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We Want More.......
Tales from Beyond!!!!!!!

We querried the listers and here is what they had to say!
December 2000 Issu

PNR Q.: Sometimes there is a fine line between what would be considered science fiction, futuristic, or fantasy. How do you make the distinction?

Gil: Yes. Science fiction usually has more science than futuristics. As lifelong sf reader, I got turned off to futuristics back in the mid 80s by a couple of books I've heard some people praise loudly. They had nothing to do with science or the future. What they were, were medieval romances with minor changes. I quit reading them. Now that I know there are people out there writing science fiction romances, I'll likely try them again. Occasionally it is hard to categorize books--the Pern series has a very
strong romantic element, and that is as important to the story as whether or not Lessa will go back in time .

Despite Arthur C. Clarke's comment that the science so advanced that we can't understand it, it will look like magic--I think there's a difference between sf and fantasy. Fantasy uses magic--which has its own internal logic (I prefer mine based on something akin to a magical system we're familiar with).

Marilynn B: Many readers use futuristic as a catchall term for all non-reality
(i.e. not contemporary and historical romances). I consider a futuristic a
romance with some sf elements, but it is essentially a historical novel set in
the future or near future. The ship captain is more a pirate, etc.

The sf romance has more sf elements and can't be translated into a historical. My STAR-CROSSED, for example, is a sf romance because no society in Earth history is even remotely like Arden with the women in control and the men as sex slaves. It certainly isn't a true matriarchy. The story can't exist without that society either.

A fantasy is based on a magical logic system rather than a scientific one.
The rules of the world and the novel are different, but there are rules.
There is also a shift from the novel being about an idea (SF) to being about
an ideal (fantasy). My TIME AFTER TIME which is often classified as a
reincarnation romance is a fantasy rather than sf because reincarnation
is part of a magical logic system, not a scientific one. The ideal is the
concept of the soul mate which each character seeks to find.

Nancy C: In my opinion, sci-fi is based on some scientifically plausible scenario. Space opera, on the other hand, is pure adventure with StarTrek/Star Wars overtones.

Both of these deal often with galactic or global disasters/politics /whatever. Multiple viewpoints and complex plots are welcome. On the other hand, futuristics are romance novels with the focus mainly on hero/heroineviewpoints. Sci-fi elements must remain in the background. Fantasy involves magic, swords & sorcery, and anything in the realm of the supernatural. This is how I define them.

Jane T: I disagree about a fine line between sf/f and futuristic. Futuristic
are always romances and sometimes the worlds they depict are not realistic in terms of world-making, so they're not s/f at all. S/F can have a
strong romantic component (re Catherine Asaro's books), but not necessarily, and these stories are more scientific than any futuristic. Fantasy uses magic or other paranormal resources, rather than having a scientific basis. Most often fantasy has a romance within the story.

Lisa: For me sci-fi creates new worlds, new concepts of societies and explores more the possibility what if? I find that futuristics, even in their best incarnation are basically genre books with a few elements of the future thrown in. Fantasy seems to create a set of parameters (for example the Golden Key by Melanie Rawn and two other authors) and sets the story
created to these rules.

Leslie: I must admit to being new to the futuristics and sci-fi reading (though I'm finding I like it). I don't think futuristics or fantasies necessarily have to have great scientific detail, but naturally science fiction does to make the world realistic. I do tend to think of science-fiction as taking place in the future, but I am beginning to realize that isn't necessarily so either as another world could exist in our time and be much more scientifically advanced. Fantasy I think is the most open-ended. You can have fantasy in any time or place, the beings can take any form. But the story still has to make sense, there have to be some rules.

PNR Q.: Do you prefer futuristic worlds to be scientifically advanced, or more medieval, for instance as a result of an apocalyptic disaster? What makes these stories work for you? What makes them not work?

Gil: The medieval world bit seems like such a cop-out much of the time. I get the feeling that the author didn't want to bother doing the research on our middle ages, wanted to be able to make it up so took 12th century England and gave it a new name.. id it is after an apocalypse, I should see changes. It shouldn't just recreate our world with cosmetic changes. If it's more advanced I want to see real science, not just pseudo science. J.D. Robb does a good job there.

Marilynn B: I'm not a big fan of apocalyptic novels because they are so darn
depressing. The characters are obsessed with simple survival in a gritty
environment, and the mythic elements of quest and rebirth are rarely present. The medieval futuristics are really just fantasy novels disguised as sf. Rare exceptions like the Pern novels exist, but they are successful because only the slightest element of sf is used. Another true mixture of the sf novel and the fantasy novel is the space opera also known as the space adventure. These tend to be Westerns or grand adventures set in space.

Nancy C: I like technologically advanced worlds. If I want to read a historicalsetting, I'll read historical romance, although I have enjoyed manyfuturistics with these types of backgrounds. What really turns me on
are spaceships, interstellar travel, political intrigue, and a main
character whose personal life pulls me into the story. I love Miles
Vorkosigan and lap up Honor Harrington stories. S.L.Viehl's Stardoc and
Beyond Varallan are other favorites.

Jane T: Since I don't read futuristics, I can't comment here.

Lisa: This depends on the writing. Its a little harder to create an entirely
new world. In Marion Z. Bradley's Darkover Series, she does create a world
that becomes a more medieval society due to disaster but it works. From
there, she created an entirely new world never imagined on earth. When space travelers come from earth, they are the aliens. We have joined Darkovan society. When LE Modesitt wrote THE GHOST OF THE REVELATOR, a world in which Germany won WWII and ghosts are a real feature of society, we more reluctantly accept the premise so as to understand the story. On the other hand, Piers Anthony's series do not always work, they get very long and complex and there doesn't seem to be a reason why they go in a particular direction. I am referring to the Xanth series.

Leslie: Hm, well I really don't have a problem with either scenario as long as it is written well. Once the world is defined by rules, I want the author to stick with it.

Now if the author chooses to write a medieval type post-apocalyptic futuristic, it needs to written in such a way that I understand why the author chose to make the plot futuristic rather than historical. Naturally after a holocaust, people have to start from scratch, but it also opens the door to creativity. How can they start over in a way that does not mirror the past. I think this can present and even greater challenge, than one which features and advance culture where anything goes, because the author has to be creative within limitations.

What I really like are the contemporary fantasies like those written by Ann Lawrence and Susan Grant which brings contemporary Earth beings in contact with totally different cultures in the here and now. I think the possibility is fascinating that a world either far more scientifically advanced, or a medieval variety steeped in mysticism and magic, could coexist with our world right now. That facing it could be right around the bend, tomorrow. It makes me feel like I'm witnessing it first hand. Let's face it I'm not going to be around in the 25th century and I want to be part of the fun! Why do people love Close Encounters, ET, or even Men In Black? Because it presents us with a challenge in which we have to think on our feet and deal with the situation. Add romance and you have perfection, I cry everytime I watch Starman.

PNR Q.: With historicals some critics complain that the novels do not contain enough description to give the reader a flavor of the era, others find the books too difficult to read if foreign language is injected, or there is too, much description. Do you relate better to the characters if they have commonality with ourselves, ie. do you want to know about the food, the pets, the homes, the scenery?

Gil: I want the writer to get the details, they do use, right. No potato soup in the 12th century, and no hoopskirts either. Susan Johnson does this marvelously, as does Roberta Gellis (who has an M.A. in medieval history) and Susan Wiggs. Granted, I've been in the Society for Creative Anachronism for 25 years, but it isn't that hard to read a couple of books on social life and customs to get the general feel of the period.

I love descriptions of clothing for important scenes, ditto food and furniture.

Marilynn B: I want just enough information to be there, but not so much that the story slows down, or the details get annoying. In a futuristic or sf
romance, for example, an occasional unusual object or name for object can be used, but only often enough so the reader remembers it and senses the alien nature. Krentz/Castle's flower-named futuristic series drew complaints from many readers because every common name was a mixture of today's words, and that got old really fast.

Nancy C: If it's a futuristic world, I want to know these details. That's part
Of the fascination--the world created by the writer. Description can be
eased into scenes with dialogue and action so it doesn't slow the pace.

Jane T: If set during any historical period, I want a story to reflect what
Is happening outside the romance. In other words, I need the historical
happenings as well as the more intimate details of the culture of the
period. Though the romance is essential, I don't enjoy a historical if
it's centers solely on the romance and will stop reading that author.

Lisa: I want to know some, but not all in excruciating detail. I don't mind
foreign language but like at least a footnote to translate what I don't
understand. I am not fussy about correctness but I like enough detail to put me there.

Leslie: I think a certain amount of detail is necessary to get your mind into the setting of the story. What makes this story futuristic? Again the author needs to stick to the world that they set up. . Does the Wookie drink coffee and eat ham sandwiches? You tell me. If your you throw in exotic names for everything from the flooring to the small furry animal sitting on it, and your hero's just returned from hunting wereleopards, don't start talking ham on rye with mustard in the next breath, and don't go overboard either, too many strange words are difficult to keep track of pull one out of the story.

Besides being accurate, the details should define the mood of the piece. For instance in a historical romance, it adds to the aura of romance to go into detail about the rich fabrics of the clothing, jewels, and carriages, but nobody wants to be made aware of the fact that the stench in London could knock a person over!

Too many similarities can throw me out of a story as well, a cat by any other name is still a cat, so if you're not on Earth, come up with a different kind of critter. Pets don't have to be familiar looking, just evoke the familiar emotions from the owner. I suppose the challenge lies with striking just the right balance.

PNR Q.: Do you prefer these stories to take place completely within imaginary worlds or do you like some interaction with Earth inhabitants?

Gil: Depends on what story they are telling! Either can be fun.

Marilynn B: I enjoy both if done well.

Nancy C: Either one is fine. One of my favorite fantasies is the naive Earthling taken into space who is awakened to other sentient beings and technology beyond her/his dreams, as in my own book, CIRCLE OF LIGHT.

Jane T: Either is fine with me.

Lisa: Both, depends on what the author is trying to do.

Leslie: In most stories the hero/heroine, if not everyone else, are generally humanlike enough that they are no doubt synonymous with Earthlings in our minds no matter what part of the universe the story is set within. Of course it's nice to imagine a future Earth, and I do think that if you include Earthlings in a futuristic it should be because they stand for something. For instance in The Alliance by Patricia Waddell, the Earthlings were considered rather undesirable/impulsive aliens who were tolerated but not respected. Through her writing she conveyed the best attributes of our people, and the heroine won the respect that was her due. In this way it makes the reader feel good about who we are. But a book can be compelling and not include interaction with Earth. Catherine Spangler's two Shielder books are set in a fictitious quadrant but the issues are human enough, greed, prejudice, abuse, self doubt, resilience, resourcefulness, strength, and the empowerment of love. I think any good story really only needs to have something for the reader to relate to and root for.

PNR Q.: How readily would you accept non-humanoids as main characters? How about humanoids with different characteristics, i.e. unusual skin, eye color, etc.?

Gil: Fine with me. Of course I had a terrible crush on Max, the blue-haired pilot from Robotech! I think if you get too non-human looking--reptilian, for instance--you risk sex becoming um,..bestiality? Or a bit too kinky?

Marilynn B: I can accept alien characters as main characters, but I think most readers soon begin to see these characters as humans or some Earth equivalent animal as they read. Hal Clement wrote a novel about a heavy gravity planet, and one of the main characters was a being from that world who was long and flat. I always saw him in my mind as a talking caterpillar to make sense of him.

I deliberately made Mara's alien sidekick very catlike because I wanted
readers to think warm and fuzzy whenever Floppy was around, but I also
gave him intelligence equal to a human's which is what we fantasize our pets to be like.

If you make a hero or heroine too alien or animal-like, you run the
risk of giving a sense of bestiality to love scenes. A werewolf novel I've
read had this problem because I kept seeing the heroine having sex with Rin Tin Tin. <Shudder>

Nancy C: I like my main characters to be humanoid, although features can varysuch as you mentioned. My protagonists all have special powers.
Secondary characters can be alien.

Jane T: I love humanoids as main characters and I really don't expect them to look human.

