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GUEST POST: Alien Heroes: Too Strange For Romance Readers?

Touched By An AlienRomance readers can pick and choose from a wide selection of heroes, but despite our need for variety, are there certain kinds we’ll avoid no matter the circumstances? That question came to mind recently upon reading a comment at my blog and I’d like to get your input on the issue.

Author Linnea Sinclair shared that “…my agent feels *romance* readers won’t go with…a non-human hero…” Ms. Sinclair is an author of science fiction romance (Games of Command; Finders Keepers; Gabriel’s Ghost) so the “non-human hero” in that context refers to alien heroes.

My hackles went on red alert when I learned about this agent’s perception that alien heroes hold zero appeal for romance readers. Does this agent know something about my tastes of which I’m unaware, even though I’ve clearly indicated my interest in such heroes? I felt dismayed at the news, yet at the same time determined to analyze what the agent really meant.

First, I’d like to address the concept of alien heroes themselves. These characters have deep roots in science fiction. We generally associate the word “alien” with “little green men.” Or Greys. Or the vicious alien from…Alien. Usually those dudes are bent on attacking Earth and other general mayhem.

So, if by “non-human” Linnea Sinclair’s agent means little green men, Bug Eyed Monsters, or zoomorphic aliens such as giant insects or reptiles, then yeah, end of discussion! That’d be a challenging romance to pull off even in a science fiction story.

In addition to the alien hero’s form, there are other obstacles for alien-human romances, and sex is at the top of the list. Here are a few of the biological ones courtesy of Deborah J. Ross’ Sex in Space: How Do We Manage To Do It?:

Sex with aliens

Requires a bare minimum of “complementary” anatomy. Also faith that alien sexual practices do not lead to unexpected consequences, confusion of expectations if species has more than 2 genders, black-widow-spider syndrome. Offspring very unlikely even with genetic engineering. Alien physiology almost certainly radically different from terrestrial, evolved under different condition, different DNA, proteins, amino acids, cells, etc.

Despite those obstacles, plenty of authors have written science fiction romances featuring alien heroes. There are ways to transform alien heroes to increase appeal and align them with romance genre conventions. They include but aren’t limited to:

* shapeshifting aliens

* genetic engineering

* humanoid/half-human alien heroes (e.g., Spock)

* virtual reality

Let me ask you something about the image below:

Nosferatu

Do you think Nosferatu is sexy? Is this the type of vampire you envision as a paranormal romance hero?

Let’s assume for the moment that you don’t. :) Paranormal romance authors knew better than to offer readers a Nosferatu-style hero. Instead, they transformed the classic monster into a more relatable and sexier character.

Europa EuropaSci-fi romance authors have been taking a similar approach with alien heroes. Some have more alien qualities than others, for example, the ones from Europa, Europa by KS Augustin, Celestial Seduction by Jessica E. Subject, Forbidden Love by Kay Manro, and Stellarnet Rebel by J.L. Hilton.

On the other end of the spectrum are the humanoid aliens. In the case of Martini from Gini Koch’s Touched by an Alien, for example, the hero is human in appearance but has different internal organs. Humanoid alien heroes are common in SFR. Often they’re enhanced in some way, such as with psychic abilities, super strength, or unusual genitalia.

It’s clear that non-human heroes of the sci-fi kind appeal to some readers, whether the heroes in question are fantastical or plausible in nature. Otherwise, no one would be publishing them.

On the other hand, could the agent be onto something? Since alien heroes have such strong science fiction roots and a heavy association with non-sexy, non-heroic characters, are they unappealing to romance readers no matter how authors transform them?

Another possibility is authors haven’t created just the right kind of alien hero who would hold a wider appeal (and make promotion easier for marketing departments). What, exactly, is the core fantasy behind an alien hero? How similar or different is it from the type of fantasy delivered by vampire heroes?

