The dreaded MOR is exactly what xina called AAR in a post on this blog last week.

I’ll admit that I knee-jerked to that designation because my head was suddenly filled with visions of Barry Manilow, James Blunt, Bread and other musicians simply too horrible to be named here.  I’ve always hated MOR artists and those radio stations they advertise as perfect for work because they won’t offend anyone because…well, gee, because to me music that doesn’t offend somebody just ain’t real music.

But what xina meant, as she explained later was this:

“Well, middle-of-the-road is perhaps not exactly what AAR is, but I only said that because the site is so diverse.”

Then she went on to add: 

“On AAR there are many opinions, many views. I don’t think we could all agree if we tried, so in that way I think we average out as middle-of-the-road. In other words, I don’t think the opinions are extreme, one way or the other….as a whole.”

Ahhh, now I see.  And for the first time in my life I’m happy to be Middle of the Road because diversity is something we’ve always celebrated.

Let’s start with staff.  We’ve got a college student, teachers, lawyers, an ad copywriter, fashionistas, not-so-fashionistas – young, not so young, and every age in between.  The perspective that Jane, our university student, brings to a book is far different than that of Ellen, a long-time college library staffer and instructor.  We’ve got Democrats and Republicans who, not surprisingly, have different points of view on many things.  We’ve even got reviewers who live in Germany, Trinidad, and New Zealand.

When it comes to the publishers, we are equally diverse.  Blythe, Rachel, Lynn and I have discovered in the six months we’ve been working together to run the site, that, while we may disagree on little things, on the big issues we share the same vision about where we want to take AAR.

Still, bottom line?  When it comes to staff, there simply is no singular voice.  Not even close.

And then there are the message boards where readers rule the roost.   For many regulars, the boards are the heart and soul of the site where they connect with other readers to get recommendations, bitch, kvetch, and share the joys of romance reading. 

But, unlike blogs – including the two right here at AAR – readers aren’t limited to reacting to a set topic and the point of view of the blogger.

At our site, readers control the discussion and I think they like it that way. And I’ll take it a step further to say that I’d bet that many of them just aren’t that interested in simply reacting to a stated position by a blogger.  And that includes the AAR blogs.

And, despite the fact that I regularly write for both blogs, I’m perfectly fine with that.  Great, as a matter of fact.

When Laurie Gold founded AAR more than 10 years ago, she did so in direct reaction to the Cult of Nice.  Along with The Romance Reader and the awesome (and enduring) Mrs. Giggles, Laurie set a table in which the romance genre was held up to the light (sorry – poor inside joke) without those Nice Girl shackles.  Though there have been more than a few flame wars along the way – including some that rightfully achieved legendary status – AAR has always been a bastion of free speech where all voices are welcome.

And Laurie wasn’t afraid to take a stand either.  She stood up to plagiarism, authors who turned their back on the genre that made them a success, and censorship by Wal-Mart to name just a few of the issues tackled by none other than MOR AAR.

We have a proud history here and, every once in a while, we should remember it and take a lesson or two from Laurie’s courage and willingness to fight for what she believes is right.

Though much has changed through the years – and in the past six months – the important stuff hasn’t.  All readers are welcome.  All voices can be heard.  And if that makes AAR Middle of the Road, well, then color me happily mainstream.

Just don’t make me listen to Bread.  Please.

-Sandy AAR