Thursday, April 14, 2016

Popular Culture Association: National Conference: Romance Area #pcarom @pcaromance -- Part Four

This post covers sessions four and five of the Romance Area of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association's national conference.

Diversity in Historical Romance

This session was devoted to Diversity in Historical Romance and featured a panel of authors: Rose Lerner (Jewish), Alyssa Cole (African-American), Lori A. Witt (LGBTQ, Ace), and Kianna Alexander/Eboni Manning (Gilded Age and Antebellum South African-American).

Diverse historical romance books have been written for a long time but visibility is a big issue. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing that they're not going to sell, publishers don't buy them. Well, the audience is there as self- and indie-publishing is demonstrating. NY Publishers are showing ignorance of what readers are interested in reading. A lot of diverse romance is being published as self-pub.

Diversity in romance needs positive representation: where diverse characters don't die but find love and life.

Diverse historical characters don't always have to have social issues to be the central part of the conflict and plot. [See Talk Sweetly To Me by Courtney Milan. Disclosure: I was one of the editors for the book.]

The challenge of writing diverse historical characters and storylines is that when people don't know something about history, they assume it never happened. Or they think it is niche. Instead of making sweeping judgments of all people, know that individuals led unique lives. All things are possible. Diverse romances tell hidden stories that have never been told.

One author said that for historical research, she finds that old newspapers on microfiche convey thoughts, tone, and social culture much more accurately than books. [As an aspiring writer, I find this fascinating. Most of us gravitate towards books, rarely newspapers.]

In reference to that book, audience question: Are there any periods or settings that are no-go zones? All the authors said no. The answer was: Be sensitive about how what you write will affect the reader, since even hypothetically, it could happen.

Audience question: How much research do you do? All authors: Depends on the story.

Audience question: If there's no HEA, is it romance? All authors: No.

Audience question: Is the rom genre rule of HEA, restrictive or freeing? All authors: Freeing. Because the end is known, the process of getting there is where all the creativity lies.

Tropes, Traditions, and Transformations

The Other (Wo)Man: The Use of Doubling in Young Adult Supernatural Romance by Meghanne Flynn

From the abstract: [This paper] explores the genre subversive figure of the double in Young Adult Supernatural Romance novels. [It] aims to display ways in which the figure of the double is removed from the marginality to be given voice, desire, and autonomy.

I have no notes.

Lady Catherine's Descendents: Examples of the Older Other Woman in Romance Fiction by Olivia Waite

The older, other woman in romance is in the guise of evil stepmother or fairy godmother. Catherine de Bourgh from Pride & Prejudice is both: evil to Lizzie and benevolent to Mr. Collins.

She has a superpower—she says what she wants to and other people have to listen. Rules of propriety and courtesy are not relevant for her. She has the wherewithal to effect radical transformation in those around her.

She's the ultimate example of women's agency. She has a network of informants (through placing of governesses, running the parish, etc.) who keep her upraised of all that is going on.

Lady Cat is the one most instrumental in bringing Darcy and Lizzie together: first at Rosings and then in the end.

Lizzie now has a role model of power in front of her after her marriage.

Lady Danbury in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton books is an example of Lady Cat.

Do these powerful older other women lack sexuality? Do they have to give up sexuality in order to gain power? Yes! They're never depicted as happily married in the books. They're widows. [They cannot be spinsters, because spinsters lack money and title.]

A Short Inquiry into the Gothic Romance by Angela Toscano

Gothics emerged in 1790s; their heyday were in the 1950s and 1960s. Not popular these days since the 1980s.

Gothics are not paranormals, mysteries, or horrors.

Gothics are books featuring domestic scenes where the heroine is trapped in a house or a castle. She's being confined by location, means, or social rules. The stories revolve around a big secret and other things that the heroine doesn't know (antagonist unknown). There potentially can be lots of unknowns. Is there a threat? There's a mystery about whether there is a problem. There's no accumulation of knowledge like in a mystery story. However, the heroine works like a detective to uncover the secret that gets more and more secretive. Gothic terror is predicated on personal violence or the threat of violence.

Gothics are on the threshold of known/unknown, natural/supernatural—ambiguous duality in relations and personality.

Why were the Gothics popular in the 19th century and then in the mid-twentieth century? From Rose Lerner and Olivia Waite: Sexual repression and family privacy in those times gave rise to the Gothics as a place of freedom to explore. Nowadays, with the rise in erotic romance romance, we have a place for writers and readers to talk about tough things, so now the gothics are no longer needed.