The Horror of Romance

When I was a little kid I was a voracious reader. I learned to read before I was two, before I could walk, and found myself lost in the wonderful fantastical worlds of books for about the next decade. Most children's books contain elements of fantasy even if they are not completely fantastical in nature. There is maybe a magic pebble in an otherwise normal world, or a boy's pet dragon that no one seems to think is that extraordinary. These tweaks of reality, blended seamlessly into the pages of characters' lives, kept me entertained for most of elementary school, and I read countless tales of underwater cities, of kids saving the world with a time machine, of girls who rode unicorns. And then I entered middle school, and everything changed.

What is this YOUNG ADULT crap?

Why are they all about boys and girls falling in love? Why am I suddenly supposed to care about fictional people dating anyway? I thought in disgust. But except for the occasional sports story or historical fiction, there seemed to be nothing for my age group that was for any purpose other than to clue me in that I was supposed to start liking boys. As far as I was concerned they still had cooties, and I wasn't interested. But since I'd long since read most of the "baby books," I resigned myself to reading stories of relationships and the crises associated with said relationships' dissolving. Oh well, I thought.

And then I discovered science fiction.

They make books about other worlds for big kids? I thought incredulously when I ran into a copy of Joan D. Vinge's "young adult" novel Psion. Oh, oh, oh. Yummy. Looking back, that novel was a bit steep for the young adult classification (hence my quotation marks above), but I'm sure glad someone decided it was for older kids rather than adults, because I never would have found it otherwise. Wow, this is taking place on another planet! And the people have cool powers and stuff! And it's all so real, none of that syrupy "this is a story" feel that the wannabe romance novels had! Oh, oh, oh, I am addicted.

Hook, line, and sinker.

Now I can't live without a regular dose of science fiction. Serve it up with my peas and carrots! I was hooked immediately, pulled into the wonderful worlds of imaginative authors who dared to leave this dimension, this planet, and the dull drone of everyday human experience. Fantasy was no longer a thing of the past, a thing I was to grow out of; I didn't have to leave the tales of unusual occurrences in my childhood just because the majority of adult literature is a bit more grounded in reality. Instead of leaving the imaginative stories behind, I managed to move on to books which expanded on these speculative happenings. Fairy tales, fantasy worlds, and strange new planets . . . they grew up too. And I'm a better person for it--after all, I never went to the young adult romances for my fat helping o' literature again. Joan D. Vinge and several other talented authors saved me from the horror that is romance. And for that, I am truly, truly thankful.

Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.

Email address:

Comments from others:

Comments from others:

Mikey: I can't really understand why the media would figure that all people would be into the same stuff just because of their age and yes Praise the Vinge.

katie green: it sounds rather shit to me it dosnt relate to every day life

Viorica: Hell, I barely read YA. I usually skip to the adult section, cause those books aren't dumbed down.

Headless Unicorn Guy: Problem is (according to a panel at LosCon a couple years back), "Young Adult" is becoming a catchall for fiction that doesn't fit into any other defined genre.

And what do you do when one of the novels you're writing is shaping up as both a Romance and SF? (With a big dose of the weird thrown in.) It's like that Robin Williams bit about a Transformer toy: "IT'S A ROMANCE! IT'S SCIENCE FICTION! IT'S A ROMANCE! IT'S SCIENCE FICTION! WTF IS IT?"

CursedFreedom: I read Orson Scott Card myself, and Stephen King, Terry Goodkind and ben Bova. Great Science fiction/fantasy writers. And yes, Stephen King has written fantasy. :D

Ed: (WARNING #1: English is my second language, please bare with me.)

WARNING #2: I read this essay and I don't think I'm getting it so I apologize before writing any further.

Maybe I'm really thick, but, Is the writer suggesting that it would be ideal or better to expunge romantic behavior from books altogether? Or is the age the problem? At what age should then be appropriate to assume that readers have developed the ability to start digesting the existence of romantic behavior and all of its implications etc...?

Is that the topic in question at all? If that's the case I am starting to wonder about who should be the standard-bearer of cynicism either minorities or majorities and here is why:

Self-preservation oriented behavior is just the result of millions of years of genetic code embedded in all sort of forms of life. Maybe the media knows that we are also subjected to those millions of years of genetic code. Maybe the media understands that there is an age in which MOST human beings begin to unwittingly become increasingly responsive to self-preservation-ridden themes (Romance? sex?). What about the economics behind the media efforts in publishing what they think might be popular?

Romance and sex are so defining in our existence and play such a huge role in so many topics (all the way from history to mythology) that I can't see a single reason why young people shouldn't read or have a start at understanding such important aspects of human motivation and behavior. I don't know maybe I got it all wrong.

On the subject of fiction permit me say the obvious:
Fiction will not exist without real people creating it or reading it. Real people can't read or create fiction if they are not born : ) 99.99999 % of readers and writers of fiction are born as a result of the practice of sex which could be preceded by romantic behavior or not.

I apologize again if any of these comments I'm making are rude or simply out of topic.

Feel free to delete this post any time.


swankivy: There's no reply address for this person, so my response is public.

NO, there is no suggestion whatsoever that romance books or romantic bits of books for teens should be changed whatsoever. This is an article about what I don't like. I didn't have any interest in romantic fiction, and didn't like that the "young adult" section was mostly full of such things. No, the article is not a commentary on a "proper" age to read romantic fiction, and no, the article is not putting down romance as an integral part of society whatsoever. No, I'm not saying that "young people shouldn't read or have a start at understanding such important aspects of human motivation and behavior." Yes, I am aware that romance and sex are necessary and desirable parts of human existence for many people, and no, I was not arguing otherwise whatsoever. Yes, this is a very big misinterpretation of my article (though I don't think it's rude either).

Headless Unicorn Guy: What if you read something that is BOTH Science Fiction AND Romance?

Asking because some of the longer stuff I'm writing is basically SF, but I use a Romance plot thread as the primary story arc.

And I can see the Horror of BAD Romance. BAD as in Harlequin, Christian Bonnet Romances, Synchronized Cookie Snarfing, and She with the Sparkly Vampires.

Pease: Is it just me or do most publishing companies seem to see the Young Adult section as the "Hmm, this book horribly written, maybe it'll sell to the teens if we throw some pop culture and sex in" section? D:

Yuoaman: I guess I'm lucky I skipped out on the whole young adult 'genre' because by the time I was 12 I was already pretty heavily into the adult SF/Fantasy/Horror/Historical genres. And of course my mother started reading Stephen King when she was nine... make of that what you will.

swankivy: Um, exactly. I was in middle school, age eleven, when I stopped being able to find anything on my reading level in the kids' section and thought the next place to go was the young adult section. Since everything there seemed to be pushing me toward romance, I went to science fiction where things were more interesting in my opinion. This essay's "revelations" took place when I was in sixth grade.

Bree: Do you like steampunk novels, too?