A while back, Heather at The Galaxy Express brought my attention to a great article about SciFi Romance by Chris Gerwel at Amazing Stories Magazine. For those of us who love SciFi Romance and simply can’t understand why EVERYONE isn’t onboard, it provided some well thought out ideas.
Are Readers Ready?
A large part of Chris’s explanation for why SciFi romance is less popular than paranormal romance boils down to the fact that readers aren’t ready for it. By that Chris means that the common elements in SciFi—such as aliens, spaceships, and phaser pistols—have not been a part of popular culture as long as the paranormal counterparts—vampire, werewolves, and witches. As a result readers aren’t as comfortable with them.
I see the argument and I’m sure it has merit. And sure vampires have been around for hundreds of years, but I grew up with Star Trek, Mr. Spock, and phasers and I think that probably means most of the reading public did too. I do remember a time before Star Wars, but I also remember a time before vampires were hero material. Mr. Spock has always been hero material. I’m not sure the fact that my great-grandmother had heard of vampires has much effect on my current reading.
What exactly does appeal to romance readers?
If you look strictly at modern popular culture since, say 1900, science fiction elements were alive and well and part of popular media in a much more positive way than the paranormal elements, which were mostly relegated to horror for most of that time. If you look at it on a surface level you might think the positive spin found in SciFi favorites like Lost in Space, My Favorite Martian, Star Trek, and Battle Star Galactica (1978 version) would have a much stronger appeal to romance readers who like happily ever afters.
The one very big flaw in that argument might be that all of my examples are visual media. To give Chris credit where it is due, the article does point out that SciFi media (Chris’s examples were all visual media aswell) is popular, but not speaking to romance readers. Chris asserts that is because there is little romance in SciFi media and I am not sure I agree with that, but I’ll get to what I think is the real problem shortly. First and obvious factor might be that there is a difference between visual media and books. The SciFi books of the era were targeted very heavily toward boys and men. There is a long tradition or at least a perception that SciFi books are female-unfriendly.
Who is doing it successfully and how are they doing it?
Still, that is all looking at the surface trappings of SciFi and paranormal romance. I think Chris strikes on a much more important factor in the part of the article that discuss the story focus found in the very popular quasi-scfi romance of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, and other popular SciFi romances, that is also common in paranormal romance. Chris states that they “focus on the power dynamics between emotions and actions among individuals and social groups” and I’d agree that these types of stories go over with romance readers much better than stories that focus on the implications of the application of technology for society or on the ethical and moral dilemmas that arise(common SciFi themes).
The crazy thing is that I think SciFi romance writers already know this on an instinctual level and many of them are already going in that direction. So, all this analysis brings us back to the beginning question (why is the SciFi romance market small) with very little new knowledge that is constructive for those writing and reading in the genre.
It will be popular when it becomes popular.
Whether you believe SciFi romance is currently underperforming in the market because the language of SciFi is too much of a stretch for romance readers or if you think women are still put off by the idea that SciFi novels are for men or if you believe romance readers might still have a false expectation that SciFi romance will focus on the science and technology over relationships, it probably all comes down to this…a sub genre becomes popular when a sufficient volume of quality media (TV, movies, books) make it into the public awareness and gain popularity across a broad spectrum of the mass audience. If you are thinking, didn’t she just say it will be popular when it becomes popular, then you got it exactly. LOL. How that happens is a bit of a mystery. My personal take is that this sort of things slowly snowballs in the shared public awareness until you have one or two breakout novels, followed by a wave of good quality novels in the same vein, and then you get an uptick in related genre media followed by another breakout and so forth. In a sense the subgenre feeds into the next generation of its growth. My hope is that we are on the tipping point were a few breakout novels could set the snowball rolling, but you never really know anything for sure until the snowball has rolled right over you and splattered out into a lovely, snowy blanket all around.
In the mean time all we can do is consume what we can find of the stuff and for those of us that produce it, work on producing the stories that focus on emotion, relationships, and social struggle without giving up the other elements of adventure and cool new ways of doing things that we love.
