Article! By Heather Massey
Underestimate Romance Readers At Your Peril
Romance readers are employed in a wide variety of science-related jobs. We all probably know at least one medical doctor, physicist, biologist, astronomer, psychologist, chemist, software engineer, among others. I mean, wow! These are some smart women (and men, tooâ€”I know youâ€™re out there). Not only that, but many non-scientist readers have a keen interest in different types of science. They read and learn about science without even being paid. Hot dog! Iâ€™ll say it again: Romance readers sure are smart.
So why does it seem like theyâ€™ve been shortchanged when it comes to science fiction romance?
Iâ€™ve heard some scary stories, namely, that over the years, some authors were told by their publishers to simplify, alter, or do away with science fictional concepts in their books. In other words, dumb them down despite the fact that the stories are science fiction romance. Not only that, but both established and aspiring authors alike have been repeatedly told thereâ€™s no market for this subgenre.
Given all of the intelligent romance readers currently in existence, is that really a smart move?
Now, I can understand how the myth of romance readers being averse to science in their romances came to be perpetuated. First, many if not most romance readers are women, and supposedly our brains are too delicate for science and math. Stop me if youâ€™ve heard this one before.
Second, the above bias has carried over into publishing, particularly the idea that SF is only for the boys. Third, if you listen to the first two often enough, it becomes a challenge to hear anything else through all of that racket.
As a result, misconceptions abound regarding science fiction romance as it exists today:
* The science in science fiction romance is â€œhardâ€ science, a.k.a. a reader needs to be an actual scientist in order to understand it.
Some stories do contain hard science (see: Catherine Asaroâ€™s PRIMARY INVERSION or KS Augustinâ€™s IN ENEMY HANDS)â€”because variety is good and why not broaden our horizons? However, many science fiction romance stories donâ€™t contain hard SF. In fact, the sciences used in this subgenre vary widely.
*Conversely, the science fictional elements involve nothing more than BEMS (Bug-Eyed Monsters) or little green aliens from Planet Quacktutal. Or something equally silly/campy.
While Iâ€™m as much a fan of pulpy SF B-movies as the next gal (I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, anyone?), they sure can be dopey at times.
Do some of those elements crop up in science fiction romance? Sure, thereâ€™s the occasional BEM (see Michelle Marquis & Lindsay Bayerâ€™s HUNTERS or Ann Aguirreâ€™s GRIMSPACE), but just as many stories take a different route. And tone has much to do with how the science fictional elements come across. For example, Ann Aguirreâ€™s BEM doesnâ€™t go around gobbling up buxom, scantily clad women. Heâ€™s an intelligent, complex character.
* Science (and the political and/or action-adventure elements that often accompany it) and romance are polar opposites that donâ€™t mix.
Itâ€™s all in the execution, baby! Plenty of romances incorporate action-adventure and/or political elements, and science fiction romance is no exception. So the idea that SF and romance canâ€™t get happy in bed together is a bunch of balderdash. As long as authors deliver a satisfying romance, many readers will follow them to any setting no matter how exotic.
The misconception issue aside, another reason that science fiction romance has flown under some peopleâ€™s radars is that in general, readers enjoy a sense of community. Often, they like to read what everyone else is reading.
While this may be true of a great many readers, itâ€™s not necessarily true of all readers. Lest we forget, paranormal romance started out as a subgenre that very few readers wanted to pursue. And look what happened there: A bunch of smart readers made their voices known.
These days, the rise of ebooks and digital publishing has opened up the market for science fiction romance, one that has always existed yet was underserved. Readers can discover virtually any type of plot, setting, science fictional concepts, heat level, and characters to suit their tastes. And donâ€™t ya know, many of these digital publishers are operated byâ€”wait for itâ€”smart romance readers.
So the next time anyone tries to say science fiction romance (or science fiction) is out of our league, weâ€™ll just charge ahead and start a league of our own. Or maybe a galactic empire. Because, see, weâ€™re smart like that.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fiÂ romance adventures aboard her blog, TheÂ Galaxy Express.
And for European readers, she covers the subgenre for Germanyâ€™s premier romanceÂ magazine, LoveLetter.
Heatherâ€™s debut erotic sci-fi romance novel, Once Upon a TimeÂ in Space (Red Sage Publishing), featuresÂ the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on a desperate quest to find a newÂ world. Standing in his way is Raquel, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.