Sunday, November 18, 2012

Action-Adventure in Sci-Fi Romance: Issue or Non Issue?

The Wasp & Ant-Man. Image source: ComicBook

We’ve discussed action-adventure elements in science fiction romance any number of times, but the other day I realized that I had never actually specifically blogged about its role in this subgenre. I was reminded of this omission upon reading a review of a fairly recent SFR title (name withheld so as to not prejudice potential fans).

In the review, the reader observed that the novella had too much action. Having read the book in question, IMHO the issue wasn’t one of too *much* action as opposed to the book having too few scenes of relationship development and other types of scenes. As much as I love action scenes, I agree that they have the potential to overwhelm a story.

Action scenes done right become a seamless part of the story. But for some readers—male or female—even mild action scenes might be deemed too much excitement. Still, one’s taste for action-adventure isn’t an inherent gender trait. Cultural influences shape our tastes in fiction and sometimes an artificial divide results.

When analyzing these types of issues in sci-fi romance, I often think back to Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s insights about genre divergence that I shared in a previous post:

Genres began to diverge along gender lines. Romance was defined as for women, and action adventure was defined as for men. Science fiction, which should have been gender neutral, was merged with action adventure since it was assumed women wouldn’t like it and/or couldn’t understand it…

With that in mind, I’ve been wondering about the role of action-adventure in science fiction romance. Many stories contain at least one major action scene. (SFR is similar to romantic suspense in this regard since those stories also pose a challenge regarding the balance of the various genre elements.) Given that many SFRs feature an external threat, it follows that the stories demand a few action scenes. Action-adventure is ubiquitous in this subgenre even if it’s usually of the middle to low-octane variety.

Image source: Bitch Flicks
But…are the action-adventure elements keeping lots of potential (female) readers away from SFR? Or, on the other hand, are they hardly worth noting?

Personally, I love action-adventure elements in SFR. The adrenaline rush they offer is great and their flavor varies with each unique setting. Action-adventure elements are a big draw for me and they help make this subgenre unique.

Yet I can also understand why it wouldn’t interest readers who aren’t sure if they want that adrenaline rush and/or aren’t keen on some of the violence associated with action-adventure. But how much of a challenge action-adventure poses is the question.

So I ask you: Do action-adventure elements pose a challenge in terms of attracting more—let’s face it—female readers—to SFR or not? If any disinterest in it has artificial roots, couldn't science fiction romance be positioned as a way for some (female) readers to discover all of the fun that action-adventure has to offer?

Joyfully yours,