Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction.
I love genre. For me, it’s the fun stuff. The stories that focus on plot and excitement, rather than pages of introspection and characters behaving badly. They have likable characters, and involve adventures outside of the normal every day experience. I’ve always been drawn to fiction (and movies/television) as an escape from my everyday world. I don’t want to crack open a book or turn on the tv to see more of the same. I want adventures on the high seas, sprawling fantasy, science fiction that takes me to the very edge of the human experience.
A lot of the time genre is seen as somewhat lesser than literary fiction, partially because it’s (apparently) more derivative, basing itself on already established conventions like setting, plot, characters. And a lot of the time that’s true, but working within conventions doesn’t necessarily make you less creative. Sometimes it forces you to be more creative. For every hack-job heartless, dime a dozen sci-fi movie, there’s a boundary-pushing, convention-defying masterpiece that surprises you at every turn. And then there are the stories that fit every convention, don’t really offer anything new, and don’t try to be anything better than just quality entertainment, that you can easily slip into and enjoy, without worrying that it’s going to unsettle you, or take you somewhere you don’t necessarily want to be right now.
And I love those stories. I love writing those stories. I don’t always want to be stressed out, or disgusted by humanity, or depressed all the time. Genre fiction and movies give me characters that I love, stories that I want to know the ending to, and they leave feeling happy and content.
But here’s the thing: What do those stories almost always have? Especially the movies and tv shows, but adult genre fiction most of the time too. (Hint: it’s rooted in the very sexist “hero gets the girl” trope.) Yeah, it’s romance. Romance in genre spans from a barely there, shoehorned in with a kiss at the end type of deal, to a deep meticulously developed love that becomes the emotional basis of the story, and everything in between. But one thing that’s missing from almost all these stories: queer romance.
This is something that I love to rant about, because it’s really depressingly prevalent. Queer characters are always relegated to the depressing stories, the literary fiction and its movie equivalent. We don’t get happy endings very much, and even when we do, it’s usually after a lot of depressing things that happen because of our sexuality. Now, queer people are slowly becoming more visible in genre, and it’s great, but we’re almost always given a supporting role, a side character, with a romance that is mostly sex-based, or else completely side-lined. And yeah, a lot of the time, we die.
It’s always a huge surprise to see a genre-type story with a queer person as the main character. I was plesantly surprised to start season 2 of American Horror Story and see a lesbian as the main character (although, don’t spoil it for me, but I’m guessing she dies). I was super excited to read about a new tv show, The London Spy, starring Ben Whishaw, who was rumoured to be playing a gay character who is also a spy. Further digging shows this rumor to be false. And my interest in the show just dropped down to nothing. That’s the thing though, I’m desperate to see a queer character in the lead role of a genre story. I’ll take anything! But it really is depressingly rare. And that’s where I turn to romance.
Well, okay, no, I love romance anyway. For a long time I pretended I didn’t. Probably partially because I was struggling to express my gender identity, and my solution at the time was to distance myself from all things “girly” including, apparently, stories about being in love. But I do love them. My favourite part of all those sci fi and fantasy stories was the romance, and my favourite ones were the ones that made it the centre of the story. When I grew up and discovered genre romance novels, I was hooked.
And that’s how we come to lgbt genre romance. I love it dearly. I can see awesome lgbt characters, the centre of their own story, with a wonderfully developed romance at the heart. This is what I want to read, this is what I want to write, and I’m never going to leave. With the stigma of “queer” inside the further stigma of “romance,” it’s unlikely that it’s ever going to become mainstream. But I’ll keep doing my best to get the word out.
I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m going to keep writing about people like me falling in love and having adventures. Because we deserve it too.
To Summon Nightmares comes out November 4th! Less than a week!
Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.
When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…
Thanks for reading! Oh, I almost forgot.