Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Science Fiction Romance vs Paranormal Romance: A Comparison by Jody Wallace

First, let me state that I love paranormal romance and SF romance, for both reading and writing. Speculative romance in general (a broad term that incorporates all romances with woowoo content) is my favorite reading material, followed closely by Southern fiction about cranky old ladies, feline narrators, and Sandra Boynton, but we're not here to talk about that. This won't be a "versus" article, as in, which is better or worse, but a straight up comparison.

1) SFR and PNR both contain romances as a primary plot. When the romance plot isn't primary, you're shuffling into the SF/F genre, which is also dandy, but not what I'm comparing today.

2) SFR and PNR both contain non-realistic content (the woo) as a defining element. Sometimes that element is light, such as humans who accidentally summon genies or genetically modified super people. Sometimes the element is a lot more influential. Both methods have their charms.

3) SFR and PNR both increase the odds the book will be about saving the world / high octane adventure instead of slice of life / small-town, character-based plots. (Not that I'd object to SFR and PNR with that type of plot at all! I'd read that.)

4) SFR and PNR both increase the odds of extra-human/alien protagonists and characters. Which increases the odds of a character being the mostest importantest chosen one savior. I would say this is slightly less common (savior-itis) in SFR than in PNR, but still—the world’s gotta be saved, right?

5) SFR and PNR, in my experience, increase the odds the book will include secret organizations, governmental issues, and/or worldwide upheaval. This may go hand in hand with the saving the world element.

6) SFR and PNR also increase the odds that the potential alien-ness of the character(s) will affect the sexxoring. Will the characters mind meld during intercourse? Go into heat? Be virgins because Mars has no women/men? Have supernaturally large...libidos? Require XYZ during their PDQ to get off? Granted, it’s not really possible to include many of these elements in woo-free books, but a high percentage of SFR/PNR rumpy pumpy has...enhancements, shall we say!

What are the differences? When I lay it out like this, it doesn’t seem as though there are that many, does it? Yet PNR is a lot more popular than SFR. Why?

I figure it’s because technology intimidates people, readers and writers alike. Readers may assume SFRs are going to be physics-heavy science lessons, and writers may be daunted by the fact you can’t just maestro your woo element without first studying quantum mechanics. Or something mathy. Granted, there are SFs and SFRs that are tech heavy, but there are also SFs and SFRs that focus more on the characterization and plot.

There are also readers and writers who shy away from the paranormal and prefer a science approach to their woo, though they are smaller in number, based on what books have become popular with a broader slice of the public over the past ten or twenty years. Not movies so much—many blockbusters trend toward comic-book-style SF—but definitely books.

I like all the flavors of SFR and PNR with few exceptions, though I do wish more readers would jump on the SFR bandwagon. I really missed seeing the relationship development of Spock and Uhuru, dammit!

What do you guys see as the similarities and differences between PNR and SFR?

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist of the Apocalypse


He’s no angel…

Gregori’s last mission is to save Earth from the demons threatening to take control. He doesn’t care if he survives as long as he does his best to save a world he believes is worth rescuing despite his superiors’ conventional wisdom to the contrary—until, that is, he meets Adelita, a human refugee, whose spirit and determination give him a renewed reason to fight. And live. He’s falling for her, despite the fact he’s told her nothing but lies and there can’t possibly be a future for them.

Adelita can hardly believe the archangel Gregori, sent to save mankind, has lost his faith and his edge. After he saves her from a demon attack, she vows to help him recover both, by any means necessary. But can she keep her own faith when she learns the truth about who and what Gregori really is?

Latest SFR: ANGELI (during-apocalypse, Earth-based, aliens pretending to be angels, FMI: http://jodywallace.com/books/angeli/)

Website & Blog: http://www.jodywallace.com   

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodywallace       


  1. Fantasy is currently more popular than science fiction on the non-romance side of the genre as well. I've heard people speculate that it's a reaction to economic times. Not sure I buy that--space opera is just as escapist as fantasy.

  2. >the similarities and differences between PNR and SFR?

    Other than PNR being supernatural/magic based and SFR being science based, the two genres share many similarities--as you eloquently pointed out.

    However, where they differ is in terms of how familiar readers are with them, particularly women readers.

    1) I'd wager more women readers are familiar with supernatural creatures than alien ones (after all, how many of us grew up with fairy tales vs. space opera tales?). Hence, when a few authors began transforming vampires into romance heroes, there was less of a learning curve. The increase of sex scenes probably helped, too.

    2) Segregation of various genres over the years translated to the ingrained message that SF isn't for women. We don't belong, we're not smart enough to understand science, etc. That's begun to change recently, but undoing the damage will probably take decades.

    How can women even begin to know what SFR is, let alone read it, when they've been shut out of (and have allowed themselves to be shut out of) science fiction for nearly a century?

    The technology is intimidating only insofar as a person hasn't had a chance to learn it in some capacity (which admittedly is a challenge if opposing forces are constantly shutting the door in one's face).

    SFR has loads of accessible books, though, so in terms of current offerings the learning curve isn't nearly as steep as it would be for science fiction.

    3) The concept of a heroine's sexual awakening is an important fantasy for many readers, which is why it replicates itself across various subgenres such as PNR, motorcycle romances, historicals, post-apoc erotic romances, and 50 Shades-inspired contemporaries.

    Given that many if not most SFRs to date occur in a futuristic, technologically advanced setting, such a fantasy is a harder sell (as far as I can tell, SFR is similar to contemporary romances in this regard).

    That said, authors have certainly attempted it, but for some reason their books haven't broken out in a mainstream way (of course, for all I know, said authors are rolling in the money if not necessarily the fame).

    SFR offers really stupendous stories--it's just that they're not of the sexual awakening variety as much as PNR. Or they don't broadcast it as clearly even if they are? Difficult to say if that's a marketing issue or if it circles back to the "SF isn't for women" issue.


We love to hear from you! Comments must pass moderation to be published. Spam will be deleted.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation