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Is Romance Making Acceptance Inroads in the SF Community

SF Signal, a major internet source for SF books, hosts weekly feature called Mind Meld. This week’s topic was “What’s Your Favorite Sub-genre of SF and/or Fantasy” and SF Signal invited Heather Massey, blogger at The Galaxy Express, to participate. Massey took the opportunity to promote SFR to an audience of SF and F readers.

And there’s nothing like a maelstrom of conflict as the hero and heroine face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, whether from interpersonal misunderstandings or feelings of fierce, stubborn protectiveness about their significant other’s safety. Aren’t Han Solo and Princess Leia, the quintessential science fiction romance couple, known as much for their romantic bickering as for the hot chemistry between them?

Go Heather.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

15 Comments

  1. Val Kovalin
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 13:19:27

    Is Romance Making Acceptance Inroads in the SF Community?

    I hope so! The stereotype would have it that the main consumer in SF/F is the teenage boy demographic but I don’t believe it. Many popular titles in SF/F seemed geared more to women these days than boys. Examples:

    A lot of best-selling urban fantasy these days could be accurately labeled paranormal romance as well (Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series, Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, et cetera).

    Plus, we’ve got fantasy hitting the best-seller list that has elements of historical romance (Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series).

    There is even some m/m fantasy that — if not actually hitting the best-seller list — at least it’s getting published: the Nightrunner series from back in the 1990s by Lynn Flewelling, Melusine by Sarah Monette, the Riverside series by Ellen Kushner from way back.

    So I’d love to see some genre cross-over. Thanks for bringing attention to it with this post.

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  2. Victoria Janssen
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 14:22:32

    I think the crossover really started when Catherine Asaro was president of SFWA and deliberately brought romance and romance markets to the attention of the membership. Also, now that pararnormals are so big, market-wise, there’s a lot of interest from writers who want to cross over. There was an article in the latest SFWA Bulletin about writing paranormals.

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  3. (Jān)
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 16:53:16

    @Val, Flewelling had a new Nightrunner novel come out in June. (She was just one of the guests of honor at Yaoi-con this past weekend too. There was a bookroom that seemed to be pretty hot for the attendees (mostly women, all adults, lots of cross-over between them and the sf communities from what I can tell).)

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  4. Val Kovalin
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 17:53:56

    Terrific!

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  5. Ann Somerville’s Journal : Like hazelnuts and mocha icecream, romance goes with SF
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 19:19:15

    [...] science fiction writers are waking up to the possibility of romance in their genre – or is it romance writers adding science fiction to their [...]

  6. Lisa
    Oct 03, 2008 @ 12:05:26

    Go Heather! Her response on Mind Meld was fantastic — and I have to point out that one of the other people asked for an opinion was Dr. Michio Kaku, a prominent theoretical physicist. That’s some nice company she’s keeping there.

    It’s been a slow-build over about 10 years, but I really do think that we’re on the verge of some great Science Fiction Romance. It doesn’t hurt that Science Fiction itself is mainstreaming with popular culture. Heather goes a great job on her blog of showing SFR’s roots and articulating what’s so wonderful about the sub-genre.

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  7. Kimber An
    Oct 03, 2008 @ 16:43:05

    Woo-hoo, Heather! Go get ‘em, Girl!

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  8. Lynne
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 08:09:00

    Thanks for the tip about that blog! I’ve been a fan of SFR since, like, forever. :-)

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  9. veinglory
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 18:23:00

    The inroads might go better when more romance include real conceptual sci fi rather than staying limited to paranormal and space opera. Other than the Liaden series, romance with hard science content is hard to fond.

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  10. Heather Massey
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 22:09:37

    Thanks for the shout out, Jane! I somehow missed this while DA was in flux recently. I appreciate the show of support here as well as everyone’s kind words about my work aboard The Galaxy Express.

    No one was more surprised than I when John DeNardo of SFSignal extended the invitation. I appreciated just being linked by him to some of my earlier posts. And as Lisa pointed out, there are some prominent industry folk who participate–I was definitely in esteemed company. I have to hand it to John–he scours the whole Internet it seems for a wide variety of articles and posts of interest to the SF/F community. It was refreshing to see that the romance angle was a draw rather than a deterrent.

    On the heels of the Mind Meld feature came another invitation which I can’t officially announce but will very soon. It’ll be another opportunity to make the inroads of which Jane wrote, and I’m very excited about it.

