23 February 2009

Urban Fantasy: Sex & Violence. Really?

A question has been preying on my mind since a recent con. At this con, I got a preview of a few different lines of upcoming books from various publishing houses. There was a lot of urban fantasy being shown off but there was a sameness to the plots and subject matter that I found disturbing.

First, the paranormal detective thing has been done to death already, hasn't it? There were a few dozen books that featured someone who investigated paranormal disturbances. Isn't that getting old? The other big trend was the story about the "kick ass heroine written in the 1st person." Um... isn't that getting kind of tired too? I mean, the first few of these kinds of books were interesting and made a big hit, but really, do we need dozens of clones out there to bore us to death? Am I the only one who feels this?

So I got a bunch of free books at this event and settled down to read. For books that were marketed as "romance" there sure wasn't much romance -- just a lot of sex and even more gratuitous violence. And I do mean violence. Turn-your-stomach gore (well, my stomach, at least) and the introduction of sympathetic characters, getting you to like them, then blowing them away in gruesome ways a page later.

Tsk. Tsk.

Um... last time I checked, that wasn't what you call "standard" in a romance novel. Was it? Did I miss the memo?

And why did these supposed "romance" authors feel the need to make me sad every other page by intrducing a new character only to blow them away, hurting their existing characters and making me sorry I ever picked up the damned book?

I'm not a pure Pollyanna. I can take bad guys getting their just deserts or supporting characters having hard times to support the story, but this is above and beyond. This is violent destruction of every good character in the book.

Does this trend disturb anyone else? I mean, I read romance to escape the harsh reality we live with every day. I want for the good guys to win in my romance books. I want people to find love and happiness. It doesn't have to be easy, but it should be true happiness at the end of the book. Not "we're happy together, but all our friends and family have died in horrible ways because of us."

Am I naive? Old fashioned? Out of touch?

Because that's the way I've been made to feel. It seems like traditional publishers won't touch a "feel good" book. It seems all they want is sex (I'm all for that, of course, as long as there's love in there somewhere) and lots of gratuitous violence in their urban fantasy/romance stories.
Am I wrong?

I'd really appreciate some opinions on this as it's been bothering me for quite a while. How do you all think of urban fantasy romance? Does it require "gritty" death scenes on every other page? Does it require a writer to absolutely TORTURE (and I mean TORTURE) their main characters? Or can it possibly have a less bloody death toll and some characters who actually end up truly happy? Or must every supporting character be blown away like a "red shirt" on Star Trek?

I seriously want to know what you think. Comment me, baby. ;-)
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