Monday, March 19, 2012

Sci-Fi Romance? Really?

Like my colleague, Amy McCorkle mentioned, people are incredulous at the thought of combining romance with science fiction.  Whoever heard of sci-fi with a romantic relationship and a “happily ever after” or even a “happily for now” ending?  Hmmm… I could name a few.  Ben Caxton and Lazarus Long each get more than one woman at the ends of Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love respectively.  He's considered to be one of the masters of modern science fiction.  In fact, pretty much all of his adult books have a hero and a heroine who end up together.  They’re all human and human beings need to connect with another person or other persons in a loving way.  Maybe what keeps sci-fi fans from calling it romance is that the couple faces the danger/conflict in the book together and don’t seem to have the kind of misunderstandings or challenges between each other that mark the strictly romance genre.  Although, I can name a few instances in Heinlein books where couples separate due to some romantic spat and finally end up together.  So, the concept isn’t new.  Acknowledging it is.

In my first book Rock Bound, which I self-published, the couple has both types of conflict going on.  My heroine is newly widowed and not ready for a relationship when she finds herself enslaved on the moon with the hero.  Together they have to learn to survive in an unforgiving environment and build a life inside first a shelter and then a mountain.  And he has to wait for her to heal from her loss.

My second book, Rock Crazy, was published here at The Muse, and takes place much later.  Katie McGowan is bi-polar and her meds are no longer working.  One doctor has perfected a chip that will control the enzymes and hormones that control her mood swings.  He lives on the Moon because the lower gravity makes it possible for him to stand long enough to do the surgery.  But Katie is afraid.  So her husband takes a job on the Moon and divorces her after they get up there, hoping she’ll face her disease and agree to the operation.  Neither of them counts on her getting pregnant just before they leave Earth.  Now the surgery’s too dangerous and she has to go off her meds. So…

Abandoned, pregnant, and bi-polar, Katie’s going crazy on that God-forsaken rock, the Moon!

I did a reading of Rock Bound at a sci-fi con and got raked over the coals for not calculating the trajectory of a boulder that imperils my characters during an asteroid storm.  Unlike many of my sci-fi heroes, I am not a scientist or a mathematician.  Girls were not encouraged to excel in those areas when I was in school.  In fact, when she saw I was having problems in class, my geometry teacher gave me a mercy D and suggested I take sewing instead.  Oh, sure—I save money on clothes, but if I can’t recall the difference between and isosceles triangle and a right triangle, I don’t hold out much hope of calculating the velocity of an asteroid landing on the Moon.

I’m sure I’ll hear about Katie’s surgery being too dangerous since we already have the technology to keep a brain-dead woman alive long enough to let her fetus come to term and deliver a perfectly healthy baby.  But if I wrote it that way, I’d have a three chapter book with no cool mood swings, so give a gal a bit of dramatic license please!

My work-in-progress is a contemporary, because it’s about a morbidly obese woman’s struggle with her weight and I’m sure that by 2063 science will have found the defective gene or whatever and will have a vaccine or something for those of us who blow up to three-hundred pounds and have to completely change our lifestyles to get to a normal weight.  But would living in a world where you can eat anything (chocolate and glutens included) and still be healthy, be sci-fi or fantasy?

After this, though—I’ll probably go back to Rockton.  I like it up there.

Rochelle Weber Author Blog


Wendy said...

You have the best of bot worlds, Rochelle, You can write sci-fi romance to entertain without the trajectory and you can sew your own clothes as well. Unfortunately, I can't imagine a sci fi heroine sewing spacesuits made of heavy plastics or metal, but you might find a way around that and allow your heroine that special skill. :)

Pat Dale said...

Excellent topic for discussion, Rochelle. I think it is not only with Sci-Fi, but other genres as well, that we can successfully mix romantic elements into. Not a 'romance' per se, but adding a touch of romance tends to soften, to humanity if you will, the writing.
My new mystery series, debuting in May with Toccata, utilizes a budding romance between my protagonists as they go about solving the crime.
I plan to promo St. Louis Blues Mysteries as romantic mysteries. You have a good example in your work of how it can be done. Well done, I might add.

Cheryl said...

The people who say romance can't be a part of sci-fi, mystery, horror, whatever...they're plain wrong. Romance always makes the story more interesting.

Jim Hartley said...

If you are into Romance writing, it should not be difficult to do a romance, then transplant it to Mars, or Alpha Centauri, or a spaceship. Whether this yields true Sci-Fi could be argued, but you could certainly advertise it as such.

To go the other way, however, might be more of a problem. A science fiction story is going to devote so much time and energy to dealing with FTL travel, or an asteroid hitting Earth, or the monsters that are endangering the new colony on Eta Cassiopeia 3, that there won't be much room to squeeze in Romance. Maybe it can be done, I'm not sure ...

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Sounds fascinating. What a great plot. Hope your sales go through the roof.

Rochelle Weber Author said...

Thanks everyone. Jim, my characters manage to get to the Moon, build their shelters, settle into their way of life, and still fall in love. I even squeezed some politics in there.

We manage to juggle jobs, raising kids, and survive disease, war and natural disasters here on Earth. We pick up and go on, and still manage to fall in love.

And some of us write about it. ;-)


Rosalie Skinner said...

Rochelle, great post. A little romance keeps the readers happy. Seems to have a place in all genres and as well as being a hugely popular genre all on its own.