Sunday, September 29, 2013

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A Spacefreighters Lounge Post About Advancing The SFR Conversations

At Spacefreighters Lounge, Donna S. Frelick has an interesting post on the topic of Beyond Science Fiction VS. Romance, Part I:
Romance readers, in particular, look for these familiar things in a story.  They want humor. They want the hero and heroine to have friends and a home, something to sustain them, even when the romance is not going well.   It can be a ship, or a crew.  Why do you think STAR TREK was so successful? 
Great question. I'm keen to know what you think. See you there!


Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 26, 2013

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On Becoming Familiar With Sci-Fi Romance, Part II



In my last post, I discussed my lack of dependence on pedigree when it came to reading science fiction romance books or watching such stories in a visual medium. I make selections based on content, not platform, origin, or amount of corporate financial backing. 
 
But, for many readers, pedigree is important.

I was reminded of that fact while reading a post at Dear Author called How reading habits shape the publishing landscape and what authors and publishers can do to change it. The post addresses the issue of familiarity regarding the books we read and the music we listen to. In essence, we gravitate toward products that are familiar to us (i.e., those that have pedigree):

Even when those other books never quite live up to the original, we readers keep going back to the same well because it’s easier and familiar. “Listeners are happy to sit through a song they might say they dislike, as long as it seems like something they’ve heard before.”  This isn’t a function of just romance readers. We are just the most prolific of readers but there are readers who love Westerns, cozy mysteries, thrillers, a science fiction books.  To the regular science fiction reader, SFF stories are the familiar and Jane Austen is the unfamiliar.

I remember once reading Linnea Sinclair arguing that terms like the ton and pantaloons are just as foreign as a science fiction term. The problem is that readers of romance have long been exposed to Regency related terms (so much so that even inaccuracies become realities) and they have not been similarly exposed to science fiction romance.  It’s not that the Alien Hero is too strange to readers, but that they aren’t familiar to readers.

So how can science fiction romance become familiar? Jane proposed a solution: "To really make a sea change in publishing, I think you have to inundate readers with the foreign until it becomes familiar."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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Coming Soon: The Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly


Exciting news! The Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is a digital magazine devoted to all things science fiction romance. The first issue will launch November 15, 2013. Each edition will cover a three month period.
 
Content you'll discover includes the following:

* topical columns on a variety of SFR-related subjects
* book reviews
* information about new science fiction romance releases
* an exclusive, original sci-fi romance short story!

The team behind the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is K.S. Augustin, Grand Poo-Bah & Editor-in-Chief, Diane Dooley, Fiction Editor Extraordinaire, and me, Heather Massey, explorer of science fiction romance (and owner of The Galaxy Express).

Here's some interesting trivia: The Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly may be new, but the concept isn't. 

The current venture reinvents The Science Fiction Romance Newsletter, a previous print magazine run in successive order by Jennifer Dunne, Jody Wallace, and Joyce Ellen Armond

Click here for my previous blog posts on the newsletter to learn the history of these ladies' amazing work. We of the next SFR newsletter generation salute you!

Want to contribute to the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly? Here's how:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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On Becoming Familiar With Sci-Fi Romance, Part I



I'm going to co-opt Donna S. Frelick's use of the word "pedigree" since she applied it so smartly in her observation that "…reviewers are reluctant to take on review projects without a clear pedigree."

I don't take issue with the idea of a book having a pedigree, or with reviewers and readers who take that into consideration when deciding which books to purchase and read. After all, the words on a page have to at least be coherent enough to read!

I am, however, deeply concerned about the perception that because a book lacks a pedigree it is automatically inferior and unworthy.

Pedigree, as proof of excellent quality, is something that can be bought. Marketing campaigns often involve labeling a product as "the best" in one fashion or another regardless of a product's actual merit or ability to suit an individual's taste. The placing of one product above others through an orchestrated marketing campaign is interpreted, without question much of the time, as the product being inherently better than other, similar products.

Simply by sponsoring mainstream print distribution for a book, a publisher is often creating the illusion of a pedigree. Level the playing field by taking away the distribution and it all comes down to a matter of taste. Either you're interested in a story or not.

In many cases, a lack of pedigree is not an issue of lack of appeal or worth. It simply means a book remains undiscovered.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

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Tough Sci-Fi Romance Heroines Who Stay Tough Until The End



While reading an interview with debut author Lesley Young (SKY'S END), I discovered an observation of hers that made me go, "Hmmm."
What do you think sets Cassiel and Sky's End apart from other science fiction characters and stories?

Cassiel is very flawed. In other words, she’s real. And because it is written in the first person present tense, you experience all her decisions and crazy actions as if they were your own, which can be quite the ride. In my opinion, most SFR main characters start out as hardasses and then grow soft, tamed by some hot alien. And don’t get me wrong, I read those and enjoy them!
Well. This part is especially interesting: "In my opinion, most SFR main characters start out as hardasses and then grow soft, tamed by some hot alien." 

Okay then. The analytical bots in my brain have commenced firing. Let's unpack that observation, especially since (in my experience) Lesley Young isn't the only one to have expressed it.

First, are most SFR heroines--which is presumably what Ms. Young meant by "characters," given the context--"hardasses"? Is that a statistical fact or a general perception of this genre? No sarcasm here, I'm just wondering why Ms. Young came to that conclusion. I'd thought urban fantasy had the main rep for hardass heroines, but I could be wrong.

