On Being an SFR Prospector
Niche genres translate to a wealth of possibilities for meeting one’s entertainment needs. They accomplish such a feat by their ability to operate with an immense amount of creative freedom and doing so outside the box of mainstream venues. Yet the lines are starting to blur because advances in technology across the board has leveled the playing field. Niche markets are now more visible and accessible. In short, they are the future face of entertainment.
Currently, mainstream still dominates. But I can live with that for a bit longer, and here’s why. I belong to a club of adventurous readers and film buffs who discover stories long before general audiences. In particular, I love being among the first to discover a science fiction romance title.
When it comes to trying out SFR books, ones with zero reviews or ratings is not a deterrent for me in the least. I don’t need to wait for others to vet sci-fi romances before I read them. Rather, I want to be among the first to explore this new territory. Learning about a new release, especially one by a debut author, gives me a huge rush. The fact that most SFR titles are digital-first these days is a plus. Like an old timey gold prospector, I’m one of the first on the scene and get first crack at digging up the treasure.
Long before James Cameron’s film Avatar, a ton of women were penning action-packed sci-fi romances set on alien worlds (some were published, others bloomed in fan fiction). In terms of SFR, he was building on the foundation of a firmly established genre. So readers like me were already there, ahead of the curve, consuming stories by authors who are the true leaders of this particular genre pack.
Remember how a bunch of seagulls in Pixar’s Finding Nemo kept saying “Mine! Mine! Mine!”? That captures how I feel about SFR. It’s like a super special secret genre only a few select readers have access to, mainly because they’re willing to seek it out.
Some folks feel if they haven’t heard of something, or if a publisher hasn’t propped it up with a big marketing campaign, it can’t be any good. Me, I’m the opposite: “Oh, a little-known SFR. I bet it could be awesome!” With sampling, low ebook prices, and information about the book at my fingertips, the risk of trying something new is minimal. So I have no qualms about plumbing the depths of SFR time and time again.
Speaking of depths, Lise MacTague’s Depths of Blue is one of my recent discoveries. I learned about it through one of my periodic “sci-fi romance” Google searches. The publisher, Bella Books, had tagged the book with “sci-fi romance”. Smart! The blurb intrigues me, check. Then I wanted to know how much coverage the book had. After searching the author’s name, I discovered she’d written only one guest post (at the time of this writing). “Oooh!” I said to myself. “I’ll be one of the first to board this here boat about a ruthless business woman and a sniper heroine on a collision course to love.” Welcome to my catnip, people!
I also discover titles because I know many of the genre’s accessible authors. For example, KS Augustin. In the interest of full disclosure, she’s the editor of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, but she also wrote Restoration, an SFR with thought-provoking themes and a non-Western setting. Wow! Hearts were in my eyes as I read her book. It pays to know people writing niche books, it really does.
I also love knowing niche-savvy bloggers like R.K. Shiraishi of Smart Girls Love SciFi & Paranormal Romance, who gave me a heads up about Less Than Three Press’ Keep The Stars Running anthology.
Exploring the niche SFR realm means I’ll get to read stories ranging in content from space opera fare like Ruby Lionsdrake’s Mercenary Instinct and Elizabeth Andre’s Taijiku, which promises giant alien sea monsters and a lesbian romance!
SFR is the only place where I can get my android romance fix on a consistent, reliable basis. Because the stories employ the female gaze, they’re far more appealing to me than mainstream films like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (the poster alone smacks of sexual exploitation—no thanks.). Books in my to-be-read pile include Diane Saxon’s Short Circuit Time, Maeve Alpin’s A Woman of Intellectual Means, and Yolanda Sfetsos’s Dash.
As a niche fan, I was able to be the proud first reader of Jody Wallace’s hilarious sci-fi romance parody The Adventures of Mari Shu. With P.J. Dean’s The Felig Chronicles under my belt, I can tell you she was writing about black heroine Tina Cain before Empire‘s Cookie became a thing.
SFR offers a variety of stories in all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies. Going prospecting for them is part of the fun and places us in control of our entertainment destinies. And the value of being able to say we got there first? Priceless.