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…
“Science fiction with romantic elements”
“Not really romance but more science fiction”
“Not a typical romance”
“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