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: