Thursday, June 30, 2011

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News From RWA: Sci-Fi Romance Is "...a growing trend"

In RWA - And the  Conference Begins in Earnest, Lynn Spencer reported the following: 

Paranormals continue to be strong as does steampunk. In addition, I ran into more authors who have sold sci-fi/futuristic romance than I think I’ve ever seen in one place. For years, Linnea Sinclair was the main author that I knew of writing these types of books, but it seems to be a growing trend.
That's because we're money, baby.

Joyfully yours,

Heather
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Parallel Universe: The Magic Of Human Connection by Yolanda Sfetsos


If you’re an anime fan like me, then you’ve probably noticed how some of the Sci-Fi shows and films in that medium throw a few paranormal elements into the mix. Recently, hubby and I re-watched Space Adventure Cobra (1982 anime movie) and I was actually surprised by just how much magical/mystical content there was in it. Not to mention how much love featured in the main story. I'd totally forgotten.


And if you've read any of my stories, then you also know that I like to blur my genres. I like to sprinkle a little paranormal into everything I write. That includes my Sci-Fi tales. I often throw some magic into space, a little shapeshifting into the seemingly-human population, and love revealing dark, hidden secrets that mess with the characters’ lives. It’s fun.

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RWA 2011 Conference Check-in With Laurie A. Green



The 2011 RWA conference is in full swing in New York City. Golden Heart nominee Laurie A. Green contacted me with some SFR-related news:

The SFR Brigaders in attendance kicked things off Tuesday evening with a gathering at The View hotel—in a revolving lounge, no less! The soiree included RITA-nominee Marcella Burnard, Laurel Wanrow, Darcy Drake, Sarah Shade, Jennifer L. Hart, Jenna McCormick, Donna S. Frelick, Laurie A. Green, and new draftee Theresa.

And if you’re thinking of pitching your science fiction romance manuscript to agents, Laurie reported that about nine agents taking pitches at the conference listed SFR as an area of interest. This number is a huge increase from last year, when there were…*crickets chirping.*

Also, Lisa Paitz Spindler (THE SPIRAL PATH) has been busy with conference reports on Twitter. Here’s the first of two tweets about the Carina Press Spotlight:

In 2011 Carina Press' mix of books will be comprised of 10% science fiction romance up from 6% in 2010. #rwa11

Nice!

In the Spotlight on Carina Press, Angela James just quoted @ThGalaxyExpress about SFR covers...

Ya gotta love the Great SFR Cover Debate!

Joyfully yours,

Heather
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Parallel Universe: Tropes In Science Fiction Romance by Diane Dooley


To save you the bother of having to go look up what a “trope” is (as I had to) the dictionary definition is: a common or overused theme or device. Duh. I guess I knew that somewhere in the back of my head, because they are the things I so delight in playing with as I write science fiction romance. And when I say “playing,” what I really mean is turning them upside down and giving them a vicious twist.

Both the romance and the science fiction genres have absolutely masses of tropes between them, so I find I have an awful lot to play with. And from my ongoing reading of science fiction romance I can tell that I am not alone. If there’s something I love about this genre, it’s that no trope is safe and you just never know what SFR writers are gonna do to those poor defenceless tropes on their next outing.

That said, are there any tropes unique to science fiction romance? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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Parallel Universe: Words Matter—Or Is That Antimatter? by Marcella Burnard


“Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” (Arthur C. Clarke) 2001: A Space Odyssey

“Travelling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy…without precise calculations you could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that would end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?” (George Lucas) Star Wars

What makes writing dialog for science fiction romance different than dialog in any other genre? Certainly, in order to pass muster as science fiction, you do have a bit of technical jargon you’re expected to toss around. Most of that will be specific to the requirements of your world and your story. If you think about the Star Trek reboot movie, (http://www.startrekmovie.com) and the world building that was done, you’ll find the hard science fiction (warp drive technology, phasers, communicators, and computers that sound exactly like Majel Barrett).

For your stories, what hard science, when, and how much, is dictated by the needs of your world. Is the scifi necessarily going to show up in dialog? Up to you – but some science fiction writers swear that readers find it easier to digest hard science in dialog rather than in narrative. Since I can’t find an organized study on that assertion, it may amount to opinion, but most scifi movies throw scientific data points into a dialog give and take so the information is broken up and made a tiny bit more digestible for nonscientists. That said, most of us don’t need a primer on space flight to comprehend that your space monkeys found a way to master the stars.


The same Star Trek movie mixes soft science into the blend. For example, Spock embodies the meshing of two cultures and two psyches – one wherein emotions are dangerous, the other wherein emotions offer another layer of information. Psychoanalyze Kirk and you find a young man desperate for the father he didn’t get to know while chaffing at having to live up to that father’s sacrifice and subsequent ‘hero’ label. Put those two people in the same place at the same time and you have dialog that highlights the clash of philosophies and psychology the pair represents.

It is the soft science that really differentiates science fiction romance from other genres. After all, a romance is intrinsically the psychology of two people falling in love whether it’s on Earth, in space, or deep under the methane sea on Titan. Consider these questions:

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Parallel Universe: To Funny...And Beyond! by Gini Koch


Last year, I got to do a character panel in honor of this event. That was really a lot of fun and I was looking forward to doing it again this year. But did I get to? Oh noooo, absolutely not. This year? This year I was asked to actually “lecture”, to “teach”, to “explain my process”. I know! I don’t actually have a process! God help us all.

If you chuckled at that, it’s because I wrote it so you would. It’s not a knee-slapping opening, but hey, sometimes a girl likes to get warmed up before the main event. *rim shot*

My topic is how to be funny in your writing, because I write the Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt science fiction series for DAW Books, and the series, in addition to a lot of action and romance, has a lot of funny going on.

Humor is subjective. The old saying, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” is true. Truer words were never spoke sort of true. Not saying that writing straight is a walk in the park, but by comparison to writing funny, actually funny, it kind of is.

To understand what your Guest Lecturer is saying, here are some quick definitions:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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Parallel Universe: Can there be a Frontline in Space War? by A.R. Norris

Parallel Universe

When you think of the frontline, you imagine the point where soldiers from each side merge and begin to fight each other. Well, that's close, but not always right. The frontline is the farthest point you have "established". It's where the resources, personnel and equipment are stationed. There are two frontlines, yours and the enemy's. This is different many times from the actual battle field, where the hand-to-hand, air-to-ground, air-to-air fighting is going on.
unmanned recon vehicle
So how do you handle a war in the future, where humans have (hopefully) occupied space? It's a lot of ground to battle over, establish, hold and then try to gain on.  The gap between both frontlines is wider. Just from Earth to Mars alone is more than 54 million miles apart at its closest point (and over 400 million miles at its widest part). The war field is in constant motion and the boundaries are spherical instead of a flat and aerial plane.

That's a freakin' big varying gap with a lot of fronts to watch. It's insane, unimaginable, impossible!

*Phew, deep breath*

Okay, let's just think about this logically. I mean, we'll have however many hundreds of years it takes to let technology catch up with our growing boundaries. It's not like we'll only have today's capabilities to work with here.

Let's not focus on the resource movement and management in this article. For this one, I want to talk about the frontline's two leading strategic approaches, defensive and offensive. You have to hold your ground while gaining ground. But, can you even technologically be able to hold ground in space? Remember, we're talking millions of miles.

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Parallel Universe: What's Wrong With So Much Pounding Sex? By Jacqueline Lichtenberg


I post on Tuesdays on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com where I've been poking and prodding at the problem of why the Romance genre, but particularly SFR and PNR, just don't seem to gain the respect they deserve.

Respect is one thing; popularity another.  Romance is ridiculously popular, but Romance readers don't carry their books around to impress people with their educated artistic taste.

That situation has persisted through several waves of change in the genre, including the advent of hybrid genres such as Vampire Romance and Science Fiction Romance.

We've gone from Gothic, Bodice Rippers, accurate Historicals, to wildly Erotic, to common-sense sexuality to Divorced With Children Second Chance motifs.

Nothing we do seems to please the discriminating taste or to gain automatic respect for those who read SFR and PNR. 

It seems to me that the Romance Genre (and its readers) is out of step with the social and cultural waves of change from generation to generation.  SFR and PNR particularly appeal to the Child Within, to hopes, dreams, plans, and a sense that we can make it real. Science Fiction is focused on "the future" while Romance is focused on "My Future," the personal destiny we want to mold for ourselves.

That sense of "we can make it real" is rooted in the sure knowledge that at the moment, it's not real, at least not in our own lives.

And that is exactly where Science Fiction was in the 1950's when its readers were most despised! 

