03/28 – Delsora Lowe, 03/30 – Lindsey Shillard

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Tam Linsey: Science Fiction Romance – A Ball in Both Courts

I playfully claim to write post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction romance. The description is spot on, if a bit overwhelming. I could go on and on about the subgenres, but today I’d like to focus on science fiction versus romance.

Science fiction is about possible futures: humanity has reached the stars, or aliens have arrived (with their advanced technology,) or our genome has evolved to include paranormal abilities. In science fiction, readers may not care about getting inside characters’ heads, but the events must be plausible. Genetic mutation must explain superpowers, and the laws of physics had better apply to a spacecraft leaving orbit. Sci-fi fans don’t always expect a happy ending, as long as the facts behind the science add up.

Romance, on the other hand, is all about characters in a relationship and the emotional changes they undergo. The last thing the hero and heroine want is to fall in love, yet readers know that is exactly what the characters are going to do. Regardless of whether or not the physics of the warp-drive are explained, the story had better explore the angst of a heroine who kept the birth of her baby from its father, or the self-sacrifice of a hero who would die for his one true love. In romance, emotions need to rule the story. In addition, the story has a guaranteed happy ending.

To satisfy both types of readers, science fiction romance must meticulously incorporate enough science to explain the world, and enough psychological introspection to validate a character’s emotional changes. Yet, it must also resist overwhelming readers with too much of either aspect.

In Botanicaust, genetically engineered weeds have wiped out Earth’s croplands, and the world is no longer hospitable to human life. The heroine is a doctor with green, photosynthetic skin who believes humanity must accept genetic modification in order to survive. The hero comes from a remnant farming community where they believe anyone who has accepted modification is damned to Hell. Who would think they might fall in love? Science is the main source of tension between the lovers, which in turn mimics the conflict between their cultures, creating a rich and deeply emotional plot for fans of both science fiction and romance. But I didn’t include every scientific fact I discovered. I condensed the information into a few salient points about each character – like giving the villain a skin disease caused by his chloroplasts. 

Science fiction romance is a growing genre, and there are many great books that successfully incorporate scientific plausibility with a satisfying emotional experience. If you read romance, how important to you are facts? For science fiction readers, how important to you is developing a character relationship?

Tam Linsey lives in Alaska with her husband and two children. In spite of the rigors of the High North, she grows, hunts, or fishes for much of her family’s food. During the long Alaskan winters she writes speculative fiction. You can find her at or on Facebook or Twitter

The only crop left ... is human
After genetically altered weeds devastate Earth's croplands, much of humanity turns to cannibalism to survive. Dr. Tula Macoby believes photosynthetic skin can save the human race, and her people single-mindedly embark on a mission to convert the cannibals roaming what's left of Earth. But when Levi, a peaceful stranger, refuses alteration, Tula doesn't think the only options should be conversion or death.
Levi Kraybill, a devout member of the Old Order, left his Holdout farmland to seek a cure for his terminally ill son. Genetic manipulation is a sin, but Levi will do almost anything for the life of his child. When he's captured, he's sure he's damned, and his only escape will be death.


Judith Ashley said...

Welcome back, Tam. Hope your website has a link to that awesome review on Botanicaust!

Whether it's science fiction or historical or contemporary, facts are important to me because they lead credence to the quality of the writing. But, it is also important to me to have credible emotions coming from the characters. It's a real turn off for me to have characters angsting for pages and pages and pages...enough of a turn off that I'll put the book down and not recommend it to anyone else.

I'm off now to FB to let people know you're our guest today!

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Judith. It can be difficult to toot my own horn *blush*

Credible emotions are even more important than facts, I think - you have an excellent point. I'll allow a little fact to slip if I'm into the characters and story. But if my mind wonders why a character is feeling something, I'm done.

Sarah Raplee said...

I love the 'what if?" nature of Science Fiction and the uplifting endings of Romance. Much as I love science, though, I need to be emotionally engaged with the characters in order to finish the book.

For example, I read and loved Mae Pen's short story GRAVE BONDING (at Free Reads from the Genre-istas) She drew me into a fascinating world with a floating City of the Dead. But I couldn't put the story down because I cared about her hero and heroine, not because the world she built was so cool.

Really enjoyed your post, Tam!

Paty Jager said...

Tam, interesting concept. I have to admit, I can't wrap my head around the stuff in sci-fi books, movies or TV shows. I'm kind of like your hero a hold out for the way it is not what it is perhaps coming to. ;)

It sounds like you have the right mix of science, romance, and what if.

Tam Linsey said...

Paty, I think part of what makes readers enjoy Botanicaust is the fact that I made Levi so much like us. He doesn't take the science for granted, and needs it explained to him (and thereby, the reader!)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I like the worldbuilding in SF and the emotional content of romance. For me, if I don't care about the characters, it doesn't matter what your scientific explanations are.

Tam Linsey said...

Seems many of us are in agreement on the importance of character first. Thanks for stopping, Lynn.

Anonymous said...

SF was my first love as a reader. It was later that I came to romance. I love the theme of having to accept change in order to survive. That theme reminds me of Octavia Butler's (one of my favorite SF authors of all time) Xenogenesis series of books.

You hit the nail on the head when you said: "To satisfy both types of readers, science fiction romance must meticulously incorporate enough science to explain the world, and enough psychological introspection to validate a character’s emotional changes. Yet, it must also resist overwhelming readers with too much of either aspect." In my own work that crosses romance and SF I always ask if I've gone too far in one direction or another. I applaud you for striving to find the right balance.

Tam Linsey said...

Thank you, Maggie. I love Octavia Butler. Oh, and I love the header on your website - it really expresses your cross-genre writing!