Let me start where it all began. In my dad’s book collection. Like any good dad, he made sure to build my Nancy Drew collection and when the time came, Jane Austen and the Brontes, but he also gave me hard cover Stephen Kings for birthdays and Christmases when I got to my teens. But most importantly for my future as an author, he gave me full access to his book collection. He was a SFF book club member and his cup runneth over with Asimov, Herbert, Silverburg, Heinlein, and yes, a few female authors like Andre Norton.
My first Harlequin read was from a basket of books my great Aunt kept full of those little pulp books. I was pretty young, maybe 12ish, and I enjoyed it but I didn’t have access to them frequently. So I continued to turn to a King novel, a collection of Asimov shorts, or another re-read of Pride & Prejudice or Wuthering Heights. It wasn’t until college, when I thought I needed something different than the assigned literary canon, that I picked up a novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Shanna was eye-opening to me, and I loved it. From then, I fell in love with the Romance genre.
There you are. My favorite genres Science Fiction and Romance, apparently too far apart to intermingle. For a while, I looked through the SFF aisles for female Fantasy authors, and found Fantasy with Romantic Elements. (A favorite was the Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon). Even though there were some SF books with romantic elements, there weren’t many. And having not really found the futuristic romances of the 90s (I was too busy with college and first job to read much) I kept looking for what I wasn’t finding. I think this is a common experience for many readers who enjoy romance–Looking for as much romance as possible in the SFF section of the book store.
Then as a web programmer with a few gadgets at my disposal and a need to read in the dark with a kiddo in the same room, I discovered ebooks in 2006. I discovered Science Fiction Romance! I felt as if I had finally hit the jackpot. At the time, I read exclusively from small presses. I glommed authors such as Marie Harte, Barbara Karmazin, Michelle Pillow, Mandy Roth, and Leigh Wyndfield. From there, I found other authors such as C.J. Barry, Susan Grant, Eve Kenin (aka Eve Silver), Angela Knight, Kim Knox (one of our very own–first published SFR in 2007 with 7% and Rising from Samhain), Linnea Sinclair, and Kathleen Scott, who I’ve asked to visit us with her take on Science Fiction Romance (April 23rd).
I believe that after the futuristic romances of the 90s, SFR got a big push through the work of those early ebook authors. And those stories tended to be hot. Readers were looking to ebooks to find what they couldn’t find in print. The sexual content of these stories were high, integral to the plot, and enjoyable to me as a reader. They made sense to me. They still do. Since I started reading futuristic, I’ve read everything from erotic romance to lightly sensual. From a sex-based plot, to romantic elements, but I come back to the ones with heat because that’s what I enjoy.
To me, when a hot romance is written skillfully and believably, it draws me in that much more on an emotional level. The physical aspects of the relationship are there to move the commitment forward to an optimistic ending. Frankly, it’s also there for the reader to enjoy. Like all genre fiction, that aspect may not appeal to all readers, but it works for me and it works for many others, as shown by the success of Jane’s Warlord by Angela Knight, Laurann Dohner’s New Species series, Lauren Dane’s Phantom Corps and Federation Chronicles.
This genre gave me a love of reading again and it propelled me to start writing. It also showed a willingness to address taboo subjects, create unique worlds, and frequently featured action focused plots that had me turning the virtual page. Social and technological themes are addressed through the lens of the starring relationship. But an important distinction I have found in the sexuality depicted in erotic/steamy SFR directly contrasts some of what I had found outside the Romance genre in SFF: sex that was disturbing, twisted, or just flatly depressing. I’m glad to have found a more optimistic approach to sexuality in SFR.
No matter where a reader may fall on the SFR spectrum from Romance to hard Scifi, from no steam to full on, they all have one thing in common, an optimism for the future. That is a side of the genre that makes me glad to have found it and I rely on when I pick up SFR.
Ella Drake is a dark paranormal and science fiction romance author. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads. Her Science Fiction Romance, Desert Blade is a near-future post-apocalyptic romance from Carina Press. Currently available SFR: Silver Bound, Jaq’s Harp, Braided Silk & Firestorm on E’Terra. And now from Lyrical Press, MetalMark.