I have always been a shipper, and will always proudly admit to that. My first reading experience was manga such as Detective Conan – where I began rooting for Shinichi and Ran to get together, even at the tender age of 6. Similarly, I became overly invested in the mysterious and thrilling romance between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask. It seems that whenever I care about a work of fiction, my emotional investment lead me to root for these characters and their relationships.
While I agree that romance should not be the be all and end all of either fiction or real life, I simply enjoy that part of my reading experience. So, when I noticed that there’s a trend to condemn the proliferation of romance in young adult fiction and beyond, it makes me sad-face a little. I want to dedicate a post to why I enjoy seeing romance in fiction!
1. It Keeps The Fandom Alive
There’s nothing more agonising than the wait between books when you’re reading a series, but fandom make the wait less painful. In general, I find that it’s the shippers that plow on most passionately, whether they’re creating fanart, writing fanfiction or just plain shouting out their love for the book on twitterverse.
I recently finished A Court of Mist and Fury – and I am dying to get the next book. Meanwhile though, I am still getting to relive the book by seeing gorgeous fanart (have you seen this one by Charlie Bowater? Or these by Phantom Rin?) and reading discussions on tumblr. I like that fandom with its shippers allow me to re-experience the books without having to reread it (I totally reread it via Audible though *shameless fangirl*)
I also recall my time in the Bleach manga fandom as a shipper – where my love for Ichigo/Rukia as a pairing was pretty much the only thing that kept me reading the series. While we waited between chapters, there were many extensive discussions about character arcs and motivation stemming from the idea of their possible romance. Shipping is not all mindless fangirling, I don’t think I would have speculated and wondered so much about these individual characters without these lengthy talks.
2. It Draws You To A Book
I admit that my intention to read The Raven Cycle one day mainly stem from my curiousity about the good ship Pynch – the fans are just so passionate about it. Similarly, I was only drawn to continue reading Throne of Glass despite my misgivings about the first book due to the overwhelming love the fandom had for its many ships and for Celaena. Sure, the shipping war might get out of hand at times (as it did over the last week on Twitter D:) – but ultimately, the passion and creativity in the vast majority of fans drew me into the world again.
There are also certain tropes that I enjoy seeing in fiction, many of them are romantic ones. See my previous post on which they are HERE. Within the last month, I acquired and plan to read both Radiance and Ruined due to the promise of the arranged marriage plot. Swoon!
3. It Means You’re Invested In The Characters
In my opinion, readiness for readers to start shipping people in your book or show is a mark that your characters have enough depth for people to care about. Personally, for me to enjoy a ship, I have to enjoy each of the characters individually, as well as they way in which they interact. Even in books where romance was not the intended outcome between two characters, the chemistry between well-developed interactions could lead to fans putting their shipper goggles on and continue with their merry way. You only have to look at the plethora of Draco/Hermione or Sam/Dean fanfiction out there to concede that this is true.
There’s also the spin off to this, where people become devoted to friendships or other platonic or familial relationships instead of a romantic one. E.g. In my heart of heart, my one true ship in Game of Thrones is Stark/Winterfell, there must always be a Stark in the North, damn it!
4. It Connects Me To Other Fans
Although I am friends with plenty of people who have different viewpoints to myself when it comes to shipping- I think being fans of fellow ships have allowed me to discover so many new friends. For example, after my wallpaper posts of the Six of Crow pairings, I found so many Kaz/Inej devotees like myself, and I could not be happier.
There’s also that bliss of sharing your favourite quotes and moments between an OTP that only shippers can understand and support one another in. It draws out the creativity in so many fans – in the form of both art, fanfiction, fan graphics and even fan videos – these go on to fuel the fandom by drawing in new consumers of the work of fiction. So inane shipping wars? They’re a small price to pay for the overwhelming amount of great things that shippers can accomplish.
Again, I want to stress that wanting to find a book that is devoided of romance is not a bad thing at all – some of my favourite reads this year are completely devoided of romance (see: A Tale For The Time Being and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August). However, I dislike seeing romance and shippers being dismissed as silly, or dramatic, or even as instigators of fandom wars. Unfortunately, there will always be discourse when you have a large group of people mixing their viewpoint on a common topic. Nonetheless, we should remember that shipping definitely has its place in the fandom – and to remember about the good stuff ships can do before dismissing the whole lot as crazy fangirl talk.
What about you? How important is shipping and romance to your own reading experience?