CLOSE CONTACT: An Alien Affairs Novel – Katherine Allred
She's the perfect lover-and the perfect weapon-but she doesn't know it yet.
GEPs just want to have fun. . .
A Genetically Engineered Person and self-proclaimed "party girl," Echo Adams loves her diplomatic job entertaining alien bigwigs for the Galactic Federation. But the Bureau of Alien Affairs has discovered she's much more than she thinks-that a rogue scientist endowed her with skills and psi abilities dwarfing those of common GEPs. And suddenly Echo's luxury life is over, replaced with a far more dangerous one: a special agent expected to not only chase bad guys, but eliminate them.
Echo's hates being stuck on Madrea-a planet of technophobes off limits to Federation visitors-hunting for a stolen quartz crystal with a powerful alien lifeform embedded inside. She despises the Bureau's restrictive rules-especially the one warning her away from the dangerously seductive Commander of the King's Forces. And if she doesn't learn how to use her alleged super-psi powers soon, her partying days-in fact all of her days-will be over for good.
Read the first chapter.
ROMENEL: VOYAGE INTO TWILIGHT – Sandra Stixrude
Something is hunting mercenary commander Romenel Devar, a monster disguised as friends and loved ones, so he can't even describe it. He knows it's slowly killing him, though, and he desperately needs help.
Marya and Roke have retired to their house on the steppes, their lives finally peaceful and uneventful. When Romenel collapses on their front doorstep, Marya reminds her husband that no one retires from being a hero.
Their journey takes them to the other side of the world where hordes of monsters lurk and the rules of society have been turned on their heads. Romenel needs to understand both this strange new world and the hints from a distant, shared past to unravel the means to stop the monsters' deadly hunts.
Click here to learn more about the author’s Anchorage series.
MOUSE AND DRAGON – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Aelliana Caylon has endured much, and finally, she appears to have won all: a spaceship, comrades, friends -- and the love of a pilot she adores.
Even better that her lover—the man who was destined for her, a man as much a loner as she—is also the Delm of Korval, arguably the most powerful person on all of Liad. He has the power to remove her and protect her from the toxic environment of her home Clan. Best of all, he agrees to sit as her co-pilot and her partner in a courier business.
Even happy endings sometimes show a few flaws. Such as Aelliana's home clan being not as agreeable to letting her go as it had first seemed. And the fact that someone is stealing pilots in the Low Port, which falls within the Delm of Korval's honor. Oh, and the revelation that the man she loves—the man who is destined for her—isn't entirely the man she thought he was. And finally, she discovers that even the lift from Liad she'd so fervently desired, is part of a larger plan, a plan requiring her to be someone she never thought she was, or could be.
More below the cut:
News, giveaways, and authors blogging
In Hailing On All Frequencies, the SFR Brigade has a smokin’ list of updates including new releases, links to SFR authors blogging, and giveaways.
Jess Granger reported that “Beyond the Rain is a finalist in the 2010 Reader's Crown Awards…” Way to go! Also, the author blogs about her first experience attending the RT Booklover’s convention.
KS Augustin posted a list of places she’s currently blogging and giving away copies of her newest release, IN ENEMY HANDS. Look for her interview and guest post right here at The Galaxy Express the second week of June.
Of particular interest is Ms. Augustin’s response to a post by Ann Wilkes who shared that she reads more male SF writers. Why? “Perhaps it's because I know I won't get any romance in my science fiction.”
The Online Writing Workshop interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold. (Via SF Signal)
Cathy Pegau lists Five Reasons to Read Gini Koch’s “Touched By An Alien”: “Overall, Touched By an Alien is a well-paced, fun read.”
Dirty Sexy Books reviewed GRIMSPACE by Ann Aguirre: “Grimspace came so close to being a perfect science fiction romance in my opinion. I have to give this 4.5 stars for constantly surprising me.”
Via Alien Romances:
Rowena Cherry offers her take on the film WATCHMEN:
Here is a movie that appears to straddle a great many genres with a fair degree of comfort. I'm sure there are others that cannot be neatly boxed as this genre or that. That might be a good thing for those of us who write speculative fiction or alien romances.
Margaret Carter discusses the recent synthetic DNA breakthrough.
In search of...science fiction romance
Over at Bev’s Books, The great vintage science fiction romance hunt begins. If you know the titles of any pre-1980 SFRs that were released by romance publishers, hie thee to Bev’s blog and let her know.
Got any science fiction romance news or links of your own to share?
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Hot on the heels of AVATAR comes THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (September 2010), Hollywood’s next big budget science fiction romance. Adapted from the 1954 short story Adjustment Team by renowned author Philip K. Dick, the forthcoming film, which stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, is about an “…affair between a politician and a ballerina [that] is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.”
Here’s the trailer:
Does the trailer promise a heckuva science fiction romance film, or what?! When I looked it up at Wikipedia, the entry even described it as “an upcoming science fiction romance film”! Fingers crossed it has a happily ever after (and knowing how much Hollywood studios love an upbeat ending, I’m feeling pretty darn optimistic). Methinks that if you’re a fan of DARK CITY, you will enjoy THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.
Now here’s the veeeerrry interesting part: In Dick Does Chick Flick, SF Signal staff blogger JP Frantz bemoans the fact that the original story had been tweaked in the process of adapting it for the big screen. Here are his feelings in his own words:
Is this some sort of mad attempt by the writers to cram a romance storyline into a PKD novel?
I’m sorry—what what what? “Mad” attempt?! Writers are insane for wanting to include a romance in a science fiction story? One might think them’s fightin’ words. Here’s my response to Mr. Frantz’s statement:
Not that there's anything wrong with a little romance, right?! *kiss kiss*
I just re-watched BLADE RUNNER a few weeks ago (many years since my first viewing), and loved revisiting the romantic subplot just as much as the other elements. It supplemented the main plot quite nicely. It's all in the execution.
And besides, at the risk of splitting hairs, the writers would be including a romance in the movie, not the novel. So it'd be more like an alternate universe (albeit by way of Hollywood marketing departments) version of the original story. Hey, it worked for AVATAR, right? Besides, it might attract more women to the movie, and by extension, SF. Let's just hope the writers included a romance that feels organic to the story. If it's not, then we can chalk it up to another #Hollywoodfail.
I will definitely watch this move and if the romance has a happy ending it will make for a good blog post. On my science fiction *romance* blog.
Unfortunately, Mr. Frantz isn’t alone in his distaste for the inclusion of a romance. An io9 article about the film expresses the sentiment that “…scribe George Nolfi is taking a lot of liberties with the story. Instead of being married, Damon's character [is] single — until he meets a lovely ballerina, played by Blunt.”
Ding ding ding! But wait! Another contender has just entered the ring:
The io9 article included a quote by actor Emily Blunt, who had this to say about the film: “…the focus of the story is not so much on Damon discovering that his world is a lie, or figuring out why everything is fabricated, but on the dark forces keeping the couple apart, and their will-they-or-won't-they romance.”
Regardless of what the naysayers are saying, count me in for THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. I'll even pony up the cash to see it in the theater.
What are your thoughts about screenwriters adding a romance when adapting SF stories for film? Are they doing it simply to exploit romance—and by extension, the wallets of female moviegoers? Or could they be tapping into romantic elements already present in the source material, and simply expanding upon those in order to enhance the original story?
On a related note, given that folks are consistently describing this film as "science fiction romance," do you think there’s a takeaway lesson for book publishers who release such books?
The 13th Annual Prism Awards finalists have been announced! Here are the SFR finalists I culled from the main list:
Ella Drake - Firestorm on E'Terra
Kathy Allred - Close Encounters
Jess Granger - Beyond the Rain
Linnea Sinclair - Hope's Folly
Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced at The
Gathering at RWA Nationals in July 2010.
Ella Drake blogged briefly about being a finalist here.
(And here's an interesting development: I noticed on the complete list that "steampunk" was added to the time travel category--squee!)
Pauline Baird Jones (GIRL GONE NOVA) is a guest blogger this week at Romance That's Out Of This World. In Science Fiction - Not Just For Geeks, she urges readers to not be intimidated by the speculative elements in science fiction romance since the subgenre offers stories for everyone:
If you’re like me, and think you “belong” to a genre, I urge you to check out SFR. I think you’ll be surprised when I tell you that you can find your favorite genre mixed with very accessible science. I’ve found paranormal, fantasy, laugh out loud comedy, and yes, even historicals mixed into the books being released by publishers both large and small. While mileage (and taste may vary), the books are as diverse as the galaxies and alternate realities they explore. And don’t get me started on some of the amazing heroes and heroines I’ve “met” going SFR.
Plus, if you leave a comment at her post, you'll be entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of her science fiction romance THE KEY!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Stories blending science fiction and romance have existed for decades, but they were more likely to thrive in fan fiction communities rather than mainstream print books and magazines. Obviously, not everyone agrees that romance has no place in science fiction. But what drove these hybrid stories underground? And why, despite the significant number of romance-SF blends in existence, does it feel as though they are still there?
The reasons are many, not the least of which is the discrimination against women authors during SF’s early years. (Not that all women authors would have automatically included romances in their SF stories, but some of them might have. The point is, we'll never know.) I can't even begin to address the egregiousness of such discrimination (especially since we still experience evidence of gender disparity today), but there's still plenty of time for change.
And for decades, romance, SF, and action-adventure were segregated along gender lines (see my previous post A Brief History of Science Fiction Romance). That went a long way toward constricting the definition of a science fiction story, a romance story, and what were the “acceptable” elements to include in either one.
Is it any wonder that, in large part, SF authors were conditioned to avoid including romance in their stories, and that romance authors were conditioned to avoid including speculative/action-adventure elements in theirs?
If you’re a science fiction fan (=writer/reader) who purports to dislike romance in SF, you have to ask yourself why. Personal preference is one thing; outright dismissal of a perfectly valid SF-romance blend is quite another. It isn't about quality, either; it's about diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness. Listen, if you’re afraid to admit the value of a science fiction story powered by a relationship dynamic, then here’s a ladder so you can safely descend from your high horse.
That said, romance fans (=writers/readers) need to be accountable as well.
When romance authors in the 80s and 90s chose to write science fiction romance in force, they had an opportunity to accomplish something very special. Outside of the ranks of fan fiction authors and a few SF scribes, science fiction romance as we know it today hadn't yet made its mark in mainstream publishing.
Unfortunately, many failed to include compelling worldbuilding elements in their stories. Primarily, it was the amateurish worldbuilding fiascos that gave SF fans even more reasons to sneer at the idea of science fiction romance. They not only sneered, but also missed the whole point of the stories.
And yet, in turn, folks in the romance industry snubbed their noses at the derision heaped on them because, after all, the books made money.
Since then, it’s taken over a decade for the next generation of SFR authors to overcome that tarnished reputation.
Like a good PB&J, romance and SF go well together. But some people on both sides of the fence have been loathe to admit it. Why? Because authors and readers in both SF and romance have been afraid to admit that essential elements have been missing from the stories—elements that were artificially segregated to begin with. (I don't encounter many SF or romance readers complaining about action/adventure elements in the SF/romance books they read, do you?)
survive flourish if its readers and authors acknowledge the demand for more character-driven and/or relationship based stories, and one way to do that is through science fiction romance.
Romance can become an even stronger market presence if its readers and authors acknowledge the demand for more sophisticated speculative elements in SFR.
We can have both romance and SF in our stories and both can be done well. Why not expand the audience for such tales? Don’t let the past fool you—science fiction romance can do wonders for the imagination.
All of which boils down to: tell a great story, and they will come.
What's your take?
Saturday, May 22, 2010
What follows is a very, very brief history of science fiction romance. Think of it as the proverbial quickie, because it’s also doing double duty as a precursor for my next post.
A good subtitle for this piece would be “The Jacqueline Lichtenberg Project” because her extensive experience and input made this overview possible. Most of what I’m presenting is based on either quotes from her online observations or paraphrased information that she provided me via email.
So we begin:
In The Hurt Locker, Indie Films, Financing TV – Part I, Jacqueline Lichtenberg states that:
Before 1966 and Star Trek, in the 1930's, science fiction magazines connected readers of science fiction and basically invented modern SF as well as SF fandom. In fact, the very people who invented modern SF and created that community (called First Fandom) actually invented the word "fandom" out of "fanatic" and "domain" or "Kingdom."”
In other words, science fiction is born. During that time, any romantic SF stories were known as “Neck up SF” since the romance element tended to offend the sensibilities of adolescent males.
Flash forward to the 1960s, during which time Marion Zimmer Bradley’s short story CENTAURUS CHANGELING (1954) “was widely credited with changing the direction of SF with its mix of a character and later relationship driven plot.”
Then, “The culture of the world changed through the 60's and 70's - anti-war, women's movement, civil rights.”
Genres began to diverge along gender lines. Romance was defined as for women, and action adventure was defined as for men. Science fiction, which should have been gender neutral, was merged with action adventure since it was assumed women wouldn’t like it and/or couldn’t understand it (they were too stoopid, you see).
Simultaneously, it was assumed men weren’t into exploring relationship dynamics or experiencing feelings and so they wouldn’t be interested in romance (they were too stoopid, you see).
“In the 1960's came STAR TREK - presenting a view of 1930's SF to the 1960's audience. But the women went into Spock Shock and generated fiction fanzines (an innovation).” (For more information from a fan fiction insider’s perspective, read An Interview With Joan Marie Verba (Part One)).
The earliest known SFR emerged in a Star Trek romance episodic novel by Barbara Sharon Emily (you can read it for free at Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s site). The significance of this type of fan fiction is that
The women who wrote TV pastiche wanted SF-Romance, and wouldn't let the traditional publishers deny it to them. They wrote it themselves.
At that time, you could not sell (professionally) any original SF or Fantasy that had even ONE sex scene in it. Fanzine markets grew explosively after STAR TREK LIVES! was published by Bantam. Then you could have go-to-black sex scenes in prof SF/F novels….”
Culturally, “The 1960's were the years the boomers tried to break out of sexual mores and strictures. The 1970's were the years women of that generation pulled the veil off secret discrimination against women.”
Enter Jacqueline Lichtenberg: her first Sime~Gen story, Operation High Time, was published in 1969 (the link will take you to the story, available for free. For a complete list of her work, visit the author’s bibliography). This was followed by her books STAR TREK LIVES!, HOUSE OF ZEOR, and UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER.
(And fans of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER have long memories. Check out a recent post by Rachel at LoveCats DownUnder. This blogger read the book as a teen, “obsessed” over it, and is now seeking other SFR/fantasy romance book recommendations!)
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s CENTAURUS CHANGELING, and the work of authors such as Jacqueline Lichtenberg (note that Ms. Lichtenberg was heavily involved in fan fiction groups) launched a trend of SF/F stories that are “powered by a RELATIONSHIP story dynamic.” Yet it wasn’t until after 1986 that “…you could have chaste, non-anatomical-language sex scenes in prof SF/F novels.” But nowadays, “SF without sex isn't selling so well.”
On a related note, in Could romance be the Captain Kirk of literature? Blogger Bev points out that like Kirk, romance readers don’t like to lose their happy endings:
So, when people tell us that stories with those unhappy endings are more “realistic” and we should appreciate and learn from them, we instead think “rewrite”.
A prime example is Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s DUSHAU, which won the first Romantic Times Award for an SF novel in 1985. Both the book, as well as the vast numbers of fan fiction stories before it, demonstrated that readers wanted science fiction romance.
Did they get what they asked for?
More on that next time.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
One aspect I love about our journey aboard this galactic locomotive is finding the cosmic windfalls. Science fiction romance encompasses a wide range of stories in both the realm of print and the digital frontier. Added together, there are sometimes more choices than we realize.
This is certainly the case with author Angelia Sparrow, who is
a librarian-turned-truck-driver who has been writing off and on for over thirty years. She got her first professional break in 2004, with Torquere Press. When not perpetrating romance, she lives quietly with her husband, four kids and two cats.
I’d known about her for some time, but further research revealed that she’s penned quite a number of SFR stories. Therefore, I didn’t hesitate a second more in bringing this prolific author to your attention.
Herewith, an interview with Angelia Sparrow:
The Galaxy Express: You’re known for your “primarily spicy GBLT romance” stories, which you’ve been publishing since 2004. Please tell us about the first story you sold, and that initial path to publication.
Angelia Sparrow: The first story I sold was “Prey” which is an urban fantasy Boy-Meets-Incubus piece. It's set in Memphis and was inspired by this decaying hospital I drove past every day on my way to work. I was (and still am) on Live Journal, and mostly had fannish friends. Someone I knew from a mailing list put out a call for GLBT monster stories. So I banged out this little piece, centered on the place that had been haunting me. They took it. And the next story and the next, and, and, and...here I am, six years later with eight novels and more than fifty short stories.
While Monsters is long out of circulation, “Prey” can still be found in my collection, Howl at the Mistletoe. That's a pretty good collection: gay Christmas werewolves, three zombie pieces (including a steampunk one with lesbians), several contemporaries and paranormals.
TGE: Have you noticed any changes in publishing/digital publishing since that time?
AS: There are a lot more small publishers. They come and go. Many houses have gotten big enough to go from flat fees to royalties on their short stories. There has been a big cutback in the number of e-books going to print. The big New York houses are getting in on the digital action, and seriously cutting the royalty rates. Small press pays 35-40% royalties. NY doesn't. I see more reading on devices, usually iphones, but sometimes Kindles.
TGE: You incorporate many science fictional elements and settings into your stories. Which elements/settings are your particular favorites, and why?
AS: I love a good dystopia. I blame being introduced to Orwell and Huxley at the impressionable age of 13. I like working with the idea that the future will be better in some ways and a lot worse in others. I really like taking current trends and extrapolating, sometimes to reductio ad absurdum levels. The Disunited States books (Nikolai, Niko-Chan & Glad Hands) are based on current stressors and movements in our own society. We spend a good deal of time in the Confederated States, which is based on the Christian Exodus movement, Dominion and Serpent Seed theology, Christian Identity movement and a lot of libertarianism thrown into the mix. Heartland is based on growing up in small-town middle America and the way the surface was more important than the truth.
TGE: Please recommend three of your SFR books for readers new to your work.
AS: For readers who like a heroine in their reading, let me suggest “Cherry Tart.” It's Gaslight Romance, that is fluffy steampunk. Disgraced Chastity Millwood has been sent off to the Io colony with her auntie in the year 1897. Aunt is to be the schoolmistress in New Abilene and she plans to marry Chastity off to whoever she can find as fast as she can. Chastity is sulky and naughty and generally not agreeable to the plan, so she finds her own husband, handsome junior officer Ulysses Carter.
If this was a movie, it would be a big 1940s technicolor piece from Warner Brothers, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHavilland, Rosalind Russell and Patric Knowles. It's really a stagecoach romance set in space.
If you prefer a futuristic romance with heavy dystopia, Glad Hands is a good one. Chuck Hummingbird lives in Pacifica and runs Bering Strait petroleum into the Tribal Lands. In order to keep his cushy run, he has to go to Blytheville AR, just over the CS border, for a special load. On the way, he picks up a hitchhiker named Seven, who is a non-person in his home country of Heartland. Things go from bad to worse in this road-trip across the Disunited States.
And this really is a road picture. It travels from Seattle WA to Birmingham AL to Gary IN. A lot of the stuff is based not only on trucking as it exists now, but on conversations with truckers across the country as to where they see the job going.
“For Love of Etarin” is one of the first stories I did with Naomi Brooks. We still love it, even as we call it Star Wars meets The Persian Boy. Ruvane Delkroy is a lonely man with a busy life and a fast ship. He falls hard for one of his employer's house-slaves, a pretty eunuch dancer called Etarin. He buys the young man, a bit informally, and adventures ensue.
TGE: Name three little known facts about your two cats.
AS: Thomas used to think he was the face-hugger alien and my kids (then aged 1 and 3) were his prey.
Thomas hunted a lot in his youth. One Easter Sunday, we woke to a commotion as he dragged in a struggling dove. We joked it was a bad omen that our cat killed the dove of peace on Easter.
Both of them are rescues. Thomas came to us by way of a little girl in my oldest daughter's class. Tribble came to us from the same daughter's psycho-ex-girlfriend.
TGE: Describe a few of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, or television shows.
AS: Oh goodness. I don't watch TV anymore. Smallville had several lovely romances going: Clark/Lex, the Jonathan/Martha/Lionel triangle. I'm oddly amused by the trivia that the actor, John Glover, is a Lionel/Martha shipper as well.
My all-time favorite SFR book is Julian May's Pilocene saga. There are several romances, healthy and not, hopeful and doomed, running through the series. You have elderly folks in love, you have a psychopath falling for a nun, and a grand doomed love triangle.
The Fifth Element is one of my favorite SF Romances. They're so cute as they fall in love and save reality.
Oddly, the Han/Leia romance in the Star Wars movies skeeves me. I rewatched it a couple years ago and was horrified by the way he used his physical size to trap and intimidate her, by the underlying hostility of all their interactions.
Time After Time, on the other hand is very sweet. For those who don't remember, that's a tale of H.G. Wells pursuing Jack the Ripper into 1979 via his time machine. Malcolm MacDowell and David Warner are completely brilliant. And Mary Steenburgen turns in a great performance as a thoroughly modern woman who has to educate her Victorian gentleman.
And call me sick, but I love Ice Pirates with an unholy love. Not just the Jason/ Karina storyline, but the Maida/Killjoy that hinted at here and there. Then again, I have the biggest girlcrush ever on Anjelica Huston, and this movie is the direct cause.
TGE: Do you have any advice for authors considering a career writing science fiction romance/GBLT science fiction romance and/or ebooks?
AS: Most of what I have is advice I've gotten from other authors.
Remember, only 2% of writers make a full-time living at it. Only 2% of them make more than $50,000 a year.
When you're submitting, start from the top and work your way down. Start with Tor. Start with Ellora's Cave. Start with Playboy or Asimov's or Locus. Always watch your writer's guidelines. Yes, this means you have to reformat each submission. Do it.
When writing SF in general, be aware of what is going on socially as well as technologically. Be aware of how you handle minority characters, of whether you even include them. The all-white future was passe in the 60s. Be aware of trends in religion. Do you know that in the last 10 years, the percentage of US people identifying as Christian has dropped from 85% to 75%. Do you know there are as many Neo-pagans as there are Jews in the US?
But don't disregard the tech. I was terribly embarrassed to find some of my technology ideas for seventy years in the future were already up and running. Which means they are already obsolete.
If you're writing GLBT SF, know the conventions of both types of fiction. Also, be aware of cliches. Know where the current gay rights battles stand. Know what people are advocating. In the Nikolai 'verse, same-sex couples can marry in the United States while gays are routinely stoned to death on national TV in the CS.
Do your worldbuilding. I hated Lois Lowery's The Giver because the worldbuilding was so full of holes. Your worldbuilding will also influence any aliens you create. A solid world helps make a solid story, in every genre.
TGE: What else can readers look forward to from you?
AS: At the moment, I have a steampunk piece submitted to Kerlak and one just finished for Cleis. Naomi and I are finishing up our contemporary BDSM trilogy. Then it's on to post-apocalypse biker gangs, flower fairies, the next Lord Withycombe novel, Nick and Corban, third in that series and maybe a collection of shorts to go with Alive on the Inside, our dark carnival novel.
Ms. Sparrow, thanks for your time, and for your art!
To learn more about the author and her work, visit her Web site. You can also find her at Angel’s Place.
Here’s a boost for your TBR pile: Angelia Sparrow was kind enough to compile a list of her science fiction romance stories for my widely-read passengers:
Cherry Tart (het, steampunk)
For Love of Etarin (gay, space opera)
Eight Days Ablaze (het, cyberpunk)
Plumbing the Depths (gay, space opera)
Skyway Robbery (m/m/f, steampunk)
Howl at the Mistletoe (modern werewolves, noir detective in urban fantasy Memphis, zombie apocalypse, steampunk, paranormals and SF conventions, m/m, f/f, no relationships)
Pushing the Boundaries of Reality (m/f/m, cyberpunk)
Alive on the Inside
Shared Dark Future:
A Dark Roasted Christmas
My Dark Roasted Valentine
Sharon Lynn Fisher (GHOST PLANET) is a finalist for the RWA 2010 Golden Heart award. She participated in an interview courtesy of author Elizabeth Naughton as part of the author's Golden Heart Spotlight series.
In addition to the interview, Ms. Fisher guest blogs and reflects on her writing journey as well as her aspirations toward publication:
At that point in my life I was weaning an 18-month-old, and I was still telling myself that someday I’d get serious about my childhood dream of writing. I’d worked at it diligently for five or six years after college, but careers, relationships, and a cross-country move derailed all my good intentions.
I read Twilight, and it changed my life. It had less to do with the story itself (though I certainly read it as compulsively as the next person) than it did with reading the author bio, growing curious, and looking up the details of Meyer’s success story on her web site.
The morale of the story? Never give up, never surrender!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Authors, I hope you've been checking out the Publishers Showcase at the SFR Brigade. The event will last all week and provide you with lots of great additions to your submission lists.
So far, there have been interviews with Devine Destinies and Samhain Publishing.
Today's featured publisher is Carina Press. Check out the overview here. You can also read an interview with editor Deborah Nemeth who shares what she's specifically seeking in SF/SFR submissions.
After authors Linnea Sinclair and Jessica Andersen disclosed that their covers were being changed--basically being stripped of the genre elements--I channeled my subsequent thoughts on the subject into My Big Fat Cover Rant. Jane of Dear Author was kind enough to grant me some real estate so we could continue the discussion with her readers.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
At Carina Press, Lilly Cain blogs about her forthcoming erotic science fiction romance, ALIEN REVEALED:
But it has always been paranormal and sci-fi that interested me because the genres’ opened up such a wealth of possibilities. Lately I’ve seen other sub-genres of romance opening those same doors, like the speculative historic fiction within Steampunk, so the time could come that I will try something new.
Leave a comment at the author's Carina Press blog post and be entered for a chance to win a copy!
Science fiction romance release news
First, there was TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN. Then came ALIEN REVEALED. And now, you can also read UNDERCOVER ALIEN by Barbara Romo (Crescent Moon Press). I discovered this release in the pages of the current RT Book Reviews. According to her bio,
...Undercover Alien...introduces the Olam, an ancient species with an unusual interest in Earth and its humans. Their sometimes helpful, sometimes just plain scary, interference will continue in Prodigal Alien and Accidental Alien.
Read the excerpt here.
Wouldn’t it be a gas if I put together a list of all the SFR/erotic SFR books with “alien” in the title?!
In other release news, Kaye Manro’s FORBIDDEN LOVE is now out! The author is giving away mucho copies of her book, and it’s free and easy to enter for a chance to win. All you have to do is leave a comment at any of the posts on her current blog tour. The next two are Monday, May 17 at Nancy O'Berry, and Tuesday, May 18 at the blog of Melisse Aires (CYBOT AWAKENED).
[More below the cut]
Via SFR Brigade
Stay tuned for Publisher’s Showcase at the SFR Brigade. This special event will run this week from May 17-21. Here is the lineup:
Devine Destinies – May 17
Samhain Publishing – May 17
Carina Press – May 18
Ellora's Cave – May 19
Liquid Silver Books – May 19
Red Rose Publishing – May 20
Lyrical Press – May 20
Mundania – May 21
Shadowfire Press – May 21
Lizze Newell has an inspiring—and bittersweet—post on Romance Through Technology:
As a reader or a writer, don't be intimidated by either male or female technology, you are as smart and technically savvy as member of the opposite sex. And they are willing to share.
Now for some steampunk action!
Don your brass goggles and adjust your corsets for SteamPink Week, hosted by vvB32 Reads. The event runs from June 4-12, 2010. If you leave a comment at the announcement post, not only will you receive a (virtual) ticket for the feature, but you’ll be eligible to win a steampunk book from the likes of Sarah A. Hoyt and Gail Carriger!
I’ll also be guest blogging there (date to be announced).
Jody Wallace (MEGAN'S CHOICE) brings the Southern fried funny with Maybelle’s Revised Character Archetypes. But what I think you’ll laugh about even more are the further adventures of Maybelle in SFR Archetypes: A Parody.
For your reading pleasure, Ms. Wallace also has an SFR short titled Dunvegas: Alien Attack! from the anthology WELCOME TO FABULOUS DUNVEGAS 2007. The collection of stories is by the authors of the blog Beyond the Veil. Download the free PDF here.
What is THE SEVENFOLD SPELL?
Tia Nevitt, proprietor of the exquisite blog Debuts & Reviews, has a forthcoming release. Her fantasy, THE SEVENFOLD SPELL, will be published by Carina Press.
Tia was one of the first bloggers to list TGE on her blogroll, and so I wanted to share her exciting news with you. Congratulations, Tia!
Rock ‘n’ roll readers
Who says kids don’t like to read? Rock out with the students of Ocoee Middle School to the funky video “Gotta Keep Reading” (via Pauline Baird Jones):
Thursday, May 13, 2010
In response to my post about post-apocalyptic romances, Galaxy Express passenger AnnaM. posed the following questions:
Heather, you mentioned the possibility of an SFR dealing with these gritty details, but do you think that's actually saleable? Do readers want more gloss on their SFR? Do the readers really want to know the smelly dirty details like that in a romance?
Superb questions, and I see two distinct issues here. One is gritty details in science fiction romance, and the other is gritty details in romance in general. While romance readers are a diverse lot, in general it seems we want more gloss on the romances we read. We’re in it for the fantasy, after all. But many authors have included gritty details in romances and continue to do so. It just takes a little digging to discover them.
But what about science fiction romance in particular? The subgenre makes use of so many settings and such a variety of characters that I expect a minimum standard of gritty details. Science fiction romance is a subgenre of diversity and pushing envelopes. The stories frequently involve war and quests and all kinds of intimacy with nasty alien goop—how could authors not include the gritty details?
Not only that, but going gritty is one way to ensure SFR maintains a distinct identity from other romance subgenres. Gloss, schmoss—SFR shouldn’t be afraid to get down and dirty. Show me the injuries, the blood, the pain. I embrace the notion of authors challenging me with gritty details that ground me in the story, even if they reek of the squick factor.
That said, it doesn’t mean every book has to include details like underarm odor, stubble, or the conundrum of where to dispose of one’s saturated menstrual pad while tracking a villain across the desert of an alien planet. They have to be integral to the story.
It also depends on the story. Tales occurring in the jungles of alien worlds or in war torn territories lend themselves to gritty details more than, say, a story about scientists in a cleanroom. Gritty details during a combat situation demand to be told. For instance, what if a heroine soldier really really really really had to urinate—or worse, have a bowel movement—right smack in the middle of boarding an enemy starship? I sometimes wonder about things like that and yes, I’d be interested in reading about how such a scene might play out. It could lead to some interesting situations between the hero and heroine or increase the tension. I would certainly be rooting for her bladder, that’s for darn sure!
There’s also the practical issue of word count. Authors can only include so many gritty details if there’s a word count limit or they are choosing a short form such as a novella.
In the end, execution is everything.
In her comment, AnnaM. presented an interesting idea to tackle. She stated “I have a draft in which I make a joke out of there being no toilet paper after the hero/heroine and others are stranded on an alien world.”
Me, I want that gritty detail. If the hero and heroine are stranded on an alien world, I must know how they are navigating the lack of toilet paper and Port-a-potties.* Is there a futuristic butt sanitizer that comes in convenient travel packs, or something? Otherwise, I would have a difficult time suspending my disbelief. And that’s nothing to joke about.
What’s your vote on the gritty details?
*By the way, did you know that portable toilets also go by the brand names of “Biffs” and “Toi-Toi”? Fascinating.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Jump over to the cyber launch party for Pauline Baird Jones' latest science fiction romance novel, GIRL GONE NOVA.
Be sure to leave a comment at her post for a chance to win a $25 gift card for your choice of B&N or Amazon! (Don't forget to include your email address in the event that you win).
Author Lynn Viehl (STARDOC) answers questions from the Coyote Con Science Fiction Romance panel.
Cross-posting about a free opportunity to pitch your manuscript to Carina Press Executive Editor, Angela James (via SFR Brigade):
SavvyAuthors.Com is holding a one day only Pitch your Book to Angela James contest.
Entry for this contest is free and although it requires basic membership on the SavvyAuthors.Com site, that is free, too. The details are on the site.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN by Gini Koch here and here.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Even though the market for (horror-based) paranormal romance was once supposedly “dead,” it’s not that way now. Readers have developed a rabid taste for preternatural heroes, heroines, and settings. With such a predilection for the exotic, it stands to reason they would also want to glom onto science fiction romance. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror—if you like one, chances are you like ‘em all, right?
So why aren’t the readers who enjoy paranormal romance also driving sales of science fiction romance? It seems as though strong SFR sales should be an automatic by-product of the paranormal romance boom. Clearly, that hasn’t been the case. Why is that?
Is it the content? Could be. On average, girls grow up reading more TWILIGHT-type fare than STAR TREK. Science fiction is largely marketed to male readers both in content and packaging. Thus, there may be a carryover effect, even if SFR covers contain very little science fictional visuals. Ack—don’t want those geek cooties!
Are there not enough books? Goodness knows it’s challenging to find a science fiction romance on bookstore shelves amid the crowds of paranormal romances, historicals, and urban fantasy. Perhaps it’s a matter of availability. If the number of SFR books (i.e., print runs) changed to a significant number overnight, would the sales automatically follow?
Or...is it something else altogether?
Science fiction romance is a niche subgenre. Which, at least as far as mainstream print publishers go, makes it invisible. But there are still plenty of books available, especially if one counts digital offerings (which we should be). However, readers can’t buy books they don’t know about. If you’ll recall, the paranormal romance market didn’t start out with thousands of books ready for consumption. Most publishers didn’t predict that particular trend. So what changed?
Reader buzz about the paranormal books that existed played a key role (ParaNormal Romance, I’m looking at you!). Of course, it helped that they had innovative books (i.e., those that successfully reinvented certain romance tropes) to buzz about. The increasingly graphic sexual content helped a whole heckuva lot. But even if you disagree the books were innovative, someone believed in them. A whole community, in fact.
All of it took time, of course. Decades, even. No matter how much a particular group of readers loved the new paranormal romances, they still had to convince other readers to make a similar investment and to take risks. That, of course, took intense, dedicated effort.
I would also propose that science fiction romance promises a different type of fantasy from that of paranormal romance. I found it interesting when I came across an article recently wherein a publisher was quoted as saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) “we sell romances with strong heroines and heroes that you can fall in love with.”
“Heroes that you can fall in love with.” Not heroines, not the couple as a whole, but heroes. And the promise conveyed that the readers would fall in love with the hero, not the heroines. So part of the challenge is that romances in general are frequently marketed to readers as a product that will fulfill their desire for a fantasy lover.
But not all readers want or need that particular fantasy. Science fiction romance offers it, of course, but the recent wave of books tells me the subgenre doesn’t want to restrict itself to just one type of fantasy.
Should we be asking paranormal romance readers questions like, “What kinds of books are you looking for and not finding?” or “Where would you like to go in romance where you haven’t journeyed yet?” If publishers can’t do the market research to discover what readers want, then it’s up to us—especially if we believe SFR has something they want, but just don’t know it yet.
Is it enough to build The House of Science Fiction Romance? Have we started enough conversations about it—conversations that paranormal romance readers will want to join?
In an intriguing case of serendipity, over at Dear Author, there's a conversation happening right now about paranormal romance sales in Paranormal By The (Unscientific) Numbers. Anonymous Numbers Geek concludes the piece by asking
What do you think of paranormal trends, as readers? Is there a particular one of the three (paranormal/UF/YAUF) that you are tired of? Or is there always room for more?
What are your thoughts? Share your answers here and/or at Dear Author!
*Yes, I’m a raging Scooby-Doo-aholic. Zoinks! The 1979 Werner Herzog adaptation of NOSFERATU is also one for your paranormal romance list. Es ist großartig!
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I had a terrific time presenting the Steampunk Romance Panel yesterday at Coyote Con with FULL STEAM AHEAD author Nathalie Gray. You can read the transcript for free here.
In addition to an overview of steampunk, we discussed steampunk romance heroes, heroines, settings, books, and which publishers are seeking submissions in this hot new subgenre.
Nathalie Gray summed it up best: "Oooh, le shiny."
Coyote Con is a first class endeavor. It runs through the end of May, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already done so.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The answer, usually, is “No ma’am, I’m afraid that’s not on the menu.” Bah!
What’s an intergalactic spy to do? I work hard. I work DAMN hard, and when I get back from a grueling mission, there’s nothing I like more than curling up with a book that makes me swoon, cry, and, dammit – LAUGH!
I get plenty of swooning and crying, but there ain’t too many laughs in SFR. Yes, I know. Saving the galaxy while falling in love is all very serious business, but isn’t there time for a giggle or a grin or a guffaw in between all the alien encounters, cosmic battles, and sex scenes?
I blame my penchant for wanting to laugh, mere seconds after a planet is obliterated, entirely on that hilarious bastard Douglas Adams and his THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY series. It’s brilliantly funny, but I can only read it so many times.
I did get a good dose of the giggles from Gini Koch’s recently released TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, and I’m looking forward to the next in that series, but there must be more out there. Surely?
Hook me up, fine passengers of the Galaxy Express. Help out your local hard working intergalactic spy and recommend some titles/authors that’ll make me swoon, cry AND laugh. Or am I alone in my longing?
Be seeing ya!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I contributed an answer, which you can read by clicking here.
My answer was not about a spaceship from a science fiction romance (Oh, the scandal!), but my runner up answer would actually be the jump ships from Kristin Landon's THE HIDDEN WORLDS. Pilots had an interface with them that allowed them to see space through the ship's "eyes." Good stuff.
What ships from written SF/SFR have fascinated you so much that you'd, erm, jump at the chance to ride in them?
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
BEYOND THE SHADOWS – Jess Granger
A man of deception. A woman of justice. Can their fragile trust be strong enough to prevent a war?
Commander Yara knows perfect leadership requires perfect control and discipline. She has spent years living without the distraction of caring for anything—or anyone. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make. Yara has honed herself into the perfect heir to the Azralen throne, but a bloody coup could destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. She must return home to prevent war. Unfortunately the only ship available belongs to an Earthlen trader with no regard for authority—especially hers.
Cyn is a rebel, driven to protect those suffering at the hands of the Elite leaders of Azra. Using his alias to manipulate the lovely but icy commander onto his ship, he has to keep her from Azra long enough to ignite the revolution. But when he awakens a vibrant and feeling woman beneath that icy exterior, he gets more than he bargained for—love. He must find a way to convince Yara to join him, before they get caught in a web of deception that could tear their world apart.
Read chapter one here.
FORBIDDEN LOVE – Kaye Manro
T’Kon and Maya are galaxies apart, so different yet so much alike…
Exploring the galaxies at FTL (faster than light) is routine for the inhabitants of Asconage. T’Kon’s cool-blood culture exists on a planet in the scorch of binary suns. Yet there are governing archaic rules to prohibit interspecies mating with those from different worlds and evolutionary paths.
When T’Kon crashes his spacecraft on Terrain, a seasonal planet barely on the cusp of space travel, he cannot resist the warm-blooded audacious female who gives him aid. His desire for Maya entices him to abandon his species moral code.
There is little time to linger inside their illicit passion. The warring factions of her world are closing in. A quick fix of his spacecraft and a fast exit is his best choice… But can T’Kon leave Maya behind and forsake their emerging Forbidden Love?
Read the excerpt here.
FARTHEST SPACE: THE WRATH OF JAN – Ellen Fisher (look for it on the Kindle around May 10)
Re-release of Susan Grant’s Star series:
THE STAR KING
Haunted by a magical encounter in the desert after her jet was shot down, ex-fighter pilot Jas Hamilton is determined to discover why dreams of the mysterious golden-eyed man have derailed her life. When the two find each other after twenty years, they rekindle a passionate attraction.
Read the excerpt here.
THE STAR PRINCE
Ian Hamilton considered himself a typical guy, a finance major who found all the excitement he needed in the stock market and his vintage Harley. Then his stepfather offered him the crown to an empire and the reins of a mission critical to world peace. What could he do but go for the ride?
In a daring bid for freedon, Princess Tee'ah fled the world she knew for the freedom to fly. No more princes, no more rules. Both the man she wed and the life she led would be of her own choosing. But when a handsome stranger offered her a job piloting the Sun Devil, she choose the romp of a lifetime -- with the one man she should have avoided at all costs.
From ocean-dark skies to the neon-drenched streets of L.A., Tee'ah and Ian find that true adventure is learning some rules are made to be broken...and some loves are written in the stars.
Read the excerpt here.
THE STAR PRINCESS
Ilana Hamilton isn't an adventurer like her pilot mother, or a diplomat like her do-right brother; she's a brash, fun-loving filmmaker who'd rather work behind the camera than be a "Star Princess" in front of it. Heiress or not, she's a perfectly normal, single woman...until Prince Ché Vedla crashes into her life.
