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Romance Science Fiction*, part 2

My initial methodology when I set out to survey the subgenre of Science Fiction Romance was an arbitrary one. I did later ask for additional suggestions from fjm (more on that in the next post), and a handful of people at Novacon. Also, I would very happily take recommendations from any of you reading this on the subject.

Sunrise Alley, Catherine Asaro. I had no idea pulp novels were still being written. Two very pretty, strong, healthy, talented people run away from danger and away from danger and away from danger. He is a mutating cyborg, she is a genius scientist. Together they save the world. The evil villain has a secret lair in the Himalayas. Characterizations were shallow and I didn't feel there was all that much chemistry between the two main characters, but it was still entertaining and action-filled. The resolution of the romance would have been more satisfying if I'd bonded more with the characters in the first place. Still - pulp novels! Still being written! (The author was also recommended by the people at Novacon.)

Your Planet or Mine?, Susan Grant. The main characters fall madly in love at the very beginning, and then must wait a few chapters to grow up and meet each other again. Then they can set off on zany hijinks to save the world! Energetic people with some serious science fictional problems, but only superficial romantic ones. Mostly, they live in a shiny happy sphere of delight. The plot's pretty cliché too, but it was still mostly fun.

The Silver Spoon, Stacey Klemstein. The science fiction story has a fair amount of potential and may go more places in the sequel(s). In this book, however, the main characters only seem to fall for each other since they'd been forced to dream about each other all their lives. Equally, I wasn't convinced that the bad guy necessary was. The melancholy ending seemed irresolute. Story flow seemed occasionally awkward. My feeling was that the author was inexperienced, and might do better things in later books.

* Or perhaps that should be Science Fiction Romance. It was the subgenre of the two meeting halfway I inteded to explore when I set out on this project. For more on subgenre distinctions, see here and here. (Thanks to input from here!)

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
tisiphone
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
Science fiction romance - one of my favourite subgenres! Can I recommend "Bellwether" and "Spice Pogrom" (a long-short story residing in "Impossible Things") by Connie Willis? Both are delightful near-future or nonspecific science fiction romance stories with less action than Asaro's work, but much better characterization. Overall, it's more satisfying romance.
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendations! I think I'd prefer better characterization to more action, if action is at the price of characterization. I have a fantasy novel of Asaro's lying around too, another Novacon acquisition, and, not yet having read it, I'm struggling to think how a fantasy novel will cross with pulp writing style - but that's a presumption that the approach will be the same, and it won't necessarily be so.
tisiphone
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
I really dislike Asaro's fantasy and straight romance, actually; it's very formulaic and boring. Her science fiction romance I do like, because it's got a solid helping of science with the fiction and romance - she's a physicist by trade, so that does make sense.
heleninwales
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
Bellwether was good, but To Say Nothing of the Dog, also by Connie Willis, was even better, IMHO.

I assume you're already familiar with Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor and Komarr?
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
I've only now read Shards of Honor, last week, thanks to fjm's recommendations. I ambiently knew that Lois McMaster Bujold was popular, but now I know where all sorts of references made by friends come from - and that dendarii really is a die-hard fan! I haven't read any of the rest of the books in that series though - I'm told they improve.

Thank you for the other recommendations.
(Deleted comment)
owlfish
Dec. 28th, 2006 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'd be happy to borrow the next few from you. It's a good excuse for getting together too, and it's been ages.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 23rd, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
Variations on the SF/R theme
Both Sue Grant and Stacey Klemstein would probably tell you they write Science Fiction Romance (SFR) not RSF. RSFs are usually by Catherine Asaro (a delightful gal, BTW), Bujold, McCaffrey, Lisanne Norman and the like. Julie Czerneda's Trade Pact series would fall into that. IMHO the Lee/Miller Liaden stuff--which I feel is top notch--straddles the line between RSF and SFR. Viehl's STAR DOC series is probably another mugwumper like the Liaden books.

The key to RSF is the R (romance) is the smallest plot part and an HEA is NOT required.

Readers get the yips--IMHO--when they read a fut or an SFR expecting RSF or SF. It's rather like (as I emailed you earlier) reading a cozy and expecting a police procedural. Mystery readers seem to handle their subgenres (and expectations of same) just fine. I can enjoy a gritty Wambaugh as much as I enjoy a Lillian Jackson Braun "Cat Who...". SF readers appear to have a more difficult time with the variations on RSF/SFR/Futs. I don't know why--unless it's the fact that there ARE differences is still not public knowledge.

OK, here it comes: THERE ARE DIFFERENCES. ::wide evil grin:: The same mind-set you use when going into an ice cream shop and know that mocha java chip is not going to taste exactly like chocolate which isn't going to taste exactly like espresso fudge...well, you need to bring that discerning ability the bookshelves. Cozies are not police procedurals. Futs ain't RSF. There are plenty of flavors out there for everybody and hey! books ain't fattening. Now isn't that a joy? :-) ~Linnea - www.linneasinclair.com
tisiphone
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
Wait, I missed something; what is a fut?
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
Fut is short for Futuristic(s). They're romances set in a future setting, but the way the plot works, the future setting is just a trapping - the plot would work in other times and places. (As I now know.)
tisiphone
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
Oh, geez. I really need to not ask questions before I've woken up.
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
Because you already knew that just fine, and far better than I did, I'd bet.
tisiphone
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
No, I just got impatient reading the links :)
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Variations on the SF/R theme
P.S. See the subgenre links above for more information on classification of the subgenres of the SF/Romance overlap; both courtesy of Linnea Sinclair in a comment on part 1 of this series of posts.
chamaeleoncat
Dec. 23rd, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
My absolute favorite Sci-fi Romance is Sharon Shinn's Archangel/Samaria trilogy! It masquerades as a Fantasy novel at first, but it very much isn't!
owlfish
Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendation!
intertext
Dec. 24th, 2006 05:47 pm (UTC)
I second that. I like that whole series very much. And Shinn also has a fantasy series on the go right now that I like a lot; I've only read the first one, but it is promising.

Connie Willis also has a full-blown sf romance series written with a collaborator, Cynthia Felice. I think there are three or four, of which the best are
Light Raid and Promised Land. Light Raid is distinguished by being the only sf novel that I have ever read set in Victoria, B.C. The Empress Hotel gets blown up or attacked by laser beams or something, which is something a Victoria resident might be guiltily pleased about.
darktouch
Dec. 24th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember that Ann McCaffrey's Restoree just struck me as a sci-fi bodice ripper though going back and reading the description of the book years later, I'm not sure that it would really qualify. You'd be surprised how many of the 'modern fantasy' genre are really romance in disguise.
a_d_medievalist
Dec. 24th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
I thought that of Restoree and the sequel(s?). Much more so than any of her other stuff, except the non sf/f The Lady which was a tedious horse people in Ireland/coming of age/hating on the papists (for good reason) romance
owlfish
Dec. 25th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC)
Anne McCaffrey started in romance, publication-wise, as I understand it. (Which is to say, I know many of her early works were, I just forget exact chronology - Stitch in Snow, The Mark of Merlin, The Year of the Lucy etc.) I read most of those too in my comprehensive AM phase. In retrospect, I realize I've read a reasonable amount of romance along the way, I just never really thought of it that way at the time.
darktouch
Dec. 26th, 2006 12:48 am (UTC)
Its a little weird to look at it in terms of Romance though. One observation Alyson has made on Dragon Riders is that some of the 'romance' elements are things that you are reading.. just going along and then you stop.. 'Wait! Was that a sex scene?'.. and yes it was, but its so subtle.

I got my start on Piers Anthony and there are some heavy romance aspects. Aprentice Adept comes to mind, particularly with the cross species love triangle. By the end of the series though, it just becomes an experiment in cross-breeding.
owlfish
Dec. 28th, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
Never having knowingly read romance before the last six weeks, I'll probably reread some of the earlier A.M.s with that in mind eventually. Equally, I now realize there are other books I've read which are quite comfortably classified this way - Jane Austen's work, for example.

Piers Anthony never sketched out convincing relationships - they always seem like parodies. That said, I have residual fond memories of the Incarnations of Immortality series (I have such a weakness for personifications), and might reread those too.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )