Friday, June 21, 2013

SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog Hop: Worldbuilding

"Setting" is vital to all fiction, but creating the world in which your characters interact is never more important than in science fiction and, by extension, science fiction romance, where that world must be made up out of the whole cloth of the writer's imagination.  After all, that world doesn't exist (yet, or at all, or hopefully ever) except in the author's mind, and it's up to her to make it real for the reader.

For this year's SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog Hop, two of Spacefreighters' regulars -- RITA-nominated author Sharon Lynn Fisher and Donna S. Frelick, 2012 Golden Heart Double Finalist,  consider "worldbuilding" in science fiction romance.

DONNA:  Well, you'd have to say the way we've done things so far in our novels couldn't be more different, huh, Sharon?  You have that beautifully evocative, eerily ALIVE Ghost Planet, and I have, well, Earth.  Mostly.  At least in my first novel, Unchained Memory, most of the action takes place here and now, with only a few scenes set off-planet to give readers a feel for the trauma my heroine has gone through at the hands of her alien abductors. I did have to invent a means of interstellar travel (through wormholes) and the whole galactic battle between slavers and their staunch (sexy) abolitionist opponents.

In my second novel, Trouble in Mind, more of the book takes place on distant planets in the series universe -- the aliens' home planet, particularly -- and on ships in space.  In order to write that one, I had to think through what kind of universe my Earth existed in -- not only one in which alien slavers took people from Earth regularly to use as they willed, and are opposed by our heroes, but also one in which there exists a colony of returned slaves (Terrene); several other alien races, with their own characteristics and home planets and languages (mostly curse words!); and a whole race of warlike telepathic aliens and their culture that is central to the plot.  Oh, and something about Navajo culture, too.

For the third book, Fools Rush In, I had to add more about ships and space travel, particularly traveling through jump nodes (wormholes) to various places.  That made my brain hurt.

Keeping all this straight is a challenge.  More than once I've though of actually writing a "Bible" for the Interstellar Rescue series universe.  Right now that exists in notes in my computer, on scraps of paper in my inbox and in random thoughts in my sieve of a brain.  Not so good!

SHARON: I think Unchained Memory's world was a great way to start your series, Donna. We've talked a lot on this blog and others about the level of acceptance for science fiction-y elements among the romance reading community. I think sometimes the perception is that our worlds will be too cold and uninviting, with too much tech talk. I think whether intentionally or not, you and I both kept our first-book worldbuilding pretty accessible. Though Ghost Planet is set off-world and has some seriously alien components, the world itself is earth-like and easy to visualize without requiring a ton of description (leaving plenty of room for developing the romance).

My second Tor book, The Ophelia Prophecy, has a near-future Earth setting. It's post-apocalyptic, which readers are familiar with thanks to the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead and the book and movie, The Hunger Games. Thanks to those previous works (and countless others) an author doesn’t have to really spend much time talking about what a post-apoc setting is like. Ophelia does have some fairly fantastical worldbuilding that is driven by science, but should feel familiar due to the fact it was inspired by artist Antonio Gaudi. 

I think it's a balancing act, though. Even if we choose to keep our worldbuilding accessible and force it to share the stage with character and relationship development, it's critical for it to feel rich and believable. 

Did you think at all about accessibility in writing your series, Donna? 

DONNA:  Ooh, Gaudi!  You mean the guy who designed the Barcelona cathedral, right?  That should be interesting!

Yes, I think about accessibility a lot, and if I happen to forget it for a moment, my critique partner, Linda, who is not an SF fan, reminds me pretty quickly!  The original idea of my series was to gradually lure readers new to SF further and further away from what was most familiar to them.  I felt if they liked the little bit of otherworldly stuff I gave them in Unchained Memory, they would be willing to accept the wilder stuff I gave them in Trouble in Mind.   By the time they picked up Fools Rush In, they would be willing to head out into space with me.  

This premise, though, is all founded on the solid foundation of my characters and their stories.  If my readers don't love them and want to follow them, I'm sunk!  All of my books are companion novels, with characters who show up in more than one book.  You can read them in any order, really, but if you like a secondary character in one book, chances are that character will get his or her own book some day.

I agree with you that the post-apocalyptic future is one many readers are familiar with.  Did you have trouble setting a romance in that kind of a bleak world?

SHARON: I think that's a great strategy. Once a reader connects with an author's voice, I think they are likely to follow them anywhere. Or at least that's what we hope! The Ophelia Prophecy also is heavier on the SF elements, with a slower-to-develop romance. But definitely has a big payoff at the end.

And yes, Gaudi is the Sagrada Familia guy. Which leads in nicely to answering your question: I managed the bleakness factor by setting the last two-thirds of the book in a world that is far from bleak. The genetically modified, conquering race has made Granada, Spain, (home of the Alhambra) their capital city. The ancient architecture itself is beautiful, but with the Gaudi-like embellishments the post-biowar city is transformed into something vibrant and whimsical.  

Okay, time for you guys to chime in!  Here are a couple of questions -- answer the one you like best.

  • Favorite type of SFR setting?  (ship in space, distant planet, alternate universe, near-future/Earth, post-apocalyptic)  
  • Favorite world? (SFR preferred, but SF works too!)


Spacefreighters is giving away a copy of Ghost Planet to one commenter -- print, Kindle, or Nook. Folks in the US or Canada have the option of choosing a signed print copy. If you want to be excluded from the drawing for this, please let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Following are the main blog hop prizes:  

1st Prize 

  • $150 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice) 
  • An ebook bundle -- Ghost in the Machine, Bayne, Recast Book 1:Wither, Recast Book 2:Clash, Alien Adoration, Switched, Reckless Rescue, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Keir, Terms & Conditions Apply, The Key, The Plan, Starburst, Marya, The Iron Admiral, Sasha’s Calling, Trouble at the Hotel Baba Ghanoush, Winter in Paradise, Once Upon a Time in Space, the Telomere trilogy, Winter Fusion, Blue Nebula, Demential, Wytchfire, Maven, Fires of Justice, Interface, Girl Under Glass, Breakout
  • Bonus books - Ghost Planet, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and Deception, Games of Command

2nd Prize

  • $50 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice)
3rd Prizes

  • Four $25 Amazon or B&N gift cards (given to separate winners and their choice)

Don't forget, you must leave a comment with your email address AND sign into the Rafflecopter to win the prizes. And to increase your chances, hop along to the other blogs!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's All Happening!

No post and no journal today. Oh, no! Instead, there's three fab events over the next two weeks to tell you about that I don't want you to miss!

1. Gethyon's virtual tour. This has been going on since release day on the 3rd June, and will run until the 30th. I'm giving away a pretty green crystal pendant, available internationally. You can visit any of the following blogs to enter, and learn about the story, the characters, and even some weird facts about me. ;)

Tour Dates and Stops:
3rd June - Gethyon releases
4th June - interview on the To Be Read blog
7th June - character interview (Jinx) at Karen Y Bynum's blog
9th June - spotlight at Wicked Readings
15th June - book spotlight at Diane Burton's blog
16th June - guest post on the Siah-dhu at Maria Hammarblad's blog
17th June - interview at Jaleta Clegg's blog
18th June - guest post on Future Identification at Greta van der Rol's blog
19th June - guest post on Crystal Power at Backward
20th June - guest post on Naming at Sabrina Garie's blog
(21st - 25th SFR Brigade blog hop)
26th June - guest post on Tortured heroes at Cassandra Page's blog
27th June - guest post on Future Fashion at Bella Street's blog
28th June - To Be Read blog Book Spotlight
29th June - spotlight at Jessica E Subject's blog
30th June - guest post on Designing Spaceships at Diane Dooley's blog

2. The SFR Brigade's 2nd Midsummer blog hop is coming! This is running from the 21st to the 25th June (Pacific time), and the prize fund is truly astounding! Look!

