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Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Don’t Have to be a Rocket Scientist to Write (or Read) Science Fiction Romance

Please welcome guest blogger Katherine Allred

When I was asked to do a blog for FF&P my first thought was to talk about world building. My second thought was, nope, been done to death. And let’s face it, when it comes to world building, as long as you’re consistent and use common sense, pretty much anything goes in science fiction romance.

Instead I decided to blog about the rules of writing science fiction.

Rules, you say? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!

Well, yes, you do.

The first one is in my opening paragraph. Be consistent and use common sense in your world building. (If you have a red sun, shadows are going to be brown and temps are going to be cooler than earth normal.)

Rule 2. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to write science fiction romance. Honestly, all the technology is just smoke and mirrors. I make use of faster than light ships in my books but I have no clue how they work. Knowing how they work doesn’t enhance the plot and it’s not important to me or the reader. We only need to know those ships can get us from one galaxy to another in X amount of time, and where the galley is so we don’t starve to death getting there. (Can you tell I skipped breakfast?)

While coming up with weird new technology is half the fun for me, you can write science fiction romance without any technology at all. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife series is a prime example of no technology science fiction romance. It’s set on a rural world where horses are the only means of transportation and the main occupation is farming. It’s simply a story of how two people from cultures that don’t normally mingle, meet, fall in love, change their society’s mores, and live happily ever after. That last is important, and it brings us to the next rule.

Rule 3. Science fiction romance is mainly a romance, so all the craft secrets you learned about writing romances still apply. You need great characters with goals, motivations, and conflict, and you need that happily ever after ending. The real bonus is that you get to put them in exotic locations and scare the beejeebers out of them with futuristic weapons, the total vacuum of space, and aliens bent on their destruction.

Rule 4. Don’t make your heroes furry. Oh, wait. That was me. Never mind. Rule 4. Science fiction, at its core, is and has always been, a rebellion against authority. It can be a small rebellion against a guardian, or a big rebellion against a government, but someone is going to be rebelling against something. It can be against a community, a society, taxes, a family that expects too much, or even nature. It’s designed to make us think, to ask why, or question why not.

The idea for my alien affairs novels sprang from a newscast I watched one evening. The reporter was doing a segment on “designer babies.” He seemed vaguely horrified that someday parents might be able to choose their child’s hair and eye color, or their IQ, or their athletic ability. The entire time I was thinking, what’s wrong with that? And why stop there? If I could design my own child, you better believe they’d be perfect. No asking “are we there yet?” every five seconds when we’re in the car. No leaving dirty dishes on the table. And they’d actually clean their room, feed and walk the dog, do their homework without hours of coercion, and stop spending all my money at the mall!

Okay, so it’s not going to happen. But hey! I’m a writer. If I can’t have it in real life, I can make my fictional “children” any way I want. And so my GEPs (genetically engineered persons) were born.

So, what are my GEPs rebelling against? It varies according to the character. In Close Encounters, Kiera Smith is rebelling against what she is. In Close Contact, Echo Adams is rebelling against what she’s being forced to do. In the third book, the GEPs will be rebelling against the people who made them.

The long and short of it is, you really don’t have to be a rocket scientist to write or read science fiction romance. You just have to have a story to tell, and an exotic location to set it in, rounded off with lots of action and adventure. What’s not to love about that?


Katherine Allred is the author of The Alien Affairs series from Eos. Her second science fiction romance, Close Contact, was named a June top pick by Romantic Times Magazine. Katherine lives in Arkansas with her husband, two Australian Shepherds, a rat terrier, four chickens and a cat named Fuzz. She has three children and four grandchildren, none of whom were genetically engineered.


Alexis Morgan said...

I enjoyed your post--I printed out the rules to keep for future reference. Thanks--

Katherine Allred said...

Hi Alexis,

Nice to "see" you here. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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