…that appears to be the question in m/m fiction.
I’ve noticed a predominance in contemporary m/m fiction for stories with lots of angst. I’m personally not a great fan of angst. I understand that any good story has some angst in it. Romantic tales are so much more powerful with the inclusion of an anti-happiness theme. So angst definitely has its place in romance fiction, as it does in real romance. I’m only questioning the levels. More than any other type of romance, m/m fiction is saturated with angst. And, in many cases, these books are very popular.
So it leaves me wondering, does the market inspire all these angsty tomes…or is the demand more organic in nature? There’s no question, gay romance is of a fashion right now. The gay lifestyle is experiencing a wider acceptance than ever before. But like any other concept fighting for acceptance in society, gay romance still bears the scars of that battle. For the human animal, part of healing is tied up in uber-examination of that which wounded us. I think that’s the organic part of how gay romance is portrayed. As writers, we feel the need to reflect and explore those old wounds. Besides, it can make for great stories.
The market side is less explainable and probably more fickle. Today’s angsty smash hit will most likely be tomorrow’s, “meh” moment. It’s the way of things in the fiction world. But that’s okay. By its very nature, humankind is in a constant state of evolution, each of us evolving at different times in our lives and with different levels of intensity. That’s why fiction can remain popular for decades and even centuries.
And the good news is, like fashion (think bell-bottom pants and tie-die, bleurgh!), if we absolutely hate a current trend we can rest assured that it will pass. And if we love it we know it will come around again!