Sunday, August 31, 2008

Written on

SHADES OF DARK WINNER

Congratulations, Charlotte McClain, you’ve won a copy of Linnea Sinclair’s SHADES OF DARK! Please email your name and address to sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com.

Thanks again to Linnea Sinclair for her time and wisdom, and for everyone who entered.

Joyfully yours,

Heather
Written on

The 15 Hottest Couples in Science Fiction (Romance)

Hot: [hot]
1. sexy; attractive.
2. extremely exciting or interesting; sensational or scandalous
3. popular and commercially successful; in demand; marketable




We all have our favorite couples: The ones who sweep us off our feet with blazing courtships, taut sexual tension, and witty banter—all against a backdrop of impossible odds. So why not have a little fun with it? Naturally, I googled this topic before creating the post—no need to reinvent the spime, right? But—horror of horrors—I discovered someone else had beaten me to it.

Almost.

Last Valentine’s Day, John DeNardo of SFSignal fame posted about the “Top Couples In Science Fiction” and as you can see, it’s, um...well, let’s just say he gets an A for effort! ;)

Obviously, the poor dear must have been overworked that day, because he forgot to include “romance” in the title. Nor does the title reflect how hot the couples are (well, “top” has an “o,” and a “t,” so maybe the “p” was a typo or something). There’s a mention of “romantic themes” but the word “romance” wasn’t included. I’m assuming that’s an oversight rather than a case of Freudian denial.

Plus, the images were rather scanty, and barely a scantily clad woman or man among them. I mean, if one is going to post about romantically involved couples in science fiction stories, own it like your heart desires nothing else. Shout it from the satellite stations!

Well here at The Galaxy Express, every day is Valentine’s Day because we’re all about the romance in science fiction! And there are hot couples everywhere you look. Hot bods. Hot intellects. Hot abilities.

In a word, hot. So what are we waiting for? Let’s break it down!

Television

Mulder & Scully (THE X-FILES)



While investigating UFO and paranormal phenomena, FBI agents “Spooky” Mulder and pragmatic Scully achieve intense, prolonged sexual tension that keeps us drooling no matter how many times we watch this series. They’re the poster hero and heroine for bulls-eye chemistry. And get this: Mulder & Scully look just as hot wearing suits!

John & Aeryn (FARSCAPE)



When a wormhole propelled astronaut John Crichton into the midst of a distant galactic conflict, he never expected to find love in the arms of one of his deadliest enemies, Peackeeper Officer Aeryn Sun. But I’m betting he’s glad he did. So are we, because no other couple completes us like John and Aeryn.

Troy & Riker (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION)



Lt. Commander William T. Riker & Counselor Deanna Troy flirt, banter, and tease during their on again, off again relationship that unfolds during the far-flung voyages of the Starship Enterprise. But in the end, nothing describes their Happily Ever After better than “Imzadi.”

Marina & Troy (STINGRAY*)



She’s a mute mermaid with a past (a former slave of Titan, evil leader of a submarine warrior race). He’s the brash pilot of super submarine Stingray, keeping the oceans safe on behalf of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. When Marina rescues Troy from Titan’s clutches, their meeting launches a subplot of unrequited love that plucks at the heartstrings. (The series features a love triangle, actually. WASP operative Atlanta Shore had the hots for Troy as well.) And since Marina’s character was modeled after Brigette Bardot, and Troy’s after James Garner, that’s even more of a reason to tune in.

Wilma & Buck (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY)



Mainly this couple is on the list because Erin Gray was so deliciously hot in the NBC television show. In fact, Wilma Deering frequently came to Buck’s rescue in this incarnation. Here’s a collection of scenes showing off her fabulousness:



Didn’t I tell you this couple was hot?!

Books

Lessa & F’lar (DRAGONFLIGHT by Anne McCaffrey).



Beneath Lessa’s lowly kitchen worker persona is a strong willed woman with a hidden past. F’lar is the rugged dragon rider who joins with her to rally the citizens of Pern against the rising menace of Thread. Their tempestuous courtship is the stuff of legends.

Kao & Jordan (CONTACT by Susan Grant)



Sizzling chemistry and delicious sex belie what is actually a mature, poignant, and well developed romance between airline pilot-turned-rescuer Jordan and tortured otherworld soldier Kao. This is one for the keeper shelf.

Claire & Jaimie (OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon)



No-nonsense nurse Claire falls hard for charming, strapping Scotsman Jamie, even as he conceals a dark past. Like, way in the past since this is a time-travel story. As if it couldn’t get any hotter, the relationship evolves over six more books!

Lorgan & Deana (KNIGHT OF A TRILLION STARS by Dara Joy)



A steamy out-of-this world adventure pits Alpha alien Lorgan against spitfire Deana as they race to save...as they strive to overcome...er...oh well who cares about the inconsequential plot in this case because they’re a melodramatic couple you won’t soon forget!

Chasidah & Sully (GABRIEL’S GHOST & SHADES OF DARK by Linnea Sinclair).



Chasidah is a former Captain of the imperial Fleet. Sully is her rogue mercenary lover with a dark secret. Together they battle corrupt politics, deadly mutants, and betrayal while struggling with an extraordinary phenomenon that will change their relationship forever.

Film

Lois & Kal-El (SUPERMAN II)



It doesn’t get any hotter than an alien who forsakes his powers and heritage just to make love with you in the Fortress of Solitude. ‘Nuff said.

Sarah & Kyle (THE TERMINATOR)



A one night stand has never resulted in so much drama! Though Sarah and Kyle’s tryst is brief, it’s a notable romance since the tender exchange occurs against a backdrop of such utter violence. It symbolizes--and delivers!--hope for humanity’s future.

Hikaru & Misa (Chō Jikū Yōsai Makurosu)



You may know this wildly popular series as THE SUPER DIMENSION FORTRESS MACROSS (airing as the first trilogy of ROBOTECH in the U.S.). Whatever one calls it, there’s no denying the gripping tale of a love triangle set against an alien invasion. Hikaru, the brash fighter pilot, and Misa, the stoic officer, can’t stop bickering at first. But the human-alien war forces them to question what’s most important in their lives, and overcome their differences.

Chani & Paul (DUNE)



What happens when a royal-born messiah-to-be meets his heart’s match in a feisty desert warrior? A big budget film in 1984 with another slated for 2010, for one! But it was the 2000 TV mini-series that really catapulted this couple to a level of heat rivaled only by the desert planet of Arrakis...also known as "Dune."

Peter & Mary Jane (SPIDER-MAN)




Peter Parker (a.k.a. the angst-filled wall crawler) and sweet love-interest Mary Jane in the 60s comic books? Not so steamy. But in the first two films helmed by Sam Raimi...? Smokin’!



I hope you enjoyed the tour! Feel free to share your picks for the hottest couples in SFR. But don’t forget to visit SFSignal and drop Mr. DeNardo a compliment about his “list.”

Then tell him about mine.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

*Trivia in-joke alert: My recent “Stand By For Action” post title was inspired by a line from this show’s opening credits.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

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Author Supernova: Linnea Sinclair, Part III

Thanks again, wonderful passengers, for joining me during this Supernova feature for science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair.

No matter how busy Ms. Sinclair is, she always endeavors to make time for her fans. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing her. Below are her thoughtful answers to my questions about her writing, inspirations, and her recent release, SHADES OF DARK.

The Galaxy Express: Worldbuilding is very important to you. Dig deep and tell us
why you care so much.

Linnea Sinclair: I don't have to dig very deep. I'm an experience junkie. I'm one of those readers who writing guru Dwight V Swain ::genuflect genuflect::: was talking about when he said that it is an author's job to manipulate the emotions of the reader. I don't want to just read it, I want to be there, I want to feel the breezes, smell the asphalt, hear the discordant trilling of the avianoids. I want to be taken fully out of my current existence and my current locale because given the current fuel prices and luggage restrictions (the latter really frosts me), a $6.99 trip to the outer reaches of the galaxy is incredibly reasonable. And I don't even have to worry about what to pack.

Yes, world building is more than sights and sounds--it's sights and sounds (and a lot of other things) that make SENSE. That are logical to the characters and conflicts and are the underpinnings of why your story is set on Galtiur-IV and not West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. Actually, world building is why a novel set in West Palm Beach, Florida can only be set there and not in McHenry, Illinois. Or why it's set in 2008 and not 1968. Things that made up the flavor and tenor of 1968 are not the same as those that create 2008. So yeah, I don't think (good) world building is just for SFF writers.

To me, a novel's world (setting/galaxy/starship/apartment/log cabin/taxi cab/hotel room) is essentially another major character. It's either a factor that creates a cohesiveness as well as depth, or it doesn't. It's impinged on directly by the "suspension in disbelief." A lot of readers catch world building flaws in planets with only one climate (and not artificially generated) or technology with impossible attributes, but there are just as dangerous flaws in a contemporary novel with a heroine who lives in a beach house in St Petersburg Beach, Florida, facing the Atlantic Ocean (I read one of those, once.). Must have been a helluva hurricane. Errors and illogical notions can pull a reader out of the experience of the novel. It makes them realize they need to pack for a vacation and there are high fuel prices and luggage restrictions.

To me, my novel's world is real. My characters really drive down that street or live in that starship cabin. They really voted for that politician and really shop in that store. They pray or don't pray, they follow laws or break them, they speak the vernacular or wax poetic, rivaling the greatest bards. But it's their world shaped by things that are not mine nor of my experience.

If I wanted my experience, I'd turn around and look at my reflection in the sliding glass door. I don't want my experience. I want theirs. The only way I know to do that is a fully and richly and logically as possible.

Do I always succeed? No. There are things called word count and things called deadlines. They directly affect how much an author can do with world building when characters, conflict and plot points need equal billing. Sometimes I try to key on two or three items or issues that to me summarize the flavor of the culture, species, world or whatever. Sometimes I'm on point. Sometimes I'm not. The whole counter-culture, underworld element that is the core of Dock Five in the Gabriel's Ghost universe was something I could have happily spent chapters on. What's Dock Five's history? Why would such a regulated political entity as the Empire permit it to continue? Why didn't Fleet shut it down? Isn’t such a locale improbably given the political climate I created?

No. I could point to a half dozen examples on our own planet and yes, I did take flavors and snippets from real locales to create Dock Five. "Of all the gin joints in all the world..."

Well, I guess we'll always have Paris, if not Dock Five. I wish I could have given Dock Five a lot more pages. I couldn't.

The same is true of many other elements in world building in a novel. Swain ::genuflect:: says vividness outranks brevity and he's right. Your world building must be logical, plausible but it must also be vivid. Scenes that stick with me for that reason are like the ones in Cherryh's Chanur series, where the hani go through jumpspace and suffer severe shedding. What a terrific way to bring readers into the experience! The medical explanations of why the body reacts so would leave most readers cold. But let readers experience coming through jump and then finding fur falling out in handfuls... that's a very tactile bit of world building.

TGE: Please dish on any homages, in-jokes, or veiled referencesin SHADES OF DARK.

LS: You don't have a high enough security clearance...

Kidding. Actually, not as many "easter eggs" in SHADES as in THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES or GAMES OF COMMAND. Many are carry-overs from GABRIEL'S GHOST The ship, the Krista Nowicki, is named after Christine Nowicki, the delightful publisher's assistant at the former LTDBooks, which published the original version of GABRIEL'S. Doc Chris Galan is Chris Galan, a writer in my local RWA chapter in southwest Florida. She's also a beta-reader and I thought I'd have a bit of fun making her into a character. And Philip Guthrie's talent in the kitchen is filched directly from my husband who is, yes, an incredible cook.

So now that I think of it, there are really very few for a Sinclair novel. I was off my game, obviously.

TGE: When it comes to promoting yourself and marketing your
books, you are tirelessly persistent. Good books build good buzz, but sometimes
authors need more of a boost. Then there’s the matter of promoting one’s genre,
and the often indefinable ways they sometimes skyrocket to superstardom. Let’s
say your publisher told you that from now on the sky’s the limit on your
marketing budget for your science fiction romance books. Deal or no deal?

LS: What's not to love? A no limit-budget? Hell, right now I'd love end caps and some shelf talkers. But no limit? I'd do a lot more cons, try to connect with booksellers, librarians and readers who aren't in Florida or Ohio, the only two places I can easily go at the moment. I'd want more ARCs for reviewers and libraries, and I'd throw a really really really big party at RT. With special effects designed by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.

Promotion takes up a huge chunk of my time. If I'm promoting, I'm not writing. If I'm writing, I'm not promoting. SFR isn't yet a genre that's rolling on its own. So yes, there's a lot of reader and bookseller education to be done before you can even get people to look at the books. I often liken it to those caramel-double-latte-mochachinos everyone drinks these days. Before Starbucks strolled on the scene, coffee was coffee. Black or with cream, with or without sugar. Pretty much the same everywhere. Then, poof! Starbucks, and at first, people were squinting and saying, "Double-chino-what?" Now mochachinos are standard fare. SFR is like that. We get a lot of "what?". But once readers dive in they find that yes, we are both great tasting and less filling.

TGE: Are you inspired, creatively, by anything outside thescience fiction/romance universe? If so, please describe.

LS: Gin and tonic with two limes does it for me, though lately I've been blown away by the New Zealand sauvignon blancs. But that's probably not what you're asking.

SFR per se is not my inspiration. Characters and conflict are my inspiration. "What if?" is my inspiration. SFR is simply the playground where I have the most fun.

As a reader, I love mysteries, police procedurals and romantic suspense. I'm addicted to A&E's The First 48 and fascinated by Deadliest Catch. I get a lot of starship crew conflict ideas from the latter.

Other than writing, my creative talents are pretty limited. Years ago I studied piano, organ and guitar. I can play the harp. I have an accordion but haven't had time for lesson. Oh, I can crochet. Want a blanket?

TGE: Are SF and Romance fans really that different? Can’t we all just get along?

LS: Yes and no.

I actually consider myself an SF fan first and romance reader second and I have no problem at all with SFR or RSF. I don't think the issue is in genre as much as it is in character-driven novels versus plot driven novels. Character driven novels are inherently going to have more emotional issues and exploration of emotions. Plot driven novels will have shallower characterization and more technology or "hard" world building. Will a die-hard plot fan ever enjoy a character novel? Unlikely. It's not the flavor or experience they want. The character-driven novel is more intimate, the reader feels more, risks more. The plot driven novel keeps the reader at arm's length, letting him or her ponder the issues of the novel without engaging the emotions to any great extent. Some people simply don't enjoy having their emotions manipulated. It's like roller coasters. Some people love getting spun around and then puking their guts out. Others don't. Doesn't make one wrong or the other right.

The trouble SFR has is that SF is heavily populated with readers who don't like roller coasters. They want plot driven, idea driven, concept driven novels that they can think about but that they don't necessarily have to feel I'm over generalizing so please, don’t jump on me on this. SFR brings emotions--roller coasters full of emotional experiences--into the mix.

I didn’t actually see this situation quite as clearly until a few weeks ago I was pointed to a blog discussion (I think by this blog) where an SF reader kept asserting that the only books that could be SF were those that were an exploration of ideas. IDEAS. Not people. Not conflict. Ideas. Cold, remote, unfeeling ideas. That hit me like a two-by-four. Now, I don't fully agree with him. I do think a lot of SF is idea-driven, plot-driven. But a lot of SF is character-driven. People/sentients interacting with ideas or the results of those ideas.

But in reading this person's postings, I very clearly saw why he could never accept SFR. The intimacy of it--the roller coaster of emotions--is not the ride he wants to take.

By the way, I don't think idea-driven novels are unique to SF. They exist in lots of other genres. Mystery is probably the next one very prone to being idea-driven. There are lots of mystery novels in which the characters are second to the methodology of unraveling the crime. But I don't think romantic suspense suffers from the same rejection factor as SFR does.

TGE: Trilby Elliot of FINDERS KEEPERS and Tasha “Sass” Sebastian of GAMES OF COMMAND are both blondes. Why?

LS: Because I'm the mommy, that's why?

Okay, no overt reason, no hidden reason, no big secret plot to overthrow the world of brunettes. Chaz Bergren in GABRIEL'S GHOST is a redhead, Jorie in ZOMBIE BLUES has punk streaked dark hair and Rya in HOPE'S FOLLY has curly brown hair. Trilby is a blonde because in my mind's eye, that's how I saw her. I remember at the time I'd read more than my share of books with the heroine being a long-legged, willowy, sultry brunette. I was going against the grain there, back in the 1990s when it was first written. It's not my fault that by the time it was published, there were more blondes on the pages of books. Now, Gillie in AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS was a blonde because she's Raheiran and that's their usual coloring. Her hair's actually almost silvery. Don’t go by the original cover art. She doesn't own a red spandex cat suit, either.

Sass and Eden in GAMES are blonde because Sass and Eden are really people I know. I can't tell you any more than that because you don’t have the security clearance.

TGE: If Daq met a real furzel, what would be his reaction?

LS: Daq does not treat other furred creatures kindly. He's Alpha and he lets you know it. The only reason he tolerates Miss Doozy is they were both kittens at the same time and she's fully subservient to him. She washes his head. He swats her.

We live on the edge of a lake, not far from the Everglades, and we had a large bobcat lope through our backyard the other day. Daq, inside our pool cage, charged the thing. Had there not been the screening, he would have attacked it and probably gotten ripped to shreds. Daq is an overweight Maine Coon mix. His taking on a wild, lean, mean bobcat was the height of vanity on his part. Height of stupidity as well. He needs to stick to catching chameleons.

Oh that Daq! Well said, Ms. Sinclair! Thanks again for your time, and for your art.

Speaking of chronology, I’m giving away a book right now! One lucky passenger will win a copy of Linnea Sinclair’s latest release, SHADES OF DARK, the sequel to GABRIEL’S GHOST (and do please read GABRIEL’S GHOST first for the complete experience).




For two fugitive lovers, space has no haven,
no mercy, no light—only...
SHADES OF DARK

Before her court-martial, Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk, mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz hoped to leave the past light-years behind—until the news of her brother Thad’s arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.

With a killer targeting human females and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines, Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery, betrayal—not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s Imperial ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their relationship forever, Chaz must also choose—between what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.


The deadline for the drawing is Sunday, August 31 2008 at 9 p.m., EST. In order to get your name in the proverbial hat for a random drawing (contest limited to U.S. residents), please leave a comment for this post.

To make it fun, I’ll toss out a question: What's your thought on Ms. Sinclair's discussion about the "rejection factor" associated with science fiction romance? Do you think the speculative element makes SFR too much of a "geek" genre? Or are there other factors at work? How can we, as readers, authors, and publishers mitigate it?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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Author Supernova: Linnea Sinclair, Part II

Welcome back as The Galaxy Express continues its celebration of science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair. Intrigue, romance, strange new worlds—everything and more you could want from an SFR.

The Galaxy Express knows no bounds, so I’ve been able to collect a multitude of links about Linnea Sinclair and her work. Chef has laid out bottles of Ms. Sinclair’s favorite wine as well as a buffet of exotic fruit, aromatic cheeses, and chocolate treats while you peruse them, so dig in!

Linnea Sinclair is a regular contributor to the blog Alien Romances. There she discusses topics ranging from craft to the publishing biz. One interesting read is (Alien) Culture Club.

Next, check out the sizzling image and fun entries at Linnea Sinclair’s MySpace blog.

Meanwhile, Madge Baker from Sime~Gen conducted an extensive interview...

...and so did the team at The Book Smugglers who presented “A Long Weekend With Linnea Sinclair.” (Don’t forget to read the comments. Lots of great discussion there.)

No one knows how to throw a launch party like Kimber An. Here are two of the shindigs from Enduring Romance (and while you’re there, check out the reviews for Ms. Sinclair’s books):

SHADES OF DARK Cyber-Launch Book Party
THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES Cyber-Launch Book Party.

You can even listen to Linnea Sinclair’s 8/21/08 chat at Books Beyond The Boundaries Radio Show (And here I’d like to express my appreciation for Ms. Sinclair for her mention of The Galaxy Express). Do not miss this interview because there’s a very informative discussion about the creative process and the publishing industry as it relates to SFR.

For another profile visit: I Need My “Space” interview at ParanormalRomance.org.

But we can’t let Ms. Sinclair have all the fun! Click on the following links to read about the world’s #1 Bio-Cybe dishing about, well, himself in The Admiral Answers, Part I & Kel-Paten on the Hot Seat. (And some mischievous person had the audacity to ask if he wears boxers or briefs! Hmm, I wonder who that could be?)

Now back to the author! Ms. Sinclair speaks at A Romance Review.

Here’s a Q&A at AAR After Hours.

There’s even more: Interview at The Romance Studio.

In addition to Alien Romance, Linnea Sinclair blogs the second Monday of every month at the HEA Café.

After you beam back, sit back and enjoy this video interview, courtesy of Coffee With The Author (filmed at the Romantic Times Conference).




I also discovered news about an upcoming workshop (thanks to Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter for the alert):

Linnea Sinclair, RITA and 2007 PEARL Award Winning author published by Bantam Books, will be at the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library, 43 West Third, Mansfield, on August 30th from 2pm to 5pm. She will give a workshop titled Characterization: Making Strengths and Weaknesses Work For You (or No More Mary Sues!).

Down with one-dimensional cartoon-like characters. Down with the two-dimensional ones while we’re at it. Embrace your characters—warts and all—in this lively workshop. Linnea will show how she uses police and investigation suspect information sheets to help craft interesting, memorable characters that readers and reviewers will love. She’ll help writers dialogue with their characters to bring out information that builds depth and uniqueness, and discuss the pros and cons of using archetypes, astrology, and tarot to build story people.

There’s no fee for the workshop, but a collection will be taken up to help defray her travel and copy expense. She’s a former news reporter and retired private detective who “yearned for more adventure than 'Hold the presses!' and stacks of case files can provide. The role of starship captain was my dream long before James T ever uttered Beam me up! Writing stories is my way of living that dream.” She lives in southwest Florida with her very patient husband and two spoiled cats. Her thoroughly entertaining website is www.linneasinclair.com.

All area writers are invited to attend this interesting workshop sponsored by the Mid-Ohio Writers Association. No registration is required.


What else can I add? Happy surfing, and stay tuned for a chance to win SHADES OF DARK--and enjoy an exclusive interview with the illustrious Ms. Sinclair--with our next voyage!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Written on

Author Supernova: Linnea Sinclair

Back in the day when “space, the final frontier” was still a long way off, history birthed many adventurous souls around the globe: Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, Isabella Bishop, Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir, Sir John Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Mary Kingsley, etc.

Each of their journeys was unique, but these brave men and women shared a common ability to chart new territory, discover exotic civilizations, and expand horizons. The stakes were high and the risks higher, but an indomitable spirit drove them all.

“HC SVNT DRACONES”
You might know that saying better as, “Here there be dragons.”




Science fiction romance is one uncharted literary territory, replete with its own mysterious lands and creatures, but one intrepid explorer has been forging ahead to map it with a determination rivaling any of her explorer counterparts.

I’m talking, of course, about author Linnea Sinclair.

Linnea Sinclair is a former news reporter and retired private detective who pens smashingly fun science fiction romance. But if that weren’t enough, she works tirelessly to promote the genre through interviews, workshops for writers, blogs, and conferences. And if that weren’t enough, she runs the Intergalactic Bar & Grille, hosting a never-ending party for her zany genteel group of fans.

In 2006, Linnea Sinclair won the esteemed RITA award for her book GABRIEL’S GHOST, as well as too many other accolades to count. Her work blends action, adventure, hard SF, romance and mystery. This week I’ll be showcasing this acclaimed author and her contributions to the science fiction romance genre.

Stay tuned for a contest later this week at The Galaxy Express. I’m giving away a copy of SHADES OF DARK, the sequel to Ms. Sinclair’s hugely popular GABRIEL’s GHOST. Here’s a snippet about the story from her Web site:

For two fugitive lovers, space has no haven,
no mercy, no light—only...
SHADES OF DARK

Before her court-martial, Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk, mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz hoped to leave the past light-years behind—until the news of her brother Thad’s arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.

With a killer targeting human females and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines, Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery, betrayal—not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s Imperial ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their relationship forever, Chaz must also choose—between what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.


Dragons or not, that’s a story worth exploring!

Now here’s a challenge for all of my Skiffy Rommer passengers: Imagine you’re accompanying Linnea Sinclair on her mission to raise visibility for science fiction romance. What are ways we can reach out to new readers and put SFR on the map once and for all?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, August 21, 2008

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THE BLACK FLAME

I’m betting Stanely G. Weinbaum never would have predicted that nearly 70 years after the publication of THE BLACK FLAME we’d be chatting about his work on a blog devoted to science fiction romance.

Or would he?

Well, a few years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted I’d be blogging about a writer who blended romance and science fiction way back in the 1930’s. But when I first learned about his work, I thought it all very mysterious and exotic, and I think you will too.




That’s a dynamite cover—and whatta title! Exactly who is the man behind the flame?

Stanley G. Weinbaum, aspiring chemical engineer/English major/author, worked for years honing his craft, even departing the University of Wisconsin in Madison under scandalous circumstances to devote more time to his writing. Persistence and talent paid off, however, leading to several published romance novels under the pen name Marge Stanley (and I know many readers of this blog can relate to that arduous journey).

And yes, you read that correctly: Romance novels.

Though Weinbaum made his mark with SF short fiction, he also penned three novels. Unfortunately, tragedy followed. As is cancer’s wont, the illness struck down this great storyteller in an untimely way, but his legacy lived on. All of his science fiction books were published posthumously.

Stanley G. Weinbaum’s modernist style, ability to create sympathetic alien characters, and fearless exploration of intimate adventures ensured him a place as one of the great pioneer genre authors—in fact, one could call him the Father of Science Fiction Romance.

Speaking of legacy, Ebook mall dubs THE BLACK FLAME “The Classic SF Romance.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the blurb from the company’s Web site:

SHE RULED THE WORLD, BUT NOT HER OWN HEART! Margot of Urbs and her brother were brilliant scientists and immortal tyrants who had stopped Earth's decline back into savagery after a devastating series of wars. But their harsh rule, designed to eradicate those who would destabilize the Pax Urbana, had earned them many enemies who were determined to revolt at the first chance.

Then a man from the past awakens and changes the balance of power, for he joins those who are determined to rule against the cool, imperious, raven-haired Margot, also known as the Black Flame. But, instead of hatred, the two spark flames of romance when the meet. What Margot does not know is that he intends to betray her and her brother at the first opportunity.

I mean, wow, doesn’t that sound like jacket copy from a currently published book? Well, okay, the jacket copy was probably written recently, but the story still resonates even in today’s market (although to really enjoy it, you may want to temporarily suspend your 21st century sensibilities).

In 1997, Tachyon Publications released a restored version of THE BLACK FLAME, which had originally faced a stumbling block on the road to publication. From the publisher’s Web site comes this tidbit:

When The Black Flame was first published in 1939, Stanley G. Weinbaum had already been dead for three years. By that time, over 18,000 words had been excised or edited from the original manuscript. The intact manuscript, held by Sam Moskowitz, was auctioned off to Forrest J. Ackerman at the First World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. It was subsequently stolen from his collection and never recovered. The publication of this edition was made possible by the discovery of a carbon copy of the manuscript in a trunk of Weinbaum's papers found in the basement of his grandson's house in Denver, Colorado.



Here’s another neat factoid: Weinbaum’s short story THE ADAPTIVE ULTIMATE inspired the 1957 film SHE DEVIL (with the eye-rolling tag line “Gorgeous demon! They created an inhuman being who destroyed everything she touched! The woman they couldn't kill!” Mr. Weinbaum, we’re sighing for you). But somehow, had he lived to see the celluloid creation, I think he would have enjoyed it.

Here’s a few other links to informative pieces about this groundbreaking author:

SCIFI @ DARKROASTEDBLEND details Weinbaum’s short stories. There’s some nifty pulp art featured as well.

Here’s a link to his complete bibliography.

At The Thunder Child, you can read the Interview with Robert Soubie: Translator of Stanley Weinbaum into French.

So why not check out the work of Stanley G. Weinbaum today? Let’s keep the flame burning!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

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Urban Fantasy and Beyond

Grasping for the Wind is a site with oodles of science fiction and fantasy book reviews. So when trivia buff proprietor John O. invited me to participate in one of his “Ask The Bloggers” features, I couldn’t have been more flattered.

The current roundtable topic is Urban Fantasy and the Next Big Subgenre.

Gee *scratching head*, I wonder what the Next Big Subgenre is going to be? Well regardless of the answer, I’m in the company of esteemed colleagues including Alice (Sandstorm Reviews), Aidan (A Dribble of Ink), Tia (Fantasy Debut), SMD (The World in the Satin Bag), and Neth (Neth Space).

So join me at Grasping for the Wind and make a few predictions yourself!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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WANDERLUST Contest--A Very Sweet Prize!

This just in: Ann Aguirre is hosting a contest celebrating WANDERLUST, the second book in her Sirantha Jax series!

Click here to learn more about how you can win $200.00 to spend at your choice of bookseller!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, August 17, 2008

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Love And Politics

During her Writer Guest of Honor Speech at Denvention 3, the masterful Lois McMaster Bujold discussed the challenges of blending SF and Romance (thanks to Sbarret at Tor.com for the link to her Myspace transcript of said speech). Actually, it involved more themes than that, so please take a moment to read it if you haven’t already. Excellent stuff.

Naturally, that inspired this post. Let’s analyze the topic further.

Bujold writes:

In fact, if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency…So the two genres -- Romance and SF -- would seem to be arm-wrestling about the relative importance of the personal and the political.


A reframe of the issue is in order

I nearly titled this post “Love Vs. Politics.” However, I realized that by including the word “versus,” I would be perpetuating the belief that integrating Romance and SF will always be problematic in one fashion or another: Either romance fans will always be alienated by the “political agencies,” or science fiction fans will always be alienated by the “fantasies of love.”

Is SFR doomed to such dissonant plot elements? Of course not! (But you knew I’d swing that way, eh?) Note also Bujold’s choice of the word “seem.” Are the “fantasies of love” and “fantasies of political agency” arm-wrestling—or wrapped in a passionate embrace?

Ms. Bujold goes on to explain how she integrates the two in her work: "My solution for The Sharing Knife was to align the two levels by making the central characters be each a representative of their respective and conflicting cultures."

Sounds like pretty intriguing reading to me. Story structure has much to do with how readers perceive the two elements. Done well, the integration is seamless.

Another reason the political and the romance aren’t necessarily diametrically opposed is that the political plot structure introduces a certain tension for the romance, often just for the reason that the reader must depart the romantic realm for a scene or chapter(s). There are times when the romance can’t advance until the political plot unfolds further.

Then there are stories where the hero or heroine must choose between love and politics, and the future of both the relationship and an entire world could hang on the decision either one makes. These are just a few examples of why SFR works rather than why it doesn’t work.

SFR: A unique breed of readers

Bujold also adds:

The two opposing genres may also be doing different psychological work for their readers. With its YA roots, SF runs heavily to coming-of-age tales, where the principal work at hand is separation from the family and growth to empowerment…but the end-game of those [Romance] tales is one of integration, rather than empowerment as such. The themes of later adulthood generally run to neither empowerment nor integration, but redemption.


Once a person tries a blended genre story and discovers satisfaction instead of disorientation, it’s an indication that a perceptual shift has occurred. This isn’t unique to SFR fans; but it’s unique to readers who actively seek out stories that blend genres (e.g., fantasy romance, SF horror).

Though the psychological underpinnings of SF and Romance may differ, SFR readers seek out the areas where SF & romance intersect and complement one another. For example, Ms. Bujold stated that SF involves “coming-of-age” tales. Part of this particular developmental process involves meeting certain needs, and according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of those is love/belonging.

Therefore, many SFR stories target and exploit the falling in love phase of the coming-of-age process.

And how often have we encountered the theme of love being an agent of empowerment? That’s another angle SFR authors exploit, and if we examined our favorite stories, I’m sure we’d find others.

Additionally, science fiction romance readers have a different set of expectations. They expect the political elements and the romance to interface and that this process will happen differently for each story. They don’t require that either element is dominant at all times.

SFR readers expect that when the political hovers the romance will move to the forefront and vice versa. Occasionally the two run a tight parallel, because what happens in the political sphere often impacts the romance. For SFR readers, this shift doesn’t create impatience with the story or cognitive dissonance. In fact, it raises the stakes.

I propose that the “psychological work” of SFR meets the need to explore stories that demonstrate what happens when our need for love and belonging are threatened by external (“political”) forces. So if someone asks you “What is science fiction romance?” you can tell them it’s fantasies of love against all odds.

Reading a well crafted SFR story is like watching an expert juggler

SFR readers embrace the juggling act of these blended genres. Potential SFR readers have a choice as well: They can alter their expectations about fiction categories. They can do this despite (often necessary) limitations that accompany issues like shelving and distribution. Within one’s mind, there is no need to define a book as “only” SF or “only” romance or “only SFR.” A book can be SF with romance and mystery, for example. Many times people read blended genres without being overtly aware that they are.

Another factor that determines how well the genres blend depends on the scope of the story. Trying to tell a sprawling space opera epic plus a deep romance in 300 words might be doing the story—and readers—a disservice. On the other hand, some stories thrive in that word count if the scope reflects a narrower premise. So it behooves SFR authors to tell the right amount of story given word count limitations—or freedoms. (Naturally, books in a series have more flexibility with both story and romance arcs.)

In the end, we can break down these elements until the nanobots come home, but a well crafted science fiction romance story doesn’t even come across as a juggling act—it’s just darn good fiction.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Tag-Fu

Well I must say, The Book Smugglers are a truly discriminating bunch. Not only do they present thoughtful, in-depth interviews of Romance and Speculative Fiction books, but they’re a pop-culture addict’s dream with all of the fun-tastic features to be found on their site.

Also, they tagged The Galaxy Express. Here are the results.




Copy the list below.

Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book.

Italicize the that you’ve watched.

Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme. (You may of course play along anyway.)


1. Jurassic Park
2. War of the Worlds
3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
4. I, Robot
5. Contact
6. Congo
7. Cocoon
8. The Stepford Wives
9. The Time Machine
10. Starship Troopers
11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
12. K-PAX
13. 2010
14. The Running Man
15. Sphere
16. The Mothman Prophecies
17. Dreamcatcher
18. Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
19. Dune
20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
22. The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
23. Battlefield Earth
24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
25. Fire in the Sky
26. Altered States
27. Timeline
28. The Postman
29. Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
30. Solaris
31. Memoirs of an Invisible Man
32. The Thing(Who Goes There?)
33. The Thirteenth Floor
34. Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
35. Deadly Friend
36. The Puppet Masters
37. 1984
38. A Scanner Darkly
39. Creator
40. Monkey Shines
41. Solo(Weapon)
42. The Handmaid’s Tale
43. Communion
44. Carnosaur
45. From Beyond
46. Nightflyers
47. Watchers
48. Body Snatchers

And I tag...

Lisa (Lisa Paitz Spindler)
Angela (SciFiChick.com)
Frances (Frances Writes)
Laurie (Spacefreighters’ Lounge)
Mftz (Flying Whale Productions)
Natalie (What Time Is It Again?)

And Agent Z, because an Intergalactic Spy is never too busy for fun (you can park your list in the main lounge a.k.a. the comments section)!

Oh, was that seven? *breaks into a Joker grin while rubbing hands together*

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, August 14, 2008

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Stand By For Action!

For a "niche market," there sure seems to be an awful lot going on in the SFR universe. Well far be it from me to complain! This week I’ve collected a number of links to keep you busy while The Galaxy Express rumbles toward its next destination.




First, keep your eyes peeled for aspiring SFR author Mftz who operates Flying Whale Productions. There, she dishes on her trip to the 66th World Science Fiction Convention at Denvention 3.

"I Learned About (Writing) Conflict From That" is a recent post at the HEA café by Linnea Sinclair. If you’re an aspiring SFR author, she offers great tips about upping the ante in your writing. If you’re an SFR reader, you’ll learn about what you’re entitled to experience in great fiction. (And speaking of, Ms. Sinclair’s latest release SHADES OF DARK is out this month. Stay tuned for her upcoming Author Supernova right here at The Galaxy Express.)

Also Happening in the Space Lanes:

* Go check out the cover for Susan Grant’s THE WARLORD’S DAUGHTER, posted on her blog. She’d love to hear your feedback.

* RomVets author Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter is the facilitator for Midwestern Dreams on October 18, 2008. It’s the “First Annual Mid-Ohio Writers Association Conference.” Go forth and network, all ye heartland Skiffy Rommers!

* The Galaxy Express extends a hearty congratulations to author Robin D. Owens for scoring a starred review in Library Journal for HEART FATE!

* Paperback writer offers up Ten Things For The SF/Fanatics.

* Author Patti O’Shea discusses her Pre-Book Time.

* Author Colby Hodge updates fans on her recent trip to New York with promises of more to come. (And who’s the mystery “scifi romance writer” Leanna Renee Hibler?! Inquiring minds want to know.)

* Finally, congratulations also to Sandra McDonald for this achievement: “the paperback version of THE OUTBACK STARS is on the Locus Top 10 Bestselling Paperbacks for February and April.”

But, ye dare not click away just yet. There’s more--and what fun it is!



Joseph Mallozzi facilitates a discussion about Lois McMaster Bujold’s CORDELIA’S HONOR. There’s a lot to read including a Q&A with the author. (Thanks to Lisa Paitz Spindler for the link.)

Speaking of Lisa Paitz Spindler, she profiles Captain Cordelia Naismith from CORDELIA’S HONOR in her current Danger Gal Friday feature.

Now’s a fab time to pick up a copy of Michelle Maddox’s COUNTDOWN. It’s a release from Dorchester’s SHOMI line, out this month. (Didn’t I say it was a fab time?!)



More congratulations are in order! Jordan Summers nabbed a positive review for her upcoming RED. She also posted an update from RWA that all of you aspiring SFR writers won’t want to miss.

Have some SFR news of your own? Post it in the comments section!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part III

Don Markstein of Toonopedia wrote that, “What The Maltese Falcon did for detective stories and Shane did for Westerns, Watchmen did for superheroes. It transcended its origins in what was previously considered a lowbrow form of fiction” [emphasis mine].

So how can a graphic novel tale—both the story and the cultural zeitgeist surrounding it—help the romance genre?

Part of the answer depends on how long people assume that romance is simply a way for women to enjoy guilt-free sex. Another part depends on how long marketing departments will rely on overtly sexy or “man titty” covers to sell books. The “sex sells” mentality is a daunting challenge to overcome. On one level, it works for some people; on another, it cheapens the genre and keeps potential fans away.

This is the problem romance faces now—one Comics confronted years ago. Rightly or wrongly, the industry as a whole has a bad rap. This public perception must change. By keeping the genre so inclusive, the industry is purposefully excluding everyone else. And that’s fewer fans, and millions of dollars pushed away every day.

People who crave respectability for the romance genre—readers, authors, and publishers—have to be willing to take risks and expand their horizons. Some already do, of course—I’m referring to the higher risk that means greenlighting projects on the scale of WATCHMEN.

So what can be done to overcome this? I have a few ideas:

* Diversify. Editors/publishers need to widen their parameters to what’s possible. Take more chances on romances with plots external to the relationship itself. Done well, many readers would welcome the change, so don’t underestimate your audience, either. They can always return to their romance “comfort” reads (the equivalent of SUPERMAN in comic books, for instance). Additionally, market these books outside of the usual venues.

* Get more serious about worldbuilding, particularly for SF/F romance. Invent something new in addition to building the relationship.

* Increase the word count once in a while. Sweeping stories like WATCHMEN can’t be crammed into a 298 or even a 320 page book. Readers coming from the SFF aisle won’t blink an eyelash at a book that runs upwards of 400 pages.

* WATCHMEN turned the entire genre of superheroes on its head. In this world, superheroes aren’t always nice. In fact, some of them are vicious anti-heroes. Most don’t even possess typical superpowers. WATCHMEN changed everything that people thought they knew about graphic novels.

What might be the counterpart for romance? It could be anything, really. That’s the one factor no one can predict. But the only way to avoid a reputation for cookie-cutter stories is to break a few molds.

Perhaps romances don’t always have to be super-ultra romantic. Maybe it’s time to shed that soft-focus effect for some stories. Regarding SF/F romances, they lend themselves nicely to gritty, edgy, or political storylines & elements. But that’s not to say that it couldn’t happen in other genres (and has already, in the case of romantic suspense).

* Give authors more creative freedom. Yes, Alan Moore’s situation was unique in that he had the freedom to write pretty much whatever he wanted (within reason) in SWAMP THING because DC felt the title had two swampy feet and one hand in the grave. From the company’s standpoint, they didn’t have much to lose.

Romance publishers, however, should act as though they *do* have readers/profits to lose if authors don’t feel as though they can journey into uncharted creative territory. After all, if your best authors leave out of frustration, who does that leave in the fold? (And please don’t tighten your belts by letting go editors with vision, either.)

* Publish more stories that make readers, regardless of gender, crave the heroines just as much as they crave heroes. In other words, beef up the heroine’s role. Or, consider more books without the ubiquitous Alpha-male. He’s the superhero in the cape (i.e., the bread and butter for your targeted audience, but expanding your horizons brings in more readers).

* Evaluate whether the reputation problem is the “bodice ripper” as a marketing issue or story issue. If it’s a marketing obstacle, don’t wait for someone else to define what you’re reading. Come up with a more appropriate, less derogatory tag line and start sowing the seeds. Repeat it relentlessly both online and through word of mouth.

If it’s a story issue as in there really are a bunch of bodice’s being ripped, then proceed as if it were just a marketing issue (see above). If you enjoy the bodice-ripper reputation, power to you. Flaunt it. But if the majority feels otherwise, then take charge. The loyalty of romance readers is its own built-in PR machine.

* Be prepared to wait. WATCHMEN may have been groundbreaking but that’s looking back 23 years after its release. Altering cultural perceptions takes a long time.

These ideas are just some of the possibilities. You may think of others and I hope you will. The main goal here is to keep the dialogue going. So what do you think?

Can romance ever transcend its tawdry “bodice ripper” reputation ever present in the general public's mind? We can’t deny it’s there for many. It is. (And declaring everyone who believes this to be ignorant isn’t going to gain desired respectability, either.)




So where’s our “WATCHMEN”? What kind of book will change the way everyone thinks about romances? Is the industry simply content to rest on its paperback laurels and enjoy the sales it has now, ignoring other readers? How badly do romance readers, authors and publishers want respect for the genre? (Unfortunately, the answer so far has been not badly enough.)

On the other hand, to end on a positive note, perhaps events will conspire toward a groundbreaking romance book(s) that will help shepherd a positive cultural perception shift toward romances as a whole. What thinkest thou?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, August 10, 2008

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“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part II

Continuing our discussion about what Romance could learn from her Graphic Novel brethren requires that a bit of history be spilled. Pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey and settle in. There are blackberry scones if you’re feeling peckish.

Comfortable? Good.

To fully understand the continuing influence of WATCHMEN, let’s have Sherman set the Way-Back Machine for 1981. Wes Craven, director of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (and much later, SCREAM), has set his sights on a cinematic version of DC Comic’s SWAMP THING.

For those who have read the comic, it’s not hard to understand what attracted Craven. SWAMP THING premiered ahead of its time in 1972 as a short story in HOUSE OF SECRETS, a horror anthology title; the success of this story lead to its own bimonthly book. The title drew heavily upon the pathos of Boris Karloff’s “I only want to be loved” creature trapped in a horrible body. (The book also featured some astounding artwork by Berni Wrightson, who recently designed the creatures in THE MIST.)

And, for the most part, there were no capes, no superheroes, and no flying dogs. As I said, it was ahead of its time.

Jump to 1982: SWAMP THING has long since been cancelled after only 24 issues. But, DC knows dollar signs when it sees them, and decides to bring the book back to cash in on the film’s pending release. A fly lights in their ointment, though. Neither the comic nor the film (an enjoyable, but lightweight foray into B movie goofiness) hauls in the gold bullion DC would like to see. For the second time, Swampy faces cancellation.

Enter Alan Moore. DC, at the end of its financial tether, decides to go for broke and hire a relatively unknown writer from England. Since the book was moribund anyway, what did they have to loose? Alan Moore had come to their attention by way of V FOR VENDETTA, which he was writing for WARRIOR, a British comic anthology. V was different, incorporating heady, powerful material. (If you’ve seen the film, you have some idea of the story, but it can’t compare to the graphic novel.)

With the appearance of SWAMP THING # 21 in early 1984, Alan Moore completely rewrote the character and laid the groundwork for what was to come. Sure, some old-school Swampy fans resisted the change initially, but sales grew each month. The word spread. Something was happening here. The stories were now complex. The language grew poetic. And the subject material grew very adult—too much for the antiquated Comics Code Authority.

DC was at a crossroads. Did they tone down the scripts Moore was handing in, or allow him to continue plunging ahead into unchartered territory? Luckily, they went with the latter, or everything from THE DARK KNIGHT to SANDMAN may have never seen the light of day.

In late 1984, SWAMP THING # 31 debuted without the comic’s code seal of approval. In its place, the new banner of “Sophisticated Suspense” served as a warning—or invitation—depending upon your flavor.

Buoyed by this freedom, Moore submitted an idea he had been bouncing around in his head: WATCHMEN. Again, the suits at DC shrugged and let him go for it. I doubt they understood it, but they had enough faith in what he was trying to do: Push aside the preconceived “comics are only for kids” notion and expand their scope.

It worked.

Though not an obvious paradigm shift at the time, WATCHMEN altered the way graphic novels were both written and perceived. Forever. Once the product was available for purchase, word of mouth took care of the rest.

Nowadays comics are called graphic novels and they’re for adults. The average reader lies in his 30s/40s. They feature big words, naughty words, nudity and all kinds of R-rated content and complicated themes. They regularly score reviews in mainstream magazines such as ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and movie theatres can’t sell tickets for comic-related films fast enough.

Graphic novels are free from their solitary comic book store confines and sold in the big chains like B&N and Borders. Manga (Japanese comics) sell by the truckload, and often occupy the golden real estate of upfront and endcaps. So how, in less than twenty years, did comics turn around the perception that their audience only consisted of 10-year-old boys and socially maladroit men who still lived in their dark basement with their mothers?

Answer: Because the books left us no choice but to alter this perception. Because writers such as Alan Moore crafted such high quality stories within the industry that one couldn’t help but notice their literary value. And, lest we forget, because there were some suits who took a chance on works such as WATCHMEN—allowing the creators to stay true to their voice and vision.

Now let’s step back a moment and examine how this correlates with the romance industry.

Uninformed people also make sweeping generalizations about romance novels and have for years. You’ve heard them; I’ve heard them: "The genre is nothing but 'porn' for women." "It’s trash for an easy beach read by bored, overweight housewives." Then there’s the unfortunate “bodice ripper” reputation, where all genre books are nothing but Fabio look-alikes cavorting with Scarlett O’Hara wannabees.




Uggh. No matter how many times romance advocates make their voices heard against this, the designation just refuses to die.

And let’s face it, except for the occasional Lifetime "quality" movie, Hollywood hasn’t tripped over itself to regale us with blockbuster romance films. Even mainstream book reviewers can’t be bothered with them, as delineated by recent posts at Ramblings On Romance and Smart Bitches.

In short, the romance genre shares the same lack of respect from mainstream culture that comic books once did, which is odd, since both industries have generated millions of dollars and ardent fans. Is this simply the nature of the beast? Can anything be done to alter this perception?

We’ll explore how this can be turned around when next we meet. Hang on! The ride is about to get quite bumpy in here!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, August 7, 2008

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“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part I

Who watches the Watchmen? You should. And here’s why.

In 2006, TIME listed WATCHMEN as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. WATCHMEN is also the only graphic novel to win a Hugo Award. Now, 23 years after this groundbreaking story hit the stands, Zack Snyder of 300 and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake is helming the big screen adaptation. The recent release of the movie trailer alone prompted DC Comics to release 200,000 more copies.

Bu what is WATCHMEN? In a nutshell, it’s epic. It’s heartbreaking. WATCHMEN is the comic book miniseries that changed the mainstream press’ low-brow view of comics and helped pave the way for more adult fare, including DC’s Vertigo line that includes PREACHER, FABLES, and of course Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN.

Trust me when I say that the book may well rank right up there as one of the 100 greatest works of fiction you’ll ever read, too. (In other words, yes—for once—believe the hype!)

Here’s the brief but excellent summary at Wikipedia. (Beware of the spoilers, though.)

But there’s one very important detail that the article (and most who review the graphic novel) omit: WATCHMEN contains a romance—one that’s both realistic, layered, and hawt. Clearly, legendary author Alan Moore & artist Dave Gibbons were onto something.

Now I’ll admit that you don’t want to read WATCHMEN just for the romance, although I couldn’t blame you one bit if you did! This sober, complex tale is an example of what happens when literary fiction and fine art collide with the graphic novel medium.

WATCHMEN is rife with political conflicts. But it’s also loaded with action and adventure, angst and anger. It challenges the reader to confront her beliefs and darkest desires.




But back to the romance! As I was preparing this post, I suspected that in all of the hoopla surrounding the trailer’s release, there weren’t many sites or blogs devoted to the romance subplot in WATCHMEN. Guess what? I was right. A thorough Google scrubbing of the entire Internet revealed practically nil.

I did come across this passage however, excerpted from an academic essay posted at Shotgun Reviews (warning: the review itself contains spoilers ):

"From utter destruction to the beginning of life, Watchmen confronted the actual issue of sex with a frankness that most mainstream comics had never seen before. Most Americans would never realize that a comic book could portray a realistic, adult, sexual relationship, but Moore brings off the attraction and eventual romance of [Daniel and Laurie] tremendously."



“Most Americans” is right, and my condolences on their loss. I’d add that the execution of the relationship dynamics portrayed in WATCHMEN rivals anything found in any romance novel past or present.

Having said that, stay tuned for the next post to hear about what the romance industry—and readers—could learn from this graphic novel opus....

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Cyber-Launch Book Party: SHADES OF DARK

Your attention, please! The Galaxy Express is now departing for Enduring Romance, so all passengers may attend one of the universally acclaimed Cyber-Launch Book Parties hosted by Kimber An!

Come one, come all! Celebrate the release of science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair’s SHADES OF DARK.

When: Today, August 7
Where: Why right here!

Don’t miss this chance to learn about the next chapter in this compelling epic as well as chat with the author herself.

Let’s party!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

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All Your Beta Are Belong To Us

Once upon a time, there was a Japanese video game titled ZERO WING. It was pretty standard for its time, and would no doubt would be relegated to the forgotten annals of Segadom...if not for one startling aspect. Its "unique" English translation. One line in particular nearly caused the Internet to catch fire. It read: “All your base are belong to us.” (Apparently, this is the sublime phraseology you get when you hire translators who barely know the language they're translating. Go figure.)

To wit:




Now, despite the mangled translation, there’s still something rather sinister about the message—not to mention electric. Seductive. I can feel the excitement...something wildly different is about to happen here! (And I can't attribute it all to the fact that the main villain is named "Cats," either...although that is pretty cool.)

So after mulling this over ("Cats!"), it occurred to me that there’s a parallel here. That line reminded me about one of the differences between SFR and other romances--namely, Alpha vs. Beta heroes.

Alpha heroes are a staple of romances, and they are particularly predominant (pun intended) in paranormal romances. Despite their reputation, these characters aren’t entirely witless...but it doesn’t seem as though they’re particularly appreciated for their intelligence, either. At least, I don’t often see it listed as the number one preferred attribute.

I’ve encountered many more Beta heroes than Alpha ones in science fiction romance, whether in books, television, or film. And remember, Jacqueline Lichtenberg pointed out that SFR basically evolved from SF fan fiction featuring Spock as a love interest. Even Suzanne Brockmann can’t help but include references to Spock, even while she’s discussing Alpha males!

Spock—the quintessential beta hero!

So naturally, one subset of beta heroes I really dig is scientists. They don’t need predatory gazes or bulging muscles to solve problems and win the heroine’s heart—just gray matter and a quirky personality. Sure, they don’t always have ripped abs or chiseled good looks, but that doesn’t reflect in the least on their potential for romance. Some are hot, but others aren’t—and so what? I think scientists are underappreciated and/or overlooked as a love interest.

Never fear, The Galaxy Express is here! Below is a roundup of some snazzy scientist Beta heroes for your reading/viewing pleasure:

Eccentric robotics genius Raj Sundaram from Catherine Asaro’s THE PHOENIX CODE will leave you breathless. (This one’s for you, Patty!)



Sanada San, inventor extraordinaire with a dark secret from UCHUU SENKAN YAMATO.



A computer expert and chess enthusiast, David Levinson of INDEPENDENCE DAY is also an environmentalist. What’s not to love? (I'm willing to overlook HOLY MAN if you are, Jeff.)



Despite his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, Bruce Banner from THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a poet at heart. (What can I say? I’ve always thought Bruce Bixby was smokin’.)



He may be absent-minded, but when he’s in love, his devotion overcomes even the obstacle of Time itself: “Doc” Emmett Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE III



And finally, there’s the shy but brilliant engineer, Brains, from THUNDERBIRDS.



Just check out this awesome (and recent!) video of Brains moving & grooving:



See what I mean? I challenge anyone to show me an Alpha male who can dance with such grace and dexterity. (Wolverine, I'm looking at you, Bub!)

The above brainy ones are just a few of the Beta heroes worth getting to know. Let’s generate a list for current and potential fans in the comment section. And finally, a question: What makes Beta heroes such a great match for science fiction romances?

Joyfully yours, All your Beta are belong to us,

Heather