Sunday, May 2, 2010

Science Fiction and Romance: Fraternal Twins

If there is anything I have learned about science fiction, it’s that they love their own conventions. Star Trek makes a fine art of this. You don’t even have to be a Star Trek fan (and clearly I’m not) to get the cultural jokes of Star Trek. We all know that the guy in the red shirt is the one who dies. We all know that the new technology is going to catastrophically fail; and we know that they’re going to re-route power from life-support to whatever is malfunctioning. We also know when they land in the new and foreign land, there will be exactly one survivor; and we know Captain Kirk is going to sleep with her. (Incidentally, if American Airlines failed at the same rate that the Holodeck does, they wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Someone should get the FFA onto the Enterprise.)

But fans like those conventions. They look for them. They’re the inside joke to the reader, the faithful fan who expects a certain number of things to play out the way they’re supposed to be played.

Romance writers are constantly dinged for clichés, whereas science fiction is never trite or clichéd. (I was informed of this at a coffee date by a sci-fi geek who said I was writing chick porn. My crap was clichéd, his stuff was original.) Right. Let’s go over a few of the major ones my coffee date harped into the ground, shall we? (His complaints are in bold.)

Happily Ever Afters. Romantic stories always ends with a Happily Ever After. What a kiss of death! Completely unrealistic! my date informed me, probably because he was a geek who had yet to have a happily ever after of his own. Um, hello, in every Star Trek episode, doesn’t the re-route from life support always make the new technology work and end up saving the day? Is that realistic? Has anyone not wearing a red shirt ever died in an episode?

The sex is always amazing, and usually involves throbbing members. (I don’t know why my date was complaining about great sex, but one can only surmise he had ascertained he couldn’t live up to the hype. Big surprise.) I can’t deny it, but are you telling me the sex with Captain Kirk isn’t always amazing or involves a throbbing member?

The heroes are always perfect! No man could live up to that ideal! Two words for you: Dr. Spock. If Dr. Spock can exist, so can my dukes. Incidentally, I don’t think we’re reading the same books, because the heroes in my books are emotionally handicapped fuckwads, but whatever. If that’s your argument, here’s my rebuttal: Dr. Spock.

The women are always the same plain Jane geeks who get the gorgeous guy. (I always like a guy who is no great shakes, telling me I’m not good-looking enough for him. Always flattering. I find it laughable that sci-fi geeks don’t see the irony of the geek Jason Alexander boy getting the uber-hot Angelina Jolie girl. Sure, that happens!) I do suppose in Star Trek, it’s handsome Captain Kirk sleeping with all those geeky alien girls, but the response is still the same: Don’t be a hypocrite.

The conclusion could never had have happened that way because of XYZ. I empathize. There are many times I shut a historical novel and think, That never could have happened because I can hardly find a handful of men in modern society who think that non-sexist, and I’m supposed to believe Mr. Duke is that free-thinking, modern, and open to his wife wanting to pursue a career? Unlikely. And again, I bring up for comparison: the Holodeck. How many times have we rolled our eyes (usually within the same episode) of Star Trek and gone, “That could never have happened!” Not the point. As any writer will tell you, it’s not “is it probable?” but “is it possible?” Many, many more things are possible than probable, my friend, and free-thinking dukes and faltering Holodecks that prevail are both possible, even if they’re not probable.

Well, science fiction shapes opinion and thought about race, sexes, sexuality, and other issues that bother modern society. Romantic fiction doesn’t do any of that. Says who? I can give you a hundred romance novels that have shaped and influenced and opened the minds of the people who’ve read them. All dealing with issues near and dear to us, like sexuality, marriage, career, race, equality, and anything else you want to bitch about. And I’m sure there are better read readers who can offer up hundreds more that do the same.

As you might have surmised, Mr. Sci-Fi and I never went on another date together. I thought he was a complete dickhead; and he thought I apparently wasn’t attractive enough for him anyway. But the moral of the story is this: whatever genre you’re writing in (science fiction, thriller, horror, romance, et al), each has their own conventions you must meet for audience expectation and quite a few of those expectations are the same across genres. After all, we’re all telling the hero’s journey in our own voices. The Hero’s Journey never changes.

So what science fiction/fantasy convention do you find that is similar to a romance convention? What type of sci-fi geek are you? (I find a lot of sci-fi geeks don’t cross within their own genres, like they’ll be a Star Trek fan but not a Star Wars fan, which I find odd, but okay.) Are you a LOTR, Harry Potter, POTC, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, or insert your own brand of geek here? If you’re a hardcore sci-fi/fantasy reader, how hard for you was it to read romances (or is it still hard for you to read romances)? Do you admit you read romances when you’re with your sci-fi friends? Does anyone write sci-fi/fantasy novels? Are there any romance authors who have broken the science-fiction barrier with their writing? Who are they and what do you recommend?


Quantum said...

Helli, your coffee date must be living in a little world of his own! I feel sorry for him. How myopic can one get and still find the coffee.

He probably thought you were some sort of android, programmed to talk poetry. :wink:

Afraid I don't often enjoy Sci Fi. I guess Sci Real is far more exciting for me.

Also, after discovering romance novels, everything else seems pretty tepid.

I do like Amanda Quick's 'paranormal' novels though. They involve psychic forces and in some ways could be considered 'up-market' Sci Fi. Just close enough to reality and Quantum theory approaches to mind, to be interesting. AND there are always romantic involvements ..... perfect! :D

Marnee Jo said...

I personally like both. I started as a romance reader though, so all my reading is sort of filtered through that.

I like Star Wars, but I especially like the Han Solo/Princess Leia storyline. Empire Strikes Back is my fav. Never got into Star Trek. Loved HP, all of it, not just the romance. Probably because Rowling mixes her romance in so convincingly. And it's not just Harry. I never got into LOTR, read the first, got kinda bored. Loved POTC, especially the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swan stuff. :)

Most of my friends know I'm a big reader across a lot of genres, so they aren't surprised when they find out I like sci-fi, romance, or whatever. I'm that friend that people will say they love XYZ book and I'll say, "oh oh! I read that, have you tried, ABC? If you liked XYZ, you might like that. It's got this or that element to it too."

I think a lot of paranormal romance writers or UF writers straddle the sci-fi/romance line. I just read Lover Mine by JR Ward. Good, not my favorite, but good.

Hal said...

p.s. - I'm glad you didn't go out with this guy again. He sounds like a total tool.

Hal said...

The hubs is a Star Trek fan, and for a while, they were playing it in the afternoons so we'd watch Voyager after work every day. It took me three months of watching it daily before I'd admit that I was enjoying myself *g* And I adored the new Star Trek movie.

I like sci-fi, but I have to be able to follow it (which limits how much science it can hold - lol!), and there has to be some form of emotions/relationship plot. I've started noticing recently that it doesn't necessarily have to be a traditional romance, per se, but something to do with relationships between people, whether romantic or familial or friends or whatever.

Donna said...

I am not a fan of sci fi, and I will go so far as to say, if I ever need to be punished for any transgression -- hand me a sci fi book or movie, and I will never be sinful again! I promise!

That asshat--excuse me--I mean, your coffee date, is too typical of people who want to date, essentially, themselves. They aren't interested in other people's lives or opinions, but find themselves utterly fascinating. And it's puzzling to them why everyone else isn't as mesmerized by their brilliance as they are.

Yes, I imagine he'll have his own happily-ever-after once cloning becomes an everyday occurrence, not just a sci fi thing. LOL

Bosun said...

Could you have asked anymore question? LOL!

Not a sci fi fan. Loved Star Wars as a kid, but so did everyone else. Han Solo was my fav which is why I never bothered watching the pre-quals.

Only watched the LOTR movies because my boyfriend at the time was big into them. And my understanding is Jackson added the romance element. Is that right? It wasn't in the books?

This stuff amazes me and as I mentioned to you, I never hear these comparisons. Mostly because I tune them out, but I really don't hang around people who read. Sad, isn't it? This is like saying Thrillers are the same old because they scare you. Or Mysteries are formulaic because there's a crime, a series of clues, and the crime is always solved.


Donna said...

Or how about all the "conventions" (read: cliches) in horror movies? That doesn't seem to stop their popularity!

I used to fret about people not understanding the value of romance, or wonder WHY they felt the need to mischaracterize it -- now I don't care. LOL

Hellion said...

Quantum, I'm pretty sure he was from the Twilight Zone. Would you believe mutual friends set us up? I was tempted to ask my friends later if they'd met either one of us. (He probably did think I was an android. *LOL* One of the free-thinking ones from I-Robot when he was looking for a sycophant.)

Modern science is quickly (or surpassed) catching up for "sci-fi" stuff. Other than outerspace travel and whatnot, I think we've done leaps and bounds within science that our ancestors, even just a 100 years ago, would think, "That will NEVER happen!" I do enjoy some of the thrillers with science premises--like Jurassic Park or the ones about viruses, et al. Those are FREAKY, because you really do wonder if they could happen or you could totally see that happening!

You recommend the Amanda Quick ones frequently. I need to add them to my TBR pile and give them a whirl. I might find a new series I must read!

Janga said...

Although I loved Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land back in my impressionable youth, I've never been a big science fiction reader. I have enjoyed the science fiction romances of Sharon Shinn, Linnea Sinclair, Catherine Asaro, and Lois McMaster Bujold. And Q's right about JAK. Her Sweet Starfire, written more than twenty years ago, is often cited as the foundational novel of science fiction romance.

Hellion said...

Marn, for some reason I seem to find people who read romance first and other stuff later, seem to have an appreciation across the board. But I always think romance is a blend of romance PLUS sci-fi or thriller or mystery or adventure or women's fiction.

Hans Solo IS the bad boy we all want, isn't he? *LOL* And we already know my feelings about Harry Potter. *LOL* I loved the LOTR movies, but not the books. The books weren't as readable to me as Harry Potter (which the LOTR snob I know would say it's because I never advanced beyond a 2nd grade reading level.)

LOTR is definitely of the Bromance line, and rather boring about it. And women featured within it aren't as cool. *LOL* They're like a lot of women featured in fantasy novels: a placard.

JK Ward is definitely a straddler. :)

Hellion said...

Hal, there is one of the series that features Riker(?), who is a bit of a prick, but who I thoroughly enjoy. *LOL* Really it's just the original Star Trek I can't stand; the rest I could tune out without making nasty comments the whole time. Like football or something.

I liked the very beginning of the Star Trek movie--but the very end of it was so dumb that I vowed I would not be watching it ever again. (And the ending was just one of the conventions standard to Star Trek. *LOL*)

I agree: it doesn't necessarily have to have romantic relationships, but it better have relationships PERIOD. They better have emotions and interact. *LOL*

Sin said...

Yay! A reason to use my favorite word today for your coffee date- cocksucker.

Okay, while I may be a nerd, I've not fallen into the geekdom yet. I may obsess about book series' (Twilight... Hollows... Plum) but I have not attended a conventions just for these things. I can't even say I like any of the things you mentioned above. Drooling Star Trek geek boys do not do it for me. They get the stiff arm treatment and then told "you have to be this tall to ride this ride." (DRD you are the shit.)

K. Harrison writes fantasy (Dawn Cook). I know there are a number of urban fantasy writers who write sci-fi and straight fantasy. It's Monday. I can't name them off hand.

Hellion said...

Donna, I can't imagine asshat wanting to date himself, because he was horribly boring, rude, and vulgar. But to each their own, I guess.

*LOL* If you want to punish me, just hand me one of those Dune books, I agree! *LOL*

Oh, and there are so many conventions in horror flicks! If the TSTL heroine didn't investigate the strange noise, there wouldn't be a horror flick!!

Hellion said...

Bo'sun, don't criticize. I was trying to think of writer questions and I couldn't! *LOL* I was totally distracted by wanting to know how sci-fi everyone was! *LOL* Leave it to you to live in a bubble. *sighs*

But yes, it is ridiculous. That would exactly be like saying mysteries were the same because they always solved the crime. *LOL*

Hellion said...

Oh, and I took a sci-fi course in high school; and I remember reading Ray Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains. That story still sticks with me!

Sin said...

Hellie used my other favorite word- asshat.

I love tool as well.

Hm, I love today. Today is a great day of my favorite words.

Hellion said...

Janga, I knew you'd have a list of go-to authors who float the line of romance and sci-fi! Just enough to get my toes really wet. (Though I do read Sherrilyn Kenyon; and she's got some sci-fi about her!) *LOL*

Hellion said...

Yeah, I'm really going to have to get that sign, Sin. I love it! Donna, I agree: you are the shit!

Sin said...

I need a shirt that says that. I have one that's the sex instructor. Now I need, "You need to be this tall to ride."

Sin said...

I love romance but I'm also all about reading some paranormal fiction, which is really just about mixing fantasy and sci-fi and alternate universe. I like the thought of altering your world. Like in Kim Harrison's books, she has a disease that wipes out most of the human race and the "Inderlanders" (ie: vamps, pixies, faeries, witches, weres) have to take over and keep the world moving and functional. To me, that's plenty interesting enough to get my mind spinning.

Donna said...

*blushes modestly*

*curtseys, without wobbling and falling over*

You guys say the nicest things! I need the encouragement today, since I'm trying to figure out a chapter I'm working on. LOL

I'd love to see that t-shirt, Sin. Heck, maybe business cards too!

Sin said...

Don't tempt me into making them. LOL

Donna said...

You know you want to!

(And you know WE want you to do it too! LOL)

Make sure you include all the disclaimers and waivers too -- like "if you're taking medication for high blood pressure or a heart condition, we assume no responsibility" blah blah blah!

Janga said...

Hellion, see if you can locate the anthology Irresistible Forces. It has science fiction stories in it by Bujold, Asaro, and Jo Beverley. All are good, and even though the Bujold and Asaro stories fit into their established worlds, you don't have to have read their books to appreciate the stories. The collection also includes a prequel to Mary Jo Putney's Guardian books, a Spanish Armada tale I loved, and a strong paranormal by Deb Stover. There's another story too, but I can't remember it. The anthology is a great way to see if you'd like science fiction romance.

J. Koyanagi said...

As a science fiction writer, I loved this post and found it both amusing and relevant. There's a fair amount of romance in my science fiction, and I see nothing wrong with that.

Thanks for this! :)

Hellion said...

Hi J. Koyanagi! Thank you! And thanks for coming by the ship.

Incidentally I clicked on your website and cracked up at your blog about the chicken fingers! (Crew, if you want to know the difference between showing and telling and goals and motivation and conflict...THIS is the blog to read. *LOL* And it's about chicken fingers. *LOL*)

Jason Black said...

Yeah. Whoever claims that Sci Fi isn't every bit as cliched as romance (or fantasy, or westerns, or any other well defined genre) has clearly been drinking heavily of the Star Trek kool-aid.

That said (and being an editor), I cannot help but point out: "Dr. Spock" != "Mr. Spock".

Benjamin Spock, a.k.a. Dr. Spock, the "Baby Doctor" or any number of other references, pretty much re-wrote the book on modern parenting back in 1946.

Mr. Spock, on the other hand, was Captain Kirk's second in command, chief science officer on the Enterprise, and all around hero to dweeby science nerds like myself.

Also, as a half-human/half-vulcan character, he makes a dubious counter-argument to the assumed perfection of male Romance characters. First, he's not entirely human, so, that's kind of an "apples-to-pluots" comparision, as it were. Second, being as he takes much more strongly after the vulcan half of his parentage, he is pretty much the definition an "emotionally handicapped fuckwad." Well, emotionally handicapped, anyway. Obviously he did pretty well for himself in life generally (boy, wouldn't it be great if we had script-writers for our own lives?), even if he never could see how much Nurse Chapel was jonesing for him.

Sandi Sookoo said...

This was a truly funny post. And I agree. While I do write romantic fiction, I've also penned two sci-fi pieces that have romantic elements. My husband, who is a sci-fi geek is mortified I would even blend the two together, I remind him that love exists in every world LOL

Hellion said...

Jason, hello! I totally had a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment with the "Dr. Spock" versus "Mr. Spock" thing. That is exactly the sort of thing that would have true Trekkies gunning for my blood right there. Thanks for saving my ass on that one. Have some rum!

I wish I could have a script writer for my own life--but I'd want him/her to be a cross between Christopher Moore and J.K. Rowling. Something between the complete irreverence of Lamb but with one liners as amusing as "the emotional range of a teaspoon."

Bosun said...

Yay! New visitors on the ship. Welcome all!

I didn't catch that Spock thing either, but I never watched the series or the movies. Haven't even seen the most recent one. And I always thought the Vulcans were those ones with the ugly giant wrinkled foreheads. Huh.

Hellion said...

Sandi, wonderful to meet you too! And your husband is the sort of example I've been avoiding on coffee dates. *LOL* Sometimes I feel like the die-hard sci-fis have inner 12 year old boys who say, "Love? Girls? Double ick! COOTIES!" and they run screaming from the room. I suppose all men have this inner 12 year old in them, but it feels like only the sci-fis let them still run the show. *LOL*

However, I have a very humorous image of your husband thrashing and trying to gouge his eyes out so he doesn't have to witness such a travesty against literature.

You sound infinitely more patient than me. *LOL* And absolutely correct. I think all literature can be distilled to two themes: love and conflict. (Love of self, love of parents/children, brotherly love, romantic love, et al.)

Hellion said...

I think the wrinkly forehead ones are the Klingons.

Bosun said...

Oh, I bet you're right. I'm clueless when it comes to the Trek stuff. But I do hope that all our outfits in the future aren't that skin tight. There will some lumpy suits if that's the case.

Donna said...

Jason, I just bookmarked your website the other day! I can't remember how I stumbled across it, but I really liked your last post on fight or flight. It was inspired, actually. :)

I'm gushing like a fangirl now. Okay, that's enough!

I can see where it would be easier to say "half Vulcan" rather than "emotionally handicapped fuckwad" when it comes to the Spockster. LOL It's just not as fun!

Donna said...

There will some lumpy suits if that’s the case

They're probably made out of Spanx, so it will be lump-free. :)

2nd Chance said...

Thank God, someone pointed out the Spock thing. I about needed my shamwow on the the screen for Jane's big laptop at that one! Trying to figure out how a baby doctor figured into classic Star Trek. Which, btw, did not have the halodeck.

The challenge was classic Star Trek, Captain. ;)

I read them all, I watch them all. I appreciate all of them, have never fanatic-ed up with any of them. I have run into the fan/geek and been repulsed, have also spent hours discussing art, history, life, love and every topic under the sun at a scifi/fantasy conventions with some of the most entertaining and intelligent people I've ever met.

And those are the people who do not put down romance. Every genre has it's geeks, including romance. I just left RT. Trust me, I saw them.

Captain, you wrote a metaphor and I bow to the attempt at keeping it civil. I'm sorry your scar from the date from hell is still so raw. I will take up this challenge and see what I can come up with, see if I can mediate some peace between the worlds of scifi/fantasy and romance. But it's gonna take a few weeks!

Hellion said...

2nd: I don't *care* there was no holodeck on the original Star Trek. But thank you for bringing it to my attention. Clearly this should have been handled by an expert. I look forward to reading it.

2nd Chance said...

;) I'm gonna bring in me sis ta help me. She knows it all better than me!

Looking forward ta the wall street one, Captain!

Hellion said...

A co-blog! That'll be fun! Hopefully your sis can stop by! :)

Kathy Frost said...

I read AND WRITE both Romance and Fantasy. I like reading some sci-fi and like everything from Dr Who to Star Trek and the original Star Wars. I never could get in to Harry Potter, guess I'm too old for YA novels.
I also love Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, and many other romance writers and have dozens of their books that I bought in hardcover editions.
I guess I'm a fraternal twin within myself. LOL

I do have a question. Probably stupid. But what is LOTR and POTC. I can't figure out the acronyms.

Hellion said...

Hi Kathy! I think Dr. Who is a great show. It's a lot of fun to watch; and I have a crush on Dr. Who. (David Tenant was my favorite, but I hear the new guy is good too.)

No, that's not at all stupid. That's just a sign of our ship's geekdom. *LOL* LOTR is Lord of the Rings; and POTC is Pirates of the Caribbean. :)

Kathy Frost said...

Thanks. I like LOTR, but I prefer the sections with the humans, elves and the other hobbits. Alas, Frodo is a bit boring to me.

As for POTC, I haven't decided yet. It's not funny enough to be a comedy, and not sane enough to be a drama. The special effects were good, I especially liked the mill wheel rolling through the jungle. I just don't know what to make of it...or the character he smart and deceptively cunning, stupid and lucky, or just weird and gay? I wasn't really sure, even after my daughter made me sit through all the movies in one day. Oh well...

I like fantasy mostly (without creatures and horror stuff) - Sharon Shinn (Twelve Houses series - a writer told me my writing is like hers), Lois McMaster Bujold (especially the Sharing Knife series), and L.E. Modessit, Jr.
(all the magic series, not the Science Fiction ones)

Hellion said...

*LOL* Of course Sparrow is smart and deceptively cunning--and perhaps ambiguously gay. It is hard to sit through all three movies in one day though. *LOL*

I haven't heard of Sharon Shinn--but I'll have to learn more about her work. Sometimes the otherworld detail can be a bit much. *LOL*

(P.S. Frodo bores the hell out of me too!)