Saturday, July 11, 2009

Has SF Missed the Starship with SFR?

A thought struck me the other day, and the title of this article is the question I want to pose. Has the Science Fiction genre missed the starship by scoffing at the Science Fiction Romance niche market?

There seems to be a trend for traditional SF writers to turn their noses up at SFR. Yet the romance market is the strongest of any of the fiction genres, and as millions of traditional romance readers are being introduced to Science Fiction Romance, isn't it logical that those who really take to it are likely to venture into the straight SF market with a just a bit of wooing?

Shouldn't SFR be viewed more as a stargate for a larger (predom-inantly female) reader-ship to discover straight SF, rather than a door to be slammed?

As a SFR fanatic, I often venture the way of straight SF. Along with Susan Grant, Lois McMaster Bujold, Rowena Cherry, Sandra McDonald and Linnea Sinclair, my Leaning Tower of TBR includes John Scalzi, Robert Charles Wilson, and David J. Williams. I read Heinlein, Herbert, Clarke, and Asimov only after first reading McCaffrey.

The economy has tanked and times are tough for the publishing industry. It seems this would be a good opportunity for the SF genre to openly embrace the SFR niche as a way to attract transitioning readers into the greater straight SF universe. Do you agree?


  1. I agree that SFR could serve as a gateway genre to SF, although probably not for all romance readers.

    SF has evolved significantly from its roots and it seems to be more the hardcore fans that aren't invested in the benefits of character-driven, romantic SF stories. I think more SF fans would be willing to give SFR a try than not, if you matched them up with the right books for their tastes.

    And since some SF fans worry that the SF genre is starting to weaken, I think an infusion of romance could definitely help.

    I think another issue is the execution of an SFR. Does one tailor it to the SF crowd or to the romance crowd?

    For example, I've noticed a distinct difference between how an author writes sexual tension when the story is released through an SF imprint than from the kind released through a romance publishing imprint. One is not necessarily better than the other--but the styles differ dramatically in some cases.

    I'll admit that since I come from the SF side, I find some of the romance tropes to be a little strong and repetitive at times. But there have been SF stories with romantic elements that I wish had played up the sexual tension more. I guess there's no pleasing me, lol! ;)

  2. Good points, Heather.

    I have an article coming up Monday called "Nerd is a Four Letter Word" and it's about the stigma our society has that women shouldn't be interested in SF. (Including a very entertaining YouTube that made me jump out of my chair and shout "YES!" when it first aired. LOL) I think as SFR becomes more widely read by females (but not all, as you noted), they may discover they like the possibilities and imagination of the SF setting and could become crossover SFR/SF fans (like I did). This is where I think SF is missing the starship, by turning up their noses at SFR. That's a generality, of course, but it's been my take on the attitude (or how I interpretted the attitude) of many (not all) SF writers or reviewers.

    As far as tailoring more to the SF or Romance crowd, personally I like to see a good blend of both--the twin engines of the story, as it were--but that does result in some marketing and shelving dilemmas. But I suppose that's another topic altogether. LOL


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