Why don’t men like sci-fi and sex?

I know men who like sci-fi and I know men who like sex, but men don’t seem to like sci-fi WITH sex. After writing about the wrinkle-nose reaction to the cover of Stellarnet Prince because “It looks like a chick book,” I’ve discovered that I’m not the only female author to deal with the fallout of mixing the two.

Call it what you like…

“Sci-fi romance”

“Science fiction with romantic elements”

“Not really romance but more science fiction”

“Not a typical romance”

“Soft sci-fi”

“Sociological sci-fi”

“Needs more robots and lasers”

…or “It looks like a chick book.”

But whatever you call it, I’m beginning to feel like the cross-dressing cousin at Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve violated some kind of cultural taboo by combining space ships and aliens with emotional depth and character development. It’s post-cyberpunk with kissing. Ewww… girl cooties.

SF author Diane Dooley mentioned recently that the best-selling science fiction list on Amazon contains very few female authors, suggesting that “SF readers are still girl cootie afraid.” Are men just big 10-year-old boys who don’t want girls in their sci-fi tree house?

I don’t get it. Since when do grown men not like chicks and sex? OK, I can understand if they don’t want to read something that sounds like a teenage girl’s diary. I don’t want to read that, either. I’m waaaaaaay beyond the age where I’m interested in 250 pages of two people going, “Oh, I think I love him/her, but s/he doesn’t love me, does s/he?” ad nauseum until they finally boff magically in a special grove or moonlit beach or on the back of a winged horse over a rainbow or whatever.

But Science Fiction Romance (or SFR for short) and sci-fi w/ romantic elements (like my Stellarnet Series) don’t have to be that way. Some of my favorites are:

Desert Blade by Ella Drake – In a post-apocalyptic world, a guy gets a fucking BLADE for a hand and has gritty sex with a buxom nurse, in between kicking ass. BLADE HAND. BOOBY NURSE SEX. KICKING ASS. What’s not to like?

The Confederacy Treaty series by Lilly Cain – Aliens with all-over body tats that double as erogenous zones, and where blow jobs are a wedding ceremony. Oh, and there’s a whole first contact plot with political intrigue between Earth and aliens. But, really, who wants to read that? MOAR ALIEN SEXXORS PLZ. lol

Twisted Tale and Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell – Witty, quirky steampunk time pirate Stormy Gale and her brother Bacon Frogs are Victorian street urchins rescued by a mad scientist and raised in the present, but go on to have time travel adventures full of gadgets, history, mystery and occasionally SEX. OMFG. (Not with each other, btw, but Stormy hooks up with a loony duke.)

My silly synopses aside, a lot of time, research, plot and character development went into every one of them. Just as Stellarnet Rebel is repeatedly lauded by readers and reviewers for its massive “world-building,” these are all stories about much more than ripped bodices and sweaty pecs. They are NOT filled with pages and pages of snogging punctuated by lengthy internal monologues dripping with emotional angst and insecurity.

They DO have female protagonists and they DO depict intimacy, in various forms and stages, affecting or affected by the events of their plots — no different than Star Trek, Firefly, Babylon 5, Star Wars and lots of other sci-fi going back at least to Forbidden Planet. Which, had it been a novel written from Altaira’s perspective, would have been snubbed as “sci-fi romance” too.

I want to know: Since when are sex and relationships only “chick” pursuits, and since when are they “lesser” in cultural significance or entertainment value than explosions and robots? How can romance possibly taint a science fiction novel, darkening it into some sort of unholy untouchable??!? We know how much porn you’ve stashed on your laptop, so why would a sex scene (or two or three) in the middle of a sci-fi book freak you out?

Romance = More Awesomer as far as I’m concerned. Are women really the only gender to care about love? Or passion? Or boinking aliens? I refuse to believe that.

Guys, I think you’re missing out.

There’s at least one man who has no problem including romance in his sci-fi novels, and who writes love, sex, STEAMPUNK DINOSAURS, sci-fi adventure and character development wonderfully well: Robert Appleton. If you know of any others, feel free to share them.

– J.L. Hilton

This entry was posted in On writing..., Science Fiction, Stellarnet Prince, Stellarnet Rebel, Stellarnet Series. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why don’t men like sci-fi and sex?

  1. Robert Appleton says:

    Thanks for the kind mention, Jen. I wish I could write romantic relationships as well as you and those other authors you mention. I’ve started out *wanting* to write full-on SF romances, but the SF has always pushed itself to the forefront–of those two genres, the SF just interests me more. So I end up with romantic elements, similar to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    “Are men just big 10-year-old boys who don’t want girls in their sci-fi tree house?”

    LOL I think it is a girl cootie thing, on the whole. Even putting romance aside, male readers don’t tend to read female authors. Full stop. In ANY genre. Especially not for SF or action. Sad, but true. And romance bores us when it’s the central focus of the story–at least that’s what we’re conditioned to say. It’s all very superficial. Girl cooties. Maybe if we’d try first instead of dissing first we’d discover that, yes, these women write across the spectrum of SF. They’re not just Mills & Boon in space. They can blow shit up just as well as blokes can.

    Ideally, author names should be withheld from books, as should demographically targeted cover art. You’d soon get both genders writing and reading in all genres, if not equally, then at least with greater curiosity. As for sex in SF, hmm, I think guys would have it by now if they wanted it, but never say never.

  2. Diane Dooley says:

    John Scalzi doesn’t shy away from a little love and romance in his SF. John Scalzi has girl cooties – and he wears them well, lol.

  3. Diane Dooley says:

    “Even putting romance aside, male readers don’t tend to read female authors. Full stop. In ANY genre.”

    Excellent point.

  4. Ella Drake says:

    I love that description of Desert Blade!! Thanks 😀

    As for girl cooties, I haven’t really had a full on discussion with a male reader of SF about that, specifically, but I have discussed sex in SF with my husband. He just doesn’t prefer to read it. He skims over it, no matter who the author. Based on what he’s said and reading others discuss this topic, I think it might come down to how deeply a reader wants to go into emotional aspects of a character and perhaps even patience with elements of scenes that don’t drive an external plot forward. But I don’t know.

  5. J.L. Hilton says:

    Personal preference=good point. I’ve heard complaints from readers (usually women) who don’t like science fiction because they felt it spent too much time describing technology, robots, aliens and battles, with excessive information that didn’t really further the plot — just tech porn. Perhaps (some) men don’t see sex as a vehicle for character development, world building and plot advancement, they just see it as an act devoid of emotion or context. Just as some women may not see how having a blade for a hand in a dystopian wasteland is FUCKING AWESOME. They want an emo hero balldancing in tights or whatever. lol

    Still, as much as men claim to like sex, disliking it in their sci-fi seems odd, to me. That’s like saying you like sausage and beer, but not at the same time.