Tag Archives: Rant

We Need Less Romance in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres

I feel a few feathers ruffling already out there in cyberspace, so let me explain.

One of the most bizarre and irritating trends I’ve been noticing in this genre over the last few years has been romantic plots being crookedly tacked onto every kind of story you could possibly imagine in this universe for reasons that defy explanation: zombie; post-apocalyptic; historical; otherworldly; ghost; slasher; psychological horror; speculative; deep space; futuristic.

There have been times when I’ve read something that spent the first 90% of the plot focused on characters painstakingly exploring new planets, outrunning zombies, or figuring out what all of those strange noises were in the old farmhouse the main character and their family have recently moved it.

Suddenly, the last twenty pages of it turned into the main character falling in love and living happily ever after.

Wait, what? Did the author honestly not remember what their character was like for the first 180 pages of their story?

Mixing Genres Isn’t Always Smart

If you read a lot of sweet and gentle romances, imagine how you’d feel if the characters you were beginning to get to know and love suddenly started finding dead bodies on the sidewalk while they were out on dates. It might be a fun twist if it happened once or twice to characters who happened to work as detectives or had other reasons for needing to investigate a decaying corpse while also falling in love, but wouldn’t it be odd if it started happening regularly?

Mixing genres works amazingly well for certain types of tales, and I definitely see the value in it if the storyline can juggle two or more different styles of writing at the same time. However, there’s also something to be said for allowing genres to exist in their own worlds without trying to market to every conceivable audience who might read the blurb and find something interesting about it.

Happily Ever After Is Different for Everyone

I understand the urge to market stories to more than one audience. There have been scifi romances – and even a few regular romances –  that I thought were incredibly well written in the past, but I’m growing tired of the trend of pushing romance into so many SFF books regardless of whether or not their plots actually call for that kind of subplot.

Not every character should end their arc by finding a life partner. In some cases, this flies in the face of everything that character has done and said over the last X number of pages or books.

It bothers me when a book randomly tacks on a relationship or marriage to give the characters a happy ending after they’ve spent most of the storyline pursuing any number of other goals in life, from discovering a cure for a fatal disease to finally defeating the big villain who has  been skulking around and killing any secondary characters who wanders into their path.

Happily ever after might be falling in love for one character after they’ve defeated the villain, but it could also involve:

  • Adopting a dog from the local animal shelter
  • Making peace with their past for good
  • Changing their name and moving to Brazil
  • Buying a new house if the spirits in their old house refuse to move on
  • Learning a second or third language
  • Finally getting a good night’s rest after spending the last 3 books evading henchmen or the undead
  • Inheriting a massive fortune and dedicating their life to donating it to good causes

Or any number of other experiences, goals, or plot twists. The possibilities are endless, and yet endless numbers of books in this genre try to shove everyone into the love and romance box.

Love isn’t the Only Emotion Worth Exploring

One of the things I enjoy the most about the sci-fi genre is when it uses otherworldly experiences to explore universal emotions. A robot or rocket ship on its own is cool, but it’s even better when it shows us the best and worst of human nature.

Here’s the thing, though: love isn’t the only emotion out there. Grief, anger, sadness, doubt, fear, disgust, joy, anticipation, trust, and many other emotions are just as complex and worthy of exploration as love is.

You can learn a lot about a character by discovering how they react when they’re frightened, surprised, lonely, or excited. Falling in love is part of the human experience (for the majority of people), but there are so many other ways to show who someone is, flaws and all, without pushing them into a romance.

Not All Love is Romantic

Finally, not every form of love is romantic. If the SFF genre had shifted to include more explorations of the love between friends, family members, a person and their dog, or a cat and their human,* I would be much more interested in the topic.

Unfortunately, non-romantic forms of love receive much less attention in genre fiction than they should. I actually get excited when I pick up a mystery, horror, or sci-fi novel and realize that the main character’s deepest and most meaningful relationship in their life is with a pet, friend, or family member.

*Because we all know that cats have pet humans, and not the other way around. 😉

Have you noticed the same trend in this genre? What do you think of mixing genres in general? Let’s talk about it on Twitter today!

Why Automated Direct Messages Are a Terrible Idea

monday-blogs-1This is a repost from my old blog. I will be back on Thursday with new material. 

An automated DM (direct message) is a private message that an account sends to you as soon as you follow it. I’ve been seeing far too many of them on Twitter lately.

They are usually used to promote something the account holder is selling like a book or an album. While some DMs don’t follow this rule, all of them are impersonal spam.

Here’s the thing: Twitter is a social media site. People use it to make new friends, share their thoughts, and stay up-to-date on current events. Trying to exploit this to market your product is an excellent way to annoy or even alienate 98% of the people you meet.

