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Inside of a dog it's too dark to read

Romance Writers Group Cancels Contest Due to Backlash Over Disqualifying Gay Romance Stories


When Romance Writers Ink listed the rules for their 2012 More Than Magic contest for published romance writers, they made sure that they’d be able to accomodate everyone. Their international network of judges were romance fans, and no matter what genre you write in, no matter how steamy (or innocent) your story was, they had a judge for you. Tentacles? Got that. Medieval history? Got that. Vampires? Single moms? Secret agents? Young professionals? They’ve got a judge who they knew would be able to see the content of your story in a not-unfavorable light, and be able to judge it for its quality.

Unless your story was about two dudes or two ladies.

The clincher was in one sentence, new to their contest in 2012: “Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.” When asked about why the change was made, the Oklahoma-based RWI replied that its chapter members were “uncomfortable” accepting same-sex entries.

As was immediately pointed out by many in the romance community: this meant that the contest was committed to finding people okay with any plot or sexual act except homosexuality. Says Courtney Milan, whose historical romance novels were presumably okay under the rule:

You can write [male/female] erotica. You can write [male/male/female erotica]. You can write about aliens from another planet who have tentacles, or barbed sexual organs. You can write degrading rapes. None of those things are barred from entry in the More than Magic contest, and if you write them, they’ll try to find judges who are predisposed to like your books.

But they won’t do that if you write same sex romance–even if it’s a sweet romance with no sexual contact whatsoever. No–when it comes to same sex romance, the fact that they might be able to identify judges in their chapter or outside of it who would be willing to read same sex entries and judge them fairly somehow becomes irrelevant. In that instance, the majority gets to say that those entries don’t belong.

We’re pretty sure Milan’s intention isn’t to imply that there’s anything wrong with M/M/F, alien, tentacle, or rape fantasy (stress on the fantasy) erotica, but rather to point out that these are all niche tastes that may seem incredibly off-putting to anyone who isn’t favorably disposed to them. It may be difficult enough to find people willing to admit that they aren’t creeped out by them. Homosexuality, however, by RWI’s standards, is right off the table. All the bad press from the very people it was trying to give awards to forced RWI to cancel the contest entirely, a reaction that Jezebel nails perfectly as the childish response it is:

Cancelling the contest doesn’t really right this wrong — it just makes it seem like they’d rather not judge romance novels at all if they have to judge gay ones.

RWI also produced an apology that didn’t exactly show that it’d understood why everybody was so mad:

We recognize the decision to disallow same-sex entries is highly charged. We also opted not to accept YA entries. We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.

The crucial difference between YA Fiction and romance fiction that includes gay leads is, of course, that YA is a genre (whether its a subgenre of romance fiction or the other way around). The presence of gay leads is simply one a piece of content that can appear in a romance story of any genre, and to pretend that it is its own genre is to pretend that gay romance is somehow fundamentally different from straight romance or that it must be set apart from straight romance, a perception that people gay and straight have been fighting for years.

(via Jezebel.)

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  • http://twitter.com/Twyst Robyn

    The best solution for confrontation: taking your toys and going home instead of learning from mistakes!

  • Sarah Nicolas

    Yes, this seems like a very immature response to the backlash. I know a lot of Romance writers and cannot think of one who is uncomfortable with same sex action. I would actually be surprised if it was the “majority” who objected to this instead of a few group leaders forcing their opinions on others.

    However, I would like to point out that Young Adult is not a genre. It’s an age range (or even a “category”) with books in all genres – even LGBT romance

  • Anonymous

    Based in Oklahoma? Are we really surprised?

  • http://twitter.com/JinxyBlastwave Jinxy Blastwave

    You would’ve thought we had gotten past things like this.  It’s always disappointing to be reminded that we’re not.   Let’s look past this stupid contest to the effects a thing like this will have on the young LGBT teens in that area, that school district.  An action like this tells them that they’re awful, that this thing they’re realizing about themselves isn’t even worth discussing. 

    You’re not awful, I promise.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Where the wind comes sweeping down the plane! And the homophobes without frontal lobes cancel contests, but cannot cancel change!

