I was a fan of science fiction and fantasy long before I read romance. We won’t talk about how, as a kid, I avoided the Romance section at all costs. (Helpless women and barbarian men with long swords… I probably glanced into one too many of my school friend’s boilerplate romance titles. That is to say, probably just one. But that was enough to think that it was not my thing. Though I digress.)
My interest in romance began in college, and I can more or less tie that directly back to StarAndrea’s XMR trilogy. Before that, I had little clue that romance could look so, well, queer and so lacking in damsels in distress. Thus began my descent into M/M romance and queer romance in general. And, after a fashion, some straight romance, too.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I’ve always been fond of romance–just, the kind I found in the SF&F section. So many of my favorite SF&F titles center around a romance or a romantic relationship (whether HEA or tragic…). Sometimes, the romantic development was as strong as the worldbuilding, the characterization, or the non-romance plot arc, but not always. Out of this experience came my desire to write science fiction and fantasy stories with integral romance arcs that are as satisfying emotionally as they are to the imagination.
And now I fear I’m starting to wind into an advertising pitch. Without further ado, I present to you some of my favorite romantic SF&F:
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. The headstrong Lessa and stubborn F’lar. F’nor and sweet, tragic Brekke. Sean and Sorka. Torene and Mihall (“Toreeeeeeene!”). SO MANY ROMANTIC PAIRS, and sometimes…so much more focus on political intrigue, the science of dragon engineering, and the food served at fairs. Still. I love the Pern romances. Hot, sweaty, and–uh–slightly creepily compulsive dragonrider sex is just…hot. And I really do love the clash and attraction of the diverse character personalities. Also: the romance arcs are technically subplots but totally indispensable to the stories (and not just because dragonriders whose dragons mate MUST ALSO MATE. Again, slightly creepy. But I forgive this).
China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. The relationship between the human Isaac and the khepri Lin has got to be one of the most interesting romantic relationships I’ve come across in fantasy, and not just because Lin’s head is basically a giant beetle. Also, it’s one of the most tragic. (I think it took me over a year to get through Perdido Street Station. I was fascinated by the macabre world of Bas-Lag but could only take it in small doses at a time.)
Mercedes Lackey’s Mage Wars trilogy. GRYPHON ROMANCE! Duh. Actually, there was the romance between the gryphons Skan and Zhaneel, and then the secondary romance between the humans Amberdrake and Winterhart which still tugs my heart to think about.
Leopard Lord by Alana Morland. Tragic hero cursed to shift into a beast and terrorize his own people…the woman he must sacrifice to break the curse, and the love he unwittingly develops for her… This book pushed about every romantic button in me at age 13. Plus, the meta-story involving the gods was just fun. (Nyah nyah, evil god! Love always wins!)
K. A. Applegate’s Animorphs. Jake and Cassie. Rachel and Tobias. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear.