Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy discussion

General Discussion > Should SFR be part of PNR?

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message 1: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments Okay, I'll raise a topic here for a couple reasons. 1) this is a well-read group 2) this question has come up recently on The Galaxy Express blog and it got me thinking and 3) I really want input on this. (Okay, so that's three and not a couple...)

Should Science Fiction Romance and Futuristics be under the Paranormal Romance umbrella? I note when I glance through monthly reading challenges that there are rarely books by Susan Grant, Colby Hodge, Rowena Cherry, moi or other SFR/Futuristic authors. Mostly it's vampire, wereworlf, witch, elf, demon and the like. Which makes me wonder if the PNR umbrella is the wrong category for space opera romance, starships and sexy stuff, faster-than-light travel and hot aliens? Is it that readers who accept the concepts of vampires and werewovles cannot in like-ways accept the concept of telepathic alien starship commanders?

What is it that makes demons and shape-shifters okay but starships not?

You can catch up on some of the opinions in comments here:

(Has anyone read Jacqueline Lichtenberg's DREAM SPY which is essentially vampires in outer-space?)

I think SFR is poised to break out big but I'm wondering if the associating with PNR helps or hinders. What do you think? Inquiring minds want to know...

Thanks, ~Linnea

message 2: by Lori (new)

Lori  (moderatrixlori) Well, I never really knew there was a SFR genre or I'd be all over that. I just recently heard the term "space opera" for the first time! One of my favorite books is Victorious Star Interstellar Service & Discipline 1 and while this leans more towards erotica rather than romance, I would love to read more space opera...much more. It just doesn't seem to get as much buzz as PNR, probably because of the Twilight craze which was responsible for bringing a ton of people over to the PNR genre. I think since PNR is so hot right now it couldn't hurt to be associated with it. I don't think pure SciFi fans would like that but if it's SFR...definitely.

message 3: by Rowena (last edited Feb 09, 2009 11:47AM) (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 53 comments Linnea,

I don't think we sit well under Paranormal's wing.

The problem isn't the werewoves, were-dragons, demonslayers, and vampires, but the fact that there is too much great stuff under "Paranormal"... everything from meticulously researched medieval historical heroines with "the Sight" (and I've no problem at all with that) to aliens who spend their days as gargoyles (and I've no wish to butt heads with them, either) .

We could all be "Speculative" or "Woo-Wooo" but how useful is it to be such a mixed bag when the overarching label has connotations favoring ghosts?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Knight's Fork

message 4: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Slade (jessaslade) | 114 comments I fell in love with SFR after reading Ann Maxwell's Fire Dancer Fire Dancer by Ann Maxwell

I believe the issues in SFR and PNR are similar and the open-mindedness called for on the part of the reader are similar, so what's not to love about both/all? I vote for one big happy family.

message 5: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 22 comments Linnea:

Thank you for bringing up this topic.

I think Lori made a good point with the popularity of TWILIGHT lighting a fire under PNR.

I'm currently reading your newest, HOPE'S FOLLY, a nice re-visit to a world you've made me comfortable in. But I note that in this very SFR series of yours, telepathy is real (as it is in many of my SF novels).

Under the old rules for genre, if it had telepathy in it (even if scientifically explained), it wasn't Science Fiction. So technically, by the old rules, HOPE'S FOLLY isn't SFR because it's not SF. It's PNR that happens to be set in space!

Likewise Vampires. If it had a vampire in it (even if set in space, like THOSE OF MY BLOOD, or DREAMSPY) then it wasn't SF.

Now we have a genre category that THOSE OF MY BLOOD and the sequel DREAMSPY could fit into, and I'd gladly accept the PNR label because of vampires and telepathy.

By the end of DREAMSPY, though, the scientific view of reality and the paranormal view of reality merge into something that still won't fit into any genre. Maybe SPNR? Or Para-science Romance??

To me, Science Fiction is all about the effect on personal relationships of the confrontation with the Unknown, the Impossible, the Unknowable.

I have a piece of fan art showing Kirk and Spock reaching to touch fingertips across the stars, a bridge between cultures. To me that defines SF. But in Star Trek, telepathy is real.

So what genre does Star Trek belong to?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahmicheal) | 19 comments Now, I know nothing about the publishing industry or marketing, I just buy books and read them. I just know that as a reader, I don't consider any fiction I've ever read that is set elsewhere in space to be paranormal. I've read a few of your books, Linnea, (and have more on my shelf to read) and they are tagged on my goodreads shelf as sci-fi ;)

I can't imagine a parnormal romance reader not accepting sexy telepathic aliens. In fact, I think it would be right up their alley if they give it a chance. My mother (avid reader like I am) says she doesn't read it because she can't get past the tech talk and terminology. Of course, I don't think she's really tried. I think that sci-fi scares some readers a little - preconceptions and all that. Sci-fi is for nerds, right? :P

That being the case, lumping it under paranormal romance might indeed gain SFR authors more of an audience...but I would always be one of those readers who thought it was being classified wrong. :)

message 7: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments Depends who is doing the labeling. This group seems to discuss paranormal romance and urban fantasy as if they're interchangeable. They're not. But if the common factor you're looking at is things that go bump in the night, futuristic or sf romance doesn't fit.

On the other hand, if you're looking at the intersection of sf/fantasy and romance, then futuristic or sf romance would fit nicely along side paranormal romance.

I think that sci-fi scares some readers a little - preconceptions and all that. Sci-fi is for nerds, right? :P

Not all of your audience is coming in from the romance side of things. I'm much more strongly tied to sf/fantasy than to pure romance.

But I guess it's like the Reeces' cup, did you get peanut butter in my chocolate or did I get chocolate in your peanut butter.

Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) I think SFR and PNR are not quite the same thing, but I do think they're something that should have a lot of overlapping fans; they're both romantic stories that include elements that require imagination and suspension of belief, which is what I turn to PNR for. It's not that I'm so hot for vampires, it's the idea of going into another world and learning new rules and having my mind opened to new ideas.
But I'm with Sarah. Even if you like both genres, it would feel a little off to classify sci-fi as PNR. It's just not quite the same thing.
And I'll say I haven't read much of it (SFR that is) simply because in all my meanderings around goodreads I haven't stumbled across much of it. But like Lori, I really enjoyed Victorious Star and would be interested in reading more of it.
But I think the difference is kind of like Star Trek vs. Lord of the Rings. To non-nerds they may seem like the same thing, but they're very different and while there are people who like both, most fans have a definite preference.

message 9: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments The difference between science fiction and fantasy is debated just as much as you could debate the difference between paranormal romance and sf or futuristic romance. It's the same dividing line.

Paranormal romance is a blend of romance and fantasy, while sf or futuristic romance is a blend of romance and science fiction.

By the way, please don't use "nerds" as a derogatory term.

message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahmicheal) | 19 comments Trust me, it wasn't derogatory at all. My husband and I are both nerds :)

message 11: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments Sarah wrote: "Trust me, it wasn't derogatory at all. My husband and I are both nerds :)"

That's good. I'm quite proud of being a nerd as well.

Thanks for clarifying.

Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) I wasn't using it as derogatory at all either, I proudly claim the title. :)

CJ - It's only a Paper Moon (bookewyrm) | 57 comments I can't explain it - but when I think of spaceships and stars (even if there is romance in it) I think of Science Fiction because it has an element of truth to it.

Vampires, witches, elves and the like - though they may end up in a Sci-Fi Rom - are to me grounded on Earth and least likely to exist, so I think Fantasy or Supernatural.

I think they are two separate things under the same umbrella and I love both. I think overall it helps that PNR is big because it sheds light on the other half of the spectrum - the sci-fi aspect.

Now Sarah, I believe that publishers usually put something in the section where they think they will reach the demographic they are going for(in some bookstores I noticed that some of Linnea's books are in Sci-Fi Fantasy but when I'm in another bookstore she is listed under Romance and it depends on sales and publisher marketing). Published writers, correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm over-simplifying immensely but that's because I have to touch up on my calligraphy so I can start addressing my wedding invites!

message 14: by Heather (new)

Heather Massey (heather_massey) | 7 comments Hi, all! Newbie here.

I agree that readers who enjoy paranormal romances may enjoy SFR/Futuristic stories. And it’s been par for the course that the SF, fantasy, and horror genres are linked because often fans of one are fans of all three (not always, but a significant amount).

In some ways, the prevalence of paranormal is understandable because there is a good amount of crossover in the stories themselves. And with fantasy romance and SFR/Futuristics being niche subgenres, there are practical considerations as well. When paranormal romances number in the thousands, and other related subgenres number in the hundreds, it might not have been practical to maintain separate Web sites (e.g., RWA’s online chapter for futuristic, fantasy, & paranormal).

My concern, though, is that paranormal has become the default term for SFR/Futuristics and also for fantasy romances. Publishers use paranormal to sell books and the term has translated into a catchall phrase/umbrella outside of marketing campaigns. I don’t think it was intentional—it just happened because of paranormal’s ginormous explosion. If the situation were reversed, we might now be calling everything futuristic or fantasy. But as much as I love SFR, I would object to using it as a label for other subgenres, either on a book’s spine or in casual conversation.

So what about down the road, when either SFR/Futuristics or fantasy romance (or both) break out into something larger? If fantasy romance hits as big or even half as big as paranormal (ghosts, demons, weres, vamps), will everyone still call the books paranormal romances? I think associating with paranormal helps but only to a point.

When I blogged about this topic at Romancing The Blog, one person observed that perhaps some different umbrella terms are needed. That’s worth exploring, I think.

I don’t quite see the need for a new subgenre term (paranormal) when one already exists (fantasy). However often a parent genre like romance or science fiction splinters, I prefer that each subgenre gets to have and maintain its own label. My vote is to give SFR/Futuristic romances and fantasy romances their own umbrellas as soon as it makes sense to do so.

(Linnea, thanks for the shout out!)

message 15: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments As Jacqueline pointed out, as some of you noted and some of you are now wondering--today's Science Fiction Romances and Futuristic Romances often do include the very same woo-woo elements that vampire or demon/angel paranormal romances do.

They just also often include starships.

One of the differences is that in the fantasy end of things, some of the characters' paranormal abilities are "magic" whereas in SFR, they can be "genetic." But it still ends up being woo-woo stuff and since so many PNR readers love woo-woo stuff, I don't understand why they shy from SFR/Futuristics.

Except, as noted, the "science" label. (And this fear of science comes from readers with iPhones, iPods, DVRs, Tivos, microwave ovens, laptops, netbooks and flashdrives who think nothing of instant-messaging, cellphones with cameras or online shopping. But they're afraid of technology.) ::pounds head on desk::

Lori, so sad to hear you never knew there was SFR. I've been published in it since 2005 with Bantam, longer than that in small press. Susan Grant goes back to 2000 if not earlier. Then there's Robin Owens, Rowena Cherry, Colby Hodge, Ann Aguirre, Isabo Kelly, Stacey Klemstein, Janet Miller and a host of others---plus even more who go back to the 1980s or earlier. Heather' THE GALAXY EXPRESS has quite a timeline on the left side of her site. And links.

So this is why I wonder if SFR hasn't gotten lost in the shuffle of PNR. Because I still run into people who have never heard of the genre.

