Heidi Ruby Miller’s GEEK GIRL UNDERGROUND – Set Your Phasers to L❤ve!

Wait, I had a bunch of other equally groan-worthy titles I could have used, like Is That a Light Saber or Are You Just Happy to See Me? Or, how about I Want to Frack You Even Though You’re a Toaster? Yeah, trust me, that first one was the best. You don’t even want to hear the one I had that referenced Farscape—you’ll never look at John Crichton the same way again.

Sex and Science Fiction, this lovely combination is nothing new for me. I’m a Science Fiction Romance (SFR) writer. But, this blending of romantic and science fictional elements seems to be a novelty to more of the mainstream than I realized. When I respond to the question, “What do you write?” the asker is usually not prepared for my answer, so he or she will give that slight inclination of the head, and say, “Oh,” as if they know exactly what I mean, yet their searching eyes and suddenly mistrusting expression tell a different story.

One of the leading authors in SFR, Linnea Sinclair (GABRIEL’S GHOST, Bantam), agrees. “The combining of the two genres sometimes boggles people. I’m not sure why. After all, the concept is not all that different from a chocolate cupcake. In order for something to be considered a chocolate cupcake, it must 1) contain chocolate and 2) be in the size, shape and form of a cupcake. Science Fiction Romance is just like that, only less fattening.” Author Jenna Bennett says, “SFR is the futuristic western romance, only without the horses. You have the traditional outlaw hero, larger than life, gun on his hip, chasing down the bad guys and able to – quite literally – change worlds. Except the damsel in distress, tied to the railroad tracks, isn’t always in distress in SFR; sometimes she’s the hero. It’s the future, after all, and women don’t have to abide by 19th century rules for proper behavior. And let’s face it: space guys are hot, you know? Han Solo? Mal Reynolds?”

Unexpected pairings bring a delight born of surprise. It is akin to a guilty pleasure because it always begins outside the mainstream, so even when these pairings become part of the norm, everyone who participates feels like they discovered this world on their own—it becomes theirs, even if they’re sharing it with thousands, or millions, of other people. And that’s an empowering feeling.

RT Book Reviews featured an article in its September 2011 issue about how the majority of SFR is found through small publishers like Entangled Publishing, e-publishers, and a smattering of series from the bigger houses. The RT article hinted that if readers had more access to SFR stories, there wouldn’t be so much difficulty reconciling the perceived coldness of science with blistering relationships.

“Romance brings humanity to science fiction, making the genre more accessible to everyone. I know part of the reason why I watched Star Trek was to see if Beverly Crusher would ever end up with Jean-Luc Picard, and if Data could learn to love,” says Aubrey Dionne (PARADISE 21, Entangled Publishing).

The reconciliation of Science Fiction and Romance will eventually be a more recognizable one, maybe like how horror and romance combined for the first time to breed paranormal romance. Because now everyone, including someone like my brother who hasn’t read fiction since he graduated from college, can completely accept that where there be vampires, witches, and zombies, there just might be a little (or a lot!) of banging on the side. SFR’s time is coming, hopefully sooner rather than later. The SFR Brigade believes it will be sooner because romantic Science Fiction is beginning to find its audience. In fact, the SFRB “are determined to make Science Fiction Romance the NBT.” Their motto? Conquering the Universe, One Story at a Time.

So why do they believe in this coupling of genres so strongly? Why do I? Because unexpected pairings bring a delight born of surprise. It is akin to a guilty pleasure because it always begins outside the mainstream, so even when these pairings become part of the norm, everyone who participates feels like they discovered this world on their own—it becomes theirs, even if they’re sharing it with thousands, or millions, of other people. And that’s an empowering feeling.

Maybe the unexpected pairing is an off-shoot of the popular “opposites attract theory” or simply the unpredicted meshing of two ideas which are never spoken in the same sentence, let alone brought together in the same plane of existence. It leaves an imprinting in the mind which only more of the same can satisfy, like Sara Creasy‘s (SONG OF SCARABAEUS, Harper Voyager) take on the romantic pairing of Worf and Deanna Troy on Star Trek: The Next Generation: “On the one hand, it just didn’t work on any logical level. Worf had previously boasted that no human woman could endure Klingon love-making, and then he went and chose the most girly, emotional, non-physical human woman on the ship. On the other hand, who cares about logic when it comes to mysterious and apparently vigorous alien lurv. Knowing how to swing a bat’leth while endearingly proclaiming prune juice to be a warrior’s drink… well, that’s a really hot fantasy for some of us.”

With such exciting and intriguing concepts, why do strictly Romance and strictly Science Fiction readers have such a difficult time embracing SFR?

And for some of us, hot fantasies involve falling in love and consummating relationships while piloting starships, fighting alongside space marines, and saving entire civilizations. Like Nina Croft (BREAK OUT, Entangled Publishing) says, “I love stories that combine genres, but science fiction and romance is probably my favorite mix. Not only because it provides a fantastic combination of adventure and passion, but also because I’ve always loved romances that focus on people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I enjoy the clash of different beliefs and discovering how couples overcome those differences to fall in love. Mixing science fiction and romance allows you to push that premise to the limit, bringing together people from not only different backgrounds but also different planets and even different species. The possibilities are endless.”

With such exciting and intriguing concepts, why do strictly Romance and strictly Science Fiction readers have such a difficult time embracing SFR? I ask that question in my essay “Tomorrow’s Kiss: The Duality of SF Romance” for the writing guide MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT based on the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction graduate program. There we studied genre writing with writers of all genres, so it lent itself to quite a bit of genre mixing—which was perfect for me since my thesis novel was SFR. But, perhaps my time at Seton Hill made me assume the rest of the world would be just as accepting of this genre pairing. I see now, they just needed some time. But that time is coming.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Ready to join the fun? Here are some SFR books from the lovely authors who took the time to talk to me. These reads will get you hooked:

SFR List from Geek Girl Underground on IMJ (eBooks)
SFR List from Geek Girl Underground on IMJ (Print)

Heidi can be found on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/heidirubymiller
On her website at: http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com/
Heidi’s books & ebooks can be found at Barnes & Noble or Amazon
This entry was posted in AWARD WINNING AUTHOR, Awesome, Blockbuster, Book Reviews, Commentary, Cool Commentary, COOL CREATOR, FANTASY, Geek Culture, Geek Girl Underground™, Heidi Ruby Miller, IMJ Nation™, Inveterate Media Junkies™, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Exclusive, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Monthly Column, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Monthly Feature, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Regular Feature, Mainstream Bookstores, NEW COLUMN!, New Contributor, NEW IMJ COLUMNIST, NEW IMJ FEATURE, New Inveterate Media Junkies™ Column, New Inveterate Media Junkies™ Feature, New This Week, Opinion, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Heidi Ruby Miller’s GEEK GIRL UNDERGROUND – Set Your Phasers to L❤ve!

  1. hackslash2020 says:

    http://www.icollector.com/images/255/13117/13117_41476_1_lg.jpg

    I LOVE this comic book cover. I had to pay much money to get this book ;-)
    Because..1. Matching Spacesuits. 2. A two-seater spaceship beats the the bus version(=enterprise) imo & 3. Boy and Girl work together instead of boy saving Girl

    We need more of that!!!

  2. W. D. Prescott says:

    I remember when Catherine Asaro came to Seton Hill and was talking about how even she had a hard time with her writing in the beginning. The sci-fi I grew up on had romance (Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers). Maybe not as central to the story as in SFR, but it is still there. I just figured, like you, it would be more romance and less fight. The epitome of “Make Love, not War.” So, it’s interesting to see how hard of a time it’s having.

    Do you think it is because sci-fi has a more male dominated readership and stereotype to those that don’t read it that is a challenge?

    • Will, I remember Catherine talking about that difficulty of acceptance, even considering how much success she has had within “mainstream” SF.

      I think perhaps the problem is with the labels themselves rather than the readers or who the industry perceives as the readers. When a traditional SF reader hears the word “romance” it immediately evokes a long list of stereotypes, but the same is true on the other end of the spectrum where romance readers will sometimes shy away from “science fiction” because of what they and mainstream society perceive SF entails.

  3. Locusmortis says:

    I think the male dominance of trad sci-fi probably has something to do with it. Characters didn’t really matter too much. Sci-fi books have traditionally been either about the High Concept or the Maguffin, a lot of the characters have been pretty much ciphers and that probably dosen’t appeal to a wide audience.

    I find the quote from Aubrey Dionne to be interesting ““Romance brings humanity to science fiction, making the genre more accessible to everyone. I know part of the reason why I watched Star Trek was to see if Beverly Crusher would ever end up with Jean-Luc Picard, and if Data could learn to love,” ….now to me that sounds like soap opera. What the stories in the article sound like to me are more an offshoot of Space Opera rather than sci-fi per se. Stuff like the Honor Harrington saga by David Weber or the later Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold would sound closer to SFR than say stuff by Alastair Reynolds or Stephen Baxter.

    Military sci-fi has been the breakout genre of sci-fi in the last 10 years, so I don’t see why romance shouldn’t follow it, if theres a market there someone will fill it. Once one of the bigger sci-fi houses like Tor or Ace gets in on the act the shelves will be flooded.

    I’m not too sure I’d be interested in a book where romance took too central a role in comparison to the rest of the plot. One of my favourite series of the last few years has been the Helfort’s War saga which has a relationship between helfort and his fiance as an important part of the story but which dosen’t overshadow the main concept of the series.

    • It’s interesting that you bring up Military SF and Space Opera because there’s discussion that much of SF Romance plays out within those frameworks.

      Lois McMaster Bujold talks about it well in her introduction to the SFR anthology LOVE AND ROCKETS, which she posted on her blog:

      http://www.myspace.com/loismcmasterbujold/blog/541941785

      As for the shelves one day being flooded with SFR…I hope you’re a fortune teller!! I tend to agree with you and believe it will become as mainstream as paranormal romance did.

    • jennabennett says:

      @Locusmortis You can compare me to Lois McMaster Bujold anytime you want. It would be my honor! She’s one of my literary heroes, not because of the genre she writes in, but because her books are well-written, entertaining, thought-provoking stories about real, entertaining, thought-provoking characters that live and breathe. Whatever the genre, that isn’t easy to do, and she does it masterfully. So lump me in with her, by all means. I’d be thrilled! :-)

      Great article, Heidi!

  4. Kaye Manro says:

    Heidi, what an interesting post! I’m glad I saw you on SFR Brigade’s facebook. I’m a member of the Brigade. I attempt to write SFR too. I have one SFR out now (Forbidden Love) the second (Forbidden Destiny) releasing in May. While my books contain interesting alien relationships they are also very high on the sensual level. And that’s another aspect of SFR all together! However, I do love SF and will always be devoted to all things techie, geek girl that I am. It’s also interesting that your post has the geek aspect, as several of us from the Brigade just did blog posts on Geek Girls. (If you are interested, you can access these posts via my blog: http://kayemanro.blogspot.com

    Thanks for such a fantastic post featuring some of my favorite authors!

    Kaye

  5. JJ Miller says:

    Great post! It’s a shame that such a stigma exists, but maybe the perception will soften just like it has in fantasy and horror. It won’t be long until we see an SFR breakthrough that sends it into the mainstream. Zombies have to fade at some point, right?

    • I’m betting Zombie fiction and things like Steampunk (not that those two have to be related or are!!) will ease the way for SFR. If the stigma for zombies can be shed, surely the stigma about sex in Science Fiction can be!

      • Locusmortis says:

        I’ve heard that Cherie Priest’s excellent zombie steampunk novel Boneshaker has been optioned for film so if and when that comes out it should open the way for steampunk to the mainstream.

        And if anyone is looking for a great steampunk books, Stephen Hunt’s Jackalian series is one of the most imaginative series I’ve read in years.

  6. Bart says:

    For me the best SF always had romance in it. After all, isn’t that why you’re fighing off those Venusian slime monsters? To save the girl? Well. OK, things have changed since the pulps, and now all heroines (is that PC?) are kick ass. I actually tried to write a story that was straight SF, and kinds nasty. Turned into a love story between a time traveling Roman Tribune and a modern Newshen. What can I say, I’m incurable.

  7. I fell into SFR looking for more action and adventure in my reading, a place for it with my writing. I like (for the most part) the optimism and yes, a future where girls get to participate in the rescues. I like playing with the stereotypes and then turning them on their heads. (grin) Oh, I came here from the SFR brigade link on FB, too. Fun post! Rock on, SFR!

    • The SFR Brigade has been wonderful–what a community! So glad you stopped by, Pauline.

      You’re right about the optimism in SFR, even viewed through the lens of a dystopian world. I never thought if it like that before….

      • Locusmortis says:

        Hmmmm I don’t know if it would qualify as SFR but Laura E Reeve’s Peacekeeper series sounds like it fits the bill for an ass-kicking female science fiction heroine.

        And since this is usually a comic book related site, I think the new Batwoman series would appeal to a lot of female readers if books like it were marketed towards them, what more could you want than an ass-kicking, take no shit heroine in a psychological horror series?

        • Reeve’s work probably could be classified as SFR to a degree, just like Mike Shepherd’s Kris Longknife series, but I’m betting most readers would see them more as Military SF, light on the romantic elements. But, of course, different sensuality levels appeal to different readers and when it comes down to categorizing, each reader has his or her own idea about what constitutes what.

  8. Stamps says:

    wow your first column was awesome Heidi!!! Starting it off with a bang!

    I definitely think there is a feeling akin to guilty pleasure that people feel when the read SFR. I’ve always thought that was the reason for paranormal romance interest. That’s part of the reason it’s so fun! :)

  9. Diane Dooley says:

    I love to read and write the delicious combination of sci fi and romance. Loved the article, Heidi!

    I’m a regular over at The Galaxy Express and have been since Heather Massey started the blog. In the beginning Heather had to scour the internet to find science fiction romance releases to blog about. Now she can barely keep up! There are so many stories being released and in such great diversity that it’s hard to stay on top of them. E-publishing has really had an impact helping this sub-genre get a new lease on life.

  10. Diane, I love The Galaxy Express! Heather does such a wonderful job with that blog.
    Go check it out, people!!
    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net

    And, you’re so right about e-publishing being a boon for SFR. It’s an exciting time!

  11. Aubrie says:

    Heidi,

    Thank you for including me in this fantastic blog post!

  12. ed2962 says:

    Very very cool column. Outside of some recent William Gibson novels, I really don’t read a lot of science fiction and sci-fi/romance is a genre that I’m not familiar with. I feel like I learned something today! Can’t wait for your next piece!

    • I am an educator at heart, Ed, ;)

      William Gibson is a big influence for me. In fact, I sometimes label part of AMBASADORA as cyberpunk romance. I think you’d enjoy Sara Creasy’s Scarabaeus novels, too. She has lots of cool tech in her world, and the plot focuses on the cyber and biopunk aspects. Actually, so does Aubrie Dionne’s PARADISE 21.

      If you do give any of them a read, please let us know!
      :) Heidi

  13. R Mason says:

    Heidi, great first post! Definitely looking forward to the next one :)

    I <3 SFR, and I give Dorchester’s Lovespell line all the credit for hooking me into it. I stumbled onto them by accident in a used book store and I’ve been hooked ever since. I got caught up by Catherine Spangler, then absolutely snared by my fave SFR author, C.J Barry.

