Romance lovers, I think, tend to be more interested in reading about people than about technology, which may lead some of us to shy away from science fiction. Not me–I’ve been a science fiction fan far longer than I’ve been reading romance. Many science fiction authors write as much about people and their relationships as they do about spaceships, computers, and laser cannon.
I’m not talking about Science Fiction Romance, which deserves another post to itself, but about writers who identify solidly with science fiction. It won’t surprise you to hear that the five authors I’d like to recommend are women. I readily confess that I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I did years ago, so I’m undoubtedly missing some newer writers.
I fell in love with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series when the first novel, Dragonflight, came out in 1968. In fact, I wore my paperback copies of the first novels out and splurged to replace them with hardbacks (still on my shelf) when they were reprinted. Pern is a Lost Colony, and the books cover centuries of its history, including the romantic entanglements of its inhabitants, both human and dragon. Yes, of course, dragons–not shapeshifters, but telepathically bonded to their human riders (causing interesting complications when the dragons mate) and the essential factor in the survival of civilization. The novels were not written in internal chronological order–I’d suggest starting with Dragonflight.
McCaffrey also wrote several other series, some with collaborators. The Freedom’s Landing series is my favorite of the others, but they all tend to feature romantic subplots. McCaffrey’s son Todd inherited Pern at her death and has continued the series.
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover is another Lost Colony, although in the later installments in this long series the Rediscovery by the Terran Empire adds new layers of conflict. The paranormal element in this series is the telepathic power with which the ruling class maintains its position, and the many novels follow the relationships and fortunes of several families. The series ranges from short novels written as paperback originals in the late 1950s to complex trilogies written in the 1990s. After Bradley’s death in 1999, her collaborator Deborah Ross has continued the chronicles of Darkover. (Jo Walton has written an interesting assessment of the Darkover series, “‘Culture clash on the borders of genres.”)
Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series often does involve space ships, scattered as it is over a wide-spread human civilization, but it centers on the adventures, romantic and other wise, of Miles Vorkosigan and his family. Shards of Honor and Barrayar include the courtship of Miles’ parents, who meet as officers on opposite sides of an interplanetary war, while in A Civil Campaign we find Miles himself finally ready to settle down and court a charming young widow. There’s plenty of action, both military and interpersonal, in the rest of the series. Bujold also writes award-winning fantasy.
While McCaffrey, Bradley and Bujold are long-standing favorites of mine, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series is a much more recent discovery, beginning with His Majesty’s Dragon (2006). Yes, dragons again, telepathic, intelligent, and bonded with their partners. But this is an alternate history series, in which His Majesty’s Aerial Corps fights the Napoleonic Wars on board enormous dragons, led by Temeraire, the rare black dragon, and his pilot Captain Will Laurence, who was perfectly happy as a Naval officer until the dragon’s egg he was transporting hatched unexpectedly. Thanks to one species of dragon which will only bond with female pilots, there are a few women maintaining a low profile in the Aerial Corps, an interesting challenge given the early nineteenth century social structure. I love these books.
I’m not sure how to categorize Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, but since I got the omnibus edition (there are five novels) from the Science Fiction Book Club, I’m going with it. These novels blend the paranormal (werewolves, vampires and ghosts), alternate history, steampunk (mechanical ladybugs!), and romance (ah, that alpha werewolf). I’ve only read the first novel, Soulless, which is definitely a romance, but my friend who carefully avoids paranormal gobbled up all five in a row. Carriger is also writing a Young Adult series in the same world, beginning with Etiquette & Espionage, and has another steampunk series in the planning stages.
I have novels from all of these series on my totally-out-of-control shelves of books To Be Read, and the ones I have read remain on my keeper shelves. But I’m always up for something new, so if you have favorite science fiction titles or authors, please share!