Tagging as Sci Fi or Romance--for the most part, that's a publisher's decision. No one asks authors. My publisher, Bantam, initially shelved me in SF then, with a complete cover re-do, reshelved me in romance EXCEPT that Barnes & Noble refused to change so in B&N stores, I'm in SF. Susan Grant and Robin Owens have always been in romance. So has Colby Hodge. Dorchester's SHOMI line--I recommend Hodge's TWIST and Eve Kenin's HIDDEN, are in romance.

And it's not all outerspace. TWIST and HIDDEN are set "here" but future Earth (think Mad Max movies in a way). My THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES (and the zombies aren't what you're thinking) is set in Florida USA, present day.

SFR doesn't HAVE to be "out there." Stacey Klemstein's THE SILVER SPOON and sequels are set in Texas, present day (or near present day).

Why I think we often fit under PNR is that we too have "fantastic" elements--telepathy, matter manipulation, super strength. But we also can have super high tech--think MATRIX.

People in other galaxies DO fall in love.

But sadly, lumping us under PNR has not seemed to gain us any great audiences.

I don't really know why. Ideas? (Keep 'em coming--this is great).

I'd also be interested to hear from those of you who've not read or didn't know about SFR who then read an SFR or futuristic romance. What's your impression of this genre you didn't know existed?

~Linnea (I have a listing of authors on my LINKS page)

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Linnea, author discussions are always so interesting. Agree it's alot of genres under too few headings, but I've no idea how to improve the situation.

A timely question because I went to the HPB today, they only have two divisions, romance and PnR (ok and series) and SF is shelved way the heck on the other end. I'm the pathetic library nerd that was organizing their books while shopping. I move the two chick-lit books across the aisle into fiction, and sneak the mystery/thriller into a chair over there (wasn't wasting my time looking for the mystery section). Then I notice Rowena Cherry, Susan Kearny, Susan Grant, & some other futuristics shelved with regular romance. They don't seem comfortable there, but where do they belong?

A more natural division would seem to be:
Historical & contemporary romance
PnR, UF & fantasy
Futuristic, space opera, & science fiction
But those aren't great's a dilema for sure.

Kinda like the race thing, once we start making sub-divisions it's difficult to catagorize all the combinations possible.

What about the grand dames of science fiction, Andre Nortion and Ann McCaffrey? If they were new authors today, where would they be shelved?

message 17: by new_user (last edited Feb 09, 2009 10:01PM) (new)

new_user | 1389 comments While I think the SFR and PNR genres may overlap occasionally, e.g. vampires in space, they're distinctly different. Scifi is generally characterized by advanced technology and/or alien species. Hence, scifi. LOL.

Readers of one might enjoy the other, particularly if a favorite author writes in both, but that's not always the case. Sometimes scifi is just too much a departure to reality for a reader. There are even degrees within scifi, from futuristic to planetary romance to space opera. I would imagine most readers here would be more amenable to futuristic and planetary romance, but in any case I think it matters if there's a modern romance.

And I know some readers in the group enjoy a good alien romance. We just had a paranormal challenge and one of the challenges was to read a book with aliens. :) I think SFR is relatively young too, so give it time. Publishers don't create a new shelf until there are enough popular authors in the genre to warrant one.

PS. I love McCaffrey's Rowan series.

message 18: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (nancyjcohen) | 74 comments I would place SFR under the umbrella of paranormal romance because a)They're both romances before any other genre, and b)Often the SFR characters may have paranormal abilities. In all of my futuristics, for example, someone has an extraordinary ability that I'd definitely call paranormal. Does it have to be magical? I don't think so. Surely from a marketing viewpoint, these books would gain more readers as paranormal romances rather than being segregated as science fiction romance, which appeals to a narrow minority of readers, and which booksellers may not know how to market.

message 19: by Pamela, Moderatrix (new)

Pamela (teacupfangirl) | 614 comments Mod
Great discussion topic, Linnea, and I'm enjoying reading everyone's responses.

I personally wouldn't put SFR under the umbrella of paranormal because... well, nine times out of ten, it's not paranormal. Sure, they share common romance characteristics, but that only places them under the blanket category of romance. Paranormal romance (and it's non-romance counterpart, urban fantasy; btw, I'd argue that the lines between these two are becoming increasingly blurred, but that's another topic) as a genre seems to deal with supernatural creatures in a modern or close-to-modern setting, as well as accurately historical settings with the paranormal characteristics. Some SFR includes familiar characteristics of paranormals, such as psychic powers, for example, but that has been used in science fiction for a long, long time, and doesn't, IMO, define an SFR as a paranormal.

I'd argue for a wider blanket genre, if we need one. In non-romances, the genre of speculative fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal horror, and so on. Why shouldn't there be speculative romance?

message 20: by Lori (new)

Lori  (moderatrixlori) I feel like I've been smacked upside the head! I've been so focused on PNR/UF...and there is a ton of it out there to read, just look at my TBR list...that I haven't even considered looking to see if there was any SciFi out there that would appeal to my current need for sex and romance in what I'm reading.

I love SciFi. The Matrix is one of my all time favorite movies. I had not read on a regular basis for years until last June when a friend gave me Ender's Game. I read that, then Twilight and have devoured books at an astonishing clip ever since. PNR/UF just really sucked me in but now I'm so excited to start looking for SFR. Thank you Linnea for starting this topic and for recommending some authors. I can't to read your stuff!

message 21: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments Okay, since I've seen a few other comments in other forums here on Paranormal Romance, I thought I'd post the current SFR/Futuristic PEARL finalists--is listmistress FanGirl feels it's promo, then by all means delete or move to promo. I just felt a list at this point might give members unfamiliar with the genre a starting point.

The PEARL award is given out annual by the Paranormal Romance Yahoo Group. Past finalists and winners are here:

Beware as that page could seriously clog your TBR pile--it's not just SFR but fantasy, time-travel, vamp and the like.

