THE SCIENCE FICTION LOVE STORY
Does it exist? The Search for a Rare Sub-Genre
I was inspired by Linda Stevens Love in Space post last September where she wrote that some of her “favorite romance series combine romance with science fiction or fantasy. Not all of these novels take place on another planet, but they do borrow science fiction elements, like space travel, or fantasy elements, like the use of magic.” My initial inspiration was nudged along by Atascocita Branch Librarian Beth Krippel, who posts frequently about science fiction and fantasy. She said that she had recently asked the Cataloging & Processing Department to change some new books from the Science Fiction/Fantasy to the Fiction, Romance shelves. She felt that although the books had a futuristic setting they really weren’t Science Fiction but belonged in the Romance Genre.
A few years ago I read some books by authors Susan Grant, Liz Maverick, Kathleen Nance, and Patti O'Shea that I thought might legitimately qualify as both, and I wondered if there were others that would fit the same category. The books were out there somewhere, if I could only track them down. But a few months later I began to feel as though I was trying to spot a Yellow-Headed Blackbird, a Black-Throated Blue Warbler, or an Olive-Sided Flycatcher at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. I began to suspect that my books were rare birds indeed.
Let me go back a step and define my terms starting with Romance Novel. The Romance Writers of America define it this way:
“Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.“
Science Fiction is a lot harder to pin down. There are a multiplicity of definitions. The Science Fiction Computer® has an ample collection of twenty-eight at its site. They range from specific to all encompassing and include the thoughts of prominent writers and publishers in the field. For my purposes I chose the one by author and editor Terry Carr : "Science Fiction is literature about the future, telling stories of the marvels we hope to see--or for our descendants to see--tomorrow, in the next century, or in the limitless duration of time."
There are a number of excellent science fiction titles with powerful romantic engagement between the characters, but which lack the required emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending required to satisfy romance readers. For example:
The Silver Metal Lover / Tanith Lee
When the earth captured an asteroid as a second natural satellite, earthquakes and tidal waves killed millions and causing economic havoc. Decades later, earthquakes are still common and there is a great division between the rich and the poor who are forced by economic necessity to live in the most seismically undesirable locales.
Jane, sixteen, is fortunate because her mother is rich. She’s a world traveler, so she’s often away from home, which for Jane is one of the unfortunate aspects of being rich along with her lack of friends. Jane has six friends, three of whom have fathers as well as mothers. Clovis, a Mirror-Biased, that is, gay young man is her closest friend. As for the rest of them, Jane confesses, “I don’t really like my other five friends.” Egyptia is emotional and demanding. Jane has nothing in common with Davideed. “Chloe is nice, but not very exciting. Jason and Media, who are brother and sister, and have a father too, are untrustworthy.”
So when Egyptia drags her along for emotional support to a theater audition on a beautiful autumn day, Jane is drawn to the beautiful singing of a minstrel, when she gets closer she sees that he’s marvelously handsome with long red hair and pale skin. It’s so pale that it glitters; it seems almost silver. Then the horrible realization comes over her, his skin is metallic, because he’s a robot, a very sophisticated pleasure machine. But Jane is not pleased; she breaks down and sobs.
Also fitting into this category:
- The Gone-Away World / Nick Harkaway
- The Sparrow / Mary Doria Russell
- Stardance / Spider and Jeanne Robinson
Now, here are the elusive titles that I searched for and found. In each of these the science is an integral part of the story as is the romantic tension between the characters.
Primary Inversion / Catherine Asaro
A soldier walks into a bar on a neutral planet, and a cute boy in an enemy uniform tries to pick her up. Is this the start of true love? She doesn’t think so, but it kindles a desperate desire to learn more about him. Her interest is not romantic; it’s strategic. He just doesn’t come across to her as one of the sadistic aristocrats of the Eube Concord, and Sauscony Valdoria, commander of an elite Jagernaut squadron, wants to know why. There’s also a personal reason for her interest in the enemies of the Skolian Imperilate, she’s one of the heir to the empire, and she’s will to put her considerable cybernetic and telepathic military training into finding out more.
What she finds is another powerful telepath that’s more than he appears. It’s love at the first meeting of the minds. Unfortunately it happens after she’s broken in, entered his private quarters after disabling half of his guards and setting the other half off in a frenzied search for her. Also star-crossed for both of them, he’s the heir of the Eubian Empire. Her only love sprung from her only hate, too early seen and known too late.
Primary Inversion is the first installment in physicist Asaro’s series Saga of the Skolian Empire.
When Sparks Fly / by Autumn Dawn
Gem Harrisdaughter has a problem. When her father died he left his inn, “The Spark” to his three daughters. It a success on the thriving mining colony orbiting the gas giant Polaris, but the day her youngest sister Xera announces that she’s going to quit the family business and join the Galactic Explorers someone tries to burn the Spark down. Gem takes a chance and hires one of her customers to help with the inn. Hyna Blue does a pretty good job with the chores, but he shamelessly flirts with his new boss. It’s something that Gem finds annoying, but also a bit intriguing. He is pretty cute. What Gem doesn’t know is that he has another reason to want to hang around the inn, and it has to do with drug smuggling and green-haired shape-shifters.
Full of fast action and ruggedly handsome police officers, fans of Romantic Suspense will also enjoy When Sparks Fly.
Hurricane Moon / by Alexis Glynn Latner
Just before leaving Earth forever, the starship Aeon has a request to take on another passenger. Chief Medical Officer Catharin Gault must approve the addition of Joseph Devreze to the crew. It’s not an easy call. She finds him obnoxious and full of himself, but more than that she’s appalled by his ethics, or rather his lack of them. Here’s a brilliant molecular biologist, a world renowned expert on DNA, with a Nobel Prize who’s made a fortune creating sea dogs, dogs with flippers and gills so they can breathe underwater. As he puts it, “Novel organisms are very profitable. And people pay outrageous sums for cosmetic genetic alterations, such as calico hair.”
Much later Gault is relieved that she approved him for the mission, because the Aeon has been in space centuries beyond the safe limit for its crew to remain in stasis. Their DNA has begun to decay, and the colonists that have finally made it to the new world of Green are in danger of being both the first and the last generation of colonists.