Friday, June 11, 2010

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Bruce Sterling Contemplates Why Science Fiction Romance Lacks "Commercial Punch"

In a recent post at Beyond The Beyond, science fiction author Bruce Sterling (one of the founders of cyberpunk) had this to say about science fiction romance:

One would think that demographic and economic changes in the consumer base would make this subgenre thrive nowadays. One wonders why SF romances lack the colossal commercial punch of paranormal romance novels. Maybe because “Happy Ever After” is inherently unscientific?

Yes, I've wondered about the lack of "colossal commercial punch" for SFR, too. Quite often, in fact ;). (And I'm assuming we're talking books here, not AVATAR!) But hmm, I'm trying to understand those last two sentences.

Mr. Sterling, do you mean that the legion of paranormal romance readers wouldn't enjoy science fiction romance because "Happily Ever After" is "inherently unscientific"? Paranormal romances are chock full of HEAs, but that aspect seems to have helped sales, rather than hindered them. Or do you think the "inherently unscientific" nature of an HEA makes it incompatible with science fiction? I want to know more.

My understanding is that the audience for paranormal romances are primarily romance readers, not science fiction readers. And if that's the case, the point of the HEA is not to be inherently scientific, but to deliver a satisfying closure to the romance. As for the science fictional elements in a science fiction romance, that's a different case entirely. I don't see why we can't have plausible science fused with a romance and an HEA.

To Mr. Sterling's credit, he suggested a way to infuse SFR with more plausible science (at least that's my understanding):

Maybe a science-fiction romance novel could based entirely on sociobiological mating theories and the genetic imperative. There must be a couple of those around.

What do you think? Should authors be jumping on the "genetic imperative" train? Will plausible science help SFR thrive?

Joyfully yours,

Heather