It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top 5 Wednesday post, and the topic this week works pretty well with something I’ve got on my mind. So, let’s do this!
This week’s topic is: “Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About.” I’m going to get pretty specific here because I just finished reading a sci-fi romance book that disappointed me and got me thinking about how I’ve changed as a reader over the last 10+ years, specifically since I started writing books.
I like romance in my sci-fi and fantasy stories. It doesn’t have to be a major plot point, it could be a sub-plot. But I’ve struggled to find a sci-fi / fantasy romance book or series or author that I love. That got me thinking about why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just some things that didn’t really matter much to me as a younger reader that will completely turn me off on a book now.
Here are the top five things that I’ve changed my mind about when it comes to reading sci-fi and fantasy romance:
- Diversity — I never used to notice when a future / fantasy world was homogeneously straight and white, but this has become one of those things that immediately pulls me out of a story. Once you recognize that the real-world population isn’t homogeneous, you realize that if a future and/or fantasy world is homogeneous, there better be a damn good reason for it. Ideally, I want to see positive representation on every axis, but at the very least with regards to race and sexual orientation.
- Consent — Sci-fi and fantasy romance can be pretty negligent when it comes to showing consensual romance. Again, this is not something I noticed as a teen, or even in my twenties. This was never okay, but my tolerance for it has definitely changed. If a modern hero is “taking” a heroine (or another hero), there better be a verbal “yes” in there before things get steamy. And power dynamics complicate things. If one character is another’s prisoner or subordinate, you better put them on an even playing field if you want me to get on board with the romance.
- Plausible Science — I don’t think I ever considered this until I started writing novels. Sci-fi and fantasy are full of crazy creative ideas that are not possible in our contemporary reality, and I love it. Give me all the magic and FTL space travel. Space ships and colonies on planets in distant galaxies are cool. Aliens and magical creatures are awesome. But these days I lose my ability to suspend disbelief when there aren’t consistent rules and limits to a magic system, or when the science fiction elements demonstrate no understanding of basic science and technology and don’t even offer a hand-wavey explanation as to how/why it works.
- The Smurfette Principle and/or the Strong Female Character Trope — This is a big one that I used to take for granted because I was a boy-crazy teen / young-adult and was just happy there were *any* point-of-view female characters in my SFF books. But now these tropes make me so angry I want to scream. If the leading lady is the only female character in the book, or if she spends the whole book trashing other women and has no female friends, I’m probably going to DNF the book. If she’s determined to show how “different” she is from “other girls” by being super tough and never wearing dresses, I’m done. And, if the heroine does have a female crew and immediately drops them to get with the hero, I may throw the book across the room.
- Plot is Linked to the Speculative Elements — I’m sure that I never even considered this before I started taking my writing seriously. I love plot, I always have, and it’s really hard for me to get into a book without a solid one, regardless of how much I like the characters or the world. But, if I can take the plot of a book, change the setting, and have the story still work, then I’m probably not going to want to finish reading the book. Plot and world and characters all need to be linked. This is the most frequent thing that fails to win me over when I’m reading a sci-fi and/or fantasy romance book. It’s a bummer, but I can’t turn off my writing brain when I’m reading.
If you have book recommendations for me that avoid these pitfalls, please PLEASE let me know in the comments. And if you’re curious what book set me off on this topic, stay tuned for my April reading recap post tomorrow.