With six months to choose a bride, the sexy royal wants to sow his wild oats. Ilana can't blame him -- but fall for the guy herself? Not a chance! Hotshot pilot or no, Ché is too stuffy, too arrogant, and too old-fashioned. But when he sweeps her off her feet Ilana sees stars, and the higher he takes her the more she loves to fly. Only her heart asks where she will land.
Read the excerpt here.
Other SFR release news
Pauline Baird Jones blogs about the Kindle/Mobipocket release of her latest book, GIRL GONE NOVA as well as the excitement of receiving her author copies.
Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five audio books will be available from Audible.com starting July 6, 2010.
The above doesn't even cover the half of it. Read on for more!
In response to my post on gateway protagonists in steampunk romance, KS Augustin provides a thoughtful analysis on why she’s chosen to use them in her own work:
I was going to say that I don’t like the use of gateway protags any more and, as an Asian post-colonialist child, wonder if American audiences are really so insulated that they can’t fathom a book or movie if it doesn’t somehow tie in with their own culture.
I was, in a nutshell, prepared to be scathing. One thing stopped me. I’ve written a gateway protag myself.
In Aliens Among Us?, Kaye Munro reflects on Stephen Hawking’s latest insights about the possibilities of time travel & alien invaders.
Photos from the 2010 RT BookLover's Convention
Linnea Sinclair posted Intergalactic Bar & Grille Party Photos from the RT BookLover's Convention.
And here's a shot of the steampunk panel. You can just make out Nathalie Gray's (second from left) shock of short blond hair. I assume the empty chairs belonged to folks who had to exit for a quick bathroom break.
And speaking of steampunk, here's a list of publishers actively seeking steampunk romance as discovered during the convention (via Steamed):
Grand Central Publishing
Heather Osborne at Tor/Forge
(Quick reminder: Ms. Gray and I will be discussing steampunk romance at Coyote Con this Saturday, 11 pm EST.)
The Ellen Fisher Report
As you may recall, I recently interviewed Ellen Fisher regarding the re-release of her science fiction romance NEVER LOVE A STRANGER on the Kindle. Since then, the author provided an update on her sales: she’s sold 123 copies (the baseline was 36). Thanks for all the support, my loyal passengers!
Whose man titty gleam will reign supreme? Ellen Fisher experiments with covers for her Kindle books, with surprising results—and implications for SFR.
She also blogged about Indie Vs. Epublishing
Skiffy Rommer review
Cathy "Queen of the Frozen North" Pegau shares the lowdown on her experience reading AGENT PROVOCATEUR by Nathalie Gray.
Via SFR Brigade:
Attention, SLITHER fans! Frances Pauli unveils her free SFR serial SPACE SLUGS: The universe is about to get sticky.
Laura Scarlett describes how authors can benefit from collaborating with digital publishers in a summary of What to Expect When You’re E-Expecting: RT Workshop Report:
1. More opportunities- Angela and Lauren discussed as to how five years ago agents were hesitant to represent books for digital. That’s clearly changed. Agents have seen how much money can be made and expanded their representation. The chances of your book getting published have increased.
2. Name recognition- there are many authors who first started out pushing through e-books that are now in print. Not to mention the marketing by e-book sellers, using tactics like giving away the first book of a series for free. That has helped many authors sell the rest of the series.
3. Higher royalty rates- whereas you’re looking at single digit percentages in most print publishers, most e-book publishers are paying in the double digits.
Currently, I’ve got just as many ebooks on my TBR pile as print ones, which should tell you something.
Monica Valentinelli is the content and Web analytics manager for Musicnotes.com, and in her article for SFWA, she discusses the importance of managing your online reputation. (via a comment she left at the BookEnds Literary Agency post, The Internet and Your Career).
File Under “Not SFR but I’m going to blog about it anyway” category:
Congratulations to newly minted author KT Grant (a.k.a. the fabulous blogger Katiebabs of Babbling About Books, and More) who sold her first book. Her debut novel LOVESTRUCK features “a May/December Lesbian Contemporary Romance set in New York City [and] will be released in May from Noble Romance Publishing.”
She was an early supporter of TGE and it was exciting to hear about her success.
The name says it all: Raygun Revival. It’s “…a throwback publication that revisits space opera and golden age sci-fi. Our stories focus more on character development than hard science and sail all the wide-open waters between fantasy and harder sci-fi. Think of the original Star Wars stories, Doc Smith's Lensman series, the Warlord of Mars tales from Edgar Rice Burroughs. Think of everything from John Carter and Gully Foyle to Kimball Kinnison and Han Solo.”
Check out some truly cringe-worthy genre covers in Good Show Sir: "only the worst Sci-Fi/Fantasy book covers". (Thanks to Marcella Burnard for the link.) While I don’t think all of the covers were bad, there are plenty on the list to make us realize how good we have it these days.
Now I turn the mike over to you. Got any SFR news or links to share?
Monday, May 3, 2010
I'm cross posting this great news about Katherine Allred's forthcoming book, CLOSE CONTACT, from SFR Brigade:
RT Book Reviews named CLOSE CONTACT a "Top Pick"!
"The review says:
Humor is definitely on tap in the second book of Allred's fun and fiesty Alien Affairs series. Allred's genetically created heroine is a most reluctant operative, one who is more comfortable throwing a diplomatic party than kicking butt. This wonderful book is chock-full of excitement, danger and the heroine's first person offbeat sense of humor. A real gem of a book!"
Way to go, Ms. Allred!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Today I had the extremely awesome pleasure of participating in Coyote Con's Science Fiction Romance Q&A panel. Thanks again to author Joely Sue Burkhart and Drollerie Press Editor Deena Fisher for organizing it all.
Read the entire chat transcript here.
In the near future, author S.L. Viehl (STARDOC) will respond to questions from the chat on her blog, Paperback Writer. I'll share the link as soon as I have it.
On Tuesday, I'll be back with this month's roundup of science fiction romance news & links.
Pretty kewl: The RT Daily Blog posted coverage and pics from the Intergalactic Bar & Grille Party at the RT Booklover's Convention.