I’m going to make a confession that, as a sci-fi and fantasy author and reader, might come across as total heresy. I love romance. Yes, I am that rare thing – a young male who loves sci-fi and fantasy and yes, also happens to be an enthusiastic supporter of romance.
Now you may not like romance or be in the same position, but I would be willing to bet that you have some kind of guilty pleasure reading interest you might not reveal to someone you’ve just met – Am I right?
Here’s the thing, though: the world would be better off if readers worried less about being judged for what they read and could just be unapologetic about the variety of things they enjoyed. I’ll use this as an example – Brooklyn Ann is a historical / paranormal romance author who recently started her Scandals with Bite series (see the latest one here): http://www.amazon.com/One-Bite-Per-Night-Scandals-ebook/dp/B00KM5F8IM/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413224739&sr=1-2&keywords=brooklyn+ann+scandals+with+bite
Her books are awesome, relatively quick reads which balance a reasonably dark paranormal element (vampires) with intriguing facets of history like the English Civil War – during which many of her vampires were “Changed”, i.e. lost their humanity. As a history buff who’s addicted to paranormal beasties, Ann’s books are a fun, guilty pleasure because they combine so many aspects that I enjoy in a good book. It’s not JUST historical or just romance or just paranormal. It’s this beautiful trifecta that isn’t afraid to mix elements and appeal to a wide audience.
This is something I don’t see enough of when it comes to “serious” science fiction and fantasy. To me love is a central part of life. Now perhaps I’m biased (I am married after all), but the fact is that most people go through life and fall in love at least once if not multiple times. Yet if one were to look at the overall compendium of science fiction or fantasy literature in existence, you would get the impression that romance was maybe 0.2% of the human experience.
It is for this exact reason that I have been forced inexorably, almost against my will – away from the science fiction and fantasy genre I used to read so exclusively and, as I get older, have gravitated more toward romance that leverages those sci-fi fantasy elements. To me, a sci-fi fantasy which needs to omit romance to be considered “serious” or “literature” is ultimately an uninteresting, narrow-minded idea of what great storytelling is. I just don’t have the patience for it.
Now does that mean that a story MUST have romance to be good? Of course not. It does mean though, that if your character is a human being, love should be a part of that person’s life. Maybe that doesn’t come through as romance. Perhaps it comes through other relationships – familial relationships, inter-species relationships, whatever. But science fiction needs to be about more than cool mathematical concepts or theories of genius.
Bottom line: don’t be ashamed of your guilty pleasure. You have guilty pleasures for a reason, and chances are that many, many other people have the same guilty pleasure you do. Guilty pleasures are in many cases things that have fallen in the margins between what society prefers to focus on, and that doesn’t make you as a reader wrong in your tastes; if anything it makes you a stylish rebel, and one who is true to yourself at that.