We have a tradition with our crit group. Every Tuesday night, we gather to critique each other’s work and then a bunch of us will slip off to a local bar for our after party.
It’s not what you think. We’re the most unlikely bar patrons. You’d think as writers, we’d all be raging alcoholics, suffering from clinical depression or so wrapped up in the stories in our head that socializing was difficult.
No. Most of the group doesn’t even drink. We sit in the non-smoking section, and manage to be the loudest, most obnoxious and foul-mouthed group in the joint.
Sometimes though, we manage to have substantive conversations about writing. Usually it’s by accident. This week, we had a pretty in-depth discussion about the Romance genre and our local Romance Guru, Regina, took everyone to school on the topic.
Romance isn’t my thing. I mean, I’ve read some excellent books with romantic elements, but “romance” as a genre never made sense to me. We threw a definition back and forth for a bit that seemed a bit muddy, but I remembered I have read a story that absolutely fits that definition.
The absolute best pure romance I’ve ever read was For White Hill by Joe Haldeman. Yeah, it’s a sci-fi short story but by the definitions we discussed, the story wouldn’t exist without the romantic element. It’s about a couple of distant future artists that return to a shattered and wasted Earth in order to build monuments to an ancient civilization. An amazing story that’s wrapped in so many imaginative cultural details and little bits of (well, little complex bits) of science – it is really hard to explain, but well worth the read.
As a result of all this, I’m going to resolve to read a romance novel this year. I still think the genre gets attacked because it has been so successful and frankly, that success has attracted a lot of second-rate stuff that publishers toss out there hoping to cash in. But, that isn’t to stay great literature can’t be romance, far from it. Genre fiction as a whole has always bene maligned. Only recently are sci-fi and fantasy getting the critical acclaim they deserve.
Still, it sort of reinforces the ideas I’ve been hearing lately that genre is really just a marketing tool and that’s it. Truly good literature transcends labels.