1st Prize - $150 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice) and an
ebook bundle (currently Ghost in the Machine, Bayne, Recast Book
1:Wither, Recast Book 2:Clash, Alien Adoration, Switched, Reckless
Rescue, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Keir, Terms & Conditions Apply, The
Key, Marya, The Iron Admiral, The Plan, Starburst, Sasha’s Calling, Trouble at the Hotel
Baba Ghanoush, Winter in Paradise, Once Upon a Time in Space, the
Telomere trilogy, Winter Fusion, Blue Nebula, Demential, Wytchfire,
Maven, Fires of Justice, Interface, Girl under Glass, and Breakout.
Bonus books – Ghost Planet, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy and
Deception, and Games of Command.)

2nd Prize - $50 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice)

3rd Prizes - four $25 Amazon or B&N gift cards (given to separate
winners and their choice)

All the prizes are available internationally, and in addition many of the hosts will be offering individual prizes on their blog. Want to know more? Check out the event via Facebook or Goodreads. On the day of the hop, you can follow along from the main post on the SFR Brigade blog here (although this won't be live until the event starts).

3. The Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology is upcoming! I'm so excited! The nine science fiction romance stories will be a FREE read, releasing very shortly.

So much excitement!


In the meantime, there's a new review site - Zhurrat Reviews - that is focusing on space opera, SFR and fantasy (but strictly NO erotica). They would also like reviews of books in these criteria submitted to include on their site. Email them at zhurratreviews at gmail dot com.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why I Need That HEA

Mission: Success
Laurie's Journal

Continuing the discussion of HEA/HFN vs. tragic endings in SF...

Putting on my reader's cap, I have expectations that stories will end on a good note. I don't want characters I identify with and root for have to suffer through myriad trials and tribulations only to meet a bleak and morbid end.

What's the point? All that for nothing?

Some argue that that's just how life is. I don't agree. Yes, granted, we'll all die someday and it will be a tragedy, but it's how we live that really counts, que no?

For me, stories are about conflict and struggle, both internal and external, and how the characters  overcome, conquer and resolve those struggles in a positive, satisfying, and especially in a surprising (provided it's a happy surprise) way.

As a writer, I have similar thoughts. I don't want to expend my creative energies on a story that's going to come crashing down on the readers head--and heart--like some rock that fell from the sky. I want the characters to soar. I want readers to soar with them. (Right after that final boot off the proverbial cliff, of course. I also like my endings crafted with high drama.)

So, yeah, I like an "All is lost!" that comes with a "But wait..."

But all that said, I think there are exceptions for when a non-HEA/HFN can work, and that's in the case of a series with a much larger story arch. When the story is building toward an epic climax via multiple books, I think there is room in my universe for a tragic conclusion, provided the series itself ends on a happy note.

Think Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Not exactly an upper of a wrap, was it? Han has been encased in carbonite and taken away by bounty hunters. Luke is re-learning how to use a bionic hand after having his own severed in a battle with Darth Vader and learning about his dubious heritage. The rebellion is losing. Things definitely ended on a big downward spike.

Quite a contrast to the medals being awarded at the conclusion of A New Hope or the big celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi. And it works. Because it leaves the reader wanting to know how all of this woe will be overcome, and still giving them a glimmer of hope that they just might still salvage an HEA.

So when the question is posed, Should non-HEA stories be included under the SFR umbrella, my answer is: Sometimes, yes. The next logical question would be: What's the final outcome?

I think Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series has a couple of novels that fall short of the HEA in the overall story arc. Can you think of others? Do you think it's possible to end every book of a series on an HEA/HFN. (Or a HUS--Happy Until Sequel.)

SFR Under Glass?

There's a new SF miniseries coming to CBS titled Under the Dome. The concept is based on a Stephen King SF novel (or possibly a couple of them) and is reportedly set to premier at 10PM (assuming Eastern?) on June 24th.

