We’re very pleased to have one of the Smart Bitches’, Sarah Wendell, as our guest today on the ball. She’s the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels a tongue-very-much-in-cheek guide for anyone who is curious as to why romance novels are so popular, and for anyone who adores the genre and is tired of taking crap for it. From the deeper meanings of heroine archetype and heroic flaws, to the deeper meanings of deeper meanings, Beyond Heaving Bosoms looks at the best and the most bizarre elements of the romance novel genre with affectionate, honest style.
In a literal sense, the wildlife I encounter vary from my zoo of rescue animals (four cats, an elderly dog, and a tank full of fish) to the squirrels that move into my roof no matter what we do to stop them. Every now and again I’ll see a turkey or some deer while driving north into Connecticut, but aside from the neighbor’s cat and the 50 lb. groundhog that lives in the garden (seriously, he’s huge), I don’t encounter a lot of wildlife.
In the internet sense, there’s plenty of wildlife. Online, I think we’re all “wildlife,” especially because of the ways in which we watch one another and sometimes interact. Most of what goes on for an individual using the computer is observation – reading, viewing videos, looking for something, looking for someone, or receiving some weird-ass piece of wtf-ery on Facebook from someone you went to first grade with.
One of the reasons scientists study wildlife is to observe over long periods of time how different animals adapt to their environments, or force their environments to adapt to them. Certainly that’s true of the internet, and I personally love to look at all the ways in which women – an underrepresented demographic despite the fact that we buy more electronics than men – use technology, particularly the internet, to adapt to their needs. Whatever the topic, from parenting to cooking to caring for aging parents to sharing favorite tv shows, women use the internet to connect with other people and information on their time schedules when its convenient for them, using whichever method is best for their lives, whether it’s RSS readers, email, or social networking sites. That’s a whole lot of adaptation and empowerment wrapped up in a motherboard and an internet connection.
As Candy and I pointed out in one of the first interviews we did, you can never underestimate the power of the internet to unite individuals with similar interests, no matter how bizarre or unique those interests may seem to anyone else. For example: romance novels. On our site and on many other blogs and bulletin boards devoted to romance, readers from around the world – literally – connect to talk about specific books, larger themes, and why on earth mullets are still on the covers as a feature of the masculine ideal.
As we study one another’s opinions and evaluate one another based on similar likes and dislikes, values and judgments, we are also evaluated. We are the wildlife investigators, looking for defining characteristics in the folks around us, and we are at the same moment the wildlife itself, observed by others. Some people rarely comment or participate, but visit and read every day, watching and observing through reading. But even if they don’t say anything, even if they lurk (and I’m a lurker just about everywhere else I go), their presence makes them part of the wildlife.
That presence, with or without participation, is self-defining. As E.M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” Maybe a person types out their own opinion. Maybe someone recognizes herself in another person’s idea. Regardless of the method, through and within the communities we choose, we learn to define ourselves. Online interaction gives varied individuals with diverse opinions (i.e. us) a place to figure out in context what and how we are. So in effect, interacting with the international wildlife of the internet not only makes the other folks a little less “wild” and a lot more familiar, but it also allows us to identify ourselves. Hi. I’m Sarah. I really like romance novels. Nice to meet you.