What ultimately bothered me about the agent’s assumption is the idea that romance readers will never change. It’s assumed that readers—painted with a broad brush—will always like one type of hero and never another. Tastes won’t change. Culture won’t change. The romance genre won’t change.

What do you think?

***

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

If you have an idea for a guest post, please email [email protected]  She loves to host your thoughts and opinions about anything tangentially related to romance books.

Guest Reviewer

63 Comments

  1. Pamela
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 05:56:56

    I’ve never read sci-fi romance but I definitely would if the right book came along, which for me usually means one with good reviews. I think that the analogy to vampire heroes is a good one. They are sexy with a major edge of danger and excitement. I also think that aliens, like vampires, make good heroes because so often romance heroes act nothing like the human men many of us are familiar with even when they are written as human. When they aren’t human, certain traits & behaviors, sexual and otherwise, make more sense in a way.

  2. library addict
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 06:23:34

    I’ve read a fair amount of sci-fi romance where both the hero and heroine were aliens (albeit still humanoids) from other planets and where the hero is an alien but the heroine is from Earth. I have no issues with the hero being an alien. It’s the hero as a vampire that I dislike and those certainly seem to still sell well.

    I think the number of female sci-fi fans is still undervalued. To me I just want a good story regardless if it is set in Regency England, modern day Russia, or somewhere in space.

  3. Eve Langlais
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 07:22:56

    Hmmm, well as an author with two alien romance series with a strong following, I’d have to politely disagree with the agent’s assessment. My alien stories sell as well and in some cases better than my paranormal ones. While some readers new to my work have expressed disbelief in alien heroes that are very humanoid in aspect, fans of sci-fi romance seem to love the idea that compatible life exists out there. I should also note the abduction theme is especially popular. I think it all boils down to individual reader tastes and fantasies. I, for one, intend to keep writing sci-fi alien romance, not just because the demand is there, but because I just plain enjoy them lol. :)

  4. Jane Lovering
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 07:25:58

    I’m less interested in the ‘action of romance’ (the what goes where etc) but on what is going on in the characters’ heads while they are falling in love. I write, and have no problem with, vampires as heroes, after all, they were human once. But how can we ‘get inside’ the head of an alien? He has very different experiences, hugely different psychology – his motivations will not be those of a human male… I think of characters such as The Doctor (in the series Doctor Who?). He is hundreds of years old, has seen terrible things, fought creatures we know nothing about, and, although he has humanity, he is NOT HUMAN. His desires are not ours, what drives him is something we cannot guess at.
    I need to identify with my heroine and also, to some extent, with the hero. And if I can’t, if he is sufficiently alien, than how can I fall for him? And if he isn’t – then why bother writing him as an alien at all?

  5. Anne
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 07:40:53

    I enjoy a good SF Romance. I think an alien hero isn’t that much different than a vampire, werewolf, faerie, elf, etc hero that many readers accept in their paranormal romance. I agree with Jane Lovering, above. It’s very interesting to me to get inside the head of a character that’s different in some fundamental way. I love reading the story of two people falling in love. I don’t care if there’s instant attraction or not, it’s working through the internal conflict to figure out how they can be happy together forever that I really enjoy.

  6. Cindy
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 07:53:34

    Some of my favorite books fall in the futuristic/sci fi romance category. As long as the hero is humanoid and the story is good, I’m all over it.

  7. wikkidsexycool
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 08:38:26

    So, while many readers can love a vampire who drinks blood and is one of the walking undead, or a fuzzy werebeast with a barbed you know what (which is supposed to heighten sex, though it sounds painful to me) or even a zombie with rotting skin as a potential love interest, they somehow can’t get into an alien? I dunno. But I’ll find out since I’m working on a couple of “enhanced” males for my scifi novels :)

  8. Isobel Carr
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:06:05

    I grew up reading SFF, and those books are chockablock full of romance between humans and aliens (and other non-humans).

  9. hapax
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:12:32

    Wow.

    What a strange, strange comment.

