Do you know what some of the most commonly asked questions are? Genre questions. Either asking us what genre a certain book or series is in, or what exactly is that genre. After spending so much time immersed in the world of romance, it has become second nature to instantly catergorise books into their respective genre, or sub-genre. Just a glance at the blurb, or even just the cover then I can tell you what genre it will be. Of course, not everything is black and white and not every book is so easy to label, but a majority are.
We have previously done a very concise guide about genres giving an overview of each, but we decided to take each genre and do a more general and indepth guide. In this, we will tell you the definition of the genre, what types of characters you may expect to see, popular troupes within a genre, some of our favourite authors and series within this genre. And anything else we can think of! By the end of the guide you should be able to tell what book is what and have a few recommendations to pick up.
The ninth chapter in this guide is *drum roll please*
For the purposes of this guide, we are only talking about sci fi as a sub-genre of romance. This means it’s slightly different to more mainstream sci fi novels by authors like Philip K Dick, Neal Stephenson, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. The main difference? The purpose of the story. A sci fi romance’s goal is to tell a tale of romance where the back drop, characters and time period have sci fi elements. Not that there can’t be fantastic world building and a strong plot line, but the driver behind the book will be the romance.
Here’s a basic checklist of all the elements that make a sci fi:
- The book will have futuristic elements either in regard to the science and technology, the time it is set aka the future or the character will be aliens or genetically engineered.
- The main characters will be adults.
- There will be a happily ever after (HEA) by the end of the book (or perhaps duology). The main couple will have gotten together and their romance resolved. If this is part of a series this will mean the next book will be about another couple.
If a book has all the above characteristic then you have yourself a sci fi romance. If you have the above elements but are missing the HEA aspect then you probably have non-romance sci fi. If the character aren’t adults then you have a young adult novel.
Of course there are those books where romance is an important story line but the book or series itself isn’t necessarily driven by a HEA, for example, Amanda Bouchet’s Endeavor series. I would say Endeavor is a sci fi series, the romance is a very strong element of the book, but the characters coming together as a couple didn’t resolve the story, as it would have in a sci fi romance, it’s just the beginning of a larger story arc. For me this is very akin to the difference between a paranormal romance and an urban fantasy.
Tropes & Characters you may meet…
Being kidnapped by aliens covers a massive number of books in the sci fi romance genre. Generally it’s the heroine that is kidnapped and taken away for nefarious purposes generally involving intergalactic slavery. This trope can vary massively on the sweet-dark spectrum. You can get the edgier and darker romances which explore BDSM and even dub con, or you can get the sweeter romances which involve more of savior storyline. Personally I have issues with dub con and anything taboo which relates to consent so I avoid the darker edges of this trope, but here are some of my favourite on the sweeter side:
BOOM! The spaceship you have found yourself on has crash landed and you now have to survive. It could mean snuggling up with the locals. Or maybe teaming up with fellow survivors. Either way, you definitely aren’t surviving all by your lonesome. This is the sci fi equivalent of being marooned or even a “snowed in” or road trip forced proximity type of romance. I love this trope, when done well it can bring out the very best in the characters.
Oh no! The alien planet full of 7ft tall hot alien men who treat females like queens are running out of women of their species and are dying out! What can they possibly do? Easy, find a planet that has women to spare and enter into some kind of agreement with them. Hmmm…how about Earth and human women? Yes please. Hunky alien species are prone to having shortages of females in the sci fi romance genre and human women are prone to being very compatible…
Fated mates is something you find a lot of in paranormal romance, but, it is also something that you’ll find generously spread throughout the sci fi romance genre as well. Who knew aliens and werewolves had so much in common? There will normally be some kind of biological reaction that the heroine sets off which means they have found their mate. The one person they can fall in love with and the only one they can create offspring with.
In sci fi romance you’ll find a lot of either genetically engineered and cyborg characters. Normally it’s part of some kind of programme to create super soldiers or some other nefarious plan perpetrated by humans. Whatever their origin our cyborgs or genetically engineered heroes and heroines tend to be badasses looking for love.
I saved my favourite till last. I LOVE an alien hero. The weirder and more alien the better. Maybe it’s a natural evolution of my love for Beauty and the Beast – I always feel a massive loss when he changes back into the blandly handsome prince – but I love a hero or heroine who is completely outside the norm. One of the great things about sci fi romance is that it offers endless possibilities, so why always stick to characters that are just human with blue skin? You have the whole universe to play with, go play!
Why UTC loves sci fi romance
If I’m honest, what I love about sci fi romance is the smorgasbord of possible characters that are available. Basically I am talking aliens, cyborgs, genetically engineered hybrids… it offer so many possibilities for different conflicts and for love to rise against the odds, I love it. It also gives the author a lot of scope, space and even the future are unknown quantities that the author can shape into what ever they want and it’s exciting to see how they use that in the context of a romance.
UTC Required Reading List
I’ll try not to add books here I’ve already mentioned under tropes and character types…they’re all required reading!
What are your favourite sci fi romance books?
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Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?