For the Love of Science Fiction Romance by Darlene Reilley
I wish there were more science fiction in romance (SFR). I see dribbles of it here and there, but I have only experienced the you’ve-been-hit-over-the-head-by-a-phenomenal-book feeling a few times. And I want that feeling. I crave it. I search for it constantly as a reader and as a writer I strive to achieve the feeling in my work.
I come to science fiction like most writers – through trial and error and a love of all things nerdy. But what, as writers, sets us up to write SFR? How can we translate our passion into works that readers respond to and love?
As a writer and as a reader, I imagine the people I write for want what I want – fantastic elements of the unexplained added to the longing for connection. We want nerdy! We want sexy! The female protagonist must be strong and smart and capable. The male protagonist, whether alien, clone, humanoid, or robot, must be the man we all want to fall for.
The thing about writing SFR is that we are in a genre that is uncontainable. As writers, we can traverse time and space. We can zip through any universe our hearts and minds dream up. But whatever elements there are in it, the SFR story revolves around beings. Be they alien, dragon shifters, robot, or humanoids, all SFR has character at the heart of the story. We can all name our favorite science fiction authors and favorite romance authors, but what happens if you smash them all together?
Ursula Le Guin – learned anthropology from her father, Alfred Kroeber, who was a phenomenal archaeologist. Her worlds are so detailed because she drank in cultures with her baby bottles.
Robert Heinlein – many of his cadet stories revolved around his own experience in the military.
Frank Herbert – went for a walk in Oregon and ended up writing about water rights and cemented our vision of worldbuilding.
G. Wells – the father of science fiction and trained in biology which could be where he learned how to snuff out aliens via microbes. He knew science.
Nora Roberts – can we say household name? I was reading her books when they were piled under my Mom’s bed when I was thirteen!
Catherine Coulter: I love her characters no matter what time period they are in. She has a way of making characters that are friendly and approachable; also writes characters who are capable of kicking bad guys to the curb.
Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick – how to reinvent yourself and your writing to reach wide audiences.
Science Fiction Romance
Diana Gabaldon – taught me how to mix genres and to march to the beat of my own drummer – try as you might, it’s hard to fit her work into one box and I like it even more because of that.
Ginni Koch – Kitty is a strong, capable female character who isn’t afraid to cuddle puppies. We need more strong female characters and even more books with puppies and various alien cuddly pets.
Susan Grant – Also harnessed her military training to come up with amazing situations her characters stumble into. One of the best dog fight scenes I’ve ever read.
Science fiction + romance = science fiction romance.
The formula itself is easy, but it’s finding the right balance between the science and the romance, and that is where writers, as artists, must work.
Imagine if writers could harness Herbert’s worldbuilding powers along with Coulter’s likeable characters and the humor that Koch brings to the table. Exploring my own work, I see elements inspired by all my favorite writers – from the loving humanoids to the deep world building and love of all things culture.
We all know writers who have rewritten the same book and sold it over and over again as something new, and then there are the writers who come at each book as if it were a new experience. As a reader and as a writer who wants to be inspired, I want to read the new experience. I want new worlds and phenomenal characters who challenge what we think – I also want it wrapped up in a bow with the man of my dreams.
Reading and writing go hand in hand and we cannot limit the type of work we are reading because by doing so we miss out on potentially life-altering experiences. Some people tell me I can’t have it all. But we write science fiction romance. We can have the science, the romance, and save the universe. It’s what we do.
Darlene Reilley is pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College while penning her fifth novel. When not writing, she hangs out with her three Labradors or hikes in the foothills of Mt. Rainier.