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The Rise of SFR
My first love has always been science fiction and fantasy, though why those two are always lumped together like conjoined twins, always amazes me. Sure they're about flights of imagination, one into the past and one into the future, but beyond that, they couldn't be more different. Oh well. Perhaps musings for another post.
Today's blog is about SFR, Science Fiction Romance. For those who have never heard the term, that's all right. I never did either, until after I wrote The Empire.
I never envisioned The Empire as a romance, even though the two central characters are involved in a relationship that is key to the story, but the story isn't about their romance. Very much like Matrix where Neo's main motivation is his love for Trinity. So, it was quite a surprise the first time I was told that my book might be science fiction romance.
First, I had no idea there was such a sub-category. And second, it is NOT a romance. I don't read romance.
I entered The Empire in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and as a lark, submitted it for both the science fiction and romance categories, perhaps to prove to myself that it wasn't a romance.
You probably know where this is going. The Empire didn't win in the science fiction category, but it was a finalist in the romance category.
That was when I began to taking SFR more seriously. That's where this blog comes in.
What is SFR? Is is good? Is it bad? Is it 'real' science fiction? Are you going to get girl cooties from reading it? Those are questions that are bandied around these days.
In the past, science fiction was more often the bastion of men, venerable writers like Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury and the like, people who peer into the looking glass and bring us back a glimpse of the future. I loved them. I grew up with them. They defined geek.
Their audience was primarily adolescent males. So, it wasn't surprising that science fiction was about the science, and character development was skimpy.
That is one of the controversies today between the purists to whom science fiction is primarily about the science and not about the characters or relationships, or icky stuff like male-female dynamics-- unless it's about men and female cyborgs.
One of the first science fiction novels that most people, myself included, seem to remember with romantic elements are the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
On the Mirriam-Webster website, science fiction is defined as “fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.”
'Soft' science fiction deals with the human dynamic in a science fiction setting, meaning character development is the primary, though not necessarily the only focus.
Science Fiction Romance falls under this umbrella. As greater numbers of female authors enter the sci-fi genre, these kinds of stories have increased, becoming their own legitimate sub-categories, to the horror of traditional purists who claim that these are just regular stories with a sci-fi backdrop, not real sci-fi.
While that is true in some cases, I respectfully disagree. Many of these stories take aspects of our current society and imagine their natural, or unnatural progression into the future.
The future isn't just about science and technology. It's about politics, social engineering, human dynamics, and even romance. How will all of these things look like in the future? Perhaps these aren't science fiction stories, but future fiction stories and SFR is one aspect of it?
Then, of course, we have sci-fi with romantic elements, romance stories with sci-fi elements, and science fiction with romance as the central theme.
Why the distinction? Because SFR seems to be a bastard child of the RWA (Romance Writers of America) too. According to their definition, romance stories must have a central romance and fall within HEA (“Happily Ever After”). So some stories slip through the cracks and are slapped with an anemic 'sci-fi with romance elements' label. These sub-genres are here to stay and as they develop and move into the mainstream, perhaps they will be recognized as science fiction, period. Or maybe they will become Future Fiction, a glimpse into the development or devolving of human society.
Thank you for letting me guest on your blog. It's been fun.
About the author: Elizabeth Lang is first and foremost, a geek with the obligatory love of science fiction and fantasy. She spent most of her life in the computer industry designing computer systems for world domination the mundane industry of life insurance, which is surprisingly, not as exciting as it sounds. Now she creates enchanted worlds of magic, explores the human condition in the light of future technology and civilizations, and dreams about world domination. Or at least, some of her characters do. Her first book, The Empire was fortunate enough to be a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and she has never looked back. Author Social Media Webpage: www.elizabeth-lang.com Facebook: Elizabeth Lang Twitter: @Elizabeth_Lang Pinterest: Elizabeth Lang