I'll concede Ms. Young one thing: there are stories, some of which I've read, where the so-called "tough" heroine is all talk and no show. Some heroines are described as badass, but never do anything on the page to show what they can do. Or their actions are so subtle it's at odds with the intense words used to describe their tough, kick-butt natures. In those instances, a character's subsequent softness and taming could translate to a flawed/nonexistent character arc. 

A tough heroine who lacks show reminds me of Chekhov's gun. Don't put a gun in the scene if none of the characters are going to fire it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

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TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE: What's Next?



TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE is a free anthology of science fiction romance short stories. It was produced by a team of authors, bloggers, and editors from the SFR Brigade, a consortium devoted to raising the visibility of SFR. (I participated in the cover committee, but that was the extent of my involvement).
 
Having since read the anthology, I'm impressed with not only how professionally it turned out, but also how much work went into its creation. No one was paid as far as I know--TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE was truly a labor of love.

Additionally, the team behind this anthology had pretty much zero privilege. They didn't use Kickstarter to raise funds. They didn't have the backing of a publisher. They didn't have any kind of mainstream platform, or the platform a successful mainstream print author might have (e.g., Courtney Milan or Meljean Brook) before going indie. In essence, TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE started from scratch.

I mean, wow. I was the recipient of eight free science fiction romances simply because a group of highly dedicated people were motivated enough to deliver them to readers. I generally expect to pay for my entertainment and feel good about compensating authors for their work, but it sure is great to receive a generous book gift like that now and then.

(The closest comparison I can think of is like a free, county-funded children's fair/festival (as opposed to a paid amusement park, class, or camp). I've taken my daughter to a fair number of free events and most of them were really fun for her. I really appreciate that kind of resource, especially since it's helpful for families on a budget.)

Of course, I'm a hardcore SFR fan so it's a given I'd read the anthology. I read as much sci-fi romance as I can, as often as I can. But the anthology is also meant for readers outside the core SFR fandom. Do they have any idea this passion project even exists?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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Sci-Fi Romance Book Spotlight: SKY'S END by Lesley Young



Over the summer, a publicist sent me information about a new book called SKY'S END (Cassiel Winters series #1) by Lesley Young. The setting is military space opera. Here's the blurb:

A secret she must never share. A secret that two warring species are determined to control. A universe’s future at stake.

Twenty-year-old Cassiel Winters joins Earth’s new space academy in hopes of finding her brother, one of Command’s top pilots and her only family, who’s been reported MIA. But she quickly realizes she may not be cut out for life in space, where female cadets are outnumbered, competition’s fierce, and she’s already failed her hand-to-hand combat test once.

Even the station’s most respected officer, Lt. Damian King, probably can’t help Cassiel pass the second time around—so why is he so interested in her progress? If only one of her freaky déjà vu visions would offer an answer instead of mysterious messages like hide.

When Cassiel’s manipulated into a perilous mission, she encounters a warrior species bred to protect the universe from an even greater threat. And she learns that her secret visions are at the heart of it all.

Now Cassiel must fight to control her own destiny and race to save her brother—even if it means pretending to be the pawn of Prime Or’ic, the cold-as-steel Thell’eon leader. Even if it means risking her life, facing hard truths, and making the ultimate sacrifice.

 **

 An interesting press release was available as well:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

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New Post At The Coffee Time Romance Steampunk Blog


At the Coffee Time Steampunk Romance blog, I'm exploring the erotic side of steampunk romance. Sometimes it's all about the fetish, while at others stories can both titillate and make one think. Enjoy!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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Buy STEAMBOT RAMPAGE, Help Fight Cancer



In July 2013, I reported the sad news that Linda Houle, co-founder of small press publisher L&L Dreamspell, had passed away. She died of cancer.

I was lucky enough to have had a story published with L&L Dreamspell. "Steambot Rampage" was in the same DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK Volume 1 anthology as Linda Houle's story, "Angelina."

After Linda's passing, L&L Dreamspell closed. The rights for "Steambot Rampage" reverted back to me. I knew, immediately, what I needed to do with this story. 

"Steambot Rampage" is now available through Smashwords. I will donate all proceeds generated by sales from Smashwords to the American Cancer Society for as long as I am able to do so.

In the interest of transparency, I will maintain records of the financial transactions. I'll also update my blog readers whenever I have news of a substantial donation.

Why not pick up a fun story and support a worthy cause? Buy Steambot Rampage now--it's only $.99 cents.

Thanks for your help!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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SFR News & Links Extra


File this under happy dance news: September is "SFR Month" at Bookpushers!

This month we will be doing a series of reviews and some posts concentrating on the genre of Sci Fi and Romance which is one of my favourite subgenres. It is also a very diverse genre that encompasses so many different elements, tones and styles which is one of the reasons why I really love the themes that Sci Fi conveys.

I especially love stories that explore the universe and what it means to be human which authors like Anne McCaffery have highlighted. But I also love the campy sexy romps such as Dara Joy’s Matrix series  or Jayne Castle’s Sci Fi paranormals which were my first introduction to the genre. This made me realise at the time that romance was a wonderful genre that could combine so many different aspects which makes things fresh and vibrant.
Yay! Here are links to some of the features that have gone live:

Review of Zoe Archer's SKIES OF GOLD (steampunk; The Ether Chronicles)
Review of Ann Aguirre's PERDITION (space opera penitentiary setting)

I learned about a few more new releases that are happening this month. Check out the covers and blurbs: