Have Some Readers Been Resisting Sci-Fi Romance Because of Its Diverse Content?

Since I began blogging about sci-fi romance in 2008, I’ve speculated about why more readers haven’t flocked to this genre. Why has it never reached the heights of paranormal romance? Why do some readers seem so hesitant to give it a try? Why have traditional print publishers released so few books in the genre?

The reasons behind the low interest in SFR have been discussed on this blog and elsewhere in the SFR community. The main ones include the following: Continue reading “Have Some Readers Been Resisting Sci-Fi Romance Because of Its Diverse Content?”

Interview with S.B.K. Burns, Author of ENTANGLED

Please welcome author S.B.K. Burns to Galaxy Express 2.0! S.B.K. Burns’ sci-fi romances blend “science and spirituality” and “explore different kinds of consciousness.” It struck me that her angle is one I haven’t often encountered in this genre and therefore was interested in learning more about it. I love it when SFR authors find new ways to surprise us!

Her books also feature time travel, diverse characters (including ones with disabilities) and all kinds of scientific fun. S.B.K. Burns joined me for an interview so I could help share the news of her work, in particular her newest releases ENTANGLED and FLY LIKE AN EAGLE.

First, here’s the cover and blurb for FLY LIKE AN EAGLE:

It’s 1824 Philadelphia at the opening of the Franklin Institute of Science, and one of its founders, Samantha’s father, wants her to marry his business partner, a much older man, to keep their war industry dealings secret.

Looking for a way out of the arranged marriage, tomboy Sam finds it in Eagle, the half Native American son of the man she is to marry.

Eagle brings Samantha into his spiritual world, his bimijiwan, in order that she might stop their father’s preparations for an ironclad Civil War at sea. To do this, Sam might have to convince Benjamin Franklin to abandon his kite experiment.

And now for my interview with author S.B.K. Burns!

Galaxy Express: There are bunches of genres authors can choose from. Why did you decide to write science fiction romance?

S.B.K. Burns: From an early age, I read plays from both my parent’s Theatre Arts Magazines and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. That led to writing and composing romantic plays and musicals in high school. I went on to study science in college, but it wasn’t until I became serious about character development and joined RWA in San Diego that I started novel writing. And what better topic for a multi-degreed scientific generalist than science fiction romance.

Galaxy Express: What is the least readers need to know about your time travel series Ages of Invention?

S.B.K. Burns: The novels feature forbidden romances (think ROMEO AND JULIET). Electress Sophia of the House of Hanover (18th century ancestor to all British royalty) saves the great scientists of history from a time quake in her Crystal Quantum Computer (the C-Q). In the 21st century a Stephen Hawking character designs an Electronic Quantum Computer (the E-Q) that is in competition with an entourage of college misfits who enter their past life bodies through meditation to stop him from messing up the timeline. Newton and Franklin make guest appearances.

Galaxy Express: Tell us a bit about the couples from your newest releases, ENTANGLED and FLY LIKE AN EAGLE.

S.B.K. Burns: In ENTANGLED (science history of 1717), the lovers are from different sides of the track. Dawn is a Hume’n spy, she believes in the David Hume philosophy that love is not just a word but a deep experience that goes to the very center of her being. She’s undercover for the Hume’n Hacker Underground championed by CEO, Marrick, an anti-establishment Wolfram type. Taylor Stephenson is the Olympic weightlifting brother to the Hawking-type physics prof who invents the E-Q. Taylor suspects that he’s not like his brother, a rational, upper class Cartesian, but more like Dawn, an emotional lower-class Hume’n.

In FLY LIKE AN EAGLE (science history of 1824), the heroine, Samantha, is a tomboy and a bookworm who loves nature, but her father, an industrialist and one of the founders of the Philadelphia Franklin Institute of Science wants her to marry his business partner, a much older man. Fortunately for her, the man she is to marry has a half Native American son, Migizi (Eagle) who designs hanggliders and knows all about the other secret Victorian world of Electress Sophia. Samantha discovers a way to ride Eagle’s bimijiwan, his flow, that takes them into alternate realities of the future. To counter damage done by the E-Q, and their fathers’ preparation for an ironclad ship civil war, they must determine if Franklin’s kite experiment is a go/no-go.

Galaxy Express: Which scientific/technological element(s) in your books do you think will turn readers on the most?

