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Thoughts after GRL Atlanta 2013

A little observation now that my first 'GayRomLit Retreat' has had time to digest (and I had a great time, so don't misunderstand what I'm saying here).

The thing that bothers me about blanketing LGBT fiction under 'romance' is that a lot of it isn't. To label it as such sells both romance and LGBT fiction short. It sets up false expectations in some readers while needlessly deterring others.

I don't look down on romance or rule out writing it in the future, but I do know it's not what I'm writing just now. It's a specific genre, with particular conventions and expectations. We don't label every story in which a heterosexual couple falls in love a 'romance', so this is something of a double standard. Both the publishers and readers of this work cover a much broader range of genres than romance, so why does the label persist? 

Thoughts? Will we see this event for instance, turned into 'GayLit Retreat' in the near future?


  1. I really like your comparison - "We don't label every story in which a heterosexual couple falls in love a 'romance'" - because of course we don't. I think the m/m genre has grown quickly and broadly and has suffered sometimes from not knowing where it belongs :). I have always seen m/m romance as a branch, not a tree. But whether because it sits uneasily at the moment within other fiction, or it's just too new, or it doesn't have sufficient support from the big players in fiction distribution, it gets lumped in with all LGBT. Personally, I see it blanketed under LGBT fiction, rather than the other way around - I think LGBT fiction is still acknowledged in its own right - but the effect's probably the same!

    I can tell you, it sets up problems and false expectations for authors too, not just readers. I agree, "romance" has a very specific conventions, and that frustrates many people who want to write more widely.

    I like the GayLit Retreat name idea :) though I think this event was set up largely for the m/m romance community in the first place, or at least people who'd met within that genre. Then I think a lot of us have gone on to read and write more broadly. Who knows what'll happen?! You must come over to the UK Meet where we try actively to attract and entertain all types and likes :)

    Great topic for discussion, I could go on for hours but might explode Blogger as a result :)

  2. I'd agree with Clare that it can be frustrating for authors as well. Sometimes we're just trying to write a story, not a romance per se, but the expectation is often that it MUST be romance. Hopefully, the genre will continue to expand and we can stop worrying so much about always being branded as romance. (Or always being branded as erotica, which also makes me a bit crazy.)

  3. I too enjoyed the comparison of every story with a love relationship in it being considered a "romance," because there are definitely genre-specific tropes that make a romance a romance. My impression is that the initial wave of m/m writers came from writing online slash fanfiction, so the genre they identified with was the genre of the TV show or movie they were writing about. It just had added gay relationships and sex.

    With the advent of more readily available ereaders and more standardized ebook formats, and with this budding genre now being based on original characters and produced for profit rather than hobby, a shift occurred where the consumers began coming from an erotica / erotic romance background, and then as it became more available, a mainstream romance background.

    I have never been a romance reader; my background is in SF/F and horror, so I find the expectation that my stories should confirm to romance tropes to be limiting. However, that's not to say that some romance readers wouldn't get into the work. I guess what I'm getting at is that I think there's really room for this genre to grow. Maybe someday m/m won't automatically be synonymous with romance in most people's minds, and there will be more room for m/m horror, m/m fantasy, m/m SF etc. where the tropes of those parent genres become the yardstick by which the story is evaluated.


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