Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview with Heather of The Galaxy Express

Q: I know you’re a big fan of SciFiRom. Tell me a little about your background and why you decided to create The Galaxy Express.

A: Laurie, thanks for your interest in my blog. It’s an honor to be interviewed by a SciFiRom veteran such as you.

I’ve been a fan of SF since age twelve, starting with rare—at the time—anime fare such as GATCHAMAN and UCHUU SENKAN YAMATO, which aired as BATTLE OF THE PLANETS and STAR BLAZERS in the U.S., respectively. Since those shows and others like it stuffed my mind with exotic otherworldly adventures, I moved on to books, hoping to discover more.

I began with “straight” SF and read anything that promised voyages to fantastic realms and dimensions. However, I usually gravitated toward stories with a romance, or at least romantic elements. As time passed, I read more books and watched as many SF/science fiction romance films and television shows as possible. I was a big romantic at heart, and my reading/viewing habits reflected that. Strangely, I didn’t know much about sub-genres or niche markets for a long time, even though I indulged in them frequently.

Now, for whatever reason, SFR wasn’t exactly the hobby my parents had in mind for me. They disapproved, but luckily didn’t confiscate the TV or anything. By then, the stories had taken root in my soul and refused to budge. Even as I went on to college and then graduate school for a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, I still pursued my interest, albeit undercover at times.

I met my husband, we gave birth to a wonderful daughter, and I resigned my job to become a full time mother. Around that period, my interest in science fiction romance reasserted itself. I spent more time online, and started discovering new authors. While acquainting myself with their books and their Web sites, I noticed that science fiction romance was a sub-genre that didn’t seem to have the visibility of other ones, neither in the romance nor SF communities.

How could this be? I thought everyone liked blends of SF and Romance! I asked a couple of authors about creating a one-stop site for science fiction romance, figuring that’d be one way to increase awareness. I learned that such an endeavor would be too much of a time-suck for these authors, who with multiple book contracts were usually under deadline most of the time. Not to mention the cost.

Oddly enough, I had both the time and the resources for such a site, enabling me to launch it with minimal cost. So I decided to create a hub for science fiction romance, one that would serve as a gateway site to a very deserving niche market (what, me biased?). For me, science fiction romance started out as an elusive, and at times, forbidden fruit, and for years I wanted to share this interest with more people than I was able to as a youth. In essence, The Galaxy Express arose because science fiction romance is a habit I just can’t seem to quit—or keep quiet about anymore.


Q: The Galaxy Express blog has been a huge success in both readership and in bringing the SFR community together to promote and educate about the (sub)genre. Can you give your insights on what themes or subjects seem to hold the most interest for the SFR community based on responses?

A: Thanks! My goal is definitely to facilitate such a community.

To answer your question, I’d first like to address what story elements excite SFR readers. They come from both the Romance and SF sides of the fence, and admittedly, the integration of these two genres can be a challenge. However, I believe most fans would agree about the following based on discussions at both The Galaxy Express and other sites:

• Believable yet accessible scientific elements.
• Well-crafted sexual tension. Hot sex scenes are nice but not a requirement.
• Stories that are multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational (i.e., ones that feature parents and their children).
• Well-thought out worldbuilding.
• Sophisticated, engaging characters, especially regarding heroines whose actions should ideally help drive the plot rather than be overshadowed by the hero. SFR readers seem to prefer a relationship that’s also a partnership.

Additionally, SFR readers seek variety in their books (the same goes for TV and film). They also crave more of them—but that’s the Catch-22 of a niche market. Publishers believe that releasing more books is too risky, but readers don’t have the abundance they’d like. Even though SFR readers are voracious, some books will not suit their tastes.

The good news is that there’s more to SFR than meets the eye if a reader is willing to be flexible about her expectations. Some SF publishers release books with a healthy dose of romance. There are also great offerings from small presses and e-publishers. The books are out there…you just have to know where to look.

Still, there’s something to be said for a science fiction romance that mines the romance genre just as heavily as the SF one. The SFRs currently hitting shelves represent a new generation, and it’s these books that readers are supporting with their hard earned cash.

And finally, SFR readers enjoy discussing lots of fun topics, ranging from covers to hero-types, other niche markets, sex in SFR, craft/publishing issues, world-building, favorite characters, you name it! What strikes me about all of these conversations is everyone’s impressive knowledge about the genre—encyclopedic in the case of Jacqueline Lichtenberg!

Q: Besides The Galaxy Express, what other SciFiRom groups, activities or sites are you involved with?

A: The totally rad Lisa Paitz Spindler launched the Shelfari SFR Group, of which I am co-administrator. I also started “The Official Science Fiction Romance Thread” at Tor.com (that’s a party I couldn’t resist crashing!).

I’m also a member of Grasping for the Wind’s “Inside The Blogosphere” feature. Proprietor John Ottinger III presents various questions about SF/F topics, and his roundtable of bloggers puts forth their observations. I’m so impressed with the caliber of everyone involved.

Lastly—and this is a new development, very exciting—I’ve been invited by John DeNardo to participate in one of SFSignal’s Mind Meld features wherein questions are posted to a cross-section of the science fiction community. The topic of my first discussion is “What is your favorite sub-genre of science fiction and/or fantasy?” Hmmm…will have to mull that one over quite a bit…! ;)

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?

A: Yes, Laurie, thank you. I’d like to emphasize that the SFR authors in this community are so personal, accessible, and generous with their time. Not only have I had a 100% response rate regarding interviews, but also they’ve often matched books for the giveaways I do during my special “Author Supernova” feature. I’m grateful for their willingness to participate in my blog promotions from the very beginning.

Additionally, authors such as Rowena Cherry, Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant, Even Kenin, Ann Aguirre, Jordan Summers, Sandra McDonald, and Jess Granger have shown up to comment at both The Galaxy Express and other SFR-friendly sites, including Spacefreighters’ Lounge, The Book Smugglers, Ramblings on Romance, and Enduring Romance. That kind of presence, along with the support of SFR’s avid fans, is the very definition of community.

There’s also a great group of aspiring SFR authors who frequent The Galaxy Express, and they are just awesome. I’m humbled by their participation and support. If you look on the right hand column of my blog under the “Skiffy Rommers” heading, you’ll see a list of their Web sites.

Oh, and here’s a little known fact about me: I dabbled for two years in SFR fan fiction. My stories are still up online. But the location is classified. ;)

Heather, thanks so much for your indepth responses and all the great information you're sharing with "Skiffy Rommers" during our celebration this week. (Pssst, by the way, for anyone who didn't know, Heather coined the "skiffy rommer" tag.) The Galaxy Express has been a fantastic site for bringing Science Fiction Romance fans together to help give us a collective voice.

9 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm outed! Thanks, Laurie, although I like your spelling of skiffy rommer much better :).

    Thanks for the opportunity to wax on about my site and SFR. Speaking of which, I just finished Sandra McDonald's OUTBACK STARS--absolutely fantastic!

    I hope folks enjoy the interview--I had a blast answering the questions.

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  2. At the risk of sounding like Chip and Dale (the cartoon chipmunks, not the male dancers), "No, thank you!" You always have such interesting info and insights to share.

    And, oh yes, THE OUTBACK STARS has taken over as my favorite SciFiRom.

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  3. Awesome job, both of yas!

    For even more SFR, readers can check out the left side of the Galaxy Express for authors going back to, what, the 1930's? This is especially good for readers who can't stomach graphic sex scenes because most SFR published today is Highly Sensual. A few are Sensual. There are no Sweet or Mildly Sensual ones that I know of. There do seem to be more Romantic Science Fiction with less graphic nookie on the shelves today. You won't find them in the Romance Aisle. Do check out Lisa's Shelfari site for recommendations. Lisa's Shelfari books are listed in a variety of categories for those of us who prefer a buffet.

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  4. very interesting. I'm not a sci fi rom addict - yet! I just dabble on the edges and read Laurie's recommendations (ALways spot on and Iliiked the Outback Stars too - well most of it) but I'm always willing to try something news

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  5. Fantastic interview Heather!

    *claps wildly*

    Jess

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  6. Wonderful interview! This is my first trip to the Spacefreighters' Lounge, and I know I'll be back for more :)

    Great job, Laurie and Heather!

    Oh, and I'll have to track down THE OUTBACK STARS now, thanks ;)

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  7. I want that link to the fanfic, Heather.

    Don't make me track it down. You know with my super impressive intergalactic spy skills that I could do it, but I'd rather you gave it up willingly.

    Super interview! What a woman of many talents is our Heather!

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  8. I'm a first-time visitor (here via Dear Author, and I love both the Lounge and Galaxy Express! I'm so happy to have found you both! I love S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series, and read The Outback Stars in one sitting.

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