by Sunita

Yes, they’re back. I should probably pick a day and make that Links Day, but in the meantime, here are a handful for your weekend reading.

The RITA finalists were announced this past week. Once again there were hardly any African-American authors who finaled, and I didn’t see many LGBT authors either, although I didn’t scrutinize the lists that carefully. I peeked over at Twitter and found that understandably, there was a lot of angry discussion about it.

It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of exclusions year and after year, especially when the RWA leadership has become more diverse and progressive. Unfortunately the awards submission, judging, and evaluation systems are not keeping pace (to put it mildly). I’ve thought about these issues over the years and looked at various aspects of the problem. I am sorry to say that I don’t think much will change until the overall romance readership is more reflective of the Romanceland readership that we hang out in. And similarly with the overall membership of RWA.

I’ve examined what is available of RWA surveys over the last 20 years, and they are consistent in terms of the demographic composition of romance readers. They are disproportionately Southern, Christian, white, and middle-aged. If you asked me to describe a modal (i.e., most common) romance reader, I’d say she lives in a medium-sized town or major-city suburb in the southern US, is white, in her 40s or 50s, and alternates between Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance and Amish Romances. She doesn’t read much LGBT of any type within the romance genre. And she’s on the conservative side.

That’s not the demographic that’s going to regularly pick Alyssa Cole’s books over Robyn Carr’s. Or Helen Hoang’s. Or KJ Charles’s. It’s just not.

It’s another reminder that the internet is full of silos. Twitter has remained stable over the last few years in terms of participation: about 20 percent of Americans use the service regularly. Romance Twitter and online Romanceland more generally do not represent the full range of who is buying and reading romance novels.

I don’t usually read US newspapers’ takes on UK events since I read actual British newspapers most days, but this article in the NYT is one of the best ELI5 descriptions of the endless chicken game called Brexit that I’ve come across. It is unbelievable and horrifying to think that we are at the point where no deal is a legitimate alternative for both citizens and MPs. But here we are. It looks as if there is going to be a series of votes next week which may walk the nation back from the cliff-edge, but until it actually happens I won’t count on it.

This quotation resonated for me beyond Brexit:

I’ve spent 40 years of my life not needing a watch in the morning because I listen to the ‘Today’ program,” the BBC’s flagship radio news show, she said, reeling off the exact times, to the minute, of her favorite segments. “In the last couple of months I have not been able to bear to listen to it anymore. I switch to classical music. It is relentless speculation. It is no longer news. It is water torture. I can’t bear it anymore.

I don’t watch any morning program, but I’ve cut back severely on my “news” consumption. Because most of what we get in what used to be flagship, serious newspapers isn’t news anymore. It is indeed “relentless speculation.” Classical and other kinds of music have filled some of the gap in our house too, along with blessed, blessed silence.

Speaking of music: Is Joe MacLeod right? Is this the most depressing song ever written? Yes, yes it is. I mean, this is how it starts:

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top
Will throw myself off
In an effort to
Make it clear to whoever
Wants to know what it’s like When you’re shattered

And after reading that article I had an earworm for the rest of the day. Curse you, HmmDaily. And Joe.

Also, I recognize every one of those songs from 1972. I know all the words to far too many of them. God we were living in a depressing era back then. I didn’t ever anticipate that I would wind up living that emotional reality twice, I really didn’t. And yet, here we are.

HmmDaily is sometimes depressing and enraging, but it’s almost always very good. It’s the closest thing to The Awl that I’ve found on today’s intertubes. Bookmark it and give it a try.

I was going to say, have a happy weekend, but … let’s just get through the rest of March, OK?