“Is Love Only for the Pretty People?” & Other Questions About Diverse Literature

I was browsing Goodreads trying to find either YA or NA urban fantasy books whose main characters are dudes who will one day have a romantic relationship with each other. To my surprise, I found a sizable number of them. The book I’m currently writing features two guys as the main characters. Eventually, they fall in love, but the romance is a small subplot considering they have to stop dark creatures from harvesting souls and whatnot in California, while going on their individual personal journeys of something something I will not reveal yet (it’s paranormal urban fantasy, after all). Also, they’re college students.

teen wolf - malia

Y’know, something like Teen Wolf, one of my fave shows, but without the queer baiting.

HELL: WHEN FANS DON’T LIKE THE AUTHOR’S NEW OTP

So, I wanted to read other books like it. There wasn’t much, but I happened upon The Flame by Skylar Jaye (which I’m currently reading) and I have a copy of Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford, The Boy Who Couldn’t Fly Straight by Jeff Jacobson, the Whyborne & Griffin series and Hexworld series by Jordan L. Hawk, The Wolf at His Door by Adrian W. Lilly, Dog Days by TA Moore, Demon Arms by Sadie Sins, Spell Bound by Jacob Z. Flores, and Coyote’s Creed by Vaughn R. Demont.

There’s a lot more, although they skew to the more adult side. Anyway, I was reading Mr. Demont’s blog on Goodreads until I got to his most recent entry, posted last May 2016. He titled it Hiatus. As a manga reader, that word brings pain, confusion, and fear (like when the latest update to your favorite manga was way back in 2011).

In his post, Mr. Demont shared his struggle against fan hate, pressure and expectations, and his own principles as a writer and experiences as a gay man. He was passionately writing about his characters, James Black and Spencer Cain in the Broken Mirrors series when something happened! Mr. Demont wrote the third book wherein James and another character, Ozzie, hooked up, i.e. have a romantic relationship. To the author, the relationship made sense. And to the beta reader who read it, it was a pleasant surprise that “someone who looked like him would end up getting the guy.”

ian somerhalder

Y’know, someone pretty like this guy…

IS LOVE ONLY FOR PRETTY PEOPLE?

Well, Mr. Demont received a ton of hate mail for his new love team. A lot of fans argued that Ozzie was too short, too unattractive, too whatever for the pretty guy James. There were some who felt that Ozzie was the best for James, but many more wanted the latter to end up with our stalwart hero, Spencer. I like Spence’s character, but being pretty together is not the basis of a good relationship. We all know this.

Look, I’m not traditionally beautiful (let’s admit it, we all know the standard of beauty in the media today). I’m short, brown, chubby/fat, with pimples all over my face and shadows under my eyes. I will go out on a limb and say a lot of people look like me. And a lot of people who look like me don’t show up in books, much less TV shows or films. So why are all our heroes pretty? Yeah, yeah, fiction is escapism yada, yada, yada. Except that the reason we’re also drawn to fiction is because it reflects our society. It reflects our own struggles. It reflects our fears and wishes and dreams. It reflects us. Except not-so-good-looking people apparently.

duff movie

Hmm… what is “ugly”? A word used by people in power to describe someone who doesn’t look like them. Oh! Just like colonialism! So that’s where our current standards of beauty come from…

DO THE WRITERS OWE THEIR READERS THEIR SOULS?

It’s kind of worrying to see that Mr. Demont had to let go of the relationship he wanted to write, based on his own experiences and perspective as a gay man. Yeah, I’m gonna keep coming back to that because, let’s face it, a majority of the writers and readers in the M/M community are actually female (like me). Mr. Demont’s series are primarily urban fantasy so the romance is just a small part of the story.

Yeah, it can still be classified as M/M, but for fans to pressure the author to change the romantic relationship? Woah, no wonder George RR Martin had to take a break from the fans on social media (and the hate was primarily aimed at him not finishing the book series yet… come on, people). I get it, we don’t always like what our favorite authors write, but they’re not our bitches. Stop sending hate mail. Communicate like a decent person and not a child throwing a tantrum. Don’t diss the very people who brought you the world and characters you love (and hate passionately).

george rr martin

I can see why your fans mutinied against you.

Also? If we’re talking about diversity in our books, then we gotta walk the talk and practice what we preach. Why do romantic relationships feature only sexy people? Nobody’s flawless. Maybe your character’s soft and not muscular. Maybe she’s a bit hairy. Maybe his eyes look weird. Maybe their skin feels a bit rough and never satin smooth. That’s okay. Love goes beyond that, remember?

To Mr. Demont, I’m so late to the party, but I hope that your hiatus is just that – a hiatus, a pause, a break. Writing made you happy once. I hope it will again. We need your voice, but take all the time you need. Enjoy life and find joy again in other things.

doctor who - martha jones

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