Wed
Nov 13 2013 4:45pm

Are We Ready for Tentacle Romance Yet?

Tentacles of Love by Margaret CarterThanks to the wonders of the Internet, we have access to things like dino erotica and lizard man heroes (e.g., R. Lee Smith's The Last Hour of Gann and Barbara Karmazin's The Huntress). In fact, there have been many such unique scifi and paranormal romance characters. I'm not sure if we'll be seeing dino-shifter heroes in romance anytime soon, but heroes with tentacles strike me as having superb potential.

More Than a Man by Emily Ryan-Davis and Elise Logan is a futuristic erotic romance with a wildly fantastical premise: the heroine mixes up her holiday gift shopping list with her list for the Manporium, a place where a woman can order the man of her dreams. The kicker? Noelle had ingredients for gingerbread men cookies on her shopping list.

After Noelle's new lover shows up, she discovers he has a few…unique qualities. Spoiler alert: one of them involves tentacles. The tentacle sex is simply one of many, many techniques the hero uses to pleasure Noelle during the course of the story (which makes sense given that it's heavy on the erotic elements). Yet upon reading how sensually his tentacles came across, I wondered why there weren't more romances featuring heroes with tentacles.

I embarked on various searches for more titles like More Than a Man, but came up woefully short. I did find Song from the Abyss by Margaret L. Carter. The hero, Dean, “…has spent years in another dimension. Sinuous tentacles are only the most visible mark of his alien transformation. Who is he now? What is he?” Dean sounds sinister, but also intriguing, yes? And the author also has a title with Ellora's Cave called Tentacles of Love.

Jan Springer's Passionate Ink (Ellora's Cave) features an “Octoposeidon” shapeshifter hero. Part man, part god, part octopus. His mission is to guide the heroine as she embarks on a unique transformation.

Okay, super! But, um, where are all the others?

(Side note: maybe more stories exist but I haven't been able to find them because they're not tagged as “tentacle romance” or other related words.)

More Than a Man by Emily Ryan-Davis and Elise LoganFrankly, I'm not surprised at the lack of tentacle heroes and heroines in mainstream print and digital-first romances. (It's interesting to note that More Than a Man was indie-published.) The general advice for authors of science fiction romance (my preferred genre) is to avoid anything too wild regarding alien heroes and heroines.

Case in point: in a post at CONTACT - Infinite Futures, author KC Burn advises:

“We also discussed the need for aliens to be humanoid, or of human descent, because of course, in my opinion, if you’ve got alien lovin’ in your romance, the aliens need to be relatable and boinkable. Possibly the boink factor is more important, because if your alien is a hot mess of tentacles and eats cat poop for breakfast, you’re going to have a harder time selling the hot sex, never mind the relationship. Tentacle porn has its place, but it’s going to take a more skillful writer than me to sell a love story between a human and an alien from Galaxy Quest.”

I'll pass on a character who eats “cat poop” for breakfast (I'm adventurous, but not that adventurous!), but the promise of a hero or heroine with a “hot mess of tentacles” intrigues me. I believe there are many skilled romance authors who could write a compelling tentacle romance.

It's not that there's anything inherently wrong about characters with tentacles. What's at issue for many people, and what's implied by KC Burn's comment, is how the stories are executed, especially if the content induces reactions of “Ew!” or “Ick!” or “That's disgusting.”

And understandably so. Traditionally, we're familiar with tentacle sex in the context of pornography, anime, hentai, space monster science fiction stories, and horror. There are tons of stories wherein a tentacle monster ravishes a nubile young woman over and over again and in multiple orifices.

Tentacle rape is rampant—if not the dominant factor—in many of those stories. Tentacle sex tales range in tone from light and comedic to dark and disturbing. Regardless of tone, there's a strong, common theme of the sexual subjugation of women. Not our usual definition of romance by any means.

Other aspects of traditional tentacle sex stories involve forced breeding and bizarre bodily transformations. Typically, this is the stuff of horror and nightmares rather than a loving relationship. What kind of hero would force his partner to become pregnant with his alien tentacle baby?

But the stories don't have to roll that way.

For the moment, let's put aside the idea of tentacle porn, monster sex erotica, and tentacle erotica (although “billionaire shapeshifter breeding erotica” like 8 Arms to Hold You sounds awfully tempting, doesn't it? :P).

Here's what I'm proposing: let's transform tentacle erotica/porn into stories that embrace and honor romance genre conventions. Write them using the female gaze instead of the male gaze, like what the authors of More Than a Man did. Create stories where the tentacle lovemaking action is in service to the hero and heroine on an equal basis. No matter how strange or bizarre the tentacle couple, give them a Happily Ever After.

Slave to the Tentacle Alien by Aster ZhenRomance can reinvent tentacle characters into heroes and heroines the same way vampires and werewolves were transformed. Tentacles can become sensuous and consensual. They can taste good, feel good, and look good. Authors have that power!

The intersection of science fiction (and/or fantasy) and romance allows huge freedom of expression. This is likely the only place where readers could find tentacle romance, i.e., stories that feature fun settings, well-rounded characters, and a meaty romance plot in addition to the tentacle sexy times.
Heh, romance could become the go to genre for tentacle romance and erotic romance. We can claim it. Right now.

Well, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. :) Let's start with a conversation about it.

What are your thoughts about the idea of tentacle romance? Do you know of any other titles that feature tentacle characters and tentacle sex in the context of a romance? If you've read any tentacle romances, what did you think about them?

ETA 11/13/13: added new link


Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.

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18 comments
Jan Waller
2. Jan Waller
I believe one of JR wards, story lines about Meredith queen of the Seelie has a lover King who comes from a race of shapeshifters that have tentacles and she does it very well in making it beleiveable.
It wouldn't be my first choice in a book,but then stories are suppose to go past the boundaries of our imagination. If I want reality I'll watch TV instead of reading.
Jan Waller
3. Anastasia Virgas
I have one too, but its not erotica... its post apocalyptic paranormal romance with Octopus shifters called Dagonites... and its getting amazing reviews on Amazon.

Book is called Eternal Echoes and is th first in a series.

http://www.amazon.com/Eternal-Echoes-Sisters-Divine-Anastasia-ebook/dp/B00FP98C2Y
Kareni
4. Kareni
Sholto, a character in Laurel K Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, can use his tentacles to pleasure his partner.

Jan Waller, is this the character you were thinking of?
Maureen Betita
6. MaureenOBetita777
I don't know why not. All things considered, why not tentacles. In Japan the genre of tentacles and sex is rampant.

I've written a tentacle love story, a bit on the dark side. Lorelie's Song, published by Decadent. It was fun to write and someday, I'd like to write many more in the same setting.

http://www.amazon.com/Loreleis-Song-Maureen-O-Betita-ebook/dp/B00C2FCZ4U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1384378616&sr=1-1&keywords=Lorelei%27s+Song


I say yes, we are ready for tentacle sex. Or perhaps tentacle love...
Jan Waller
10. Jenna Bennett
I have to say no, I'm not ready for tentacle romance. Everyone deserves a happy ending, sure, even folks with tentacles, but I'm afraid I have a hard time finding the idea sexy. Also, it sounds much more like an erotic concept than a romantic one. As in, I could see it work for the love scenes, but I'm not so sure about the rest of the book, and the relationship as a whole.
Christopher Morgan
11. cmorgan
Hi All, I'm Christopher Morgan, one of the Admins here at H&H. I've removed a few comments per the request of our Community Manager, if anyone has any questions about this do not hesitate to contact us at info heroesandheartbreakers com
Jan Waller
12. Sugardragon
I came across one "Taking it Back" by Zenobia Renquist that was quite nice and low on ick factor. More plot than I expected from it's length (66 pages). Magical tentacles that go away when not plot relevant are handy. It did feel sort of like a prequel to a longer book if that annoys anyone.
Jan Waller
13. Angelia Sparrow
Storm Moon press is putting out a second tentacle anthology next April. I have a cyberpunk piece in it. They currently have All Wrapped Up.