    For the record, I love SFR — and my biggest beef with the subgenre is when the aliens *aren’t* alien, just standard-issue humans with pointy ears or purple hair or whathaveyou.

    Although, I must admit, my favorite trope is the “alien” is of basic human stock, but slightly genetically diverged due to isolation and time; that way, one doesn’t have to deal too much with the physical compatibility problem*, while delving deep in too VERY incompatible (at least at first) cultures / ways of thinking.

    *For a good example of intelligently dealing with the whole “viable offspring” issue, I’d offer up Doris Egan’s GATES OF IVORY series.

  10. Ren
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:18:27

    Maybe it’s just me, but the agent’s comment comes across like an extension of the old “romance readers are too delicate to handle ‘otherness’” chestnut used to justify the ubiquitous able-bodied WASP protagonist.

    Storytellers have a long and glorious history of attributing human emotions to all manner of non-human creatures, and audiences eat it up. Any writer with a modicum of skill should have no trouble making a reader believe an inhabitant of Omicron Persei 8 is as deserving of love and has as much love to give as a human mechanic in Newark or a human billionaire in Monaco.

    The embedded message here seems to be “romance writers don’t have any skill,” which is a super attitude for an author’s representative to have.

  11. Sugardragon
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:30:45

    I wonder if that agent is related to my local librarian when I was a kid? An older lady who didn’t think science fiction or fantasy was “ladylike” and kept trying to push me into the romance aisles, or better yet the classics.

    (I wonder if the poor old dear was ever clued in to the fact that romances of the 70s were not the romances of her youth and were very inappropriate (and very interesting) to my 12 year old self.) Oh, and I love those alien heros.

  12. MaryK
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:34:37

    Ann Aguirre has an alien supporting character in her Sarantha Jax novels and IIRC readers really wanted him to have a romance. I can’t remember his name but he’s a mantis type alien who can appear humanoid.

  13. Pamela
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 10:10:31

    Now I am totally going to read a story with an alien hero. I am typically a reader of historical romance and a fan of the likes of Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Elizabeth Hoyt, to name a few faves. Given that, what would be the best place to start?

  14. mari
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 10:11:56

    Heat by R. Lee Smith, reviewed by Jane here last year, has not one but two alien heroes. This is a romance that breaks all the rules, in terms of likability of the hero, but was one of the best, most disturbing romances, I have read in a looooong time. For those wanting a true alien along the lines the monster from Alien, read this one. And yes, it is a romance., with a HEA….but imagine what a HEA would be for a monster, and you have this book.

  15. Carolyn Jewel
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 10:23:24

    Um. Ms. Sinclair and I have the same agent and my paranormals feature non-human heroes

    All I can say is I think the agent in question has been misquoted. This is simply not reflective in any way of my experience with my agent. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of non-human heroes.

  16. Robyn Bachar
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 10:47:21

    I never really thought about it, but I assume that I was influenced by Star Trek. After watching Captain Kirk and Commander Riker boldly go where no man had gone before, it’s strange to me when the aliens can’t be love interests. Isn’t the “we’re all different, yet we can still find TRUE LURVE!” of it all part of the appeal?

  17. Dani Worth
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 10:48:49

    I love reading about alien heroes. I even write some in my space opera menage series. So far, they are all humanoid, though. ;)

  18. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:03:22

    @library addict:

    >the number of female sci-fi fans is still undervalued

    Agreed. But it’s a challenge connecting them with alien hero books because it’s not like they’re all sitting together in a room somewhere. Except maybe at Hall H during San Diego Comic-Con, heh.

  19. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:11:34

    @Eve Langlais:

    Do you think heat level makes a difference in terms of sales? In other words, if agents are going to consider taking on books with alien heroes, would spicier heat levels increase the chances of mainstream print publishers buying them?

    >My alien stories sell as well and in some cases better than my paranormal ones

    Interesting! And also interesting about abduction scenarios. What’s the fantasy behind that, do you think? “Alien abduction” brings to mind anal probes and such–not sexy in the clinical sense. But from what you say it seems like authors are reinventing the mythology.

  20. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:14:04

    @Jane Lovering:

    That is the conundrum. How can authors achieve just the right mix? Which elements constitute a good balance for alien heroes in order to meet genre expectations?

  21. Iris
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:14:07

    Give me a good alien hero (be he humanoid or alien-alien) any day. I’m all for them!

    Just last week I’ve finished Lyn Gala’s “Claimings, tails and other alien artifacts” and it was great! While being m/m and containing BDSM themes, so it’s not for everyone, it featured a true alien: bipedal and looking human from afar but having a truly alien outlook, culture and biology, well, and a tail (love a tail, I do).

    Some of my other favourites (true alien or humanoid) are:
    all of Linnea Sinclair’s books
    Jules Jones’ “First Footer”
    Barbara Karmazin’s “Huntress” and “On the edge of time”
    Grace Draven’s “Arena”
    Judy Mays’ “Celestial Passions – Brianna” (a tail!)
    Kaitlyn Connor’s “Below” (great merman book, before her work became just smut)
    Kate Douglas “Lionheart” (early days that one)
    KS Augustin’s books though they are a bit short
    Lanette Curington’s “Starkissed” (stranded on a planet with an alien)
    Laura Baumbach’s “Details of the hunt” (though I’m divided on that one)
    LF Hampton’s “Winged victory”
    Linda Mooney’s “Runner’s Moon – Jerebal” (liked the first in the series best)
    Lyn Gala as mentioned above
    MA Everaux’s “The claiming of Moira Shine” (why is there no print version???)
    Morgan Hawke’s Interstellar Service & Discipline books and some others (she’s a goddess)

    I’m sure I’ve overlooked several books when I just went through my files but these are the one that stuck out.

    However, to get back to the point: yes, I like alien heros but I also like humans and werewolves (not for the tails here) and vampires and dragons and well, practically everyone. Give me a good story and choices and I’ll be willing to at least look into the book.

  22. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:18:28

    @Isobel Carr:

    > those books are chockablock full of romance between humans and aliens

    True, but how many of the romances are the main plot vs a secondary plot? You raise a good point, though. Makes me wonder–would an agent feel more confident about her ability to sell a romantic SF with an alien hero than a romance with an alien hero? (I’m sure it depends on the agent to some extent.)

  23. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:20:05

    @hapax:

    >my favorite trope is the “alien” is of basic human stock, but slightly genetically diverged due to isolation and time

    I’d love to read more stories like that, myself. Thanks for the book rec!

  24. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:24:05

    @Ren:

    I also got the sense that gatekeepers are trying to “protect” me from content I don’t want protection from. But I also detected a fear that the risk of an alien hero SFR was too great, financially. Yet another reason I thank the stars for ebooks, small press, epubs, and indie authors so I can get my fix.

  25. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:25:49

    @MaryK:

    >IIRC readers really wanted him to have a romance

    I would be one of those readers, LOL!

    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2009/04/bug-eyed-monsters-in-love.html

  26. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:47:14

    @Carolyn Jewel:

    >my paranormals feature non-human heroes

    Key word being “paranormals.” (I’m assuming by “paranormals” that you’re referring to supernatural/horror based heroes.)

    One can be supportive of non-human heroes but business decisions still have to be made. Just because an agent likes alien heroes doesn’t mean she’ll like every client book that includes them. Or can sell them.

    Obviously, the market currently supports supernatural based heroes more than alien heroes. But if there’s no difference between alien heroes and paranormal heroes (and the fantasies they offer), why don’t we encounter more of them in mainstream print books?

    In my post I touched upon three possibilities:

    * readers want them but gatekeepers are withholding them because of the financial risk
    * authors aren’t creating viable alien heroes
    * readers don’t want them because no amount of reinvention will make them appealing to a wider audience

    Maybe there are other reasons and/or the answer is a mix of various things.

