Why read SFR?
There are many—so many!—reasons to read science fiction romance, but a big one is its take-charge heroines. Many romances feature this type of heroine, but SFR settings—particularly the far-future, technologically advanced ones—lend them a few unique qualities.
How do you know one when you encounter her?
First and foremost, take-charge heroines are characters with agency. Their decisions and actions drive the plot—sometimes on an equal par with the hero, sometimes more. Take-charge heroines may make mistakes, but they consistently act rather than react.
Check it out: In Jeanette Grey’s Unacceptable Risk, Plix is a cybernetically enhanced heroine in charge of solving her father’s murder as well as overcoming a sinister corporation.
Take-charge heroines in sci-fi romance have a range of powers—intellect, emotional resiliency, physical strength, survival skills, and many more. They possess sexual power, too, but their power and worth aren’t based in their sexuality alone or defined by their ability to tame a hero.
Check it out: Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt, Angeli by Jody Wallace, and Hathor Legacy: Outcast by Deborah A. Bailey all feature heroines who are in charge of saving the hero!
They’re not usually virgins—or pseudo virgins. They’re in charge of their sexuality and seek heroes whose tastes are compatible with their own. Take-charge heroines can indicate a multi-faceted romance wherein sexual attraction plays a part rather than being the main event. Often, they fall in love and save the day.
Check it out: Fedni, the heroine of Renae Jones’ Taste of Passion, is a sexually confident courtesan by trade who knows a thing or three about taking charge in the bedroom.
Take-charge heroines are flawed characters even if they suffer endlessly and make sacrifices to save the day. They perform selfless acts even while acting a little selfishly at times. They grow and have character arcs. In other words, they’re three-dimensional.
Check it out: The Spiral Path by Lisa Paitz Spindler and Lady Rogue by Cinnamon Burke were published 17 years apart, but both showcase determined heroines willing to go the distance on behalf of those needing protection.
SFR has many opportunities to explore take-charge heroines because the science and technology in the settings frequently level the gender playing field. Heroines can wear transforming mecha, work as engineers—or be genetically engineered—run an intragalactic corporation, or work as brilliant scientists.
Check it out: One of the smartest SFR scientist heroines around is stellar mechanics expert Moon Thadin from In Enemy Hands and Balance of Terror by K.S. Augustin (disclosure: Ms. Augustin is Editor-in-Chief of the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly).
Given the range of roles an SFR heroine can inhabit, it’s difficult to make an argument for using an ordinary heroine whose magic vagina is her main marketable skill. In an SFR, it’s generally not plausible for a hero to do all of the heavy lifting when there’s an external threat to overcome.
Check it out: In P.J. Dean’s The Felig Chronicles, heroine Tina Cain may be an “ordinary” human, but she’s the catalyst for kick starting a rebellion against alien invaders.
In fact, SFR heroes worth their salt welcome the tactical/physical/emotional/intellectual help of take-charge heroines—especially in the face of an oncoming alien horde and the heroine’s plasma weapon is the only one fully charged!
This romance fantasy is for readers who read not only for the heroines, but also for the two main characters as a couple. Separately they’re great people, but together, they’re awesome.
Check it out: Heroines Natalie Howell and Genevieve Cain join forces to investigate a corporation’s suspicious activities in Cathy Pegau’s Deep Deception. It’s double the heroine pleasure!
Take-charge SFR heroines are not damsels in distress, sexual peril bait, or one-dimensional characters whose primary role is for readers to vicariously experience a one-sided rescue fantasy/book boyfriend. Neither are they overshadowed by their extraordinary partners—especially if they’re extraordinary themselves.
Check it out: Examples of books featuring extraordinary, take-charge heroines include Starjacked by Karin Shah, Alpha by Catherine Asaro, and Moonsteed by Manda Benson.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of hero worship in the romance genre. SFR certainly has its share of “heroes are the be-all and end-all” stories. But where heroines are concerned, this genre can harness the power of science and technology to provide a sorely lacking alternative.
One of the marks of a truly conceptual and daring “What if…?” SFR is not its tech, science fictional ideas, or action-adventure quotient, but rather its ability to execute heroines with true, irreversible agency.
Picture the tallest pedestal you can imagine. Now put a take-charge heroine on it. Let’s admire her. Doesn’t she look amazing?