SF was exploring life on other planets when our general society "knew" there weren't other planets, never mind "life."

Now we know there are lots of planets like Earth out there.  So Science Fiction doesn't write much about them, and the roaring vitality of speculative fiction has shifted to the Fantasy genres, like PNR.

In PNR, Romance has forged ahead of society, confronting and exploring the place of sexuality in human personal Bonding, in personal life, and the life of a two-thousand-year-old civilization.

This is a major philosophical argument currently ripping the Middle East to shreds and pitting it against the entire "Western Way Of Life" -- yet Romance has been delving into the morality, spirituality, magical power, and Soul's Salvation of pure, raw, human bodily sexuality for decades.

Just as Romance Genre once leaped way ahead of modern society (which wasn't interested in History) and explored Regency England's culture, and then Scotland, and other Historical venues, presenting details of dress, manners, and the problems of women in stratified society, so now Romance has leaped ahead to explore womanhood in worlds where the supernatural is as powerful as science, or more so.

PNR has penetrated the smokescreen of minor issues such as Religion vs. Science or My Religion vs. Your Religion, to discuss the real core philosophical problems such as Good vs. Evil and Humanity vs. Nature. 

Shady Lady Ann AguirreI've been reading a lot of those lately, and recently Ann Aguirre's Corine Solomon novels. (http://twitter.com/#!/MsAnnAguirre)  Shady Lady is the current title (Full Disclosure: one quote in the praise for the novels section at the front is from "Lightworks" and is a quote from my September 2010 review of Hell Fire).

"Corine Solomon" is the main character in these First Person action/romance/suspense/ fantasy novels.  In Shady Lady, she is told by a partially supernatural hunk who claims to be a Hand of God, is tattooed with Angel's names, and claims to have been assigned to protect her, that she is a direct descendent of King Solomon (yes, from the Bible, who built the Temple access to which is so in dispute currently.)

Corine Solomon is American but lives in Mexico and has become a bone of contention between two huge drug cartel overlords.  If you have followed the Mexican border news, you know that evidence is now turning up that there are some business ties and methodology similarities between the Middle East terrorists and the Mexican Drug Cartels.

The Corine Solomon novels are Fantasy - true - but just as the Regency Romance requires a huge intellectual investment in learning history, this novel series requires a vast awareness of current events. 

Romance aficionados can't be empty-headed vapid wimps.  People who read and write novels like the Corine Solomon novels ought to be regarded with shivering awe by the general populace.  These novels provide an intellectual stretch, a philosophical stretch, an emotional stretch and the ambition to solve tomorrow's problems today. 

Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance are the fields where "The Future" portrayed by Science Fiction blends seamlessly with "My Future" portrayed by Romance.

In future posts on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com, I want to discuss the philosophical significance of sexuality as portrayed in various Romance sub-genres. Trust me, this won't be "over the head" of any inveterate reader of Romance!

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

About the Author

Jacqueline Lichtenberg is a winner of the Romantic Times Award for her novel Dushau (now on Kindle) and creator of the Sime~Gen Novels which are currently in e-book and paper editions with 4 never-before-published volumes in 2011, The Story Untold by Jean Lorrah, a Science Fiction Romance To Kiss or To Kill by Jean Lorrah, Personal Recognizance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and (#12 in the series) The Farris Channel by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

Learn more about the books at http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20.

Monday, June 27, 2011

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Parallel Universe 2011 Begins June 28



The Galaxy Express’ third annual Parallel Universe 2011 event begins tomorrow, June 28! 

Parallel Universe 2011 will be the virtual SFR gathering for those unable to attend the Romance Writers of America’s 31th Annual National Conference. From Tuesday, June 28 through Saturday, July 2, you’ll be treated to a series of guest posts from a variety of authors.

Given that many SFR readers are also authors/aspiring authors, the theme of this year’s Parallel Universe is the craft of writing science fiction romance. Topics include planning space wars, tips for using humor, and inventing alien terms. Watch for new posts at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

Additionally, Laurie A. Green, intrepid SFR blogger and RWA Golden Heart finalist, will be keeping tabs on any science fiction romance happenings at the conference. At least 14 SFR Brigaders will be in attendance, so that should make for some far out fun.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, June 26, 2011

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Sexually Liberated Heroines in Sci-Fi Romance

Amazing StoriesIn a recent Dear Author review of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ landmark romance THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, one theme that emerged from the comments pertained to the liberating aspects of this romance and others like it of the time period.

Such books gave readers permission to enjoy the fantasy of great sex at a time when women weren’t encouraged to even think about sex, let alone have any.

Regardless of a book’s quality or how it delivered the fantasy, I think it’s wonderful how romances in general celebrate and validate a woman’s sexuality.

I’m also keen to explore the expression of sexuality in science fiction romance given our current cultural climate.

Which makes for an interesting coincidence since right after reading the Dear Author review, I discovered the following passage in Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Big Love Sci-Fi Part 1: Sex Without Borders:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

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"Author Voices": A New Digital Initiative Coming From Tor Books

The press release for this bit of interesting news hit my inbox yesterday. Therefore, I wanted to pass it along:

Tor/Forge Books Announces Digital Download Initiative
Author Voices to debut at RWA, featuring co-promotions with
Tor.com and Heroes and Heartbreakers

New York, NY – Friday, June 24, 2011Tor/Forge Books is pleased to announce Tor/Forge Author Voices Digital Downloads, a three-volume digital initiative whereby consumers will download free exclusive content via company social networking sites, website and newsletter. Said content will be available via mobile as well as online at http://us.macmillan.com/ and Tor.com. The exclusives will be promoted at conferences this summer beginning with Romance Writers of America (RWA) next week and San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in July.

Tor/Forge Author Voices Vol #1 will release at RWA via a QR code at the Tor table and will take fans to a landing page allowing them to download roughly 400 pages in a pdf or epub file. The volume will contain excerpts from upcoming books by section: Urban Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal; Science Fiction/Fantasy; and Thriller/Mystery/Women’s Fiction and Historicals; author articles previously published in the newsletter throughout the previous year; and an original short story by RITA nominated Deborah Coonts, (Lucky Stiff, Forge 2011). An essay titled “5 Tor/Forge Editors talk about Writing, Publishing and Falling in Love” will round out Vol #1. The landing page will also have a newsletter signup, info about the Tor panel at the show, and a reminder to stop by the Tor/Forge table for those accessing the page online. There will also be a note to visit HeroesandHeartbreakers.com, the Macmillan owned community website for romance readers. The file will become available for download on all ebook retailer sites on July 5th, and information can already be found on Amazon.

For more information about Tor/Forge Author Voices Vol #1, or about the following two volumes, please contact either Patty Garcia (patty.garcia@tor.com), the Director of Publicity for Tor/Forge Books, or Cassandra Ammerman (cassandra.ammerman@tor.com), Publicist. For an exclusive early copy of either the pdf or epub file, please contact Cassandra Ammerman.

About Tor and Forge Books
Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1980 and committed (although not limited) to arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is also the home of award-winning Forge Books, founded in 1993 and committed (although not limited) to thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction and general fiction. Forge includes books by bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Douglas Preston, Eric Lustbader, W. Bruce Cameron and Former Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen. Together, the imprints garnered 20 New York Times bestsellers in 2010.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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Guest Blogging at Steamed!

Today I'm guest blogging at Steamed!, the blog about "writing steampunk fiction." Thanks to the kind generosity of the lovely Lolitas who run it, I dipped my gears into a topic that I've been contemplating for a long while.

In One of These Days, We'll Get a Steampunk Romance Movie, I pitch the Powers That Be in Hollywood about a live action, big budget steampunk romance spectacle. Nailing a film like this might--just might--help me recover from the woefully underperforming travesty that was the WILD WILD WEST film.

In the interest of full disclosure, while there I'm also giving away a digital copy of DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK, Volume 1. Simply leave a comment at my Steamed! post to enter.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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Carina Press Hosts Free Ebook Week

As part of Carina Press' free book week, you can nab yourself a free copy of Diane Dooley's BLUE GALAXY [edited to make a correction] on Thursday June 23. Use the promo code GALAXYFREE at checkout. More details on the author's blog.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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Sci-Fi Romance Authors, Meet Your New Readers

Smiley FaceIn Trend Spotting, Smart Bitches invited their readers to predict the next trend(s) in romance. And oh my gosh, have the comments been leaving me giddy, because there’s a good number of folks expressing interest in science fiction romance and steampunk romance.

But what really has me feeling pumped up and ready to tackle the challenge of helping more readers connect with science fiction romance is this comment by Maili:

Sci fi romances will never have its day. It’s always the wallflower, right on the edge of the dance floor, never had a proper chance to have a dance. I think it’ll be like that for the rest of my life.

I believe I know where she’s coming from. From what I’ve learned about Maili through her posts and comments at Dear Author, she’s an SF/F and romance fan with serious cred. She knows why sci-fi romance has always been on the sidelines and the obstacles it faces when it comes to growing, never mind breaking out of its niche status.

There are many reasons why SFR is where it is, but one of the most significant reasons in my humble opinion is the avoidance of the subgenre by women too long suppressed by certain kinds of cultural conditioning—the biggest one being that girls/women can’t do math and science. How can they find science fascinating if no one encouraged them to explore it?

(As for two other important reasons, the marginalization of women SF authors and romance in general, we’ve been discussing those recently, and there are conversations about them happening right now all over the online SF community. SF Signal is a good place to find links).

Falling Skies PosterThe reason I remain hopeful about blends of SF and romance gaining prominence is that I predict a time when more women will realize that it’s not about needing to be smarter to “get” SFR—because these women are smart already—so much as it’s about getting hip to the fact that they can have fun with things like quantum physics, nanotechnology, astronomy, and bioengineering as well as everything else science fiction has to offer—all within the context of an exciting romance.

SFR’s “wallflower” status is also still in effect because the subgenre is still evolving.

One way to get invited to the dance is to deliver types of science fiction romance that potential new readers want to read about. I love my space opera, but I can see how a flood of them could leave potential readers with the feeling that SFR has little to offer them. Even some folks in the SF community are wondering if the heyday of space opera is coming to an end. With TV shows like FALLING SKIES entering the scene, with all of its contemporary setting glory, I’m wondering if there’s an untapped audience for such fare—especially with a romance.

I think SFR has only scratched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it can offer, and the comments shared by the readers at Smart Bitches is an invitation to show them what we’ve got—authors in terms of stories and fans in terms of personalized book recommendations.

Anyway, I was so excited about the comments left so far that I cut and pasted the pro-SFR ones as of this writing. Everything is an exact quote and I used an asterisk to separate the individual comments. They are not in any particular order. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

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Let's Talk Cyberpunk Romance!

Body ElectricWhen Jo Walton wrote that “cyberpunk is over” in her Hugo Nominees: 1985 post, I was like “Hmm, I didn’t get that memo.” My guess is that she’s referring more to the cyberpunk movement, which of course began its heyday with the release of William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER.

Commenter Boden Steiner disagreed, sharing his observation that “Cyberpunk, like technology, is merely evolving.”

I fall on the “evolving” side of the fence. Naturally, that brings me to cyberpunk romance, which is one of the ways cyberpunk has been evolving. Catching up with Susan Squires’ BODY ELECTRIC a year or so ago put me in the mood for more stories like that.

In addition to the SF, cyberpunk, and romance in BODY ELECTRIC, there’s a fair amount of thriller elements in the story as well. It’s a very ambitious work and I applaud Ms. Squires for tackling the issues with such intensity. I didn’t connect to the characters and romance as deeply as I wanted to, but I’m wondering if that was because the plot and worldbuilding kept my mind in overdrive. A lot of stuff happens in that book.

Friday, June 17, 2011

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Does The “Science Fiction Romance” Label Marginalize Female Authors?

At SF Signal, Judith Tarr is guest blogging about Girl Cooties: A Personal History. Her post continues the ongoing conversation happening about the invisibility of female authors in SF. More specifically, her post is a response to the recent “Mind Meld on the Russ Pledge.”

The author provides us with an eye-opening look into her “publishing history, in chronological order, in verbatim or paraphrased comments from agents, editors, publishers, and reviewers…”

To get the full flavor, you really ought to read her entire post, but here’s a sample:

And I start seeing a rash of, "Boys write hard sf. Girls write squishy fantasy." The concepts have been around for decades, of course, but remember, this is a personal history. There are rumbles. There are pushbacks. Articles are written, convention panels are hotly debated, there is even an ad-hoc, mostly comically inspired group called the FFW's--the Female Fantasy Writers, with pink buttons to be worn with pride at conventions. The Eighties ended in a draw. Fantasy was a hot property. Lots of bestsellers. Lots of whom were male. Most of whom, actually, were male.

This conversation about the invisibility and marginalization of female SF authors has relevance for science fiction romance, which I recently blogged about. However, a comment by author KS Augustin prompted me to reflect further:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

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Calling All Nylonians!

INVASION OF THE NYLONIANSIf there’s one title I’m probably going to remember forever, it’s INVASION OF THE NYLONIANS by J80.

I haven’t read it yet, but the story’s decidedly Ed Wood vibes are starting to call to me. (If J80 can do for nylons what Wood did for angora sweaters, then I think the author is onto something big).

I collect a lot of, shall we say, highly unique films for those times when I want to watch something quirky. So it’s cool to know that a story like INVASION OF THE NYLONIANS is available to me when the mood strikes.

With that in mind, I interviewed the author, who kindly played along with my irreverent questions so we could find out what makes a Nylonian tick.

Now it’s time to jump aboard a Nylonian saucer and take a tour of J80’s hosiery twist on alien invasion stories:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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Two Forthcoming Sci-Fi Romance Films: OBLIVION and EXTRATERRESTRIAL

OBLIVION posterOn August 3, 2010, FirstShowing featured an overview of the forthcoming OBLIVION (2012), a “futuristic science fiction love story.” After the prominent sci-fi romance elements in AVATAR and THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, I was intrigued by this discovery and will be keeping an eye on further developments. Here’s what they had to say about the plot:

The project was initially announced by Kosinski in late 2009 but has developed in the last year. Oblivion is science fiction story about a young "battle-damaged" scavenger on a post-apocalyptic Earth who discovers a crashed spacecraft and a beautiful woman inside. It is an original idea conceived by Kosinski and described as "a very spare science fiction film, with a small cast but big ideas and big landscapes."

…Here's a more detailed plot synopsis. Oblivion is a futuristic science fiction love story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where most people live above the clouds, far from the ""inhospitable place" that the surface of Earth has become. An earthbound soldier who repairs drones that patrol and destroy a savage alien race discovers a beautiful woman who crashed in a craft. They take an epic adventure that changes his world view.

Here’s another angle of the plot, courtesy of CBR:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

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Take My Damsel In Distress—Please

Penelope Pitstop

A short while ago, I finished reading James Wallace Harris’ Are Galactic Empires the New Middle Earth? over at Auxiliary Memory (Via SF Signal). Mr. Harris examines the appeal of galactic empires in science fiction, noting that

I have grave doubts that galactic empires will ever be possible – but they are a powerful meme.  What’s so appealing about galactic empires?  The deep, spiritual response to Star Trek and Star Wars suggests almost a Jungian desire for elements of the galactic empire.  Could it be that it’s not about the potential realism of future manned exploration of the galaxy, but tuning into desires for certain kinds of experiences?

The article goes on to list a few of the common elements found in galactic empires. Mr. Harris deconstructs the galactic empire fantasy in interesting ways, but one part of it left me shaking my head in disbelief:

Gender Roles.  The 1974 Mote in God’s Eye is downright paternalistic about women, whereas thirty years later, in Risen Empire, women are liberated to be combat soldiers.  However, I think in the future where mankind has spread across the galaxy, readers still prefer strong men and beautiful women, and maybe even damsels in distress.

I didn’t think I was going to respond to the article until I read that bit about “damsels in distress.”

Here’s the comment I left:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

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The Harry Potter Phenomenon: A Lesson For Sci-Fi Romance?

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixLast week, I caught up with HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (the film version, as I read the books right after they were published). My goal is to see the next two films in the series before HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART II hits theaters this summer (I know, I know, I need to get cracking).

Anyway, while watching OOTP, I attempted to analyze the elements that had gone into making Harry Potter such a popular phenomenon. It’s not like I haven’t done it before, but for some reason I started having new thoughts on the subject. It occurred to me that one of the core elements of the series’ success is that Harry Potter offers a very potent hero fantasy. In other words, Harry serves as a placeholder for the reader/viewer, and delivers the fantasy of being in a position so powerful that one can save the world.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit obvious, but then I laid that formula (which seems to be highly appealing to mainstream audiences) over science fiction romance. Sci-fi romance is niche not only because of it’s content, but also because it has yet to tap into a particular formula, story structure, character, and/or setting that gives it more mainstream appeal. Frankly, I’m fine with the diversity, but I’m a hardcore fan. And if I want to keep reading and watching the subgenre, it needs to evolve and appeal to other consumers as well.