    SF and Fantasy romance draw together my two favorite things, speculative/fantastical elements and to-die-for romance. While I like the magic elements of urban paranormal romance, it’s the freedom of creation that SFR gives me that I crave. I get to use my fantasy background to create whole races, worlds, societies, ways of life…there’s so much freedom with respect to storyline. I get to create all the exact ingredients I want to cook up my plots and relationships.

    That and, I love kickass heroines. I’m addicted to writing badass females who can hang with (and often beat) the boys no matter what they’re doing. SFR lets me create situations where this is natural and I love that.

    SFR the next big thing? I hope so!

    • I can’t wait to see your new SFR world, Rhonda! You did such a wonderful job with your fantasy world-building. That creation is what I love so much, too. So many possibilities, so many ways to put my imaginings down on the page.

      And, what’s a world without love and a couple of well-timed kisses?!! :)

  14. Ryan Schaefer says:

    Great column! The cupcake part made me snacky. I’m off to destroy a few Little Debbie boxes now… :)

  15. VictimPrime says:

    Sci-Fi and romance, say what? is such a thing possible? ;) I guess I will have to have my Science Fiction membership card pulled.. once again I’m left having to admit there is yet another aspect of SF writing that I am ignorant about.

    Sex in SF, sure that’s always been there, actually it’s kind of funny, when I was a kid there was a whole bunch of books the adults around me had been warned about being offensive and not appropriate for kids like me to read. Apparently none of these self appointed censors had bother to read a great deal of SF, which was fine with a horny teenage kid like me :)

    But romance, not so much, and now that I think about it, it seems strange romance was left out of the SF stuff I was reading at the time, everything else sex related was there, SF books were the place for exploring nontraditional relationships, sexual and otherwise. Perhaps the romance was there and I wasn’t mature enough to see it the time, that certainly could have been the case at the time, as an oversexed teenager I could have been tuning out the the more romantic parts of the stories to get to the ‘Action’.

    but that was a long time ago and now that I am much older and a little bit wiser, it’s time to go back and expand my horizons once again within the SF universe.

    Thank you for a excellent column Heidi!

    • VictimPrime:

      “everything else sex related was there, SF books were the place for exploring nontraditional relationships, sexual and otherwise.”

      Words of truth!

      I believe more readers are opening to the idea of romantic relationships within a Science Fiction framework because they were always there, but now we’re labeling them. Classifications can always make things a little scarier, but the more readers get used to the blending of terms, the less they’ll “notice” the term and just read for the sake of the story.

  16. Nina Croft says:

    Great article, Heidi and fabulous title! I’m a little late to comment but I’ve been away (unfortunately only to the UK and not to the furthest ends of the universe which would be much more exciting). I’ve been a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember – I was brought up on Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert and… (and I’ve been madly in love with Han Solo forever) But the romance element has always been important for me so it’s great to find more books where the focus is more firmly on the romance side of things.
    And I’ve added a whole load of books to my TBR pile after reading this.

  17. Nina, I was influenced by Frank Herbert and the DUNE books early on, as well. I believe it’s noticeable to readers of AMBASADORA who have also read Herbert. It helped that one of my critique partners from Seton Hill also loved DUNE.

    I know what you mean about the TBR pile–I need more time in the day to read and write!!

  18. Awesome post (not that I’m biased or anything)!

    Thanks for the shout outs, Diane and Heidi.

    Someone upthread said “Squirrel?!”–I mean, biopunk–speaking of, author Ella Drake also wrote two biopunk romance stories that are the first two books in her “Future Tales” series: JAQ’S HARP (Carina Press) and BRAIDED SILK (Liquid Silver Books). They’re a twisted take on Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel, respectively. Detailed worldbuilding abounds and there’s lots of sensawunder to stimulate your brain cells in addition to the romance.

    cheers!

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