Editorial by Dan Hollifield


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Post December 20, 2012, 08:09:55 PM

Editorial by Dan Hollifield

Or is that "Holly-field"?

On the topic of the editorial: all fiction was referred to as 'romance' at one time. Whether there should be an element of love story in your work depends, I feel, on whether it is in the nature of the characters. I have read books and seen films where the 'romance' was so obviously shoe-horned in as to detract from the story as a whole (take the departure of Leela at the end of "Invasion of Time" to marry a bit player with whom she'd had about two scenes for example...).

If on the other hand it makes sense for these people in this situation to feel attracted to each other, then it should be followed. Like Dan, I often find about half-way through a story that I am not in charge any more - the characters are doing stuff I never planned and telling me where things should go. If they want to go to a private place and have some fun (or whatever) I'm not going to stop them, but it has to be right for the characters. Anything that jars me out of the story and says "x would not act that way" is bad writing, in my opinion.
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Post December 20, 2012, 11:09:16 PM

Re: Editorial by Dan Hollifield

I have a few examples in mind concerning romance in SF.

The first is the Chanur series by C. J. Cherryh. There is a small amount of romance between some of the main characters in the first four books. Some of it is between Captain Pyanfar Chanur and her husband, Khym. The rest of it, mostly just hinted at, is between the human Tully and Hilfy Chanur, with very vague hints about other crewmembers. When I say 'small amount,' it's because the action and intrigue leave very little room for any such, but it does round out the characters a little (and gives Pyanfar and Hilfy something more to fight about).

In the fifth Chanur book, the romantic angle plays a more substantial role. Hilfy is the captain in this one, and while she's trying to get over her thing with Tully, who is now absent, her ship takes on an attractive young male, and trouble slowly builds among the all-female crew, to the point where two of them wind up at odds about it. Everything ends well, though, and I won't spoil it for you.

On to the next example: damn near everything written by Robert A. Heinlein, including his coming-of-age juvenile books (which I still love). Romance was a crucial element in this body of work, helping to define the plot as well as the characters. 'Nuff said.

Last example: my own novel-in-progress, in which romance is important, enough so that I once told a friend, "I'm not a science-fiction writer, I'm a romance writer." I'll get differing opinions on that once I finish the work, I'm sure, but it is a crucial element.

Of course, I've seen quite a few SF stories that didn't bother with romance, and for the most part they worked fine without it.

Whether romance belongs in a SF story or not has to do with the writer's focus. I think it's like any other story element: you can't stick it in there just because you think you should. If it's not a defining feature of the characters and the plot, don't bother with it.

However, if you do see it as important to the story, don't be afraid of it. Well -- TRY not to be. I recall writing a very tender (not pornographic) scene once, and realizing that the only time I'd been more nervous was when I wrote a passage in which I had to kill one of my good guys. I think the common anxiety came from realizing instinctively that both of these events had to be handled with the most extreme sensitivity. I still worry a lot about that; I worry about how much detail to use, and how to portray the feelings of the characters; the balance has to be emotionally powerful and not too crude.

Of course, there are some writers who can get away with having a couple of characters duck into an airlock and f*ck like wildcats for ten minutes between battle scenes. In particular, I'm reminded of Alan Dean Foster, who gets away with it because -- well, that's like everything else in his stories. There's a fight, there's some sex, there's a couple more fights . . . and nothing of any great emotional depth in any of it.

But that ain't romance.
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Post December 21, 2012, 10:24:10 PM

Re: Editorial by Dan Hollifield

From what fading amounts I remember from my History of SF, (drawn from the Editor's comments in Anthologies and occasional author's notes), the topic of Romance was mostly ignored and/or avoided in a lot of early SF. You can look at a lot of early-ish SF classics including the early "Golden Years" and romance was mostly to the side. I'm sure my betters can come up with a few, but mostly it was Men Doing And Saying Things. It was about the 60's (no accident) that the idea of Romance in SF exploded, albeit with several crude sketch-examples that weren't great stories. I'd say the mixtures began to balance out in the 70's onward.

In the write-what-you-know dept, I myself am not so great at romance... so how could I write A++ romance themes in stories? So in those cases, you have to just maneuver around it and hope it sounds readable until you can get out of the story.
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Post December 26, 2012, 09:51:13 PM

Re: Editorial by Dan Hollifield

I would propose as an example, Romeo and Juliette in a modern or futuristic setting sort of like DiCaprio's Romeo and Juliette set in the 20th century.


Romance, envy, pride, lust, and all that would intertwine. It could either be pure Shakespeare in space ships or the idea in modern English co-joined in FTL fiction.

You like that?

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Post December 26, 2012, 10:05:33 PM

Re: Editorial by Dan Hollifield

TaoPhoenix wrote:
In the write-what-you-know dept, I myself am not so great at romance... so how could I write A++ romance themes in stories?

I'm no good at romance either, in real life, but I love the idea of it. I've been known to tell people, "I have a romantic streak a mile wide -- unfortunately, it's only an inch deep."

That doesn't stop me. If you like it, just write it in. Get some females to check it for authenticity, though.
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Post December 28, 2012, 11:49:20 PM

Re: Editorial by Dan Hollifield

Really, there's a whole spectrum you can use. I like to mix a little humor in with the romance, to cut the slush. The following are portions of the very last two pages of my obviously unfinished manuscript:

*****************************************

The waitress brought a pitcher of fruit juice, and as they were passing it around and filling their glasses, someone turned on the viewscreen. Kanti noticed it first. "Well, there you are -- "

They all turned to look. The current content was some news about a group of people in front of Government House, complaining about something; Kuah was patiently convincing them that the problem would be addressed. Across the bottom of the screen, a scrolling line of script declared, PROJECT ADMINISTRATOR LEETA TAKES NEW MATE . . . SURPRISE COMMITMENT WITH CHARTER OFFICER MELAH, WHO WAS NOT LISTED AS AVAILABLE . . .

Leeta looked at Melah and said, "Oh -- I forgot to warn you, you're going to be famous now . . . I hope you won't decide to cancel our commitment because of that . . . "

Smiling, she kissed the side of his muzzle and said, "I forgive you. Besides, I got an advance hint, with that reporter on the beach."

"Thank you -- " Leeta caressed her face and kissed her on the mouth, long enough for them both to get a little breathless.

Mifil said, "Ai. Breakfast first. You going to need it soon."

"Yes . . . " The waitress was putting their plates in front of them.

"Besides," she said, "it'll take a lot more than being famous to get me away from you, now . . . " She took a forkful of breakfast.

Leeta tried to suppress a grin. "More?" How much more -- ?"

"Mm . . . I don't know. I'm not used to thinking in such large numbers . . . I guess the sun going nova would do it . . . "

He laughed softly. "No -- we'd still be together, soaring among the stars, in the hot, bright, plasma-cloud -- " gesturing with his arm.

She looked at him and softly said, "Oh, gods . . . " He looked back at her, and they both began slowly lowering their forks.

Neela said, "There they go . . . "

In unison, both Alluh and Petahkah said, "Eat!"

They startled a bit, but returned to the present moment and their breakfast. After a few bites, Melah said, "Really, I don't think we'll have time to worry about being famous, especially once we hit shore . . . "

Leeta said, "And between now and then, we should think about making a girl . . . "

She blinked at him. "Girl -- ?"

He nodded toward the kits. "We're boy-heavy. They need more sisters, and I think one of them should look just like you . . . "

"Oh, gods . . . " She set her fork down. "I've never been so complimented before, Leeta . . . " She looked down at her lap. "No one's ever said they want another of me -- " She looked back up at him.

"Well, I do," he said. Then he steered his forkful of food into her mouth. "Here. Let's not make our parents force-feed us."

She had to try not to laugh around the mouthful until she could swallow it, then she said, "I'll do it. I'll make us a girl." Then she fed Leeta a bite from her plate.

Onah looked around the table in confusion. "Can they do that -- pick what they want -- ?"

Tayu smiled and said, "No . . . it's pretty much random. Still, it doesn't hurt to think in a desired direction. And, wouldn't you like to have another sister?"

He shrugged. "I suppose . . . "

Neela said, "I would."

"Me too," said Kee. Taki nodded, busy chewing.

With theatrical seriousness, Leeta raised his chin and said, "I shall concentrate on suppressing my Y chromosomes. Practice will commence after we finish our tea."
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