S.B.K. Burns: In ENTANGLED, the warring factions use focused brainwave technology to spirit themselves into their past lives: 1) a past-life-regression lab in Marrick’s secret bunker versus 2) the science lab E-Q, fashioned like a submarine control room.

In FLY LIKE AN EAGLE, the lovers take a ride together on the plummet of a giant swinging pendulum, and, also, they fly over a river valley together in the faring of Eagle’s delta wing glider. Dirigibles races abound in Victorian Piscatawnia, New London. And Bertie, H.G. Wells, makes an appearance.

Galaxy Express: How would you rate the heat level in your books?

S.B.K. Burns: Not erotic, but medium rare. Love scenes are part of the flow and the disruption of travel in time. Sexual relations tastefully follow the inner emotions of the lovers.

Galaxy Express: What makes you geek out more than anything else?

S.B.K. Burns: Romance writers who don’t spend enough time looking up at the night sky to, at least, notice the phases of the moon to accurately insert them into their stories.

Galaxy Express: Do the Ages of Invention books stand alone or should they be read in order? Where do you plan on taking the series?

S.B.K. Burns: ENTANGLED and FLY LIKE AN EAGLE can be read alone, but the back history is developed more in ENTANGLED. The next book in the series will probably be about the time traveling pilot of the C-Q, Naomi, and her relationship with the very special “schizophrenic” brother of the heroine, Dawn. Most of the action takes place with an entourage of college misfits from ENTANGLED’S 21st century hacker underground.

My WIP is a stand-alone space-opera romance between an alien woman held captive by the President of the North American States and one of his elite aerospace-plane test pilots.

Galaxy Express: Do you have a favorite science fiction/sci-fi romance movie? What do you enjoy about it?

S.B.K. Burns: The movie of a play was from a little know TV series and titled Murder And The Android, it starred Suzanne Pleshette and Rip Torn.

Rip Torn plays an android that falls for a real human. The android becomes self-aware and gets in trouble with the law and is to be terminated. Pleshette, the daughter of his designer, fakes Torn’s death, and I suppose they live happily ever after.

My sci-fi, light-urban-fantasy romance, LOVE ME, BITE ME, involves a love between a psychic vampire and a spacefaring android.

I always seem to put threads of forbidden romance and diversity through my work, probably because, as a creative person, I’ve felt the sting of being different.

Galaxy Express: Where can readers find you?

My Author Site

My Philosophy Site







Ms. Burns, thank you for coming aboard Galaxy Express 2.0 and for your SFR art!

Event News

Authors S.B.K. Burns and Marie Andreas (of RWA San Diego) will be making an appearance at CondorCon (March 3-5, 2017). Visit the Mysterious Galaxy table where you can meet the authors and nab copies of their books. S.B.K. Burns will be featuring her LEGENDS OF THE GOLDENS sci-fi light urban fantasy series, which includes spacefaring vampires, androids, and shapeshifting flying saucers.

Guest Post by FOOLS RUSH IN Author Donna S. Frelick

[Please enjoy this guest post by Donna S. Frelick, author of the Interstellar Rescue series!]

I’m proud to say the heroine of the latest installment of my Interstellar Rescue series stands out from the crowd in a lot of ways. Not least is that Rayna Carver, the kick-ass undercover Rescue agent of Fools Rush In, is a woman of color in a science fiction galaxy of mostly white, mostly male lead characters.

Not that she’s the only one, of course. A host of SFR writers have struggled in recent years to live up to the ideal Gene Roddenberry sketched out only roughly in STAR TREK days of yore. In fact, our little subgenre (and YA writers) have probably done better than many in this regard. Check out this Goodreads list to get an idea.

But an article published in SF Signal last year by author Anthony Vicino about the difficulty of persuading old-school SF publishers to put people of color on the cover demonstrates clearly that we still have a long way to go.

Rayna is my own contribution to diversity in SFR. She was first introduced to readers as “Dozen,” the Rescue “conductor” who helped Asia escape the mines of Gallodon IV in Unchained Memory. (She appears in Trouble in Mind, also.) She was one of those characters that literally leapt off the page as I was writing, so full of life and energy my job was just to describe what I saw in my head and write down whatever she said. She was that real.

trouble-in-mindNote that I didn’t set out to deliberately add “color” to my story by including a woman of African-American descent. Rayna just came into my head that way, like many other characters in my books are “born” half-alien or with an Earth Asian background or a same-sex orientation. Diversity in my books is organic, part of the fabric of my characters’ lives and the universe they live in. Just like the world we ourselves live in, if we only allow ourselves to see it.

The best writers are keen observers of the world around them. Just because we write about worlds that don’t exist (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use that observational power to inform our future worldbuilding. Any observer of Earth in 2016 cannot fail to notice that people of color, particularly Asians, vastly outnumber Caucasians. How could they not be well represented in any future worlds we create?

The problem is too many writers of the “dominant” culture in literature (that is white, and usually male) tend to go suddenly color-blind when looking at the world around them. They see only members of their own dominant culture, that is, only people who look like themselves. So we end up with too many starships captained by white guys and full of white, male crew members.

The first step, then, is to take the blinders off before we start writing. But there is a far subtler trap waiting for the unwary Caucasian author in creating diverse characters, especially in stories set in the future. How does a character’s racial and cultural background inform the way the character talks, acts and appears on the page? And how much of that (largely Earth-bound) background would still be relevant in the alternate SFR universe we’ve created?

Rayna grew up not on Earth, but in Terrene, a melting-pot colony of rescued slaves (of all races and from different planets), alien traders, Rescue fighters and petty criminals. Her parents were African-American, abducted as teenagers from outside Chicago and kept as slaves by the alien Grays before their extraction by the Interstellar Council for Abolition and Rescue. But they retained so little of what they knew of home through the Grays’ mindwipe procedure that it was impossible for them to be returned to Earth. How much of their African-American culture would they have been able to pass on to Rayna?

And yet she shares significant aspects of her personality with her parents—her stubborn will to survive, her resistance to the mindwipe, her endurance, her courage. Should we attribute these positive traits to her ancestral heritage, to the way her parents raised her, or just to the way she is?

As the writer who created the mindwipe and Rayna’s backstory, I think Rayna’s speech and mannerisms would hold only a faint echo of urban Chicago and African-American culture. She is something altogether new and different, born of a different set of circumstances.

It’s a tough challenge for a writer to avoid stereotyping and still give a character like Rayna free rein to express her unique personality. But, then, experimenting with spicy mustard on rye is a lot more fun than sticking with mayo and white bread. I hope I got the recipe just right.

The very tasty Fools Rush In launches Tuesday, October 18 on Amazon.

Blurb for Fools Rush In

She thought she had the toughest job in Rescue—until the day she had to convert a pirate into a hero.

Interstellar Rescue “conductor” Rayna Carver is deep undercover on a slave ship bound for an isolated region of space when the ship is attacked by pirates. Her liberator is Captain Sam Murphy, a man known in the spacer bars to love only profit, adventure and women.

But Murphy hates a few things, too, chief among them slavers. Will it be enough to gain his help for Rayna’s mission—ferreting out two spies bent on sabotaging an arms factory to turn the tide in an alien civil war?

About the author

donnafrelick_picA number of years ago, as an aspiring science fiction writer, I took a workshop from noted SF writer Ann C. Crispin. She took one look at my SF short story and said, “You have a talent for writing romance.”

“Romance” in those days meant “historical”  or maybe “contemporary”. There was no “paranormal” and certainly no “science fiction” romance. So I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. Then I realized that much of the kind of science fiction I loved was full of romantic elements–Classic STAR TREK, X-FILES, AVATAR, even many New Age SF authors like Ursula K. Leguin, Zenna Henderson and Theodore Sturgeon.Thankfully, the world has turned, these and other wonderful pioneers have laid the groundwork  and now I can finally take Ann’s advice and follow my true calling.

Along the way to my science fiction suspense career I’ve been married to a wonderful guy since just out of college, been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, raised a family (two girls, two grandkids), tried organic farming, worked as a freelance journalist and editor, been a community activist, earned black belts in two different styles of martial arts and written four STAR TREK fanfic novels (and a number of short stories) for “underground” publication. (Ask me sometime about STAR TREK cons!)

In 2012, my first two SFR novels finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest. Shortly thereafter, I found a literary home with the fabulous Michelle Johnson, founder of Inklings Literary Agency and INK’d Press. Unchained Memorywas released in February, 2015 from INK’d Press. Trouble in Mind will follow in February, 2016.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, the Golden Network (of past and current Golden Heart finalists) and the Firebirds (2012 Golden Heart finalists).

I live on 44 beautiful mountain acres in Marshall, NC, with my husband and two talkative cats.

Follow Donna S. Frelick on Twitter: @DonnaSFrelick