  27. cleo
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:58:26

    What an interesting post. I think a better comparison for me is different types of fey or faerie, instead of vampires (who used to be human as Jane Lovering says), because they’re more obviously OTHER. They also have the problem of mostly being immortal, which can make it hard for me to by an HEA with a human (I do prefer hfn endings for this type of pairing). But I’ve read some successful, believable romances between a human and different magical species (selkies, goblins, misc fey etc), so I think it could be done with an alien. And I’d read it.

  28. Heather Massey
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 14:05:06

    @Pamela:

    >Now I am totally going to read a story with an alien hero.

    I salute your interest!

    Iris posted a wealth of titles down thread from your comment:

    http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/guest-post-alien-heroes-too-strange-for-romance-readers/#comment-510729

    Given the historical romance titles you mentioned I’m going to tentatively suggest DARKSHIP THIEVES by Sarah H. Hoyt. Technically the hero is a genetically enhanced human but for all intents and purposes he’s an alien/humanoid type of hero. The heat level is sweet, though, so if you’re looking for steamier let me know. Or you an email me at sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com and we could discuss possibilities.

  29. Rachel Leigh Smith
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 14:57:45

    I’m writing alien heroes in romance, so obviously I’m okay with it. I find it endlessly fascinating, to be honest. My aliens are humanoid, but there are visible differences and it’s easy to tell who’s an alien by looking at them. Naturally they’re compatible with humans and one day I’d like to go back in time to when humans and my race first meet and find the very first cross-species romance in my world where they go through all the trials of finding out if they’re compatible physically and won’t produce horrible monsters.

    I find it a very intriguing way to explore relationship constructs. One thing I’m bringing out in my current WIP is how to my alien hero, the humans around him are the aliens. He’s going to Earth for the first time and he’s less then thrilled about it.

  30. Tamara Hogan
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 15:03:04

    At the risk of being all promo-whorish, my Underbelly Chronicles series features creatures of extra-planetary origin whose ancestors’ spaceship crashed to Earth several thousand years ago. They’ve lived quietly among us, under humanity’s radar, ever since. Check out my website if you’d like more info.

    And hell, yeah – I LOVE alien heroes.

  31. MarieC
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 15:48:40

    @MaryK:

    I was thinking of this series too. The character’s name is Vel.

  32. Fiona McGier
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 15:59:04

    I think that agent’s c0mments are indicative of why there has been such a proliferation of books self-published and published by small houses with no agents required. Readers are endlessly different, and just because a reader enjoys romance doesn’t mean that reader can be pigeon-holed into only liking/not liking what the agent is able to sell to big publishers.

  33. Estara
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 16:50:12

    One of my favourite male romantic interests from my reads last year was an alien. Actually of the bodysnatcher type. And since that is one of the bigger twists in the book I can’t tell you which book it is *sigh*.

  34. Andrea
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 17:02:17

    Agent needs to spend some quality time playing “Mass Effect”.

  35. Berinn Rae
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 18:28:23

    I love me some SFR. Susan Grant’s books first hooked me on SFR (but I loved SFF all my life) and Gena Showalter’s Alien Huntress series is also fabulous.

  36. hapax
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 19:25:11

    Just want to remind all my fellow Science Fiction Romance fans of this list: http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2010/05/what-are-must-read-science-fiction.html
    (which I believe I first saw linked on this very blog)

    They aren’t all “alien” romances, of course, but a number of them are. I haven’t read all of them, but I’ve read more than half of them, and a lot of them are on my Desert Island Keepers shelf.

  37. Diana
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 20:39:16

    @Andrea: You stole my comment! Haha. :) But, right?! For anyone interested, just google “Garrus Vakarian” or “Thane Krios”. You can have a romance with them in the Mass Effect video game series. They have pretty big fanbases of people who love/obsess over them. They’re also not totally just regular humans with different skin colors. One is reptilian and the other looks like a bird/kitten cross-mix.

