"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
We queried the
listers and here is what they had to say!
October 2001 Issue
There sometimes seems to be a crossover between what we categorize as
science fiction, futuristic, and fantasy. How do you define these three
take on the difference is that science fiction stories center on
Judy B.: Science
fiction and futuristic are pretty much the same to me. Fantasy, however,
contains an element of magic.
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.
all three can be combined in a single book which blurs the lines somewhat.
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.
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.
is technical (ie, star trek type work); futuristic is set in the future
with some elements of sci-fi (ie. futuristic equipment) fantasy has
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?
of the above as long as it is well written.
Judy B.: Either,
both, as long as the romance is good.
can be done well.
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?
way, again, as long as it's well-written.
Judy B.: Both,
again, it's the romance that carries the story.
-- either can be done well.
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?
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.
advanced. I've seen too many "futuristics" that were quasi-medieval
in a bad way. If it's post-apocalyptic, I prefer to see
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.
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?
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!
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?
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.
is not important to me. Seriously, if it's an alien, I prefer that he
or she actually be pretty different from humans.
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!!!!!
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.
Judy B.: Yes,
although I've always liked sci fi. Sci fi, in and of itself, satisfies
the traditional meaning of romance - adventure.
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.
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.
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.?
In fact, my complaint with most futuristics is that not enough
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.
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?
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!
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?
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.
ones published by non-romance houses tend to have more leeway and more...dare
I say it...world-building. I enjoy that and will seek those books out.
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.
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?
practically a cliché in fantasy circles that if you're writing
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.
as far as your more "traditional" series is concerned, where
the plot is
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.