Wed
Jul 6 2016 1:00pm

Sci-fi Romance’s Discoverability Challenge

Sureblood by Susan Grant

Why Is Sci-Fi Romance So Difficult To Find?

Full disclosure: Heather Massey runs the site The Galaxy Express. 

Though sci-fi romance has been around for decades, it has a history of being difficult to find for a number of reasons.

Number one with a bullet: it’s a niche genre. The audiences for science fiction and romance are each huge, but those who enjoy the genres in blended form are far fewer. Either that, or they have yet to reveal themselves. :p

The cause is partly rooted in a deliberate partitioning of genres along gender lines. SF was designated—largely by men—as a genre only for men. Many women enjoy science fiction despite such prohibitions, but haven’t been entirely welcome in the fandom, especially in the early years. In turn, they were less likely to not only read SF, but to also write it and infuse it with romance if they so desired.

Before romance authors began tackling this genre in the mid-80s, sci-fi romances were routinely published undercover as science fiction books. Sometimes romance readers ferreted them out, but even if they did, the Internet as we know it didn’t exist, so it was nigh impossible to spread the word. So a discoverability problem also existed as a result of overly-broad marketing labels.

The labeling issue continued when many sci-fi romances were labeled as simply “romance” and later “paranormal romance” after that genre gained serious traction. Technology-based settings were lumped together with magic and supernatural settings, further muddying the waters. Not only that, covers also contributed to a sameness that made it a challenge for readers to identify books that offered futuristic worlds.

One particularly salient example is the cover of Susan Grant’s Sureblood. The story is about space pirates, but the cover makes me think the hero just stepped out of a contemporary-style shower.

Ebook technology was a boon to sci-fi romance, along with the emergence of blogs where readers could more easily learn about them. Unfortunately, along with ebooks came a fractured book market and metadata in an infant stage. While the increase in sci-fi romance book choices created a whole new playing field, readers had to do more than just visit their local bookstore in order to find them. They had to drill down pretty deep and/or rely on word-of-mouth. The books existed and grew in number, but they weren’t front and center like mainstream releases.

SEE ALSO: Passengers and the Questionable Promise of Romance Sci-Fi Films

Browsing through Amazon’s sci-fi romance listing can be a fruitful, if arduous task. And sci-fi romances without the backing of traditional print publishers (even if we're just talking about distribution opportunities) face an even more significant discoverability challenge. I don’t mind wading through online venues, blogs, author sites, Twitter, etc. to find books, but readers in general shouldn’t have to work that much.

A more centralized approach to finding sci-fi romance is ideal, and in recent years several folks have answered the call.

Author Veronica Scott writes about sci-fi romance at Sci-Fi Encounters (via USA Today’s HEA blog) and Amazing Stories. Her posts are frequently centered around genre themes, along with various books that represent each theme. She’s also featuring a Weekly New Releases in Sci-Fi Romance & Fantasy every Wednesday. If you’re new to sci-fi romance or are a casual reader in the genre, her columns are a great place to start.

The Science Fiction Romance Brigade Fanpage on Facebook is a spin-off of the SFR Brigade author blog (founded by Laurie A. Green), and is aimed squarely at readers (read: no promotion). Visitors will find all kinds of SFR news there, as well as links to related interests (because we all love a good science article or sparkly nebula image now and then!).

SFR Station specializes on providing ways readers can search for various sci-fi romances by type. The featured books are curated, according to the “For Authors” page. For example, you’ll only find books rated four stars or higher on Amazon in SFR Station’s collection.

SFR Galaxy Awards is another resource, one based on a fun, quirky awards system. I founded it in 2013 with author and Spacefreighters Lounge blogger Laurie A. Green. Judges award books based on any criteria they like. It’s informal, fun, unabashedly subjective, and a good resource for finding standout SFRs published within a particular year.

The Sci-Fi Romance Group, also on Facebook, features all kinds of book release news and the information is posted by various authors. This site has a more informational approach, along with links to fun articles from the world of science and technology.

SEE ALSO: Space Age: Older Heroines in Sci-Fi Romance

There is a sci-fi romance group on Goodreads, which might get a facelift, but given the current low level of activity, as of this writing it’s best viewed as an archive of resources and discussions.

For some blatant self-promotion, I launched The Galaxy Express as a gateway to sci-fi romance in books, films, TV shows, comics, and basically anywhere I could find it! The site features hundreds of topical posts and chronicles my general adventures in sci-fi romance.

Then I joined forces with authors K.S. Augustin and Diane Dooley to create Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, a digital magazine devoted exclusively to sci-fi romance. Galaxy Express 2.0 is the magazine’s blog and where I currently share news about the genre. TGE is still up, though, so interested readers can peruse its vast archives.

Rounding up this list: a special mention for Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi Romance, run by Charlee Allden. The site featured reviews, interviews, and various highlights of sci-fi romance books. It ran for six glorious years before Charlee moved on to writing—wait for it—sci-fi romance!

So there you have it—a roundup of active sites to help make your search for sci-fi romance easier. Happy reading!

***
Learn more about or order a copy of Sureblood by Susan Grant, available now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound

 

 


Heather Massey seeks out sci-fi romance adventures and writes about them for Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.

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5 comments
DanaSherwood
1. DanaSherwood
Great links, Heather! And a few I hadn't managed to find yet, so yay. :-)

I've been a science fiction / futuristic romance reader for decades, and I agree -- finding them has often been difficult.

One thing I've found disheartening is the resistance you occasionally hear, whether it's from the romance side or the science fiction side of the fence. Sometimes I just wanna say, "Of all the blockbuster science fiction or space opera movies you've ever loved, what percentage of them had an awesome romance plot?" (LOTS of them.)

Men and women alike have shipped the hell out of every science fiction show on TV, past and present. But nooooo, science fiction and romance just don't go together! Bah. :-)
Gill Kerry
2. Gill Kerry
Hi, I absolutely love Susan Grant. Contact was the first book I read by her. I was then hooked. I also love the Crystal singer books by Ann mccaffery, although I realise they are not quite of the genre
Gill Kerry
3. Kahintenn
Excellent post with superb resources. Thanks!
Gill Kerry
4. P J Dean
The genre has not taken off because it cannot be pigeonholed. Readers like sure things and SFR is not a sure thing. It's mixed bag and that's what makes it special. That's why I dread it becoming more popular because guidelines and restrictions will be forced on it like in contemps and historicals, etc. It's Scifi, people! A new frontier and all that. Pioneer spirit of individuality.
Kareni
5. Kareni
Thanks for including those links above; I think I know where I'll be spending a lot of time in the near future.
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