The definition of the word is: the quality or state of moral, ethical, legal, or mental accountability; burden.
Writers, as artists, have a responsibility to both entertain and challenge their audience.
Granted, not every work of art will deliver both in equal measures.
But both responsibilities exist, if the artist is one who seeks to challenge themselves, to grow and evolve. There's also the responsibility of quality, which encompasses any number of aspects including subject presentation with sensitivity, authenticity, etc.
There are many variations of audiences, of bodies of work, of genres. And they will grow and evolve, just as the artists who define themselves within any given one. Some will be shed, discarded entirely, or reinvented.
The M/M genre is no different.
It is still functionally in its infancy, an "emerging market" in the publishing industry. Highly dynamic -- extreme expansion, rapid evolution and mutation. These aspects are the standard fare of an emerging market, which is what makes them so volatile.
A risky venture for a stable firm with a proven marketing plan.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
And a chance for a bold move to reap great rewards.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But the one who risks must be ready to be flexible. To change course with little or no forewarning. To keep a finger on the pulse of the market, follow trends and deviations. To do research, not just once or now and then, but constantly.
Just as authors have responsibilities to their audience, so do publishers have responsibilities. Understandable; for both writers and presses, it's a business. It goes beyond that, however.
In a market that addresses the fresh perspectives of the "Alphabet Soup" community, it's imperative that a publishing house, for instance, have a strong measure of sensitivity to the evolution, trends, current events, and socio-cultural attitude and pulse. They need to because it will dictate the reception of their published works. They need to because it helps them market in a fashion that best presents those works to the community intended as the audience. They need to ensure that their offerings are not insensitive to or misrepresenting in some fashion.
These are responsibilities. To their company, to their readership and customers, to the authors they represent, and to the genre and the larger community it is a part of. Make no mistake, these aren't demands. The publisher isn't required to do these things. Except where professional ethics comes into play. Except where moral obligation enters into the equation.
If you're going to do a thing, do it well.
Don't half-ass your way through it. All or nothing.
It goes further. It doesn't end there. There's one more piece in the puzzle.
Writer, publisher... publicity. Reviewers. To wit, high profile reviewing blogs.
In a niche genre market, they have a loud voice. A strong presence. Power. Their rating can make or break a book.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Not my words, they belong to Voltaire.
It is not a matter of demanding this or that of a prominent reviewer, whether that popularity is sought, manipulated, or serendipitous. It is a matter of moral obligation, to have some level of awareness -- through sensitivity, and research, and self-education by whatever means necessary (and isn't the internet a wonderful bastion of contrasts, of information and ignorance, fascinating) -- so that one can grow and evolve along with the market, the niche, the genre, the audience, and the artists that one is representative of.
Ignorance of the law is not protection from it. Nor is ignorance, whether deliberate, willful, malicious, or otherwise, an excuse for vitriol.
Words have power. I'll be the first to attest to that. I am a pagan spiritualist, and I choose my words carefully because I invest intent and passion, honest energy into each and every one.
And that is all there truly is to magic. Focused intent. That is power. With it comes a substantive responsibility. I am aware of that, and thus my great caution.
Would that a greater percentage of humanity did as I do.
"Where were these authors three years ago?"
If one stands still in a volatile market, one is left behind. And blinks, and finds oneself surrounded by the unknown, the unfamiliar, on unsteady ground with no viable plan of action.
Redundant, where "these authors" came from. They're here now, and that is what's important.
A better question to ask would be, where did they come from and where are they going?
Why? Because where there is one, there are more. And where the trends flow, in an emerging market, so goes the market. And if one desires to remain a substantive presence and publicity source in said market, one must maintain a constant vigil.
Such a source has a responsibility--not to the publishers or the authors, but to their audience--to maintain that vigil.
It's more than that, so much more. But here, and now, the focus is responsibility.
Of awareness and accountability. Visibility to the influence one has. And the ramifications of abuse of power.
Welcome to the changing face of M/M.
Or rather, welcome to the evolution of the new M/M.
Where "M" represents... everything.
Where "M" is just a letter. Not a gender representation, or an indication of biological determinism, or a means of segregation and discrimination.
Perhaps instead we should shed all the labels and simply call it what it is: romance, mystery, horror, tentacle!porn, science fiction, speculative fiction, or whatever else it is.
And leave out the edge of morbid fascination for homosexuality, or bisexuality, or any of the rest of it, leave the stories and characters free to do as they wish without rigidity or rules or limitations.
If the labels only encourage a lack of responsibility in the genre, then perhaps the labels should go.