Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kink Flick Review: Let Me In

Let Me In is a horror film. However, the movie’s depiction of an unusual love also makes it kink. Kinda sorta.

Owen is a boy on the cusp of adolescence. He’s a lonely voyeur, curious about sexuality, and bullied by his classmates. He befriends an odd, barefoot girl, immune to the cold. Abby tells him she’s not a girl. She isn’t. She’s an immortal who needs blood to live.

Let Me In has been interpreted by several reviewers as a vampiric take on Romeo and Juliet. I don’t. The love these two share isn't fully realized, nor will it be. However, their relationship has one critical component of love: fierce and true loyalty.

The film is extraordinary, but it isn't perfect. The bullying scenes are heavy-handed. Why, for example, are all of Owen’s twelve-year old classmates so much more physically mature? The locale and time choice are also bizarre. Why the eighties? So Boy George can sing “Do you really want to hurt me?” in the background? And why does the film take place in Los Alamos? The real town of Los Alamos could beat vampires in a battle of the weird, but in this movie, the town is just a snowy backdrop.

One of the most moving scenes occurs after Abby reveals her true nature. Owen is terrified. “Is there evil?” Owen asks his parents. Significantly, his parents don't reply.

The film doesn't answer that question, either. Let Me In offers clues about Owen’s future with Abby. The ending left me feeling ambivalent. I pondered it long after the film was over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pigeonholing Genius

Angela James of Carina Press recently blogged about rejections, listing a bunch of reasons why Carina won't reject manuscripts. Two of them concerned genre. Angela said Carina won’t reject a manuscript because it falls in too many genres or because it falls in too “niche” a genre. Carina also won’t reject a story because it isn’t a genre that seems hot right now or because it’s in an unusual time, place or setting. If it’s a good book, the publisher will find a spot for it.

An acquaintance of mine is struggling with genre. She’s writing what I would call a military SF romance. But she refuses to call her novel SF--or even romance. Her fiction is something unique. She’s upset that publishers will expect her to categorize her story. She’s also afraid if she assigns too many genres, her manuscript will get tossed out or deleted unread. She believes publishers are too strict and formulaic. In an effort to be sympathetic, one of her friends pointed to Harlequin as a prime example of a publisher determined to pigeonhole genius.

The whole conversation annoyed me, and not just because I’m a Harlequin author. Harlequin has a ton of different imprints and series. True, each imprint or series has some basic heat-level/plotline requirements. That's so the devoted reader can be reliably satisfied. But Harlequin as a whole? The publisher has only one requirement: the story has to be a romance with a happily ever after. That’s it. And with Spice, Spice Briefs and the Carina Press imprints, that's probably not even true anymore.

Aside from the unfairness of pointing at poor Harlequin as the pinnacle of closed-mindedness, I think it’s a bad idea to indulge an author’s genre whining. The Amazon boards are full of self-published authors complaining about the rigidity of the standard publishing world. Here’s an example:
The publishers may not be able to devote the time to think creatively about marketing an unusual, genre-tangential book. But it's [sic] creator can… And now we have a world of options. [Self-publishing, I suppose]. It beats papering the walls with rejection slips from those who lack our vision.
Here’s another one:
I thought it might be of interest both to readers and to writers here at Amazon to consider the genre of "sensuous literary fiction" as a possible alternative to "Erotica." ... If you've got a book that you feels more accurately fits into this newer category, we'd love to hear about it.
Authors who use the genre excuse for rejections aren’t doing themselves any favors. Why bother getting better at writing or learning about your market if you can always claim your masterpiece wasn’t published because the publishers are idiots? I’m also bugged by authors who describe themselves as “literary”, as if “literary” is just another word for superior fiction, not a genre with strict requirements of its own.

On one of these Amazon forums, a self-described visionary suggested using “tags”, rather than genre, as a way to circumvent the indignity of assigning genre. I guess I don’t see the big difference. Tags, if they say anything about the book, are defining the genre. At most, a tag will also describe sub-genre or niche.

Self-publishing fiction doesn’t give an author a pass on having to figure out genre. "Special" or "unique" isn't nearly descriptive enough to be genre. And genre is what readers use to decide what to read.

Here are a few interesting blogs on genre:

The academician's view of the romance genre

How to determine the genres of your mutt masterpiece

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 EPIC Awards Announced

ARe Cafe just reported unofficial results for the 11th Annual EPIC Awards (the best in electronically published books). Of special interest are the winners in contemporary romance and erotica:

Erotica: Second Chance by Selena Kitt—eXcessica Publishing (a M/M short story)
Contemporary Erotic Romance: Safe Harbor by Tymber Dalton—Siren Publishing, Inc. (a BDSM menage novel)
Contemporary Romance: Be My Baby by Meg Benjamin—Samhain Publishing, Ltd.


Friday, March 11, 2011

It's BDSM Erotica Month at the Forbidden Bookshelf

Each day this month, The Forbidden Bookshelf blog is interviewing BDSM authors. Authors include Joey Hill, Mari Carr, Eden Bradley, Annabel Joseph, and Cherise Sinclair.

These interviews reveal what drives and inspires BSDM writers. Boundaries. Difficulties. Pleasures. What annoys an author about other BDSM fiction. And way fun: the author sometimes gives a hint about their own kink cred.

Really fascinating reading!