by Tam Linsey
Genres have been on my mind lately. Not just genres, but subgenres. Do I write "science fantasy" or "science fiction"? "apocalyptic" or "dystopic"? "science fiction romance" (SFR) or "romantic science fiction" (RSF)?
This last pair is what I want to talk about today, because I didn't know there was a difference until recently. Why do I care? Because I've had several agents who represent science fiction request my manuscript, only to pass on representation because there was "too much science" in my story.
Too much science?
How can science fiction readers not want the science explained? In my opinion, just setting characters onto another world and throwing in a space ship or two doesn't make something science fiction. There must be verisimilitude – credibility that such a world could exist. That is where the science part of science fiction becomes important.
I was baffled by the rejections.
So I did what any good scientist would do; I researched and developed a theory about why these agents didn't like the science.
Why are readers these days okay with novels not explaining how things work? This is where the distinction between SFR and RSF becomes important. Although these agents claim to represent science fiction, they are big names in the romance industry. As romance readers, they want the story – be it paranormal, contemporary, historical, or science fiction – to be about a relationship first and foremost. Any speculative, otherworldly, or scientific elements of the story must be less important to the plot than the romance. In fact, the story they want could not exist without the romance. The science is taken for granted. Science Fiction has become part of our culture. Other writers have already done all the speculation for us. Who hasn't seen an episode of Star Trek, or a movie with aliens or space ships? The proof is already out there. Why prove it again?
Most romance readers don't care about the science. They just want a really good story about a relationship.
They want Science Fiction Romance.
I like romance. Love is what binds characters together, and binds readers to my characters. But love doesn't dominate the story in science fiction. My manuscript, Botanicaust, has a love interest relationship, but the plot could proceed without the romance. In fact, it wouldn't be too hard to rewrite the novel and remove the romance altogether.
But take out the science, and Botanicaust falls apart.
I write Romantic Science Fiction.
See the difference? It is all a matter of where the emphasis lies. The rejections are because I've been targeting the wrong readers.
Do you like to know how the world works in the book you are reading? Or do you prefer to take for granted that things are the way the author says they are?
© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.