20 Sci-Fi Romances That Should Be Adapted For TV

Outer Places compiled a list of 23 Science Fiction Books Being Adapted into TV Shows. Being an SF fan, I read the list. Unfortunately, only four of the books were written by women. And not only does the list include mostly white, male authors, there are three by John Scalzi and two by Stephen King. That’s not an embarrassment of riches—that’s just embarrassing.

I’m betting perilously few of these shows, if they make it to television, will feature female protagonists. Ladies, don’t you just love getting a big “F-you” from the television industry? Feels even better after, oh, say, the thousandth time.

The people who optioned these projects can do what they want, but it doesn’t mean I have to remain quiet about this disparity and settle for watching shows based on books by white guys—some of whom are long dead. The list concerns me because it’s yet another reminder that the needs of millions of women don’t matter to the Powers That Be. Representation is an alien concept to some of these television folks. (One notable exception: The all-women team behind Netflix’s smash superhero hit, JESSICA JONES.)

The only adaptations on that list guaranteed of my interest will be the ones based on Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE and Octavia E. Butler’s DAWN. (I’m not following any YA stories currently.)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I didn’t expect the list to include any books with romance, although DAWN hints at the potential for a romantic SF show: “Would humans mate with an alien race if it meant ensuring the survival of our species?”

The list did, however, make me realize even more how much I crave SFR television shows. I glommed the k-drama MY LOVE FROM ANOTHER STAR, but that’s only one show. It’s the only bona fide adult science fiction romance show I’ve seen in my entire life. And I’ve been a fan of SFR and romantic SF since my early teens. So we’re talking decades of an SFR television deficit for many of us. Some shows, like FARSCAPE, come close, but even then, romantic SF television shows are pretty rare.

And as the years continue to go by, I’m realizing I may never get the SFR shows I want in my lifetime. Despite the plethora of worthy science fiction romance stories written by women, I will likely be dead before any of them make it to television. Yet SF shows by dead white men may very well glut the airwaves in the meantime. The rampant sexism in the entertainment industry has far-reaching consequences, indeed.

That said, I and all the women with similar interests are not less worthy than all those white men who will get all the John Scalzi and Stephen King shows they want (probably more than they even have time to watch). Our interest in SFR is not less valid and it is not less important and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s room for us all, and the more technology advances, the more space there will be.

Still, a gal can dream and as long as I live and breathe I will continue to hope. Therefore, I compiled my own list of SFR books that deserve translation to a televised format. (Far more than 20 would work for TV, but in a practical sense, series SFR offers the potential of meatier worlds to adapt, so that’s what I based my picks on.)

Here we go!

The Phoenix Adventures, Anna Hackett’s space opera treasure hunter books, offers Indiana-Jones style action-adventure along with steamy romance.

The world of Catherine Asaro’s SUNRISE ALLEY and ALPHA would offer an exploration of artificial intelligence similar to that of PERSON OF INTEREST. Near-future thriller/mystery plus android romances for the win!

Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five series. Space opera galore and has potential to be the new FARSCAPE.

Gini Koch’s TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN series. Fun comedic SFR with a “men-in-black” flavor. Given its wacky tone, it’d make a great partner for TNT’s THE LIBRARIANS!

Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso’s steampunk romance series The Ether Chronicles offers superhuman characters and awesome airships. It could make TV history by being the first ever steampunk romance show!

P.J. Dean’s The Felig Chronicles would be an SFR alien invasion blast. If heroine Tina Cain were on TV at the same time as EMPIRE’s Cookie Lyons, we’d be in heaven!

Ella Drake’s Future Tales are basically fairy tales with an SFR twist. A show could mash up the characters a la ONCE UPON AT TIME.

Jody Wallace’s Maelstrom Chronicles would offer post-apocalyptic adventures with an angelic twist! (think: a sci-fi romance FEAR THE WALKING DEAD).

Athena Grayson’s HUNTRESS OF THE STAR EMPIRE should be adapted because we need a heroine bounty hunter falling in love and kicking ass on TV right now!

Lise MacTague’s On Deception’s Edge trilogy easily has enough material for an exciting action-adventure TV show or at least a mini-series. Along with ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, its two lesbian heroines could help transform the television landscape!

Eve Langlais’ Cyborg: More Than Machines would deliver a TV show packed with hot cyborg action of all kinds. Like OUTLANDER, it’d be perfect for Starz.

With BADLANDS getting such good buzz, Jeannie Lin’s Gunpowder Chronicles—starting with GUNPOWDER ACADEMY and continuing with CLOCKWORK SAMURAI—would be a great way to infuse TV with a blast of steampunk adventures and romance during the time of China’s Qing Dynasty.

Corrina Lawson’s Phoenix Institute series could join the ranks of SUPERGIRL, DAREDEVIL, ARROW, and THE FLASH to draw both romance and superhero fans.

Sara Creasy’s SONG OF SCARABAEUS world, with its heroine hacker and otherworldly conspiracies, would give MR. ROBOT a run for its money.

Rachel Bach’s PARADOX series, a space opera featuring an ensemble cast, would help fill the void left by FIREFLY.

Like THE 100, Alyssa Cole’s Off the Grid post-apocalyptic series would attract both adult and YA/NA audiences for the win!

The eclectic space opera and time travel settings of Pauline Baird Jones’ Project Enterprise series and Pippa Jay’s KEIR series would interest fans of DOCTOR WHO and offer “sweet” heat level romances.

For a futuristic, Big Brother type world filled with political intrigue, look no further than a show based on books set in KS Augustin’s Republic Tales. Would explore similar issues and be a great, diverse alternative to the upcoming adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s CHILDHOOD’S END.

While Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series has more of a paranormal flavor, the root of the worldbuilding is science. Plus, the large cast of characters offers the potential for countless interwoven stories. What TRUE BLOOD did for vampires, Psy-Changeling could do for shapeshifters and telepaths!

Got any suggestions for SFR television shows you’d like to see? Hit me up!

Author: Heather Massey

Heather Massey searches for sci-fi romance adventures and writes about them at The Galaxy Express and Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. Her SFR musings have appeared at a variety of other places including LoveLetter Magazine, Coffee Time Romance, Tor.com, Heroes & Heartbreakers, and SF Signal. She’s also an author. Her stories will entertain you with fantastical settings, larger-than-life characters, timeless romance, and rollicking action. When Heather’s not reading or writing, she’s watching cult films and enjoying the company of her husband and daughter. For more information, visit @thgalaxyexpress and heathermassey.com Heater blogs on the 30th of each month.

23 thoughts on “20 Sci-Fi Romances That Should Be Adapted For TV”

  1. Wow! I love the new look! Sleek and sassy! And a great post out of the new box! Thanks for the mention of Project Enterprise! Like you, I look at this list and like I wonder when? All of these books would make fun shows. I am encouraged that Syfy has gone back to making SciFi shows again.

    I do think TV is the place to break in. Now that movies are being made for China audiences, our biggest hope is the television market.

    1. It really is. For all my cynicism, I strongly believe an SFR show will make it to TV in the next few decades precisely because of how much the TV landscape is changing. I hope someone would simply adapt material readily available, but more likely it’ll be a producer/showrunner with lots of power and influence coming up with their own idea.

      And remember, ABC *did* consider adapting MY LOVE FROM ANOTHER STAR. That gives me hope.

  2. Thanks for this list! I now have several new SFR series to check out!

    I would add Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Saga to your list, especially with its underlying matriarchal ruling system – let’s nuke all the old white men favorite tropes with one blow.

  3. Thanks for the shout out! I’d love to see The Felig Chronicles be serialized on TV. A dream ! But is TV big enough, or ready, for both Tina Cain and Cookie Lyon? Love to be afflicted with such a task. LOL. Happy New Year!

  4. Heather, thanks for the shout-out! Much of the DNA of “Huntress” came from my love for cable/syndicated sci-fi TV that I would watch at weird hours while up with a fussy baby. 🙂

    And I have high hopes for TV and SFR. Maybe not as we currently know it, and maybe it’s up to us to start trail-blazing new ways to consume and adapt story. 🙂 But here are a few things to think about that maybe will lift your spirits:

    1.) Some of the longest-running TV is soap opera. TV for wimmins, about relationships. As overblown and melodramatic as they may be at times, they’re responsible for a lot of tropes that are in our bones as people. (Amneeeeeesia, anyone? 😀 No? Evil twin, perhaps? Secret sibling/first spouse/child?) Also, this TV is made on the fly, practically live, and on a shoestring.

    2.) The reason cult shows stay alive is the fandom-generated engines that take these shows from small and struggling to puzzling phenomena. Those fandom engines are run largely on relationships–rooting for your OTP couple, hoping that couple will get together, or the other one will work out their differences.

    Good Sci-Fi TV is about relationships as much as it is about spaceships. SFR inherently balances relationships and spaceships. All that stands in the way is for the visual technology to catch up. And it is. It’s up to us to be the ones who are okay with trying new things, whether that’s apps for smartphones that create “enhanced reality” experiences, or web-based shows, or multimedia in ebooks…or reviving old things, like radio dramas converted to podcasts. There’s a universe of possibility out there, if we’re willing to look! 🙂

    1. Good points all and I would love to watch a soap-like SFR featuring an ensemble cast of diverse couples. A space station setting would be perfect for this kind of show (and would help keep the budget manageable).

      SFR has all the ingredients for compelling romance drama. The main challenge is finding someone with immense industry power to champion such a show.

  5. I would love to see Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five books made into a TV series! They are wonderful novels full of amazing women. There’s also gold to be mined in Devon Monk’s Magic in the…Allie Beckstrom series. Monk also has a Steampunk series that is heavy on the female characters, and she has a “Frankenstein” type science fiction series that has romance, adventure and great characters. Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series is sometimes considered fantasy or paranormal romance, but really it’s very science fiction-ish, especially in the world-building of post apocalyptic Ireland.

  6. I agree with all of these. And I’ll add Jess Anastasi’s “Atrophy”. Part Firefly, part XFiles, funny, mysterious, dark, and romantic. I can see it, tweaked to start with more action, as a TV show.

    I could also see Bella Street’s “Apocalypse Babes” series as a mini-series. That would be cool.

    Shoot, the studios throw money at Sharknado but they won’t film one of these awesome stories? Or waste millions on reality-crap-tv? Bleh. Film something good.

    1. >the studios throw money at Sharknado but they won’t film one of these awesome stories?

      It’s disheartening for sure and I wonder if it has to do with the mindset that there’s only room for certain kinds of shows–or rather, multiples of one kind of show over others. This is one of those areas where we really need technology to help level the playing field.

    2. Well, that’s the thing–they *don’t* waste millions on reality-tv because it’s “unscripted” – it’s just edited to Saturn and back to put together a coherent story. It’s spying on your neighbors at a national level (remember, reality tv became a thing during a writers’ strike – when you have no writers, just turn the cameras on and watch people go stupid).

      On another note–I just finished the first in EM Foner’s “EarthCent Ambassador” series – “Date Night on Union Station” – sci-fi and rom-com all in one. I love it because it has relatable, “ordinary” folks who are just trying to make it in a galaxy that features godlike AI and weird aliens, but also still has things like speed-dating and bad landlords. I think it would make a great TV series. Much better than Sharknado.

      1. Comedic elements would be a great selling point as humor is something most everyone can relate to–good call! The more strategic we can be about convincing folks to give SFR a try, the better.

  7. Speaking of post-apocalyptic Ireland. Have you seen One Hundred Mornings? It’s a non-tech, post-apocalyptic, romance in the way of re-connection, movie set in small town Ireland. I was surprisingly moved by this movie.

  8. Great post! I’d love to see any and all of these make it to the big or small screen. I’ve had *nibbles* on a couple of my Sectors SFR novels but nothing solid….a person can always hope. And enjoy “Killjoys” and “Dark Matter” and other good shows in the meantime.

    1. Glad to hear you had some interest! It’ll definitely involve throwing lots and lots of SFR spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. This is a long-haul process, which is why perseverance is key.

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