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We Want More.......
Interstellar Romances!!!

We queried the listers and here is what they had to say!
October 2001 Issu

PNR Q.: There sometimes seems to be a crossover between what we categorize as science fiction, futuristic, and fantasy. How do you define these three distinctions ?

Karen M.: My take on the difference is that science fiction stories center on
speculations about the future or are based on premises arising out of
currently accepted scientific principles (such as parallel universes, an
outgrowth of quantum mechanics) and speculations. The term "futuristic" is, as far as I'm aware, only used in reference to a romance, and refers to a
romance in a science fictional setting. Fantasy is either set in an
alternate universe with different physical laws or in our own universe
reimagined with paranormal events, creatures or possibilities.

Judy B.: Science fiction and futuristic are pretty much the same to me. Fantasy, however, contains an element of magic.

Meankitty: I am assuming from this question that all these book are labeled "romance", because otherwise if somebody just says "sci fi" or "fantasy" to me, I don't think romance. I do think romance when I hear the term "futuristic". Anyhow, when sci fi is sci fi romance, I think something a little more "technical" than your typical futuristic. If something is labeled a "fantasy romance," although I hope for a full-on fantasy setting, I'm aware that can mean anything from a sprinkling of fairies to psychic ability to a totally different world. That category is WAY broad.

Leslie T: Naturally all three can be combined in a single book which blurs the lines somewhat. Obviously as with all book in our particular sub genre there must be aspects of make believe, that in itself is fantasy I suppose. Now as far as a catergory fantasies seem to have either a magical or mythical aspect to them. Futuristics and Science fiction can be harder to seperate, as many if not most science fiction novels are set in the future, they are automatically futuristics. Quite a few futuristic romances on the other hand do not dwell on the scientific aspects of the cuture they are portraying and instead concentrate on the romance aspect. Often these are near futuristics which may have advanced races interacting with earth folk whose lives are similar to the way we currently live.

Carmel V.: Sci-fi is technical (ie, star trek type work); futuristic is set in the future with some elements of sci-fi (ie. futuristic equipment) fantasy has magicial elements.

PNR Q.: Which do you prefer, near future romance in which earth is essentially the same as it is now or distant future romance where anything is possible?

Karen M.: Any of the above as long as it is well written.

Judy B.: Either, both, as long as the romance is good.

Meankitty: Either can be done well.

Leslie T: It is certainly fun to imagine that we could be visited at any time. How would we deal with this as a world, an individual? On the other hand distant future scenarios allow the author's imagination free rein and it is great to see what they can come up with.

Carmel V.: Both are acceptable if the romance is strong.

PNR Q.: Do you prefer these stories to be wholly imaginary, or for them to have some interaction with Earth and/or its inhabitants?

Karen M.: Either way, again, as long as it's well-written.

Judy B.: Both, again, it's the romance that carries the story.

Meankitty: Ditto -- either can be done well.

Leslie T: I've enjoyed both, and whether earth is involved or not if the author can make me identify with the characters, their plight, their spirit, etc. I will like it. I will admit that I do enjoy Earth involvement though.

Carmel V.: Again, Both are acceptable if the romance is strong.

PNR Q.: Do you prefer futuristic worlds to be scientifically advanced or quasi medieval perhaps due to some type of apocalypse?

Karen M.: Either can work if the writer is skilled at making it credible.

Judy B.: I've read books with all three and like all of them. It depends on the story.

Meankitty: Scientifically advanced. I've seen too many "futuristics" that were quasi-medieval in a bad way. If it's post-apocalyptic, I prefer to see
remnants of the former civilization taken into consideration instead of just
having the apocalypse as an excuse to write a medieval sans the need for
historical research. That's what fantasy worlds are for *wink*.