    I just think it’s weird, though. If people can do werewolves or vampires or fairies or whatever, why not aliens? There have been numerous alien/human romances published at this point, too, by SFR authors. So…?? Someone is obviously buying these books, ergo there is a market there. I get that there is this perception of “romance” readers as staid, conservative individuals who clutch their pearls, constantly, at the merest suggestion of anything that’s NOT a Greek billionaire force seducing his virgin secretary, but… I think maybe it’s time to revisit that stereotype.

  38. Ros
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 21:20:11

    I was going to bypass this post because I don’t really read SF at all. And then I remembered the TV series Roswell. And, okay, I totally bought the human/alien romances going on there. So maybe I could be tempted after all…

  39. Ann Somerville
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 21:33:30

    “So, if by “non-human” Linnea Sinclair’s agent means little green men, Bug Eyed Monsters, or zoomorphic aliens such as giant insects or reptiles, then yeah, end of discussion! That’d be a challenging romance to pull off even in a science fiction story.”

    Eh, been there, done that. It’s not that hard ;) I mean, a reader described one of my heroes as looking like a yeti, and yet that book did pretty well. And the one with a giant cat as half of the pairing, is pretty much my best selling self-pubbed book.

    It’s all about the characterisation, and the emotions. Someone I knew wrote a credible and moving love scene between a human and a giant crustacean. Worked beautifully. She hasn’t attempted to get it published so far as I know, but there would be no reason not to try.

  40. Indigo Grace
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 22:03:55

    @Diana:

    Thanks so much for bringing up Garrus and Thane from Mass Effect. The ability to romance Garrus is my favorite part of that games series. In fact, I wanted much more than they gave us. He may be a reptile/dinosaur-bird looking alien, but he’s sexy and funny and charismatic. He has killer blue eyes that stare right through you and a deep sub-harmonic resonant voice. And his awkwardness about all things romantic is endearing.
    It’s the character that we fall in love with. Sure the biology can make it a challenge, do that parts fit, do they react to each other’s pheromones the right way etc… But if we can fall for paranormal creatures, there’s no reason why we can fall for a well-designed alien creature.

  41. Merrian
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 22:15:10

    @MaryK: I was thinking of the Sirantha Jax series as I read the post. Because while Sirantha loves March she cannot be with him and it is the alien Vel who is insectoid with a chitinous exoskeleton, is her soul mate. Part of Vel’s backstory is the love he had with a human woman Adele too.

    @Iris I was also going to recommend the Lyn Gala m/m book “Claimings, tails and other alien artefacts” as having a truly alien partner

    There is also Ann Somerville’s m/m “I was an alien cat toy” which doesn’t have an HEA but is a love story.

    I think there is an interesting thread in alien love stories that asks what makes us love/is love? Yes we are embodied beings but is love always embodied?

  42. ari
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 22:45:44

    I read mainly SF/F (and fanfiction for SF/F fandoms), because I really enjoy different/alien cultures/concepts/etc. My main problem with a lot of SF romance is that the worldbuilding/alien culture and similar background stuff are more neglected, and that often, the characterization doesn’t work for me, usually because they’re just humans with various bits added on. Not liking the characters is a problem I have with most romances I’ve tried – very few books work for me, even tho I’d like to read more.

    So, as much as I’d like have more romance SF/F, I’ve learned that I’m happier to take SF/F with a bit of romance in it, than romance with a bit of SF/F.

    This is a case where fanfiction can hit just what I like much better than pro novels can (also, if I try something and it sucks, at least it was free).

  43. AnnaM
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 08:48:48

    I read mostly SF or SFR. I don’t really like bug-alien sex but I don’t mind if the hero is an alien if he’s at least humanoid.

