We’ve discussed ways to mix science fiction and romance many times here and at other SFR blogs, but with each new release in this subgenre comes the possibility of seeing the SF-romance combination in a new way. It’s an ever-evolving conversation, and a recent author guest post prompted me to reflect on the issue again.
Via the RT Book Reviews blog comes a post by author Karen Lord: On the Boundaries of Science Fiction and Romance. Here’s the introduction, which I’m sharing for a specific reason:
Karen Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds won RT's Seal of Excellence as the best book of the month, and is the first adult science fiction title to earn the award. One thing RT editors love about the book is that it is the perfect balance of hard sci fi and a sweet, slow-building romance, a combination many readers that exclusively enjoy either the science fiction or romance genres shy away from. Today the author shares how she made this genre combo work for her latest novel, and why she loves it.Two passages bookmark the article and they jumped out at me:
Is it romance? Is it science fiction? Is it hard science fiction? Can we call it literary or is it merely recycled genre tripe? I try not to concern myself with boxes, boundaries and definitions…
…The Best of All Possible Worlds may not resemble the usual romance or science fiction novel. I am often surprised by what I end up writing, and glad that I can overturn my own expectations. Perhaps it is romance, and science-fiction, and literary, and fantastical and everything that I intended and also what I did not intend. I hope that it creates its own comfort zone regardless of whatever category or classification it is given.I agree that some of us in fandom occasionally get a bit obsessed with marketing labels and genre classifications, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Lord was distancing herself from the SFR aspect of her story. And if so, why?
As a reader I like it very much when authors concern themselves with labels and tags (both in conjunction with and independent of the marketing machine) because that’s how I know to seek out their books. The tags provided by RT—“balance of hard sci fi and a sweet, slow-building romance”— are fantastically specific.
The intro promises that the author will share “how she made this genre combo work for her latest novel.” To successfully combine science fiction and romance, was the key to write a story that doesn’t “resemble the usual romance or science fiction novel”?
Beyond basic genre conventions, what exactly is the “usual romance or science fiction novel?”
The way I see it, storytelling possibilities vary astronomically in both romance and science fiction despite genre conventions. So if Ms. Lord is saying she took an off-the-beaten path or explored new ground in her story and is inviting readers to adjust their expectations accordingly, then great. But I do worry about the implication that there is something ineffective about the way other authors have approached romance and science fiction, and combinations thereof.
I’m curious to read this book and see how Karen Lord tackled the SF-romance combination. It’ll be interesting to see where THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS falls in terms of other SFR books I’ve read.
What are your thoughts about her post?