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As a writer, I think it is very important for those of the writing craft to have an understanding of the historical significance of what they do. The world has come a long way since the printing press, when books were still a rare commodity and often times still copied out by hand with illuminated manuscripts, colored ink and special quills. We progressed from the printing press, to typewriters, to copy machines, to computer and word processors and now we are going paperless in many domains. The writer has had to adapt to all of these changes, adapting from shifting roles from honored guest, political rival, revolutionary, moral deviant, distinguished lecturer and idiosyncratic eccentric.
For Romance writers, the historical roots of the profession can be traced as far back as the troubadours, if not farther. The significance of this period in history stands out in writing and romance because in this particular era, we see the beginnings of the idea that human beings have a choice about who they love and marry and the power to act upon that desire without repercussions from royal obligations or restrictions of the church. As desirable and mysterious as arranged marriages may seem, the appeal for a free choice flew in the face of every teaching of the church and societal tradition pertaining to love and how love was defined. It was a stirring that would not only change literature, but society itself. In an arranged marriage, one could hope at best to be forced into eventually loving the person they were with. The era of the troubadour, however, told society love was independent, free-willed and subject to no man or woman unless they willed it to be so, free of coercion and political benefit. To the church this was tantamount to prostitution, adultery and even heresy, for control of sexuality shifted to the individual as opposed to the church. It set the early foundations for the movements for issues concerning women’s rights over their own sexuality and body and later women’s rights over all.
This battle has not fully resolved itself unfortunately and has entrenched itself along political lines today in various forms. While censorship itself is protected against, it doesn’t mean that it does not occur and while, at least in the United States we are a nation of freedom, it is still debated as to just how far that freedom is extended to target segments of society who do not conform to conventional morality.
Romance writers have seem to come to grips with this. The field of romance writing encompasses traditional concepts of love all the way to alternate life styles, and in each the expressions of each aspect of romance and sexuality ranges from the tame to wildly erotic. This genre has not remained stagnant at all, encompassing styles of western, historical, contemporary, science fiction and fantasy to name a few. The authors have been both men and women, which in itself can be fascinating in that the field is largely dominated by women so to have a male author arrive on the scene provides a new and different dynamic.
True to form, in a genre born of rebellion, the struggle for romance to be established as a true form of writing has been a hard one. Early on it took on the stigma of “dirty stories,” fit for only whispered conversations and inclusion in “nudie” magazines. Romance and eroticism were equated as one and the same, a reflection more of the moral gauge of the prevailing moral culture than actual reality. However romance writing has fallen victim to some of the stereotypical concepts as well. Rarely have I seen illustrations of romance book covers depicting males beyond the ages of 35, or women beyond the age of 30. Males are muscularly built or in some other way ruggedly handsome, none have been handicapped and almost all have a wind-swept look about them (there is never any disappointment that a man’s member is not as expected and no little blue pills to help it along). The women are almost always buxom, always sensual, without flaw and a size ten or lower. Any signs of child-bearing are non-existent, no freckles or other blemishes on the skin, no uneven breasts or badly shaved bikini lines or even underarm hair. Fantasy and science fiction writing is more forgiving in this regard, as the expectation is for wild and “strange” with appearances and behaviors not quite what we are used to.
So perhaps in some ways romance writing has strayed from the path of rebellion. While finding a voice of its own, it has discarded along the way those very people whom originally found the new love of the troubadours so releasing. In the wake of rebellion are always refugees, but one of the key concepts most artists have held is to at least bring the plight of the refugees to the notice of society and provide some sort of advocacy.
Author H.E. Curtis
H.E. Curtis resides in the Sierra Nevada Foothills where he spends most of his time barefoot among the wildflowers, oaks and pines. He dreams of returning to Scotland and Ireland with his manacle-wielding wife, three invisible children (Not me, I don’t Know and Nobody), three visual children and a twisted sense of humor and imagination. He writes mostly Fantasy, Poetry and dabbles in Science Fiction, but will attempt almost anything once, twice if it isn’t illegal. He has been published in Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Romantic Fantasy. Tribunal of the Rose is his latest release.