Aliens, Spaceships and Love in the Stars by Cassiel Knight (Part 1 of 2)

People who know me know paranormal romances are my passion. I’ve been hooked on them since I read my first one in the eighties. Back then, they weren’t collectively known as paranormal romances but went under many guises such as futuristic, time travel, angel and just plain romance. Many were not easy to find on the bookshelves. Luckily those days are gone and it is much easier to find them.

Still, my favorite then and now are what used to be known as futuristic romances but are now called science fiction romance.  I wrote an article for a newsletter and took a walk down memory lane to explore paranormal romance past and present. I had a lot of fun writing this and remembering what I loved so much about these books and recalling the ones I’d forgotten about. These were the stories I read over and over and over again. There are few books I reread – I can count them on my fingers, no toes. That’s not to say they aren’t good (it’s more a factor of time and so much selection) but the futuristic romances of the past, for me, were truly special.

The only caveat in writing and sharing this article is that even though I wrote this in two parts, that’s not nearly enough space to explore paranormal romances varied and exciting journey as a genre. I’m certain to leave out some wonderful stories and wonderful authors and for that I apologize.

Because of my love of futuristic/science fiction romance, I focused this two-part article on them. If you enjoyed the paranormal romances of the past, I hope you find my visit to the past nostalgic. If you weren’t fortunate enough to have read the futuristics of the past, I think you can get a lot of them still. Check them out. Will the writing hold up to what we read now? No, it won’t. Don’t expect it to. Just read them for the fun and with the knowledge that you are reading the forerunners of paranormal today.

And if you get a hankering, share some of your beloved futuristic romances from the past. Maybe I’ll find some I haven’t read. Hey, it’s possible. <grin>

I was first introduced the wonderful world of paranormal stories by reading romance—Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers. The book that started it all for me was Janelle Taylor’s, Moondust and Madness, a jaunty tale about a dashing spaceman coming to Earth and grabbing a beautiful, intelligent, feisty doctor to take into space to repopulate worlds dying from a disease. Who wouldn’t love such a tale? I should really try to meet Janelle at Nationals and let her know the huge impact she’s made on my life.

To this day, I don’t remember how I came by that book. But that book was all it took for me to dive into the world of paranormal romance, and I haven’t come up for air since. And when futuristic romances took a dive, I mourned their loss and kept the best ones for years after. While I love some science fiction romances of today, they are different than the ones of the past.

So, after Janelle Taylor–Somewhere around this time, I discovered Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Romantic Times and it was through these that I fell headfirst into alien worlds. As I noted above, at the time, romances set in space were not called science fiction romance or paranormal romance. They were futuristic romance (when they dealt with space) or just plain romances when they were contemporary with paranormal elements. It was only later that publishers began to designate them better.

I soon learned that to get my futuristic fix, I could rely on Dorchester LoveSpell. Despite all the things that later happened to that house, they will forever hold a fond place in my heart for providing me the stories that filled my soul. Stories of dashing spacemen and beautiful, strong women filled my bookshelves. Some of my favorite authors and stories at this time were Saranne Dawson, Touched by Light by Catherine Spangler, Nighthawk by Kristen Kyle, everything by Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle, Stopie Piel and Dara Joy. And of course, Janelle Taylor’s Moondust and Madness and its sequel, Starlight and Shadows. Sigh.

To this day, I’ve heard of these books as being likened to wacky, screwball sci-fi romantic comedy. Maybe so. Who cares? I devoured them like cake (hmm. Love cake). I could not get enough of these and would spend hours at the bookstores looking for LoveSpell’s little futuristic icon and the word ‘futuristic’ on the spine.

What made them so special to me? All of the familiar elements of a romance – hero, heroine yet set in places so foreign they didn’t exist. Added to that, these places were populated by strange and unusual creatures. These provided the reader with more places to explore. It wasn’t always about the characters being different as much as it was the places. The setting. Love in the stars.

These romances were for readers who loved science fiction setting, but wanted access to the inner thoughts of the hero and heroine in one convenient package. Stars Wars forthe romance crowd. Soon, though, readers who would have never dreamed of the combination found these romances. Even those who used to read science fiction and fantasy found these romances and the genre exploded in the nineties.

The authors who first ventured into this subgenre were true pioneers, taking what Ms. Woodiwiss, Rogers and the other “bodice ripper” romances had started (mind you, the term bodice ripper here is not negative – I truly never minded that phrase – or the clinched covers). These ladies fought to lure uninitiated romance readers into strange new worlds and did such a great job of it, their work lives on. And for me, I’ll never forget them even though my copies of these books have long since been replaced.

And let’s talk covers! Just take a look at the ones in this article. While they do look different then the covers now, back then, these were gorgeous covers that swept potential readers away. Some of them had such a riotous amount of colors, you knew you were about to read something special. Something different.

Back then, these paranormal romances set the stage for a unique brand of entertainment that also provided insight into the time frames of their birth. As much as I loved them then, I do find it hard to read one now. Writing has changed. When I became a writer, I changed. While I know most of them I’ll never read again, what I felt when I read them so long ago will remain with me always. To the authors I mentioned as well as the many others who set the stage, thank you!

Thanks for joining me down memory lane.  I hope you’ll join me next week when I talk about paranormal romance in the present.

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Posted on May 31, 2012, in Cassiel Knight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. My first foray into Science Fiction was Anne McCaffrey’s The Crystal Singer and it’s two companion books. From there I devoured every single book Egar Rice Burroughs wrote. His Tarzan series, Mars and Venus series. I loved them all.

  2. I have to admit in my early reading I either read category romance (Harlequin in the 1970’s and 1980’s) or SF/Fantasy genre. Though I did tend toward those SF/Fantasy writers who had a romance plot included. I didn’t know there were romances with paranormal, SF, or Fantasy elements until I started writing one myself in 2004. My favorite early SF/Fantasy Writers with romance elements were Anne McCaffrey–not only her Dragon Riders of Pern but also her Talent series and Tower series. These revolved around Talents of telepathic, telekinetic individuals who become integral to the connectivity of interstellar society. And I liked her Crystal Singer series. Spider Robinson and his Stardance trilogy who he co-wrote with his wife, Jeanne was another innovative story. One of my favorites, Octavia Butler, didn’t write explicitly about romance, but she always had a strong female lead. I would compare her SF fiction to Romance Mainstream in that she did write a lot about relationships and their many struggles and combinations across race, sexuality, gender, religion, social progress, and social class. Finally, C.J. Cherryh was the first time I read a “space opera” SF book that used heavy characterization and tight limited third person, with an intense internal voice (much the style of most romances). Again, her books weren’t necessarily romantic, but they frequently had a relationship subplot where the woman was strong and the man was wounded–another great romance trope in SF/Fantasy Romance today.

    I think it really pays to read across genres. I know I learned a lot about plot, action, intellectual/idea novels by reading SF. I learned a lot about world-building by reading Fantasy. And when I came to write romance, these things came with me and still impact my writing today.

  3. Kim, what a great article! Most of the titles and authors I discovered in my early forays into futuristic romances have fallen through the sieve i call a brain, but one stands out: Anne McCaffrey. although she was known as a Sci-Fi/ Fantasy writer, her books always included a strong romance plot. Best known for her Dragons of Pern series, many of her other books had much stronger romance plots. I may not remember the names of the books, but i remember the characters.

    We owe so much to these pioneers!

    • Sarah, thanks for reminding me about her! Totally loved the Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern. My husband actually got me hooked on them. I thought the romance in the first three books was absolutely delightful.

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