For example, SFR hasn’t transformed a particular character—like vampires—into something familiar yet different on a mainstream scale. Paranormal romance vampires are tame as far as traditional vampires go, but when they are placed in the context of the dangerous yet “safe” lover, they take on a whole new meaning for a whole new audience.

Going back to the hero fantasy, I then started wondering if this is an area ripe for experimentation in SFR. Could this subgenre tap into the hero fantasy to its advantage?
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A Cover Success Story: THE EMPIRE by Elizabeth Lang

We have reached the final chapter of the saga that spanned the cover drama for THE EMPIRE by Elizabeth Lang.

First, there was the accurate yet technically flawed cover. Then came the author's decision to advocate for a new cover. Aided by the intrepid forces of the Galaxy Express passengers who helped the author choose from among these drafts, Elizabeth now has a shiny, brand new cover to unveil:



Very good, yes? If I didn't know anything else, I might have thought this was the poster to a sci-fi romance television show. The cover artist did a great job.

And courtesy of the author, here is the new story blurb:

"It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?"
 How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?

 
 The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in their way, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.


 Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.


 Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him? Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?


Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?

In conclusion, Elizabeth Lang would like to extend her thanks to everyone who provided feedback on the drafts.

Congratulations on your new cover, Ms. Lang!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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An Interview With Yolanda Sfetsos, Author of ALEX WALES: PROMISE

From yet another corner of the science fiction romance universe (and don't we love all of its nooks and crannies!) comes author Yolanda Sfetsos. Her latest science fiction romance, ALEX WALES: PROMISE, is now out. It's the first in a planned series, and here's the story blurb:

Promise Alex WalesAfter Alex Wales crash lands on a planet that doesn't even show up on her navigational map and her ship is damaged, all she wants to do is get help and leave the planet as soon as she can. She’s got something to deliver and time is running out. Instead, she stumbles onto a very alluring man who takes her to his village—a seemingly utopian society led by a Priestess.

Stuck on this planet with no way of getting off, Alex finds herself drawn to the alluring Damon. But when locals start turning up dead after being mauled and eaten by some sort of monster, she’s thrust into the middle of the investigation.

As the layers of the mystery slowly unravel, Alex and Damon find themselves facing their pasts, and the many lies woven around the planet of Eden.

I must say, this (shortish) novel took me for a ride on the unpredictable express. I honestly could not see what was around the next bend. This is a character-driven story with lots of introspection, so we get an in-depth view of the heroine's experiences as she comes to her particular crossroad. The unpredictable parts arise from both the plot and worldbuilding. ALEX WALES: PROMISE has appeal for readers who like paranormal elements swirled into the worldbuilding. And a BEM. While not all of it worked for me, I did enjoy the fact that I was constantly surprised. I'll take that over mediocre any day.

Eternal Press tagged the story as "erotica," but I felt the heat level fell on the tamer side of erotic (in other words, not much different from some of the mainstream print romance novels on the market). To describe the love scenes in a non-spoiler way, they involve fantastical sex (I mention this tidbit in case you're a fan of the woo-woo approach).

Yolanda Sfetsos kindly agreed to an interview so I could facilitate a meet and greet here aboard The Galaxy Express. Chef has prepared a delectable array of fruit, including carambola, honeydew melon, and grilled pineapple, so dig in, sit back, and read away!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

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SFR News & Links For June 2011

This month’s theme: steady as she goes! Here’s what’s new in science fiction romance:

New releases

NAKED TRUTH: Book Two of The Confederacy Treaty SeriesLilly Cain


Captain Susan Branscombe was the victim of brutal torture at the hands of terrorists. Though rescued, she’s now facing an equally brutal accusation: treason.

The only way she can prove her innocence is to allow Asler Kiis, a Confederacy Examiner, to delve into the depths of her mind. Asler is Inarri, the alien race that made contact with Earth just months before. His duty is to find the truth, but when he explores Susan’s mind he can’t resist drawing her into a more intimate experience.

Susan takes comfort in Asler’s heated sensuality. Their erotic sensory exploration chases away the darkness and her body aches for more. But as their desire reaches new limits Susan finds it difficult to suppress the memories she is desperate to forget.

Is the passion they share enough to let Susan push aside her fear and trust Asler, not only with her mind and body but with her ever-opening heart?



WILD PASSIONS (anthology; M/M, Fantasy, Science Fiction) – Includes SFR story by Angelia Sparrow

DUTY AND DEVOTION - A.R. Norris


Older sister Nettie wasn’t sure what the militia thought she was, but she knew and it wasn’t a space fighter pilot on the front line. But Dad always pressed the importance of duty to your territory. Now she has to figure out how to survive in a place she never imagined ending up. Keeping things interesting is a very overconfident competitor, James. Through it all, she’s got her younger sister Rinny. Or so she believed until the moment she lost her.

As for Rinny, the Mars facility gives her chance to break family expectation and she thrives in ground combat training. She also learns life off the concert stage can be just as rewarding when she makes her first real friends and meets Daniel, who could just be “the one”. He’s a little more reluctant and it turns out he has a reason, a secret involving Rinny. After the enemy attacks her facility and kills her best friend, Daniel disappears. Now captured, Rinny must fight behind enemy lines to help her people remain free, and live to return home.



ALEX WALES: PROMISE - Yolanda Sfetsos
Things aren't always as they seem.


After Alex Wales crash lands on a planet that doesn't even show up on her navigational map and her ship is damaged, all she wants to do is get help and leave the planet as soon as she can. She’s got something to deliver and time is running out. Instead, she stumbles onto a very alluring man who takes her to his village—a seemingly utopian society led by a Priestess.

Stuck on this planet with no way of getting off, Alex finds herself drawn to the alluring Damon. But when locals start turning up dead after being mauled and eaten by some sort of monster, she’s thrust into the middle of the investigation.

As the layers of the mystery slowly unravel, Alex and Damon find themselves facing their pasts, and the many lies woven around the planet of Eden.

***

Also, I’ve updated my 2011 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup. It includes a batch of new and forthcoming titles from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Friday, June 3, 2011

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I Got Your Women SF Writers Right Here!


Recently, the Guardian UK posted an article about “The incredible shrinking presence of women SF writers” in which they attempted to address sexism in science fiction:

Earlier this month Damien G Walter asked guardian.co.uk/books users to suggest the best novels in the genre, following on from the Guardian's special SF-slanted edition of its Saturday Review supplement.

The results went online last week, and displayed a great love for science fiction: more than 500 books, classic and contemporary, were suggested for inclusion. However, according to Seattle-based author Nicola Griffith, who did a bit of number-crunching on the stats, there's an overwhelming bias towards male authors.

Then SF critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan weighed in.

Anyway, regardless of whether there’s an issue with the UK or not, the issues raised by Nicola’s blog post, and the complaints I saw about it on Twitter this morning, still need to be addressed. Of course this is yet another post about invisibility and exclusion. It therefore ties in to a long history of complaints about such problems involving award short lists, anthology ToCs, guest lists for conventions (yes, you, Kapow!) and more recently the number of women reviewers, and number of books by women accorded reviews (overview here).

In the comment section of Cheryl Morgan’s post, Nicola Giffith made the following proposal: “To that end, I’d like to encourage everyone to use their platform to discuss one book/story by a woman this month: a Classic or an Unknown or a Young Turk, doesn’t matter.”

Upon reading that comment, I realized that the contributions of the science fiction romance community has been immensely significant in this regard. How many women authors do we discuss in one week, let alone a month? Unfortunately, SFR’s niche status seems to have made it all but invisible. Either that, or the bias against romance is once again rearing its ugly head.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

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Blogging at Tor.com About James Nguyen’s BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR

Believe it or not, I don’t seek science fiction romance in everything I read or watch. But sometimes the subgenre finds me anyway, even if my intention is to try something new. Such was the case with one of the most mind-bending films I’ve seen in a long, long time: BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR by director James Nguyen.

I’m blogging about BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR right now at Tor.com, and invite you to come and see what all the fuss is about regarding this new cult smash. The film completely surprised me with the science fiction romance angle, especially since it was…well, far be it from me to spoil it for you. :) However, I will say that having learned more about James Nguyen and the three films he’s made, I’d wager he’s a science fiction romance fan who hasn't quite realized it yet. A man after my own heart, I must say!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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Winners of DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK, Volume 1

The Randomizer hath spoken:

The winners of DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK, Vol. 1 are

Michael Barker

Jo Jones

Congratulations to you both! Please contact me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com to claim your prize. Subject line: Dreamspell.

Thanks very much to all who entered.

Joyfully yours,

Heather