    I do think that a lot of authors write such distant future or advanced society stories that some of the obstacles relating to physiology could be overcome by then.

    Oh, and there are a lot of Free SFRs on Amazon. They go on promo “sale”. They seem to run the full range of heat levels and SF to R ratios.

    Thanks for the post. It was interesting!

  44. Heather Massey
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 11:43:31

    @Ann Somerville:

    I totally agree it can be done, and done well, but I’m also wondering how far beyond the niche these characters can travel. On the other hand, I’d rather see them flourish in the niche than be diluted in the mainstream.

  45. Heather Massey
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 11:51:06

    @Ros:

    Roswell is a good example of reinvention–thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes it takes a different medium or circumstance for us to notice stories and characters in a new way.

    I wasn’t a fan of martial arts films until my husband encouraged me to see DRUNKEN MASTER II at a convention, in a room filled with adoring fans. It was a mix of the right film at the right time that made me see the genre in a whole new way. Now I’m a huge fan.

  46. Heather Massey
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:30:13

    @Andrea:

    Excellent point about Mass Effect. How confident are agents, I wonder, about the cross-over appeal? Are characters like alien heroes going to be stifled because some gatekeepers in publishing are unaware of how SFR is being expressed in and has become popular in other mediums?

    How might publishers cultivate a relationship with Mass Effect fans or otherwise explore how fans can connect with alien hero/heroine stories? (that’s a question I’m posing to the group, Andrea!) Hmm, what about Mass Effect media novel tie-ins with SFR story lines?

  47. Heather Massey
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:35:00

    @AnnaM:

    Thanks for stopping by!

  48. Heather Massey
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:47:01

    @ari:

    Great feedback, thank you! Sci-fi romance is niche and relatively young, so I like to think there’s plenty of time for it to evolve. There’s definitely room for more experimentation and risk-taking in the small press/digital-first arena.

    Fanfiction is great for the freedom and choice it offers, no doubt about it. If a little bit of that could spill over into the mainstream as far as SFR goes, I certainly wouldn’t complain!

  49. Alix
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 15:08:12

    In Star Trek (TOS) Kirk was always portrayed as the ladies man yet every woman I knew swooned over Spock. Fanfiction both slash and het often celebrated and still celebrates Spock’s ‘alienness’ (i.e. double ridged green cock) far more than the actual show or even the tie-in novels did.

    I also remember reading a very popular series of fan-novels that focused on the relationship between Surek and Amanda (Spock’s parents), so I think an audience exists but they aren’t really getting what they are looking.

    I’ve read a number of SF novels romances and even some that focused on romantic relationships with aliens. Some I liked a lot, some I didn’t like at all. One problem was that quite often the alien culture was lacking, there were weaknesses in the world-building and the alien culture felt just like an exotic prop. I’ve run into the same issue with some of the fantasy romances I’ve read as well.

    In fantasy people have romances with elves, shifters of all kind, dragons, trolls, etc so why not aliens? I would love a lot more romances involving aliens.

    ETA: On DS9 one of the most popular pairings were Dr. Bashir and Garak. There’s an alien that while humanoid looks a lot more alien that the forehead/nose-of-the week-aliens.

  50. Nonny
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 23:21:30

    She’s less known now since it’s been several years since she had a book out, but Lisanne Norman’s SF series is essentially about a romance between a human and a felinoid alien.

    All I can think is that industry folk must not spend much time around fandom for SF shows, movies, and games. The amount of alien/human shipping is huge! (Granted, fandom readership does not necessarily represent romance readership, but still…)

  51. Stacy Gail
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 00:15:50

    “my agent feels *romance* readers won’t go with…a non-human hero…”

    First, this was a great post, Heather. You always have such thought-provoking subjects. :)

    Second, of all the subgenres the romance world has to offer, SF/cyberpunk/futuristic is one of my favorites as a reader. What really satisfies the sappy romantic in me is the idea that “love” is universal. When it’s real, it goes deeper than the cosmetic surface of what someone might look like. That (to me anyway) is incredibly sexy, so whatever race the hero happens to be is of no consequence.