Leslie T: I tend to lean toward the scientifically advanced, probably the scientist in me. Apocalypse is always a possibliliy though, and it is interesting to see how that is dealt with. I don't like the quasi medieval if it is merely and excuse for sword fights. I found Ann Lawrences Virtual series to be a good example of how a quasi medieval can be done will. She combined the tech of virtual reality games, and used it as a time travel mechanism to take a modern person to a medieval type fantasy world. I also enjoyed Robin D. Owens' debut novel HeartMate which combined fantasy and futuristic. Rather than dwelling on technology, the scientific nature of the story lied in the characters unique abilities.

Carmel V.: Either is acceptable.

PNR Q.: How readily would you accept non-human characters in main roles?

Karen M.: You get into some interesting gray areas here. How non-human can a character be and still be acceptable as a protagonist in a romance? You need a character who demonstrates at least some capacity for recognizably human emotions, particularly the ability to love in a way that is acceptable to a human being, for a satisfactory romance. So what does 'non-human' mean in this context. A different shape? Isn't that what the "Beauty and the Beast" mythos is all about?

Judy B.: Definitely!

Meankitty: Very readily.

Leslie T: I have to agree with Karen on this one, I think that the reader would have to be able to relate to the character in order for them to be successful as a hero or heroine. Appearance would be less important than intellectual and emotional similarities.

Carmel V.: No problem.

PNR Q.: How important is an alien's appearance to you? Could you accept unusually skin or eye colors, differences in digits, cross breeding with other species as long as the characters are essentially humanoid in appearance?

Karen M.: Why not? But I go back to my answer to the previous question. More important is the capacity for human emotion.

Judy B.: Yes, yes, yes! In many ways, alien characters are sexier! It's the exoticness.

Meankitty: Appearance is not important to me. Seriously, if it's an alien, I prefer that he or she actually be pretty different from humans.

Leslie T: Absolutely, it's been well done many by many authors. Sharon Shinns races in HEART OF GOLD are blue or gold skinned but really their racial struggles were easy for a readers to identify with. Catherine Asaro's characters are human but because of geographic seperation, in breading, genetic tampering to select for desired traits have made their appearances outside our expected norm, and hey I'm really psyched to find out where Catherine Spangler is going with her Leor race of humanoid with reptilian characteristics, in her Shielder series, talk about sexy!!!!! Naturally there has to be a large degree of commonality for one character to recognize the other as a possible mate.

Carmel V.: Again, No problem.

PNR Q.: Do you feel romantic elements make the science fiction and futuristic genre more appealing to women.

Karen M.: Yes.

Judy B.: Yes, although I've always liked sci fi. Sci fi, in and of itself, satisfies the traditional meaning of romance - adventure.

Meankitty: I'm a woman and I like it all -- romance or no romance. I would not like to stereotype and say women prefer books with romance in them.

Leslie T: No doubt adding a romance element to this genre would be a draw for romance readers. No question that the majority of romance readers are women. I would love to have some men tell us what they think.

Carmel V.: It might, but there are lots of women who love romance but they shy away from sci fi and futuristic stories because they have a hard time with the settings (ie, they need something set in "their world").

PNR Q.: Do you feel it is important that the science fiction - futuristic elements do not overshadow the romance? Do you think it is possible to balance the two in order to appeal to all genders.?

Karen M.: No. In fact, my complaint with most futuristics is that not enough
attention is paid to making the futuristic elements credible and compelling.
Part B: Probably not. A few female SF writers cross over and get away with
it -- Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster Bujold, and CJ Cherryh come right to
mind -- but they're more the exception than the rule.

Judy B.: Romance should come first. And, balancing romance with furturistic or sci-fi elements will be too tough will probably always be nearly impossible. I say "nearly." Men and women are often, not always, but often looking for different things from a story. however, there are always those few truly exceptional writers out there.

Meankitty: I prefer solidly grounded world-building, even in my science fiction romances, sci fi romances, futuristics, fantasy romances, or whatever you want to call them. Too little attention to world-building will have me tossing the book pretty quickly. If the book is marketed as a romance, I do expect the romance to be satisfying, but not at the expense of the world-building. How many times can I say "world-building" in one paragraph?

