Monday, February 7, 2011

The Next Frontier for SFR?

I think for SFR to "boldy go" from niche or subgenre to its own category, it needs to first begin to be recognized as such within the romance and paranormal romance communities.  One way to begin is with a dedicate contest.  Many years ago, there was such a contest called the Sapphire Awards for published SFR novels.  It seems if such a contest existed in the past, there would certainly be support for one now.  And maybe for more than just published works.

Recently, several writing contests have been getting closer to the reality of a dedicated SFR contest by offering breakout categories from the "Paranormal Oort Cloud" that includes Science Fiction Romance.  Florida's SpacecoasT Authors of Romance (aka STAR) have split Paranormal into "General Paranormal" (paws, claws, fins and ghosts) and Futuristic/Fantasy.  (It's a start.  Now if they would only split Futuristic entirely from Fantasy it would eliminate the Vampires vs. Vulcans situation.) 

Probably one of the most SFR friendly contests is sponsored by RWA's specialty chapter Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormals.  The On The Far Side Contest has categories for Futuristic (which includes Hard SF/SF and General Futuristic) and Time Travel (including Time Travel/Steampunk and Historical with Paranormal Elements).

With the subgenre up and coming in popularity, maybe a dedicated contest is what SFR needs to showcase "the next generation" of SFR in all its many forms.

How would you envision such a contest?  Maybe we should start with a discussion of the categories.  How would you define the basic "segments" of SFR?  I have a few suggestions to get started: 


Apocalyptic Romance -- The end of the world has already come about and your characters are concerned with surviving the aftermath of a destroyed Earth (or earth/s).

Near Future Romance -- A futuristic romance set sometime within the next five to thirty years that takes place in a world very similar to today's but with technological advancements.  Near Future might involve exploration of our solar system, but not extended space travel.  Many of todays social and environmental concerns might carry forward, or be compounded or somewhat resolved, in this future. 

Science Fiction with Romantic Elements -- A story in which the romantic elements are present and important but the characters focus isn't just achieving a life-long love though it must have a satisfactory ending (ie not a tragedy).  The characters' struggle may have roots in duty, service, politics, intrigue or survival.

Space Opera/Adventure -- Space battles, pirating, command ships, excitement...and love!  Examples: Think Star Wars with a greater focus on Han & Leia's romance.

Time Travel/Steampunk  -- Time travel undertaken through technological means to any era in history, or an alternate universe, with a strong romantic plot.

SFR Erotica -- Any category of SFR when the heat level and explicitness qualifies as erotica.

What are your thoughts? Is this list too specialized? Should some of the categories be combined or do they categories cover the gamet? Have we missed anything major?

Should alien romance have its own category or should the inclusion of alien characters not be a consideration for category division?
Should SFR/Erotica not have it's own category and compete side-by-side with less explicit works?


I think we'd also need a clear-cut definition of what is and isn't SFR.  Here's one proposal.

Science Fiction Romance is a story with a basis in technology (rather than magic or magical abilities such as shapeshifting).  The romance should have equal importance in the plot with the exception of Science Fiction with Romantic Elements category, where the technology, politics or world-building may play a more important role in the story, though the romance and emotionally satisfying conclusion would still be a requirement. 

Generally, vampires, werewolves, fae, elves, demons and angels are not SFR characters, however, genetics or various alien species may have characteristics of some of these fantasy norms, provided they are presented via an acceptable scientific explanation for their existence.


Ideas and discussion are the first step in any new project, but what's next?  Would a dedicated SFR contest be more likely to begin as an offshoot from an existing contest, or evolve independently?  Do you think there's enough support within the SFR community to sponsor a SFR contest?


  1. This is a very interesting post with solid information, Laurie.

    I would like to believe that SFR is strong enough in its own right not to be an off shoot of any other genre (paranormal, etc)

    I think your categories sound right.

    And your explanation of what SFR actually is, that's the way I see it too. The Technology part is key. Aliens can and should have 'alien' qualities if need be, but should fit within the storyline and plot, character, planet, tech aspects etc. Just so it isn't a paranormal hiding as a SFR! I've seen that way too much lately.
    (Example: Vamps in space, or something like it but with not much technology or science research, worldbuilding, etc. involved.) Yes, I'm pretty much of a tech girl when it comes to my SF and SFR!

    Anyway, I really do think SFR needs to have its own category and sub categories for sure.

    You should cross-post this on the brigade.

  2. I think one category we might be missing is the one I write in. The only term I've run across for it is "mundane" SF/R, in which, new technologies or "outside influences", eg. aliens, beings from another dimension, etc. interact with humans on Earth in this time. War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, virtually any "mad scientist" story, Alexis Morgan's Paladin series, Deidre Knight's "Parallel" series, my own Unchained Memory would fit. Definitely needs a sexier name, though!

    I agree we need to have some separate identity from the paranormals and maybe the contest circuit is a place to start building that awareness. I'm reminded of the contest judge (a famous NY editor) who loved my book, but suggested that I get rid of the alien angle, replacing them with some Earth-based paranormals instead because that would be easier to sell! Sure, I'll get right on that.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Kaye. I may crosspost that on the Brigade blog at some point. Good idea.

    Donna, I wonder if we could call such a category Alien Abduction, or something similar. I think Barbara Elsborg's LUCY IN THE SKY and Susan Grant's CONTACT, just to mention a couple, would fall into that category too. Good point.

  4. I might put Lucy in the erotica category (>g<), but certainly any of Susan's early stuff fits with the one I'm talking about. "Alien abduction" is too narrow, though. How about "The Future is Now"? That covers A/A and UFO's, incursions from another dimension, friendly visitors, out-of-control technology (almost)getting the better of us and miscellaneous manmade disasters short of apocalypse.

  5. Yes, the Future is Now is a good category description.

    I wonder if Erotica should really have a separate category or fall into one of by the various category types.


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