When I learned that Felicia Day was running a romance fiction book club called Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, I didn't pay much attention. I'm not exactly the target demographic for romance fiction. What I know about it--the paperbacks with dreamy, scantily-clad models on the cover--doesn't appeal to me. Give me some Modernism or a thick tome of genre fiction and I'm happy. Vaginal Fantasy Book Club has developed into a large community of hybrid romance fans over at the GookReads with close to 6000 members. Each month, they read two titles that straddle the line between romance and fantasy/horror/sci-fi.
The hybrid fiction element is what got me to start watching the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout videos on YouTube. Technically, they're live interactive broadcasts on Google+/YouTube, but they start at 8PM Pacific. That's 11PM here and the last thing I need is another reason to not sleep at night. You can follow along live on Twitter, Google+, or the GoodReads forum and interact with the hosts during the broadcast. It becomes a live, global book club led by four people who actually care about the quality of what they're reading.
Felicia Day, Bonnie Burton, Veronica Belmont, and Kiala Kazebee are having the kinds of conversation about modern genre fiction that I have with my own friends. They're really getting into the text and debating the merits of the books. They talk style, character development, plot, themes, and genre elements in an intelligent but approachable way. They're joking around and still leading a real discussion about books.
The latest episode just got uploaded to YouTube and it's their strongest yet. The main book for September was The Cthulhurotica Anthology from Dagan Books. It's what you think it is: a collection of short stories combining erotic/romantic fiction with the work of H.P. Lovecraft.
Any of the trepidation from the first few videos is gone. They're respectful of the authors, but they're not afraid of being too critical anymore. They go off on natural tangents to explore what helped shape their opinion of the book they're discussing.
In the latest video, the conversation really kicks off after Veronica Belmont asks a series of questions to the group:
"Does all sexuality have to be love-based? Like, does it all have to be romantic? Or can something still be hot but not romantic? Can it be scary and hot? Is that ok? Or does it have to be romance-based?"
Veronica and Bonnie Burton really liked Cthulhurotica Anthology, partly because the story authors were so free with their use of sexuality. Felicia Day and Kiala Kazebee were more disturbed by the content but open to the reading experience.
Yet, as they begin to discuss their favorite moments, you find out they all responded similarly to the stories. It became not a matter of content but preference. The horror book fans were more open to strange content because they were used to it. They were aware that the stories were disturbing but were better equipped to respond to the insanity of Lovecraft fans injecting relations into the Cthulhu Mythos.
Then they started talking about an intentionally (?) bad romance novel about shapeshifting dinosaurs and proceeded to laugh at each other for forty minutes.
One of my favorite things in the world is seeing people get excited about books. That happens all the time in the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout videos. You can obviously join a real life book club for the face to face experience. The vastness of the Internet combined with so many interactive elements allows for much more specialized groups to form. I don't think you can get more specific than romance books for genre fiction fans (or vice versa).
If you want to follow a program/community that has a lot of fun with books, you should join up with the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club crowd. The Hangouts are all archived on the Geek & Sundry YouTube Channel. They also have a dedicated homepage and Google+ page, but most of the activity is at the GoodReads forum.
Here's the latest hangout video. It's worth a try. Do like I do and watch the first few minutes for the introductions/thematic decorations and then treat it like a podcast.
Thoughts? Share them below. Love to hear from you. Me? I have to find a copy of Masters of Crow so I can really start engaging with this group of book fans.