Now that both Laurie and Greta have chimed in, I might as well add my two cents’ worth on the subject of recent trends in science fiction romance and how I fit in. No surprise, really, but I’m still surfing along on the outside curl of whatever market wave may be building for SFR. If that genre wave ever reaches towering proportions, I may get a decent lift and a fun ride, but I doubt I’ll see the inside of that monster “tube,” if it comes.
I fell in love with SF back in the day of rockets and robots, but I was drawn to the eerie twists of Twilight Zone just as much as the unbounded space adventures of Star Trek. So it follows that my work reflects those twin fascinations. My head is in the stars, but my feet are solidly on Earth. It’s not the Earth that everyone sees, however. Things in my Interstellar Rescue series universe are just a little . . . different.
I have written the occasional space opera (all my early Trek fan fiction and my SFR Galaxy Award-winning Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3.) But most of what I do I call contemporary science fiction romance, because it takes place here and now. A lot of the action (though not all of it) takes place on Earth in the present day. Many, though not all, of the characters are human. In Unchained Memory, the first novel in the series, the true villains, the alien Grays, remain unseen for the entire book! Yet their actions have a profound impact on the heroine and her hero. It is, after all, a story of alien abduction, interstellar slavery, mind control, and, ultimately, the fight to overcome all those evils.
Contemporary SFR has a lot in common with its better-known counterpart, contemporary romance, since it has a familiar setting and timeframe. It also shares elements with romantic suspense, since the lovers must solve a mystery at the heart of every novel in order to reach their happily ever after. But, unlike shorter contemporary romance novels, my Interstellar Rescue books tend to be complex, with multiple subplots and points of view. I often take the reader off-planet with these subplots, exploring alien cultures or characters, or the villain’s POV, to give the books depth.
Then there's the heat level. I tend to write a little sexier than the average contemporary romance or romantic suspense. Heck, I write sexier than the average SFR, too, unless you count SFR erotica. My books have a well-defined romantic arc; my lovers deserve a well-defined love life.
Recently another term has arisen to describe the kind of thing I do with my Earth-bound stories: cozy SFR. Author and long-time SFR booster Jacqueline Lichtenberg wrote an illuminating pair of articles last year on the subject, framing the concept using the characteristics of the “cozy mystery” for comparison. Lichtenberg argues that in these mysteries, the protagonist’s world is “cozy” (that is, comfortable, predictable, safe) to begin with, but is turned upside down by some event at the beginning of the novel which precipitates the action (eg. a murder in a small town). The protagonist (or the hero and heroine in the case of a romance) must act then to put the world straight/safe again (solve the murder, win the day).
|Bilbo's cozy life is about to be disrupted!|
It’s no stretch to apply this to SFR or fantasy. A precipitating event must always set the quest in motion (Gandalf arrives at the door of Bilbo’s cozy hobbit hole). In the case of Unchained Memory, my heroine Asia wakes up on a lonely country road, missing three hours. At home, a fire has taken the lives of her children. Her quest to find out what happened leads her to discover her world is not what she thought it was.
The idea that the world is not what we thought it was is central to the “cozy” novel, according to Lichtenberg. It’s also central to my Interstellar Rescue series. The setting may be familiar, but each of my heroines suddenly finds her worldview is transformed by what she learns throughout the novel. Nothing will ever seem the same.
This excerpt from my latest novel gives you an idea of what that might feel like:
Charlie stared into her mug, studied the greenish ring in the bottom that was all that was left of her third cup of tea? Her fourth? She’d lost track. Her mind was reeling, her body buzzing with caffeine, adrenalin and lack of sleep. She was working hard to comprehend the information she’d been given over the last hour or so, trying to reconstruct her world according to a whole new design, fighting to make her altered reality seem, well, real.
But she was failing miserably. To believe the galaxy was filled with inhabited planets. Beings moved easily among the stars through a system of wormhole-like “jump nodes” that had been discovered and mapped long ago. Bad guys—aliens—called “Grays” stole people, including humans from Earth, and used them as slaves. Good guys called “the Interstellar Council for Abolition and Rescue” fought the aliens, and sometimes returned the slaves to Earth.
And most devastating of all: the man she had just slept with was one of those Rescue agents, a fact he’d hidden from her despite their intimacy. She’d known as soon as the assassin had come through the door that she’d lose Rafe; she knew now she’d never had him in the first place.
Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4, is available for pre-order NOW on Amazon.