View Full Version : Romance in SF&F

11-04-2004, 12:00 PM
As a genre, when does Sci-Fi become Sci-Fi Romance? Does the Romance have to take center stage or just remain a strong element throughout?

I'm also curious what everyone thinks the elements are for a good romance in SF&F. My two main characters are becoming quite close and I'd like to explore what makes a romance work in SF&F.

Thank you.

11-04-2004, 04:42 PM
I would say the book 'is' whatever element is central, is it a romance set in a SF world, or SF adventure that includes romance? The romance market definitely wants the romance central although there are some that will take stuff more in between the two -- like Tor paranormal.

What makes SF romance good? When it succeeds in being good in both genres. For example the Lee/Millar romances which are good space opera and good romance.

Writing Again
11-04-2004, 07:56 PM
I understand why a genre emphasizes, or even insists on certain elements: A western has to be set in the time period when the best man with a gun was the law; a murder mystery has to have a murder; a science fiction story must be set in the future.

But why on earth so many genres eliminate whole areas of human experience, usually beginning with love and sex is beyond me.

An individual story might not include romance, I can understand that; but how anyone can pretend cowboys never fall in love, and people in the future have forgotten sex exists even though there are quintzillions of people around, is past me.

11-04-2004, 08:05 PM
Do they? I have western romances (both conventional romance and just western adventures where they guy gest the girl), even gay western romance books like those by Cap Iversen. I think just about every combo is out there somewhere.

Writing Again
11-04-2004, 09:11 PM
I think just about every combo is out there somewhere.

The keyword being "is" and for emphasis "now." Especially with the net and ezines running around. The word "somewhere" to me is very significant.

Was not long ago when you could not get a western published if the cowboy kissed anything except his horse, and that had to be on the nose or forehead; nothing kinky on the lips or on the nether end.

Earl Stanley Gardner got in trouble for even suggesting the hero may have seen the leading lady in her brassiere; which is why he never allowed any hint as to the possible out of novel (off screen if you will) relationship between Perry Mason and Della Street.

We inherit from the past: whether we recognize it or not. And if we don't recognize it we will write in ignorance.

When I first started writing a teacher could be fired for "moral turpitude" which included being seen kissing a man on the cheek who was not her husband. An adulterous affair could land you in prison for two years: a homosexual or lesbian encounter could land you in prison for three: and having oral - genital contact with your wife could land you in prison for five. Pornography that was going to lead to the moral decay of America consisted of a picture of a bare chested woman.

When my mother was young a cop patrolled the beaches with a tape measure and arrested any woman who proved her whoredom by exposing more than six inches of leg.

Any "gay western romance" should include the small fact that the surrounding population would feel justified in hanging those lovers from the highest tree, and would have no doubt have successfully cited Leviticus as justification to the local judge, is writing fantasy fiction.

Like it or not this is our heritage, and a very recent heritage it is; and our current literature suffers from it (If you think it benefits from it don't even bother to tell me, I'm having enough trouble getting back to sleep as it is.)

The fact these things are out there somewhere does not prove we are free of this heritage, it only proves that advances have been made.

Actually, they have always been "out there somewhere" but they used to be typewritten sheets passed secretly from lover to lover and friend to friend: Possession of pornography was also a criminal offense: Still is, but the definition has changed.

As near as I can tell many, if not most, mainstream genre fiction stays close to the moral climate that existed in the 50's.

11-04-2004, 09:21 PM
I am surprised how far the mainstream has come as well -- and how the subversive elements have managed to trickle through.

I was in a fairly redneck town (Peoria) but found the public library had almost all the classics of gay fiction, many of them added to the collection 30+ years ago. The shelves also included graphic novels and some stuff I would class as soft porn.

Some genres like fantasy had a percilair way of being both restrictive and permissive. Even decades ago I found fantasy often had gay, lesbian and even incestuous heroes without blinking. These days almost anything goes.

Western publishers really resisted and that might be why it is a genre without a discernable pulse these days. Romance is a mixed bag with Harlequin doing badly but a lot of smaller companies breaking through. I guess I am just the 'excentuate the positive' sort.

Writing Again
11-04-2004, 09:52 PM
Some genres like fantasy had a peculiar way of being both restrictive and permissive.

What I find interesting is that in some ways some of the restrictive, non permissive, puritanistic, literature and movies of the "black and white" movie era were more homosexually oriented than much of the openly gay literature of today.

Case in point: A subject you seldom see any more, but was once almost a staple of black and white movies: Two men are best friends, go every where together, do everything together -- in point of fact they do everything but hug, kiss, and sleep together (not a hint of that, mind you): Until a woman comes along and "breaks up their friendship": "comes between them": And now they either fight over her; both falling in love with her: One believes she is not good enough for the other: Or she plays them both along at once: Or she goes from one to the other.

I use to wonder, "Why don't they just have a threesome and be done with it?"

Eventually the answer came with "Paint Your Wagon" -- Because they really didn't know how.

11-04-2004, 09:56 PM
And wasn't that a perculiar movie... You still get a similar dynamic in TV quite often -- the Senitnel, the Professionals etc.

Oops. have we hijacked this thread?

Writing Again
11-04-2004, 09:59 PM
Ooops... Apologies.

11-06-2004, 10:59 AM
That really depends on what you want to do with it. Do you want it to be primarily romance or primarily SF/F?

My current WIP -- Satin's Thief -- is what I call a "fantasy romance."

The romance is, actually, the main component. A lot of people call it a paranormal romance. I don't know if that actually fits, because to me paranormal would involve ghosts, psychics, witches, etc.

James D Macdonald
11-06-2004, 07:51 PM
Satin's Thief

About a guy who's stealing yardgoods?

Anyway ... write the book the way you want, to the best of your ability, and let someone else figure out what genre it is. Let the story flow naturally, see where it takes you, and relax.

11-06-2004, 10:23 PM
About a guy who's stealing yardgoods?


If she wanted him to steal yardgoods, I'm sure he would.... *s*