Sunday, August 19, 2018

Being Proud of Being Different

I'm just back from #WorldCon76, which was a whirlwind of great stuff. I caught a moment of downtime at the lovely Fairmont pool, including a much-needed nap.

This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking "What are you most proud about with regards to your writing?"

It's an interesting question for me, coming out of WorldCon, which is the World Science Fiction convention. While there is some fantasy representation, the con is heavily focused on Science Fiction fandom. It's also an older institution and seems to attract a lot of the "purists" in the field.

SFF fandom can be weird that way, at least to me - and I often feel like an outsider. I sometimes joke that I'm an exoplanet. It's funny to me to discover that I'm as serious a Trekkie as any, though I never got involved in that community. And for me, coming from this blend of SFF and Romance, I'm not really what people who are solidly SSF expect.

And yeah, there's an ongoing perception of Romance Cooties. This one gal came by my autographing table and tried to explain how the romance tropes in Paranormal Romance just hit her all wrong. I explained that I don't write Paranormal Romance - and that it's quite different from Fantasy Romance - and she said "I know, but still."

There's a lot to unpack that way - about reader expectations, internalized misogyny, the perception that positive emotions are less important, that male-gaze sex and romance are fine but the female-gaze versions are "icky" - and none of that is all that relevant to this post. Except to say that it can be easy to from that kind of convention feeling "less than."

Really, any of us can find opportunities to feel that way, right?

Because, the next person to come up to my table said "I didn't know you'd be here or I would've brought all my copies of your books." Then she bought copies of all three that I had so I could sign them for her, and had me sign bookplates for the rest.

It's easy to focus on the negatives and forget the positives. I received a whole lot of positives at WorldCon. People saying I did a fantastic job on a panel, even that I was the best one on it. My fellow SFWA Board members taking time to say how much they appreciate my input on the board. Meetings with friends and fans who think I'm special.

I think that being proud of what we write takes constant reaffirmation. Like renewing vows in a marriage. I've known from the beginning that my choices would make my career more difficult. "Like wading through hip-deep snow," Catherine Asaro told me, way back before I published my first book. I could've tried to change this about myself - or at least about what I write.

I've repeatedly chosen not to. And I am proud of that.

While I'd love to have lines out the door like Seanan McGuire, I also don't want to write what she writes. I love to read her October Daye series. I don't want to write that.

So, what am I most proud of in my writing? I'm proud that I am writing the stories that I really want to tell. I've been called stubborn, but I think my tenacity has paid off and I've found an audience - one that's growing all the time. It's not easy to stand up to the pressure to fit in with the more mainstream, more successful stuff. I feel it in myself all the time. Every time someone says "Romance" with that eye-roll and sneer, I feel it. Every time someone wants to read my books and someone else warns them off because it's too sexy, I feel that pressure to change.

That's part of creating art, whatever kind beckons to us. Creating means bringing something into the world that wasn't there before - so sometimes people don't recognize right away. Or only some do.

And that's okay, too.


  1. We not only think you're special: you ARE special! *hugs*

  2. Becoming proud of being oneself and following our passions is a big part of maturing. Your work is amazing. It is not for every reader, although you do have diversity in your booklists, so I've been able to recommend your work to friends even when they have narrower preferences. I love many popular authors, but I love your work as much, if not more than many of theirs-- yours has a sense of sincerity/story that many popular works lack. Keep it up! Also, I've grew up with Science Fiction, but at one point so much of it was "cold" that I lost interest. I hope that is changing.

    1. I know exactly what you mean about "cold" - and I think I wandered off for the same reasons.

      And thank you for those words - that means so much to me to hear! :-)

  3. Yep, this is my social media hour and as it happens, you're stuff is popping up everywhere!

    Another great post. I haven't been to any cons that aren't geared towards romance. Hopefully next year I will! And I hope I'll be prepared for the difference, at least in part. There is a noticeable difference in the communities online, good or bad, different. It reminds me of the corporate world in which I learned to be part chameleon. I can always find things to love and enjoy and try to ignore the negative. Because I don't want to box myself in and stay in only one 'home'. There's too much to learn and gain by getting out there!

    1. That's true - and I'm very glad to be cross-genre because I do get to mix in different writer communities.

      And yay for popping up everywhere! All part of my plan for world domination :D