Saturday, January 14, 2012
2012 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Heather Massey: F/F Science Fiction Romance: The New Frontier
That word has become synonymous with science fiction romance in my mind. In addition to the idea that love and romance can flourish in futuristic and alternate technological settings, science fiction romance often satisfies my need for alternate/non-traditional/subversive romances.
However, much as I love sci-fi romance, I lament the fact that there isn’t enough variety in terms of sexual orientation. Rather odd and dismaying when you think about it, since science fiction romance—with culture and science as two of its key underpinnings—ought to be one of the first places readers can go to if they want alternatives to the heteronormative romance experience.
I am a heterosexual female, in which case you may be wondering why is f/f romance important to me. Well, I’m happy to tell you.
I have a few fantasies that I look to romance to satisfy. Sci-fi romance in particular is an invaluable lens through which readers can explore and analyze current attitudes toward romance and sexuality. Other times, this subgenre offers a certain type of wish-fulfillment, such as stories featuring progressive cultures in which romances between people/aliens of any sexual orientation and gender are viewed as valid.
Also, I have a thing for female characters that make me feel empowered. While f/m science fiction romance can deliver that fantasy, I’m betting that f/f stories would offer authors the freedom to take more creative risks in that regard.
Ultimately, I’m looking for a good sci-fi romance, with an emphasis on the romance part of the equation. I enjoy a steamy love scene as much as the next reader, but sex scenes or the idea of a fantasy lover doesn’t define a romance for me. In that sense, a character’s orientation is immaterial to me because I’m not looking to be seduced by any of the characters, whether male or female, gay or heterosexual.
Instead, I want to learn about the heroines’ personalities, the futuristic/alternate culture and environment that influence their behaviors, their ability to overcome adversity as a unified couple, and their emotional journey towards love. In short, I’m there for the story and to witness the couple’s experience.
Those are the kinds of fantasies I want in a sci-fi romance. A lesbian couple can not only deliver them just as well as a heterosexual one, but can also bring a fresh perspective to the table.
That said, please allow me to introduce War Games by KS Augustin and Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau. These two f/f sci-fi romances came out in 2011 and I salute the risks the authors took in writing them as well as their perseverance in getting them published. It can’t be easy swimming against a tide of f/m stories, but I’m glad both titles have joined the ranks of science fiction romance.
Read on to learn more about both of these stories, including blurbs and my own list of non-spoiler tags so you’ll know what to expect. And if you’ve never read an f/f sci-fi romance before but want to try one, either story is a good place to start.
War Games by KS Augustin is a space opera romance. It features a military setting and characters and the plot offers plenty of political intrigue. Refreshingly, one of the heroines is a person of color.
Here’s the story blurb:
What can you do when you start falling in love with the woman you’re meant to kill?
Laisen Carros is an agent of the Fusion sent undercover to infiltrate the Perlim Empire. However the years she’s spent impersonating military commander Cheloi Sie are starting to wear her down. She’s sick of the manipulation and duplicity and, after twenty years of being an agent, she wants to live her own life.
To Lith Yinalña, a former Perlim subject now returned to a place she dreads, Cheloi Sie is nothing but a war criminal and Lith considers it her personal mission to kill the Colonel.
Unfortunately for Laisen/Cheloi, the Empire and an idealistic assassin aren’t her only enemies. When Laisen and Lith start falling in love, it’s only a matter of time before someone else in the Empire notices. And acts.
Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau is a futuristic heist story. In some ways, it reminded me of the film Working Girl (1988), only with two heroines in the lead roles. The plots are different, of course, but the tone, the themes of corporate oppression, and Liv’s savvy working girl persona felt similar to me (in a good way!).
Here’s the story blurb:
Liv Braxton's Felon Rule #1: Don't get emotionally involved.
Smash-and-grab thieving doesn't lend itself to getting chummy with the victims, and Liv hasn't met anyone on the mining colony of Nevarro worth knowing, anyway. So it's easy to follow her Rules.
Until her ex, Tonio, shows up with an invitation to join him on the job of a lifetime.
Until Zia Talbot, the woman she's supposed to deceive, turns Liv's expectations upside down in a way no woman ever has.
Until corporate secrets turn deadly.
But to make things work with Zia, Liv has to do more than break her Rules, and the stakes are higher than just a broken heart...
War Games and Rulebreaker have plots and characters that are worlds apart, but I noted enough similar elements that it makes more sense to tag them in (non-spoiler) terms of what the books have in common than what they don’t:
*Futuristic setting (both take place on a planet/planets other than Earth)
*Both stories feature a significant external plot.
*One of the heroines in each story is in a position of leadership and wields tremendous power.
*High stakes (War Games is of the military/political kind; in Rulebreaker, it’s corporate)
*In both stories, one of the heroines is initially out to take something from the other
heroine, a situation that puts the romances in jeopardy from the beginning.
*Deception, and lots of it
*Both stories offer a high level of introspection and angst.
*In terms of heat level, I found both stories to be moderate-sensual. I personally wouldn’t categorize them as erotic. Of the two, War Games features more frequent love scenes, but they’re brief (and the nature of the plot demands that, actually).
*Both stories feature action scenes, but it’s not wall-to-wall in either story.
Ultimately, both War Games and Rulebreaker invite us to question our assumptions about love as well as open our hearts to its possibilities.
Thanks for reading. If you know of any other lesbian science fiction romances, I would love to hear about them. Or keep me posted about any future titles by sending an email to sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.