Subverting Expectations

You never know where curiosity can lead you. By a very circuitous path, I wound up looking at one of my unfinished stories this morning and considering the possibility of changing its focus and intent quite drastically. It was meant to be part of the hand slaves series, of which Hidden Boundaries and Crossing Boundaries are the first two. But now, as I looked it over, with a silent evil chuckle, I made this note: Convert to a subtly erotic challenge to all the male/male, slave/master clichés?

Why would I do a thing like that? Well, as I said, it’s a circuitous path, and a long one, with many stops along the way. The two most recent stops were a review of Hidden Boundaries and a review of a book I’ll never read. Hidden Boundaries is not erotica. It isn’t even a romance in any usual sense of the word. It has exactly one scene in which the characters  come together sexually, and it’s hardly more than suggested. There’s nothing in either the book’s description or the very long sample to suggest that it would be, as one reviewer put it: sizzlingly hot. Ah well. Apparently it’s impossible to escape readers’ expectations. After all, it’s about a master and his slave, and they’re both men. It has to have hot man-on-man sex.

On to the second review, which was about a book clearly meant to be male-on-male erotica. Or at least romance. The reviewer pointed out the book’s many clichés, including what is known as insta-love. Also know as love at first sight. The publisher’s blog post sighed over it and settled for saying that you can’t please everyone. Very true. But I was inspired, mostly because this fairly new imprint started out with the intention of producing quality work, to comment on the post. I said that I, like so many others, kept hoping for original ideas. Instead, the genre keeps churning out books full of worn-out clichés. Yes, but a lot of people like that, and we can’t please everyone. Hmm. It just occurred to me that if you’re boasting about the quality of your books and yet you’re willing to publish tripe because it sells well, then you are trying to please everybody.

But I mustn’t forget this morning’s final straw, another review, by a different reviewer, of another male/male book. Not very favorable, either, for pretty much the same reasons. And the reviewer triggered my meanest tendencies with this: “the old fanfic favourite chestnut of  ”Come for me, [name here].” With that, my maverick alter ego went into high gear. My alter ego lives to subvert people’s expectations, which is part of the reason why I write about slavery the way I do. So, this temptation, which has been dangling in front of me for some time, may finally have its wicked way with me. I also noticed, last night, that someone had added Hidden Boundaries to a new Goodreads list: Best Gay Romance with Good Sexual Tension. Really? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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4 thoughts on “Subverting Expectations

  1. Catana, I have to reply to this. I’ve read your “Hidden Boundaries” and believe me it is neither “sizzlingly hot” not laden with cliches. I really liked the book and I would not have liked it if either of those things had been true. My preferences are SF and fantasy, but I suppose I am more inclined to favor aspects of literary writing. I want my genre books to have qualities of originality, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity — to have deep and complex characters and significant psychological development. I guess I’m in the minority, I don’t need to wallow in either “sizzlingly hot” emotion or frantic action sequences in order to find any story satisfying. I certainly recommend “Hidden Boundaries” on these criteria. It stands on its merits and I see no reason to castigate it because it doesn’t meet somebody’s cliched expectations.

    1. Thanks for that. I really had to laugh when I read the review, which was actually favorable, and the reviewer gave it three stars. Even though she scolded herself for expecting hot sex, I think the three stars was because she was disappointed. And I’m not sure she really understood the book.

      I don’t know whether I will convert my other story, but I enjoy setting up challenges to my writing ability, and that would be a good one. As if I don’t have enough ongoing project.

  2. Best Gay Romance with Good Sexual Tension? Hidden Boundaries?

    I must’ve read a different Hidden Boundaries.

    Or maybe the GoodReads reviewer read Hidden Boundaries in an alternate universe- the one in which Stephen King’s “Cujo” is recognized as a classic children’s bedtime story. X)

    1. LOL! There is some sexual tension, but it comes so late and is barely hinted at that I wasn’t sure anybody would even notice it. So, in a way, that’s a success. Besides, who are we to question what readers see in a book. We’re only the authors, after all. But I’m finding it really fascinating to see just how varied that is.

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