Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: Defining “Black Films,” the Korean retail book industry, Fire...

OPEN THREAD: WHAT MAKES A BLACK FILM A BLACK FILM? – A short but pithy piece about how films get categorized as “black films” versus, say, “Comedy” or “Sports Drama.” There is a strong parallel to Romance here, not only in terms of the way POC Romance has often been shelved separately, but also in terms of how we often categorize books as IR/MC rather than by plot type (e.g. PNR, Historical, etc.). Does it further marginalize books that feature non-white protagonists when we categorize them based on the race of the protagonists, or are we helping to mainstream racial and cultural diversity?

While Black audiences are expected to relate and empathize with white characters in films regularly, the moment we ask them to do the same for us suddenly it’s a Black Film. In that case, the categorization is almost left up to the white viewer alone. –Racalicious

The Changing Korean Book Retail Industry: Digital Publishing in Korea 2014 – This is a really interesting article about how the retail book industry in Korea is positing itself for success in a hybridized book market. Korea’s largest online bookstore, YES24, is more than 15 years old and has captured more than 40% of the Korean online retail book market (it sells stuff other than books, too). Not surprisingly a small majority of YES24’s customers are female. However, YES24 also organizes reader events, including an event called “Camping with Writers,” which is intended to bring authors and readers together to talk about books and more.

Korea’s largest physical bookseller, Kyobo Book Centre, which is also a chain, has been in business since 1981. In addition to starting its own digital subscription service, Kyobo has been working to maintain a book buying and reading culture in Korea:

For its physical stores at Gwanghwamun and another 13 locations, Kyobo is repositioning them to be more than just shelves and tables of books. “We want Kyobo to become more of a cultural space and the meeting point of choice for culturally active people, as well as a place where print and e-content come together, where people’s lives are enriched,” says Ahn. The stores regularly invite authors, readers and publishers to its ‘book concerts,’ and “over the years we have had singers, comedians, professors, politicians and the liberal arts community talking about books. These gatherings have produced new concepts and book ideas that we channel back to the publishers. We also organize author-led culture tours. It is all about extending our value chain and expanding our role in society.” –Publishers Weekly

The Fire TV is a Weak Gaming Console, Marginal Streaming Media Box, but None of that Matters – So Fire TV is here. Yay? At $99, plus $40 for a gaming console Nate Hoffelder calls “weak,” the device is definitely entering a market dominated by Roku. And once Roku introduces its new upgrade, what advantages Fire TV now has (faster CPU, better remote,more RAM), may have disappeared. Still Hoffelder is not suggesting that we bet against Amazon quite yet:

And even though the Fire TV might not be the best, I would not make any guarantee that this won’t change in 6 months. Another thing Amazon knows is how to iterate and release updates that improve their products.  The current lack of games can be solved by getting more developers interested, and the current shortcomings in the streaming dept can be addressed in a software update.

Looking back at Amazon’s past product launches, it is safe to say that the Fire TV platform will be significantly more impressive a year down the road. –The Digital Book Reader

The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood’s Exclusion of Women – Despite being funded at lower levels, films that feature female protagonists actually earn more money in the long run. Demonstrating, among other things, that Hollywood had learned nothing from the success of movies like Bridesmaids and even Frozen, which is now the highest grossing animated film EVER. Since I understand very little about the statistics here (maybe Sunita would like to step in here), I’m just going to point you to the article and provide you with the upshot of the analysis:

Using Bechdel test data, we analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits. We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t. –FiveThirtyEight

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. SusanS
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 10:34:23

    Vulture says that an “Eleanor and Park” movie is in the works: “Honestly, it is sort of surprising that it took this long? But yes, last year’s most beloved YA book — about a romance between 16-year-olds who don’t really fit in (and therefore really love the Smiths) — will be made into a movie. Rainbow Rowell, the author, will write the screenplay herself; Dreamworks hopes to start filming in 2015, which gives you plenty of time to start reading. Two years, basically. You can do it!”

    Good news or bad news? I get so nervous about film adaptations about great books.

  2. Stephanie Scott
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 10:57:17

    Thank you for consistently bringing interesting and diverse topics for discussion. The black film article is right on, something that was highly apparent last fall when four or five “black” films were featured in the theatres and commentary was everywhere on this revolution. Or, maybe it’s just time that it stops being a rare occurrence to see several films with mostly black casts? Same with books. I’ve read some really disturbing posts from writers who barely sold books at large scale conferences because white readers admitted they didn’t think the books were for them because a person of color was on the cover. This sort of astounds me, but I guess it shouldn’t.

  3. P. J. Dean
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 16:44:48

    @Stephanie Scott: Your observation rings sincere and astute. It’s funny because I just wrote a guest post on SFR /PNR author Heather Massey’s blog last week on this topic in SFR/PNR Romanceland. She reached across the aisle and was gracious enough to give me space to air some things. I won’t, and can’t, speak for all writers who are POC but for me as an African-American writer of SFR/PNR romance, the publishing experience has been akin to battle fatigue.

    I keep my focus by no longer caring what’s trendy. I don’t listen to publishers. I have one that I’m happy with. I do not care if someone is “hesitant” to even read my book blurb because of my characters’ color or mine. Seems works written by POC immediately signal to a lot of folks: not for me, inferior, foreign. Or I hear, and this is my fav, “I don’t know this author. How will I know if it’s any good?” You won’t. Since when has knowing an author’s previous stuff have anything to do with liking the present stuff? Haven’t you heard? There are no sure things in life. Years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and bought “A Knight in Shining Armor” and then “Outlander.” Hooked. I’ve bought some other duds since but it has not stopped me from trying new stuff. Again, maybe these hesitant readers shouldn’t enter if they feel they will be walking into a world they find unknown, scary and uncertain. Except if they love, love, love shifters and urban vamps and weres and lizards, I would think a book by a non-White writer about two humans from different walks of life loving one another would be easy peasy.

    I do know this: ALL my books have, and will continue to have, a multi-cultural cast and an interracial romance at its core in addition to alien conflict. I write paranormal romance not Black paranormal romance. I have no intention of slanting my work in a certain direction to capture a readership which clearly isn’t too keen on being caught. My piece of advice to POC romance writers: write the best damned material you can. Know that your work is not a passing fancy. Pray like hell no one “samples” your voice and then grabs the credit. Keep writing despite the double rejection. POC filmmakers and writers who create works featuring POC in main roles would do better by adopting these same coping stances.

    Not sure if I’ll comment anymore on this topic. ‘Cuz the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s really the major publishers who segregate things. The question is why? Are they guarding their bottom lines based on readers’ tastes? A little chicken and the egg going on here.

    And I don’t do conferences for the exact reason in your post.

    Also, exclusion of women in Hollywood. Another side of the same coin.

  4. Sunita
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 08:43:37

    I’m late to comment, but I’m always happy to jump into any data-centric conversation. The author is clear about the limitations of the samples, and we always want to be careful about believing financial info about movies because they are far more creative than even publishers at shifting and hiding costs. But these are gross figures, so those are more reliable. I believe the argument that returns on investment are higher for Bechdel-passing movies than Bechdel-failing ones, and it certainly seems right to me that ameliorating gender bias might change the movie-going audience composition but it won’t mean huge losses.

    That said, I think you have to consider the differences in budget between Bechdel-passing movies and the rest. I’d have to look at the individual movies to be sure, but I have a feeling the Bechdel movies are mostly a different type of movie. They note that the blow-’em-up and war movies (and lots of others) have bigger budgets. Bechdel movies may be smaller, more intimate movies. Also, return on investment doesn’t mean huge box office success, obviously, and movie executives, directors, etc. want the big winners in order to gain career payoffs.

    Finally, look at the 1970s and 1980s in the chart. The 1970s is often considered a golden age of movies, but it had far more Bechdel-failing films. So women not talking doesn’t mean a bad movie, it may not even mean a sexist movie, it can mean a man-centric or small-cast movie (I’d guess that Badlands and Days of Heaven fail the Bechdel test, for example, and they both have major female roles).

    tl;dr version: solid research and results but highlighting one positive result doesn’t give you a good picture of what is a complex series of decisions and events that lead to the outcome we want to change.

  5. MrsJoseph
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 11:07:37

    @P. J. Dean:

    Thank you for posting!! I am ALWAYS looking for more racially diverse books in SFF – but I almost never find them. I’m looking you up right now. Is this you?:

    What I have noticed is that – by separating out the “black” works of fiction…I can never find what I want!! My genres of choice are Fantasy, Romance and Science Fiction – and these genres are almost always whitewashed. I’m not looking for “black fiction” I want SFF and Romance that includes POCs!

    I recently was introduced to Seressia Glass but my (very small) group of POC Genre Authors include Octavia Butler (of course), LA Banks and NK Jemisin. I like Samuel R. Delany but he’s a bit cerebral for me. I’ve a couple of Indie Authors on my TBR-Owned list: Alicia Wright Brewster, Kenya Wright and Terry C. Simpson.

    But other than that VERY small handful…I’m usually at a loss.

  6. MrsJoseph
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 12:57:15

    @MrsJoseph: Ha! Found the answer myself. I had to doctor the Author and a series listing but I think THIS is the correct profile:

  7. P. J. Dean
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 15:39:09

    @MrsJoseph: you found it! Yep, that’s me on Goodreads. If you read any of my stuff, drop a line to my email and let me know if it’s the thing you’re looking for. Whatever you think, thanks for taking a chance.

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