Lisa: I would accept them very readily. Julie Czerdzna(SP?) wrote a book with a relationship between a sort of a shape shifter and a human man that
worked very well. I am an old sci-fi fan and love weird stuff.

Leslie: I think differences from our standard norm can make the fantasy stories more realistic but the beings involved should be similar to each other in a real way. I don't think people are ready for humanoids mating with arachnids or reptilian beings even if they can speak, walk on two legs, and have intelligence. Minor differences aren't a big deal though. I do think readers need to relate to the main characters in some way. Sharon Shinn wrote a sci-fi romance in which the two main races of the world were humanoids with either golden skin or varying shades of blue. But the story dealt with issues we could relate to. Within the blue culture, the shade of skin was a visual determination of class, and of course it went without saying that the blue and gold didn't mix. But each had something that the other one wanted, one group had technology, the other resources. As one group's solution is to eliminate the other through germ warfare, individuals begin to examine their personal ethics. One tends to forget all about skin, hair, and eye color when one is immersed in a compelling story. The key is to make the story relate to the reader in some way. If you can find a way to do that with spiders and snakes, I won't stand in your way <g>.

PNR Q.: Do you think that romantic elements make this sub-genre more appealing to women? Do you think men are more likely to read a romantic piece of science fiction if release by a sci-fi publisher rather than a romance publisher?

Gil: Men tend to avoid the romance area like the plague. My husband will occasionally read a romance if I suggest it too him--usually an historical. He LHAO at Dara Joy's futuristic. It took him a bit to figure out it wasn't a bad fantasy, but a comedy...

That's one reason why I am trying to spotlight writers like Nancy Gideon, Christine Feehan and others in the horror section--so that they can expand their readership base. If the books are in the romance section, male horror fans will NEVER see them, let alone read them ..but once they read
*one* they may go back for the rest.

Marilynn B: I don't think this is a gender issue because some men read romance and some women read straight sf. Instead, it is a sf versus romance issue. The element that makes romance in sf acceptable to sf readers is primarily the scientific credentials of the writer. Asaro would never have sold any of her sf romantic novels if she didn't have rock-solid science in her books and an excellent scientific professional background (Ph.D.) Romance readers tend to be more equalitarian and will read sf and sf romance with or without hard science.

Nancy C: Yes!

Jane T: Yes, of course. And I can be guilty of it myself, since, though I
enjoy the romance, I don't want an overdose and know I won't get it in the
SF/F section.

Lisa: I think it makes more women willing to try it out, from there they
might branch out. I do believe men will read a piece with romance if romance is not the main or only element in it. That is just not their main interest. That's okay.

Leslie: I think people in general are concerned with image. If you consider the flak that women take for reading romance novels, you can imagine what would be said to a man who is noticed reading one. That having been said, you will notice that action adventure type flicks, from James Bond to Star Wars, and heck even The Terminator, have a degree of romance within them. Didn't Luke and Han vie for the Princess Leia? I think the difference may be in how the romance is perceived.

I think in romance novels the emphasis may be placed more on making the hero desirable to women. The perception is that women want to walk in the shoes of the heroine, she should be intelligent and have character, so we can feel proud of ourselves, but what they think we want most is a hot hero. (don't throw things at me <g> I'm talking about perception). If the heroine is plain and the stud loves her anyway that's even better. They see men as taking the "What's he got that I haven't got? I work out, what do you mean the heroine has a limp?" attitude toward such a story. In other words they are geared to women.

The action adventure genre is supposedly more male oriented, "Me Tarzan, look I saved the world. Aren't you lucky to have me around to save you honey? Hey dudes look, I got all the bounteous babes!" kind of thing. Women look at this and see it as Neanderthal and sexist. Is the viewpoint stereotypical? Sure, but that's how marketing sees the genders and that's how they promote them. It's like any targeted advertising, other people telling you how to be cool. Hey fellas if we dress this romance up as something else then no one will make fun of you.

Now I do accept that sometimes you do have to coax skeptics toward something they're afraid to try, but if you disguise something too much the folks who enjoyed reading it in the first place no longer know where to find it.

BARBARA SHERIDAN - Paraphernalia Feature Columnist
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor ~ Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity ~ Cy Korte: Reviews Editor

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