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.


  1. Is SFR its own genre?
    Does it have enough readers on its own to be a viable marketing category?
    Ann Maxwell (aka Elizabeth Lowell) left the category, after at least eight books (including A Dead God Dancing, Shadow of a Name, The Jaws of Menx, Fire Dancer, Dancer's Illusion, Timeshadow Rider, and at least two books which i can't accurately remember the names of at the moment. Fire Dancer was the first book of an unfinished series which three books exist in. Timeshadow Ridber, published by Tor nearly 30 years ago now, was the last SFR I'm aware of by the author).

    Jayne Ann Krentz' career was nearly sunk before it got going with her SFR... and I think it's notable that of the three books she is doing each year, the Jayne Ann Castle set on Harmony, is a paperback original, as opposed to the Amanda Quick historical and the Jayne Ann Krentz contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal powers, being hardcovers.

    Sherrilyn Kenyon's League series got reprinted and new books being written in it, however, that's only after her other books were big bestsellers. (I wish that a science fiction editor rather than a romance editor were editing the books, though, because some of the social structure bases felt flat/frayed severely my willing suspension of disbelief.)

    Some writers have said that they wrote SFR in the 1990s with the (romance) editors massively gutted the SF worldbuilding out of, published instead as futuristic romances. The results were books which at best tended to disappoint SF readers; at worst, it effected the perspective and perception that SFR/RSF was Horrible Crap full of purple prose overheated romance tropes and foci and with minimal/bad worldbuilding. Overcoming those entrenched prejudices/perceptions/perspectives is difficult.

    There are several writers who were writing SFR, and aren't now, because the publishers were disappointed with the sales--that's one of the reasons for my question about viability as a standalone market. Readers who apparently failed to notice that even the dolphins paired up... in Startide Rising by David Brin, often refuse to even looking at a book tagged "romance" which might be SFR or RSF, and then there are those yutzes who see a female-sounding author name and won't even consider picking up the book....

    The oddities of the current status include that explicit sex science fiction aimed mostly at women published by especially epublishers is much easier to find and there is a lot more of it, than it is to find science fiction (narrow definition) in bookstores--most of what Ace, Tor, DAW, Roc, Pyr, Nightshade, Orbit, etc., are publishing is urban fantasy and fantasy these days.

  2. Hi PaulaL. Thanks for your comments.

    I think the definition of what the SFR genre is isn't defined by the number of readers it has. (But that's from a writer's POV, of course. :)

    You most likely hit the nail on the head why NY is still reluctant to buy SFR manuscripts, though from some of the recent news, that may be changing. There's also an active SFR community working to get the word out.

    Your thoughts on the history of SFR are much like mine. I don't want a romance in a SF-ish setting, I want it to be true SF with romance.

    Our co-blogger, Sharon Lynn Fisher, recently published her debut SFR, Ghost Planet, with Tor, and is well underway with her second novel. Sharon's novel is also a 2013 RITA nominee on the Romance side of the house, so Tor does publish true SFR. It just has to be an exceptional work. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by Spacefreighters Lounge. :)

  3. I love The League. I devoured it all in three weeks, just a couple months ago. I'm now devouring Dark-Hunter. She writes the type of heroes I love best and her voice is right up my alley. I got so sucked in the world-building and culture issues didn't register. I read the newest, and longest one to date at 614 pages, in three days.

    Are we ready to be a standalone category in a brick-and-mortar bookstore? No. Should we think of ourselves that way? Absolutely! If we don't take what we do seriously, neither will anyone else.

  4. @Paulal--The history of futuristic romance is very different from the history of science fiction romance. And it's true that futuristic romance has had a rough go of it, both critically and with audiences. Krentz herself will admit that.

    I believe that the audiences that loved the threads of SFR to be found in old-school SF, most of which thrived no later than the '90's, have flocked to the new school of SFR which exists alongside SF erotica in (primarily)digital publishing (what I laughingly call "alien sandwich" books). That new school of SFR is much more sophisticated in both worldbuilding AND romance and set to attract a much wider audience of readers among open-minded folks. As Laurie says, the times they are a-changin'. Old models no longer apply.

  5. Let them eat titles! To be honest, I don't think any of the old models can stand. Publishing is in a massive state of flux right now anyway. Let's ride the wave!

  6. The current flux has good points and bad points:
    o There are no focal nexuses for getting consistent, trustworthy, comprehensive, disinterested information about books/stories.
    o There is more stuff available than anyone can get information for, much less read
    o Print SF/F Locus magazine's quarterly Forthcoming Books lists gets most of; ebooks, the situation is worse than a bad joke. Locus does reviews of some books. The reviewers tend to be consistent in their reviews and explain why they liked the books (Locus' long-term policy was to publish almost exclusively favorable reviews. The founder had his foibles, including not publishing reviews of books by people he had grudges against no matter how prominent, but the founder's gone and Locus' ownership now is a 501c3 corporation.) There are people I've known who essentially used Locus reviews as calibration--they knew where their tastes and the various Locus reviews coincided and were not coincident, and in such degrees that "If X likes a boo for certain things, I am not going to like it, and if Y was disappointed about certain things, I probably will like the book."
    o RT magazine has -some- listings for what's forthcoming, and had reviews. It's far from comprehensive, however, in what it reviews or lists.
    o Publishers' websites get counterproductive as regards "I want to find out quickly and efficiently what it available; what is coming out; a short description of the content; where I can buy it; and navigation which lets me keep track of whether something looks interesting or NOT, if it relates to other work and what the order if any is; not having to go clickety-clickety-click from the same "first page" full of a rectilinear array of Cover Art which tells me NOTHING useful about the book as regards content other than "probably will have a sex scene involving the character(s) on the cover" everytime I do something like try to get more information about a specific story... when there are hundreds of SF/F-related titles from a publisher, I get extremely ticked off about the waste of MY time and attention due to lack of usable indexing tools such as tabular display of title, author, genre, capsule describe, pub date, series it's in if any, and ordering choosable by name of author, title without leading artcle, and publication date--and ability to jump directly down or up the tabular list so I don;t miss or having to go click-click-click through damnably slow-loading and computer memory-hogging pages after pages... I also want to have the lists of books that I would like to mark as interesting or NOT interesting, showing at the same time as tabular lists of books....

  7. Basically, convenient, usable "tools" /aids, concise listings, and efficient ways to both find and sort through the avalanche and mountain ranges of "content" to find what interests -me- and screen out what doesn't, and get useful information for available and content and ordering, don't exist.

    There are tens of millions of blogs and websites and single author forums the signal to noise ratio is utterly appalling--there's signal in there, but the noise level drowns it out, and trying to get through the thicket full of thorny moving-around vegetation which makes the growth rate of kudzu look slow looking for something tasty and trying to pick the tasty fruit, while the vegetation is MOVING and more things keep sprouting up and growing in the way... it's a wonder anyone is buying anythig. Faced with too many choices, even if they aren't overly inconvenient for shopping for, people tend to decide to not bother, it's too much effort and overhead....

    o There is lots of stuff out there, including stuff tasty to people, the problems are finding out, accessing it, buying it... the levels of diffusion and dilution and the lack of efficient consistent tools mean that even more than when Ben Bova said, "Doubleday exists to bury books"--when a lot fewer works were being publishes and publishers did a lot more promotion generally in forums such as newspapers where there was a lot larger concentrated audience--things get published and the public doesn't get informed...

    The avalanche of blogs and online email groups and online chat forums and websites makes the situation worse--there is a limit to how many blogs, etc. and email anyone can read. The more promotional forums there are, the fewer people on the average each forum can be effectively visited by... and even if someone finds out about a new forum run by an old friend talking about things the person's interested in, either the person has to drop something the person is -already- doing to participate, or has to forgo participating....

    There is such as thing as "too much communication" -- the recent reminders (US Government disrespect of electronic communications privacy has been going on for years...) that even capturing -all- communications, does not mean competent "filtering" and analysis. It's a nasty lesson, that having tools determine what's out there which are most worth paying attention to and paying selective attention, generally yield better results and tick people off a lot less.

    (People get annoyed when they find out information -late-... "I would have nominated that for an award if I had known about it so I could read it the year it came out!")

  8. SFR's been around a long time--Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton wrote it, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote it, A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull wrote it....

    Romance as the plot in having two (or more...) characters bonding emotionally into a unit with eros as a major part of the HEA/HFN love relationship*, except in a short story, tends to not provide enough plot or content to support a story structure for most readers. That leads to there being other plots going on at the same time. Futuristics very much tend to have additional large plots of one or more of such thigs as the romantic leads are deposed or "lost" princes/kings/queens/princesses or are otherwise involved in current-monarch/rulers-is/are-running-horribly-tyrannies-which-need-overthrowing or a protagonist is a pirate and captures anther protagonist.

    The long-ago SFR plots often involved exploration rather than relatives of "Darklords" (See Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland)as drivers of the non-romance action and sequences of events. (For that matter the original Star Trek show, which involved lots of did-not-end-happily romances and a few which did but which the romantic leads were therefore not the continuing characters, the driving plot/themes of the show was "explore strange new planets, seek out new civilization, bold go where no [one] has gone before!"

    Generally as a reader I'm getting/have gotten really tired of Bad People Doing Bad Things as effectors of Story. I'd like to see some return to old-fashioned "driver of this story is people out to -achieve- new things, explore new places" etc. rather than the Horrible Dire Situation under Attack or Occupation by Vampires/Zombies/Demons/Cyborgs out to either exterminate or enslave all.

    Getting back to SFR, though--I think there are spectra, with SFR and RSF areas on a multispectral literary map. There are overlaps with pirate stories, war stories, lost royalty and lost nobility stories, revolution against government stories, historical fiction stories, alternate universe stories, exploration stories, murder mystery, coming of age stories... Some SFR and RSF belong to ongoing sagas which include stories and books which don't have a romance focus--Komarr, and A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Vorkosigan meets and romances the woman destined to be his Lady Vorkosigan, after a series of multiple books and stories in which Miles search keeps getting frustrated by rejection on the part of the objects of his affection, or in one story, tragedy. Shards of Honor, the first book by the author, is very much SFR and works both as SF and as a romance of two emotionally wary characters (Miles is their son... his issues are not his parents')

  9. @Paula--I agree with you (I think) about the overload of information. I'm not as optimistic about the digital age as it applies to publishing as some of my colleagues for some of the reasons you mention. It's just too freakin' hard to find the good stuff while you're being bombarded with crap.

    As for your comments on the romantic arc being too slim to carry the story--it's not meant to (unless we're talking a category romance a la Harlequin). It's meant to be one part of a two-part deal--romantic arc + external arc--or a four-part deal if you really want to get technical --hero, heroine, romance, external plot. Without those things, you just have romantic elements--sex, or sexual interest, or a sub plot that has no resolution.

  10. Not all people-become-mates involve a heterosexual couple... there is a lot of m/m space opera from publishers such as e.g. Dreamspinner Press, there are menages, etc. Five-Tweflths of Heaven by Melissa Scott (her first book) involved Silence Leigh marrying an m/m couple relatively early on in the book as a marriage of convenience to allow all three legal presence status, provide the m/m couple with a second pilot, and block Silence's uncle's plans for Silence. The marriage mutated from one of convenience, to a true menage partnership.


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