Science fiction romance as a genre is all about hope. Of course every modern romance novel is about hope, because every romance ends happily ever after, its optimism at once satisfying and inspiring for the reader. But science fiction romance takes that aspiration and expands it to fill the whole future.
Science fiction, minus the romance, is admittedly not the most optimistic of genres. In fact, a strong thread of foreboding has characterized science fiction ever since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein first galvanized the genre into life. And as it turned out, that cautionary impulse was perfectly justified by events in the real world. Novels like Brave New World and Neuromancer were often prescient about the changes our ever more powerful technology would work on us, from our societies to our ethics to our bodies themselves.
I admit that kind of shrewd foresight is part of what draws me to the genre. My Once Upon A Red World series is my own way of guessing at what the future holds for us humans as our knowledge of our universe and our ability to shape it continues to explode. In Ice Red a pair of lovers must face the challenges of life on the planet Mars, and in Ladder To The Red Star space technology and medical technology hold both promise and danger for the hero and heroine.
But my future Solar system is speculative rather than ominous, because I don’t work within a dystopian context. Instead I tap another, equally strong trend in science fiction—the heroic tradition of Star Trek and Star Wars which revels in the excitement and wonder at the possibilities before us, where our technology helps unleash the best in us as well as the worst. And romance, in the modern sense, is an essential part of the heroic journey.
At its heart every modern romance is an age-old struggle between the forces of right and the forces of destruction and despair. The stories may feature werewolves, firefighters, dukes, or cyborgs, and the stakes may be as small as a single couple or as big as a galaxy, but the same dynamic applies in every case. At the beginning of a romance, the hero and heroine face a world destabilized and endangered by the very same powers trying to keep them apart. As they fight to overcome the obstacles between them, they are putting their world itself back in balance.
Romance protagonists embody qualities like courage, kindness, and loyalty, and their virtue is always rewarded in the end, as virtue should be. In science fiction romance, the best elements of human nature can triumph even in the face of galactic overlords and insane mega-computers. Happiness, true love and of course, fabulous sex are goals to fight for right along side interspecies harmony and the cure for the common cold. But the drive to achieve these ambitions against all odds comes from our hearts, not our heads.
The future would be a scary place to venture into without heart. To read science fiction romance is to celebrate hope for a future where love can conquer whatever science and technology throws our way.
I love it when romances tackle time periods that haven’t gotten much attention. For this, Jenn Bennett, who writes paranormals set in the roaring twenties, is wonderful. Another underutilized setting is Georgian England, and Elizabeth Hoyt, with her fairy tale inspired stories, owns it.
Questions for the Author
1. Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
I once spent a month on a wilderness survival expedition in the Rocky Mountains, toting a sixty-pound pack up and down cliffs for 18 hours a day, dodging bears and flash floods, and living off the mosquitos that committed suicide in my tea. I figured if I could get through that, I could get through anything.
2. Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)
Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Though rather dramatically put, this is essentially correct. When the idea of my first book Ice Red got a hold of me, I realized I was going to be bugged to death if I didn’t get it written and out there in the world. In order to do that, I had to turn myself into a professional writer, which meant polishing my craft and educating myself about the expectations of my new job. That was the specific moment when I became a writer—the moment I made the commitment to see my ideas brought to life.
3. Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)
Several years ago, I was prowling discontentedly through the science fiction and fantasy shelves of the bookstore, wondering why my heretofore-favorite genre had become depressing and unsatisfying to me. Dragons, spaceships, bleh. It was missing something. Then, I stumbled across a display of books featuring Dark Prince by Christine Feehan, and lo, the light dawned. This was what had been missing from my dragons and spaceships books—hot sex and happily-ever-afters. Upon devouring that book, I went on to discover the wide world of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and futuristic romance. Eventually, I was compelled to add my own books to my new favorite genre. So ultimately, I owe my writing career to Dark Prince. Thanks Ms. Feehan!.
Jael Wye grew up on the American Great Plains, went to school in the Midwest, and now lives in beautiful New England with her family and her enormous collection of houseplants. For more of Jael's unique blend of futurism and fairy tale, don't miss her ongoing series Once Upon A Red World.