The Happily Ever After ControversyBy Lisa
<< I think some science fiction readers object to romance because it just isn't what they read fiction for. Others are uncomfortable with the portrayal of how the women feel, especially about men. >>
When you wrote this, I found myself nodding my head. Readers like this are uncomfortable with the protrayal of how anybody feels, much less women. Their idealized protrayal of a character is one in whom personal feelings have no place. I think they regard this as sort of an ideal to shoot for.
Then you said: My impression is that they want fiction centered on the man and his priorities, even if it's told through the woman's POV.
Why am I not surprised? But then again, they can't have it all their own way anymore! Women are there, in science and in space. We aren't just staying home, tending to our knitting anymore. You said that Hawk isn't really a romance because it doesn't have a HEA. That may be true, but could it not be said that it is sci-fi with elements of romance? Although I agree that most female readers want an HEA in their reading of romance couldn't that account for why these other readers are unable to identify romance, also why they cannot relate to it? They are not used to considering the HEA (which is really a personal triumph) as a part of their reading.
That said, I wouldn't call the HEA anymore unrealistic that any other fictional construct. The insistence of not regarding the HEA seriously smacks of superstitious fear to me. They fear to advertise their expectation of happiness. Male oriented readers are more attuned to triumphing over adversity, to becoming bigger than their adverseries. It has not occured to them that in attaining an HEA, a person does just that, without having to step on, overcome, or kill anyone. It is a passive but still very powerful reach for fulfillment. It is certainly not the only way to happiness or even satisfaction but it is one in which the focus is on the inner self and not how one appears to the world around them.
Could this be why it is so hard for people like this to relate to people like Ghandi, who was a pacifist? This is not to say that he was not a warrior in his own right, but he approached his goals in life from quite a different perspective from other men. So if a pacifist can be a warrior, if not in the same manner or field as other types, so too can a woman be a warrior. Even with her different focus, she is moving towards the accomplishment of her goals, isn't she? When people ask me how is my day, I tell them "It's a great day. I don't permit any other kind." Now you might say that this is unrealistic of me, but I will also say that I have decided that only I can percieve my day. So if I want my novel to have an HEA, whose business is it but my own? If I spend my time worrying about whether those others will accept me, then I will waste my valuable time. So, I say to you Catherine, write and create a new sci-fi. You lead and the others will follow you.
Finally, you said: What I don't understand is why they make it so political, as if the HEA is somehow a danger to the world of quality fiction and has to be fought. It strikes me as a rather strange attitude.
The business of this kind of politics, is and has always been to keep women in their place. They can make all kinds of honking noises about quality fiction, but once again, only the reader can and should determine what is important to them. Ask yourself, what truly defines quality fiction? Is it the writing style? The authors voice?
I think that part of it is defined by the sincerity with which it is written. How true are you to your vision? There is nothing wrong with writing by women, for women. The awful truth is that to many literati, women are nothing. Woman is a vessel for mans seed. When she is no longer that, she is invisible, the walking dead.
Did anybody ever read a short story written by a woman years ago about a woman who going through the motions of her life, unnoticed by her work, her neighbors, even her husband, dies? Yet, for an entire day she keeps going through the motions, even having sex with her husband who does not seem to notice that his wife has died. At the end of the story, she takes a bath and with a sigh, sinks below the level of the water, knowing that now that her work for the day is done, she can actually be dead?
If we don't fight for a life defined by our needs and goals, then this is just what we are, once we have lost our sexual definition, walking dead. I won't be invisible. I will fight with laughter and a HEA, just for me. Now that sounds pretty powerful, doesn't it?
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