her characters, ever.

        Our social circles still overlap a bit, and every time I see/hear her name, I think, “asshole.” Kind of like the audience response in Rocky Horror when Brad introduces himself.

        June 27, 2016
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        • Our social circles still overlap a bit, and every time I see/hear her name, I think, “asshole.” Kind of like the audience response in Rocky Horror when Brad introduces himself.

          I love it.

          June 27, 2016
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    • Calandra
      Calandra

      I especially love her reasoning for the “No fan fiction” directive. Apparently her characters are “her children” and writing fic about them is like abusing them or something.
      I keep wondering what her real-life kids think about that. Can’t be pleasant.

      But then, this is the same person who said in an interview that a REAL Strong Woman(tm) doesn’t need to hide behind the label of feminism. Why am I even surprised…

      June 27, 2016
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    • Persephone
      Persephone

      Man, that is becoming a red flag. Other authors who decreed no fanfic – Laurell K Hamilton and Anne Rice. Take what you will from that.

      June 27, 2016
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      • Fenchurchly
        Fenchurchly

        I am not surprised then that Laurell K Hamilton retweeted Diana’s tweet request for examples of romance series (above) then.

        July 1, 2016
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    • Fenchurchly
      Fenchurchly

      How dare you! As I recall, it’s like “selling your children into white slavery”.

      July 1, 2016
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  2. Kikibu
    Kikibu

    Jesus. How difficult is it to say, “I never considered my books to be ‘romance’, but marketing, you know? The romance community embraced my work, though, and gave me awards and readership and a ton of money. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I always thought they belonged in fiction, and that’s how they’re marketed now, but I am so thankful for the support and love my books got when they were ‘just’ romance novels.”

    June 27, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Exactly. There is nothing wrong with saying that she’s never considered her books romance, but that the romance community has given her support. It would come off so much better than, well, we marketed them that way for the money, but trust me, I fought the establishment so nobody would mistake me for a romance writer.

      June 27, 2016
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    • Fenchurchly
      Fenchurchly

      EXACTLY. Own it and enjoy writing some of the best of the genre. Her decrying the genre comes off as some Cool Girl™ nonsense that is incredibly out of touch and damaging.

      July 1, 2016
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      • Yup, she’s definitely still trying to be ‘not like other girls’.

        July 1, 2016
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  3. Anon123
    Anon123

    I found the first book fun to skim through and alternately enjoy and mock–not mocking for the romance elements Gabaldon finds so dismissable, but for places where I thought the writing/editing were unconscionably lazy. (I do think Gabaldon has talent, but it shows up pretty unevenly imho.)

    My picture of Gabaldon through her avatar Claire was of someone self-centered and smug about her own cleverness. This opinion didn’t improve when, upon looking at the back inside cover, I saw a lovely picture of a woman in Stonehenge (or some henge, at any rate), above the explanation that she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona (which is basically Phoenix, a giant concrete desert with no culture to speak of). Now I like to joke that she must be putting the “Scot” in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s like…you’re going to put this picture that’s misleading me to think you’re “authentic” to the British Isles in some way, but also do this in a completely transparent way? Okay.

    Equally easy to see through is this “not a romance” schtick. Overall, this only confirms my impression of Gabaldon as a self-important author who thinks she can pull a fast one on everybody with minimal to no effort. Why does she think this will work? Because obviously she, like Claire, is just so super smarty-smart-smart much smarter than everyone around her.

    …Hm. Anyone else having flashbacks to descriptions of Ana?

    Anyway, Gabaldon’s books: Ultimately kinda fun in an absurd way, but not written by the world’s most likeable person. My 2 cents.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Betsy
      Betsy

      I just have to jump in and disagree with your assumption that Phoenix and Scottsdale don’t have culture. They have plenty of culture – just not white, European culture.

      June 27, 2016
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      • JennyLouWho
        JennyLouWho

        Seconded, hardcore.

        June 27, 2016
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  4. Heaven forbid the NYT not review your book because of its icky romance themes.

    Also, if she’d like a list of romances that follow the same couple (or even ones that follow couples within the same universe), she could just idk, search for that information online? It’s definitely out there. Here’s one from Goodreads and fancy that, not a Fabio cover in sight: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/23079.Romance_series_with_one_couple.
    Some aren’t even strictly romance, but have romantic elements to them. Judging by the interview, I don’t think she’s read a romance since the 80s.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Fenchurchly
      Fenchurchly

      My favorite thing is that she cites Laura Kinsale (who is fabulous and frankly, more imaginative than DG) as a romance author she deigns to read… but yet… Fabio’s first cover was a Kinsale novel.

      July 1, 2016
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  5. Sushi
    Sushi

    “Name a romance series (so labeled and packaged) that deals with the _same_ couple’s life post-courtship.”

    Shopaholic. That took me all of five seconds. Admittedly I have not read the latest book because I have a reading list as long as my arm, but I’m 95% sure they’re still mostly all about Becky and Luke and their relationship.

    Anyway, I hate when people do that, put down the fans who got them where they are today. I haven’t read the Outlander books yet as I’ve heard mixed things about them, but I was seriously considering it simply because Jamie McCrimmon is my favourite companion, but this sort of thing puts me right off.

    June 27, 2016
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    • drmaggiemoreau
      drmaggiemoreau

      Shopaholic was my first thought too. Becky and Luke are still together as of their last book.

      My mom LOVED Outlander at first, but she got kind of creeped out by the gratuitous rape and violence.

      July 2, 2016
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  6. Noisyninja
    Noisyninja

    LOTS of series, to answer her question about following one couple. I just finished one, the Magpie Lord series (m/m, erotica, paranormal, Victorian, super spicy) which I blew through in less than a week because I couldn’t put it down.

    Oh, and Jane Eyre is technically Gothic romance. And considered classic literature enough to have IB high school students read it senior year. Is she saying Jane Eyre isn’t good fiction? Soooo arrogant.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Squeaklet
      Squeaklet

      *intrigued magpie lover*
      *Kindle search*
      *more intrigued*
      *reading list grows*
      Thanks! ☺

      June 27, 2016
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    • MorganElektra
      MorganElektra

      @NoisyNinja

      Everything else aside, I just went to Amazon to look up The Magpie Lord, because that sounds *totally* up my alley! So, thanks for that! 🙂

      June 27, 2016
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    • Brittney
      Brittney

      I LOVE the Magpie Lord series! I always get really excited when I stumble across other people who have read and loved it to.

      June 27, 2016
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      • Squeaklet
        Squeaklet

        YES! I SEE WHY!!! SOOOOOOOO GOOD!!! 😀

        July 22, 2016
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    • Squeaklet
      Squeaklet

      I sincerely hope that you subscribe to comments on this thread, @noisyninja, because I want to say THANK YOU!!!!!!!! for introducing me to this FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC series, and the rather fabulous KJ Charles.

      What a gift. X

      July 22, 2016
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  7. Andrea Taylor
    Andrea Taylor

    I can see her point about the state of the romance genre back when Outlander was first published. I explored it back then (mostly reading my roommate’s books), and pretty much bailed because of all the problems with it (frequent rapemances, the extremely formulaic requirements, etc.). I would not have wanted a book I wrote to be associated with the genre back then. It’s kind of like Prince telling Warner Bros. “don’t make me black”, i.e. don’t market him as a “black” artist. The industry would have relegated him to the “black” market, without a lot of the exposure that he got as a result of the way he was marketed. Probably still a commercial success, but not nearly as widely known.

    While the genre is better these days, and I can find lots of books I enjoy (the rapemances are pretty much gone), there is still a lot of formula requirements that readers will ding you over for not following. Lots and lots of one-star Amazon reviews cutting down books that punched holes in that box. The vast majority of romances are “one book per couple”, and if you see the previous couples as anything but, “sooo much in love”, like maybe they’re having problems they need to work through that could threaten their relationship, wham, dinged in the reviews. A few writers who managed to get out of the box and create a following doesn’t change the fact that for the vast majority of writers, the box is real.

    Gabaldon’s work is most definitely not perfect and has numerous problems (I quit reading the series because it got to really dragging), but that doesn’t change the fact that much of her critique of the romance genre is spot on, and while she did get awards and high sales, she also got abused for stepping out of the box. I can’t fault her for not liking the box that so many other authors are crammed in.

    June 27, 2016
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    • bewalsh7
      bewalsh7

      I totally agree with you Andrea. It seems like Diana is stuck with the 80s definition of romance books. I don’t blame her for not wanting to be in that genre back then, but as romance is now, I don’t see her reasoning of being lumped in there at this point. I do think she could’ve been a little bit nicer to romance fans. There are so many subgenres now, and the books more often have great story lines and solid characters.

      I for one rarely read romance novels (Outlander is probably the first one I ever liked), since I, until reading Jenny’s blog, was under the impression myself that all romance books were crap and just “bodice rippers” with virgins. I can’t express how much I HATE reading about virgin women!! ARGH! Outlander appealed to me because it didn’t follow the standard formula and I enjoyed the story. I went on to read the first 4 books in the series, and they are huge books. I just haven’t continued as I have too many other books I want to read.

      June 27, 2016
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  8. *boggles* When I first started in the review world, all my romance friends jumped up and down and shouted “You HAVE to read Outlander! Jamie is my ultimate book boyfriend! SWOON!” It took me a while because I kept reading so many series (JD Robb’s In Death series. Took me all of 1 second to come up with a long lasting series about the same couple) that I just didn’t have time to get to it. And when I did, I only read the first book. Yeah, Jamie is swoon worthy, but there’s so much rape and threatening of rape that it triggered me pretty badly. I kept reading because, surely it’d get better, right? HA. No. Claire was so full of herself that I wanted to slap her. Hated the heroine. Couldn’t hang with the same tired plot device (every single man that crossed Claire’s path wanted to rape her) or the insanely graphic descriptions of what happened to Jamie. And this was after the covers were changed and it was marketed as “fiction.”

    Sorry, while I’m an admitted romance addict, I do still read other genres. Horror. Suspense. Mystery. Non-fiction. Thriller. Occasionally some Sci-fi to change things up a bit. This was ROMANCE, pure and simple. It has time travel in it. It has history in it. So, it’s a time travel historical romance. While it doesn’t have a HEA, it technically has a HFN (at least the first book. I haven’t bothered with the rest).

    June 27, 2016
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    • Laina
      Laina

      I was about to mention the In Death series! Murder aside, it’s Nora Roberts. You gonna tell me Nora Roberts doesn’t write romance? lol

      June 27, 2016
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    • ElBandito
      ElBandito

      ‘HA. No. Claire was so full of herself that I wanted to slap her. Hated the heroine. Couldn’t hang with the same tired plot device (every single man that crossed Claire’s path wanted to rape her) or the insanely graphic descriptions of what happened to Jamie. ‘

      Oh GOD I felt the same! I remember enjoying the first book though when I was 16, because the premise was really good. I remember having NO problem whatsoever with Claire and Jamie’s age differences (and tbh, the time spent on their relationship could be excused for not having enough time between all those battles and escapes from the enemy. Short courtships happen in romances), but I definitely DID have a problem with how Claire ‘treated’ Jamie’s catatonic PTSD by triggering the ever-loving hell out of him. I remember not even knowing how serious it is to trigger people (let alone the term) but it absolutely squicked me out.

      June 28, 2016
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  9. Stormy
    Stormy

    When your works have become smash successes, I think you have the license not to care about the people who sneer at “genre fiction” yet so many authors remain defensive decades after the fact. Can you not go sleep on your bed of money if someone, somewhere, classifies your novel in a way you don’t like?

    (See also: Terry “MY BOOKS AREN’T FANTASY HDU” Goodkind.)

    I remain continually amazed when romance authors of any stripe happily accept money from their fans and then turn around and degrade their taste, intelligence, and life choices. They’re romance novel fans, not the KKK. Your good name isn’t being tarnished.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Jessica
      Jessica

      LMAO I didn’t realize Terry Goodkind gets upset that his books are considered fantasy. I mean, I read them on recommendation from a friend, I had no idea what ‘genre’ they were supposed to be in, and I totally thought they were fantasy. WTF does he think they are, then? Hahaha

      June 27, 2016
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      • Kristine
        Kristine

        He writes “stories that have important human themes.” Apparently he thinks that’s mutually exclusive with fantasy.

        June 27, 2016
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      • Stormy
        Stormy

        I would be terribly amiss if I didn’t connect you to Mr. Goodkind at his insufferable best:

        http://cgi1.usatoday.com/mchat/20030805003/tscript.htm

        Weymouth, MA: In your opinion who is the most must-read, cutting edge writer publishing today?

