Romance is not a small, niche genre. Romances are over 26% of all books sold, by units, in the USA. (Further staggering statistics available from the Romance Writers of America.) Perhaps the situation is vastly different in the UK...but I doubt it. You're just not paying attention. Romance, as a genre, is approximately four times the size of SF and Fantasy put together.
As to the lack of romances on the bestseller lists...did you even bother to look? Check out the most recent mass-market paperback list from the New York Times. There are romances at number 2,3,5,6,7, and so on...
You really should check facts first.
There has always been fantasy that has an interest in the "genuinely fantastical and weird." It has always sold poorly. (The original Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, beloved in fannish folklore ever since, was a dismal commercial failure.) Starting in the late 1970s, it was discovered that there were other kinds of fantasy which sold very well. Those other kinds of fantasy then grew in importance, for the obvious reason that lots of people were buying them.
There has been a major crossover of writers and readers between romance and fantasy over the past decade or so, but it has nothing to do with the "death of romance." It has a lot to do with a natural confluence of subject matter, which you seem to realize in your very negative assessment.
One of your points might be true if by "relatively recently" (referring to the "boy's club" of genre) you mean "up until the early 1970s." That is, of course, about thirty-five years ago. In popular culture, that's not recent -- it's the dead past.
Yes, fantasy never succeeded on TV before Buffy. We all imagined The Twilight Zone, and Dr. Who, and dozens of others.
You're mildly correct that female readers are conservative. But guess what? So are male readers. Readers in general are conservative. The works that are liked by the largest number of people are only very, very rarely ground-breaking or new. (Please tell me this doesn't come as a shock to you.)
Saying that fantasy is still "overwhelmingly dominated by male authors" is true only if you define fantasy very narrowly. Yes, Robert Jordan is the single best-selling recent fantasy writer. But there are several women published as fantasy in the next rank of bestsellers, and the entire strong-selling subgenre of "paranormal romance" that you seem to think doesn't exist also moves a lot of books. Of all the units of books sold in a given year with fantasy elements in them, I'd bet that well more than half are now written by women.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
SF Diplomat can't seem to stop writing about things he completely misunderstands. I had to comment on his most recent post, and I'm copying it here, just because: