Thursday, November 30, 2006

Darkover Con

Over Thanksgiving weekend (as usual) we attended Darkover Grand Council, a cozy little con held every year just north of Baltimore. It includes many writing-oriented panels. With one other author, a man, I had a session on romance in SF and fantasy. The subtitle of the panel was, in part, "Does it belong there?" I expected to have to spend at least a little time defending my affirmative answer to that question, but my fellow panelist and everyone in the small audience had a completely positive attitude toward SF/paranormal romance.

I talked a little about the prehistory of the genre, such as myths, fairy tales, the Gothic romance, and mid-20th-century works such as DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE, and THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. I also mentioned some SF novels that could be marketed as romance if they were published today, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's SPELL SWORD and Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah's FIRST CHANNEL. Vampire romance was discussed, naturally, and I cited Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA as the major precursor of that subgenre. A point was brought up about early SF in which the love story is often a minor subplot and the heroine just a prize for the victorious hero, versus newer fiction in which the love story is fully integrated into the plot and the heroine is a strong character. From there it's a short hop to true cross-genre SF or fantasy romance.

We spent most of the hour exchanging recommendations and discussing our favorite books. Catherine Asaro, J. D. Robb, and Lois McMaster Bujold were highly praised. Since my reading experience lies mostly in fantasy and the supernatural, I talked about Mercedes Lackey's fairy tale retellings and various "Tam Lin" adaptations such as Pamela Dean's TAM LIN and Diana Wynne Jones' FIRE AND HEMLOCK. And of course vampire fiction! It was a pleasure to meet a group of SF fans who showed enthusiasm for stories that, like ours, emphasize character development and relationships.

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