Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Romance: the Past and the Future

by Carmen Webster Buxton

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion, and in no way represents the views of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade.

I write science fiction and fantasy, and all my books have at least a love story subplot, and some are as much romance as they are science fiction. But when it comes to reading, I also enjoy historical romance. To me, there's a lot in common between historical and science fiction romance.

What appeals to me in reading historical romance is that the characters act in an unfamiliar framework. Regency England and 16th century Scotland and colonial America had very different rules of behavior when compared to modern times, especially for women. Of course, a plucky heroine may well break those rules, but a good historical romance makes it clear what the rules are when the heroine breaks them. Georgette Heyer is my all time favorite author for historicals, and she was a master at making characters fit their time period, but still keep them relatable for modern readers. In Faro's Daughter, for example, the heroine works in a gaming house to help support her family, and it's made plain this puts her beyond the pale in society.

The appeal for me, in writing science fiction romance, is that I get to make the actual rules! In my novel Shades of Empire, one of the characters is a merchant ship captain who sleeps her way through the crew. Clearly, the pale has moved in my version of the far future.

In other books, I set the story on a world that was colonized by prisoners (Tribes) and by patriarchal religious fanatics (Saronna's Gift). And in each world, I create a society with its own set of rules that exists nowhere except in my book.

Creating societies also means I can play around with gender roles, or the lack of them, and have characters from very different backgrounds and cultures interacting. In Tribes, I wrote a "slave and warrior story," but the man is the slave and the woman is the warrior. That kind of gender switch is a lot harder to do in historical romance. Even Georgette Heyer settled for cross-dressing disguises of necessity, as in The Masqueraders.

And of course, when attraction happens across cultures, that's when the fun begins. Think about how hard dating is when the couple shares values and backgrounds; then think what it would be like for two people who can't even tell whether the other person likes them or not. And this assumes their cultures both allow dating. What if one does and the other doesn't?

I suppose someday I might try my hand at writing a historical, but it would be difficult for me to give up the freedom that writing in a far-future setting offers. Luckily, there is no law that says I have to read only the genre I write.


Carmen Webster Buxton was born in Honolulu and experienced a childhood on the move, as her father was in the US Navy. She has been a librarian, a teacher, a project manager, a wife, and a mother, although not in that order.  She now lives in Maryland with her husband and a buff-colored cat with the unlikely name of Carbomb. 



Latest release: Saronna's Gift

US Kindle store (also available at other Kindle stores) and Amazon paperback
Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook book)

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