        Terry Goodkind: Ayn Rand.

        Orem Utah: What do you think distinguishes your books from all of the other fantasy books out there, and why should readers choose to read your series?

        Terry Goodkind: There are several things. First of all, I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It’s either about magic or a world-building. I don’t do either.

        Please note that Goodkind’s books are 100% magic and ~50% world building. But you know…philosophy.

        June 27, 2016
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        • Heather
          Heather

          Must-read cutting edge Ayn Rand would get some side eye from me, so he doesn’t writer fantasy, hm? Alright then.

          June 30, 2016
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        • Squeaky
          Squeaky

          I read and loved the Sword Of Truth series. I’m terribly disappointed to read that this is his attitude.

          What an utter twunt.

          July 2, 2016
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    • Mariah Avix
      Mariah Avix

      Margaret Atwood is this way about sci-fi. It is so disappointing to see authors diss the genres that loves them.

      June 27, 2016
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      • I was thinking this exact same thing! I do find Atwood’s writing wonderful and genre-transcending, but why diss any readers? So what if her work straddles literary and science fiction genres. It doesn’t have to be an either-or label.

        June 27, 2016
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        • Exactly!

          Atwood especially makes me sad because it is this distance that makes me waffle between sad and defensive about writing sci-fi. The thing I love about it is that there are so many things you can do that aren’t here and now in this world. But are stuff like Outlander, or everything by Atwood, or Goodkind. And sometimes that is an incredibly powerful way to tell a story. That doesn’t make it bad. Stop trying to shed the things that make your story amazing. Romance and fantasy and sci-fi. If you stripped the actual romance from Outlander it wouldn’t be a great story. If you stripped the sci-fi from Atwood it would be…dull. I mean those are the pieces that make them amazing to me.

          June 27, 2016
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          • Kayla
            Kayla

            Hah. I started reading a collection of Atwood’s short stories, none of which were SF – sorry, speculative fiction – and stopped less than halfway through because they bored me to tears.

            June 28, 2016
      • Atwood has more reason, I feel. Would you have wanted, as a young feminist author, to consistently be put into the same space as Asimov so he could grope you?

        June 30, 2016
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  10. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    Ugh, this is what I can’t stand about her. She was perfectly fine using the romance genre and community to market her books and make money off them, but once she got famous off them, she not only ran as fast as she could in the opposite direction to put distance between them but condescendingly insults the genre, romance readers (i.e. the vast majority of her readers and fans), and inaccurately describes the genre she claims not to be a part of based on 1980’s stereotypes. Where does this woman even get the gall? What a flaming hypocrite.

    June 27, 2016
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  11. Alison
    Alison

    I enjoyed the first half of season one of the tv show. Then I heard about the spanking scene which put me off watching.
    Also this quote:
    It’s a scene about which Diana Galbaldon, the author of the series, snidely predicted in a recent interview: “There will undoubtedly be a certain amount of knee-jerk feminism from very young women.”

    Gross.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Avery
      Avery

      “Spanking”? That’s rich. In the books he beats her so badly she is in too much pain to sleep – the bruises last over a week. AND he threatened to beat her BEFORE she ever did anything “wrong” in the first place! She was terrified to be left ALONE – not with someone as seen in the show, but completely alone in the same forest in which she was just nearly raped – and he threatened to beat her and tie her to a tree and leave her if she didn’t just agree to stay. I threw my book when that happened – I threw it harder when the beating happened. I have only thrown a book once aside from that, and that book, was fifty shades.

      She defends that scene to the death, too, it is ludicrous. MULTIPLE abuse victims came forward on her facebook about it: one lady said she went so far as to tape the pages of her books together so she’d never accidentally read a reference to it, much less the scene itself as it triggered a massive flashback/panic attack. Diana, of course, ignored them all, and agreed with the fans who were saying it was “sexy” and “she deserved it.” There is a fuckton of overlap with the fifty shades of rape fanclub, I’m sorry to say.

      I love Outlander as a series, I really do, but this is one of the few cases where I honestly prefer the show. Gene (the director) has fixed all the author’s bullshit. I really hate Diana, and I would stop reading the books, but am honestly so happy to watch Gene fix all her fuckups that I don’t want to miss one when it happens. Also, I like knowing what’s going to happen – cliffhangers are for the birds. If you’re easily triggered by spousal abuse or rape DO NOT read those books. Jamie is a wanker in the books, and Claire is… Claire. I have no greater insult. She is Claire. Stick with the show, just skip episode 9, you won’t miss a damned thing.

      June 29, 2016
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      • Lucy
        Lucy

        I never really felt that the spanking/beating scene in the book or show were bad. It’s something which was considered normal for a looong time, and I like that he never does it again after. To never use something in a book because it’s something we don’t like, or a part of history we don’t like, seems a bit silly. I do think trigger warnings should be given. I don’t mind if rape is used in a story, but I hate how often it is used nowadays and how little the terrible aftermath is shown. I hate Claire as a character, and I got tired of being told how wanted both of them were by almost everyone who meets them.

        In the show though (I don’t remember the book) before that beating scene even happened, Claire is incredibly angry with Jamie because he told her to stay put. He knows the dangers and the terrain, she doesn’t, she even gets captured by the English, but she’s still angry because he told her to do something which would keep her and everyone safe. She verbally abuses him when he says she should apologise after people had to risk their lives to get her back, and even hits him. Nobody seems to care about that moment. After he beats her, she puts a knife to his throat and threatens to kill him, and again nobody cares about that bit (because it happened during sex and it’s supposed to be sexy or something?). I was honestly a little shocked at Claire’s agression and abuse. They do not make Claire more likeable in the show sadly.

        June 30, 2016
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  12. Artemis
    Artemis

    My mom is a huuuuge Gabaldon fan, and once met the author. Even though she was all starry-eyed over the encounter, I thought Gabaldon sounded like kind of a jerk.

    I read one book in the Outlander series years ago and was…kind of bored and put off. Like, now, I would set any of them aside as being way too rapey for my tastes, but even before that was really a consideration for me I thought it kind of meandered too much. The one I read was also the one with the very strange abortion sub-plot where Claire basically tries to force her daughter to have an abortion. It was all just kind of uncomfortable.

    June 27, 2016
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    • Heatherbell
      Heatherbell

      Wow…spoilers.

      June 28, 2016
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      • Laina
        Laina

        Outlander was published in 1991.

        I wasn’t even born til 1992.

        Also, Rosebud is his sled, and Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.

        June 28, 2016
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        • Heatherbell
          Heatherbell

          I was born in 1991. (Irrelevant but since we’re sharing…)
          A lot of people have started reading the Outlander series after being introduced to it via the TV show, so I’m not the only one still reading them.
          But what I really want to know is who peed in your cornflakes today? Because I can’t see any reason why you should be a dick about my pointing out spoilers.

          June 29, 2016
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      • Artemis
        Artemis

        I apologize, it honestly didn’t occur to me to warn for spoilers. I will try to be more careful about that in the future.

        June 30, 2016
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        • Heather
          Heather

          I just got this first Outlander book in a craft swap and any sort of spoiler things here doesn’t bother me, but this part of the thread DID get me thinking – can we do a bunch of spoilers on The Bible? I actually have not read The Good Book, so it would be very spoilery to me and I’d love to hear obscure details.

          June 30, 2016
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        • Heatherbell
          Heatherbell

          Don’t worry about it Artemis, it wasn’t my intention to make you feel bad and I apologise if I did. I guess I was just a little frustrated since I’m on the 4th book in the series and have started wondering if. The series. Will. Ever. End. To be honest, I’ve even considered simply giving up or taking a break from it but now I absolutely have to find out what happens to Bree so I guses I’ll keep reading.

          July 1, 2016
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  13. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    My mom is currently obsessed with the whole “Outlander” thing, to the point she keeps beating me over the head with the demand that I read them, too. She just goes on and on about how this woman is “such a good writer” and “you could learn so much from her”. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what kind of writer she is, I don’t like historical romances or rapemances, so I’m not going to touch them. And hearing all this about the books and their writer has made me even less likely to check them out.

    June 27, 2016
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  14. Roxanne Rhoads
    Roxanne Rhoads

    I don’t get why authors want to dis romance so much.

    Why take one of the most well known, best selling, money making genres in the world and completely dismiss it.

    Because it’s not literary enough?

    Nicholas Sparks absolutely refuses to call his books romances.

    Blows my mind.

    June 27, 2016
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  15. Grace
    Grace

    A random response to your point about make readers: a friend of mine has full access to YouGov, the UK’s leading polling organisation, which lets you profile the average consumer of any popular work of fiction. We were surprised to find only 70% of 50 Shades readers were female.

    June 27, 2016
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    • ElBandito
      ElBandito

      I one time ‘punished’ my brother by making him suffer through ‘Tiger Eye’ by Marjorie M Liu (which I begged my mom to buy for me because FINALLY A ROMANCE NOVEL THAT’S PARTLY SET IN CHINA). He wound up loving it and still keeps the novel in his book case.

      I don’t even have the heart to get it back because I don’t think he gets much of a chance to enjoy romances.

      June 28, 2016
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  16. Brittney
    Brittney

    Her books may be coded as Fiction in the publisher catalog that we buy out of, but the bookstore I work at ignores that and keeps them in the romance section.

    June 27, 2016
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  17. Promise
    Promise

    I dislike Diana Gabaldon as a person. I like the books (and the show) despite her personal personality.

    TBH, Jenny, you’re one of 3 authors I actively engage with on social media and one of 3 that I actually like for themselves (one of the others I’ve never actually read any of her books, I just like her Tweets).

    Anyway, I like books regardless of the genre. I just like good books. Period.

    So silly to put down any genre.

    I hope this makes sense. I’m drunk right now.

    June 27, 2016
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  18. Nora Roberts would run circles around Gabaldon and has as JD Robb with her In Death series. Has been marketed as a futuristic police procedural romance with a married couple going on 30 books, so…

    Also doesn’t Catherine Coulter have a series of books with a married couple who are cops?

    June 28, 2016
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  19. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    WARNING: This comment includes spoiler/rape references.

    Name a romance series (so labeled and packaged) that deals with the _same_ couple’s life post-courtship.

    Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series.

    But more importantly, you will cut off the entire male half of my readership.

    Translation: “But what about the menz?” *headdesk*

    and as for what I did to Jamie…!!

    DG, You don’t have to sound so damned joyful about having your character raped. Or do you get a thrill out of it because the MAN is raped?

    I read a lot of spec fic people on Twitter, so whenever someone RTs Sam Sykes, I immediately think of Diana Gabaldon (Sykes’s mother), and cringe. Same whenever people RT Christopher Rice, I think of his mother and cringe. (OK, I also cringe because Christopher said the target audience for his books with m/m relationships are…straight women.)

    June 28, 2016
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  20. ElBandito
    ElBandito

    I haven’t even read a Gabaldon novel for ages–but I seriously am skeeved that the writer would admit to ‘using’ a genre for better sales, but then be all like, “Romances are dumb, lol, they’re SO restrictive and have regressed since the 19th century.”

    Like, does she know that ever genre has its own problems? I like fantasy, but a lot of them can be like the try-hard ‘Grimdark’ subgenres or the ‘Gor-esque’ novels. I like horror, but sometimes you find a lot of horror novels that are racist, way too sexual, or just down-right exploitive. There are books that just give its genre a bad name. Romance isn’t the only genre that has its own problems–but it DOES have decent books and feigning ignorance of the good ones (the ones that do make the Romance genre shine) is a pretty harsh thing to do to your own peers (and your own fans).

    Personally, I’ve known a lot of budding writers who really REALLY want to be published some day–but get torn down by parents and their peers because writing about romances is ‘wasting your time’. I know so many girls who WANT to expand the romance genre by including more POC romances, LGBTQA characters, superheroes, and different time periods (and I’m absolutely CERTAIN that there were many struggling writers who wanted to write about romantic adventures with one or all of the above themes during the 1980s, but couldn’t get a publishing contract). Gabaldon’s so lucky that she had the chance to be famous and publish so many novels–but she doesn’t focus on the real issues of the romance genre besides, “Hur, they didn’t like Claire because she’s older/didn’t have so many scenes with her LI.” Like DUDE?! That’s all the criticism that you got?!

    June 28, 2016
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  21. Well, since I mainly read romance when not writing my own, I guess I can scratch her books off my TBR list. I think it’s both unprofessional, as well as being ungrateful, to the people and the genre that made her career and put her where she is today. Yes I write romance. I love it, and if you think I don’t have the brains to write something better, I have news for you. I’m a romance writer who received and accepted a full ride scholarship to one of the most prestigious colleges in the USA. It’s probably why my readers like my science fiction.

