Originally I had planned to write about what women bring to sci-fi, but the more I thought about that, the more I thought it would be easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes and generalizations.
We’ve all heard it said that female-penned sci-fi focuses more on so-called soft science than the hard science preferred by their male counterparts. Whenever I hear this, I think about the sci-fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land (author Robert Heinlein), considered by some to be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written. I recall that book mostly being about relationships and culture and sex. In contrast, one of my favorite recent sci-fi romance reads (written by a woman), a story I judged for a contest, was the grittiest, techiest thing I’ve ever read.
I’ve also heard it said that female authors’ characters have more depth. I had a much easier time identifying with Wool characters (author Hugh Howey) than with the protagonist of The Left Hand of Darkness (author Ursula K. Le Guin), who by the end I still didn’t feel like I understood on a personal level. And if you want to bring relationships into the discussion, whether romantic or platonic, Howey’s are of a far kinder, gentler variety than those written by literary sci-fi great Margaret Atwood.
After pondering all this for a while, I came to the conclusion that people write how people write, and saying male authors are one way and females are another is not particularly useful because we either enjoy their storytelling or we don’t. I love Atwood’s writing, but if I’m looking for something uplifting it’s the last thing I’m going to pick up.
But if we tweak this question a little bit I think it gets more interesting. What do romance writers, male or female, bring to sci-fi? How are their stories different than those classified as pure sci-fi? This I think I can speak to a little bit.
Sci-fi romances are character-driven by their very nature. For a book to be characterized as sci-fi romance, the romance has to be central. Its development has to move the plot forward. External factors have a role as well — often a strong role; my own stories are about half and half — but the story is always moving toward a satisfying relationship outcome. While there can be a lot of variation in how strong the romantic tone of the book is, they all follow the basic format of (1) Meet, (2) Feel attraction, (3) Recognize conflict, (4) Overcome conflict, (5) Happily Ever After or Happy For Now.
And one might argue that this sort of story is more realistic than those sci-fi plots that avoid romantic relationships like they might cause cooties. Our real lives are messy. We fall in and out of love perhaps a dozen times in a lifetime. Usually at least one of those times leads to marriage and (heaven forefend!) babies.
But sci-fi romance is still a fairly niche genre. I think for some it causes confusion. And it’s no wonder, when even publishers don’t know what to do with it. There’s no sci-fi romance aisle in the bookstore, so the marketing department has to choose one or the other. My books are labeled sci-fi, I suspect at least partly because covers that depict half-naked couples don’t work well for my stories. (Despite the fact two so far have been finalists in the RWA Golden Heart and/or RITA contests.) But some of the reviews I get — often those written by industry publications you would expect to be genre neutral — leave me scratching my head. It feels like the reviewer didn’t know HOW to review a sci-fi story with a romance central to the plot.
For these reasons I think it’s still a hard sell in the traditional publishing world. But SFR has exploded with the rise of the small and digital-first publisher. Digital-first is less risky, and these publishers are more willing to experiment. But also, just a week ago my agent sent me a note from an editor at a large, traditional house who had read and enjoyed my books and was hungry for similar stories. So watch out, sci-fi: the romance is coming.
A thrilling new SF romance from the author of Ghost Planet and The Ophelia Prophecy.
One chance to save it all.
Tess is a parapsychologist, devoting her life to studying paranormal and psychic phenomenon. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world, all her training couldn’t prepare her for what is to come.
Jake appeared from another Earth, shocked and angry, and is restrained by government investigators for study. But when he unwittingly steals energy from Tess, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds.
Ross is an FBI agent, ordered to protect Tess as she conducts her research into this dangerous phenomenon. His assignment was not random—he and Tess have a history. And when those feelings resurface, Ross will have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect his world.
Three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist SHARON LYNN FISHER lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes SF/fantasy and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne. A Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist and a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher writes stories for the geeky at heart—meaty mash-ups of sci-fi, suspense, and romance, with no apology for the latter. She lives where it rains nine months of the year. And she has a strange obsession with gingers (down to her freaky orange cat). Her works include Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8 (2015). Aboutme/SharonLynnFisher. @SharonFisher. Facebook. Goodreads.
* * *
Sharon Lynn Fisher
A Tor Trade Paperback
978-0-7653-7637-4 / 0-7653-7637-7
$15.99 | 288 pages
Ebook: 978-1-4668-5120-7 / 1-4668-5120-1 | $9.99
On Sale February 3, 2015
* * *
A Tor Mass Market
978-0-7653-6897-3 / 0-7653-6897-8 | $7.99
Ebook: 978-1-4299-6075-5 / 1-4299-6075-2 | $7.99
The Ophelia Prophecy
A Tor Trade Paperback
978-0-7653-7418-9 / 0-7653-7418-8
$15.99 | 320 pages
Ebook: 978-1-4299-6055-7 / 1-4299-6055-8 | $9.99