greygirlbeast: (The Red Tree)
[personal profile] greygirlbeast
Merce Cunningham, the choreographer, has died at age 90.

Somewhat balmy day here in Providence. I should have already put my hair up, but I haven't. After this entry, if I can last that long. The sky is a dappled mix of clouds and blue.

Yesterday, I began a piece I'm calling "January 28, 1926," and wrote a very respectable 1,346 words. So, quite a good writing day. Sirenia Digest #44 is quickly coming together. Late last night, Vince sent me a sketch, his plan for the illustration for "Vicaria Draconis," and it's looking great. So, yes, two new vignettes this month, plus a new guest poet who shares my love of cephalopods.

A new page has appeared on the website, under evidence. It showed up on Saturday night, actually, but I decided to wait and see if anyone else noticed it before I said anything. This seemed more prudent. But, to my knowledge, no one has noticed it. Under evidence, read back over Plate XV, then note the links at the bottom of the page. Not the one on the left, nor the one on the right, but the one in the center. And no, that's not the book trailer. And if all these answers are beginning to vex you, be patient. The questions are coming.

Last night I made the mistake of perusing what's called "paranormal romance" on Amazon.com. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you've already heard my reaction. I seem to live in some sort of self-imposed state of literary asylum. I had no idea there was so much of this crap, or that it sold so well, or that it was so awful. I go to some of the bestsellers, which are, by the way, bestsellers, and cannot read a single sentence aloud without laughing, a reaction I'm fairly certain the authors were not trying to elicit. I'm not talking badly written; I'm not sure this stuff is written, at all. And no, I won't name names. That's poor form. But looking at all this junk, I felt so utterly, oddly defeated. Just seeing how people are lapping up this pablum, I never wanted to write another word (and yet, here I am, babbling away). Several things occurred to me, scanning the pages of Book 15 in a series by some woman who brags about writing three novels a year (on average). One of the thoughts is something that I've been saying for many years, that vampires are no longer monsters, no longer an incarnation of the Other. They have, instead, become primarily a socially acceptable expression of humanity's collective, if latent, necrophilia. Much the same way that zombies are in danger of becoming clowns, vampires are the daemon lover no one really wants to admit is a demon.

And a second thought, I'd be willing to bet you green folding money that a high percentage of the women (and men) who get off on "paranormal romance," who find all this werewolf/vamp/angel/mermaid/fairie/dragon/fluffy-bunny "otherkin" soft core so very titillating are also staunchly anti-GLBT. For example, we could start with a certain Mormon...oh, wait. I said I wouldn't name names. But, you know where I'm headed with this. I'll fuck a dead man (or woman) who drinks blood, this undead serial killer, and I really get off on stories about crime-fighting werewolves doing the nasty with dragons who are actually fairies pretending to be twentysomething human women with anorexia. But, ewwwwwww, men with men? Women with women? Transsexuals? The Bible says that's wrong.

Anyway, damned depressing stuff. [livejournal.com profile] grandmofhelsing observed that "paranormal romance" is "erotic horror" that is neither erotic nor horrific, which seems about right. And I suppose this is one reason that Sirenia Digest doesn't have a million subscribers. I know I'm shooting myself in the foot, sure, but I feel it's my sworn duty to write books and stories and vignettes that would never in a million years appeal to the consumers of "paranormal romance" (I shall not again call them "readers"). There is awe and wonder, terrible beauty and mystery, in the dark places, but you'll never see any of it if you're afraid to turn off the lights.

Only nine days (counting today), until the release of The Red Tree. Have you had another look at Plate 15 yet?

Oh, and the Very Special Auction continues.

And now I must go remember unpleasantries that may have occurred early in 1926, and late in 1919, and write it all down.

Date: 2009-07-27 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unknownbinaries.livejournal.com
There is awe and wonder, terrible beauty and mystery, in the dark places, but you'll never see any of it if you're afraid to turn off the lights.

This sentence makes me so, so happy.

Date: 2009-07-27 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ministry-victim.livejournal.com
Please keep writing.

Said mormon's writing is clearly a fad, and that fad will go away to something else soon. In the meantime, those of us (the many, the proud) who read her book to see what the hooplah was all about, still want to come home to your stories when we're done laughing at the crowd.

Date: 2009-07-27 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xanguisettex.livejournal.com
So true. There have been occasions where I will pick up a book, interested by the cover, read the back blurb/inner flap of the jacket and wonder, is it really that bad? Then flip forward a few pages, scan a few lines, and literally feel my IQ dropping by several points.

Some of it really is so mind-numbingly bad you're not sure whether to laugh hysterically or cry right then and there because these novels sell so well and there are SO MANY OF THEM. :(

It is upsetting to filter through the literary equivalent of really bad fast food looking for delicacies. Thankfully, there is hope as there are a number of writers whose works are both delicious and good for the mind!

