Today’s guest is Heather from the excellent blog The Galaxy Express! Her site is a fantastic place to visit for all things related to science fiction romance—book news, discussions, guest posts, interviews with authors, and more. She’s very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the genre, and I’m thrilled she’s here today to discuss why she loves science fiction romance and share a variety of recommendations in this genre!
Sci-Fi Romance: Introducing A New Kind Of Hero
Since my early teens, I’ve been on the alert for female science fiction heroines who would provide me with an alternative to the default White Male Hero. What can I say? I’m a woman and I need representin’.
I enjoy genre stories with lone heroes of either gender, but I’m a much bigger fan of stories where it takes two or more characters to overcome a threat, solve the mystery, etc. Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Attack the Block are among my top favorite films because of their emphasis on a community-based alliance.
Even more, I crave science fiction stories wherein the heroine saves the day in conjunction with a partner, one with whom she’s on equal footing (because, you know, obvious creative choice to make). And preferably one with whom she falls in love. Science may build the world, but love makes it go ’round.
My interest in couple-as-joint-heroes predates to the 1974 Japanese anime show Space Battleship Yamato. It was my earliest exposure to not only science fiction, but also romantic SF.
The main couple, Susumu Kodai and Mori Yuki, is my favorite of all time. While Kodai is ostensibly the hero of the show, Yuki’s courageous act in the final episode of the original series cemented for me the idea that love and romance in a science fiction story can have mind-blowing power.
Years would pass before I was able to find books that delivered what Space Battleship Yamato had only hinted at, namely, a sharp focus on the intersection of romance and technology. Starting in the mid-80s, science fiction romance built on the foundation of romantic SF—most notably by introducing SF-romance blends with upbeat endings—and has been evolving steadily ever since.
In far too many SF stories for my taste, female characters are relegated to the love interest and/or have a serious lack of agency. Remove such characters and the story still stands. It’s been dismaying to witness how easily a female character, of any race or sexual orientation, can be marginalized in a narrative.
Sci-fi romance stories—and the scores of women who write them—address that imbalance by delivering a much-needed alternative to the White Male Hero default. These books usually feature a heroine and hero joining forces to not only fall in love, but to also overcome an external threat. This genre has rewritten the hero narrative in order to give female characters leading roles as well as explore love and sex in a science fictional setting. The heroines possess equal agency, equal personality, and equal stage time.
In light of what sci-fi romance has accomplished, I’d like to showcase a few books I’ve enjoyed. My goal is to also demonstrate the sheer variety available in this genre even in the case of a small sampling. While diverse in nature, the stories share the core concept of the interface of science/technology and romance.
Alpha by Catherine Asaro
At its heart, Alpha is an android romance. What makes it so entertaining and refreshing for me is that the heroine is the android. She’s a perfect mix of strong and vulnerable. Strong because she’s an android with extraordinary abilities, and vulnerable because she’s evolving into a sentient being as the story unfolds. Not only that, but she falls in love with the military admiral she’s supposed to kill on behalf of a ruthless cyber terrorist. Just—wow!
Other tags: near-future setting, hard SF elements, A.I., military, action-adventure
The Outback Stars – Sandra McDonald
The Outback Stars begins as a science fiction mystery, but ends as a science fiction romance. The heroine is an officer low on the military totem pole, but she refuses to let that stop her from taking charge when she discovers evidence of a smuggling ring. Her investigation leads to more trouble and danger, particularly in the form of the hero, a sergeant who’s been accused of rape, but never charged.
Other tags: military politics, complex plot, forbidden love, romantic SF, Aboriginal mythology, alien artifacts, beta hero
A Gift For Boggle – P.J. Schnyder
Boggle, the hero, began as a secondary character in the author’s book Hunting Kat. I immediately became enamored of this tech wizard, one made all the more compelling by the fact that he’s a character with a disability. He’s also extremely nerdy and overweight. But his personality was so interesting that I felt he deserved a sci-fi romance of his own.
To my delight, P.J. Schnyder delivered exactly that with A Gift For Boggle. It’s short and sweet (and free on the author’s site!), but delivers a fun, sexy story with one of sci-fi romance’s most envelope-pushing heroes.
Refugees on Urloon by Melisse Aires and Europa Europa by K.S. Augustin
Melisse Aires writes “hearth and home” sci-fi romance, which offers readers an alternative from kick butt action heroines and heroes. K.S. Augustin writes cerebral stories with hard SF elements and political undertones. What I particularly enjoyed about both books was the way they combine alien ocean settings and genetic engineering elements. More, please!
Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau and “The Effluent Engine” N.K. Jemisin (The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, Sean Wallace, Editor)
These two stories offer a rare bird in genre fiction: the lesbian sci-fi romance. They’re notable for being among some of the earliest stories of this type. Rulebreaker takes place in a futuristic setting, while “The Effluent Engine” is steampunk. Both stories feature intelligent heroines, all of whom are involved in either business or science ventures.
Apart from the entertainment value found in these tales, they include two elements that sci-fi romance needs more of: diversity and multiculturalism.
On Wings, Rising – Ann Somerville
On Wings, Rising takes place on a far-away world during a time when humanity lacks much of the advanced technology it once had. An m/m sci-fi romance, it features a cross-cultural romance and a truly alien humanoid hero, along with a few gender-bending elements. This is a go-to sci-fi romance for readers who enjoy stories on the intellectual side, as well as thoughtful (but not preachy) social commentary.
Metal Reign – Nathalie Gray
Metal Reign is an alien invasion SFR and it includes all the elements Nathalie Gray has a reputation for delivering: high-octane action, a kick-butt heroine, military space opera setting, and cool sci-fi details. Most of her stories have an erotic heat level, but if you prefer your sci-fi romance on the “sweet” heat level side, Metal Reign should not be missed.
Other tags: friends to lovers, alien invasion, starship captain heroine, cook hero
Moonsteed – Manda Benson
I enjoy sci-fi romance that’s a bit on the Weird SF side, and if you have similar tastes then Manda Benson’s Moonsteed is one to consider. It features a so-called “unlikeable” heroine, a pudgy Beta hero, erotic elements of the o_O variety, and general quirkiness. There are also genetically engineered horses and a Callisto setting. Not one’s typical mix for a sci-fi romance, but it’s a fun example of the unusual places the books in this genre can go while still emphasizing the hero-heroine partnership.
Body Electric – Susan Squires
Spike Jonze’s HER may be a current critics’ darling, but long before Scarlett Johansson’s sultry voice brought an A.I. to life, Susan Squires explored a similar premise—and much more—in her 1992 book Body Electric. The difference is that Body Electric approaches the concept of a human-A.I. romance from the heroine’s point-of-view and uses a distinctly female gaze.
Part thriller, part cyberpunk, part near-future Pygmalion, Body Electric provides social commentary on what it means to be human as well as the challenges and ethics of falling in love with a sentient A.I. of one’s own creation.
There’s plenty more where those titles came from!
The SFR online community offers a variety of resource sites for readers and authors to gather, including Spacefreighters Lounge, Smart Girls Love SciFi & Paranormal Romance, SFR Brigade, Alien Romances, Backward Momentum, CONTACT – Infinite Futures, Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly (of which I’m a founding member), and my own blog, The Galaxy Express.
For an extensive list of authors who write sci-fi romance (most of them women), check out my SFR Authors page.
About the Blogger
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.