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, too—I know you’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! I’ll say it again: Romance readers sure are smart.

So why does it seem like they’ve been shortchanged when it comes to science fiction romance?

I’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 there’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 you’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 “hard” 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 Asaro’s PRIMARY INVERSION or KS Augustin’s IN ENEMY HANDS)—because variety is good and why not broaden our horizons? However, many science fiction romance stories don’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 I’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, there’s the occasional BEM (see Michelle Marquis & Lindsay Bayer’s HUNTERS or Ann Aguirre’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 Aguirre’s BEM doesn’t go around gobbling up buxom, scantily clad women. He’s an intelligent, complex character.

* Science (and the political and/or action-adventure elements that often accompany it) and romance are polar opposites that don’t mix.

It’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 can’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 people’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, it’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 don’t ya know, many of these digital publishers are operated by—wait for it—smart romance readers.

So the next time anyone tries to say science fiction romance (or science fiction) is out of our league, we’ll just charge ahead and start a league of our own. Or maybe a galactic empire. Because, see, we’re smart like that.

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

And for European readers, she covers the subgenre for Germany’s premier romance magazine, LoveLetter.

Heather’s debut erotic sci-fi romance novel, Once Upon a Time in Space (Red Sage Publishing), features the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on a desperate quest to find a new world. Standing in his way is Raquel, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.

For more information about Heather, visit her online at:
Author site:
The Galaxy Express:


5 thoughts on “Article! By Heather Massey”

  1. You tell ’em, Heather!
    That last one you mentioned is a personal pet peeve of mine. Science fiction and romance go together like a fluffer nutter. The two distinct genres combine flavors and textures for an unbeatable combination.

    No other subgenre illustrates human nature quite as well, which is ironic as all get-out, when you consider we add aliens and otherworldly life forms into the mix. But the clash between desires of the heart and goals of the mind is almost guaranteed conflict in SF romance, which is the driving force of any quality book.

  2. You make some really good points here, Heather.

    As a reader I devoured all types of Science Fiction before I even got round to SF Romance, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, to name but a few.

    There are many of us out there who write romantic Science Fiction, and while trying to make it enjoyable for those who don’t want to get bogged down by too much scientific jargon etc, still want the Science to be at least credible and for ‘out of this world’ ideas and technology to have a believable rationale, and not send readers who really know about Science to run off screaming with hysterical laughter!

  3. As someone who went to school during the “girls aren’t smart at science” years, I can only offer a hearty DITTO! You go, girl! Looking back, I did fine in science and math until high school. Did I suddenly lose all abilities in these areas when I turned 14?

    As someone who “discovered” SFR recently, all I can say, is wow, these are some seriously fun stories!

    So DITTO again!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, Heather! You raise so many good points in your post and all I can hope is that the introduction of “love cooties” into SF will actually turn the genre into something much more human and complex with deeper characterisations. As Jenna says, it really is the one genre where there are no limits.

  5. I love this blog. As much as I enjoy being “different” (since being a woman and an engineer AT THE SAME TIME already qualifies me there), it’s nice to run into someone else who gets it.

    I love my romance-writer friends but I do get tired of hearing “this isn’t something I normally read” or “Hmmm. Aliens. Are you sure you want to write about aliens?” Why yes, yes I do.

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