Tuesday, June 23, 2009

State of the Science Fiction and Romance Union 2009

Welcome, dear passengers, to the second annual State of the Science Fiction and Romance Union here at The Galaxy Express!

Hope's Folly

Last year, we delved into the history of science fiction romance courtesy of Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Next, we cast our brass telescope toward the future to speculate about what the coming year meant for the genre. Among last year’s predictions, a few bore out:

The market slowed, but far more than anticipated and not just for SFR. The economic upheaval resulted in significant publisher layoffs, agents submitted fewer projects overall, advances and print runs decreased, and imprints across all houses and genres dropped authors left and right into publishing purgatory.

Not every author who released an SFR stayed with the genre, and we learned of one whose current project has been rejected by publishers so far. Sobering news, indeed.

Catherine Asaro AlphaHowever, the list of aspiring authors working on SFR projects gradually increased, and I also heard about established authors either working on projects or expressing the intention (Kate Noble revealed in a review at The Book Smugglers that “…there are a couple stories in my head that are contemporary and sci-fi — maybe one day I’ll play around with them.”)

While no breakout SFR came from the digital sector, Linnea Sinclair’s HOPE’S FOLLY coulda been a contender among print offerings. Not only that, but buzz-wise, Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA barely made a ripple despite being another excellent example of the genre. Was the economic slump the sole reason behind these books falling under the radar?

Yet, as the saying goes, where one door closes, another opens.

Clockwork HeartThis past year witnessed the news of several steampunk romance projects on the horizon, and Ace/Roc editor Anne Sowards—who works with authors Ann Aguirre and Kristin Landon—recently announced she was seeking submissions in this area.

Epublishing continues to grow, not only financially, but in terms of respectability, too.

While no ereader has moved into the coveted $99 realm—which would make it an impulse buy for most—compared to their previous costs, many of the devices have dropped significantly in price, sometimes by half their original MSRP. Lower manufacturing prices, combined with higher public awareness and acceptance, paves the way for an ample binary bookworm future.

Even mainstream print publishers have entered the ebook market and are experimenting with alternative business models regarding print books. Perhaps a digital revolution in publishing is closer than we think.

To show how pointless making predictions can be, two surprising and wonderful developments emerged as a result of this blog and its community: my LoveLetter column (*waves to Kris Alice Hohls*) as well as the opportunity to blog at Tor.com—for whom I do have more posts planned! Both venues have presented new, innovative ways to raise the visibility of science fiction romance.

Also, I just received the word: The October 2009 issue of RT Book Reviews will include a feature on “SCI-FI Romance!” (Thanks to Jody Wallace for passing on the information). Would this have happened a year or two ago? Unlikely. In a word, it takes a village. And leave it to reader-driven magazines like RT Book Reviews and LoveLetter to have their finger on the romance genre pulse!

SFR Fortune

Now, on to my predictions for the coming year:

* Steampunk is money, baby. I anticipate that more books will follow in the footsteps of Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART by combining richly textured worldbuilding with heartfelt romance. Steampunk will become the gateway for romance readers new to the science fiction romance universe.

* Science fiction romance will increasingly solidify its identity as a source of character-driven stories while retaining sophisticated yet accessible science fictional elements.

* At least one of the stories in Samhain Publishing’s Spring 2010 Space Opera Anthology will be by a current Skiffy Rommer. Additionally, the anthology will inspire more novella length, non-erotic SFR releases from epublishers.

* At least one epublished SFR/SF erotica author will break into mainstream print—if not with an SFR book release, then at the very least by signing with a big-shot agent.

* A German—or at least a European—publisher will acquire rights for a recently published science fiction romance novel.

That's my take. What are your predictions regarding science fiction romance for the coming year?

Joyfully yours,