It started with the release of Lauren Willig’s Garden Intrigue, an amazing book that switched back and forth between historical and contemporary—perhaps the very last place to find a Star Wars reference. But there was one.
It wasn’t something I really thought about again until June. After seeing Brad Paisley’s geektastic concert at Jones Beach, a country music show peppered with more references to science fiction movies and anime than a person could shake a stick at, I read Virginia Kantra’s Carolina Home. It was a lovely contemporary set in the Carolinas that created a firm foundation for a family series. And yet, for the second time in one month, for the third time that year, I came across an unexpected Star Wars reference. That made me think. The bottom line was that neither the Kantra nor the Willig were marketed to an audience that would be assumed to have the basis to understand Star Wars references. And yet there they remained, untouched.
It was food for thought until October. Because on a table in the middle of the Marvel booth at this years New York Comic Con, there were three different comics. One of them was a comic that was co-produced with Benefit, the cosmetics company. The content was discussed all over the universe, with strong voices on both sides of the debate. But it was there: Marketing comic books to people who up until that point, would never have been considered a target audience for comic books. And at the same time, marketing makeup to people who stereotypes insist wouldn’t be interested in it. Especially not to the degree that spending money on benefit cosmetics would require.
As if that wasn’t enough, while reading rapidly through my TBR pile by flashlight during Hurricane Sandy, I came across yet another contemporary romance with an unexpected Star Wars reference—an entry in Susan Mallery’s long running Fool’s Gold series, published last September, Only Yours is the story of the third and final Hendrix triplet. Yet another title marketed to an audience that wouldn’t be expected to understand, or even accept, a Star Wars reference. Yet there it was.
Multiple Star Wars references in contemporary romances and Country Music could all be explained away by the idea that Star Wars is becoming a cultural touchstone in the same way that The Godfather did. Instead of guns and cannolis, we’re becoming a culture that communicates with references to light sabers, wookies, ewoks, jedi and millennium falcons. But that doesn’t explain the marketing of Benefit's cosmetics.
In late September, Harlequin’s Blaze line published the first category contemporary set in the world of video game fandom. Living the Fantasy by Kathy Lyons is about a young woman who agrees to be a model in the launch for a video game. The hero is the CEO of a video game company. A central sequence takes place at Dragon*Con, Atlanta’s annual science fiction/fantasy/comic/gaming convention. Geek related references are constant, as is the amazing entirely contemporary romance.
So what does this all mean? I’d like to think that the romance genre is helping to promote the idea that female geekery is much more mainstream than it’s ever been before. What do you think? No matter what, may you have a fabulous 2013, whether it is filled with geekery…or not.
Stacey Agdern, @nystacey