  • http://www.facebook.com/BradTheDog Brad Hart

    I am rather surprised they didn’t exclude atheists and other non believers too.  That might not have occurred to them since most Oklahoman’s hear the word atheist and immediately come to the conclusion that the person believes in god and the savior jesus, but they are angry with one of their parents…

  • Anonymous

     The really weird thing is that same sex romances have won the contest in the past…

  • http://twitter.com/ColleenCoover Colleen Coover

    Right! In each of the past THREE YEARS, a same-sex romance has won or placed second in its category, so it was clearly not a problem for RWI to judge these books in the past. The question that has many of us watching this is: what changed?

    I suspect the answer is less about hard bigotry (teh gay is icky) than soft bigotry (*those* books can have a contest of their *own*). But I can’t see into their hearts, so who knows?

    I also think both the exclusion of YA and the use of that exclusion as
    an excuse for their BS is ridiculous–what, young people can’t have
    romance? The only semi-valid reason I can see for excluding YA is the notion that YA are written for a different market than adult romance titles. But if that was their reasoning, it doesn’t apply to same-sex romances, whose market is largely the same as the rest of the romance genre: adult women.

    It all points to the tendency, malicious or otherwise, to see the “other” as something less valuable than whatever thing we see as “ours”. This is exactly how Romance gets relegated to being trashy porn for ladies, or Sci-Fi is considered nerdy schlock, or comics are considered for boys only.

    Hopefully, and I do have hope, this brou-ha-ha will make people aware of the need to mainstream same-sex stories into libraries, bookstores, and the literary consciousness, along with the rest of the Romance genre.

  • Anonymous

    It’s acceptable to write degrading rapes, but it’s not acceptable to write two people of the same gender in love.

    Why am I not surprised?  We live in a society that glorifies the rape, brutalization and dehumanization of women and children, and the fact that a group that calls itself ROMANCE Writers Ink finds degrading rape stories not only acceptable but PREFERABLE to same-sex love stories makes me want to projectile vomit in their faces.  Hey…I could have submitted a story about that.  So long as I wasn’t projectile vomiting into the face of a judge that happened to be of my gender, they probably would have found some moron that’s “predisposed to like my books”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-A-Quest/100000875744905 Jason A. Quest

    Perhaps the fact that same-sex romances have won in the past is why they were disqualified.  If the “wrong” people win, you exclude them next time.  Kind of like the World Fantasy Award rules changing after an issue of a comic book (Gaiman’s Sandman) won the “short fiction” award.

  • http://twitter.com/ColleenCoover Colleen Coover

    It is very reminiscent, though not wholly analogous. Comics and unillustrated fiction really are two different media, “written” in different languages. I don’t recall the details of that incident, as it was what, twenty years ago? I think I remember that the organizers of the  WFA were not as diplomatic in announcing the rule change as they might have been, resulting in some justifiably bruised feelings. But better defining the parameters of their contest was a legitimate choice.

    In this case, however, we have RWI making an exclusionary choice based not on the defined criteria of their contest, but upon the *identity of characters* featured in stories that otherwise meet all those criteria. That’s where we leave anything resembling fairness behind and step firmly in the poo pile of discrimination.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FPHRKWVNBGO4N6VSY7KALW6A6U Torsten Adair

    Want a great Young Adult gay romance?
    “Hero” by Perry Moore.   (4.5/5 from 104 reviews at BN.com)

  • Frodo Baggins

    Ah, good ol’ Hollywood Atheists. So bitter, so ripe for redemption by Act III.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5WH4IXDTYHNGONQMDK6WUXFKYI Lynn C

    Not defending the BS part of the excuse, but it’s possible they could have decided not to deal with YA because of issues with age and legality – both of the characters and of the writers.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/F3X4CDAQN6TDLQBFZOIGE4GPEU sarah

    I was prepared going in to this article to be angered by prejudice, but quite disappointed to find the comment section making me feel worse. As a lesbian agnostic Oklahoman, I find it ironic that to comment on other people’s bigotry, you need to group everyone here in to the same tired stereotypes. Gays are discriminated against in every state in this country so please try to take something more away from this article than the fact that the group comes out of Oklahoma.