The 3rd Annual SFR Galaxy Awards were recently announced in January, honoring multiple books and authors across a variety of categories. Launched in 2012 by bloggers Laurie A. Green of Spacefreighters Lounge and Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express, the goal of this event is to honor a variety of standout stories while helping to connect readers with books. Learn more about these awards and the science fiction romance genre in this interview with Laurie and Heather.
Tell us a little bit about why you developed the unique concept for SFR Galaxy Awards.
Heather: The SFR Galaxy Awards was inspired by a post written by author Ursula K. Le Guin. Via a SF Signal link post, I discovered her article about Literary Bests at Book View Café. She questioned the idea of “best” in literary competitions: “Some good novels are outstandingly good. And I have my favorites, sure. All of us do. That means that they’re my best, or your best, but “the best”?”
At first, I was reading because the topic was interesting. The more I read, however, the more I realized how much her idea had relevance for sci-fi romance. In particular, one statement stood out: “I wish that, instead of picking one and dumping all the rest, we celebrated our writers continually and in droves.”
That’s when the proverbial light bulb went off. SFR is comprised of many wonderful, yet different books and is read by readers with a wide variety of tastes. Can one book truly represent such a diverse genre?
At the time of Ms. Le Guin’s post, there wasn’t a dedicated award for SFR, i.e., one that wasn’t dependent on RWA membership (like the Sapphire Awards) or other restrictions. Plus, chances were miniscule that SFR could compete in other ongoing literary competitions, not only because it’s a niche genre, but also because it has romance, sex, is largely written by women, and explores the intersection of love and technology. And yet its books are still wildly deserving of recognition.
The goal then became developing an awards event with two main priorities: 1) an inclusive approach to bestowing awards, similar to Ms. Le Guin’s idea of multiple “Best of Show” prizes; and 2) helping readers connect with sci-fi romances.
Once those ideas coalesced in my mind, I immediately contacted Laurie A. Green. She’s the blogger behind Spacefreighters Lounge and SFR Brigade, and we’d collaborated previously on other sci-fi romance events. Additionally, at the time she was an aspiring author and had a lot of experience with romance contests like RWA’s Golden Heart–especially since her books had won quite a few! So I pitched her my idea and the rest was history.
Laurie: When Heather first talked to me about the concept for the awards, I was really excited about the idea. Not every SFR book, premise or idea fits neatly into the specific category structure that most contests or awards programs utilize. The SFR Galaxy Awards allow the presenters to make their own call about what elements of the book were standout, original or exceptionally well done. This leaves the field open to spotlight the unique experience a well-told SFR story can bring to the reader.
How are winners selected?
Heather: The judges select up to five books based on a highly subjective measure–namely, the books that made the biggest impression on them that year! Judges select winners based on a story as a whole or even on one standout element. Each award is uniquely crafted and can range from serious to quirky. This approach makes them fun, meaningful, and informative for readers.
Laurie: Currently there are eight presenters, all of whom are known bloggers or reviewers within the SFR community, and several who are also published in the SFR genre. They are:
Founder/blogger at Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi & Paranormal Romance, debut SFR author Spring 2015
Donna S. Frelick
Blogger at Spacefreighters Lounge, reviewer, multiple RWA© Golden Heart Award finalist, RWA© contest judge, debut SFR author as of February
Laurie A. Green
Founder/Blogger at Spacefreighters Lounge, reviewer, multiple RWA© Golden Heart Award finalist, RWA© contest judge, founder of the SFR Brigade, debut SFR author as of February 2015
Professional librarian, book blogger/reviewer at Reading Reality, Book Pushers, and Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly
Blogger/reviewer at Mixed Book Bag and SFR enthusiast
Blogger at The Galaxy Express, Releases Editor and columnist for Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, and SFR author
SFR book reviewer and enthusiast
Blogger, author, and SFR enthusiast
Who are some of the standout authors among the winners and why do you think they stood out?
Laurie: We truly feel they’re all standout authors, but there were several who received multiple awards for 2014 and acknowledgement from more than one presenter, so let’s take a closer look at those.
Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox Series) – Best Edge of Your Seat Mercenary Heroine presented by Laurie A. Green
Honor’s Knight (Paradox Series) – Most Outstanding Alien Conspiracy presented by Laurie A. Green
Heaven’s Queen (Paradox Series) – Most Satisfying Trilogy Conclusion presented by Laurie A. Green
The Paradox Series – Best SFR Masquerading as Space Opera presented by Marlene Harris
In the Black – Best Shipboard Mystery presented by Donna S. Frelick
In the Black – Most Mysterious SFR presented by Anna McClain
In the Black – Most Elegant HEA presented by Jo Jones
Lana’s Comet – Most Persuasive Smiling Heroine presented by Heather Massey
Lana’s Comet – Best ‘Opposites Attract’ Story presented by Anna McClain
Mercenary Instinct – Most Unusual Business presented by Jo Jones
Mercenary Instinct – Best Use of a Cheesy Pen Name or Best Not-Quite-New Author presented by Marlene Harris
Heather: It’s an interesting process because the judges don’t discuss their picks with each other beforehand. Books with multiple wins might indicate some shared tastes among the judges as well as a “special something” in some of the SFR books.
You’re active in the science fiction romance community. What are some of the trends or changes that you’ve seen in the last couple of years?
Laurie: I think Science Fiction Romance has started to gain a lot more recognition in the last two years. A few breakout indie SFR novels have shaken the rafters a bit–and I’m thinking in particular of The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith (a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner) and now Spark Rising by Kate Corcino (a SFR Galaxy Award winner this year). Despite SFR still being a “hard sell” to the Big 5, author Sharon Lynn Fisher, a 2013 RWA© RITA Award finalist, has published three SFR titles—Ghost Planet, The Ophelia Prophecy and newly released, Echo 8—with a predominantly SF house, Tor Books. I think the upswing is due in part to SFR authors brainstorming new ways to reach out to potential readers and expand the audience. For example, SFR has always been difficult to find in both traditional and e-book stores, so a new site developed by author C.E. Kilgore called SFR Station offers readers the advantage of one-stop shopping for a variety of SFR titles that are searchable via tags and categories. SFR authors tend to be a creative lot and I believe they’ll continue to find imaginative ways to connect with new readers to raise interest in the genre.
Heather: What Laurie said, plus the genre’s gotten boosts from folks like Veronica Scott, an author who writes Sci-Fi Encounters for the USA Today blog, and KS Augustin, an author who launched Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, the digital magazine devoted entirely to SFR. The neighborhood has been expanding quite a lot, and it’s being built by incredibly smart and talented women!
There’s also been an exponential increase each year in published sci-fi romance books. Readers have more choices than ever before, whether they enjoy SFRs with a mild heat level or those with a “grimdark” erotic bent. Authors are exploring cyberpunk, steampunk, near-future, superhuman, and other exciting settings. It’s pretty glorious!
What advice do you have for science fiction romance authors, both published and pre-published?
Laurie: For those who haven’t yet published, whatever route you’re planning to take to publication, make your product the absolute best it can be. This is SFR, so don’t be afraid to take chances or push the boundaries. But do your research, read widely within the genre, enter contests and/or seek out talented peers to critique and beta read your work, and revise ruthlessly. If you decide to choose a path to publish independently, follow through with the quality control and have your work professionally edited as well as hiring an adept cover artist to ensure the end result is attractively packaged.
For those who are already published, my advice is to finish your next book. This business only rarely provides a quick path to success. Building your brand and your audience is going to take time, but it’s time well spent doing something you truly enjoy.
Heather: Speaking from a reader perspective, I’d encourage authors and pre-published ones to embrace more diversity. SFR can best grow its audience by offering a wide variety of characters and settings.
Readers of all skin colors, body types, and gender identities deserve to see themselves reflected in stories, and this is especially true of SFR since it explores romance in the future. Most readers can relate to love in one form or another. And yet many readers–particularly ones of color, ones with disabilities, and ones who are LGBQT+–remain perilously under-served. This is a need SFR authors are in a strong position to satisfy, especially given the genre’s speculative nature. SFR authors can broadcast the important message that diverse characters are as relatable as aliens and just as deserving of love.
Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and science fiction romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which now totals over 600 members.
Her extended family includes her husband, David, four dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico. When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director. Laurie released her first published work, a novelette entitled Farewell Andromeda in January, and her first full-length SFR novel, Inherit the Stars, in three parts on February 22nd and March 1st.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she’s the Releases Editor for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, blogs about SFR for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and writes a monthly steampunk romance column for Coffee Time Romance. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.