Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Romance vs. Love Stories in SF and Fantasy

Yes . . . it's time for one of my Wednesday Rambles. This is almost becoming a regular feature here.

I've been ruminating on romance in fantasy vs. love stories. For the record, my own interpretation of the difference between a romance and a love story is this: for romances, the focus is on sex and sexual attraction. For love stories, the focus is on the growing love between the characters. So to me, the difference is time. If the relationship grows over time, it's a love story. If there's immediate sexual attraction and they jump into bed fairly quickly, it's a romance.

You may think I'm wrong. Keep in mind, this is just the way I categorize things.

When I started writing this post, I thought I was going to say that I have seen more romance than love stories in the past year. However, as I looked over all my reviews, I've discovered that my initial impression is wrong. By the above definition, there are certainly more love stories than romance in the novels I've read. In fact, when I look at all the debuts, the only "romance" I find is in Karma Girl. And in that novel, it was perfectly appropriate--and downright funny--the way the author wrote it.

However, in general, I prefer love stories. In The Outback Stars, the feelings between Jodenny and Terry gradually deepened, and the sexual energy between them gradually tightened until it was taut as a piano wire. In the novel I just finished, Mad Kestrel (review coming soon!) the author handled it the way Lisa Shearin handled her romance in Magic Lost, Trouble Found--things never got past some naughty kissing. I generally enjoy it when the author drags things out. It took four novels for Stephanie and Joe to get . . . er . . . together in the Stephanie Plum novels. If it hadn't taken four novels, we never would have had the hilarious Buick Necking Scene, which was simply unforgettable.

Still, one cannot call Stephanie and Joe's relationship a profound love story. Especially when you throw Ranger into the mix. So it turns out that my definition doesn't really hold water. But most of the time, it works for me.

What were your favorite fantasy or science fiction love stories?


Maria Zannini said...

To this day, my favorite love story was between Lessa and F'lar in Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I lost my interest in the books after the first trilogy, but that first book stayed with me for decades.

I wonder too if it was because it was a book both my husband and I loved.

Good question, Tia.

Lisa said...

I really see romance and love stories as different terms for basicly the same thing. Although I find romance to be a gentler term.

Anne McCaffrey - did she write Dragon Riders of Pern - loved that series!

A recent love story that I enjoyed was Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell. The fantasy element was stronger in the latter half of the book.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; it's been many years since I read Dragonflight. Now I'm going to have to find a copy and reread it.

And yes, Wind Follower had a great long-term love story.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely a fan of love stories over romance, according to this definintion. Not that I dislike romance, but I've always been a sucker for a good love story, and just about everything I write has one in it, in a subplot or whatever.

It's so hard to pick a favorite, but I really, really, really enjoyed (am still enjoying) the developing relationships in Kristen Britain's Green Rider Books. I won't say between whom for those who haven't read the books, but anyone who has read them likely knows just what I'm talking about. I also really liked the love story in Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, though it's been forever since I've read them.

Tia Nevitt said...

Oh, yes. I LOVE the developing romance in the Green Rider books and I REALLY need to read the latest volume!

My favorite love story comes from a classic. I love the Marius/Cosette/Eponine love triangle in Les Miserables. I especially love it because there is no real enmity between Eponine and Cosette. The whole storyline was downplayed in the musical compared to how it worked out in the book.

Mervi said...

It looks like I have to be the contrary person here. :) You see, I like established couples instead of the youngsters in their first throes of attraction. SF&F seems to be sadly in lacking of these, though. The latest (for me which is several years after they were first published) great love stories to me were Shards of Honor and Barrayar by Bujold, Carey's Kushiel's Avatar, and Jhereg and Yendi by Brust.

However, I do suspect that romance readers would like Bujold's newest Sharing Knife series.

Anonymous said...

Good point. There does seem to be a lack of already established romances in the genre. I think part of the reason for that is because sci-fi and fantasy are so adventure oriented. And what's more adventurous than falling in love?

Raven said...

I think one reason there are fewer established couples is that they're more static. A new relationship is new, so the whole thing is an adventure for the characters, with a lot of built-in conflict and tension (both good and bad). With an established couple you have to push harder to break new ground.

Tia Nevitt said...

In two of the novels I read recently, the novel ends with the marriage of the couple. The interesting thing is that they are both the first books in a trilogy. So for the second and third novels, we get to watch them with the initial problems a newly-married couple always has.

Kate said...

I love the story between Mara of the Acoma and Kevin, the slave, in Servant of the Empire (Feist/Wurts).

Kimber An said...

