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Romance Science Fiction*, part 3

Shortly after starting my self-assigned project of exploring the overlap between the genres of romance and science fiction, I happened to mention it to fjm. She recommended I read the works of two authors as part of it.

The first of these was Lois McMaster Bujold, and Shards of Honor in particular. I'd never read any Bujold before. Now that I have, I see how ubiquitous references to her are in the interests, fanships, and common knowledge of many of my friends. Clearly that fanship is based in more than this one book however; indeed, several have told me that the books improve, but it's necessary to read them in order. Shards of Honor is primarily science fiction and secondarily romance. The resolution to the romance plotline is not the resolution of book overall.

The book was oddly paced: the first third was self-consciously fantasy-like, with analogies to princesses and dragons; the second third was space opera; the last third felt like a drawn-out epilogue musing on the consequences of war. There were appealing moments: Cordelia working around the system for a more efficient route; the running presidential joke, "I didn't elect him"; unexpectedly recurring characters.

fjm's other recommendation was as background reading, not science fiction at all. Apparently, some seven out of ten science fiction authors, on average, are Georgette Heyer readers. And I'd never read a single work by Heyer. The realization that references to Bujold among my friends are frequently was as nothing compared to the constancy with which I now see references to Heyer everywhere.

And now too I know why they read them: like so many others, I've found them addictive. I've read at least a dozen in the past few weeks, probably more, and am going strong. They're fun and funny and clever and romantic without being sentimental. They can be complicated and mysterious but always accessible, once the initial barrage of everyone having multiple names and titles is surmounted. Some are better than others, but there isn't a one I regret reading. My sense of compulsion about them was such that at one point when I'd run out of ones on hand and needed to finish another book I'd been reading instead, I begrudged it not being a Heyer novel.

* Today's entry falls squarely in the subgenre of Romantic Science Fiction. See previous posts in this series for subgenre details.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
You might want to try Ken MacLeod's The Stone Canal read through this filter. He continues to insist that the protagonists' names (David and Jonathan) were coincidental.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendation.
Dec. 28th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
I am still bitter that, when my purse was stolen, I had in it a Heyer book, only partially read, and I haven't been in one place long enough to order a new one.

Have you read any of Sharon Shinn's stuff yet? Her angel series fits squarely within the subgenre you're considering. I don't think the books past the first three are very good, but the slow reveal of the sfnal elements in the first three is enjoyable. The romance is fairly conventional and predictable (the earth moves for all couples). There's a web journal that might interest you, too, if you haven't come across it already: romanticsf.com.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:48 pm (UTC)
I haven't read the Shinn books; chamaeleoncat also recommended them.

I briefly encountered the web journal when initially looking for infortmation, but had forgotten about it. Thank you for the reminder.
Dec. 30th, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)
Have you heard of the Luna imprint? It's a division of Harlequin focused on selling sf&f with a current of romance. I've not read a lot of the line, but a few are interesting--I'd particularly recommend Laura Anne Gilman's Retrievers series, set in current-day NYC with magic. A lot of the imprint seems to be pseudo-medieval, which really doesn't work for me anymore, but Gilman's and the books of a couple of others do.
Dec. 30th, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)
And, duh: as a publishing pheonomenon responding to the interest in romance in SF, the recent development of Luna is worth note.
Dec. 31st, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard of the Luna imprint - and it is indeed helpful - and supportive of my hypothesis that this is a fairly recent development, albeit with longer-term roots.
Dec. 28th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
I think that Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels (especially the Lymond sequence) would also map somewhere within this overlapping zone of taste.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
They aren't science fiction at all, yes? But rather overlapping with Regency novels and a general interest in fantasy.

Thank you for the recommendation.
Dec. 28th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
Am delighted to hear you're enjoying Heyer; I love her books so much (in fact, maybe I need to re-read one now). Have you read The Grand Sophy yet? That's definitely one of my favourites. And Cotillion, and Frederica, and... Bujold of course is one of the Heyer fans, and there are definitely some nods to Heyer in her books.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
I have read all three of those, and they are some of the best! I finished Cotillion two days ago. It took a while to grow on me, since I couldn't really see where it was trying to go during the opening sequences. Frederica was the second I read, and it particularly charmed me for all of the history of tech content!
Dec. 29th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, Felix and the steam engines and the pneumatic lift are just wonderful. And the ?pedestrian curricle. I really enjoy the family in that. And in Cotillion I think she's deliberately playing with our expectations early on; I like her letting that kind of character be the hero. I quite like Heyer's detective novels too (which always include some romance) though not as much as the Regencies. I have them all if you want to borrow at any point.

Definitely second those who suggest persevering with Bujold. I'm sure you'd enjoy A Civil Campaign. Though there are rather a lot of books between you and it. I don't know how concerned you are with reading series in order, but I didn't with Bujold and don't think it's essential. If I'd started with Warrior's Apprentice, say, I'm not sure I would have persisted, though I like it a lot now. There are mini-arcs within the series, a bit like Patrick O'Brian, which do benefit from being read in sequence. I read Komarr and then Civil Campaign early on, which are a late pair, and then there are Shards of Honour and Barrayar; and Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance and Memory which are a definite (and wonderful) sequence. Whatever, when you eventually get to it I think Civil Campaign would definitely count as Science Fiction Romance.

And am very interested in your lists - I like Connie Willis, but didn't know about her co-authored books, and will definitely give Linnea Sinclair a try.
Dec. 28th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
I tend to think of Shards of Honor as the starter novel in which Bujold was just learning her craft. Apparently it didn't get published until after she sold The Warrior's Apprentice, which is a much better book in my opinion.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
That explains a great deal.
Dec. 28th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
Hurrah for Georgette Heyer! libellum and I discovered them in Finland a couple of years ago and went a bit head-over-heels, although I've not touched her since (there's been plenty else to do).
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
Did you discover them by borrowing them? By them being available in English when you needed English reading matter?

More-or-less my entire Mary Renault phase was contained by summers in Florence and the collection of Renault books available in the English-language lending library attached to a church there.
Dec. 29th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
I found them somewhere (I can not for the life of me remember where) and given them to Helen for her birthday, which was just before we went to Finland. She took them with her, and we had a good giggle. My review of The Grand Sophy is here.
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Dec. 29th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
I suspect it's not what you mean, but surely Heyer books are rife at public libraries.
Dec. 29th, 2006 08:02 am (UTC)
Yay Heyer! I also like Sharon Shinn...and now try Jennifer Crusie, who has absolutely no relation to sci fi or fantasy at all, but who makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
Does Crusie write romance or humor or funny things which aren't either?
Dec. 29th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
Also an Heyer fan, as well as a reader of throw-away books that are Mills and Boons. Whenever you only have an hour to lose yourself, a Mills and Boons hits the spot. I never buy them new, just from charity shops, so I read them for charity, I'm great! I am currently looking for more books in this genre/any that interest me, it is time I started up a library. Oh and any donations of books, money, a large house would be gratefully received to store them all (and myself and family may need a small space!)
Dec. 29th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
I first knowingly heard of Mills and Boon two weeks ago when chatting with an Instructor of Literature who "doesn't read genre fiction". I told him about having just discovered Heyer and not having read romance before, but he was still surprised I'd never heard of Mills and Boon.

I have to ask - are you saying that the books all only take an hour to read? Or that they're easily diverting distractions?
Dec. 29th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
If you need to escape from the world for an hour, and not any longer, then M&Bs are great. You don't need to put the book down as you will have finished it! Of course, it depends on how quickly you read. I find any other book which takes longer, I will not put down, and so get into trouble as I let everything else slide. Maybe I should learn some self-discipline instead.

I must admit that Tim doesn't read anymore, apart from bedtime stories for Josie, who has a large collection of nice books for all ages so far. I want her to love books as much as I do, but not to exclude everything else whilst she is reading (like me!).
Dec. 29th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
"Apparently, some seven out of ten science fiction authors, on average, are Georgette Heyer readers."

And apparently, even more of us sf/f readers are Georgette Heyer fans! :-) Her Regency books are my faves (Bath Tangle and The Grand Sophy are great fun), but I've read a couple of the mysteries, and they are pretty decent, as well.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )