Friday, August 31, 2012

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Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Rebel, Too?*



Rebel characters are practically the bread and butter of science fiction stories, so it’s no wonder that they’ve migrated to sci-fi romance. One of the more recent entries is D.L. Jackson’s REBEL SOULS (Decadent Publishing). So when you’re in the mood for an SFR featuring rebels, here’s a handy list of tags to see if this one is right for you:

*Type of plot: The plot itself is straightforward—a group of rebels is building a weapon and has to smuggle the needed materials. In order to do so, they have to evade enforcers working for the Evil Government. (It’s really not as campy as all that; I just wanted to write “Evil Government” because when do you ever see that? Not often enough, LOL!)

* Type of romance: A forbidden love develops between rebel smuggler Ava Frost and Fleet Commander Seth Reynolds. Despite the two guys on the cover, this is not a ménage romance.

* Tone: Moderately serious; action-adventure space opera; playful with a touch of angst

* Political unrest quotient: High, and it’s channeled through the three main characters rather than an ensemble cast. The story focuses on political machinations taking place at the interpersonal level rather than the systemic one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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The Sci-Fi Romance Conversation Continues


A couple of weeks ago, urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson (ROYAL STREET) wrote a post at Heroes and Heartbreakers called Who Put That Romance In My Non-Romance Novel? I discovered this post by accident in the sense that I was researching something else (SFR related, of course!) and the search engine turned it up. The post is about the debate over genre hybrids, specifically the idea of mixing romance with other genres:

The longstanding stigma of romance is a hard thing to overcome, and might meet its biggest resistance from old-school sci-fi fans—ironic since romantic science fiction is a growing genre.

This post was a nice surprise because it’s always heartening to discover conversations about science fiction romance from various angles. In fact, a significant portion of Ms. Johnson’s post deals with science fiction-romance blends and how various readers perceive them. Very cool. And I certainly didn’t expect one of my TGE posts to be quoted or see one of the covers to my books included with the post—holy cow!

I suppose that finding such a post should be old hat to me by now, but it really isn’t. I still get a thrill when I discover someone having a conversation about sci-fi romance.

Monday, August 27, 2012

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Winner of Cathy Pegau's RULEBREAKER

Now that we've had our fill of massage oil, denim, and chain mail space bikinis, it's time to announce the winner of Cathy Pegau's RULEBREAKER (a rare signed, print copy!).

The Randomizer has chosen...Liz S! Liz, please send your snail mail address to sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com and I'll forward your contact information to the author.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. And stay tuned for future adventures of Agent Z., Intergalactic Spy Extraordinaire!

Joyfully yours, Heather

Saturday, August 25, 2012

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An Interview With Heather Lin, Author Of THE SYSTEM


Author Heather Lin has entered the ever-expanding frontier of science fiction romance with THE SYSTEM, a gritty, steamy adventure tale from Silver Publishing. I invited her aboard for an interview to help celebrate the release of her book, which came out earlier this month.

I deeply appreciate that the genre tags for THE SYSTEM in the “Book Details” section include “action/adventure” along with “Romance” and “Science Fiction”! Because yes, women love action-adventure stories as much as the next guy! The lack of segregation is awesome. And it looks like THE SYSTEM embraces the high octane action along with that of the romance kind.

Here’s the story blurb:

Capri is an alluring young prostitute with a painful past; Brody is a ruthless mercenary for a crew of thieves from the spaceship Gypsy Lass. When he enters her brothel, the attraction between them is instant, electric, and too much for him to handle. After a robbery gone wrong, the crew takes Capri hostage, forcing her and Brody to remain in close quarters until they see fit to drop her on another planet.

But Capri's plight and the intense feelings between her and Brody turn out to be the least of their problems. Together—whether they like it or not—they uncover a secret no one in the whole System could have expected.

And now for my interview with Heather Lin!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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Agent Z. Interviews her Newest Bestest Friend: Cathy Pegau


Yee-Haw, dear readers! Agent Z. here, wearing a brand new pair of cowboy boots I pilfered from Heather Massey’s storage locker aboard The Galaxy Express. ‘Ole Heather is chained up down in the engine room, pretending like she knows how to fix the hyperdrive and that twerp, Diane Dooley, who keeps claiming I am a figment of her imagination, is tearing chunks of hair out of her scalp while she attempts to write another one of her cruddy books. All your Galaxy Express are belong to us! Chef has rustled up a vat of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters for us to guzzle and I’ll tell you right now that any non-inebriated comments will be summarily made fun of. Now, drink up!

I have today as my guest, the author Cathy Pegau. I’m afraid she has helped herself rather liberally to the Gargle Blasters, so please forgive her inappropriate behavior. If you can! And please note that it was not I who tied her to the chair. She did that all by herself. She is one talented lady.

Agent Z: Now, Cathy. I abducted, er, I mean invited, you here from Alaska today because after following your tweetstream for a lengthy period I’ve decided that you are far too fabulous to spend so much time shoveling snow off your roof, driving your kids around, and slaving over enormous feasts of fresh Alaskan salmon. I’ve always wanted a female traveling companion for my intergalactic adventures and you, my dear, are The Chosen One. But you can’t conquer the galaxy in flannel and denim. Tell us about the fabulous outfit and hairstyle you shall adopt before we embark on our travels.

Friday, August 17, 2012

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Best Sci-Fi Romance Date Movies


Back in March 2012, Screen Junkies compiled a neat-o list about sci-fi romance films that a het couple could enjoy together. The assumption they make is that a woman might need a little bit of romance in order to find SF films appealing. 


I would argue, however, that anyone of any orientation whose movie tastes diverge from his/her significant other could very well find some common ground in science fiction romance, a subgenre that mixes tech and tenderness. 

Now if only filmmakers and studios could become brave enough in the near future to create and release mainstream (or at least high-profile niche) LGBT sci-fi romance moviesnot to mention SFR films with people of color in the starring roles. Because once I gave the list a final once-over, I realized that it reveals glaring omissions. For films with a futuristic setting and the diversity that element promises, they are strongly focused on the heteronormative and so very...white.

That said, I believe SFR is a great vehicle for more diversity in the film medium. I will certainly be on the lookout for such experiences.

Before I share the link, be warned that there is (salaciously) mature content currently featured with the post as of this writing. Also, the formatting is messed up. :P

The title of the Screen Junkies post is 6 SciFi Romance Movies Men and Women Will Love. In case you prefer to not click over (and I almost wish I hadn’t because now there’s one particular image I can’t scrub from my brain. Oy.), I’m presenting the films Screen Junkies recommended and also added a few of my own.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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Why Ruth Ann Nordin's SUDDENLY A BRIDE Chilled Me To The Bone


When I received a heads up a few months ago from a fellow blogger about Ruth Ann Nordin’s SUDDENLY A BRIDE being available for free at Amazon (Kindle edition), I grabbed it, especially in light of the fact that the story blurb reminded me of the post at Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi and Paranormal Romance on science fiction romances that feature the “Mars Needs Women” trope (see also my previous commentary on the topic (scroll down)):

Rilo An comes from a world where there are no women, and what he longs for is a life mate: someone who will complete him, someone he can love who’ll love him back, someone who’ll ease the aching loneliness that haunts his life.

So he leaves his world, takes on the Earth name Chris West, and makes a payment to Star Systems Unlimited for a life mate. When he bonds with her, he thinks life can’t get any better.  Except she was married before, and memories of her deceased husband still linger around her home.  Will he find a place in her heart or will he have to become like her first husband in order to get her love?

I thought it might be fun to sample a “Mars Needs Women” story, because hey, you never know, and the free price tag increased incentive.

For some reason, the author lists SUDDENLY A BRIDE under the “Contemporaries” section of her Chronological Order of My Books page. It has all the hallmarks of a sci-fi romance to me, although she does tag it with “a twist of sci-fi” in her general books section.

Based on my reading of the first third, I think there’s more than a “twist” however. Allow me to explain (minor spoilers ahead).

The tone of this story is very earnest. So earnest, in fact, that it’s impossible to miss the heavily emphasized social commentary/subtext regarding monogamy, procreation, and heteronormative relationships. In a nutshell, all are on a pedestal of extreme proportions.

When the hero (from the planet Pandoran) and heroine (from Earth, natch) consummate their relationship very early on in the story (and in their romance), the heroine is under the influence of a powerful sex hormone that the hero knowingly emits. Said heroine is unaware that she’s being influenced in such a way. The hero had previously taken medication to suppress his sexual and procreation urges, but now that he’s on the hunt for a life mate, it’s not necessary. Erm…okaaaay.

So even though the story is delivering a fantasy of uninhibited sex, it’s couched in a forced seduction scenario. Not only that, but the hero has deceived the heroine in an utterly appalling way. I started to suspect that this part of the romance wasn’t just about the sexual journey of the hero and heroine and/or erotic titillation.

I’m a fan of uninhibited sex fantasies in SFR, but my experience of SUDDENLY A BRIDE so far made me realize that execution of said fantasy makes a monumentally significant difference in terms of my ability to engage with it. 

And the heroine's name is Caitlyn, by the way. I'm disheartened that her name apparently wasn't deemed important enough to be mentioned in the blurb.

Also, the idea that an alien corporation—“Star Systems Unlimited”—with the power to play interstellar matchmaker so the men on a female-less planet can find chicks to go all the way feels incredibly patriarchal and misogynistic to me. And the reason why Chris’s planet lacks women is even more chilling (as he explains to the heroine):

“…There was a time on my planet where men and women married and had children, like you do here. Then some people decided to make babies in labs. At first, it was an experiment to see if it was possible, but then the women decided it was better to have children that way instead of going through pregnancy and childbirth.

“Needless to say, that left men out of the equation. Women no longer wanted to marry us and have our children. Over the course of two centuries, men developed the ability to entice women to bond with them…the first time we have sex, we establish a life bond…This was why women didn’t want to have sex with us. They knew as soon as they did, they’d be trapped and have to go through pregnancy and childbirth.

“But it was more than avoiding physically having a child…with genetic manipulation, they were able to make perfect children…In response, men realized that they were unable to pass on their genes to the next generation. So they developed the ability to emit a sex hormone to make the female of his choice have sex with him, and that established a life bond that led to children.”

So, hmm, let’s see, the women were smart and figured out a way to avoid the dangers and inconveniences of childbirth. As a result, the men felt threatened and in retaliation worked up a scientific sex hormone leash to keep those uppity women under control. Eventually, as the hero explains further, these events led to a battle of the sexes. The women tried to defeat the sex hormone but in so doing rendered themselves unable to conceive female children.

o_O

To me, the implied subtext of the above passage was that sex outside of marriage in that culture is wrong. And what the hero doesn't say speaks volumes: Women circumvented childbirth, but they stopped having sex with the men, too? No wonder I shuddered while reading the consummation sceneit was payback time. Chris was the weapon and Caitlyn was his target.

Then later, Chris has this “enlightening” bit of introspection:

He didn’t know why women on his planet suddenly decided they didn’t want to bear children anymore, but their role had been a crucial one. Maybe the men had taken it for granted. He wouldn’t.

There was such a missed opportunity here to show the story implied in that last passage. I would actually be interested in reading a “Mars Needs Women” story wherein the men took women for granted and paid for it with near-extinction. Then the romance could focus on one hero’s attempt to redeem the males of his species (without any kind of heavy-handed seduction).

Unfortunately, SUDDENLY A BRIDE isn’t that story based on what I’ve read so far. Much of my conclusion has to do with Chris’s character having an unsettling dichotomy. While he seems to worship the heroine and is committed to a long-term relationship with single-minded focus, his behavior indicates that he lacks the intent/ability to overcome the sins of his fathers. I guess that version is too much to expect anyway since the story insists that the threats of extinction are the fault of Pandoran’s women. “Pandoran”—get it? Le heavy sigh.

Will the “Mars Needs Women” trope ever become progressive/subversive enough for my tastes? Only time, and more sci-fi romances, will tell.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, August 13, 2012

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SFR News & Links Extra


Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi and Paranormal Romance recently featured a post called Ghost Men and Virtual Lovers by Kirby Crow (as part of the Circuit Theory Blog Tour). Ms. Crow, with co-author Reya Starck, wrote CIRCUIT THEORY, a July 2012 m/m SFR release from Riptide Publishing.

I’ve been tapped to make a post on the topic of the status of virtual reality lovers in the gay romance genre, which I’ve heard rumored isn’t a popular theme.

To be honest, I’m not certain that it’s not popular. I know that it isn’t being written, but scifi overall isn’t the most popular genre among the writers of gay romance. There’s relatively little of it compared to other romance sub-categories, but that doesn’t mean that the readers for it aren’t out there. I don’t think there have been any target studies in our demographic, but I believe that all we truly know so far is that the pool of gay scifi is limited.

That might be because there are misconceptions about what defines a science fiction story, or it could be because authors tend to have a weather eye trained on what publishers are looking for before they sit down at the keyboard. Either way, we can agree that, while it’s not virgin territory, science fiction itself could certainly use a little more exploration in gay romance.
 Co-sign.

J.L. Hilton posted a teaser excerpt of her forthcoming cyberpunk romantic thriller, STELLARNET PRINCE (November 2012, Carina Press).

At Spacefreighters Lounge, Donna S. Frelick and Laurie A. Green shared their 2012 RWA national conference experiences as aspiring sci-fi romance authors. Here are the highlights:


We got a chance to be up close and personal with these giants of the field of romance publishing and to ask them the questions that really mattered. So when Kevan Lyon, with whom I had a pitch session on Friday, said that she really didn’t care much for science fiction romance, I had the opportunity to approach her personally during the break. Was I wasting her time and mine to pitch her with my SF suspense romances, even though they had both finaled in the Golden Heart?

Well, no, she said. Maybe you’ll be the one to change my mind.

I pitched her on Friday and got a partial request. It remains to be seen whether I can change her mind.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

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Could Animated Graphic Novels Open Doors For Sci-Fi Romance?


Author Pauline Baird Jones (KICKING ASHE) kindly sent me a link to a very interesting article (with video) about “Bottom of the Ninth,” a totally rad iPad App:


[Ryan] Woodward has just launched the first animated comic book of its kind – a graphic novel built as an iPad App that comes to life with animation playback right inside the digital pages.

“Bottom of the Ninth” tells the story of a young female pitcher making her debut in a future version of baseball by using a traditional comic layout enhanced with fully animated 2D and 3D animations. With the swipe of a finger, readers can flip pages or play short videos inside story frames.

Woodward is part of the team behind THE IRON GIANT and THE AVENGERS so you know this project of his is going to be cool—especially since it features a female protagonist! Fingers crossed that this venture opens the door wide for animated comic books of all kinds.

Anyway, my first thought after digesting this news was “Please, please will someone make a science fiction romance story in this medium?” OMG that would be so thrilling!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

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The (Cover) Saga Continues: Elizabeth Lang’s “Empire” Series


If you enjoy romantic SF that features a space opera setting and an ensemble cast, you might be interested to know that Elizabeth Lang, author of THE EMPIRE, has come aboard The Galaxy Express to update us on the progression of her politically-charged series.

This series has an interesting story behind it. Back in February 2011, I blogged about THE EMPIRE’s original, technically flawed cover. The publisher responded by approving the creation of a new, much improved cover, and the author invited TGE passengers to give their input. In true HEA style, Ms. Lang wound up with a spiffy new cover that sci-fi romance fans would be proud to show off:


Now, the author is back to report that she continued the cover theme for the next two books.