    Third thing… In an effort to look at the agent’s POV, I suppose I can see how she/he believes there’s a demographic out there who can’t relate to people/beings who are not EXACTLY LIKE THEM. However, if that’s the case, I suspect this demographic wouldn’t be interested in looking for its reading entertainment within the sci-fi realm to begin with. Therefore, it’s a moot point.

    Whatever happens, more power to Ms. Linnea Sinclair! I now want to read whatever book this is in the worst way. :P

  52. cleo
    Feb 18, 2013 @ 10:43:42

    Without really planning it, after reading this post, I went and read an alien hero this weekend – Incursion by Aleks Voinov (m/m space opera novella) – and it was fabulous.

  53. Heather Massey
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 15:52:24

    @Alix:

    Re: Spock: Spock has a potent mix of qualities (he’s dangerous/menacing and is a compelling alien character) that authors could consider emulating (not ripping off, just modeling heroes on the same core fantasy) in order to find more success with alien heroes.

    As for women who love Spock, I’m assuming that audience is fairly large and would have an interest in alien heroes, but I could be wrong. But if authors could deliver a Spock-like experience then I’m betting the women would…come. (sorry, couldn’t resist).

  54. Heather Massey
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 15:56:31

    @Nonny:

    >Granted, fandom readership does not necessarily represent romance readership, but still…

    That’s the thing, though–why not even make an attempt to discover a new audience? I’m not saying it’s easy or without risks, but I think the potential is there. Talk about a mutually beneficial arrangement.

  55. Heather Massey
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 16:02:45

    @Stacy Gail:

    Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

    I like the idea of repackaging alien heroes as “love is universal.” Well said.

  56. Heather Massey
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 16:03:31

    @cleo:

    Thanks for taking a chance and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  57. Lyn Gala
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 19:42:48

    I wrote “Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts” because I love science fiction with alien romance. C.J. Cherryh avoid explicit sex or overt romance, but her men often fall for alien women… sometimes alien women with very different parts. Alien romance is the ultimate in “opposites attract.” Besides, when Ondry and Liam fall in love, you know it’s not just lust because their genitalia don’t match up. Their love is about something deeper. I would totally read these books… if more were out there.

  58. Silvia
    Feb 27, 2013 @ 16:46:14

    I love a good alien romance because variety is the spice of life. I love contemporary, paranormal, regency romances, and sci-fi… it just depends on my mood. I guess because of that, though, I have much less interest in reading sci-fi where the “alien hero” is basically just another human with vague ~alien~ traits.

    If I’m reading about an alien hero, I want him to actually be alien. Otherwise why am I reading this romance instead of one of my normal contemporary novels? I like my vampires to be like vampires, not just some good looking immortal dude who drink the cow instead of making a burger out of it. And in the same fashion, I like my alien heroes to not look like regular human guys or act just like human human guys either. That’s what drives my buying in the genre.

  59. Heather Massey
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:41:53

    @Lyn Gala:

    I read and enjoyed your story. Thanks for your art!

  60. Heather Massey
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 12:42:54

    @Iris:

    I’m surfing back in to say I read Lyn Gala’s title and enjoyed it. Thanks again for the rec!

  61. cleo
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 20:47:10

    @Heather Massey: So glad you enjoyed it! I recommended it to you on another thread here – think it was AJH’s review of Dragon Actually (although others’ have probably recommended it to you too – it’s a great book).

    And @Lyn Gala – fan girl squee – I really loved your book – thanks for mentioning it here, it inspired me to go out and read it.

  62. Lyn Gala
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 20:51:52

    Thank you so much. I am really thrilled at how well that title has been received, especially given that the boys doesn’t have matching parts and the Rownt society is a bit mercenary.

  63. Lyn Gala
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 21:45:12

    *don’t

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