Guest Blogger: The SFR – Paranormal Romance Spectrum by Anna Hackett

Please welcome the amazingly talented author of the The Anomaly Trilogy and five Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Winter Fusion, Anna Hackett! Anna agreed to open a discussion on a topic that I have spent a LOT of energy thinking about. Please read and weigh in! Oh, and enter win one of Anna’s books. 

The SFR – Paranormal Romance Spectrum

by Anna Hackett

Even devoted fans of science fiction have a hard time explaining what it is. Science fiction covers a lot of ground and often means something slightly different to different people. Author Mark C. Glassy has this to say (and I can’t say I disagree with him): “you don’t know what it is, but you know it when you see it.”

Today I’m going to take a stab at looking at the differences between science fiction romance and paranormal romance. While both subgenres share similar elements such as fantastical characters and strong world-building, they are different. That said, we always get stories that straddle the fence between the two. For me, there is no clear line but rather a spectrum where all SFR and paranormal romances sit.

Here’s my nifty diagram:

SFR-paranormal spectrum

Now, in the blue we have the pure paranormal and its common elements. They tend to be contemporary set stories with world-building and characters based on mythology. A few examples of classic paranormal romances include: Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series (vampires) and Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series (werewolves).  My very first short story, Savage Dragon (dragons) is classic paranormal.

In the red, sci-fi is usually set in the future (near or far) with world-building and characters based on science. A few examples of classic science fiction romances include: Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five series and Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey. My very first SFR novella came out in December and Winter Fusion is squarely in the red.

Okay, sounds simple enough…except what about post-apocalyptic, steampunk, or werewolves made by science…the list goes on. There are always those stories that defy the rules, mash-up genres and scramble the “common elements.” This is where the fun comes in!

For me, the easiest way to look at the stories that fit in the purple-ly area in the middle of the spectrum are that they borrow elements from each end of the spectrum…or they completely ignore them!

Contemporary books with science-created creatures are contemporary set but use science as the basis of their world-building. They are the perfect representative for the middle of the spectrum. I’m reading one right now called Perfect Mate by Mina Carter.

Steampunk is neither contemporary or futuristic. It is historical (but with alternate universe world-building) and usually has a strong science flavor. For me, these tip closer to the SFR side.

Post-apocalyptic  is also on the SFR side. They are set in the future and they focus on the absence of technology.

Time Travel romance is tricky! Sometimes the time travel has a scientific explanation and sometimes a paranormal one (time travel via ancient object, for example). Many TT romances go back in time (so have a historical setting) or a character travels forward to contemporary times. Not sure I’ve read a romance where they go to the future…hmm, I feel story ideas stirring! Anyway, TT romances can sit either side of the spectrum, so maybe I’ll place them right in the center.

My latest release, SOUL STEALER, is a novella that is smack dab in the center of the spectrum. It is contemporary set with time thieves, mind raiders and soul stealers…all because of a genetic mutation and some scientific meddling. It has a whole lot of action, romance and a little dash of X-Men.

Now, there will always be a story that blows a theory to hell. I suspect the readers of Smart Girls have more than a few books that have a cozy home on the spectrum…or don’t seem to fit anywhere! That’s what keeps reading and writing interesting.

Okay, time for the Smart Girl readers to do some work. I’m a huge fan of Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. Where do you think that sits on the SFR – paranormal romance spectrum?

Anna Hackett loves action movies, sci-fi shows, short stories, writing her own romantic adventures, her wonderful husband and her little man. You can find her at the usual places: Anna HackettWebsite | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads. Her latest novella, SOUL STEALER, is out now.

Enter the SOUL STEALER Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and 3 Carina Press ebooks of the winner’s choice:
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Soul Stealer Blurb….

She just wants her life back. After being kidnapped and forced to kill by a vicious crime lord, Cate Hartmann is now a killer with an addiction to stealing souls. On the island sanctuary of Haven, surrounded by other anomalies with secret abilities, she fights to recover. But only one man calms the dark storm inside and makes her believe she can be whole again…Dr. Gage Walker.

Scientist Gage Walker has spent a decade helping anomalies. But every day, he’s haunted by his previous job for the CIA—where he crossed far too many boundaries and hurt so many anomalies. Including his brother. He vows he won’t fail again and will do everything he can to heal Cate—including fighting his attraction to her.

But when the crime lord comes after Cate again, it’s a race against time to find out why he wants her. Amidst the danger, Gage and Cate drawn to each other, even as they fear that one wrong step will send her hurtling back into the depths of her soul stealing addiction.

12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: The SFR – Paranormal Romance Spectrum by Anna Hackett

  1. Crazy you named Warriors Woman, because that was my first SciFi romance. I was young and my little library didn’t have a lot options but they had everything Lindsey wrote lol. Love the chart handy reference tool.

  2. I haven’t read that series yet, but I do want to point out that your book cover is both blue and purply at the same time! Perhaps this is a code. We should check that out…. BTW the book sounds terrific!

  3. Great post. Looking forward to your book too:)
    I think the line between paranormal romance and SF gets blurred by the mood of the book. In many ways, I think that Nalini Singh’s psy/changeling series is SF romance, but it has the ‘feel’ of a paranormal. For ex, I think of steampunk as a branch of SF b/c it usually talks about the steampunk tech etc. whereas something like L. A. Banks werewolf books are more paranormal-even though the werewolves are scientifically created b/c the science & tech is more background than foreground. I hope that makes sense.

    • Hi RK. GREAT observation. I almost listed “tone” under the elements but I was worried it might be a bit subjective. I agree with you. Some books have sci-fi worldbuilding but a more paranormal tone

      I think you are spot on with Psy/Changling…at the heart of it, it is *very* sci-fi – futuristic, high tech and the Psy feel very sci-fi. but the changeling element and the tone are paranormal. You made perfect sense!

  4. Great visual diagram and explanation, Anna. The boundaries can get blurred, and even moreso when publishers choose to market and label a SFR as a Paranormal Romance (I’ve seen that happen several times, but not the reverse). No wonder readers get confused!

    • Hi Laurie, glad you liked my diagram (-: You’re right, it can get very confusing for readers and the worst thing is when you are expecting one thing and get something different! I think some people like to lump SFR and PNR together as the same thing…and sometimes a book can be in the middle but many times they are different ends of the spectrum.

  5. Great article! I agree that more and more the lines between these and other genres are blurring. I love it! Adding RSF (SF with just a tiny bit of R and possibly no HEA) and the lines blur more. I love the variety.

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