If you’re a member of the Romance Writers of America, you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the RITA Award. The lack of representation of minorities and LGBTQ authors and stories has been a problem for years. Now it seems that RWA’s leadership is making the move to institute some much-needed changes in the judging procedures, and “other issues in the contest.” They are currently looking for input from their membership.
Here’s what I think: If we’re going to do a proper remodel, then we need to gut the kitchen to the studs. Yes, inclusiveness of marginalized groups is without a doubt our top priority. I’m one hundred percent behind that mission, and have stated so to the board.
But there’s another issue I’d love to see resolved, and that is the lumping of Sci-fi Romance, Fantasy Romance, etc. under the Paranormal category umbrella.
SFR is not Paranormal. Fantasy Romance is not Paranormal. These genres have different readerships, and very little cross over. A reader who digs werewolves and vampires isn’t very likely to pick up a book about aliens in space…unless those aliens happen to be werewolf or vampire aliens.
So why is SFR and Fantasy still being tossed into an arena where there’s next to no traction for them? And shouldn’t PNR books be judged against other PNR, especially in their own category?
Recently, another SFR author and I got our heads together and drafted a letter to the RWA. We decided to make a template available to other PNR, SFR, Fantasy, UF, etc. authors who are members of RWA and in favor of this change. You are welcome to copy and paste this letter in whole or in part, make any changes to reflect your own thoughts and ideas on how to proceed, and send it to the RWA board as soon as possible.
Now is the time speak up on any issues you’d like to see changed with the RITA Awards. We hope by posting this letter, you are inspired to also speak out, because the board is listening now.
I whole-heartedly support changes within the RWA RITA Awards that will level the playing field for authors and characters of color and LGBTQ+ authors and characters. In addition to that, since RWA is looking at a revamp of the entire awards program, I suggest an additional change to make the competition fairer for ALL authors.
In my humble opinion, RWA has an overall challenge with diversity. For many years, as a science fiction romance author, I've felt I was an outlier within the organization. From my perspective, RWA seems to view its membership in three groups--those who write Contemporary Romance, those who write Historical Romance, and those who write "Everything Else." In discussions with my peers, the consensus is that we "EE" authors would also like to receive more equal representation within the organization.
Please consider the structure of the RITA Awards Paranormal category. While Contemporary has three distinct categories based on length, and Historical Romance has two, the Paranormal category is a “conglomerate” of many different subgenres. This category forces paranormal romance, fantasy romance, and science fiction romance (et al) authors to compete against each other in a category that covers a very broad spectrum, with very little cross-over readership between them.
Splitting this enormous generic category into smaller, more subgenre-friendly categories will encourage a greater number of authors to submit knowing their books will be judged against similar works. This would help level the playing field for “EE” authors of diverse romance subgenres.
I'm aware this situation has been broached with RWA by many members over several years, and the answer from RWA has always been that there aren't enough entries to support a divided category. Please reconsider this in comparison to the number of entries received for other small categories, such as Religious/Spiritual Elements and Young Adult. To my knowledge, the conglomerate Paranormal category has always received substantially more entries.
Since the overall structure of the RITA is being examined, I propose breaking the Paranormal category into three distinct subcategories:
· Fantasy Romance (e.g. sorcerers, wizards, faeries, elves, fantasy world building, etc.)
· Paranormal Romance (e.g. vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, angels, demons, mermaids, shapeshifters, etc.)
· Science Fiction Romance (e.g. aliens, space opera, steampunk, futuristic, time travel, dystopian elements, etc.)
And then, if there aren't enough entries to justify one of these as an individual category, combine it with the most appropriate alternate division.
Thank you for your careful attention and consideration of this matter, which affects a large number of "EE" authors within your membership.
USA Today Bestselling Author, Lea Kirk, loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her sci-fi romances. When she’s not busy writing about the blue and green aliens of her Prophecy series, she’s hanging out with her hubby, five kids (the nerd herd), and spoiled Dobie mix puppy.
She is currently working on two short stories and the fourth book in her series.