Sunday, October 30, 2011

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When Publishers Take Risks in Sci-Fi Romance, Readers Win

THE CYBERKINK SIDESHOWAt CONTACT – Infinite Futures, I recently read Aliens in our own backyard by J.L. Hilton. At one point, she discussed how the weird and wonderful traits in various Earth species could inspire “cool alien abilities.”

Her post reminded me of the time just a few years ago when I heard about a science fiction romance author being told by her agent and (SF) publisher that shape-shifting aliens would be considered too weird when she pitched them that idea for her next book.

From my perspective, that’s a bunch of hooey, especially when you consider how readers are downright devouring shifter characters in paranormal romance. Never mind the fact that science fiction has been the home of some of the weirdest character creations ever. Seriously, that kind of call didn’t compute with me.

Wow, how times have changed. All of the above reminded me of how grateful I am that small press/digital publishers are willing to take all sorts of risks with niche subgenres like SFR. Unlike traditional mainstream publishers, small press/digital publishers treat me, the reader, as their customer. They make it their business to release risk-taking stories that readers like me want.

For example, I have Ophidia Cox’s forthcoming erotic sci-fi romance THE CYBERKINK SIDESHOW (Lyrical Press November 2011) on my Kindle. It promises to be a pretty unusual story, and one that’s got me wide-eyed with anticipation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

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Carina Press Cover Exclusive: SYNTHETIC DREAMS By Kim Knox

We have a problem here, folks.

As you can see, I have a cover exclusive for SYNTHETIC DREAMS (Carina Press, February 27, 2012), a forthcoming cyberpunk romance by Kim Knox. Right now, you can only find this cover image here at The Galaxy Express.


But that’s not the problem.

Is the problem related to the (unofficial) blurb generously provided by the author? Here it is for your perusal:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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Space Westerns: In or Out?

I recently finished Joely Sue Burkhart’s LADY DOCTOR WYRE. Even though the author bills it as “A Jane Austen Space Opera,” what struck me most about it was the space western elements. One of the heroes (this is ménage sci-fi romance) is the Sheriff of Queenstown on the planet Americus. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that a few other elements had a strong space western feel.

That got me thinking about the other three space western-style science fiction romances I’ve read over the last year: SILVER BOUND by Ella Drake, THIEF by Anitra Lynn McLeod, and SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST by Robert Appleton. SILVER BOUND also features a hero-as-sheriff; while THIEF is very much in Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY mode. SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST is an homage to the western film THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (I blogged about it here).

Speaking of FIREFLY, I’ve been revisiting that show on Blu-ray over the past 3-4 months (I last watched episode 9, “Ariel”). I’ve been watching it not just for entertainment value, but also to analyze it.

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Two Sci-Fi Romance Related Posts

Via Laurie A. Green of Spacefreighters Lounge comes two recent posts of interest:

Why I Love Science Fiction by Kerry Vail:
Romance: Add a great love story to great science fiction, and it just doesn’t get any better for me. We live on a perfect little planet with just the right combo of light, gravity, atmosphere, water, magnetic field, ozone layer… but what really makes our world go around (keeping in mind that we have the science in place *wink*)? Human relationships, of course – the nitty gritty of making friends and finding mates. Reading about the permutations of human relationships set against the backdrop of the universe = win.
Boo-yah!

And also Donna's Journal in which Donna S. Frelick speculates about the ideal audience for SFR:
That said, I think there is an audience out there for character-driven stories—romances—that also have a science fiction element to them. I just think we have a better chance of opening minds among the romance readers—who have already embraced vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, cowboys, the entire male population of Regency England, the guys next door, cops, private eyes, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs (well, maybe not lawyers)—as heroes. Why not aliens, starship captains, space pirates, alien hunters and so on? Fanfic readers have certainly embraced them for years and remain, I believe, an untapped resource for SFR writers.
Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, October 24, 2011

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"Amazing Stories" Rebirth

Lifelong science fiction fan Steve Davidson (The Crotchety Old Fan) recently acquired the trademark of the iconic SF magazine Amazing Stories. Isn't that cool? He plans to relaunch it as an e-zine.

