Launching Romance into the stars.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guest Post: What Makes a Great SFR story by Jenna Bennett, author of Fortune's Hero

Sometime last year, I was asked if I’d care to give a quote about “the duality of Science Fiction and Romance that make SFR such a great mixed genre,” for an article the wonderful Heidi Ruby Miller – herself a science fiction romance author – was writing.

There are a lot of great quotes from a lot of great authors, most of them a lot more eloquent than me. My quote – “space guys are hot” – makes me sound rather more shallow than I like to think I am, to be honest.

I actually had some pretty deep thoughts on the matter.

The way I see it, science fiction has traditionally been a male genre, with more male writers and more male readers. Please note that I’m not saying “only,” because there are certainly some fantastic female science fiction writers out there, and quite a few female science fiction readers too. One of my favorite authors in the entire universe, who just happens to write some excellent science fiction, is Lois McMaster Bujold. She’s female, and I’d venture to call her one of the great SF writers of our – or any – time. Those five Hugo awards speak for themselves, I think, along with the additional six nominations. So do the three Nebulas (and five nominations) not to mention the three Locus awards.

If I can grow up to write half as well as she does, I’ll be a happy camper.

But Lois notwithstanding, and others like her (Ursula LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton – who, yes, was female), I think the genre is more heavily weighed toward men, possibly because of the science aspect. And the weapons. Boys like their weapons.

In that respect, science fiction is a lot like the old-fashioned western, only with spaceships instead of horses and with laser blasters instead of six cylinder Colt .45s. 

(And don’t get me going on the phallic-shaped spaceships thrusting through the blackness of space. Just... don’t.) 

In both westerns and SF you have the traditional outlaw hero, larger than life, gun on his hip, chasing down the bad guys and restoring order to lawless territory. But in science fiction, the scope is so much bigger: it isn’t about saving the ranch, or even the town, hell, not even the country—the hero can save whole worlds!

So what makes a great SFR story?

There’s the hot space guy, of course.

I mean, Han Solo? We’ve all been in love with him for so long we don’t even realize how much he’s done to shape romance heroes over the past thirty years, just by being himself.

There’s the kickass space girl.

Not that she always has to be kickass, but she can be, and that’s nice. It’s the future, after all, and women don’t have to abide by 19th century rules for proper behavior. Not like the old damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. In SFR, a damsel in distress can rescue herself – and her guy, while she’s at it.

Having a bad guy – or guys – help. Someone to juxtapose the hero and heroine. Something to overcome.

Throw in a few otherworldly critters – flesh-burrowing worms, spider-scorpions, poisonous water-snakes, and lizards that make you blister when they touch you – and you’re golden.

It’s like anything else, you know. Boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy saves the world and gets girl back.

Amid phallic-shaped spaceships thrusting through the blackness of space. 

So what about you? What do you think makes a good story, in science fiction romance or elsewhere?


Excerpt from Fortune's Hero:

Quinn Conlan was bleeding to death.

Slowly, steadily, one drop at a time. One big-ass drop. He could feel the mechanism at his wrist working, opening and closing the artery to let the blood ebb and flow. At this rate, he calculated, it would take him about an hour to bleed out.

Down on the floor, a few of the drops turned into a trickle, and he watched as it made its slow way to the big drain in the middle of the room. And down it went, soon to be followed by others. Many others.

He put his head back and closed his eyes.

It wasn’t a bad way to go. It wouldn’t be quick, but it was mostly painless. A slight burn in his wrist every time the mechanism opened to let another few minutes of his life hit the floor. But compared to the other things that had been done to him in this room, it was nothing. The med tech had made sure of that. They weren’t trying to hurt him. Not this time. By now, they must have realized that pain wouldn’t make him talk. Been there, done that. Kept his mouth shut. So they’d decided to let him sit here instead, perfectly still, perfectly conscious, perfectly unable to move, as he watched his life drain away, drop by drop by drop. An hour from now, when his limbs were weak and darkness started to descend over his eyes, they’d expect him to call for help. That he’d start babbling, and tell them what they wanted to know.

Fat chance.

They’d brought him within a hairsbreadth of death before and revived him each time. Always their choice, never his. And this time would be no different. He wouldn’t call for help, and they’d wait until it was almost too late to save him—almost, but not quite—and then they’d bring him back. Again.

Damn Rhenians. Never satisfied.

Quinn never thought there’d come a day when he’d welcome death. Always figured he’d fight to the bitter end. Beat death, or die trying. But when it came down to it, it hadn’t taken long. Just a few months in the prison camp on Marica-3, and weekly sessions with the camp’s medical team—the best in the galaxy, both when it came to bringing a prisoner to death’s door and to making sure he didn’t walk through it—and here he was, ready and willing to die.

Hell, scratch ready and willing. Try eager. He’d die now, this hour, this very minute, if he could cheat them out of being able to revive him again. If he could will himself stone dead right now, he’d do it.

A sound at the door brought his head up. The exsanguination must be happening more quickly than he thought, because it was already a little harder to move, and a little more difficult to make his eyes focus.

“Good afternoon, Captain Conlan.”

A woman. They’d sent him a fucking woman.

And not just any woman. He recognized this one. She’d been at his earlier sessions, standing in the background taking notes while the doctor injected him with something that made him feel like he was being boiled alive. She’d watched out of those cool, green eyes as he writhed in pain and screamed until his voice was gone. Writing on her goddamn clipboard. With not a flicker of emotion on that perfect alabaster face.

Ice bitch.

Quinn wet his lips and cajoled his rusty vocal chords into cooperating. “Come to watch the big finish, sweetheart?”

Her eyes flicked to his, the clear green of glacier ice under brows the shape of bird wings. “It doesn’t have to end this way.”

Her voice was lovely, as cool and clear as those eyes. And as devoid of emotion. If he’d had the strength, Quinn would have laughed. As it was, all he could manage was a smile, and a weak one at that. “Sure it does.”

She monitored the progress of the blood flow from his wrist between glances at his face. “You could tell them what they want to know.”

Them. Like she wasn’t part of the same unholy alliance.

Quinn shook his head. “Sorry, sweetheart. Not gonna happen.”

One of those exquisite eyebrows raised. “You would rather take the whereabouts of the rebels to the grave with you? I’m not so sure they would return the favor. Are you certain you aren’t sacrificing yourself for nothing?”

It would be almost laughable if he wasn’t twenty minutes from bleeding to death.

“I think we both know that ain’t gonna happen, sweetheart. Ten minutes from now, just when I think it might be too late to revive me, someone’s gonna run in here and pump me full of synthetic blood. And next week I’ll be back in this room with high and mighty Doctor Sterling and his toys again. We both know it, so let’s just stop pretending.”

He looked away. Down to the floor in time to see another sizable trickle of blood head down the drain.

For a second, nothing happened. Then he heard her heels click on the floor, a quick, angry rhythm. At the door, she turned for a final salvo. “You think you’re so smart, Captain Conlan. But we’re smarter. You’ll see.”

The door opened and shut with a slam.

“Yeah, yeah,” Quinn said, and closed his eyes again to wait for the darkness. With any luck, he’d be unconscious for a day or two before he woke up and realized he was back in hell.



Fortune's Hero by Jenna Bennett: 

To ensure their survival on a hostile planet, an escaped prisoner and his hostage must forge a partnership that changes them from enemies to reluctant allies and – eventually – to lovers.

Last year, space smuggler Quinn Conlan was on top of the world. He had everything a man could want: a fast ship, a great crew, a gorgeous girlfriend, lots of money, and adventure and excitement around every corner.

That all changed when he agreed to ferry a shipload of weapons to the beleaguered planet Marica, currently under siege by Rhenian forces. Now he’s stuck in a prison camp on the moon Marica-3, subjected to weekly sessions with the camp’s “medical team,” and praying for a quick death before he breaks under the torture and spills everything he knows about the Marican resistance.

When the opportunity presents itself, Quinn takes a Rhenian med tech hostage and heads into the inhospitable interior of the small moon. There, he has to keep himself and Doctor Elsa Brandeis safe from the deadly flora and fauna, as well as hidden from the prison guards searching for them, all while formulating a plan for getting his crew out of prison, his ship out of impound, and everyone out of orbit.

But when Elsa professes her love, can Quinn take the beautiful doctor at her word, or will trusting her—and his heart—condemn him and his crew to an eternity on Marica-3? 


Author Bio 

New York Times bestselling author Jennie Bentley/Jenna Bennett writes the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, and the Cutthroat Business mysteries for her own gratification. For Entangled Publishing, she writes a variety of romance, from contemporary to futuristic and from paranormal to romantic suspense. Her most recent release is Fortune’s Hero, first in the Soldiers of Fortune series of science fiction romantic suspense novels. For more information about the Fortune series or any of her other books, please visit her website,   


Lisa Kessler said...

I'd never thought about Wild West versus sci-fi, but you're right, they're very similar...

Congratulations on the new release!!! :) Love the cover!!!


Jenna said...

Thank you, dear. Yeah, the cover is gorgeous, isn't it? :)