My Fiction Site

In the right sidebar are clickable images of the covers of my novels, which will take you to their Amazon listings. Other posts will link to available free works – mostly shorter ones – and assorted thoughts on the writing of fiction.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Romance In Science Fiction

     This is a subject about which some writers get defensive, and others become apoplectic. It’s become a front-burner issue over the past few years, as unprecedented numbers of women have begun writing books heavy with romance and romantic themes, but nevertheless are billed SF.

     No, they haven’t gone to the “bodice ripper” cover styles yet. And let’s be judicious about dismissing all such books as “romances disguised and marketed as SF.” Some of them are quite worthy. They merely contain more romance than earlier, predominantly male SF writers injected.

     I have to declare a particular bias here, as my books are “cross-genre” too. That’s why I had to go independent: the conventional publishing houses have so much difficulty marketing cross-genre work that a writer of such has to strike them as the next James Michener to have a decent chance of getting their approval. (The odds are somewhat better for a writer who: 1) writes explicitly for a susceptible demographic, such as teenagers; and: 2) conforms to one of the trendy fads: e.g., vampires.) So I have a certain sympathy for lady writers who find themselves drawn powerfully to opportunities to insert romantic motifs into the topically neutral genre of science fiction, as lady writers have been throughout history.

     I suppose the question is which “feel” predominates: the idea-and-adventure oriented “feel” of SF or the emotion-oriented “feel” of romance. There’s a fat gray area in there, which is why the fusillades over it have been so furious.

     What frosts a number of fannies in the “SF world,” if it’s at all proper to speak of such things in the wake of the Sad Puppies controversy, is that the writers of romance / SF hybrids, including some whose books might have borne the Harlequin Silhouette sigil a few years ago, have acquired considerable popularity, and their fans have become active within SF fandom. In consequence, a substantial cohort of voters for the major SF awards now give their votes to such books, which some of the older, “traditionalist” writers and readers have come to resent. A few of the “traditionalists” have been vocal about it, on occasion to their own detriment.

     Ultimately, of course, for conventionally published SF it’s entirely a matter of bucks for the publishers, and of course the tastes the readers exhibit with their purchases. Publishing is and will remain a business, and businesses exist first and foremost to make money. That’s not a slam against publishers, merely a recognition of the realities. Therefore, they’ll continue to publish books they believe, on the strength of the sales of other books, will sell well, and will ignore books that don’t accord with those parameters. The fires of the controversy will be hottest when conventions and awards are involved, as such things have been important to a writer’s sales in the past, and though they’ve proved less so in recent years, the future is...well, the future.

     Indie writers don’t have such problems; we only want to write and gather readers. Those of us who don’t dream of conventional publication and the riches of Croesus, at least.

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