Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SFWA vs. Women, and the Role of SF Romance

My recent failed experiment with writing a romance novel has brought me both new respect for the genre and a desire to put romance subplots into my future work. It also made me more aware of the importance of putting realistic and well-rounded female characters into my work, since you simply can't write a romance novel from a solely male perspective and expect it to sell well. But this article by Angela Highland brought it all home from a different perspective.

Angela Highland wrote an opinion article about a recent debate in 2013 over the portrayal of women on book covers and in SF/F stories. There's a great overview of the timeline of the entire thing at SL Huang's blog, which you should totally read. But to boil it down, one SFWA writer in the organization's Bulletin made the statement that some of these stories and images are a bit sexist. Two other SFWA writers in the same magazine defended their portrayal of women. When others complained, the latter writers complained of censorship. The Internet exploded.

Highland went on to talk about the struggles she faces being a female SF/F writer who also happens to include romantic subplots, and how this brings her a stigma in the industry. You can read the entire article (and you should), but I thought this sentence really boiled it down and is also really great: "For one thing, the simple fact that I’m a woman and that I put any love story at all into my plots will get me labelled as a 'romance writer' by the same sort of cloud-yelling, cane-shaking, rampaging sexists that can’t deal with the notion of girl cooties all over their precious rocketship stories."

Girl cooties...hilarious. I read that sentence almost two years ago, and it still makes me chuckle.

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