As an author, I understand the urge to reach out to potential new readers. I’ve found new readers on Twitter. I’ve also bought multiple books that I first heard about from other tweeps, but it was never due to the author telling me to buy their stuff.

In fact, an automatic DM is one of a handful of things that will prompt me to immediately unfollow someone. It leaves a horrible first impression that is hard to shake off.

Why have I purchased all of those books, then?

Because their authors didn’t make their Twitter streams or their private messages into nonstop commercials. Yes, they shared links when their newest book came out and occasionally mentioned older projects as well.

Most of the time, though, they talked about all of the other things that were going on in their lives. Some of them shared hilarious stories about the  naughty things their pets did, while others talked about more serious subject matters like grief or recovering from child abuse.

They retweeted other people’s links regularly. I can’t count the number of times that I discovered a new author, blog, or Twitter handle to follow because someone chose to share something that they enjoyed.

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Just as importantly, they kept tabs on their followers lives as well. They regularly responded to people who asked them questions or said something they found interesting.

I often saw them cheer for friends who had finally reached a big goal and support others who were going through a hard time.

In short, they were genuine and generous.

So please don’t send out an automatic DM when you gain a new follower any more than you would use pop-ups on your website.

Get to know people as individuals instead.

Build your following one person and one friendly interaction at a time.

Don’t rush it.

Twitter isn’t a race.

It’s more like a party. Slow down, relax, and enjoy the festivities. Nobody is going home anytime soon.

Why Everyone Should Stop Using Pop-Ups

StopThis is a repost from my old blog. I will be back next week with new material. 

I don’t normally rant on this blog, but I’ve been having issues with pop-ups lately. Pop-up advertisements are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to drive me away from a site. It doesn’t matter how much I loved the article I was reading, what the pop-up is saying, or how long I’ve been a fan of that blogger or website.

If the administrators interrupt my concentration with an unwanted pop-up, they’re going to lose a reader for good. If their ad includes a video that starts playing automatically, I’ll be so annoyed that I will tell friends and family members to avoid that site as well.

No, I’m not opposed to the use of advertisements on websites in general. They’re a necessary part of making money on the Internet, and I completely understand that. Banner ads are fine, as are advertisements that are inserted halfway through whatever essay or article I’m reading as long as they don’t make noise or cover up the text.

I don’t care what kinds of racy pictures an ad might include or if they use clickbait titles to grab the reader’s attention. Those are some of the things I’ve come to expect from the web. Non-intrusive online ads are like billboards: sometimes they’re silly; often they’re cheesy; rarely they might even be helpful or interesting.

When a website decides to interrupt me when I’m reading one of their articles by launching a pop-up that I never wanted, though, they’re sending a very clear message about how little they value my time and attention.

It would be like a server interrupting you in the middle of a meal in order to take your half-finished plate away and ask if you wanted to order another entree. I can count the number of times that is acceptable on one hand, and every single one of them would begin with you asking for help due to something like undercooked meat, a fly in your soup, or food allergy issues.

You don’t just randomly start taking things away from people if you want them to keep coming back.

So, please. For the love of pete, stop using pop-up ads.

Why Spoilers Are So Terrible

Picture credit: Swantje Hess and Jannis Pohlmann.

This post is a response to something a friend of mine wrote recently.

I’m one of the people he talks about who gets incredibly irritated by spoilers. Now is a good time to talk about why that bothers me so much as well as what I do to people who gleefully reveal every single plot twist 0.25 seconds after the credits roll on the latest episode of That Very Cool Show.

Here’s the thing: I get extremely excited about what’s happening in certain series. A few times I’ve had dreams about certain characters that I was really emotionally invested in. What happens to them matters to me a lot. Sometimes the anticipation is actually more fun than the big reveal due to the months I’ve spent waiting for the latest season and wondering  what the writers will think of next.

So learning in advance that so-and-so is going to die (or have a baby, or move to Connecticut) is like having someone throw a bucket of ice cold water on me. There are far more uncomfortable things in life, of course, but it’s still a letdown.

It’s like telling a relative that you’re expecting only for them to launch into a horrifying monologue about all of the ways pregnancy can kill or permanently disable you. Or excitedly jiggling a mysteriously large Christmas present only to have the giver blurt out that they rushed through three different malls to find that iPad.

The pleasure that comes with wondering what might happen next drains away instantaneously.

Not cool.

I’m not saying that no one should ever talk about their favourite show, but at least drop hints that you’re going to discuss something brand new first. My timelines and feeds are filled with people from many different time zones. Some of the people I follow would still see the same show hours ahead of me even if I had cable. Unless you have an extremely restricted social circle, this is an unavoidable part of life now.

The only thing that aggravates me more than being spoiled is having absolutely no warning about it ahead of time. At least if I knew ahead of time I’d have the option of muting that person or otherwise ignoring their updates until I’ve seen the show. A little common courtesy goes a long way.