I don't know about you but I get very confused when it comes to Science Fiction Romance! What is it exactly and how do I find it? To help explain, I invited Heather Massey of Galaxy Express to Love Romance Passion to share her thoughts and perceptions of this very complicated (romance) genre. Please extend a warm welcome to her! Feel free to ask any questions you might have and she'll do her best to answer them!
Bio: Heather Massey is a blogger who travels the sea of stars searching for science fiction romance adventures aboard The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she pens a science fiction romance column for LoveLetter, Germany’s premier romance magazine.
Defining the Genre: Science Fiction Romance
by Heather Massey, guest blogger
Simply put, science fiction describes stories set in an alternative reality that are technology driven, (as opposed to fantasy, which is magic-driven). Romance, of course, is about the emotional journey of the hero and heroine as they discover true love.
Opposites attract, and science fiction (SF) and romance are no exception. And when they decided to get it on, they had not one baby, but triplets!
What do we know about these fine offspring? The answer: plenty. Below I’ve listed the most common labels for blends of romance and SF followed by a description of the stories frequently associated with them:
Romantic Science Fiction is SF with a romantic subplot. The speculative elements drive the plot. Take away the subplot and the story marches on just fine. Romantic SF falls under the SF umbrella since a Happily Ever After is not guaranteed.
Science Fiction Romance (or Sci-Fi Romance) tends to be a 50-50 split between the SF and the romance. Both interweave to drive the plot forward. Take away one or the other and you’re left with only half of a story. A Happily Ever After of some kind is guaranteed.
Futuristic Romance typically describes stories wherein the romance drives the plot. Romance with science fiction elements, as it were. Take away the speculative elements and the story survives just fine.
Basically, it comes down to this: How much of the speculative elements drive the story vs. how much of the romance drives the story?
Where It Gets Tricky
No wonder readers can become confused about blends of SF and romance. There are many terms floating about. Some are reader/author coined. Others were developed by publishers as marketing labels. The difference is important to note because marketing labels change for the same type of books. Publishers have described them on the spine as “Romance,” Futuristic Romance,” and “Paranormal Romance.”
It also gets tricky depending on the time period in which they were written. Historically, romance was a dirty word in the SF community (still is in some circles). So readers relied exclusively on word of mouth to learn which books contained romantic elements. The term “Futuristic Romance” gained a tarnished reputation in the eighties and nineties for some mangling of the science fictional elements. Frequently, the speculative elements were sometimes little more than backdrop. But it’s still the primary marketing label used by publishers today, and for very smart and sophisticated books.
But even if the speculative elements only take up 1% of the plot, the onus is on authors these days to execute them well. Either they should contain some degree of accuracy or they should be depicted in such a way that the reader can willingly suspend her disbelief despite the presence of elements that defy the laws of science. Otherwise, why bother setting the story in the future?
Science fiction romance is a reader/author generated term. It’s been used concurrently with futuristic romance and also as a way to describe stories blending SF and Romance that weren’t a rehash of archaic, MARS NEEDS WOMEN type plots and substandard worldbuilding. Regardless, readers tend to use all of the labels interchangeably.
Another factor that impacts definition of the genre is reader expectation. One’s reading experiences and preferences impact what one expects to gain from a story. In any given book, some will feel that the romance has enough development; others will crave far more. A few lines describing the means of interstellar travel might overwhelm some readers; others won’t even bat an eyelash.
Finally, there’s no umbrella term for *all* stories blending SF and romance, or at least one that covers “science fiction romance,” “futuristic romance,” and everything in between those two. If one catches on, terrific, but right now it’s a challenge to create the ideal term.
The relevancy of subdivisions based on content, as noted above, lets readers know what to expect from a story. But publishers aren’t going to alternate between labels just to suit our whims. Reader subjectivity alone will make that a nigh-impossible endeavor.
That’s why communities of readers are crucial for cross-genres like science fiction romance. We rely on word-of-mouth to ferret out which particular blend suits our individual tastes.
For the purposes of my blog, The Galaxy Express, I made “science fiction romance” an umbrella term for my blog. More than any other label, it clearly conveyed the content. Plus, I wanted to blog about everything from Romantic SF to stories that were heavily romance driven. When it comes to blends of science fiction and romance, I love it all.
Photo Credits: c@rljones