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Romance Science Fiction, part 1

I've never been a romance reader. It wasn't a conscious decision not to read them - I just never had reason to believe the genre might appeal to me, and no one ever particularly recommended a book or an author for me to read from it. Of course I've read plenty of books with romantic elements - they're pervasive, they're human - but not books self-consciously packaged as romance.

And then sometime in the late spring I had run low on books to read while travelling and was looking around a Toronto airport bookstore for something fluffy to distract me from the dull stresses of flying. I default to science fiction and fantasy, and so that's where I looked, and that's how I happened to buy and read Linnea Sinclair's The Accidental Goddess. It was borderline space opera, it was romance, it was science fiction, and it was just distracting enough and just fluffy enough to be exactly what I needed on that flight. It wasn't the best of books - the combat sequences near the end are based on a system implied but not previously demonstrated by the book, and disconcertingly, given the genre, like magic. The Important People were the ones who fell for each other. It had its slightly clunky moments. But it wasn't all that bad either.

Several months later, perhaps in the later part of summer, I thought back to that book and wondered what else the author had written. That's how I came to first read Finders Keepers, a much stronger book than the one with which I'd started; and then Gabriel's Ghost, which was better still, the author finding her stride and constructing a plot in which space opera, rescue mission, and romance all worked more tightly together in an integral story.

Now I was curious - the existence of romance science fiction as a subgenre all of its own was a concept which had never previously crossed my mind. It was news to me that such a subgenre existed. Romance fantasy made sense to me, for romance is integral to the genre of fairy tales upon which so many are based; science fiction, however, didn't strike me as a natural fit - it's a genre whose bones lie in engineered space-building, in problems of toolkits and labratories, into which sentient relationships are woven.

So I set out to explore just what was in this subgenre, to see what it encompassed, how mature and broad or narrow it was. I started with Linnea Sinclair's website for recommendations and began to read.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
wakarusa
Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
how funny! my mom reads a lot in this genre :) but I have to say, I have found her choices a little - I dunno. Kind of like your-mama's-sci-fi-romance-novels. This list would help me get started.
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
Do you know what authors/titles your mother reads?
a_d_medievalist
Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
Sounds decent, at least. But you have not truly lived till you've found a particularly purple passage in a smutty romance novel and, well lubricated with your favourite alcohol, sat around reading it aloud in mixed company. I imagine bad sf and romance combined would make it even more fun.
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
If I have not lived, does that make me deathly or stillborn?
a_d_medievalist
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC)
unawakened to certain earthly pleasures?
(Anonymous)
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:26 am (UTC)
SFR recommendations from Linnea Sinclair
Hmm, well, I never thought of my links page--if that's what you used as your point of reference--as a be all and end all of the SFR genre. It was simply something I threw together based on friends' requests and which, admittedly, I've neglected. Book deadlines have a habit of doing that.

There are far better sources.First, understand there are three sub-sub genres: SFR, RSF and Futuristics. What some readers find satisfying in one may force another reader to the trash can. FYI.

A couple of place you might want to start:
http://paranormalromance.org/PNRpearl.htm - a Yahoo group of readers many moons ago started the PEARL awards. You can go year by year and they do break out SF from Futuristic.

http://www.specromonline.com/ - SpecRom Online was SFROnline. Again, a group of genre-besotted readers and authors banding together because we don't quite fit anywhere in particular.

http://www.tuginternet.com/jja/journal/archives/003642.html -- I had a nice interview with SCIFI WIRE a few months back and the reporter even logged the overflow. That may give you some more info to work with. Not that I believe I'm any kind of expert--far from it. I just tend to listen to what's going on around me. Old habits (retired PI) die hard.

http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=279 -- Sequential Tart also picked my brain on SFR.

RE: Accidental Goddess or any of my books. As you may gather from the above, writing SFR is a notch above literary suicide. You're combining two genres that traditionally hate each other. Oh, joy. So as an SFR author (which is not that same as being an RSF or Futs author) I have the delightful task of making them get along. I have to try to satisfy the space opera arena. I have to keep the romance readers happy. I have to keep my editor happy and do it in a certain word count. Yeah, that's a biggie. Sometimes the SF side gets shorted. Sometimes the romance side finds the HEA ain't as Happy as they'd like. But as Abe said, you can't please everybody...

So yes, in any one of my books, some segment of my audience may get their knickers in a knot over a scene or section. I try really hard--I really really really do--to make everything as enjoyable for everyone. But deadlines, word count limits, editing and lastly, life, often intervene. In a perfect world, I would write the perfectly balanced SFR book I want. But this isn't a perfect world and the note comes down from my editor at Bantam to CUT CUT CUT so I do. Grimacing, tears running down my powdered, wrinkled cheeks...but I do.

Given that I'm working under restrictive parameters, I decided years ago that my main goal with my books would be FUN. Yes, I will sacrifice scientific authenticity for fun. Yes, I will sacrifice romantic intensity for fun. I like to create popcorn-bucket, Saturday afternoon at the movies kind of fun reads. I have absolutely no problem being labeled brain candy. My feeling is, in life you can cry for free. If I pay money for something, I damn well better be able to get a giggle out of it.

Anyway, many thanks for taking the time to read my books. If you got a giggle and the fluff distracted you from the white-knuckle aspects of flight, then I'm pleased. That was my intention in writing it (and yes, as you correctly surmise, Goddess is Science Fantasy Romance and not Science Fiction but no one asks me where to shelve my books...). If you're looking for a light, fun romp, a giggle or two, an edge of your seat space opera moment or four, then I hope you continue reading me.

So that's the scoop. I love hearing from readers--I have a Yahoo group which is my online incarnation of the Intergalactic Bar & Grille. Please consider this an invite to join--drinks are on the house. Uh, space station.

Best regards from Florida, ~Linnea - www.linneasinclair.com
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: SFR recommendations from Linnea Sinclair
Thank you for your feedback! The links are especially helpful. As might be evident from my superficial methodology, I set out to explore a genre new to me, but not in any thoroughly systemic fashion. I did indeed mostly rely on your links page, albeit supplemented with a few other recommendations from friends I mentioned the project to along the way.

I certainly hadn't distinguished Romantic Science Fiction from Science Fiction Romance or Futuristics, although the spectrum is certainly a useful way of distinguishing between the quirks of the different books, and explains why certain books didn't feel as if they fit what I thought I'd be getting into with this.

Your books have been fun to read. The genre project came directly out of reading them. Also, the day after I finished Gabriel's Ghost, I reread most of it - an extreme rarity for me - since I was trying to figure out why it was so effective a book. Thank you for writing them!
oursin
Dec. 23rd, 2006 01:24 pm (UTC)
I think some of Ann Maxwell's sf has been republished as romance (she also writes romance-romance and romance-thrillers, some under another name that I currently disremember). The Sharon Lee/Steve Miller books (esp the Liaden universe ones) also have a flavour of romance.
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC)
Would you recommend any particular titles from among these?
oursin
Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
For Maxwell, probably the regrettably unfinished sequence, Fire Dancer, Dancer's Luck, and Dancer's Illusion, and the standalone Timeshadow Rider. For Lee/Miller, I'd suggest starting with Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors and Carpe Diem, or the two shorter novels collected in Pilot's Choice.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 9th, 2007 11:07 am (UTC)
Bravo
hi,
good site :) Whish you good luck!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )