Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Negotiating Different Worlds

Hello Fellow Brigaders!

My name is Laurel Wanrow. According to my taxes, I’ve been an Independent Writer for three years, but writing has always been part of my career as a naturalist.

(Please note the ‘al’ in the word and recognize the label as a person who answers questions at a nature center, leads wildflower walks, and can identify Regulus—the star in the summer night sky, not the J.K Rowling character. I garnered a few funny looks from the Aussies at RWA Nationals last year who thought I’d said naturist.)

My love of nature emerges in my fantasy stories through scientific details and green lifestyle sub-themes, leading me to brand my writing ‘where nature and magic merge.’ IRL, I live in metro DC area with the supportive DH, two teens and an assortment of pets and foster guinea pigs. In my writing life I serve on the Maryland Romance Writers chapter board as secretary and hold membership in WRW, KOD, YARWA and FF&P, including the chapter’s crit group, The Mud Puddle. I write adult and YA fantasy romance.

A year ago I wrote my SFR book, not knowing combining futuristic, fantasy and romance elements was crossing a few too many lines. Typical for me: I start with the germ of an idea and follow it. Happily I can do this because I’m pre-pubbed. Being unhindered by convention—okay, a rule-breaker—I fell into this new (?) subgenre accidentally.

I’m coming to SFR from the romance side, which I learned this last year is an important distinction. A writer in my local RWA chapter has recently joined from the SF side and we compare notes, which I hope to be able to also do in this forum. I’d like to explore what other SFR writers are creating in their storytelling that makes the subgenre unique.

To kick off a discussion today, I’d like to know, who are your SFR H&H?

Mine surprised a reader.

In the opening chapters of my novel Passages, the hero and heroine appear to be a guy on the run with a skill for jumping, seeking help from a local girl on a throwback planet. The reader soon discovers they are both electorgs. Not wanting to use the well-known name cyborg, or its rules, I coined the term from the words electronic organism, humans enhanced with electronic components.

My reader asked, “Your main characters are robots?”

Not exactly. They appear as humans and behave with their original personalities, but the electronics add to their skills: ‘torgs can ‘learn’ or download new functions, age up or down and are immortal. In fact, they were selected for the specific human gifts the Docga (futuristic creators) deemed useful when each died in his own world. In short, paranormal quirks I wanted to use in my plot.

My reader said, “Isn’t anyone human?”

Yo-boy. So who are your H&H?


  1. Great getting to know you, Laurel.

    My H/H are all human--though I do have one character who has some 'enhanced' abilities (but not in the usual way). But I just finished reading Catherine Asaro's ALPHA with a female 'construct' heroine, and Linnea Sinclair's GAMES OF COMMAND, with an enhanced male MC is still one of my all-time favorite SFR stories. I wouldn't hesitate to read a story with both MCs falling in the 'not exactly human' category.

    In fact, I think Heather recently had an article on The Galaxy Express posing the idea that cyborgs are SFRs answer to vampires in Fantasy--human-like characters with superhuman abilities.

    I'm curious to hear what others have to say.

  2. Hi Laurel and Laurie! Great question!
    The hero in my last manuscript was a humanoid alien. The heroine was an ordinary human, but her brother was going through a process of adding neural implants to interface with computers faster. Transhumanism is such a popular notion in sci-fi that I couldn’t resist incorporating it into the story. In my current work in progress the hero is an enhanced super soldier, but I’m being pretty vague about the enhancements so far. I have to admit, I do consider carefully how to use any nonhuman elements. I want my work to be marketable to a wider romance audience, but there does seem to be some resistance or feeling that these things are un-sexy. Well, vampires were once thought to be creepy monsters and now they are all the rage as sexy heroes. Maybe we just have to do a stellar job of making our more than human heroes to-die-for-sexy!

  3. Human guys are boring. I mean,good grief, they're all over the place.
    I like humans too.

    Hmmm, out of my last four novels, only one hero has been was *mostly* human, descended from aliens crashlanded on earth a thousand years ago. Okay, nevermind. Seriously though, this is SFR where we love to explore the vast unknown reaches of existence.

    I, too, have trouble coloring within genre lines. I still bare the scars on my tongue where I bit down upon hearing an agent point out that there were too many elements in my story. I wanted to say, "Uh, yeah, so? Otherwise, it'd be boring!"

    Great post. Keep it up, Skiffy Rommers! Is that what you're calling yourselves? Or, is it something different since you're all writers?

  4. me a Paranormalist then. =) I cross genre lines and color outside them, too! My paranormal novella has a werewolf hero, a half-werewolf neuroscientist heroine (who has no idea she is a werewolf)and an X-files twist thrown in to keep things interesting. Lines? What lines? We don't need no stinking lines!

  5. Great post, Laurel. I like a hero with a twist, too, but for my wip, it's the heroine and her family that have altered genetics...loved hearing about your naturalist work, too, looking forward to future posts :)

  6. HI Laurel,

    Great post- I don't usually write paranormal- but one of my books had some sci-fi elements in the form of genetic enhancement. As someone already said- humans men can be pretty boring! Don't let my husband read that. Currently I'm writing something with absolutely nothing paranormal or woo-woo in it. Just straight up contemporary which is fun too.

  7. I think I remember those shocked Aussies. Wasn't that at a lunch? The one where Eloisa James spoke?

    Anyway, I'm a HUGE fan of massive line crossing, which is one of the many reasons I'm a fan of you. The more lines crossed, the better!

    Back in my To Be Written pile (almost as big as my To Be Read pile), I have story that looks like fantasy but is actually SF in disguise, where "magic" is the manipulation of reality on the quantum level on a post-apocalyptic Earth. The H/H are humans (their cultural/ethnic background is more significant to the story than their biological ones). The bad guys may or may not be humans from a parallel dimension. :)

  8. OMG, Jessica, it was that lunch. We had a big laugh, once I cleared it up. Thanks to you and my other IRL writer friends for popping in!

    Charlie, I am also careful not to make my 'torgs superhuman. No 'Mary Sues'. In fact I went the other way and am correcting a 'too vulnerable' notation from a crit. (*waving* at Bart.)

    Still, enhanced. I love enhanced. Glad you pointed out some other books where we can find them, Laurie.

    Kimber An, Yes there's so much to explore, why stick to the same roads, or vapor trails in this realm?

  9. Great post and good comment discussion!

    I love my aliens. Crossing lines is just so comfortable for me. I tried to stay inside the usual box while writing because it is easier to get pubbed. But it doesn't work well for me. So I cross and mix all the time. My latest, Forbidden Love, a novella short releases May 20. The hero has Reptilian DNA and the heroine is more Earth-like but from another planet. And there are erotic elements in this one. The label is Sci-Fi Futurist erotic romance. Although I see it as just SFR, I do tend to write highly sensual (crossing the lines into erotic) love scenes. It is SFR for sure.

  10. Well, it depends on my book. I have a series that features colonists who have developed an entirely different culture based on D/s relationships.

    In The Command Series, I have genetically altered humans who have a mixture of alien DNA with human DNA.

    My idea is always go with where would humans be in the future and run with it.

    Frankly? As long as I can relate, I don't care WHAT they are.

    Though I was told by two crit partners that my four-armed, four-eyed, scaled Dormrela weren't sexy. LOL.

  11. Hi, folks, great discussion! I think this is what we had in mind when we kicked this off, isn't it? I have a series underway (still lookin' for a home, alas). The first book, UNCHAINED MEMORY, features a human H/H, but she has an unusual ability that makes her of special interest to off-worlders. The hero of the second book, TROUBLE IN MIND, is half human, half alien, the inheritor of his estranged father's psy skills. He falls in love with the human FBI agent he's helping to track two special kidnap victims.

  12. "Lines? What lines? We don't need no stinking lines!"

    "The more lines crossed, the better!"

    "Crossing lines is just so comfortable for me."

    I definitely sense a pattern here. Hey, could this be the start of a Rebel Alliance? :)

    One of my favorite quotes: "Never tell me the rules!" --Han Solo

    [He actually said, "Never tell me the odds!" but I claim poetic license.]

  13. In the story I am working on now, which follows Cybot Awakened in my series, both H/H are prisoners. My hero is a Puregen, a lab created super human, while my heroine is not all human and has an unusual ability.

    My heroes in the series are brothers, all Puregen, sons and heirs of their planet's ruler. The heroines differ. One is a normal human but royalty on her homeworld, one is part alien and a prisoner, another is almost full alien from a swamp colony, another is a normal human with a nun-like vocation, and one is a Puregen from the same world/elite class as the hero.

  14. It's been fun reading about the variety of H&H. Reptilian DNA and the swamp colony are my favorites - getting back to our basic origins there, eh? What genes better to survive the long-haul!

  15. @Kimber An: [quote] Human guys are boring. I mean,good grief, they're all over the place.
    [end quote]

    Okay, I just snorted Earl Grey Lavendar tea through my nose... ;-)

  16. My H/H? Um, it depends on which book. They're all mostly human. Compatible with humans I would say. Most of them.... Some of them?

    *looks through stories*

    *looks a bit sheepish*

    I like to tinker with DNA. There's nothing wrong with that.

  17. Honestly, I'm not sure if I cross SFR with paranormal. Guess it depends on your point of view. To me, psychic abilities aren't paranormal if there's a logical scientific reason as to why they have them, as opposed to just being magical. All my heroines are genetically engineered to be superior, and that includes psi abilities. My heroes range from hunky aliens to mutated humans, to perfectly normal men with no special abilities.

    P.S. Happy to be a new member of the Brigade!

  18. Welcome, Katherine. And I agree with the science vs. magic aspect for SFR.

    I had someone ask me in an Amazon discussion why I considered TWILIGHT to be Fantasy Romance and not Science Fiction Romance. I think there's still a lot of confusion about the differences.

  19. Chiming in late on the discussion with the very-human-yet-still-ostracized alien heroine of Ghost Planet. The fact that she's an alien is a surprise to her (and to the hero), and she spends pretty much the whole book trying to come to terms with it.

    And now I've spoiled the opening hook for anyone who may want to read it!

    Great discussion, gang!

  20. Great topic, Laurel!

    My protagonists vary depending on the book, but so far my books feature a lot of interaction between humans, aliens, and vampires, with supporting characters ranging from androids to shape-shifters.

    It makes for some unusual antics and very interesting sex lives, lol.


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