I know. Romance and science fiction hybrid stories? Scandalous.
But is it really? Isn’t this rather old news, that writers in mainstream, niche, and fan fiction venues have blended romance and science fiction in books, films, television, graphic novels, and even videogames?
In light of runaway blockbuster hybrid films like Avatar, it is rather passé. These days, science fiction romance stories (including romantic SF) are poised to exit the ghetto. Because it’s one thing to say you don’t care for romance-SF blends, and quite another to say they have no place in science fiction...or romance, for that matter.
The cat’s already out of the Han and Leia bag.
Therefore, I reckon it’s a right swell time to have this conversation again—the one about the changing nature of science fiction. And here are a few happening right now:
Over at SF Signal, there’s a discussion brewing in the weekly Mind Meld about the blending of romance and science fiction, with participants being asked the participants these questions, “Is there a taboo against romance in science fiction? What does romance bring to the SF genre? What are some good examples of romance in SF that illustrate this?”
Recently, I speculated on my blog about Why SF Fandom Is Full of Romance Haterz:
“…for decades, romance, SF, and action-adventure were segregated along gender lines (see my previous post A Brief History of Science Fiction Romance). That went a long way toward constricting the definition of a science fiction story, a romance story, and what were the “acceptable” elements to include in either one.
Is it any wonder that, in large part, SF authors were conditioned to avoid including romance in their stories, and that romance authors were conditioned to avoid including speculative/action-adventure elements in theirs?”
Then I noticed that Jacqueline Lichtenberg posed a similar question at Alien Romances in Why Do “They” Despise Romance?:
“I've been blogging here about how we can change the public perception into a respect for Romance in general, and the cross-genre Romance forms in particular.
In exploring that issue, we've examined the whole publishing field and much of the screenwriting world, the writer's business model, and even the esoteric roots of human emotion. But we still haven't solved the problem.”
In Why do I read more male SF writers?, SF author Ann Wilkes reveals the following:
“Here's my problem. I'm an advocate of women writing speculative fiction because, well, I'm a woman, and more importantly, a woman who writes speculative fiction. But if I'm such an advocate, why do I read novels by men far more than those written by women?
Perhaps it's because I know I won't get any romance in my science fiction.”
“Romance is not merely about the kissing and the sex. Romance is about the psychology of the people involved and how they try to establish connections while the universe is against them. What a lot of SF writers have forgotten, in my opinion, is that you take yourself with the technology.”
In Dick Does Chick Flick, JP Frantz expresses concern that by including a romance in the The Adjustment Bureau (September 2010), the filmmakers ruined a perfectly good Philip K. Dick story:
“Is this some sort of mad attempt by the writers to cram a romance storyline into a PKD novel? Is that even possible and if so, Matt Damon?!”
Is The Adjustment Bureau doomed? Time will tell, but in the meantime, I responded with a post of my own and pointed out that folks are consistently describing this film as “science fiction romance….” Frankly, if films like The Adjustment Bureau attract more readers to science fiction, then that’s a good thing.
Whether you agree or disagree about the place of romance in SF, my challenge to you is this: Let’s have a conversation about romance in science fiction that’s constructive instead of destructive. What’s your response to the Mind Meld questions? And just as importantly, how does science fiction as a whole benefit from cross-genre stories?
Heather Massey is a blogger who travels the sea of stars searching for science fiction romance adventures aboard The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she pens a science fiction romance column for LoveLetter, Germany's premier romance magazine.