Welcome to Smugglivus 2014! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2014, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2015, and more.
Who: Agent provocateur Justin Landon, who blogs at Tor.com and anywhere that invites him (we will always have you, Justin). He’s also the host of Rocket Talk, the Tor.com podcast. Justin was Hugo nominated for his editorial work on Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year’s Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary.
Please give a warm welcome to Justin, everyone!
We need to talk. It’s been a rough year for you. Entitlement is a real pain in the ass. One day you wake up and realize the world hasn’t been handed to you on a silver platter like mom and dad said it would. Who would have thought? And you’re angry. I get it. I’d be angry too if I expected everything in my life to come up roses just because I’m a moderately affluent white guy.
My life has come up roses.
Of course, I am a moderately affluent white guy. I was even raised by moderately affluent white people. This is what we call privilege. Thankfully, I can see it! Do you want to know how I managed that?
I mean, really good news.
Damn. It sounds like I’m about to start diving into ‘Jesus is the good news!’ I’m not. But, I do have a tip for dudebros everywhere. And this tip, or good news if you don’t mind a little proselytizing, will probably save whatever is left of your shriveled soul.
What I have is a money-back guaranteed proven system to being less of a dickbag. This simple system (I know you know all about systems) isn’t guaranteed to get you laid, but it will surely help you avoid getting slapped. Because with my time honored system you will gain something I like to call “empathy”. And it’ll only cost you somewhere between $1.99 and $12.99.
Do I have your attention? I thought I might. My system, as all good systems do, has ten steps.
Are you ready? Get that high annual fee credit card I know you have ready. Out of curiosity, has a woman ever actually been impressed by it at the club? Nevermind. I’m getting off topic. Here we go!
Light a candle. Go buy a candle.
#2) Light candle with your brushed nickel lighter. Mind you, the candle isn’t necessary, and it’s a little sexist and stereotypical to suggest I admit, but I think it’s important to begin any life-changing system with an activity that’s the antithesis of what you typically do. Thus, we’re replacing Axe body spray with a scented candle. Crude yet effective.
#3) Get comfortable. I know it’s hard to do that without spreading your legs to a minimum 45 degree angle, so just this once I’ll encourage you to do so. I trust that since we’re lighting candles you’re hiding out in your own home and thus unlikely to disturb anyone with your spreading. I wouldn’t normally encourage it, but given how many hard things I’m going to ask you to do over the next five hundred words I think a little “comfort item” is necessary.
#4) Log on to your Amazon.com1 account and purchase Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War or another historical romance that catches your fancy. Refer to the comments of this post for other similar titles that might suit the system outlined herein. This is the only cost to you in my guaranteed steel trap lock system.
#5) Read it. I considered leaving step five out as it seems terribly obvious, but you and I both know that copy of the Kama Sutra has been sitting on your coffee table for six years and you’ve never had cause to open it.2
#6) Actually read it. I did not consider leaving this step out. See, The Duchess War is built around the notion of mutual respect. The main character, Minnie, is a retiring sort; always off to the side attempting to go unnoticed. But, the Duke of Clermont takes notice and as much as he would like to be noticed in turn, he accepts Minnie’s reticence. The novel’s conflict isn’t about whether or not the Duke can convince Minnie to love him, or whether Minnie can escape the Duke’s unwanted gaze, but instead about overcoming all the cultural and societal detritus that stands between them. In the end, the novel is about whether or not Minnie and the Duke of Clermont can let themselves love one another.
#7) Consider what that all means. The Duke of Clermont possesses all the societal power in the relationship. As a Duke the law does not apply to him, which Milan demonstrates time and again through his non-romantic actions. He can, for all intents and purposes, force himself on Minnie. In fact, she even likes the Duke quite a bit. He could easily feel that his affections should be rewarded in kind because of their purity of purpose. But, he doesn’t. He doesn’t because he has empathy. He tries to see the world from Minnie’s perspective. He sees that her relative societal weakness imperils their relationship due to the imbalance of power. He recognizes that only through an equal distribution of power can their relationship succeed.
#8) Come to grips with the fact that this doesn’t conform. Look man, I get it. I used to only like shit that validated my world view. I only wanted to consume media that reinforced that I was a special snowflake and that women should be harvested from the field of wheat by the thresher that is my loins. You know what that made me? A narrow minded idiot. I’ve always been a smart guy. You probably are too. But even smart people can be really stupid when they only expose themselves to the things they know. Try something new. Try to see something from someone else’s perspective. You might like the results.
#9) Even if you think my system is full of shit. Even if you think that reading romance won’t make you a better person. Do it anyway. Because romance books are really fucking good. Themes and genres and relationships and empathy aside, a book like The Duchess War are chock full of tension and thrills and character and twists. Even if no one is crossing swords or stabbing each other with prison shanks, well written conflict is exciting conflict. Don’t let a period cover or long haired adonises with better bodies than you discourage you from reading some of the best stuff going.3
#10) Send me a scented thank you note, even if it is with Axe body spray. It’s only polite.
Author’s note: This letter is addressed to dudebros for comedy’s sake. In truth, I’m fully aware that no dudebros read the Book Smugglers. I know there are a lot of people like me who do though. For years I was the guy who read only men. I was the guy who would never read a book with overtly romantic themes. I hope this post might make you reconsider that position.
I’d also love to see the comments of this post full of romances that would be a nice entry point for a new reader. I could use some more recommendations myself. Thanks to Ana and Thea for having me.
Recommend away, folks!
- Or your favorite retailer. I’m assuming you’re a Prime member though. What self-respecting dudebro would be caught without? ↩
- Did you know most of the Kama Sutra is about relationships? ↩
- The secret of step #9 is that it accomplishes steps #1-8 but the dudebro is unaware! Perfect for those of you buying my ten step program as a gift. ↩