Here are this year's nominees in the SFR/Fut categories ONLY:

2008 Finalists are:

SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY (with Romantic Elements)
Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair |Bantam Spectra
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre | Ace
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs | Ace
King of Sword and Sky by C. L. Wilson | Dorchester Leisure
Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong | Bantam Spectra
Gale Force by Rachel Caine | ROC
From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris | Ace
Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland | St. Martin's Press
Dragonborn by Jade Lee Dorchester | Love Spell
Small Favor by Jim Butcher | ROC

Dark Light by Jayne Castle | Berkley Jove
Hidden by Eve Kenin Dorchester | Love Spell Shomi
Countdown by Michelle Maddox | Dorchester Love Spell Shomi
Heart Fate by Robin D. Owens | Berkley
Moonstruck by Susan Grant | HQN

The full list of nominees:

Now you'll notice in the SFR section, we're lumped in with Fantasy. Futuristics are not. Head-scratcher, that, and IMHO part of the overall problem. (Where do we belong? ::sob::)

I'm not sure whether or not we belong in ROMANCE is the issue, as someone mentioned. We write to an HEA--that is, a Happily Ever After and yes, that's an actual writerly term used by editors and agents. The difference between SFR/Futuristics and some of the SF books with "relationship plots" IS the HEA. If a love interest dies at story end, or they separate, or the relationship just kinda's not an HEA and it doesn't qualify as a romance (Hint: Gone with the Wind is NOT a romance. Neither is Romeo and Juliet) and shouldn't be shelved in the romance section. That's why Lisanne Norman's SHOLAN series doesn't work as a romance, though there are relationships.

Fangirl said: I'd argue for a wider blanket genre, if we need one. In non-romances, the genre of speculative fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal horror, and so on. Why shouldn't there be speculative romance?

I, for one, would love to see SFR joined somehow with Urban Fantasy. I think there's a real "kick butt" similarity between the two--moreso than SFR and fantasy romance. SFR typically is very action-oriented, often military based. Kind of like Suzanne Brockmann's books in space or on another planet or space station. There are often large conflicts--quadrants at war, that kind of thing. I think that also is similar to many Urban Fantasies.

What I don't see is that much of a relation with the vampire/werewolf/dragon books. There, frequently, the conflict is more personal (but not always, I know). One character coming to terms with his/her being a werewolf rather than an impending war by werewolf societies.

I know to a great extent "what do we do with SFR" has paralyzed NY publisher marketing departments. So they do little to nothing (hence, IMHO, why so many readers have never heard of the genre.)

Okay, I need coffee. All I've managed to do so far is walk the cat (I have a Maine Coon/Norwegian Forest who yes, walks on a leash) and hit my emails. I need coffee.

LOVE the ideas! I'm especially interested in those of you who've not read SFR. Why not? Has any of this discussion perked your interest?

Thanks, ~Linnea
Hope's Folly Feb 2009

message 22: by new_user (new)

new_user | 1389 comments But, Linnea, I don't think all SFR necessarily follows that formula. Just as PNR focuses on romance where UF may or may not contain a romance subplot, there are scifi where the romance takes center stage.

message 23: by Jessa (new)

Jessa Slade (jessaslade) | 114 comments Linnea, I like to consider myself fairly well-read and I hadn't even seen the acronym SFR until I read this post. UF, SF/F, PNR, yes, but SFR, no. Just because 'I' hadn't run across the term before means naught, of course :) but if there is a general unfamiliarity of the term, maybe the problem is just that simple. You can't ask for it by name if you don't know what it's called.

Until relatively recently, I had to find most of my PNR in the Fantasy section. Now it has its own wall at Powells City of Books. I think SFR will get there too as awareness grows, especially if the genre does break out.

But I think there will always be a certain amount of haze since there's a continuum of romance in all stories, from hard focus on the couple to more of a wide angle on the world, whether that world is paranormal, space or women's fiction. For example, I see a fairly clear divide between UF and UFR (uh oh, new acronym). In an Urban Fantasy, the fantastical world is primary with the relationship playing a much lesser role; in an Urban Fantasy Romance, the story IS the couple's relationship as influenced by the fantastical world. IMO :)

Same for SF and SFR. I'd put Joss Whedon's Firefly clearly in SF despite the relationship between Cap'n Tightpants and Inara. Ann Maxwell's Timeshadow Rider would definitely be SFR. For me, Ann Aguirre's Grimspace goes... Darn it, somewhere in the middle :) Already my system has fallen apart.

message 24: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments But, Linnea, I don't think all SFR necessarily follows that formula. Just as PNR focuses on romance where UF may or may not contain a romance subplot, there are scifi where the romance takes center stage.

Hmm, it may be insufficient caffeine, but I'm not exactly sure what you mean. By 'formula' if you mean the HEA, yes, in order to be SFR, there must be an HEA. If there's no HEA then it's not SFR. It's Romantic Science Fiction. Now, granted, I'm talking in publishing terms not "reader" terms. Readers may or may not know about the HEA rule. But to genre publishers, yes, HEA is a rule for something to qualify as romance. "Center stage" is not always the same as an HEA.

I'm trying to think of SF novels I can use to illustrate that--SF with a strong romance plot but not an HEA (help?). Off the top of my blonde, menopausal head, I'm thinking of LADY IN GILL (and blanking on the author--sorry!). It was a fantasy (sorry) with a definite him/her love relationship only at the end, her (SPOILER!!!!) turned out to the villain and I believe she dies. Wall-banger for me because up to that point (literally, last chapter), it read like a fantasy-romance. Turned out to be a fantasy with romantic elements. No HEA.

