Sci-Fi + Romance = Still A Possibility? I hope soI have to say I'm pretty new to SF Romance in books today. I didn't know that a few romance authors had dipped into it in the past decade or and I didn't know there was a small following looking to try out books with this theme. Sure I've been an advocate for a lot of couples in the SF genre but I liked them for the delicate mix of how they handled both elements admits some great characters. Since then I've garnered up some interest in a few titles and styles that I'm on the lookout for now.
What makes a book a great Sci-Fi romance for me? I think it has to have the elements of a book that's already a great story amped up with a believable romance. To narrow it down in layman's terms, it has to have a good plot with some obstacles and conflict to make the story move, some good characters to keep me invested in their lives, topped with a believable romance that will better each person to be with the one they love. Plus, for sci-fi, I need that awesome techie goodness that defines the technology of the world and how advanced we've become as a society, even though there are still internal conflicts. I guess that's why I'm more inclined to read soft sci-fi (dealing more on sociological terms) than hard sci-fi (more on technical terms and conflicts).
In the previous post I mentioned both the new ABC show Defying Gravity and the movies adapted from manga, Appleseed. This, to me, is a great comparison of what sci-fi romance should be and what it shouldn't be. Appleseed features a strong heroine with a definable personality working against a greater goal in a future where humans, cyborgs and bioroids live together in Olympus after a world war that nearly decimated everyone. Deunan nearly loses her love, Briareos after he throws his body on hers to stop a scaffolding from falling on her. Once Deunan is found after the war, she is taken to the new utopia to live and finds Briareos, now a cyborg in a way, and begins working alongside him again. Even though Deunan is the main character, each person she comes in contact with from bioroid Hitomi, her love interest Yoshi, Prime Minister of the city Athena and her aid Nike plus a bunch of other characters both good and evil.
As you can tell from the names there's a good amount of allusion to mythology and some awesome world building that goes into defining the atmosphere. Defying Gravity doesn't even take time to establish it's surroundings despite taking place in 2052 and the characters are more like archetypes with issues rather than living and breathing people.
A really sci-fi romance I read was Clare Dargin's Cold Warriors which I dubbed to be like new BSG in space only with a better more coherent story and with better characters. I liked the miltiary sci-fi aspect with the growing romance and how each of the characters related to one another. Being a SF/thriller fan before I came into romance, I would love to see more like this type which meshes in the action thriller aspect with a romance in the backdrop. I think that's why I've been growing more toward romantic suspenses lately. I like having that thrill that makes me turn the page and continue to see how things will unfold. I'm not much one for angsty melodrama unless it's done with a dash of something else.
What I'm looking for in a SFR may differ from what the next person is looking for in the subgenre which may be what's holding it back from catching on as a trend. There's a balance between having too much sci-fi for the romance fans and too much romance for the sci-fi fans that may be putting off both sides. The erotica genre has some sci-fi listed in their books but erotica isn't really my thing as I don't like to read strictly about the many sex lives of characters who happen to live in outer space or be alien because it feels tacked on and, well, tacky. I need my world building, juicy characterization, great action scenes and a nice tidy ending.
The Shomi line at Dorchester seemed to hold much promise based on what I've heard about the books that came out of the line, but sadly it has been discontinued. What has this said about the future of SFR if this line hasn't taken off? Harlequin's Luna which is geared more toward Fantasy with a romantic backdrop is even having trouble and I've heard that science fiction is a dying genre, which is scary. Perhaps SFR will continue to be a niche. Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express has been following the trend and opening up great dialogues about the subgenre which hopefully spark some future interest in it.
In 2008, publishers and agents thought it was going to the big thing of this year but still, as we come toward the end, not a peep has been made save for interest in Steampunk Romance. I'm not much of a steampunk fan although I really enjoyed HG Wells' Time Machine. Historical romance fans may get into the Victorian era but I'm not sure how they'll take the extra sci-fi addition. The upcoming SteamCon get together doesn't even have book vendors to sell steampunk themed books because they didn't receive applications to showcase them.
Whatever may happen, I will keep adding SFRs to my list to check out plus I even have some in the works. My follow up to Cimmerian City entitled A Feast of Shadows is coming out from Eirelander Publishing March 2010 and although there's an ongoing arch of man vs society, there's also a romance that is central to the story (and even an HEA for all those wondering out there). I also have a futuristic space romance I want to adapt for book format soon.
I'm also adding some more to my shelf including works by Joann Ross, Susan Kearney, Susan Grant and Linnea Sinclair. If anyone else knows any other good works that are pretty heavy on the world building, please let me know and I'll add them to my list of works to check out.