You can find full coverage of his announcement at Tor.com, where I blogged about the news in Amazing Stories: Rising from the Ashes. Of particular interest to science fiction romance readers and authors is that Mr. Davidson's vision for the new and improved Amazing Stories promises to be both wide-ranging and inclusive:
From how I’m hearing Mr. Davidson describe the Amazing Stories revival project, a particularly exciting aspect of it is the promise of diversity and inclusion. With the flexibility of digital technology and a new, 21st century-enlightened attitude, this e-zine could truly represent All the Wyrs of Pern a wide range of SF subgenres, authors, and niche stories in a variety of mediums (e.g., anime, movies, television, comics, gaming).
If you have ideas about what kind of content you'd like to read about in the revamped Amazing Stories, head on over and leave a comment!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, October 23, 2011

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OUTERWORLD: My New Favorite Sci-Fi Romance Film

Outerworld Poster
The other night, after completing a blog post, I wanted to wind down with a free, random film through Amazon’s Prime Instant Videos. My goal was to find something entertaining that I hadn’t seen, yet isn't anything I’d prefer to see on DVD rather than on my PC. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a tough call sometimes.

I’d scrolled through numerous listings and was about to give up when I spotted the cool-blue image of a science fiction film called OUTERWORLD (1987). "Hey now, what is this little number?" I thought. This film was new to me.

I learned that OUTERWORLD, which was written and directed by Philip J. Cook (also new to me) is actually a revamped version of the film BEYOND THE RISING MOON (a.k.a.STAR QUEST). Apparently, it ran on the SyFy Channel and then went to video. From what I’ve read, the new version has CG effects as well as new scenes and tighter editing.

Anyway, the image caught my eye because of the woman’s face dominating it (because it was a thumbnail, I initially couldn’t see the man’s image on the left. More on him later). I read the description:
She was genetically engineered by an evil corporation to be the perfect emotionless spy and assassin. Now they can't control her. Asked to kill one too many times and developing feelings she wasn't supposed to have, Pentan must outwit her evil creators before they destroy her and succeed in the ultimate corporate takeover. Hailed as an ingenious sci-fi triumph, Outerworld's intergalactic battles and tale of space-age espionage will blow your mind!
Uh, “ingenious sci-fi triumph” and it’s going to "blow" my mind? Yeah, okay, so I was betting that never was a truer hyperbole ever spoken, but I was intrigued by the idea of a genetically engineered female spy and assassin—especially since her name was Pentan. Wow! And think about it—how many SF films feature a female action hero at the helm? Precious few, unfortunately. Plus, I immediately began to wonder if the film had a romance attached.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

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SFR News & Links Extra

On October 1 of this year, Misa Buckley launched Venus Ascendant, a review blog that focuses specifically on science fiction romances of all lengths. Her review policy is here. This kind of SFR-friendly review site is rare, so I wish Ms. Buckley all the best in her new venture.

Via SFR Brigade, I learned that Desert Breeze Publishing continues to actively seek science fiction romance:

We wish to promote the growth and expansion of the Sci Fi Rom/Futuristic Romance/Speculative Fiction Romance genres by offering exceptional character-driven novels and series offering appeal to the die hard sci fi fan as well as the adventurous romance lovers.

Sci Fi romance must be smart, well planned, well thought out to build amazing worlds and possible futures with strong characters and great character chemistry and development.

In the same vein, Steampunk (and all variations thereof, ie: Gaslight, Diesel Punk, etc) is a genre in high demand.

If you are looking for a home for your non-erotic sci-fi romance, Desert Breeze Publishing might be worth exploring.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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"Top Ten Geek Girl Sites" at Tor.com

As you know, geek girls rule. It seems as though we're really coming into our geek power more than ever these days. With that in mind, I'm blogging about the Top Ten Geek Girl Sites at Tor.com.

As a lifelong geek girl, I’m reveling in the existence of these amazing sites. For one thing, they validate who I am and the genre entertainment I love. (Validation that’s not always easy to come by in fandom, I might add.) They also offer female-oriented geek content that I didn’t realize was lacking until they started publishing it.

It almost goes without saying that geek girls are an under-served and untapped market, not just for science fiction romance, but for all kinds of SF/F entertainment. Geek girl sites are one way to to help correct that imbalance. I sense exciting changes in fandom just around the corner!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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Are We Focusing Too Much On Labels?

So I've been thinking...

We can call blends of science fiction and romance anything we want, but in the end, the only thing that matters is a great story. And science fiction romance would benefit greatly if we moved beyond the “What should we call the subgenre?” conversation to “What are the best stories we can offer?”

The Hunger Games
Why? Well, look at it this way: In general, readers aren’t marching into Barnes and Noble and asking for more “dystopian YA” (a term that would undoubtedly generate many blank stares outside of the publishing industry). They’re clamoring for more “books like THE HUNGER GAMES.”

Outside of the industry and the blogosphere, people use titles, books with clear branding, or their favorite characters to describe the stories they enjoy.

Mainstream readers in particular have heard of “science fiction” and “romance,” but aren’t always familiar with the various subgenre distinctions (e.g., cyberpunk). If the *story* doesn’t speak to these readers, it’s as good as invisible to them. Labels then become meaningless.


Case in point: Romances featuring vampire heroes came before the label “paranormal romance.” Readers fell in love with a new type of story, not the label. It’s easy to forget (myself included) that the story comes before the label.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

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Tagged! THE ADVENTURES OF MISS UPTON AND THE SKY PIRATE by C.J. Archer

The Adventures of Miss Upton and the Sky PirateI learned about C.J. Archer's THE ADVENTURES OF MISS UPTON AND THE SKY PIRATE from a reader who posted a review of the book at Posterus.com. This is a case where reliable word-of-mouth can help a self-published book find new readers. Since the reviewer had already vetted this steampunk romance, I felt it was worth checking out.

Still, since this is a self-published title, I read the review first to make sure there wasn’t anything about it that might frustrate me. I can forgive plot/character flaws, but if the writing doesn’t live up to the premise, then I’m more hesitant to take the plunge. Normally I avoid reviews, but not knowing if the story had been vetted by an editor made me more cautious.

The review didn’t turn up any red flags, so I went ahead and bought the book. Frankly, I enjoyed it more than some other steampunk romances I had obtained from established digital publishers. THE ADVENTURES OF MISS UPTON AND THE SKY PIRATE isn’t without flaws, and I could see places where it could have used a good editor, but I found it entertaining enough to finish.

Here’s the story blurb:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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If SF Is Mainstream, Where Is Sci-Fi Romance?

More than ever, I believe that digital publishing (i.e., ebooks) is a big honking neon sign pointing straight to science fiction romance. Two posts I perused recently fed my belief even more strongly.

In The Way We Were, author Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses how current technology has led to increased access to ebooks and reading entertainment in general:

But that reader, that stressed, overburdened reader, can easily download a novel on her smart phone or her dedicated e-reader. And those readers do, bringing them back into the marketplace.

Again, study after study shows that readers who have an e-reader or an e-reading program on their smart phone buy more books than they ever have before because of the ease of access.

This is what the traditional publishers miss. They miss that ebook sales can go up exponentially because ebooks appeal to more readers than those who go into bookstores. People who never read for pleasure before are reading for pleasure now—and their numbers will grow as the  price of e-readers goes down. The fact that you can buy a dedicated ereader at places like Wal-Mart guarantees that folks who have never set foot in a “real” bookstore will set foot in a virtual bookstore.
 She follows this with the observation that readers aren’t limited to what brick and mortar bookstores sell:
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Free Erotic Steampunk Romance ebook: VIRIDIS by Calista Taylor

VIRIDIS free steampunk ebook

VIRIDIS is an erotic steampunk romance by Calista Taylor, and it's currently available at the low, low price of free on Amazon. (Am I the only one getting a serious Winona Ryder vibe from the cover?)

Incidentally, this self-published ebook is next up on my reading queue. I had accumulated two indie steampunk romances on my Kindle and figured I might as well go two-for-two! I have some thoughts on the first one, which I'll share soon.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested to know about the VIRIDIS freebie in case the story is up your alley.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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Well, This Is Embarrassing!

I knew I was behind in updating the list of authors who have published science fiction romances, but I didn't realize just how far behind--I recently added *71* names to the SFR Authors page! You'll find the names under the 2000 and 2010 subheadings. Thanks for your patience, dear passengers, and please enjoy the new additions.

This list is a work in progress (and also subject to my discretion), so I anticipate adding more names as I glom my way through the subgenre. If you notice anything that needs changing, please email me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com or leave a comment.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

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Guest Blogging at Jessica E. Subject's Blog

As part of my celebration for the release of my new sci-fi romance QUEENIE'S BRIGADE, I'm guest blogging at author Jessica E. Subject's place. In The Dangers of Playing It Safe in Sci-Fi Romance, I discuss the advantages of going all the way (!) with ..."sci-fi romance heroes and heroines with dangerous personalities and occupations...":

Sci-fi romance is a subgenre where I question the idea of playing it safe, especially when a story features cutthroat, badass, or unsavory characters. After all, it can be a very dangerous universe out there. Why place characters in threatening situations if they’re not going to respond accordingly? Might as well handcuff them for all the good their rough-and-tough nature is doing them. It’s not enough to look tough; they have to act tough.

Is it bad to enjoy such characters? No.
Stories like ALPHA (Catherine Asaro), AGENT PROVOCATEUR (Nathalie Gray), BLUE GALAXY by Diane Dooley, and MOONSTEED (Manda Benson) tell me that science fiction romance is on the cutting edge when it comes to dangerous heroes and heroines, and that's a great place to be.

Come on over and share your thoughts!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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Gini Koch and Agent Z: The Bordello Interview


Setting: Sumptuous, velvet-lined, private drinking room at The Bordello at the End of the Universe; secret location somewhere in the Sombrero Galaxy. 

Agent Z: Hi, Gini. Thanks for meeting me here. Heather sent me on another undercover mission and I’m having bags of fun. Here, have a Gargle Blaster - no truth serum this time, I promise. 

Gini: Suuuuure, there’s not. Fortunately, I brought along an anti-serum, which I will be adding to every drink you give me. It’s anti-anything you might consider slipping me, so I should be safe to toss ‘em back with you this time. 

Agent Z: You’ve certainly been busy since we last got trashed together. Tell me - how does one acquire a work ethic like yours? And is it possible to buy one on E-Bay? 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

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Awesome DragonCon 2011 Cosplay Montage

In my post about cosplay and science fiction romance, I bemoaned the overabundance of Slave Leia incarnations at various conventions. Well, DragonCon 2011 demonstrated that diversity for women cosplayers must be the new black.

Check out this awesome montage of cosplayers and note the variety of costumes worn by women (via Smart Bitches):




Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Friday, October 7, 2011

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Guest Blogging at SF Signal: THE DIRTY DOZEN...in Spaaace!

When author Robert Appleton (SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST) remarked that QUEENIE'S BRIGADE "immediately calls to mind THE DIRTY DOZEN," he was absolutely spot on (and he should know a thing or two about homages since SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST is full of homages to THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE!).

While QB does indeed have much in common with THE DIRTY DOZEN (and while we're at it, THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE), the inspiration for the story actually originated from another source--especially since I was too young to even know about THE DIRTY DOZEN when it came out (scratch that--I hadn't even been born yet!).

However, in writing a futuristic tale about criminal underdogs who save the day, I added a couple of fresh twists. One, of course, was a romance. The other is a new ingredient that most other Dirty Dozen style tales possess in abysmally low quantities.

If you'd like to know more about how QUEENIE'S BRIGADE evolved as well as the innovation it brings to stories of its type, I invite you to read my guest post at SF Signal: THE DIRTY DOZEN...in Spaaace!

I'm also making an appearance at the Red Sage blog in the form of (cue the Wonder Twin chant) fun facts.

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours

Heather

Thursday, October 6, 2011

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Guest Blogging at Literary Escapism & A Pinch of Romance

I'm out and about in the blogosphere today!

At Literary Escapism, I'm blogging about Essential Steampunk Characters, Gadgets, & Accessories. While there, you can also enter for a chance to win a digital copy of QUEENIE'S BRIGADE, my new science fiction romance (see post for details).

I'm also blogging at A Pinch of Romance with Will The Real Sci-Fi Romance Action Hero(ine) Please Stand Up?

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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SFR News & Links Extra

Seems like the news ain't over yet for science fiction romance this month (not that I'm complaining or anything!). A few additions:

First up, Ella Drake. According to her site, the author contracted DESERT BLADE (Spring 2012), a post-apocalyptic romance novella, with Carina Press. Way to go!

The finalists of the 2012 EPIC Awards have been announced (via Pauline Baird Jones and ARe Cafe).

In the Novella category, author Ella Drake made the cut with her biopunk tale JAQ'S HARP.

Here are the finalists in the Science Fiction Romance category (wow, didn't think I'd be typing those words anytime soon, squee!):

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

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Gini Koch's New Series Finds Home At Musa Publishing

Author Gini Koch is well known among science fiction romance fans for her Alien series. Last month, we learned she had sold a novella—the first in her new series, The Martian Alliance Chronicles—to Musa Publishing.

I scored a press release and am presenting it here so you can check out the details for both Gini Koch's new comic romantic SF series as well as news about Musa Publishing in general (hint: this might be an opportunity to submit your romantic SF manuscript!).


Ebooks,Penumbra eMag, and so much More - Musa Publishing Opens its Electronic Doors

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Learn How SEO Can Boost Your Online Presence With Lindsay Buroker

Bloggers and authors, I invite you to read my Q&A with SEO guru Lindsay Buroker. She has a lot of great tips for boosting your online presence, and I supplied some sweet eye candy to round out the fun. :P

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, October 3, 2011

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Red Sage Author's Chat at The Romance Studio

Tonight, I invite you to join the Red Sage Author's Chat at The Romance Studio to celebrate this month's new releases (including my own QUEENIE'S BRIGADE). The live chat starts at 9 p.m. EST.

We'll come armed with goodies, so bring your goodie bag!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, October 2, 2011

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SFR News & Links For October 2011

[I’ve updated the 2011 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup. If I missed any titles, please let me know.]

2011 has been a great year for sci-fi romance and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down! Check out this month’s happenings:

New releases

Enslaved by a Viking
ENSLAVED BY A VIKING (planetary romance) – Delilah Devlin

His suffering….

Though proud and strong, Eirik, heir to the Ulfhednars kingdom, found himself seduced and taken from his homeworld by a bounty-hunting vixen, who sold him into slavery. Purchased by a wealthy, Consortium-backed brothel, he is kept at a heavily guarded and secure breeding facility, where he is forced to feed the lustful whims of Helios’s elite at night. He bides his time, waiting for a chance to escape and get his revenge on the woman who betrayed him…

Her satisfaction….

Once a sex thrall, Fatin earned her freedom through service. Now, as a bounty hunter, she is determined to earn enough to buy her sister’s papers from the same brothel she escaped. For this, she abducts a brutishly handsome, breed-worthy specimen from the Viking planet and delivers him to auction. But her desire for justice and his desire for freedom may consume both of them in a passion neither wanted—or can resist.

Read an excerpt from ENSLAVED BY A VIKING and leave a comment at that post to be entered for a chance to win a copy. Contest ends soon.

THE MARTIAN ALLIANCE I: THE ROYAL SCAM

THE MARTIAN ALLIANCE I: THE ROYAL SCAM (romantic SF) – Gini Koch

Things aren’t what they seem to be when Princess Olivia of Andromeda jumps aboard a spaceship to escape a loveless marriage.

Join the crew of the Hummingbird as they take on the rich, famous and sleazy of the galaxy. They're also on a long-term secret mission, so it's a good thing they're the best con artists, spacers, and roughnecks in the Milky Way, because they need all their skills to pull off this particular Royal Scam.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

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More Cyberpunk Romance Is On The Way!

In addition to Samhain Publishing’s CYBERSHOCK anthology, I learned about two other cyberpunk romances, one that's already out and another in the pipeline.Something tells me I’m going to go on a cyberpunk romance splurge very soon. This is so exciting!

UNACCEPTABLE RISK (12/13/11, Samhain Publishing) - Jeanette Gray

She may learn to live for love…if vengeance doesn’t kill her first.

Plix spends her lonely, gritty life trying to solve the mysteries her father left behind. Armed with a variety of cybernetic enhancements and a talent for getting into places she shouldn’t be, she searches for clues to his murder—and who’s responsible for poisoning her city.

Waking up on a street corner with her brain wiring fried to a crisp, she figures she must have gotten close this time. There’s only one man she trusts to pull her back from the brink: a tuner who can retrieve the evidence hidden deep in the recesses of her mind. A man she dares not let too close to her heart.

When Edison downloads a secret SynDate schematic from Plix’s burnt-out circuitry, he knows with dreadful finality that nothing—not even the fiery kiss he’s been holding back for years—will stop her from pursuing her quest past the point of insanity.

All he can do, as he helps her plan her final mission, is ease her pain, watch her back…and hope one of them doesn’t pay with their lives. 

***

That’s a pretty sweet cover! You can read an excerpt here.

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HEARTBEEPS: The Worst (and Strangest) Comic Sci-Fi Romance Film Ever

I had known about HEARTBEEPS (1981) for a long time, but never saw it (basically lack of access). The film stars the perky Bernadette Peters and the incredibly innovative Andy Kaufman. Therefore, when I recently stumbled across a cheap DVD, I pounced.

Then, I watched it.

The first thing I learned is that HEARTBEEPS is comic science fiction romance through and through. I mean, there isn’t a doubt in my mind. It’s a pure, unadulterated sci-fi romantic comedy. Color me shocked and awed.

Unfortunately, HEARTBEEPS has got to be one of the worst SFR films ever made (worse than WAR IN SPACE? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”). I can’t even describe how bad this film is. Painfully bad. Cringeworthy bad. You-won’t-forgive-yourself-in-the-morning bad. In fact, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.