Leslie T: It really depends on what you expect from a particular novel. Once I am familiar with an author's style, find I like it and know what to expect, it doesn't matter all that much. If the goal is to develope on particular character, the romance aspect may not be as important as the overall picture. Take for instance Asaro's character Kelric Valdoria who left a wife and two children behind on a world where he'd been stranded because he was part of something greater. He doesn't forget them, nor does he stop loving them, however he is able to go on with his life and find love again. Is he a romantic hero, definitely!

Carmel V.: If it is classified as a romantic sci-fi then the romance should come first. Balancing romance with a sci-fi/futuristic setting isn't necessary as long as the scene has been set and there are no jarring discrepancies in the setting to pull the readers away from the romance.

PNR Q.: What do you feel is the difference between science fiction romances published by romance houses vs. those published by science fiction houses?

Karen M.: Pretty obvious. In general SF published by romance houses focuses on the romance, often at the expense of the SF elements. In SF stories published by SF houses that feature romance, the world-building or technical elements of the story still have to be impeccably worked out.

Judy B.: Romance houses are looking specifically for romance. For sci fi houses, it's just an added bonus. If there's no romance, that's okay for them too.

Meankitty: The ones published by non-romance houses tend to have more leeway and more...dare I say I enjoy that and will seek those books out.

Leslie T: I can honestly say being a new reader in this category, that I haven't read enough of either yet to say (but I am working on it <g>). I understand that the gap has been closing to some extent. What I have seen from what I have read is that romance offerings really do focus on the love story first and foremost. I think the Science Fiction offerings tend to dwell on the main character as a whole person with the romance being only one aspect.

Carmel V.: Romance houses are in the business of selling romance and sci fi houses sell mostly straight sci-fi (ie., without the elements of romance).

PNR Q.: As with fantasy romance, science fiction and futuristic settings are often wholly imaginary. Because of the amount of world building required for such a novel , do you think these stories lend themselves more to series than other romance sub genres?

Karen M.: It's practically a cliché in fantasy circles that if you're writing a
fantasy, you'd better think trilogy. So, I'd say yes.

Judy B.: Most definitely. I have always preferred my romances in series be they sci fi, contemporary, historical, etc. I always want to know what happens to the supporting cast and how the hero and heroine's lives turn out.

Meankitty: Not necessarily. The only thing needed for a romance novel to lend itself to a series these days is a person in the book who has a brother, a friend, a cousin, a co-worker, a home town... Seems like every book you pick up is in a series of some sort. But as far as SFRs in a series, they are fine as long as the author does not batter us over the head with the people whom the next book will be about or the people whom the last book was about. Sometimes that technique feels like a built-in advertisement to me. I am not one of those readers who clamors for so-and-so Hunky Brother's story or so-and-so Partially Redeemed Villain's story.

Now as far as your more "traditional" series is concerned, where the plot is
not resolved until the end of the last book -- although I cannot think of any
such series put out by mainstream romance houses -- I prefer it when the
romance, too, is not resolved until close to the end of the last book.

Leslie T: It probably depends on the author's intention when writing the book. If they intend to wrap everything up in one book, then would write it that way, tying up the lose ends, not having you wonder about what becomes of the various secondary characters. If the author has an eye to a series then you will probably see more secondary character developement, maybe even a hint of what's to come. I do like series and I think our sub genre really does require unusual creativity. If I'm begging for a series then it generally means the authors has captivated me to the point where I'm not ready to let go after one book. Generally though if the author is good, I can be just as content with the next scenario.

Carmel V.: I personally prefer the futuristic/fantasy romance to be a series... also, I would think that the author would prefer it. As you stated, the amount of world building required to make the story seem real could be carried forward into other novels.

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

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