Monday, July 03, 2006

Romancing the (SF Shy) Romance Reader

Other side of the coin this week, kidlings.

I've often said that writing Science Fiction Romance is like being the bastard child of two genres who never much liked each other in the first place. Traditionally (as noted last week), science fiction readers get the yips at any mention of romance. And romance readers get the ickies when the word science fiction is mentioned.

Now granted, romance readers--in my humble experience--are far more likely to at least give SF a chance. But there are still those--and they invariably end up at my table at a book signing--who state: "Science fiction in a romance? Oh, I could never read that! Because [pick one or more and yep, I've heard all these excuses]:

1 - I'm not smart enough
2 - It's too full of strange words
3 - I failed science in high school
4 - I only read about familiar places
5 - It's all about weapons and ships

and so on and so forth.

This baffles me, as much as I'm baffled by SF readers who balk at romance, never considering that romance is as much a part of our existence as gravity, never considering how--duh--they came to exisit in this world (you think what, Immaculate Conception?).

But let's take them one by one:

Not Smart Enough - Egads, what a horrible thing to say. "But you DO read books?" I ask (being we're in a book store, it's an obvious conclusion though they could be there for the coffee). "Oh, I love books!" Ima Dummy answers and rattles off a list of authors from the NYT and USA Today best seller lists. Aha, so you can wrap your mind around a who-dunnit set in London or follow a family saga with more players than the Super Bowl, but you're can't read SF.

Strange Words - And "reticule" isn't? (if you all read my parting comment on last week's post then you know this already). Surcoat? Are "gainsay" and "fortnight" words you routinely use (well, maybe Rowena does). When's the last time you had ratafia or orgeat?

Those are all terms routinely found in historical romances. If the reader can wrap her brain around them, what's so problematical about "transporter"?

Failed Science in School - Did you fail People 101 as well? SFR books are about people. Granted, some may be androids or have blue skin, but they're people: people striving for something, people getting into trouble, people falling in love, people facing danger.

Remember, to YOUR grandmother or great-grandmother, your current existence in 2006 is high-tech. Wouldn't your grandmother be interested in reading your life story?

Familiar Places - I often respond to that with: "Ever read or watch the tv movie, Shogun?" And follow it with, "And the last time you went to Japan was...?" Now, once in a while I get someone who goes there routinely. Like dear 747 Captain Susan Grant. But Sue reads and WRITES science fiction romance (damn good ones, too!). So she's excused.

But how about 16th century Scotland? That's certainly not familiar. Or present day Moscow, Sao Paulo, Oslo or Amsterdam? Point is, one of the reasons we read is to explore unfamiliar places. I'm sure if I went to the outbacks of Australia it would be as bizarre to me as the red deserts of Riln Marin.

And a space station? Try going to the Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall (Ft Lauderdale FL), especially around the winter holidays. Talk about an enclosed CITY with every conceivable language! I did a book signing there last winter and, sitting in the entry way of Books-A-Million, between hearing Russian, Yiddish, Spanish, Haitian, French (Canadian and Continental), Portuguese (Brazilian and Continental) and at least four other languages I couldn't identitfy AND watching the teenagers lope by in their Goth outfits... my own space station of Cirrus One (An Accidental Goddess) seemed damned bland and normal by comparison.

Bang bang, Zoom zoom - All about weapons and ships? No, it's about people but yes, there could be weapons and ships. And those pirate romances you love to read are, what, set in a lounge chair with feather wands? Okay, so maybe you're never been in a starfreighter, but I've never been in a hansom cab or a coach-and-four or a chariot. And I'll bet dollars to doughnuts there are a lot more among us who haven't ridden a horse than have. Or a camel. Or a donkey.

Reading is all about expanding our experiences. Well, let me back up for a moment. Reading is about fun. But after the fun it's also about expanding our experiences, stepping into someone else's shoes (or gravity boots), tasting their fears, feeling their joys. Seeing life through a different set of eyes.

To me, there's no better palette to create with than science fiction romance where I'm immersed in a new world and everything comes to me fresh and untested. In the same way that 17th century England is new and unusual to me. I just don't know why some romance readers can't see that correllation.

So, what are your thoughts, your suggestions for bringing the wary romance reader to our books? I look forward to your input.

And now I think I'll down a quick ratafia, grab my reticule and head out for the nearest jumpgate in my huntership...

Hugs all, ~Linnea
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