Date: 2009-07-27 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sfmarty.livejournal.com
Thank you for linking the article about Merce. Merce, John and I were friends a long time ago when we were all younger. John showed me how to prepare a piano and Merce giggled when he told me the audience never knew whether or not to laugh at the funny bits. They both added so much to life.

Plate XV

Date: 2009-07-27 06:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cliff52.livejournal.com
The Gable Film is genuinely creepy and frightening...what have you done?

Date: 2009-07-27 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] martianmooncrab.livejournal.com
bet you green folding money that a high percentage of the women (and men) who get off on "paranormal romance," who find all this werewolf/vamp/angel/mermaid/fairie/dragon/fluffy-bunny "otherkin" soft core so very titillating are also staunchly anti-GLBT.

I do read the paranormal stories, but I am particular about which authors I do read. There are some good shifter smut books which I recommend to friends so they dont have to gouge their eyes out, but they are in the minority. I am not anti-GBLT. Frankly I will read just about anything, until its proven unreadable. Perhaps someday I will get the Elder Book which will compulse me to read until my eyes bleed and I go into halfdeath, but, until then, its grazing through the stacks of my unread books to fill the void with others words.

Date: 2009-07-27 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] niamh-sage.livejournal.com
Argh, I can't understand this fad either! What's with the fluffy-bunnyizing of the Creatures of the Night? I think you've got a point about the anti-GLBTers and the de-clawing/de-fanging of vampires and their colleagues, but I also wonder if it's a more general denial of sexuality. The mob-hysteria thing kind of reeks of desperation, all those kids wearing chastity rings or whatever the hell they're called, but still having to put their raging hormones somewhere.

There is awe and wonder, terrible beauty and mystery, in the dark places, but you'll never see any of it if you're afraid to turn off the lights.

So perfectly put (and so damn scary - I struggle with this myself). The Creatures of the Twitlight are about as scary as that Hello Kitty Darth Vader (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3564/3762189177_3ac2627489.jpg).

But Is It Art?

Date: 2009-07-27 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jtglover.livejournal.com
Something I've been thinking (probably too much) about lately is standards of judgment. Is it reasonable to compare one novel against all other novels, especially when the author never aspired to compete with the most notable novelists of any period? I've done something akin to what I'm guessing you did: went down the row of paranormal romances, reading a few pages and moving on. In that context, just idly flipping pages, I was... underwhelmed.

On the other hand, some paranormal romances are better than others, and I recently read a few by one author and enjoyed the heck out of them. By most external standards, they're not good at all. I went into them, however, with absolutely no expectations at all of consistency, non-stereotypical characterization, linguistic sensitivity, grasp of subtext, etc., etc. Given that, and that I wasn't holding them to the standards of high stylists of horror or fantasy, they make for entertaining reading.


One of the thoughts is something that I've been saying for many years, that vampires are no longer monsters, no longer an incarnation of the Other.

Oh yes. Somewhere between Buffy and Anita Blake, there rose a large and ever-growing contingent of vampires who are not intended to be scary, or necessarily erotic. In my opinion, they fill roughly the same ecological niche as dark/night/drow elves in extruded fantasy.


And a second thought, I'd be willing to bet you green folding money that a high percentage of the women (and men) who get off on "paranormal romance," who find all this werewolf/vamp/angel/mermaid/fairie/dragon/fluffy-bunny "otherkin" soft core so very titillating are also staunchly anti-GLBT.

Absolutely agreed. Given that books that become bestsellers tend to be aimed squarely at some sort of common denominator, lowest or otherwise, I am not at all surprised.

Date: 2009-07-27 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] possumqueen.livejournal.com
I know it's stating the obvious, but there has always been and always will be terrible writing/art that is popular in its own time. History and scholarship sorts out the good stuff and the sociologically important stuff over time. The junk eventually goes away. So in 100 years you will have the Norton Anthology of Paranormal Romance. *winks*

As for vampires.... my heart belongs to Lestat. ~kisses his cold dead cheek~ I adore the way he sabotages his own dysfunctional un-life again and again and again. Best unreliable narrator ever. Squee.

Edward Cullen is a pussy.

Date: 2009-07-27 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mizliz13.livejournal.com
Couldn't agree more with the whole "paranormal romance" thing. And the homophobic hypocrisy manifest in a lot of the people who get off on it.
(deleted comment) (Show 1 comment)

Date: 2009-07-27 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stsisyphus.livejournal.com
Hmm. What I don't find out about that snippet is a little more interesting than what I do.

Date: 2009-07-27 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mevennen.livejournal.com
I am occasionally asked to do a talk on the Gothic, and one of my pet peeves is the continual process of making the other safe. Once, unicorns were savage destriers that slew anything that wasn't a virgin. Vampires were a horde of rats, or smoke. Angels eviscerated those who did not believe the word of God with flaming swords.

And now they're our imaginary friends, who have nothing better to do than schlep around being our 'totems.' I do, sometimes, feel that pagans have debased the great powers far more effectively than any Christian fundamentalist ever has. I work, on occasion, with Sekhmet, who is not to me a symbol of modern women's empowerment, but something huge and distant and remote. Like Aslan, not a tame lion. I think we need to get the 'awwww' out of 'awe', and pretty damn quick, too.


Date: 2009-07-27 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] possumqueen.livejournal.com
...I know I'm not supposed to laugh during a funeral but I really want to.

Date: 2009-07-27 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ardiril.livejournal.com
I distinguish between writers and storytellers, just the same as I distinguish between musicians and performers. Rare are the individuals who excel at both.

Date: 2009-07-27 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blackaire.livejournal.com
I'm torn as how to respond here. On one hand, I have a feeling several of my books are probably the type you're decrying in this entry. I was shoved (somewhat unwillingly) into the "crossover" portion of authors who write straight urban fantasy (usually with a police procedural/mystery at the heart rather than a romance) but are marketed to romance readers. On the other hand, my intent in writing ALL of my books has been to tell a story. I don't come at fantasy literature looking to titillate. I hate a lot of the tropes that have saturated my genre, and when I had the opportunity to write a second series for adults I went in an entirely different direction just because I didn't really want to "cross over".

I have nothing against readers--romance readers, horror readers, LGTB readers...but I really hate being pigeonholed for their benefit. I'm on a slippery slope, as are a lot of UF writers who really did intend to tell stories when they started. I rely on that crossover for a lot of my sales, but I don't set out to do anything except tell the best story I can and explore the themes that are important to me (it usually ends up being the nature of monsters, with a bit of family angst thrown in.)

I'm sorry, I'm not sure if this is making a lot of sense or rambling toward a point, but I felt as a self-identified "dark fantasy" author I had to speak up and say...some of us are trying to do the same things you are...we are just being marketed to death. The plain fact is, romance is a huge-selling genre and mine isn't. I'm grateful to everyone who buys my books, regardless of their expectations, but I've accepted that I'll get the occasional blasting for not being what was expected, simply because the genre of dark fantasy has become so diluted with the same formula over and over and over again.

I hate formula and I hate the expected, and I have learned a lot since my first novel. Some of us aren't just in it to write straight-people fuckfests. We're the minority, but we are there, hidden behind tramp-stamp covers.

Okay, I'm going to retreat to lurk status now...I've probably said enough to be eviscerated on every romance forum on the internet as it is.

Date: 2009-07-27 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alvyarin.livejournal.com
I love J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series - I don't think it'll win any awards, and I don't think she is going to go down in history, but for escapism they're good. 50% of every book is complete cheese and/or totally ridiculous - but they're a fun and easy read.

For the record, she has introduced two bisexual characters and one gay one - and she is still a best-selling author. I'm sure not all of her readers like it, but enough do to keep her at the top of the list.

Your stuff, on the other hand, is not on my "fun and easy read" list. It is for exploring those dark tendencies of mine that I don't like to admit to - and I am really excited for The Red Tree.

Date: 2009-07-27 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gargirl.livejournal.com
What the heck IS that in the film? It looks bearish, but sort of doggish and it doesn't seem to be moving correctly to be either... See, now I am going to up nights wondering what on Earth that could possibly be. O_O

Also, I will be wondering whether it lives near me... eeep!

Date: 2009-07-28 02:26 am (UTC)
mb2u: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mb2u
We just call the genre "vampire smut." I will admit to liking HBO's True Blood, but the last couple of episodes have me ready to watch something else Sunday nights.

Date: 2009-07-28 02:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] literateshrew.livejournal.com
So, I'm actually writing some dark fantasy (I wouldn't call it PR) with a gay main character right now, and this whole discussion just makes me wonder what in Panthalassa's name will happen to my poor novel?

And what has happened to all the other GLBT dark fantasy or paranormal romance books? Do they even exist? Because I totally feel alone in this. I had a similar experience in a used bookstore, looking at row after row of paperbacks, covers slathered in hunky demons or vampires or whatever other fluffy supernatural flavor of the week. I would like to check out my peers, but I'm at a loss. And Amazon is no help. The books I've found with GLBT tags aren't necessarily well-written. I don't mean to be snobby, but niche doesn't always equal quality, sorry.

I've subscribed to Sirenia Digest, of course, so that's something. But still, I'm left to wonder if this new paranormal romance deluge will help or hinder my prospects as an author.
(deleted comment) (Show 1 comment)

Date: 2009-07-28 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iteari.livejournal.com
"I'll fuck a dead man (or woman) who drinks blood, this undead serial killer, and I really get off on stories about crime-fighting werewolves doing the nasty with dragons who are actually fairies pretending to be twentysomething human women with anorexia. But, ewwwwwww, men with men? Women with women? Transsexuals? The Bible says that's wrong."

You really hit the mark on that.

So stalking a girl you want to eat and sleep with? Yeah, that's okay as long as, you know, you're a guy because being gay is so much worse...*seethes* I'm going to go and read Carmilla now.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

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