Guest Post From Afar – The Many Flavors of Sci-Fi Romance
This column was published first in the Roswell Daily Record (www.rdrnews.com), Feb. 23, 2020
I’ve never been to Roswell in terms of geography but in terms of what Roswell represents to me — an all-American city with a generous side helping of mystery tinged with science-fiction and infinite possibilities — I feel right at home.
First and foremost, I’m a science-fiction author, with an emphasis on the romance elements, but lots of action and adventure, as well. I often say my novels are like the movie “Aliens” — my personal favorite movie ever, along with the 1951 version of “The Thing From Another World” — but with more romance, less gore and a happier ending. I do tend to take that view of the world on anything I tackle.
Being a full-time author is actually my second career, after many years at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on the business side of the lab. I’ve always written, since I was seven years old, but never considered making my living at it as a possibility. After my children left the nest, I thought if I was ever going to make writing work for me, now was the time — and it was. Having the intense background of NASA/JPL is useful, although my science-fiction is set in the far future, and I deliberately don’t explain how anything works. I’m not a scientist — I want to get my blaster and get to the action.
I keep a still photo from the original Flash Gordon serials with Buster Crabbe next to my desk for inspiration.
I do a weekly new releases post on my blog where I gather and curate a new release list of sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal romance. I have many different sources for identifying these books, so every week, I’m exposed to the trends in my three favorite genres, based on what I see being released, which includes reviews, rankings, etc. I’ll share a few of those trends here and give some sci-fi romance (SFR) recommendations, which are by no means meant to be all-inclusive. Once you sample these authors, they’ll lead you to more.
There’s a certain through-line of SFR that’s adventure-oriented with a strong romance running through the plot and varying levels of steaminess from almost closed door to pages of inventive sexy times with tails and tentacles and other interesting appendages. The New York Times bestselling author Ann Aguirre’s recent “Strange Love” is an excellent example of the nonhuman hero and I highly recommend it. USA Today bestselling author Tiffany Roberts (a husband and wife team) also write compelling nonhuman heroes in their Kraken and Infinite City series.
I write somewhere in the middle of the SFR range, with your basic human heroes and heroines and two or three lovemaking scenes per book as their relationship deepens. I’m descriptive about the sexy times but not at great length. I did endow my genetically engineered Badari Warriors with some enhancements the ladies enjoy, but did not go as far as some authors can capably go in their inventiveness. There’s a lot of action and adventure in these novels, not only mine but those of other authors. I think this kind of “bread-and-butter” SFR will continue to be written and voraciously read.
I’ve been seeing more and more authors bringing their own past gaming experience to their SFR novels, either as avid game players, as developers or both. I think that trend will continue. Tiffany Roberts and USA Today bestselling author Regine Abel are two SFR authors who do this amazingly well.
I’ve been seeing more superhero style plots, which is probably inevitable given the immense success of the Marvel Universe movies.
I think the alien abduction theme will continue to be very popular with SFR readers. It’s currently a staple of the genre and the hot-seller lists. Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarian series is plenty steamy, but with characters to care deeply about.
I haven’t seen as much reverse harem (RH) appearing in SFR as I’d expected, given how hot the trend is in paranormal romance (PNR), although there is some. I think SFR lags behind PNR on trends, in terms of whatever is trendy in PNR shows up later in the SFR titles. USA Today bestselling author Sara Fields’ Vakarran Captives series is one example of this trope.
Dragons are big in SFR and PNR. Lots of space-going dragons, dragon-like and dragon shifter heroes now and not as many in PNR at the moment. Lili Zander’s “Draekon Conqueror” is a recent example. “Trapped by the Dragon” by Riley Storm is another. And we mustn’t forget The New York Times bestselling author S.E. Smith’s excellent Dragon Lords of Valdier series.
PNR RH is definitely going into a “bully academy” direction right now, where the heroine is stuck at school with a lot of bullies — duh — but finds her five true-hearted men, be they shifters or mages or demons — well, you get the idea — and lives happily ever after eventually. So far I’m not seeing the bullies twist in SFR, but I bet it’s coming: Bullies at the Space Academy any day now. The trend is now shifting a bit, to be penitentiary-based. Jails run by Fae, dragons and aliens, of course, the prison trope has existed in SFR for a long time, although I think the PNR titles are not as gritty. I can’t recommend Emmy Chandler’s Prison Planet series highly enough, although be prepared for some grim goings-on. But they are romances so the reader does get a happy-for-now ending.
I’m seeing more diversity in SFR, on the covers, in the novels and in the authors. I hope that trend will continue and grow. Echo Ishii, Kara Lockharte and A.M. Griffin are a few good names among many to check out. The Women of Color (WOC) in Romance is a good resource.
Currently, I’m seeing an emerging trend in the bigger “Romancelandia” world to have heroines on the autistic spectrum, so I can imagine we might see the same in SFR at some point.
I’ve observed something of a trend for PNR authors to take the “category romance” type plots and apply those to their shifter stories – the “bear shifter billionaire’s baby nanny” — I made that title up, it’s only meant as an example. I could imagine that trend translating into SFR, with a smattering of titles along those lines but not a rush of them as yet. The In the Stars Series imprint has quite a few — I even published one under that banner. USA Today bestselling authors Miranda Martin, Celia Kyle and Luna Hunter are a few names to search for.
Cyborgs continue to be hot, week in and week out. USA Today bestselling author Cynthia Sax writes two cyborg series in a related universe, Cyborg Sizzle and Cyborg Space Exploration. I’m not usually much for dark romance but I can’t resist her novels. Honey Phillips has recently started a Cyborgs on Mars series with a Wild West flavor. Elsa Jade’s Cyborg Cowboys of Carbon County series is a special favorite of mine, too.
And finally, I think Kindle Unlimited (KU), which dominates SFR currently, will continue to be a major player, as long as Amazon continues to offer the subscription service. SFR readers are voracious — in a good way — and evidently the subscription model of KU works well for them. Many weeks, when I’m doing my new release post, I only have two or three SFR books I can report as being sold “wide” and all the rest are KU exclusive.
You can still buy the e-books outright from Amazon for your kindle of course, if you’re not in the KU subscription program, but you can’t find them on other e-book seller sites like Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or Kobo.
My latest book, “Landon: A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance Novel” — Sectors New Allies Series Book 11 — falls into both the alien abduction and the genetic engineering trends. Here’s the plot: When unexpected circumstances give her a chance to escape from an alien scientist’s lab after she’s been tortured, Mandy Rennegar knew she should run for the hills with the other prisoners. There’s one more special captive who hasn’t been freed, however, and she decides to risk everything to help him. Mandy’s not leaving anyone behind.
Captured by the enemy on a scouting trip, Landon of the Badari has been pushed beyond his limits of sanity and strength by the Khagrish experiments and waits to die — until the human woman sets him free and takes him into the wilderness with her on a desperate trek to freedom. If he could only regain his memory, he’s sure there’s a sanctuary on the planet where his people could help them both.
As Mandy and Landon flee the pursuing Khagrish, new challenges arise, including secrets from the past, which could destroy the growing attraction between them. Difficult choices have to be made, putting Mandy’s life at risk and Landon discovers the Khagrish have left a lasting mark on his mind.
Will they reach the Badari sanctuary in time?
USA Today bestselling author Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library at its heart. Her father loved science-fiction, her mother loved ancient history and Veronica Scott thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven-time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Scott is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances.
One of her favorite achievements is that she read the part of “Star Trek Crew Member” in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s, “The City On the Edge of Forever.”