I think tentacles are always going to be a niche, but they're having their mainstream moment.
Heather Massey
14. HeatherMassey
@Miss_D Thanks for your input! I totally understand tentacle romance isn't for everybody.

@Jan Thanks for the heads up about Meredith's lover king. Right now it takes a village to find tentacle romance that follows genre conventions!

@Anastasia Thanks for the heads up!

@Maureen Cool, thanks for letting us know. And spot on regarding the distinction between tentacle sex and tentacle love. They can be kinky but also be part of a fun romance.

@Jenna Execution certainly would be key. While some stories would probably fall more on the erotic side, for obvious reasons, authors could also approach tentacles from a more science fictional angle. I'd hope they wouldn't feel constrained by traditional erotic tropes. That wouldn't necessarily be pushing boundaries or transforming tentacles in any significant way.

I'm thinking of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Sime~Gen series, which features characters having tentacle-like extensions embedded within their forearms. She approached the concept in a really intelligent way and any author considering exploring tentacle romance--SFR in particular--would benefit from checking out what she's done.
Heather Massey
15. HeatherMassey
@Christopher Thanks!

@Sugardragon Thanks for the rec! And I see from the Amazon tags that it's IR/MC as well--cool!

@Angelia Wow! Can't wait to check it out. Agreed, tentacle romance will remain niche, but I believe it has more to offer than is currently assumed.
Jan Waller
16. S. J. Pajonas
I should point out that tentacle erotica has been a big thing in Japan for quite some time, from the Hokusai print "Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" to the new manga/hentai that features it. It seems that this is less of a shock to people outside the US? :) Possibly.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tentacle_erotica

And this man, Toshio Maeda, (who was recently featured on Bourdain's Parts Unknown) is the father of tentacle manga. He's pretty well-known for this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshio_Maeda
Jan Waller
17. Verlyn
Tentacle love is too much for me. However, in response to the dino-shifter mention, there's the Gods of the Night series by Nina Bangs. They aren't shifters in the traditional sense, but they are dino/humans.
Heather Massey
18. HeatherMassey
@S.J. Pajonas Thanks for the links!

>It seems that this is less of a shock to people outside the US? :) Possibly.

To hardcore U.S. fans, Japanese offerings like tentacle erotica are nothing new, but yeah, despite its popularity there it's still very much a niche in the U.S. There are days when I forget myself just how niche it is having been aware of it for so long.

Longtime fans will always seek out the unadulterated fare, but given cultural differences between Japan and the U.S., some transformation might be in order to make tentacle romance/erotica more accessible. I would feel so lucky to have both types available.

I say give it time! I for one never would have predicted how popular anime and manga have become in the U.S. Japanese pop culture is truly a force to be reckoned with!

@Verlyn Thanks for the title rec!
Jan Waller
19. jan springer
What a cool article! I've been curious if there are other tentacle titles out there. Will have to explore the ones in your article. :-)

And of course I will have to get to work on another tentacle erotic romance. *grin*

Thanks a bunch!! :-)

jan
Jan Waller
20. jan springer
I just read the comments section and see there are more tentacle stories!! Thanks to all for their suggestions. I'm making a list.

P.S. I love tentacle erotic romances.

Hugs!
jan
Heather Massey
21. HeatherMassey
Jan Springer said "I will have to get to work on another tentacle erotic romance."

Please do! Thanks for your art!
Heather Massey
22. HeatherMassey
Guess what I just found out? Shona Husk has an erotic tentacle romance coming out from Ellora's Cave on 2/19/14 called LUNAR REUNION! Whee!

Here's the blurb:

Six years ago Filid made the mistake of falling for another officer in the Allied Planetary Military. He walked away before they both did something they’d regret. Yet he can’t get her out of his mind, even now.

Silva has never forgotten Filid, but he is the last person she expects to see on the pleasure resort of Decadent Moon. This time she won’t let him walk away without exploring the fantasies she had about being with him.

Filid wants more than one night. This time he is determined to hold onto her no matter the cost.

Inside Scoop: Filid comes equipped with sexy tentacles that cannot be missed!
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