As we come up on Valentines Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge all the gentlemen and ladies (and dragons, and other) in the audience who see a hint of romance in their scifi or fantasy and immediately ask:
As The Princess Bride proves, it’s possible for a wider audience to really enjoy your scifi and fantasy, even if it has kissing, as long as it’s worked in well. Who doesn’t enjoy fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles?
Good stories aren’t split into stories for boys and stories for girls. If you do it right, the guys will find that maybe it’s not so bad to sit through the kissing parts, and the girls will make it past the screaming eels. Besides, it’s always good to slip in there that you should never trust a traitor, even if he is your prince, and that even kissing can be awesome if it’s done by the Dread Pirate Roberts.
I tried to clear that high bar with this book – Scaling the Rim. It’s set on a colony trapped in a crater while the terraforming on their iceball is failing. While the two factions have temporarily ceased their running civil war and are pretending to cooperate in order to install a weather station that’ll warn them both of killing cold coming down from above, things are never as simple as they seem!
It’s got fighting and skiing, avalanches and intrigue, killing cold and uncovering old secrets, gunfights, true love and sacrifice…
You’ll like it.
Never underestimate the power of a competent tech.
When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony’s crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war…
But they hadn’t counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself!
Yeah. Some of us who have to be persuaded to appreciate “kissing books” are girls. It’s a combination of the navel-gazing emo and the soft porn.
I love Mary Stewart & Georgette Heyer. But modern “romance” (and some SF – Mike Williamson wrote a book I deleted 1/4 read, and Lois Bujold’s latest endeavor… Blech.) Meanwhile, I read YA novels for work, and while I can sympathize with the 14-year-old self-absorbed mindset, it really doesn’t work for adult characters.
Even my teenage yard-ape commented on it while watching a TV show: “ARRGGGH! The world is going to blow up in 5 minutes and they’re talking about their feelings! Shut up and defuse the Doomsday Device!”
*cracks up* I remember that Stargate: SG1 episode that was basically a loving riff of everything they did, the industry, everything. The episode where the SG1 team sits down to talk with the producer of what is essentially the fictionalization of their job, about the show. Tielk is into gumshoes; the perky former Goa’uld is into the dramas of the time, and … it was glorious. They had an imaginespot of a ‘teen version’ of them where in the middle of a battle, two of them argue about their feelings and relationship.
That sounds awesome!
Was that the “Extreme Wormhole” episode? I came dangerously close to rupturing something laughing during that one. “So if I can pass through walls because my density changed….why don’t I fall through the floor?”
Because the Plot Requires it, you daft bint! 😀 (Related to the anime universe’s “Plot Disease”, where a character is in a hospital to be worried about by the other characters but shows no debilitation or loss of function)
It was my favorite episode of the entire series.
The “making of” part of the DVD said that many of the people playing the production crew were actually part of the the real crew, which was even better.
As an aside, the last episode of “Perry Mason” had most of the production cast playing themselves as a production cast, along with Erle Stanley Gardner playing one of the judges.
I really liked how there were poke-the-meta episodes. The best part was, to me, how it did so without breaking the fourth wall.
The one I’m thinking of, actually, is a follow-up to the Wormhole XTreme! episode; 200.
The puppets I think, was the point where I just lost it and hurt myself laughing.
“Related to the anime universe’s “Plot Disease”, where a character is in a hospital to be worried about by the other characters but shows no debilitation or loss of function”
Oh, it’s far older than that…. 😎
It used to be called a Bard’s Disease, which heroines and occasional heroes caught when exposed to unrequited love.
The follow-up episode to that, 200.
Carter: “The singularity is about to explode”?
Martin: (pleased) Yes.
Carter: Everything about that statement is wrong!
Anders: Science fiction is an existential metaphor. It allows us to tell stories about the human condition. Isaac Asimov once said: “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.”
*leans on the fourth wall, hangs a lampshade on the lantern and paints on the medium*
Which latest Bujold? Gentleman Joel or Penric?
“Convos with Cordy, A Frontier Romance.” That one.
I read War and Peace in 8th grade. My mother and her reading group, who met at our house were reading it. So I read it in self defense. I sat in on one of their discussions one day and realized we were actually reading different novels. I loved the descriptions of the great battles. So exciting. But all they wanted to discuss was the relationship between Andre and Natasha.
I had a hard time with Natasha. My 8th grade brain kept inserting references to moose and squirrel.
Oh, and Sarah, I was disappointed when I worked in Russia. They couldn’t have been real Russians. They didn’t sound like Boris and Natasha!
You were in Russia, not Pottsylvania.
DOH! My bad.
I want to hear Sarah Hoyt say “moose and squirrel.” Hee! ~:)
I’ve heard it. I did not record it! …You know this, because I’m alive today to type this response! 😛
Note: if you think you’ve heard me say this before, I have! This is expanded from a statement I gave yesterday on Romance in SF&F for the Superversive SF Podcast.
The problem that I have with most romance in adventure fiction is that romance is given as part of the treasure, and I see it as part of the adventure.
The set formula is that the hero defeats the dragon and receives the girl as a reward, while they way I see it is that the dragon is just the sub-boss battle that the hero uses to level up so he can handle the challenge of facing the girl. The fade out at the end occurs just when the real danger is building.
But then I’m not much of a romantic. I don’t believe in Happily Ever After. There are SF/F stories that deal with the nuts&bolts of trying to keep a relationship working after the dragon has been slain (I tried to do that in my own books) but in general the focus tends to be on building up to the relationship, not maintaining it.
The working relationship of the “happily [enough] ever after” is a lot harder than the meeting and falling in love – not just in telling, but in doing. I’m still working on it, and can only hope I’m getting it right!
It can work well if it’s secondary to the adventure. Part of the adventure can turn on romantic feelings, but it’s like adding spice to a dish: you don’t want to overpower everything with the romantic aspect. You can also have a lot of fun with it as comic relief , especially how everyone else views the relationship.
*Sympathetic grin* I’m wondering if my characters in the RajWorld books will ever catch on that their families decided on a semi-arranged-maybe marriage for them. The parents decided when the two were barely teens that they’d probably be a good fit, and gently encouraged them to spend time together, but in a way that wasn’t “Here, you two go be romantic” and the parents encouraged them to court others if they so desired.
…the set formula is that the hero defeats the dragon and receives the girl as a reward,
Uh. In Boy’s King Arthur or Lang’s color fairy tales sure. But in anything post 1890. Not so much.
That sounds like a fantasy narrative ABOUT adventure fiction.
Not very often in the fairy tales, to tell the truth.
True. But if you were to read ALL of the Lang “colour” Fairy Books, you could find it. Not that I would’ve done that, or anything.
Oh, I have*, and you’re right.
* Also Grimm, Afanasyev, Joseph Jacobs, Asbjørnsen and Moe, Gonzenbach and one or twenty others. 0:)
My editor friend calls the books 📚 I’m writing romances, though I don’t really see it myself. Sure, romance is in them, but I didn’t think that was the center story.
There’s a basic test for that: f you take the romance out of your book, is there anything left? If yes, then it’s not a romance. It’s some other genre with romantic elements.
Generally I find romance in books irritating. I’ve been known to skip entire parts of a book to get around the moping and the angsting.
The universe has a sense of humor. My books, to my great shock and dismay, have romance as a huge part of the story. My characters absolutely refuse to behave. They’re maniacs. All they want to do is make moomoo face ALL THE TIME. The bad guy is basically a side character who makes them stop fooling around and go shoot something occasionally.
Lately I’ve had to resort to super-powered demons to get them out of the house every morning. Even the half-demonic wolf is blowing off vengeance in favor of moomoo face with her pet human.
On the bright side, there’s no teen-aged angst. Yay.
This I suppose is one problem with doing things by the seat of your pants. If you ask “what would the scary wolf do?” you find out she’s dying to get laid more than half the time. She won’t do a damn thing unless there’s a major threat involved.
“My books, to my great shock and dismay, have romance as a huge part of the story.”
That’s what’s happening in my writing right now. I was planning on having a romance in the current novel-sized WIP, but it was going to be a tertiary plot.
Now it’s secondary, and I seriously suspect that if the characters involved weren’t fighting for their country’s survival it would be the main plot by now.
…this one didn’t start out as a romance, either. Not when I plotted it. *sigh*
It really is like baking, isn’t it? When you set up the characters and events and add the heat and conflict, they will do what story logic and character demands, not what you wanted…
Dorothy, I realized I didn’t congratulate you on your book! Duh!
I went to Amazon and checked it out. Looks very good! Congrats on getting it out there.
Congratulations on getting the book out as well!
There’s been a variety of types of romances in the books I wrote for the kids. Let’s see . . . there’s the young woman smitten by the neighborhood “bad boy,” who learns why her parents have a dim view of him, and uses a quarterstaff to send him on his way. Only after he’s out of sight does her anger turn to a broken heart. There’s a first crush that ends disastrously due to an ill-spoken word. There’s a second crush that ends when the young fellow proves to be a cad. There’s a romance between secondary characters that provides gossip for a couple of Tweens. There’s the relationship that wasn’t that had parents worried, and both the young “loves” going “Ick!” There’s the bad-boy who’s lost the girl but still loves her, and spares her new suitor because he doesn’t want to hurt her. Then there’s a long romance that spans several books that looks ill-fated for a number of reasons, but comes together for various reasons and endures. And then there’s the marriage where neither loves the other at all.
Awesome cover, Dorothy. Just picked up a copy and am looking forward to reading it!
Oh, and, Congratulations!
Thank you! I hope you like it!
Yeah, Mad Mike’s latest was surprising to say the least. The focal character is by even our current loose standards something of a slut. And I can understand how someone easily offended might not get past that to realize that her behavior was extremely well crafted, consistent with the reality in which Mike set his tale, and an integral element of the story line. As the reader, it’s your choice naturally, but if you only read those books with heros and heroines that meet your personal standards then how sad for you. You’ll never know what you’ve missed.
Personally, I doubt I’m missing much avoiding books with characters of that nature. There’s a difference between differing standards and debauchery. My life is not diminished by avoiding EL James, for example.
She’s on duty on a spaceship, and celibate, for most of the time at the start of the story, and on-the-hunt during her time off-duty on stations. For the bulk of the story story, she needs to suppress her sexuality because it would be inappropriate in the military squad context, and she does. There are a few instances when she uses sex as a weapon in support of the mission, more Mata Hari than sexpot, and most of the instances are damaging to her. The events of the story change her until afterwards, when she is back being civilian, IIRC she no longer chases sex the same way. So sexuality runs throughout the story in her thoughts, but her actions (especially after the start) are much less dominated by sex than her thoughts, and at all times her actions are constrained by the circumstances. So she is too in-control to really be described as a slut even at the start, and she is damaged and changed a lot by the story. Her initial behavior is very off-putting to religious readers, but her character really is deeper than “slut” and grows from there. She is Mad Mike’s version of Mata Hari, a female spy/scout, not any of the celebrity sexpots we could name.
Offended? One of my favorite SF books is Kingsley’s Courtship Rites They eat babies.
I was bored
Debbie does Space Stations.
I kept waiting for the author to get to a plot.
Readers may have noticed the furor, a couple of decades back, involving one or more (I forget) major YA authors (real world, not SF) in which teens and tweens carried on with each other, the carrying on being described in graphic detail. In some circles the series were more popular with teens and tweens than with their parents. There were a few lines, very delicately phrased, of this sort in the recent Weber YA series.
Hmmm… two decades ago would’ve been 1997, yes?
Go Ask Alice, Forever, Pardon Me You’re Stepping on My Eyeballs and many, many other YA novels involved teens getting in on were published in the 1970s.
Using sex to pull in teen readers (or adult readers for that matter) is nothing new. It’s khreppulent to do it to young folks who haven’t had time to develop mental guards against the inflow of sewage, judge what’s reasonable/realistic, and are at a hormonal weak-spot in their lives. Not to mention unlikely to be able to regularly satisfy their natural urges with a husband/wife as a married adult could.
I bought a trilogy about awesome power armour suit action only to have to wade through soppy romance: oh still my beating heart stuff that just got in the way. I enjoy Georgette-Heyer and Austin, but I want my giant stompy power armour action book to be about stompy power armour suit action. Call me fussy.
Isn’t part of the problem with romance the tendency to get stuck on will-they/won’t-they? That authors rarely spend time on a pairing once they’ve got it stabilized?
Hopefully there’s some reader enjoyment potential, there. A reader once mentioned, on one of my practice projects, that the POV character and his significant other reminded the reader of the Thin Man movies, where the crime-solving married couple engage in playful banter and clearly _enjoy_ their relationship.
It may end up being a thing of mine, where the pairing off tends to happen fairly quickly, so that the couple can get to the part where they enjoy being _companions_.
Nora Roberts (writing as J D Robb) managed to take the relationship between Eve Dallas and Roarke from “romance” to “loving partners” in the Eve Dalllas (In Death) murder mysteries.
Sure, and Lois Bujold has Cordelia and Aral, and the couple in the Sharing Knife. (And I would _really_ like to see a sequel to the Spirit Ring, but it looks like that isn’t ever going to happen.)
Sarah’s got Thena and her family, although I’m not sure I’d call anything Thena’s involved in _stable_.
John Ringo has Cally and her husband, even if their relationship was long-distance for quite a while and largely off-screen.
I’m hardly breaking new ground, I’m just saying it seems uncommon to show the ongoing settled-in relationship, and that’s something I may end up doing a lot.
I like that, and plan to explore the progression of a decent relationship in my sequel to Manx Prize rather than dither around in will they/won’t they. The romance in the first book was a sub-plot in any event, so I think it’ll work.
There is definitely a difference between approaches. There are books written for girls/women, and books written for boys/men.
Yes, there is cross gender appeal, in that men will read books aimed at women, and vice-versa, but the biggest market is still by far, books aimed a women. Romance is proof alone of that, it’s the biggest genre out there, and you see romance has a firm foothold in SciFi and Fantasy. Look at the top 100 sometime and see just how many of them have romance in them (over half, usually).
These days, more women read then men. In all genres. So if you aim your book at women, you are aiming at a much larger demographic and if your book is good, you will do far better than if you aimed it at men. It’s just a fact of the industry and is why these days most writers aim at a female audience.
Of course this probably also has something to do with men reading less, as many of these women targeted books are very hard on the men in their story.
🙂 In the steampunk story I’m currently polishing, one of the male characters is accused of reading too many novels about the Conquest Era, a bit like women get twitted about reading too many gloppy romances. He is, in part because it’s how he escapes for a little while from the (unpleasantly) matriarchal society he and the others live in. And the novels “overstate” the importance of men to the Conquest (at least that’s how the Matrons and priestesses et al view it.)