That’s my take, but what do YOU think?
35 thoughts on “Is SciFi Romance at the Tipping Point?”
Excellent post, Charlee! Nicely distilled for those who don’t have the time to read Chris’s excellent four-part series on Amazing Stories.
I enjoy the ethical dilemmas and implications of technology that are inherent to SF. Nemesis is my favorite ST:TNG movie for this very reason. I also adore the Borg arcs in the series for this reason, particularly when Hugh is involved. It’s also the biggest draw for me with DS9. I bailed on Enterprise when the Borg showed up partly because of the cop-out explanation and partly because the social commentary inherent in their existence wasn’t there.
We can still do all the things SF books are known for. Provided we make it revolve around the RELATIONSHIP. I’m writing space opera romance and I filled in another part of my political background this morning. While it’s tempting to indulge in that like David Weber, I’ll only do it in my head. It’s necessary for me to know all of this, but not for my reader to know. They want to see the romance. The only time political situations show up is when those situations threaten the H&H’s relationship.
When you’re writing romance it’s relationship first, everything else second. And everything else needs to be part of the reason the H&H’s HEA is in danger. I’m coming to SFR as a trained romance writer and having a blast being able to indulge my geeky side and dig into some of the stuff normal romance has little tolerance for.
I think you are right. You can still have your favorite scifi themes, if you intertwine them with the relationship. Great point!
As a long-time reader of futuristic romance, my take is that no writer in the sub-genre has yet found the right balance between the science fiction genre elements and the romance elements. I predict that when the right balance is found, the genre will boom.
This cross-over genre is either written by sci fi writers who underplay the romantic element or romance writers who don’t understand the sci fi element. Sci fi usually has an external conflict. In a great romance, the conflict is mainly internal, which creates conflict between the lovers themselves. If you’ve ever read Debra Dixon’s “GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict” then you’ll know the great stories have both internal AND external conflict. So far, I’ve never read a futuristic romance that I felt had both types of conflict covered.
I want a sci fi romance that covers all the aspects of both genres. Too often, the plot is either too much science fiction and not enough romance, or the romance is great but the science fiction elements are ridiculous. Maybe my age is showing, but I was into science fiction long before ‘Star Wars’ hit the screen, and though that movie did bring science fiction into the mainstream (which ‘Star Trek’ failed to do, despite it’s popularity), it did so by downplaying the ‘science’ in favor of the fiction. As a result, much of what passes for science fiction these days is really fantasy. And most futuristic romances tend to fall into that trap.
Lastly, I think too many futuristic romance writers just recycle plot or character ideas from popular t.v. and movies. Every time I read one, I find myself thinking, “Okay, this one’s a ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ rip-off. This one’s a ‘Firefly’ rip-off. This one’s taken from ‘Star Wars’ and this one’s taken from ‘Star Trek’. One exception to this was “Ghost Planet,” the book I feel has come closest to achieving the balance I keep looking for.
Futuristic romance is just a recipe that hasn’t yet been perfected, and because of these weak elements, mainstream readers tend to shy away. In my opinion, if a book is well-written, anyone can enjoy it. So far, futuristic romance writers are turning out books which only appeal to fans of the genre who tend to overlook the work’s weak points because they’re so overjoyed just to find SOMETHING in the genre. As writers, we need to remember that more critical eyes are assessing our work. I believe someone will figure out the right balance of these disparate elements and write a book so good, it will resonate with mainstream readers as well as ‘nerd girls.’. And when that happens, futuristic romance will be the next big thing.
Thanks for sharing your take on this, Kaye. You’ve raised some really interesting points. I think I probably agreee with about half and disagree with about half. LOL But that is great and what makes for good conversation!
I’m not sure I agree that there is a magic balance to be found (I’ll have to mull that one over), but I do agree that good, well written books that many readers can enjoy are an essential part of the advancement of the genre.
