Thursday, September 29, 2011

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More Adventures in Comic Sci-Fi Romance: Of Tails and Pheromones

Welcome back to another round of my adventures in comic science fiction romance. If you missed the previous posts, click here, here, here, and here.

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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL: Teaser Trailer

I first blogged about Nacho Vigalondo's EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2011, Spain) film back in June. This film is being billed as a sci-fi romantic comedy. Here's the setup courtesy of Badass Reviews:

Julio wakes up in bed next to Julia, a stunningly beautiful woman. Neither remember the night before, or each other’s names. As they awkwardly deal with the fallout of a blackout one night stand, they come to realize something way bigger is happening in the world – a four mile wide space ship is hovering over Madrid.

The teaser trailer is now out:





Based on the trailer alone, I'm betting some of the comedy stems from the awkwardness generated by the fact that Julio and Julia are basically complete strangers forced to deal with an extraordinary situation. I'm guessing the invasion part is probably mostly backdrop, but one that allows for the exploration of romance and relationships from a heretofore unexploited angle.

I only read the first two paragraphs of the review because I intend to see this film. However, if you'd like more information, a quick Google search revealed that other reviews have hit the Web.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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Adventures in Comic Sci-Fi Romance: Robots and Alligators Attack!

[This post is the third in a series of features on comic sci-fi romance. Click here for part one; click here for part two.]

"I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back."
I’m attempting to re-boot my feelings about comic sci-fi romance. There don’t seem to be too many of them around, but all of a sudden it seemed as though a few started piling up on my Kindle. I’d read a scant couple of books in the past two years, but given the emergence of some new titles, I thought I’d take the plunge and read the new ones I acquired back-to-back.

I decided to approach the books from the comic angle. In other words, I went in with the expectation to be entertained by the comedic aspects first. While I expected at least a modicum of decent SF and romance elements, I decided not to anticipate them as the main draw. Instead, my funny bone led the way.

Below, I touch upon some of my experiences reading the first two books that were in the queue. I included some tags so you can decide if these books are up your alley:

Monday, September 26, 2011

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Comic Sci-Fi Romance Books: A Compilation

This week I’m focusing on comic sci-fi romance (read my intro post here). Given that there are more sci-fi romance titles available now compared to a few years ago, I wanted to compile a list of book titles for easy reference.

The list includes books I’ve heard about and/or read. If you know of any other titles that fall into the comic sci-fi romance category, please share the information in the comments and I will add them to the list.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

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We’re In The Funny: Sci-Fi Romance’s Comic Side


Confession Time: I’m not the biggest fan of comic science fiction. Truly, I’m not sure why because not only am I a big fan of SF, but also there are quite a few entertaining stories of this kind. I enjoy comic SF, but I don’t crave it the way I do non-comic SF stories.

Still, I don’t go out of my way to avoid science fiction stories with a comedic bent. Some of the best SF stories are part comic in nature. As far as comic SF films and television shows go, I have the usual suspects under my belt:

HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
BARBARELLA
EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY
GALAXY QUEST
MARS ATTACKS
MEN IN BLACK (I&II)
BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy
MOM AND DAD SAVE THE WORLD
ICE PIRATES
FUTURAMA
RED DWARF
LOST IN SPACE (I’m referring to the 1965 television series here; the 1998 film takes itself seriously)
THE IRRESPONSIBLE CAPTAIN TYLOR

Now that I think about it, I’m wondering to what extent LOST SAUCER, the 1975 Sid & Marty Krofft television series starring Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors, contributed to my ambivalent feelings toward comedic SF in general. I watched that show as a kid and even though Buzzi’s addictive laugh kept me coming back, even as a child I knew there was something weird and a quite a bit wrong with the show. It was just so…silly.

LOST SAUCER (scene from “Get a Dorse”)





Oh, yeah, and then there were all those episodes of FAR OUT SPACE NUTS I glommed. Could those shows have left some kind of lasting negative impression on me regarding comic SF? Calling Dr. Freud!

Friday, September 23, 2011

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QUEENIE'S BRIGADE Excerpt Now Available

I posted the prologue and a three-chapter excerpt from QUEENIE'S BRIGADE, my forthcoming science fiction romance from Red Sage Publishing. Multiple formats are available for easy downloading.

Thanks for checking it out!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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The Tragedy of WONDER WOMAN’s Steve Trevor

I just learned about Wonder Woman’s debut on the animated series, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. In the following clip, she comes to the rescue of Batman and her boyfriend, Steve Trevor. Not in a good way, either.

Behold the lameness of Steve Trevor, x10:





It’s obvious that the creators are poking fun at Steve Trevor’s history of being a rather useless (and in this case, clueless) character. In fact, I’d argue that he’s a bona fide placeholder hero, a dubious role often reserved for romance heroines. I’ll concede that it’s a little bit funny that he’s not at all self-conscious about being 100% reliant upon Wonder Woman to save his butt and is so laid back about the whole affair.

What’s not so funny is the subtext that a man whose woman comes to his rescue is somehow emasculated (note Batman’s expression of disapproval/scorn) when Trevor giddily announces that Wonder Woman will save him, as well as the line, “What does she see in that man?”

Yeah, so Wonder Woman is now an idiot because of her choice in men. Ugh ugh ugh!

I understand that the problem is primarily rooted in Trevor’s placeholder status (meaning he's a flawed character to begin with), but I still think this is a harmful message to send to kids. It’s gender stereotyping at its worst. The clip could have redeemed itself by showing how Wonder Woman valued Trevor as a Beta hero, but it didn’t. No, it was happy to play harmful messages for laughs.

The emasculation issue in particular is one of the factors preventing the creation of a Wonder Woman film. Additionally, no one has figured out a way to rescue Steve Trevor from his placeholder status.

Here’s another problem I had with this scene, specifically, this line by Wonder Woman to the Baroness:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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DANGER PLANET: An Animated Sci-Fi Romance Short by Justin Burks

Wow, talk about discovering science fiction romance in unexpected places: Thanks to Galaxy Express passenger A., I learned about DANGER PLANET, an animated short by Justin Burks (via The Mary Sue).

Here’s the story blurb:

During a routine scan on a distant planet, a young space scout finds romance with a female pilot. But when peril strikes the two star-crossed explorers, he must face what lurks in the darkness of the planet to rescue the girl.

And now for our feature presentation:




About the film:

Danger Planet is an animated short created by students at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. This 4 minute student animation was finished primarily in a summer after over a year of preproduction.

Credits: Justin Burks, Danny Cooper, Andrew Lopez, Chris Wombold, Brandon Bailie, Stephanie Miranda, Aaron Adams, Yannick Amegan, Cassidy Stone, Gareath Murray, Christine Turner, Beau Sherman, Matt Kidd 

Wasn’t that fun? I especially liked the main theme. So haunting and romantic. DANGER PLANET is sci-fi romance through and through.

That said, I would have liked this more if the heroine had been able to vanquish Evil Alien Dude along with the hero. I kept hoping she would rescue the hero toward the end by firing the final shot.

Well, I still consider this a cool sci-fi romance gem. Let’s hope that Mr. Burks has a few more of these up his sleeve. To learn more, here’s a video about the making of DANGER PLANET:




I thought it was veerrrry interesting that by including a romance, Mr. Burks was able to enrich the plot, as well as add "context" and "payoff" that would keep the audience engaged until the end.

(8:06)
Justin Burks: "...it didn't have the emotional connection that it has now."

Interviewer: "Okay, and so your solution?"

Justin Burks: ..Well, when I had the dark day of realizing that the thing needed some work...I talked about it with you about...what makes...something entertaining for the audience...in discovering that it's...something that we can relate to...if the audience sees something on the screen happening that we all can feel as well, like, meeting a girl, falling in love...then you have them riveted."

Sweet.

To learn more about DANGER PLANET, including the "Making of Danger Planet" video, visit dangerplanet.blogspot.com.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 18, 2011

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You're Invited To The 2nd Annual "Out of this World Blog Tour"


SFR Brigade's Lisa Lane (LOVE IN SPACE) organized a sci-fi romance themed blog tourwith prizes! The tour is in full swing and below are details for the who, when, and where:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Marcia Lucas: The Unsung Hero of STAR WARS

As you may have heard, there was a great disturbance in the HD home video front this week: All six STAR WARS movies were released on Blu-ray. But George Lucas offered more than banthas and Aunt Beru in 1080p resolution.

The full nine-disc set also includes three discs devoted solely to extras—nearly seven hours of elucidation on the finer details like, “How did they do that matte painting?” to an 84-minute documentary devoted to guys who dress up as Stormtroopers. (Think I’m kidding? I’m not.)

