Home > Thinking > Sonnets, Golden Age Science Fiction, and Category Romance

Sonnets, Golden Age Science Fiction, and Category Romance

Because it seemed like a nice day for tilting at a windmill, I posted in a message board discussion where one of the participants was slagging category romance. (If you’re not a romance reader, a category book is one of the very short books found in grocery stores as well as bookstores, with a cover that highlights the brand, not the title or the author. They come in categories – suspense, average girl heroines, rich man heroes, etc. Most category romances are published by Harlequin, so some people just call them “Harlequins,” even though Harlequin publishes tons of other stuff.)

Here’s what I said: “I liken category fiction to sonnet writing. A strict form (so strict that deviating from that form literally makes the result not a sonnet/category book), but total freedom to say anything within the form.

“*Most* books have the same plot, conflict, and resolution.”

I have tried to write category, and I have failed. Flat on my face, failed. I can’t work in all the requisite elements with enough development of any of them to satisfy a reasonably bright housepet, let alone a reader who consumes dozens of these things a month and won’t buy me a second time if the first one is crap. Anyone who has said, garsh, I’m gonna write me one of them Harlequins and make a million dollars has not actually tried to do it.

I don’t write them, so why defend them? The answer is that I adore golden age science fiction. Many of the arguments used to mock and belittle category romance were used against my favorite stories, with an extra vengeful little twist of misogyny. Me, I see a parallel.

Categories: Thinking Tags: ,
  1. April 19, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    Spot on. People who slag off categories have never ever tried to write one. Such constraints! I’ve tried and, like you, have failed miserably. Category authors have my utter respect.

    And did you know the Polish language has no word for “misogynist”? Isn’t English terribly interesting?

  2. April 20, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    Aroo? Now I’m wondering what words Polish has to express the concept.

    I am going to answer your email sometime this century, BTW 🙂

  3. August 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM


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