From Wikipedia, here's the premise:

Set in the near future, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the small town of Chester's Mill, who suddenly find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier that surrounds the town. As the town begins to tear itself apart through panic, a small group of people attempt to maintain peace and order while also trying to uncover the truth behind the barrier and how to escape from it.

I love the concept of Near Future, Earth-based SF that doesn't involve zombies or alien invasions. It's a "What would happen if..." kind of story, that makes people start thinking, "What if this happened to me? My family? My town?"

Curious? Here's a clip:

Judging from the preview scenes, there's a good chance some SFR elements will come into play in the story lines (again--depending on the final outcome). It also looks to offer some strong female characters among the cast. (We can only hope.)

I'm intrigued by the previews and plan to tune in. How about you?

Friday, June 14, 2013


I have a good friend from my STAR TREK convention days who used to believe that Happily Ever After was a myth.  She and I and another friend argued passionately one afternoon over whether HEA might be a stupid concept in reality and in fiction.  Her TREK fanfic was dark and tragic; mine offered at least a Happy For Now for Jim Kirk—something I felt he desperately needed in his emotional desert of a life.

My single friend said there was no such thing as HEA.  I disagreed, having then been married to the love of my life for some 20 years. (It’s 37 now.)  A few years later she met the love of her life in an online TREK chat room.  They’re still married as far as I know.  So there.

All of this is to say that there is a reason the answer the question Pippa posed in her blog earlier this week is “No.  You cannot have a non-HEA romance”.  I’m called to riff on her topic at length, and also to lift some inspiration from a few of her commentors—thank you, Heather Massey and Rachel Leigh Smith—because, as y’all must know by now, this subject is one of my favorites.

By definition, a romance ends in Happily Ever After, or at least Happily For Now.  Romance readers buy it because they expect that ending.  Cheat them of it and you will never get them back.  Because romance is about a certain dream of the human experience, the dream my friend and I were talking about.  Promise someone that dream and then dash it on the rocks of tragedy with no warning?  Wow.  Thank you Nicholas Sparks.

Now, Sparks is hugely successful, but, as Rachel said, he doesn’t write romance. His readers all know what they’re getting when they pick up his books.  Sometimes you just need to retreat to your couch with your cat and a king-size box of tissues, and Sparks fits the bill for some folks. (I like INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, myself.)

Sparks, and, yes, Shakespeare, too, if we are to admit it, fail in the romance category because love really doesn’t change their lovers.  Well, it might, but we’ll never know will we?   BECAUSE THOSE LOVERS ARE DEAD!  At least in Sparks’s case he gets it 50 percent right.  One person goes on, forever altered by that summer on the beach (we presume).  But Romeo and Juliet are young and impulsive when we meet them, and even more young and impulsive when they poison and stab themselves at the end of the play. 

We learn the first rule of fiction early on in our literature classes: the protagonist must grow and change from the beginning of the story to the end.  In the romance arc, love is the agent of this change in the hero and heroine, opening them up, or healing them of old hurts or allowing them to do great things together or allowing them to feel at all.  The resolution of this change is that they can sustain the relationship.  The proof of the growth of their characters is that they stay together over the long haul.  To have them go through this change together and then separate is to destroy all the work they’ve done throughout the story.  It shows they never did the work properly to begin with.

Of course, all this happens right along with the external plot, which may be set in Regency England or contemporary California, but for our purposes is most often set in outer space or on a distant planet or in the future.  In other words, our external plots are science fiction, which are woven along with the romantic arcs.  So is a HEA unrealistic in science fiction? 

Only if you propose that the captain of a starship will suddenly give up the stars because he fell in love and wants to be with that woman forever.  Or that a lone wolf trader loves a pirate captain so much she’ll give up everything for him without a second thought.  Love doesn’t instantly turn your brain to mush and your principles to dust!  If that’s what it does to your characters, no wonder the SF dinosaurs throw up their tiny little paws!

Those seemingly impossible situations are the very essence of romantic conflict.  Romance readers eat, sleep and breathe that stuff!  Yes!  Make it so that starship captain can’t possibly be with the woman he loves and stay with his ship (until you find a way to make it happen).  Great!  That trader flies off forever leaving the pirate captain behind in a black moment to make the ages weep! (Until you find the best resolution ever to their dilemma.)  But you’ve got to make it work, and you’ve got to make it credible.  Given the vast distances of space and the independence of our characters, it ain’t easy.  But, as my martial arts teacher says, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Of course, if you want easy (or at least easier), you can just avoid calling your stuff romance.  Science fiction with romantic elements, okay.  Straight SF, maybe (though the dinos will roar if the kissy stuff involves any kind of emotion).  There really doesn’t seem to be a science fiction counterpart to urban fantasy, where female protagonists and sometime lover/friend sidekicks are common (and accepted).  But your potential audience will be smaller (see my last post), and the going might be rougher than we ever suspected.

For most of us writing SFR, the romance is too big a part of the story to pull back.  For a full romantic arc, a HEA or HFN is the only emotionally satisfying resolution.  Not just because of the rules—which are legitimate whether you’re writing SF (you wouldn’t write that your starships used pixie dust to get across the galaxy, would you?), mysteries (don’t step in the blood!), thrillers (the CIA does some things; the NSA others) or anything else—but because you have to respect your readers.

Lord knows Diana Gabaldon broke some rules with her Outlander series.  It was too long for a romance (which didn’t start until 150 pages in); it was too romantic for a straight historical novel.  She put her hero through prison hell (including rape).  She continued the story over nine volumes.  I’m sure her agent and editor were pulling their hair out.

But Gabaldon created two whole new categories of romance—the time travel romance and the Scottish Highlander romance. And her millions of readers love her. Why?   Because her characters, Jamie and Claire, were changed by love.  They grew together and worked toward that HEA.  Gabaldon never let us think they wouldn’t have it.  And in the end, like many, many actual living, breathing humans, they achieved that dream of love everlasting. 
This is why millions of people read romance.  This is why HEA is important. There’s no reason why characters in science fiction can’t have it, too.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, June 13, 2013

RWA RITA "best first book" finalist chat, with giveaway - TONIGHT

Just a reminder to sign up for tonight's chat with RITA "best first book" finalists! The chat will happen on Shindig, at 8PM EDT (that's 5PM for folks on my side of the map). 

I took the chat platform for a test drive today, and it's easy to use. You can just sit in and listen, or participate by asking questions. Click "raise your hand" to question the author directly (and see yourself on screen), or type in your question to have the moderator ask it for you. 

Here's the list of "best first book" finalists who will attend: 

Kristen Callihan (Firelight)
Sharon Lynn Fisher (Ghost Planet)
Huntley Fitzpatrick (My Life Next Door)
Anna Lee Huber (The Anatomist’s Wife)
Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits)
Simone St. James (The Haunting of Maddy Clare)

One participant will win a full set of finalist books! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is There a Market for non-HEA Romance?

Greta van der Rol asked in the SFR Brigade's Facebook group a while ago about any scifi romances that don't have a HEA. Someone had commented on her post about 'What do romance readers think of science fiction romance?

 "I was telling my coworker the other day Star Wars wasn’t sci-fi! I’m curious about this genre (which I admit I have never read), how do you get around the fact that most romances (that I know of at least) have happy endings, and most (ok, again, stuff I’ve read) sci-fi does not? Which way do you lean? And are you aware of any sci-fi romances out there that lean more sci-fi in a kind of horrific way, like a robot falling in love with a human and accidentally killing them sort of a thing?"

Now, as far as I'm aware, and from what I've seen in publishers submission guidelines, a HFN is the minimum requirement for ANY romance. Is this because that's what all romance readers want? Is there any kind of market for romances without it?

Greta was kind enough to suggest my SFR short Terms & Conditions Apply as a possible for the reader's request. Some people have commented that my HEA is somewhat...unconventional, and some aren't sure it's even a HFN. But on the other hand, I've had comments by readers who disagree and find it perfectly acceptable as a HEA. One of the benefits of self publishing is not having to conform to publishing requirements or expectations, therefore offering something different (although I think spec fic offers that opportunity as standard if we chose to take it) while maybe running the risk of not finding an audience for it. I enjoy the chance to write things that may not find a home with even the more adventurous small press. But is SFR is already niche enough without aiming for an audience that might be miniscule?

Heather Massey posted not long ago about authors not necessarily pushing the boundaries in SFR as far as we could - Should Science Fiction Romance take more Risks? and Could Science Fiction Romance become a Fearless Leader? Perhaps this reader's request is an example of at least one area we should explore. One thing SFR can offer is diversity. But is a non-HEA ending to a romance a step too far? In horror and dystopia, for example, a non-HEA is probably the expected standard.

What do you think? As a reader would you feel cheated if a romance didn't give you at least a HFN? As a writer, does the idea repel you or intrigue you?

Pippa's Journal

Oh. My. Word. What a week! The controversy over SFR and female SF authors appears to be settling down, with everyone saying what they felt they had to say. I've taken a step away from it now because of a.) my ongoing tour for my YA scifi release - Gethyon - and b.) admin for the SFR Brigade blog hop. Gethyon has received two shiny five star reviews, so I can breathe a bit, lol. As for the blog hop...

We now have 41 participants currently signed up, compared to 30 something last year. Our prize fund is also rapidly approaching a massive $300, with a big bundle of ebooks accumulating. As of this afternoon, the Grand Prizes now stand at -

1st Prize - $150 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice) and an ebook bundle (currently Alien Adoration, Dementional, Wytchfire, Ghost Planet, The Iron Admiral, Games of Command, The Key, Once Upon a Time in Space, Winter Fusion, Wither, Clash, Bayne, Maven, Break Out, Ghost in the Machine, Keir and Terms & Conditions Apply)

2nd Prize - $50 Amazon or B&N gift card (winner's choice)

3rd Prizes - three $25 Amazon or B&N gift cards (given to separate winners and their choice)

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. This is going to be a fantastic event!

Ping Pong

@Laurie 'SFR is its own genre.' Hell, yes! Let's stop using that 'sub' prefix (having proved SFR authors and their works are anything BUT submissive, lol). It's no longer the young offspring of SF and R, but has come of age. :P

@Donna - it is tough finding a place when SFR still seems to be a genre not recognised by some publishers. I know when looking for SFR titles on Amazon a while back, the virtual bookshelf was stuffed full of PNR, clearly not SFR. Time to give us our own shelf!

@Sharon - loved the thank you letter to the romance readers. They know a good story when they read it. 

That's it for me! There's only ten more days to the blog hop - I hope you've all marked your calendars! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

No More Jurassic Park

My co-bloggers and fellow writers have already given their eloquent and well-stated opinions on the whole SFWA debacle, and though this may already be fading news, I do have a couple of thoughts to add to the debate.

The bottom line is, no one has the right to tell a writer what we can write.

SF authors from bygone eras need to grapple with the reality that their books and their style of storytelling are not the be-all and do-all for the ages. New writers, new voices, and new ideas are emerging as SF continues to evolve on the crest of forward-thinking writers and SFR gains greater popularity by including human sexuality in the equation.

As a character in Jurassic Park once said, "The dinosaurs have had their day."

I understand there was a "golden age" of SF and the old-timers want desperately to cling to their (so-called) glory days by acting as if the social norms of that era were alive and well in the twenty-teens. Just like the failed attempt to bring back the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park--by cloning them and introducing them into a modern environment--was a disaster, so too has been the attempt to clone the SF Golden Age.