I don’t agree with your statement that in great romance the conflict is mainly internal. Deb Dixon was, in fact, a contemporary romance writer. She would probably argue that her books may have had a more low key and human external conflict, but that is still an external conflict. And you’re absolutely right that a romance (and I’d argue any book) needs both external and internal conflict.
I agree that closely modeling a book on a TV show is probably a recipe for tired fiction, but I don’t think this is a problem exclusive to SciFi and authors who uses a TV show as inspiration to devlop their own fresh ideas in a similar vein have great commercial potential. Some people credit the TV series Buffy for the explosion of paranormal vampire romance. I think that is overstating, but it probably did play a role. There were plenty of bad books in that wave but there were also many good ones.
So much to think about in your comments, I’ll enjoy ruminating on them!
Like Kaye said above, I’m not sure anyone has done a truly fantastic job of merging what’s awesome about sci-fi and what’s awesome about romance. Some of the sci-fi romances I’ve read have been pretty silly, like all you have to do is merge sex with technobabble and you can slap that genre on it. But if you know of any authors who have done a better job of merging these two categories, please feel free to give me some summer reading suggestion. 🙂 I hope though that the sci-fi romances get better AND bigger in popularity.
I think it is probably good to keep in mind that both romance and SciFi have many subgenres. In romance you have historicals, inspirationals, light hearted comedies, and serious heart wrenching dramas and let us not forget erotic roamance. In SciFi there are what I call idea books that explore the impact of technology on us humans, there are books that look at the stars and ask what if we are not alone, there are books that look at society and its politics and evolution. There are techno thrillers, postapocolyptic cautionary tales, there are alternate histories and so much more.
There are so many ways to blend the two genres that I think it is inevitable that you will get a broad spectrum in SciFi romance. Not all combinations will suit every reader. Undoubtedly, two Scifi readers can very have different ideas of what is awesome about SciFi. If you’re looking for more serious SciFi Romance, scan through the Amazing Stories article. It mentions a few, like Lois McMaster Bujold and Catherine Asaro that might be to your taste.
I personally think Marcella Burnard has done a great job of blending romance with both real science elements and the more political, broad scope, alien cultures type of SciFi in her novel Enemy Within.
I too hope SFR gets bigger and better, but mass media being what it is, those break out books that broaden the audience are likely to be more adventure and romance than hard science.
Very true, with the many subgenres of both sci-fi and romance, the possibilities are numerous, if not endless. I’m sure that there are a lot of great authors who can put their own unique twists on these combos!
Great post. I am finishing up writing a Sci-Fi Romance and as I start to search for potential reviewers and bloggers, I have been sadly shocked to find that many don’t welcome SC-Fi!!! So I decided to bill it as a Dystopian Romance (which to me is just a off shoot of Sci-Fi) and that seems to be a more comfortable genre for people (thank you Hunger Games). Maybe, I’m being a little tricky, but a surprise splash of Sci-Fi never hurt anyone 😉
You’ve hit on a clever way to circumvent the bias and while we can wish it weren’t necessary, it is better (in my humble opinion) to get the story to readers than to stand by and shout for them to get a clue while your book goes unread.
Wishing you the very best of luck with it!
I confess I have trouble with some of these discussions because I’m not really a romance writer. I write space opera with a serve of romance on the side, which is what I like to read. For me, romance is another part of life, just a part. So if the aim is to attract the “romance” reader – I don’t think my books qualify. I never read straight romance books, so I don’t really know how to write them. I suppose my niche market is science fiction/space opera lovers – the sort who enjoy Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly etc – who would appreciate a little more heat in the personal interaction. Quite a few men have enjoyed my books, although a few mentioned they could have done without the sex. A few women didn’t think the romance worked. It’s what you’d expect, I suppose.
The closest to an SF romance I’ve seen is Avatar. Without the romance there would be no story. Personally, I loved the SFX, but I had a number of unflattering things to say about the science and the characters. And that, I suppose, illustrates my own bias. I do think the “science is a bloke thing” mentality is alive and well. Watching Star Wars is a whole different thing to reading Jack McDevitt or Asimov or Clarke and being asked to get your head around real scientific principles.
I guess I’m not expecting to make a heap of money from my writing, so I’ll stick with what I do – exciting space opera (using real science) with a dollop of romance. If it takes off – great. If it doesn’t – meh.
there is certainly nothing wrong with being a SciFi Writer that strives to include richly drawn personal relationships (including romantic ones) in their books. You’re right that it isn’t probably isn’t romance and their is probably no reason to market it as such. Romance readers tend to be voracious readers and while there are some romance readers that stay exclusively in the genre, many read widely. Chances are those that would enjoy your book will have no problem going outside the genre to find it.
Knowing yourself and what you truly want to write is a real asset for any writer.
Thanks for adding to the discussion!
This is certainly an interesting discussion. I am going to read the other links too. Off hand, I think that one reason SF romance has more hurdles than paranormal is because of world building. Most paranormals are built around real world settings with vampires, shifters added in. When the world becomes more elaborate it tends to get boxed in as urban fantasy. ( and of course UF doesn’t require the HEA) SF has to build a world so it’s more niche.
Then there is just the unpredictable trend elements which writers can’t control.
I think Greta Van Der Rol made a interesting observation in pointing out differences in readership. I see different categories of SFR readers. One consists of romance readers giving SFR a chance; another are SF readers giving Romance a chance; and still another are those who read Dystopian but don’t think of it as SF so it’s more palatable to them. There’s more categories I’m sure.
You may be right that setting is an issue. There have been plenty of television shows to try setting Scifi on modern earth, like V or The Event, or Roswell, or Fringe. This have been hit or miss and mostly miss, but it might be worth a try for SF romance.
I came to SFR from RS. To me it felt like a natural progression as I moved away from “dead bodies plots” to more action adventure type plots. So that’s the place I try to hit with my books, no matter which genre I’m writing. I do hope, hope, hope SFR reaches that magic tipping point. I love writing it!
I’m in a bit of a different boat as I haven’t actually read much sci-fi romance. I didn’t intend to write it either, but my story had other ideas! I’m more of a romance or fantasy fan usually.
My issue with most sci-fi romance is that when I’m sitting down to a romance read, I want something light, something easy to read. I don’t want to have to struggle to learn how a new world works, or to try to decide if a science idea is plausible or not. I want to simply be entertained. This is what I think big budget movies and TV shows have that a lot of sci-fi romance novels don’t have. Or at least, if they do have it, the blurb of their novel doesn’t indicate it.
My novel is romance first. The sci-fi bit is just the setting (and adds some conflict). Neither would work without the other, but I don’t think there is a lot of hard to understand science.
Ultimately though, I think we need all the different kinds of sci-fi romance, because everyone who comes to the genre is going to be looking for something different. And it would probably help if it could be categorised better on book store sites. I found it really hard to find initially.
I thought I already replied to you but it doesn’t seem to be here now. *scratches head*
Anyway, I also find it frustrating that the major retailers don’t seem to see any difference between PNR, UF, FR and SFR. It makes for one very big, unwieldy category to browse online. Ugh!
I hope everyone has found your post on the topic of SFR at http://rinellegrey.com/how-can-we-help-sci-fi-romance-reach-a-larger-audience/
I really enjoyed it!
>One exception to this was “Ghost Planet,”
I have to chuckle about this because Sharon Lynn Fisher has been pretty open about how Solaris (book/movies) partly inspired GHOST PLANET.
Great post and this discussion ties in nicely with a passage from a recent Dear Author post in which a reader new to romance made the following observation:
“The thing is, reading genre fiction is an act of habituation (in a good way) and the tropes that are often dismissed by those outside that particular genre as stereotypes, acquire meaning and impact not just from the context in which they are presented in a particular book but the expansive, extensive, exciting backdrop of the genre as a whole. In short: you have to learn a genre before you can love it.” (http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/guest-introduction-im-in-ur-genre-havin-ur-emotions/)
When I read: “you have to learn a genre before you can love it” I was struck by how much it captures the learning curve facing many readers new to SFR and even those on a quest for the style of story that fits their tastes. Not only is SFR still evolving, but also readers are still learning about it. And it’s a challenge to teach people when authors are still trying to get a handle on it themselves.
>Futuristic romance is just a recipe that hasn’t yet been perfected,
I would argue that it’s not about perfecting it, but about a book or a certain type of book breaking out (for whatever reason, which could be as simple as luck). *Then* everyone will point to it and say “This is how it’s done.” Like with Christine Feehan’s vampire romances.
Even so, would there be universal agreement that her books are perfect? Some would certainly argue her books are perfect, shining examples of paranormal romances, while just as many other readers would disagree. But maybe the tipping point for paranormal romance was that *enough* readers thought her books were perfect–and made sure everyone else learned about them through word of mouth and grassroots campaigning.
No author can write an SFR with the intention of it being a breakout novel because you just can’t predict what will make readers look at the story/trope in a different way. In other words, it’s hard to predict what readers want at any given time. Sometimes readers don’t even know!
Is there room for improvement and continued experimentation in SFR? Absolutely.
More and more I’m looking at the core fantasies (not necessarily sexual) being offered in SFR and how they relate to increasing this subgenre’s visibility–or not increasing it, as the case may be.
SFR can’t mimick vampires and other supernatural creatures to the exact same effect, but on the other hand it has its own unique set of entertaining core fantasies. It could simply be a matter of enough people realizing they want those fantasies–much in the same way rabid fans of Hugh Howey’s WOOL realized they had a thing for his version of post-apoc SF.
Charlee, you made an excellent point about not knowing the tipping point until we’re past it. Currently the goal is to keep putting stories out there and see what sticks.
Also, I second the nomination for Marcella Burnard’s ENEMY WITHIN. I hope it’s in the stars for her to write more SFR like that one.
@Leti Del Mar At least “dystopian” is more specific than “paranormal.” Thank you for that!
> I’m not sure anyone has done a truly fantastic job of merging what’s awesome about sci-fi and what’s awesome about romance.
Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA did it for me. Question, though (with my Devil’s Advocate hat on!): how would you define “fantastic job”? Are we talking fantastic for longtime SFR fans or fantastic for readers completely new to the subgenre?
Does Stephenie Meyer’s THE HOST count as fantastic? It obtained not only mainstream print distribution but was also made into a feature film.
What’s fantastic for readers might not be fantastic for publishers, and vice versa. Which is why these issues have no easy answer.
Thanks for joining the discussion Heather. I think we’re on the same page on this subject.
To your point of “What’s fantastic for readers might not be fantastic for publishers, and vice versa.”
I think we have to add writers to that and point out that the subgenre is a little like an isolated native tribe in the amazon. By exposing it to the outside you will enevitably change it. If you want the subgenre to be popular to the mass audience you have to accept that it will morph into what they demand and that may not be what long-time fans would want.
In horror circles I frequently hear the die-hard writers and fans lamenting what paranormal romance has done to THEIR monsters. I think we can likewise expect we won’t all be happy tith SFR if it gains the popularity we would hope for.
I’m not trying to be gloomy, I’m very hopeful. I like scary vampires AND I like their new sexy cousins. I’m hoping what comes from the growth of SFR will also be something I’ll enjoy.
Oooh you’re insights are great and I already incorporated them into one of my posts for later this week. Thanks!
The take off of vampires/paranormal and the influence of Buffy–I wrote fanfic in the Buffyverse during those years and it was a large, vibrant community of writers and readers. When the show ended, the fic writers lingered, but I know I started looking for vampire books, and they were not available in small town Wyoming. I found Ellora’s Cave and other online ebook publishers and read all the vampire books I could afford. Some fanfic writers I read back in the Buffyverse are still writing paranormal now for epubs. I do think Buffy was a huge influence.
I thought Amelia and Rory on Dr Who had a compelling romance, with a hard won HEA, many twists and bittersweet elements(River Song!). I’ve thought about them a lot–they are younger adults than many couples in SFR I’ve read. More of an everyman, too, without terrific jobs or life responsibilities or professional success. Kind of like Buffy and the Scoobies. Maybe the readers of the hoped for SFR breakout are younger than the average 30-ish 40-ish romance reader?
Great point. SciFi is doing pretty well in Young Adult these days. I just hope we don’t have to wait for that generation to become the writers!
>Maybe the readers of the hoped for SFR breakout are younger than the average 30-ish 40-ish romance reader?// 543457890-ij
That could very well be. There are already New Adult SFR titles available. I just hope they explore a variety of romance dynamics as well as SF settings.
So many things to say on this subject, but I think the one thing that stands out to me when this topic is discussed, is the idea that there is a certain blend of the two genres that is preferable in some way. (I’m addressing some of the comments here, as well as some discussions I’ve seen elsewhere, not directly the blog post).
I just don’t agree with this. I think there is so much room for all good storytelling, and if you want proof of that, all you have to do is look at Science Fiction itself. There’s everything from wallpaper to hard science fiction. There’s social/political SF and there’s space opera/space military. Why would SFR need to limit itself to a perfect “blend” when the two parent genres are filled with such variety? And why is there such variety? Because there are so many people out there with different experience, different tastes.
I’m a huge proponent of writing what the story needs. Whether that leans more toward SF or Romance, it’s the story that will pull in the reader. That has to be the draw no matter where the fiction falls on the line genre lines.
I came to writing SFR like many of us. I started reading SFF as a kid, well before I picked up my first genre Romance. But I did pick up a Romance and I fell in love. I know exactly what I love about Romance. It’s character driven and I’m assured a happy ending (I’d been burned by many a SFF novel with a non-optimistic ending). I read both genres. I know both genres. I write the two of them combined. Is it so difficult to believe that authors can be fans and authors of these two genres at the same time? Not at all.
So… what I wonder is how productive is it to say that the Romance portion of SFR isn’t as valuable as the SF? It’s the tone of some of the comments that give me this impression. Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, and I’d love to have to apologize by being wrong, here. But it’s something I see and I usually walk away from the comments/blogs rather than comment. But why put a wedge between us, as authors? Does that help the genre? If a discussion of SFR makes some of us come away feeling as if Romance is the dirty little secret to be ashamed of, it will perhaps move the discussion away from those folks. It shuts down open discussion.
And that’s me as a reader talking as well. Because I was a fan of SFR before I ever considered writing it. I love reading all of it from light space romps with dirty deeds happening in the captain’s chair all the way to Song of Scarabaeus, which is high on the tech side.
Back to the original topic…
If you look at the breakout novels for say, Paranormal Romance, with Feehan’s vamps, what I think is compelling is the humanizing of the creature, the bringing the characters and story out there in a fresh way. The worldbuilding is there to support that story, those characters. When people discuss these huge best sellers, they generally talk about the characters, maybe even to the exclusion of the world. In contrast, popular SF is more a mixed bag. We know as much about the world of Hunger Games as we do Katniss. Same with Deckard in Blade Runner. I think for SFR to take off, it has to have as compelling a world as character. They both have to pull the reader in.
We’ve had NYT best sellers in the genre. There have been successes. What do we consider a tipping point?
Ella, romance being put down as “less important” is a common attitude. Despite the fact it’s the most popular genre, has the highest sales, and some of the most devoted and voracious fans.
I’ve heard it so much and so often I don’t pay attention to it anymore. People can diss it all they want, but romance writers laugh at them on their way to the bank.
Ella, so glad you chose to comment. I hope everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions here. As long as everyone can be respectful, discussion of these topics can help us all refine our ideas.
I’d agree that we have to be very careful about labeling what is good, bad, or the perfect blend as it must surely be subjective and vary by reader. For those of us who write, however, it is only practical to think a bit about markets and as has been pointed out, romance is a much bigger market than scifi.
Even if SFR leans toward more romance as it grows, I think that can only help writers who lean more toward scifi. As romance readers get hooked on sfr, some portion will discover they also like scifi. And that is why it will benefit all of us, readers and writers at all points in the sfr spectrum, to acknowledge and embrace the broader spectrum of sfr possibilities as you suggest.
This is my first time commenting here but I’ve been reading the posts for months. As Heather knows, though, this particular topic, or variations of it, is something I love to talk about. At length. So, fair warning, I’ll try to keep this short but probably won’t succeed. 😉
One of the things that is missed, I think, when we compare popular video entertainment to the written versions is that TV series and movies also have their own conventions, regardless of genre. One of the major things that’s very difficult for any type of video producers and writers to do is to simply focus on “committed relationships” that last the length of a series regardless of whether we’re talking about a handful of movie sequels or any length of a TV series. There are a lot of reasons for this but a major one is simply casting and contractual issues.
There is also a fairly well-established convention in TV writing/producing that holds that if the couple gets together the series dies. A lot of them believe this wholeheartedly. Mainly because there are so few TV series that have successfully accomplished the seemingly impossible – which is to transition from a healthy non-married/non-committed relationship to a healthy and happy “marriage” of a couple AND continued to keep it healthy at the same time. Any couple. However that is defined.
Why is this important and pertinent to this topic about science fiction romances crossing that threshold? Because the post here is absolutely right in that modern romance isn’t simply about the happy ending.
It’s about the relationship that gets them to that point.
Without that relationship, a story can be very well told and quite successful but the romance reading audience will eventually lose interest.
So, what is the real question here when we talk about science fiction romance crossing a threshold? Is the point to become popular with mainstream audiences? Because that can happen without focusing on a committed relationship. At all. It truly only needs one compelling character doing something interesting inside an accessible world/universe to attract fans. It doesn’t require a significant other and it certainly doesn’t require The Relationship in any shape or form.
Or is the point to be popular with romance readers, who do make up the bulk of the reading/publishing audience? In other words, is the point to sell science fiction romance or simply science fiction with maybe a side of occasional romance?
There is a huge difference between the two.
Hi Bev. I hope you like what you’ve been reading! I’m glad you pointed out the difference between books and visual media. You’re right that they are very different. I think they do, however, feed off of and into one another. How many star wars or star trek fans never read a scifi book until they picked up a media tie in, I wonder? I’ve spoken to lots of scifi authors and many say their media tie-ins sell much more than their other work.
I’m not sure your observations about world building and a strong character are specific to scifi. This has happened on the fantasy/paranormal side with the rapid growth of urban fantasy that has come hand in hand with paranormal romance.
What is the goal? I can only speak for myself. I want romance readers to see the awesomness to be found in aliens, cyborgs, and the humans of the future just as they have with vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings.
I highly encourage anyone else enjoying this conversation to visit Heather’s new post at http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2013/04/the-fandom-factor.html Great off shoot of this topic.
As a very newly published author in the sci-fi romance/erotica genre, this post and all the comments are incredibly helpful. I have been trying to do exactly what you are all saying… find that magic point where sci-fi and romance meet, where the science is plausible and the romance genuine. I add in quite a bit of steam, as well, because that’s what I like to read.
I think the problem is that there is not enough publicity for these books. Sci-fi blogs don’t generally take on the SFR books, and romance blogs tend to shy away from SFR, though they don’t have a problem with fantasy or futuristic, which boggles the mind.
My mom was a geek long before it was cool. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was Star Wars, the first run. I grew up on SW, Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999, Buck Rogers… you get the idea. I also grew up on books like McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Heinlein, Asimov, the Chronicles of Narnia, and others in that vein. I think McCaffrey was my favorite, since most of her books also had a touch of romance.
I tried writing SFR twenty years ago, with the hope that it was an idea whose time had come. Not so much. While a number of publishers applauded the writing and the ideas, they weren’t receptive to the risk involved.
With the advent of self-publishing and e-books, though, things are changing, and for the better.
Perhaps as more SFR bloggers bring good books to our attention, and we’re diligent about passing those books on to our friends and family, SFR should take off a bit more.
I’d personally love to see a comprehensive listing of SFR authors, but they’re hard to find. It’s hard to get your stuff out there when even the e-pub options don’t include Sci-fi romance options. The best I’ve been able to do has been to post my book as erotica, but then the erotica lovers get turned off when there’s no sex until halfway through the book. Ah well… can’t please everyone!
I personally can’t wait until this long-overdue breakout happens. My sales could use it! *grin*
Hi Bethany Aan! I think there are a lot of us who groups with the same great SciFi childhood and wished it all had a bit more romance. LOL. Interesting that you bring up publicity. Really in the book world there isn’t much mass publicity for any book until the author is already a bestseller–something all new authors have been lamenting for years. I don’t think a SFR that was already popular would have trouble getting publicity. I’ve seen plenty of adds for JD Robb’s In Death series and I think Suzanne Brockmann’s SFR book got as much publicity as anything she writes.
At least now it is more possible (those still very time consuming) for authors to wage there own gorilla marketing strategy on the internet. I know SciFi authors are having trouble getting reviews on blogs and I’m not sure what to do about that. I’d love to feature more reviews but have trouble finding readers to review and I can only do so much.
In fact I sometimes feel like I have trouble reaching any readers that are not also writers. Even when I spent time on goodreads, it felt like most of the SFR folks there where authors. Maybe all of us who read SFR have become writers out of despiration for more books! LOL. I just don’t know.
I avoid blogging too often about writing and add in non SFR stuff like scifi movies and TV to attempt to appeal to a wider audience (and because I love that stuff) but I still think a huge chunk of people regularly reading this blog are writers. It’s not that I don’t love all my writer pals out there–I love you all-but I’d also like to reach beyond that too. And then I wonder if what we really need is a blog that reviews all romance but is just SciFi friendly.
Or were you talking about some other type of publicity? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this!
I’ve noticed the same thing… that often the folks most active on the few SFR blogs out there are also writers. I know that I try to tout other folks’ work when I’ve read it, and try to give fair and honest critiques, especially if they’re just getting started. But it is really hard to get word out about a book. And your friends and family can only buy so much to help your numbers! LOL
I honestly don’t know how to fix things, but perhaps it’s just a matter of time. And maybe by having more mainstream romance thrown into the mix, bloggers might attract readers who trust their judgment and eventually give SFR a shot.
I wish I knew the magic marketing plan, the best way to get more recognition for the geek girls who love romance AND sci-fi. I’d love for it to be a much more mainstream genre.
And I literally LOLed at ‘Maybe all of us who read SFR have become writers out of despiration for more books! LOL.’ That’s exactly why I started writing my stories, and after letting various friends and relatives read them, was encouraged to publish. I know that experience is probably not universal (hah! See what I did there?) but it’s a start. My cousin posted to her reading group on Facebook that my book was ‘better than Twilight’, and that sold a few copies. Word gets around, but it’s slow.
I’m rambling. Sorry!
What we need is a SFR con somewhere, with author signings, costume contests, etc. Publicize that, and we might be able to generate a lot more interest, especially amongst the cos-players. A lot of those folks are also fans of anime and manga, which means, to my mind, that they’re probably already prepared for SFR, as well. They just might not know it’s out there.
Does that make sense? I’ve had too much caffeine today, can you tell??
Hi Bethany Aan! Caffine and rambling are stock in trade for writers. It’s all good as long as we don’t let either spill into our manuscripts. 😉
I love the Con idea! Or maybe even an SFR track at one of the Paranormal Romance cons like Authors After Dark. Hmm….
We should totally do this!! 😀
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