Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Are The "Must Read" Science Fiction Romance Books?

Mr. Kat Reading
A Galaxy Express passenger—her name is Tamara—contacted me recently to inquire if a “Top 10 or 100 list” of science fiction romances was available. And boy, did that question ever spark the proverbial light bulb.

I’m constantly making SFR recommendations, and I sent Dear Author a personal top ten list, but hadn’t ever compiled a formal one for this blog. By “formal” I mean one that can serve as an official showcase list, not to mention a go-to list for readers new to the genre.

I thought we might put our heads together and brainstorm a list. How long should it be? I think 10 is too few, and anything over 100 will make readers’ eyes glaze over. And I’m not sure if the list would be effective if it’s simply a regurgitation of every available book. If possible, it would be nice to have a balance of popular and/or bestselling titles as well as those that represent the subgenre well, even if an author only wrote the one book.

At the risk of splitting hairs, I hesitate to compile a list of the “best” SFR books because taste is so subjective. But if a list is a “must read” then it can take into account books both older and newer as well as those that have had an impact of some kind, or best represent certain elements unique to science fiction romance. I’d like for such a list to include both print and digital titles of any length, as well as representative works in m/m and erotic SFR.

Also, if we are telling readers new to the subgenre to expect science fictional elements, my feeling is that the books should be traditional SFR, meaning few paranormal/fantasy elements (although there might be exceptions depending on the quality of the book or its impact on the subgenre).

One issue that arose as I contemplated this list is that a few authors have written multiple SFRs or have included romances in multiple books. Would we choose one representative title or refer readers to their body of work? For example, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Catherine Asaro, Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, and S.L. Viehl come to mind. Or might we include their first SFR in the list as a place to start?

This list could be subject to change as new books are released. So for as long as I run this blog, it’s a list we can revisit as needed. We may even reach a consensus of just 30, 40, or 50 books for the time being.

I compiled a list of 22 books to get us started. I did not include every book I personally enjoyed because I was trying to maintain as much objectivity as possible (I'll admit some bias might have slipped in but hey, I'm only human!). I could have added more but I wanted to know what the community of SFR readers would vote for as well (and since I haven’t read every last SFR book on the planet—yet—input from you will allow for titles I might have otherwise overlooked).

This list is in alphabetical order by author:

[Edited to add: list updated 6/16/10. Count: 100 specific titles]

Ann Aguirre – Grimspace
Katherine Allred – Close Encounters
Evangeline Anderson – Planet X
Robert Appleton – The Mythmakers
Catherine Asaro – Alpha; Primary Inversion
C.J. Barry – Unmasked
Marion Zimmer Bradley –The Planet Savers (Darkover series)
Cheryl Brooks – Slave (Cat Star Chronicles series)
Lois McMaster Bujold – Shards of Honor; A Civil Campaign
Nancy Cane – Circle of Light
C.J. Cherryh – Merchanter’s Luck
J.A. Clarke – Moonfire
Lanette Curington – Star Kissed
Justine Davis – Lord Of The Storm; Sky Pirate
Autumn Dawn – No Words Alone
Gail R. Delaney – Revolution (1st in The Phoenix Rebellion series)
Kate Elliott – Jaran
Philip Jose Farmer – The Lovers
*Dave Freer – Rats, Bats and Vats
Jess Granger – Beyond The Rain
Susan Grant – Contact; Moonstruck
Susan Grant, Liz Maverick, Patti O’Shea, Kathleen Nance – 2176 series
Nathalie Gray – Metal Reign
R. Garland Gray – Darkscape: The Rebel Lord
Sharon Green – The Warrior Within
*Stephen Gould – Blind Waves
*Joe Haldeman – The Forever War
*Barbara Hambly – The Silent Tower (Windrose Chronicles)
J.C. Hay – Hearts and Minds
Elysa Hendricks – Star Crash
*John G. Henry – A Just Determination (hard military SF; legal thriller)
Colby Hodge – Stargazer
Sarah A. Hoyt – Darkship Thieves
Pauline Baird Jones – The Key
Dara Joy – Knight Of A Trillion Stars
Susan Kearney – The Challenge
Isabo Kelly – The Promise of Kierna’ Rhoan
Eve Kenin – Driven
Sherrilyn Kenyon – Born of Night
Angela Knight – Jane’s Warlord
Gini Koch – Touched By An Alien
Susan Krinard – Kinsman’s Oath
Kristin Kyle – Nighthawk
Jayne Ann Krentz – Shield’s Lady
Kristin Landon – The Hidden Worlds
Carole Ann Lee – Banner's Bonus; Solar Wind
Tanith Lee – The Silver Metal Lover (bittersweet ending)
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller – Local Custom; Scout’s Progress; Mouse and Dragon
Jacqueline Lichtenberg – Dushau
Ann Maxwell – Timeshadow Rider
Anne McCaffrey – Dragonflight; The Crystal Singer; The Rowan
Sandra McDonald – The Outback Stars
Mima – Wild Within
Kathleen Morgan – Firestar
Stephenie Meyer – The Host
Patti O’Shea – Ravyn’s Flight
Joan D. Vinge – Tin Soldier
Robin D. Owens – Heart Mate
Dru Pagliassotti – Clockwork Heart
Stobie Piel – Lord Of The Dark Sun
Robin Popp – Too Close to the Sun
J.D. Robb – Naked In Death
Spider Robinson – Stardance (The Stardance Trilogy)
John Scalzi – Old Man’s War
Karin Shah – Starjacked
Sharon Shinn – Archangel; Jovah's Angel
Dan Simmons – Hyperion (1st in a series)
Linnea Sinclair – Finder’s Keepers; Gabriel’s Ghost; Games of Command
Cherie Singer – Wulfe’s Woman
Star Kissed – Nalini Singh
Susan Sizemore – Dark Stranger
E.E. Smith – Galaxy Primes
Ann Somerville – Somatesthesia
Catherine Spangler – Shielder
Wen Spencer – Endless Blue
Susan Squires – Body Electric
Theodore Sturgeon – A Saucer of Loneliness; The Loverbirds (m/m) (short stories)
Janice Tarantino – The Crystal Prophecy
Janelle Taylor – Moondust And Madness
Ethan X. Thomas – Crimson
S.L. Viehl – Stardoc
Patricia Waddell – True Blood
Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman – The Lost King (Star of the Guardians series; bittersweet ending)

* = Romantic SF

Please suggest titles—in the most objective way possible—for this list of “must read” science fiction romances. Let's have fun with it. The list may not be perfect, and may not satisfy everyone, but in the end we will all have one to share with other readers.

I will update it after the discussion gets going. In the interest of closure, I will make the final decision if we happen to compile a list of over 100 books (I know. I'm such a tyrant!).

Joyfully yours,