This is why I read regular Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as Fantasy Romance and Science Fiction Romance. From my point of view, in each Romance subgenre there are a few good ones and then it's just more of the same. A lot of readers prefer 'more of the same.' They only read in one genre or subgenre. It's comforting. But, I've always preferred variety. Also, I've been married a long time now and have children. A steady diet of boy-meets-girl romance makes me gag, because I know there's just so much more than that!

Like I said, I do like Fantasy Romance and Science Fiction Romance, providing the author can deliver more than just Hot Nookie in Outer Space or Hot Nookie in Middle Earth. Two of my favorite SFR authors are Susan Grant - MOONSTRUCK, STAR KING, CONTACT - and Linnea Sinclair - GAMES OF COMMAND, DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES. Both of these ladies can be counted on to deliver the one-two punch.

As for regular Fantasy and Science Fiction with love stories and romance in them, I enjoy the novels of Anne McGaffrey (loved ACORNA!), Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Jacqueline Lichtenberg. I wish I had more time to read them, but with a book review blog there are so many books I MUST read first.

I don't know about you, Tia, but after I'm through with my current supply of ARCs, I think I'm going to review Blog Buddy authors' books only and the oldies-but-goodies for a while. I love my ARCs, but I sure miss the oldies-but-goodies.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Kimber An! When I finish with ELOM (which is fabulous so far), I'm going to go out and buy The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I have a Tor Book Fairy, but I don't have a Daw Book Fairy, so there's little chance of me getting a surprise copy in the mail.

Since there's fewer debuts these days, I may get a chance to catch up on some debuts I missed in 2006 and 2007. Plus, there's the obligatory annual Jane Austen rereadings, which I'm sadly behind on.

Kimber An said...

We're obliged to read Jane Austen? Oh, dear, I am such a rebellious child.

Angiegirl said...

A couple of my very favorite love stories are Rachel and Gabriel in Archangel by Sharon Shinn and Liadan and Bran in Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier. They're all such strong characters, I find myself returning to them again and again.

Tia Nevitt said...

LOL - it's a voluntary obligation, Kimber. If you never read them, I highly recommend them. I dare you to read Pride and Prejudice as an Oldie but Goodie.

Two more to look into, Angie!

Laurie said...

Ah, Lessa and F'lar in DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN. Still one of my all time favorite Fantasy romances. Although, Lisa is challenging that long rule...or rather Raine and Mycheal and/or Tam are challenging it. LOL I'll have to wait and see how that all turns out before it can bump Dragonriders off the top of my Fantasy Romance list.

For Sci Fi, I think Linnea Sinclair's GAMES OF COMMAND is the best I've ever read, though GABRIEL'S GHOST was a close second and the yet to be released sequel SHADES OF DARK is sounding very promising. (Guess I can't include my own novels in the list...YET. LOL) In each, the relationship between the two MCs took a long time to build.

OUTBACK STARS is on my TBR list.

Sara J. said...

One of my favourite fantasy love stories was Holly Lisle's Minerva Wakes, about a couple whose kids are taken from them into another world, and what happens next. Also, Patricia Briggs' Raven books have a great take on "family fantasy."

It's a little sad to me that family-oriented stories in fantasy are almost subversive in nature in comparison to the usual stories out there.

Anonymous said...

My two favorite sff romances are in Lois McMaster Bujold's SHARDS OF HONOR and in Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER. In SHARDS OF HONOR, Cordelia Naismith's the military officer who gets captured by the opposing sides Aral Vorkosigan, and eventually she gives up her world for him. In OUTLANDER, time-traveling Clare Randall ends up meeting and marrying the much-younger dashing hero Jamie Fraser. I love both books and keep them close at hand all the time!

- Sandra, whose google password is not working

Tia Nevitt said...

Aah yes. Outlander. Wonderful novel. It took a while for me to get into it, though. And Frank seemed almost like a throwaway character. Those are the only two critiques I can come up with for it, though.

I keep reading good things about Linnea Sinclair, but this is the first time I heard of Patricia Briggs writing anything but urban fantasy. I guess I didn't know about her earlier novels.

Raven said...

I really liked Patricia Briggs' Dragon Bones, which is traditional fantasy, but somehow the blurbs for the rest of her books (including the sequel) haven't spoken to me.

Nancy Beck said...

this is the first time I heard of Patricia Briggs writing anything but urban fantasy. I guess I didn't know about her earlier novels.

I'll second Patricia Briggs' earlier novels...well, one of them anyway. I read the first Raven novel and liked it enough to purchase the second book (it's a duology).

Of course, I haven't yet read that book. And, of course, I'll have to re-read the first one to get back up to speed.

Oy vey. So much to read, so little time! :-)