IF that's NOT what you meant, clarify and I'll try to drink some more caffeine. ;-) ~Linnea

Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) Just a quick theory about why SFR hasn't broken out as much as PNR; this is my problem, at least. I haven't read much SFR (probably none, in fact) but I recently read Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow, which definitely has some futuristic and sci-fi elements. For me the problem is visual. With PNR, you're using creatures and ideas that are based on commonly understood myth or legend (i.e. vampires, werewolves, fae, etc.) It's easier to visualize and therefore become engaged because you have a basis to start from.
With sci-fi and futuristic elements, you don't necessarily have that same foundation to build on. It's harder for me to picture it. That's why sci-fi works so well on screen, but it's a slightly more difficult subject matter to convey in print. It's easier to get confused and bogged down in the world building and the descriptions, and to be pulled out of the story by terminology you don't understand.

message 26: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments Linnea wrote: Now, granted, I'm talking in publishing terms not "reader" terms. Readers may or may not know about the HEA rule.

Maybe I'm just a more informed reader, but I'm familiar with the HEA rule. That's why I'm one who complains when people confuse urban fantasy with paranormal romance.

For those familiar with "The Neverending Story", I like to think of romance (in all it's variations) as a safe story. You know the hero and heroine will survive all the obstacles and find happiness at the end.

Sometimes I prefer safe stories like that, sometimes I like the idea that anything can happen.

message 27: by ♥Tricia♥ (new)

♥Tricia♥ (siddie) | 146 comments Nichole wrote: "Just a quick theory about why SFR hasn't broken out as much as PNR; this is my problem, at least. I haven't read much SFR (probably none, in fact) but I recently read Working for the Devil by Lilit..."

Exactly Nichole! While I am definitely interested in reading some just to branch out.. I worry that what the author writes wont be easy for me to picture in my head.. or to understand.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Lisanne Norman is kinda SF/UF, and where did she go anyway? I've waited years for the next book.

Futuristic & time travel romance have a solid fanbase, and IMO SFR would have higher fan numbers with more exposure. It's an appealing genre, but not many have ventured forth to read yet.

But then, I'm firmly convicted that publishers are conflicted regarding the entire romance genre. It's their cash cow, but not "literature" enough for their sensibilities. So they are in the position of buying and marketing a product they really aren't comfortable associating with (thus the silly titles and lurid covers) *sigh*

message 29: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 22 comments Nichole and Tricia:

The solution to the dilemma is to read free. A lot of good examples of SFR are available in libraries. Try out some new authors that way. Take the list of books Linnea posted to your library.

Or online, many authors post some free chapters. SFWA's website ( has a list of what each member has allowed legitimately to be posted so you know you aren't reading pirated copies.

Linnea mentioned my novel DREAMSPY.

Here are the first 4 chapters, free plus the introduction by Susan Sizemore. Dreamspy is a standalone novel but set in the same universe as Those of My Blood. This site gives you free chapters of both novels.

Look on the menu on the left and pick a chapter to read free. If it's not visual enough, you've lost nothing.

message 30: by new_user (new)

new_user | 1389 comments No, Linnea, I wasn't referring to HEAs. I've read enough UF and PNR to be familiar with that line, LOL. I meant simply which plot arc (romance vs. suspense) takes more importance, more space, more words, LOL. That's all. There are different degress, more romance or less, etc.

Denni, I agree. The publishing houses themselves are often run by people who don't read it and accept romance purely for the money it produces more than anything.

message 31: by Heather (new)

Heather Massey (heather_massey) | 7 comments Nancy wrote: "I would place SFR under the umbrella of paranormal romance because a)They're both romances before any other genre, and b)Often the SFR characters may have paranormal abilities. In all of my futuris..."

This may just be me, but when I encounter characters in an SF/SFR story with "extraordinary abilities," I think in terms of the SF superhuman subgenre, especially if it's technology based. So for that reason, I'm extremely hesitant to label that concept as paranormal, especially when another perfectly good term already exists.

A cyborg, for example, is generally not considered related to horror/vamps/wolves/ghosts/demons. I would just find it strange if readers started thinking of bio cybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten from Linnea's GAMES OF COMMAND as a paranormal creature.

Of course, there's some crossover, as in people with psychic abilities can be found in either SF or paranormal/horror stories, but imho most of the time the boundaries are pretty clearly defined. Paranormal is mainly applied to things that ...lack a scientific explanation.

I can understand why publishers need to use "paranormal" to sell books. That's the reality. But I'm concerned that paranormal is starting to replace labels like science fiction and fantasy--and is it all in the name of selling more books or is this one of the fall outs of a particular trend hitting so big?.

Here's another reason I'm so very puzzled here: Are readers so swayed by the term "paranormal romance" on the spine that they buy a book even if it has a starship on the cover, and/or they've read the story description relaying that the story takes place in space? (And Nancy, all of this is not directed at you--your comments merely triggered an avalanche, lol!).

Perhaps publishers are taking advantage of the positive associations of the term paranormal. SF seems too strange, but if they call it paranormal it validates the SF aspect. I'm trying to imagine the emotions publishers want to invoke in readers.Does "paranormal" make SFR/Futuristics seem nonthreatening, safe, accessible?

Could be a self-fulfilling prophecy at work...reader sees the word paranormal, willing to give story a try despite misgivings about SF genre, or when viewing SFR/Futuristics story in context of paranormal--ah ha--this, I the reader, can relate to....?


message 32: by Heather (new)

Heather Massey (heather_massey) | 7 comments Jacqueline wrote: "Nichole and Tricia:

The solution to the dilemma is to read free. A lot of good examples of SFR are available in libraries. Try out some new authors that way. Take the list of books Linnea pos..."

Brilliant, as usual!

message 33: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments One of my recent reads Beneath the Thirteen Moons was labeled paranormal, although it took place on an alien planet. Clearly it should have fit in this sf romance category.

Good book, by the way. Very cool world-building.

message 34: by Pamela, Moderatrix (new)

Pamela (teacupfangirl) | 614 comments Mod
Quick pop-up-with-a-random-answer, because I should be getting ready for work. I get to gripe out my students today, hooray. >_<

LADY IN GIL is by Rebecca Bradley, and is actually the first of three books. It's been ages since I've read the series, but IIRC, there is sort of a HEA at the end, in that the lovers do end up together, but it's an odd HEA and I definitely wouldn't classify it as a romance. Of course, I could be remembering it completely wrong, so take that with a grain of salt. :D

I'll have to read the topic more closely after I teach today. I'm really loving this discussion!

message 35: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments Heather said: This may just be me, but when I encounter characters in an SF/SFR story with "extraordinary abilities," I think in terms of the SF superhuman subgenre, especially if it's technology based. So for that reason, I'm extremely hesitant to label that concept as paranormal, especially when another perfectly good term already exists.

A cyborg, for example, is generally not considered related to horror/vamps/wolves/ghosts/demons. I would just find it strange if readers started thinking of bio cybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten from Linnea's GAMES OF COMMAND as a paranormal creature.

As Kel-Paten's "mom," uh yeah. I'd be perplexed if he was deemed paranormal. Now, Serafino's abilities...okay. But then again we're dealing with genetic telepathic talents not "magic." (Isn't there some famous SF author's quote about the relationship between magic and advanced technology?)

I don't fear so much that the paranormal label is "dumbing down" or "making safe" SFR for PNR readers, as much as I fear it misrepresents. Okay, maybe not a dumbing down but a softening. SFR can deal with some pretty hard, gritty characters and situations (Aguirre's GRIMSPACE comes to mind--LOVED that book!). But then, so can vamp and dragon stories. I think overall, PNR has become more kick-butt in the past few years. Clingy, fainting, TSTL characters are (blessedly) rare (though I've still stumbled over a few). It's possible LKH is responsible for this move to grittiness. ::shrugs::

Spine labels: mine now only say ROMANCE. They used to say SCIENCE FICTION. Kenin's HIDDEN says ACTION ROMANCE. Oooh, I like that!

Fangirl, thanks for the update on Lady in Gil. I vaguely remember hearing there were other books. I might now try them but years ago, when I read Lady, I was so ticked off at the ending, I refused to seek out the rest of the books. As Jacqueline can tell you, I love conflict and I love emotional wranglings. But I don't like cheap shots and I felt that was a cheap shot ending. (Same as the death of a certain character in SERENITY. Cheap shot. I've blogged about that over at Alien Romances.

BTW Jessa, I almost snorted my coffee out my nose at Cap'n Tight Pants. LOL!

BTW BTW I'm fairly surprised at those posting here who deem SFR/Futuristics a "new" subgenre. Uh, it's not all that new. Go to Heather's blog and look at the roll call on the left:
It traces all the way back to the 1930s though began to be more prominent in the late 1970s to early 80s. And as much as I'd love to feel the 1970s is recent times ::sigh--I graduated high school in 1972...::, it's not considered so anymore. ::sigh::

IMHO SFR/Futuristics is overdue for a defined identity.


message 36: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 22 comments Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Linnea and Heather and anyone averse to the SF label:

Do you think that maybe the 1960's and onwards TV and film nurtured tradition of painting SCIENCE as the VILLAIN -- (mad-scientist; Star Trek's CAPTAIN DUNSEL episode etc etc) -- Science as the enemy, science itself as the evil power that corrupts morals -- is the reason that today a generation of readers starving for SFR
a) don't know SFR exists
b) wouldn't touch the label with a 20 ft pole
c) think science is hard to understand, visualize or relate to and can't form the backdrop or plot for a HEA Romance?

TV and film puts the SF label on works that are actually HORROR GENRE.

Star Trek was labeled (in TV Guide on paper) DRAMA!!! (which it was, but it was the ONLY SF on TV at that time and for decades after)

The "SciFi Channel"'s mainstay broadcasts are all HORROR. (not even Horror-Romance)

At SF Cons, there's almost always a panel decrying the SF Channel for mis-labeling Horror as SF.

The image in the minds of readers desperately searching for what SF delivers is that anything called SF is the opposite of what they're looking for.

Could this be part of the problem?

The solution I'm working on is to write and sell a film that is SFR. I've just finished putting my Romantic Times Award Winning novel into script form for a producer of webisodes (no live actors) and it's in production (may take years). I'm working on posting some PDF booklets on writing craft. My next project should (I hope) be the vampire film script in the Those of My Blood universe that I discussed on the Amazon blog.

My current idea for that film was to play UP the Horror elements because "that's what sells."

But this blog has me thinking that might be a mistake because my objective is to get the SFR label into common usage, funneling readers to books like Linnea writes.

message 37: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 22 comments Ooops - I don't know why my post went up with two pix! JL

message 38: by Erin (new)

Erin Quinn (erin_quinn) | 45 comments mlady_rebecca wrote: "One of my recent reads Beneath the Thirteen Moons was labeled paranormal, altho..."

Hi, I've been lurking and following this thread and thought I'd jump in becuase I loved Beneath Thirteen Moons as well. Have you read Kathryne Kennedy's other books? I think she is a fabulous world builder. The Enchanting series is great--not as SF as Moons, but really fabulous. :-)

message 39: by Lori (new)

Lori  (moderatrixlori) Are there standards as to how a book is classifed? I'm assuming there are but do they differ based on the publisher or are there hard and fast rules? I like to put things in neat little boxes and like to shelve my books here by author and genre. Sometimes I'm not sure what genre they are. Can someone give me the definitions of each genre or point me to a website that does that?

message 40: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments Lori,
As to definitions and standards and classifications. Yes. And No. ;-)

Publishing houses have their definitions (and not all houses agree). Reviewers have theirs. Bookstores have theirs. Some bookstores have an SF section and a separate Fantasy aisle. Some combine the two. And it gets worse from there.

I can tell you that's what on the spine has no meaning other than to the art department. My GAMES OF COMMAND had romance on the spine and was shelved in SF on its release in 2007 because it was sold to the "SF Buyer" in the chain bookstores. So it was the publisher's and distributor's representatives who decided to pitch my book as SF even though the art department labeled it as romance.

Now all my books carry 'romance' on the spine but for reasons neither I nor my agent can figure out, Barnes & Noble shelves them in SF. Borders shelves them in Romance. Again, it has to do with what (corporate chain store) buyer bought the books.

Beyond that, yep, there are various definitions out there on SFR, RSF and Futuristics. As well as other genres. Romance, for example, must have an HEA--but that's only important to agents and editors (and a few savvy readers as noted above.) The clerk shelving books in a store has no clue if it has an HEA.

For one house's take, go to Dorchester Publishing Submission Guidelines:

Among other things, it states:
FUTURISTIC ROMANCE: Futuristics contain all the elements of romance—beautiful heroine, dashing hero, some conflict that separates them, a happy ending, etc.—but they are set in lavish lands on distant worlds. Avoid long descriptions of science-fiction-type hardware, technology, etc.

They want lavish lands and distant worlds. So my books--set on space stations and starships--don't qualify.

See how confusing it gets?

You can also see my take on things in an old interview:

I'm sure Heather will pop in with more definitions.

And this is probably more confusing than helpful. And another reason I wonder where SFR belongs. ~Linnea

message 41: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments Jacqueline, Spot on, gal! I think "science as villain" (great idea for a blog) is a huge stumbling block for SFR/RSF/SF etc. Technology is frequently cast as the villain (hence all the Mad Max type books and movies). I don't want to get remotely political here but we must admit the media et al continuely reminds us that Green is Better and Technology is Bad/Destroying the Earth. It's part of our culture.

Science/Tech is also geeky. (I Heart Geeks). THE BIG BANG THEORY tv show is a good example. Culturally, again, we have a hard time seeing geek = strong.

Myth, faeries, dragons and magic don't carry that same villification. Elves are sexy. Techo-nerds aren't. And therein may be part of the SFR/PNR problem. IMHO, IMHE and your mileage may vary. ~Linnea

message 42: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 11, 2009 11:43AM) (new)

Has there always been a SFR designation? I assumed it was fairly recent, as a way to seperate the more traditional SF from the more romance oriented cross-over authors? The hardcore SF fans don't care for the mushy stuff...although for some reason sex without romance is ok (remember those old John Norman books?) There have been some great changes in the genre!

Jacqueline, Best wishes with the screenplay project, we need more quality movies!

message 43: by Ann aka Iftcan (new)

Ann aka Iftcan (iftcan) | 2659 comments Mod
I just took time to read the entire thread of this chat. I don't know about lumping them together. But I'm something of a historian, and have books that were published as SF way back in the 30's and 40's (yes, I collect those editions. I LOVE those covers) that, when re-published went under different headings. SciFi used to be anything that was not clearly defined as something else (i.e. western, children's, classic literature or mystery.) That meant it was sci/fi (both hard and soft), fantasy, space opera, horror, even romances from any of those fields.

As a result, I now tend to start at the front of the store and work my way back. I've found books by writers I like in every category that the store has. I mean, Charlaine Harris' Sookie books can be in--sci/fi, horror, romance and/or mystery--and I've found her in all those spots in different stores. I used to have a friend who had an independent bookstore (her speciality was sf/horror) who ignored what the publisher put on the spine for her OWN categories. That meant that, gee, yes, she DID read the books. (Something that I don't think employees in the big chains bother doing) So she could talk to her customers about them.

I know that the Borders here where I live doesn't even have an "employee recommended" shelf. And when I ask for a book, if I don't know the title or the author, I'm SOL. Altho I will admit, that I do get lucky once in a while and find someone who actually READS.

Back to the question earlier about where would the "classic" writers (Andre Norton and Anne MacCaffrey were cited) be placed. I have to wonder that too.

I am an admited Nortonophile and MacCaffreyophile. I have almost everything that either of them has written, sometimes multiple copies, if its been released more than once with different covers. (Ok, with North, I admit that some books I have up to 6 copies of, simply because they came out with that many different covers for it) and I ALSO have stories that Andre wrote under male pen names (hey, I read the quote from one editor way back when that "women didn't understand science so I won't buy stories from them" and various other fun flubs like that)

But some of Andre's works more than Anne's (Andre was MUCH older, she had her first book published in 1929) would be scattered all over the place. She wrote books that were--hard sciece, fantasy, time-travel, soft science, mystery, historical, romance, even some reference books (she was an expert on Chinese porcelein)

message 44: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline | 22 comments I'm such a devoted Andre Norton fan that once, on a visit to her house, I defied her to write the sequel to STAR RANGERS. She said to me, "No, I'm not going to do that. YOU do it!"

So I did (but because I had to invent a universe to tell the story against rather than steal hers, it took a trilogy - the story before Star Rangers; the story OF Star Rangers; then finally the sequel I had wanted to read.) The first in the trilogy, DUSHAU, won the Romantic Times Award.

She actually liked the books, too.

message 45: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments Erin wrote: I loved Beneath Thirteen Moons as well. Have you read Kathryne Kennedy's other books? I think she is a fabulous world builder. The Enchanting series is great--not as SF as Moons, but really fabulous. :-)

No, I haven't read any of her other books. I'll have to look for them.

message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 11, 2009 01:39PM) (new)

If she was a new author today, it's possible Andre Norton's Beast Master type books would be shelved with PnR (instead of SF just because that's where she's always been). Styles have changed, and catagories less so. But as Linnea points out, what the publishers/bookstores are currently using could probably be improved upon.

message 47: by Stacey (last edited Feb 11, 2009 02:49PM) (new)

Stacey (stacey_klemstein) | 1 comments Okay, so this is just my opinion based on my experience with talking to people about my SFR books. :)

I cannot count the number of times I would have AVID PNR readers stop by my table at the bookstore or Printers Row or wherever and we'd have a lovely chat about all the books we love (as I'm a big PNR reader myself). But the second that the word "aliens" came up--even after I explained the romance angle and that these aliens were not big eyed grays from X-Files--the conversation was over.

"I don't like that sci-fi stuff."

Regardless of how we classify it, a significant percentage of the reading audience sees SFR as something entirely "other" from PNR. These readers will happily accept vampires, werewolves, elves, and witches, so I don't think it's a believability issue. I think it's what we're asking them to believe. Aliens, starships, cyborgs, cloning, etc.

But more than that, I think it may be the label of "science fiction" that triggers this negative reaction to begin with. People think of themselves as a certain "type" of reader, and I think there is a distinct prejudice against SF in the general public. "It's only for geeks." (I count myself as one, btw). The same way they believe romance novels are for ditzy women with unrealistic expectations about relationships and men. Arrrrggh. Both of these dreadful stereotypes exist and I think SFR bumps into both of them.

I think about movies like THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR, for example. Both of which have fairly significant love stories inherent in them. They are both classified as action/adventure first, then science fiction, which I think opens them to a wider audience than if they were classified as SF alone.

So, in short...(too late!):

I think that SFR should be considered separately from PNR because readers, in my experience, see it thusly.

I also think SFR needs a new name. (For example, I love what Urban Fantasy has done to draw in those who would not be traditional fantasy readers, myself included). Not because of the SF and R stereotypes that exist (though that would be an added benefit, I think) but because, IMHO, the term "science fiction romance" doesn't seem to connect with readers or clearly convey what they can expect from the story.(

When you meld two genres together, I think you come up with a third, wholly new thing. It deserves its own name! :) My argument for this is PNR itself. Think about how different the reaction from readers might have been if PNR had been termed Horror Romance instead. Werewolves, vampires, ghosts and witches were once the sole property of horror novels...

Though...I must confess, I have no idea what that new name for SFR should be! :)

message 48: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly (kamrie) | 1 comments Even though I enjoy both. there is a difference, and some may not like both

message 49: by Linnea (new)

Linnea (linneasinclair) | 96 comments First, for those of you who've not read Jacqueline Lichtenberg's DUSHAU or DREAMSPY...and you like PNR/SFR, please do so! I cannot recommend these books enough. JL is a craft-mistress of FICTION. I still sit at her feet and learn...

Second, I'm thrilled to have Stacey Klemstein aka Stacey Kade pop in here. She and I teach writing together at conferences and though we come at the process from opposite ends, we end up at the same place. Stacey is a TOP NOTCH author and like with JL, if you've not read her, do so. You won't regret it.

As Ann mentioned, I miss the 'employee recommended' shelves--though they're still there in my local TOTAL WINE store. ;-) And I miss shelf-talkers. Those are not as common as they should be AND I think they would be supremely helpful.

Which is why I try to pop in to forums like this. I don't know of any other way to talk to readers and alert them to what's going on (or not).

I do fear SFR, while poised for break out, may fizzle. I don't exactly know, Denni, when SFR became a legit term. Heather would know, Jacqueline might too. I do know that Dorchester has been putting FUTURISTIC on their spines since the 1990s but I don't write for Dorch and can't give you exact dates. Does someone know when Dara Joy hit it big? That's likely one of the benchmarks.

Regardless, as Stacey said, URBAN FANTASY has become a new buzzword and it is MUCH younger than SFR. SFR has failed to catch on in that manner. And yet we have very similar ingredients!

So is it that readers of blood-sucking dead guys ;-) can't make the jump to kick-butt starship captains? And being side by side with blood-sucking dead guys ;-), has that hurt us?

If you read SFR, and your friend doesn't, how would you convince them to try a novel by Robin Owens or Susan Grant or Ann Aguirre or... fill in the blank (with your favorite short blonde menopausal SFR author...)?

BTW having just finished Moon's VICTORY CONDITIONS I can see where lots of romance 'requirements' weren't met, even though there's a romance subplot. And there IS to a great extent an HEA. But there's a huge difference in presentation. Word choice. Emotional involvement. I really like the VATTA series but then I'm primarily an SF reader. I can see where it might not work for some romance readers.

~Linnea, off to a hockey game. Yeah, we have ice hockey in Florida. Ask Stacey. I drag her to them when she visits...

message 50: by CaliGirlRae (new)

CaliGirlRae (rae_l) I'm a big sci-fi fan and came into paranormal a bit later (thank you Anne Rice). I love the speculative genre because the imagination has no boundaries. :-) I was jazzed to see there was a SFR genre and have a list of reads to check out when I'm done with my paranormal craze.

I was always boggled to see Paranormal encompassing anything out of the ordinary. I agree with new user's assessment:

new_user wrote: "While I think the SFR and PNR genres may overlap occasionally, e.g. vampires in space, they're distinctly different. Scifi is generally characterized by advanced technology and/or alien species. Hence, scifi."

It was weird to see urban fantasy and other paranormals called sci-fi because most of them didn't have a technological or scientific base to them. It was mostly fantasy. I know the bookstores put both together and fantasy makes up the bulk of what's on the shelves. I even read an article recently that wondered if Sci Fi was a dying genre. I hope not! Sure a lot of it was very male driven and techy but I'd love to see more authors like Ursula LeGuin and Tanya Huff continue to add to the genre.

I'm jazzed that SFR is still on the rise because there's so much potential for the future of the genre.

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