But in this deluge of Death Star details, there’s one important segment of the STAR WARS universe that’s curiously never mentioned anymore: Marcia Lucas.

Now, everyone knows the name “George Lucas.” Even the most cinematically challenged hoi polloi who still believe all directors dress in pantaloons and carry riding crops (actually it’s a cattle prod in real life), as well as people who refer to all actors by their characters, not their real names (“Look, it’s Kramer from SEINFELD!”)…even those people know who George Lucas is at this point.

So, why is Marcia such a relative unknown when everything in the STAR WARS universe is so excessively discussed and dissected?

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SFR News & Links Extra


The ebook revolution is expanding again, courtesy of this awesome news from Publishers Weekly (via @jane_l) (thanks to @janoda for the heads up):


Beginning September 15, Publishers Weekly's romance and science fiction/fantasy/horror reviews sections will accept digital galleys for review consideration. This includes galleys for digital-first publications in those genres. 

We especially encourage small and independent presses to make use of the new system, which we hope will make it easier to send us galleys three to four months ahead of publication. Uploading digital galleys is also an eco-friendly alternative to packaging and shipping physical galleys.

Isn’t it just the coolest that “Sci-Fi/Romance” was part of the title? It almost seems like they wrote “Sci-Fi Romance.” Heh heh. Yeah, I’m easily excited like that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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Sci-Fi/Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Hybrids: Inventive Fusions Or Multi-Genre Implosion?

SLAVE TO SENSATIONThese days, it seems as though an increasing number of romances are combining elements from various genres. Some books offer an inventive twist on old ideas. Others seem to be the result of someone pointing to popular characters like vampires and zombies and saying “In the next book, let’s include everything but the kitchen sink.”

Sometimes these hybrid genres cross over into science fiction romance territory. And when I find them, I occasionally feel stumped as to what to make of them.

I’m a lover of all kinds of SF/F/horror/mystery genres, both with romance and without. So while I embrace the idea of genre hybrids or mash-ups, my reading choices don’t always reflect that. I also tend to find some hybrids more appealing than others. For example, I’m always up for SF horror like ALIEN or THE THING.* But a non-scary, (or non-gory) sci-fi/paranormal hybrid? Not so much (usually because the supernatural/horror elements have been de-fanged. Of course, that is exactly the reason why they work for so many other readers, and power to them).

I’m fine with skiffy elements that are fantastical in nature and in fact enjoy them a lot despite high levels of implausibility. Overall, though, when it comes to science fiction romance, I gravitate toward stories that are technology-based as opposed to supernatural or fantasy based.

A significant reason for that is time. If I could read eight or more hours a day, I’d probably venture outside of sci-fi romance more often. But the other reason is that I sometimes have difficulty reconciling various genre elements. While I might enjoy a story about zombies invading a futuristic space station (extra points if it has a romance), part of me still ends up thinking that something isn’t quite meshing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

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Isn’t It Romantic? Part II: The Nature of Courtship in Sci-Fi Romance

[For Part I of this two-part series, click here.]

Neytiri protects Jake in AVATAR.
 I’m often struck by how many relationships in sci-fi romance develop through a series of actions that one might not typically evaluate as traditionally romantic. This is especially true in stories with a heavy action-adventure angle, but I see it happening in “quieter” stories as well. It’s not always clear whether an author intended this dynamic or not, but regardless, I find such an alternative approach very exciting.

Sci-fi romance is loaded with instances of courtship evolutions that are based on behaviors performed during the course of the adventure. Sometimes these behaviors extend to violent acts such as defeating invaders/villains or firing upon enemy ships during space battles.

Here are a few specific examples that come immediately to mind:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Isn’t It Romantic? Part I: The Nature of Attraction in Sci-Fi Romance

I’ve been wondering about the expression of romance in a science fiction romance for some time now. Specifically, the issue of whether SFR has unique romance “prose codes” or “trope codes” (or a mixture of the two). To put it another way, because of the myriad settings and characters in this subgenre, do authors have more choices when it comes to describing a) the nature and basis of the hero and heroine’s attraction to each other, b) new ways of objectifying beauty, and c) the relationship development, i.e., courtship?

In part one, I’d like to open up for discussion the issue of physical attraction between sci-fi romance heroes and heroines. In part II, we can have fun with courtship behaviors in SFR.

I was reminded about this topic when author Marcella Burnard (ENEMY GAMES) left a comment in response to a previous post here, Sci-Fi Romance: A Great Source For Cosplay Inspiration:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

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Read SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST, or Watch THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE?

I’ve known about John Huston’s THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE for a long time, but didn’t feel particularly compelled to prioritize it over other films. I mean, classic or no, it’s so gosh darn old, as films go. And I have plenty of other stuff I’ve been meaning to watch as well.

But then along comes Robert Appleton’s romantic science fiction tale SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST. That book went and changed the whole picture (pun intended!).

Why? Well, here’s what the author had to say on his book’s Acknowledgments page:

Special mention must go to John Huston’s classic 1948 Western, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, probably the definitive story about prospecting for gold and the insidious nature of greet. It inspired Sparks in many ways, and though I’ve seen it countless times, I find its characters and themes endlessly fascinating.

That statement intrigued me for a few reasons. One, I came to Westerns by way of Japanese animation shows, some of which drew heavily on classic Westerns by the likes of Sergio Leone (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS).

And may I just say that Westerns rock the cinematic range!

Two, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE stars Humphrey Bogart. I’ve been periodically catching up with some of his films, and this represented a chance to get another one under my belt. Three, I knew I’d get to blog about both stories if I both read the book and watched the movie—boo-yah!!

So, I read SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST and right after finishing it, I borrowed THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE from my local library (libraries rock, too!!!). I’m going to share a few observations about my experience, but first, I need to set all this up with a little background information about my movie viewing habits.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

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SFR News & Links For September 2011

This month, science fiction romance has something for everybody, so dig in!

SPARKS IN COSMIC DUSTSPARKS IN COSMIC DUST (Romantic SF) - Robert Appleton

(This novel-length story is inspired by THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.)

The final frontier is shrinking. Interstellar Planetary Administration sanctions are forcing the border colonies of deep space into extinction. Kappa Max is one of the last major cutthroat outposts, home to the lawless and the lonely...

Varinia Wilcox, the star attraction of a lucrative bordello gambling house.

Solomon Bodine, spurned by his lover and looking for distraction.

Clayton Barry, AWOL and a few drinks away from having to live in the gutter.

Lyssa Foaloak, a double-crossing criminal who'll kill anyone for a few credits.

Four strangers, each with secrets that could cost them their freedom, are desperate to get off-planet. They meet Grace Peters, a cynical ex-doctor with an intriguing offer: a six-month trip to a faraway moon where she claims a stunning fortune awaits.

But this adventure is no easy escape. Danger, passion, secrets and madness await. Can they survive the mission, and each other, to make it out alive?


And there are many more releases....
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Winners of the RT Book Reviews Giveaway

The winners of the RT Book Reviews giveaway are:

Brandy
Diane Mc.
Cathy Pegau
Erika
Yttar2

Winners, please email your snail mail addresses to sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com (subject line: RT), and I will send them to RT's Morgan Doremus. She will then mail you a copy of the October 2011 issue.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. I enjoyed your eloquent and insightful comments--some of which might inspire a future blog post or two.

Long live science fiction romance!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 1, 2011

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Will Sci-Fi Romance Escape The Brink of Extinction? Plus, an RT Book Reviews Giveaway

RT Book Reviews October 2011
Check out this awesome coverage for science fiction romance, folks: The cover of the October 2011 RT Book Reviews poses the following question:

“Is Sci-Fi Romance An Endangered Species?”

Quelle horreur! Yes, my heart was pounding as I cracked the cover of the magazine and went straight to the featured article.

I must admit, though, that even before learning the title of the article within—“Whither the Sci-fi Romance?: For Fans, Finding This Genre Combo Means Hitting The ‘Net,” I’d been pondering the absolute dearth of sci-fi romance being released by the Big Six publishers (and Harlequin). Except for releases by Gini Koch, Marcella Burnard, Susan Grant, and Sara Creasy, it’s been slim pickings in the past year.

RT’s latest article on science fiction romance (by Faygie Levy and Elissa Petruzzi) tackles the Great Question Of Our Time, namely, “…why don’t we know about them?” Meaning, of course, sci-fi romances. What about this scary statistic disclosed in the article: among the magazine’s 2,700 books reviewed since January 2011, only 15 were labeled as “futuristic”?

Is science fiction romance being robbed? What’s happening here?