For one thing, we know better now. (Or at least most of us do.)

We've evolved as a species and SF/SFR have evolved as genres. Diversity is alive and well, and we understand future worlds or alternate universes would be greatly influenced by human relations, not devoid of them. And to further counter the claims we upstart writers don't understand the genre, most of us who are writing modern SF/SFR have read the classics. So it's not that we don't understand what "real" SF is, it's that we saw what the classics lacked.

I hope that's become painfully apparent by the enormous backlash from the combined communities to the sexist and dismissive articles, bellowing rebuttals, and the failed attempts by others of their ilk to justify or sympathize with their colleagues' ill-conceived diatribes.

To summarize one such awkward defense blog in paraphrase: "It's just their opinion so they are allowed to make it and it's okay."

Spare me. Everyone is allowed a personal opinion, yes. But force-feeding that opinion and accompanying misogynistic remarks and graphics in an organizational bulletin published for ALL members of the SWFA--a good percentage of which are the targeted group--is not okay. It's rude, offensive and belligerent.

And who in the end gets the blunt of the blame? Why, the female bulletin editor who "allowed" the dinosaurs to run amok, of course. She has resigned.

So let me speak to these prominent SFWA members in language from the decades they understand. It's time to straighten up and fly right. The times, they are a-changin'.


You can find links to the many, many, many to the nth responses including my co-bloggers' former articles:

Of Square Pegs and Round Holes - Donna S. Frelick

I'm a Girl. I Write SF and SFR. And I'm Not Going Away - Pippa Jay

Dear Romance Readers - Sharon Lynn Fisher

Or this summary of blogs and responses by name to thwart the claim of "anonymous attackers" by the Good Ol' Dinosaurs, here:

Round Up of "Anonymous" SFWA Protesters - Jim Hines

Or takes by a few review blogs and authors (in their "so-UnBarbie-like" ways):

This Week in SF - Ann Aguirre (includes uncensored follow-up hate mail received by the author)

Genre Wars: Why is SFR the Outcast? - C. E. Kilgore

SFF Old Guard - Dear Author

Out With the Old (Boys Club), In With the New (Generation of Progressive Genre Fans) - The Galaxy Express/Heather Massey

And if you really want to get a take-on-a-travesty-in-a-nutshell (with a LOL or two) from one new SFWA member, you simply have to read this:

>>>>     SFWA - Housebreaking a Puppy or Abusive Behavior?    <<<<


In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan motion picture, the title character responds to the Enterprise's request for communications by saying: "Let them eat static."

This may be our most effective rebuttal of all. Refusal to engage 'the enemy' in verbal debate (because we aren't going to change their misguided minds, Lord knows) while we quietly action our next strategic move.

Publish. More. Books.

There are hints that the outcome of this controversy may well be an upsurge in sales for SFR and SF with romantic elements. Maybe there is justice in the universe after all.

Readers who might not have been aware of SFR as a genre before may have stumbled happily on its existence through this web-wide outcry, especially with articles heralding--or decrying--SFR as "The Next Big Thing." (And it's pretty cool when even SFR detractors admit it's on the rise in popularity.)

So, my fellow writers, there's no time like the present. It's show, don't tell time. Get your work out there.

Let them eat (SFR) titles!


Jacqueline Lichtenberg recently posted a comment in a discussion about SFR that really got me thinking. In effect, she said SFR is not a "sub" anything, it's its own genre.

I realized she was absolutely right. By tagging SFR as a "subgenre" we've been effectively diminishing its importance.

SFR is its own genre. It's a hybrid of Science Fiction and Romance. It's both. And it's neither. It doesn't clearly fall within the category definition of any one established genre. Therefore, it is its own -- the Science Fiction Romance genre. There is no sub.

Unlike some of the other blogs and sites weighing in on this debate, this blog is OPEN for comments, and we'd love to hear yours.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Ye, gods, where to start?  

By now most of the science fiction world and half of the romance community have weighed in on the controversy generated by comments made by SF writers Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg in a recent issue of the SFWA Bulletin. (See Pippa Jay’s excellent post earlier this week and the list of relevant links.)  This coming on top of Stuart Sharp’s blundering attempt to note the rise of SFR in a post on The Story Hub that sounded more like a scream of “run for the hills!”

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for a couple of weeks (or blissfully enjoying a vacation on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet), the gist of the argument from both of these camps in the swamps of the Mesozoic is: girls are purdy but they don’t know crap about writing science fiction.  They’re messing up our real science fiction with their kissy-face fake science fiction stuff.   Oh, and some lady writers are particularly purdy.  And if you don’t like what I say, you are a liberal fascist (sic).

Some days I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Or grab a phaser and just start blasting. 

Pippa, in her post, asks, with some justification, is it not 2013?  Yes, but as a lifelong feminist and a lifetime member of the NAACP, let me tell you, 2013 is not the 23rd Century envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, where equality rules in the crew of the Enterprise.  And I long ago realized that the science fiction “community” is one of the last bastions of male tradition, along with the military, the police and the hard sciences.  Just because there were women who wrote it, women who read it, even individual women who were successful at it, did not mean that women as a group were accepted into the fold.  And the kind of science fiction that women more generally like to write—with character at the center of the story—lost a hold in science fiction when the market for SF shrank back in the late 1970’s.

So why be surprised that now when science fiction romance is beginning to find some success outside of the traditional SF community—through digital or small presses or even with romance-oriented houses—the old-school guys in SF are squawking?  It’s the same reaction I get when I tell my guy friends who read SF that I write SFR.  The kindest thing they say is, “You lost me at romance.”

Really?  Okay.  Because there are these millions of other readers out there who just might be interested in the romance.  SFR’s dogged pursuit of the miniscule SF market is just a little too reminiscent of a child begging for the attention of an emotionally-unavailable father.  I say we grow up now and seek out a lover who can give us the affection we need. 

In the forty years since SF’s last heyday in the Seventies, romance has gone from a narrow focus on stories involving millionaire bosses, pirates and cowboys, to embrace werewolves, vampires, angels, dukes, hometown boys, Navy SEALS, PI’s, and, yes, even some starship captains and sexy aliens.  It has become a huge industry with the largest readership of any single genre.  According to figures on the RWA website, romance fiction held the largest share of the U.S. consumer market in 2012, with 16.7 percent, generating $1.4 billion in sales. 

By comparison, in 2012, SF/F sales amounted to $590.2 million.  More importantly, its core readers, writers, editors and marketers seem largely to be stuck in a time warp.  And I don’t mean one in which they’re in the future.

That wouldn’t matter so much if writers of SFR weren’t stuck with the dilemma of finding the right market for their books—seeking out agents, selling to the right publishing house, determining covers and marketing strategies, coming up with taglines and pitches and all the rest.  Given the choices outlined above, you would think it would be easy to go where the readers are, but the story should drive the decision and that complicates things.  What if the romance in the book amounts to mere elements?  Then surely that leaves you in the SF camp?  (With the dinosaurs.  Sorry.)  What if the SF is really tech-y, but the romance arc is clear and, well, hot?  Might be a hard sell on the romance side, but no sell at all with the dinos.  **sigh**

My agent asked me a few weeks ago if we should try a few of the SF publishing houses in light of a spate of rejections from the traditional romance houses.  I thought about it, but in the end we agreed to leave the SF houses off the list.  I told her I didn’t think they’d know what to do with me.  Given the controversy that has erupted since then, my instincts were right.  My stories are science fiction romances and, given a chance, I know romance readers will embrace them.  That’s a much larger and more welcoming audience than I would ever have in science fiction.

That decision felt right to me.  Sort of like the day I decided to take the straight SF story I was struggling with and rework it as a science fiction romance.  Unchained Memory works much better as SFR.  And it always feels better to stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Cheers, Donna