    June 28, 2016
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  22. Heather
    Heather

    The subject of fan fiction has come up here before and I know a lot of the audience creates their own fan fiction or is otherwise involved in the community. I get too that trying to control the internet is a laughable endeavor (Beyoncé, those Hulk-like photos of you will always exist).

    I can see both sides of the issue, honestly. In its pure form, I’ve heard that fan fiction is a harmless way for other writers to practice their craft, get their feet wet, share beloved characters with likeminded readers and pay homage to the original story. There’s also supposed to be this whole “honor the writer and don’t try to profit off her characters/story” thing. And I suppose that’s where it gets murky for me.

    Because of course, it happens. Some writers have sullied the fan fiction agreement by “filing the serial numbers” off their fanfic and publishing it as original work once they’ve built up an audience. Then you get the abomination of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and to this day, I can’t understand why Stephanie Meyer didn’t pursue litigation with E.L. James. (No seriously, I can’t. If someone can explain it to me, I’d be grateful.)

    So… I guess what I’m saying is that as an aspiring author myself, the fan fiction angle makes me wary. As mentioned above, there are authors who outright banned fan fiction of their work. And again, that seems pretty impossible.

    I would LIKE to say about it, “Have fun! Clearly, imitation is the highest form of compliment.” But I also have stories kicking about in my brain for years and characters I’ve been working on for decades. The sheer number of people riding on others’ creations is demoralizing. (I don’t mean the “Even Shakespeare wasn’t original” argument, but examples that are more current and closer to plagiarism instead of reimagining themes – like FSoG.)

    The writing life is difficult and uncertain enough without being leery that someone is going to profit off a lifetime of work. :\ I’m not really sure why I wrote this as I imagine most are more pro-fanfic instead of seeing its problematic elements, but I am interested in a civil discussion about it. Perhaps even some reassurances!

    June 30, 2016
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    • Coming late to the discussion, but I wanted to talk about this a bit.

      Most simply, for an author, fanfiction is free, consumer-driven marketing. The number of assholes who get rich off it are minuscule (see: Cassandra Clare [a plagiarist even before she went pro] and E.L. James) compared to the number of people who get into a tv show/book/comic/etc. because their friends are making cool stuff about it and they want context. Those people are buying copies, bugging their libraries to buy copies, and making and wearing advertisements for the source material.

      Fanfic, art, and videos introduced me to one of my favorite movies (Hot Fuzz), several tv series (due South, Free!, Merlin [got sick of it, but still watched 3-4 seasons before giving up on it], Torchwood), and way too many books and comics. I have spent large amounts of money on these things since and gone on to introduce them to other people who have done the same.

      Star Trek fandom – largely the fanfiction readers/writers – surrounding the original series led, quite literally, to the entire rest of the franchise happening.

      There are fans who will diss every single decision your characters make, rewrite your story in an entirely different way, and still be expanding your market and getting their friends to pick up copies.

      Don’t read it, but understand that being pleasant about it will absolutely increase your readership.

      July 27, 2016
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  23. Fenchurchly
    Fenchurchly

    I’ve just tweeted you this same sentiment, but thank you so much for writing this article. I am a huge Outlander fan to the point of running an 800+ strong active community and have read all of her books. I was (and still am, if I’m honest) angry at how she responded to my tweet. She also asked, in a clearly passive aggressive fashion, for recommendations because she’s “always looking for new books”. I suggested one with a blurb from her self on the cover by Sara Donati (and then of course, others by Paulina Simmons, Jeanine Frost, and Karen Marie Moning).

    I would love to know how and where she got her romances = courtship stories definition, as she does “know [her] way around a library”.

    July 1, 2016
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  24. Fenchurchly
    Fenchurchly

    Oops, I should have said how she did NOT respond to my tweet. As after asking for examples she never got back to me once I, and others provided. It seems putting me out to dry and her sycophantic followers piling on was quite enough.

    July 1, 2016
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  25. Laural Hill
    Laural Hill

    And uh of course Twilight itself. Oh no it’s not a romance it’s paranormal! Uhhh ok. Anyway um how about Georgette Heyer with Audleys?

    August 4, 2016
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