I started a mini marathon of comic sci-fi romance stories, and now I'd like to discuss my experiences reading two other recent releases I read.
RAGNAR AND JULIET – Lucy Woodhull
Bounty hunting is usually so easy. Flash a little cleavage, mix a roofie cocktail, and Juliet has her man right where she wants him: out cold, ready to be swapped for cash. Her passions are freedom, trashy clothes, and pie -- not necessarily in that order.
Hunky alien ship captain Ragnar doesn't deserve torture at the hands of the psychotic king who hired Juliet; he liberated one of William the Nefarious' illegal concubines. Juliet can't ignore such a noble act. She doesn’t trust men, but this one, with the kindest smile she's ever seen, picks away at her resolve to stay aloof and clothed. He's just so... nice! Crazy she can deal with; sincerity is terrifying.
Before she gives in to her irrational urge to get a timeshare with him (and his cute tail), they're caught by the bad guys. Ragnar disappears and abandons her to her disgusting captors -- so much for togetherness. Perhaps he’s not such a saint. Even worse, Nefarious William has nominated her for Concubine of the Evening. This dubious honor does not thrill her, and only a few hours remain before the king’s mind control drugs obliterate her free will.
Sexual slavery might not be fatal, but Juliet would rather die. Of course, the third option (run away to a beach and hump Ragnar silly) is the best, if they can live that long.
RAGNAR AND JULIET is a totally transparent comic sci-fi romance in that it doesn’t aspire to be anything other than what it is: goofy, trashy, campy fun in outer space. The cover gives us some pretty big hints regarding the tone and now that I’ve read it, I think it’s a fair representation of the story.
This is one case where going in purely for the comedy really helped. The story was narrow in terms of scope, but that actually works in its favor given the short length. The romance development is on the lite side. Despite the generous helping of action-adventure, it all kind of just snowballed into one big collection of jokes.
In addition to the snarky banter between the hero and heroine, the author sprinkled the story with some mildly amusing SF spoofs. RAGNAR AND JULIET kind of parodies the planetary romances of yore, although it’s difficult to say if that was intentional. If I had to use just one word to describe the humor, I’d call it irreverent. Using three words, I would frame it as BARBARELLA on speed.
Random Speculation Moment: I have to wonder if Seth Rogen was the inspiration for Nefarious William, because that’s who I immediately started picturing as the character.
Not all of the jokes worked for me, but the ones that did were pretty good. One I particularly liked hinted at the possibility that the author might be able to pull off some decent satire if she were so inclined.
The following passage is introspection by Juliet after Ragnar, a humanoid-with-a-tail from the planet Alutia, asks if she wants to be his “veurndan," which translates to “girlfriend”:
She was surly and independent, not half good enough for her parents, and kind of trampy. She was comfortable with herself, but most men didn’t find her suitable for veurndan-ness, which wasn’t a word, but whatever.
I’m still chuckling over the punch line, “which wasn’t a word, but whatever.” For me, this line was a sharp bit of satire. In an outrageously flippant manner, Juliet is invalidating Ragnar’s entire language! There’s some inventive social criticism tucked into that sentiment.
It’s especially effective given that the issue is addressed in the context of a burgeoning romantic relationship wherein Ragnar and Juliet are attempting to navigate and manage their differences. However, her introspection in that regard is a very insular event and the theme of xenophobia isn’t fully addressed in the rest of the story. Ragnar’s tail is exotic to Juliet, but in an erotic (and hence, positive) way. Therefore, the joke read to me as a throwaway line.
Still, that passage made me realize that I wouldn’t mind reading an entire SFR that used humor to address themes such as xenophobia in a humorous way. But the character growth would be an essential component, which in turn would necessitate a deeper, more emotionally engaging story.
In conclusion, I’d say that a reading of RAGNAR AND JULIET would help you get pepped up for a hot date.
Genetically created to be broodmares, Phyrne Galaxy and her mother, aunt and cousin don’t need men, they need freedom. They escaped from the warring planet of Kergeron to Earth, where Phyrne’s aunt’s vision of winning money in a New Jersey casino comes true. Too bad her aunt’s precog didn’t show the hoods waiting outside with guns. But Phyrne has her own weapon, more powerful than bullets. She’s ovulating.
Phyrne turns up the heat, taking out more than the crooks in her wave of sexual torture. FBI Special Agent Hawk Higgens, running to protect the women, is brought to his knees, too. Caught in her procreative spell, Phyrne ravishes Hawk.
Being seduced by an alien and left half naked and unconscious in the back of a surveillance van changes Hawk’s life. He joins the Foundation, a privately funded agency that hunts aliens. Six years later, the reason for his career change pops back on the radar in a tea shop in Kentucky. The woman whose face still haunts his dreams has an addition to her family – a five-year-four-month-old daughter.
At the same time, two Kergeron warriors are sent to Earth to bring the women back to their home planet. With an ex-FBI agent and two alien warriors on her trail, Phyrne’s calm life running the Tea & Comfort shop is about to get shaken, stirred and screwed.
I enjoyed the television show GILMORE GIRLS back in the day, so when author Edie Ramer told me her full-length book GALAXY GIRLS was an homage to the show, I was immediately intrigued. GILMORE GIRLS was chock full of humor, particularly its witty, rapid-fire dialogue. Sometimes the lines they pulled off were almost implausible in their cleverness, but hey, it was a fantasy world, right?
So I decided to check out GALAXY GIRLS. Overall, I consider it more science fiction romance with comic elements than pure comic SFR. I was a fan of GILMORE GIRLS, but much as I loved its quirky humor, sometimes it was hard to transition from the funny moments to the serious ones. I had a similar reaction to GALAXY GIRLS. This story has humor in it, but there’s also a serious undertone that kept bumping me away from the comic side.
As far as story tone, the premise is taken very seriously. But is the idea of being able to control one’s pheromones quirky funny or something more devious? I ask this largely rhetorical question because the heroine’s abilities are potent and have significant consequences.
The story also attempts to address some of the issues related to a woman’s role in patriarchal societies (in this one, the patriarchal society in question has gone to the bad). The Kergeron men struck me as a bit buffoon-like. But was it buffoon “Ha-ha” or buffoon “Geez, what jerks they are!”? Or perhaps the author intended to evoke both feelings in readers.
In terms of the humorous dialogue and exchanges, GALAXY GIRLS wasn’t the homage I’d hoped for. But there are other elements that are clearly inspired by the show. In retrospect, I’m thinking I might have gone in with too strong of an expectation about the level of comedy given my own memories of the show that inspired it. Regardless, this foray into comic science fiction romance has been an interesting experiment so far.
Stay tuned, because tomorrow I’ll return with the fireworks-filled finale of my feature on comic science fiction romance.