    Veinglory, that’s why I, personally and for the purpose of my blog, widely define science fiction romance. But even the SF authors who include romance in their stories are relatively few. However, I think the new crop from romance publishers is yielding more books with worldbuilding and hard science that is front and center. There’s still room to grow, but science fiction romance is definitely taking a few bold steps.

    I think another key is hard science aspects that are accessible. One thing potential SFR readers can learn from my blog and the comments of visitors such as Lisa Paitz Spindler and Kimber An is which books have accessible speculative elements (if that is why potential readers hesitate to try SFR) or, conversely, which ones offer more of a challenge. If anyone wants to email me for recommendations, please do so: sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com

    There will always be a range of books mixing SF and romance. Sometimes the romance will dominate, sometimes the SF. But if there’s an overall abundance of them from both romance and SF publishers, then there’ll be enough cocktails to satisfy readers no matter what their preferred mix.

    Thanks for reading!

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  11. veinglory
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 10:12:28

    Hard science that is accessible is fine but frankly not what I am after. I think there are a lot of readers who just want hard science that is genuinely believable speculative science (harder!)–and it does not need to be made different from what appears in non-romance sci-fi–just add romance! If any of your recommendations meet that requirement I will buy them on the spot right now with my credit card.

    I find sci fi romance including science that is laughably inaccurate even by today’s standards of knowledge insulting and infuriating. Surely there are enough romance writers out there with a basic understanding of at least the life sciences to write these? Plenty of romance readers have also read Asimov, Von Vogt, Bradbury etc etc and don;’t need anything but to be offered real combinations of sci fi and romance–just at the level of accessibility they currently have. Scientists read romance too.

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  12. Ann Somerville
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 13:39:59

    I find sci fi romance including science that is laughably inaccurate even by today's standards of knowledge insulting and infuriating.

    Amen. One of the things that always stopped me watching Doctor Who is the utter disregard for even pretending there is any ‘science’ in the sci-fi, and nothing jerks me out of a story faster than dumb medicine or dumber science.

    I wonder if this is why paranormals are more popular to write than proper speculative fiction -’ making shit up is so much easier than looking it up. And yet stories with at least a nod at real science can be so much more satisfying and rounded – I really loved how Le Guin had thought through not just the social but the biological implications of her hermaphrodites in Left Hand of Darkness. It gives you a sense of it could really be real, and so it gives you so much more to think about. It’s a bit like the difference between fast food and a proper restaurant meal, at least to me.

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  13. veinglory
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 14:01:29

    I won’t name names but I have been burned by romance set in the future where the biology/medicine was just plain wrong and there were no thought-provoking speculative elements beyond ‘OMG we’ll all own helicopters and have blue skin for no apparent reason’. Given my hit miss rate of about 1:40 (not in terms of quality, just being sci fi with a genuine spec element of note) I kind of gave up.

    But I haev the same problem with paranormals which just ‘make up’, animal biology and ethology. If you want to write a werewolf novel, reading a book about wolves would, IMHO, be a courtesy to the reader. You can make up your mythos but wolves do still remain canids.

    Sorry if I sound terse, but it really bugs me.

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  14. Ann Somerville
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 16:52:34

    I suspect writers know that science bollocks will only upset a very small subset of their audience, and take that risk. Hollywood sins almost all the time and no one gives a damn – look at Outbreak, which you would think would get the basic science right since it’s, um, about a medical disaster, starts off with the infection from an African village being spread by a New World monkey (waddaya mean, capuchin monkeys don’t come from Africa? Monkeys come from Africa, it’s a monkey? What’s the problem?) And then there are all the generic jungle scenes in Africa or South America where the forests ring to the sounds of…gibbons (which only occur in Asia).

    Try watching movies with a primate expert at your side. Dead unfunny, that is.

    But even I got a laugh out of Scully in The X-Files looking for DNA under a light microscope. TV has some really special equipment and the all-seeing, all-powerful light microscope is the most omnipresent.

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  15. Heather
    Oct 07, 2008 @ 19:47:10

    Veinglory, Ann…you’ve given me lots to think about as well as fodder for future posts. I see no reason why the stories you seek can’t be done on a regular basis–the question is who can do it and when will the publishing industry nurture such efforts?

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