Recently I met with my critique group where, aside from going over manuscripts and raking over the finer points of craft, a discussion arose surrounding romance in Science-Fiction, specifically Sci-Fi Romance as a genre. I was amazed to find that our members fell into two very distinct camps on this issue:
Group A: ROMANCE HAS NO PLACE IN SCI-FI (No, I didn’t leave the caps lock on. That was the level of conviction on this side of the aisle)
Group B: Sci-Fi Romance is a legitimate genre that does not detract from the integrity of Sci-Fi in general.
Now, to clarify, we weren’t talking about your dystopian future situation or paranormal with aliens showing up on contemporary Earth. No, this was about whether romance should be in hardcore Sci-Fi, as in the kind with interstellar travel, spaceships, and faraway galaxies.
My opinion? In point of fact the Sci-Fi Romance genre has not crossed my Kindle so I wasn’t very aware of it. As an avid (obsessive?) fan of Sci-Fi, the reactionary side of me cringed at the idea of a Harlequin-ed version of Science-Fiction out there. On reflection though, I could envision it as something interesting. Why? Well, for any story to work it must still be built on a foundation of world building, high stakes, and three dimentional characters, even if the focus is on romance. In that context, why wouldn’t it be good?
As to the argument that romance should not exist AT ALL in Sci-Fi, to that I say you’d have to be some scruffy headed nerfherder living under a rock to believe that a driving force as powerful as love would disappear completely when a plot breaks orbit. Men and women, in all types of relationships, do not huddle in their respective corners on a spaceship like some weird version of a junior high dance floor. They live together and work together and, you know, intermingling abounds.
I will say that I’ve found romance in general to be hit or miss in stories I’ve read. As strong of a force as love is, it takes a lot of subtlety to integrate it well into the story. I’ve read books that force the relationship to the crisis point before taking the time to even build the bond between them. The same goes with the sex. Hey, if it’s a casual thing then sure, let ’em jump into the sack but don’t try to sell it to me as a world moving melding of souls when they just met last week. Or at least hang a lantern on it, as they say in Hollywood, and have the character comment on how crazy it is to feel this way when they’ve only just met. And then the sex itself…Sometimes I wonder what the author was thinking. One memorable book reached for rather colorful euphemisms for body parts. I don’t think I’ll ever scrub the words “nether lips” out of my head.
Back to my point though, I do enjoy a romantic element in my reading, something more than the “they’re together now” insert. I enjoy when it’s the main plot point of the story (when it’s done right) and often find these reads to be rather more character driven. Although I’ve mostly seen it in Paranormal and Fantasy genres, I’d be willing to take a look at its treatment in Sci-Fi. It’s one of those elements that is the catalyst for so many character choices. Your hero/ine can be going along with one thing in mind for the future and then BLAMO! they meet someone who changes everything. Or maybe it comes on subtly, growing in scope like an approaching meteor until the sky fills with its light.
I think that’s something many readers identify with and why it’s so fun to read about, regardless of if the stage is sword and sorcery or the galactic variety. It can twist a plot in so many ways and deliver a gut punch like no other. It certainly DOES have a place in Science-Fiction. In books. In movies. In games.
So say we all.
What do you think? Sci-Fi Romance: Is it a good mash-up or one that should be relegated to the celestial dustbin?
Also, if anyone knows of a good Sci-Fi Romance, please give me a heads up in the comments. I’d be interested in checking it out.