The romance community is very big on diversity and all spectrum of sexuality now, which is great. I mean, it was just a while ago when RWA was trying to define romance as penis-into-vagina only and they spent some time trying to sweep out all those icky people that wrote scary stuff like gay love and polyamory. Now, things are swinging to the other end… and I wonder whether we’re swinging a bit too much to the other end. I’d hate to see RWA end up like SFWA, monopolized only by a school of thought, as this would mean that we have merely swapped out right-leaning group-think for a left-leaning one. I’m a moderate, I push back when one side comes on too strongly – I’m weird like that.
Anyway, the latest drama is courtesy of the recent Romantic Times event, when a publisher, Clean Reads, managed to get people to wear their badge in exchange for a chance to win a Kindle thingy. Well, that’s cool, until author Rick R Reed visited the website of the publisher and found offense in its refusal to accept stories with homosexuals. Read all about it here.
I’m a bit desensitized by all the drama flying around these days, but what the heck, I decided to peek at the page myself. This is what I found, click to see the whole thing:
You know what, I’m giving the publisher the benefit of the doubt here. I’ve combed the entire website, and trust me, I did, and I couldn’t find any mention of these people finding homosexuals as “DIRTY!” like Mr Reed claimed, and the inflammatory logo Mr Reed placed upon the list on his blog entry is nowhere on the website when I looked.
Here’s why I am giving these people the benefit of the doubt:
- They have non-fiction, poetry, and screenplays on that list too. You can’t tell me the publisher assume that these are DIRTY too. The Bible is considered non-fiction, no?
- The language of the rest of the page is pretty respectful – note the use of the phrase “it is not for us”. I don’t get any vibe that the owners are Bible-thumping, gay conversion camp-owning weirdos.
- That offending sentence is most likely written to tell people these things are not what the publisher is looking for, so please send them elsewhere, thanks.
Here’s what I think – the whole thing is a convergence of poorly placed copywriting and people reading too much into things. I don’t blame people who do, as it is easy and understandable to assume such things when the publisher claim to want only clean stuff and then using the tagline “All Story. No Guilt.” (as if we should all feel guilty about reading about sex and violence), with the name “Clean Reads” as icing on top. They are practically wearing a bullseye on their chest.
But, nowhere did they outright say that being gay is dirty, and if we want to go with that based on one sentence that is probably just a long list mashed together into a line for convenience, then we must also say that Clean Reads find non-fiction and poetry dirty, and that’s a stretch.
I have to address the elephant in the room: are we mad that a publisher dares to shove their right-wing values to a left-leaning person? That happens a lot in SFWA, hence all the Dyspeptic Puppy drama. My values don’t agree with those espoused by Clean Reads, but I personally aren’t mad about its existence. There are people who want clean romance, and this publisher wants those people’s money. Therefore, I see this whole thing as the publisher branding itself appropriately, as their target audience associates “clean” with the type of romance they want. (Incidentally, there is also a Clean Read Books thing online as well, unrelated to this publisher as far as I know as it is handled by author Vicki Henze, and the use of the word “clean” is in a similar context.) In this case, “clean” is just like “BDSM” and “Harlequin Presents”. People see that word and make the immediate association that publishers and authors want them to.
Just like how left-leaning folks expect right-leaning folks to respect and tolerate them, maybe the reverse courtesy should be extended as well. Let’s have a dialogue before we call for pitchforks.