When I first stumbled upon the m/m genre and then decided to write in it, it was because I was tired of the same old mainstream romantic tropes: cowboys and millionaires and plucky heroines and syrupy dialogue. I was drawn to the more intimate, character-based stories I found here and hadn’t really heard before. I’d tried my hand at traditional romance and felt too constrained by the rules. Here I thought, was a new genre where I could be creative. There was so much potential to break boundaries. How naive I was.
Once I began to publish, I became increasingly baffled by some of the things I saw going on. The whole troll thing was a shock to me, as was how mean and unprofessional some writers could be to each other. Since I never came from the slash fiction world that spawned this genre, I had no idea of the “rules” of the game or how things worked. It’s taken me three years to understand it.
Maybe it’s due to the shift in attitudes toward sexuality in the world at large, but it’s becoming clear that this genre is in the midst of an ugly identity crisis. Many times it’s made me wonder what I’m doing here and if it’s worth it to continue. In this over saturated and oftentimes hostile market I sometimes think it’s not worth the hassle or the effort. Then I realize none of it matters to me. I’m low [wo]man on the ladder. I write for me, I’ve always written for me, so I’ll just be over here sitting quietly in my corner, and I’ll continue to write the stories I want to write, regardless of how they sell.
Lately I’ve read the FB and blog posts with fascination. The thing is, mixed with all the insults and defensiveness, many of the arguments being tossed about, on all sides, are totally valid. It’s too bad that people don’t actually listen to them instead of getting all defensive; if they did, we might be able to have a meaningful discussion about the future of the genre.
You see, genres don’t belong to any one group, least of all authors. Genres evolve. The mainstream romance genre certainly is not the same as it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Maybe the m/m genre was founded in one tradition, but it doesn’t mean it stays that way. Narrow boundaries were meant to be broken. We, the readers and writers, make the genre, but we don’t own it, so let’s start thinking outside the narrow boxes we set for ourselves. Why does something have to be either one thing or the other? And if it’s something you don’t like, why on earth do you have to put it down?
For you budding or struggling authors who don’t fit the box, keep trying. Write what you want to write. The way you want to write. Listen to the advice of other authors on what has or hasn’t worked for them, but don’t feel pressured to take it. And don’t be intimidated. Yes it may be harder to get noticed. The big publishers are focused on the bottom line and the current market. But the only way to really effect change is from within, even if it’s only one copy at a time.
We need your voices. We want to hear them.