This week’s theme: where is the SFF genre headed?
Since I write scifi romance, not the bigger world of science fiction and fantasy, I’m going to keep my scope for this post on a smaller scale as well.
I do a weekly New Releases post on my blog where I gather and curate a list of scifi/fantasy/paranormal romance new releases for the week. I have many different sources for identifying these books so every week I’m exposed to the trends in my three favorite genres, based on what I see being released, the reviews, the rankings etc. (Here’s the link to my latest such post if you’d like to see how I present the ones I choose to list.)
There’s a certain through line of SFR that’s adventure-oriented with a strong romance running through the plot and varying levels of steaminess from almost closed door to pages of inventive sexy times with tails and tentacles and other interesting appendages. I write somewhere in the middle of the range, with your basic human heroes and heroines and two or three lovemaking scenes per book as their relationship deepens. I’m descriptive about the sexy times but not at great length. I did endow my genetically engineered Badari Warriors with some enhancements the ladies enjoy but did not go as far as some authors can capably go in their inventiveness. There’s a lot of action and adventure in these novels, not only mine but those of other authors. I think this kind of ‘bread-and-butter’ SFR will continue to be written and voraciously read.
In no certain order, some other thoughts on this:
I’ve been seeing more and more authors bringing their own past gaming experience to their SFR novels, either as avid game players or as developers or both. I think that trend will continue.
I’ve been seeing more superhero style plots, which is probably inevitable given the immense success of the Marvel Universe movies.
I think the alien abduction theme will continue to be very popular with SFR readers. It’s currently a staple of the genre and the hot seller lists.
I haven’t seen as much reverse harem (RH) appearing in SFR as I’d expected, given how hot the trend is in paranormal romance, although there is some. I think SFR lags behind PNR on trends, in terms of whatever is trendy in PNR shows up later in the SFR titles. Dragons are one example that comes to mind immediately. Lots of space going dragons, dragon-like and dragon shifter heroes now and not as many in PNR.
PNR RH is definitely going into a ‘bully academy’ direction right now, where the heroine is stuck as school with a lot of bullies (duh) but finds her five true-hearted men, be they shifters or mages or demons – well, you get the idea - and lives happily ever after eventually. So far I’m not seeing that in SFR but I bet it’s coming. Bullies at the Space Academy any day now…
I’m seeing more diversity in SFR, on the covers, in the novels and in the authors. I hope that trend will continue and grow!
I’m also seeing more LGBTQ SFR but not in a tidal wave…
Currently I’m seeing an emerging trend in the bigger Romancelandia world to have heroines on the autistic spectrum, so I can imagine we might see the same in SFR at some point.
I’ve seen something of a trend for PNR authors to take the ‘category romance’ type plots and apply those to their shifter stories – the bear shifter billionaire’s baby nanny (made that title up as far as I know – only meant as an example). I could imagine that trend translating into SFR and have seen some titles along those lines but not a rush of them as yet.
There also seems to be a huge market in PNR for 'cozies' - stories set in small towns, maybe with a light hearted romcom touch, and I have yet to see much if any in SFR. Something to watch for...
Dark romance and also the omegaverse type plots are appearing more and more. Issues of consent and power are the big hook in dark romance, along with anti-heroes, breaking taboos, etc. In the Omegaverse, typically (but not always) males known as ‘omegas’can become pregnant. Or the book may feature women who are ‘omega’ and sexual prey for every ‘alpha’ out there, and the ‘romance’ can be quite dark and brutal at times. Or you can have a blend of all of it. It’s not my personal thing, although I’ve read some dark romance and some Omegaverse, but I know many readers love it.
I’m seeing some authors who have not written SFR before coming in and attempting to “write to market” in the genre, with varying degrees of success.
And finally, I think Kindle Unlimited, which dominates SFR currently, will continue to be a major player, as long as Amazon continues to offer the subscription service. SFR readers are voracious inagoodway and evidently the subscription model of KU works well for them. Many weeks when I’m doing my new release post, I only have 2 or 3 SFR books I can report as being sold “wide” and all the rest are KU exclusive.
(You can still buy the ebooks outright from Amazon for your kindle of course, if you’re not in the KU subscription program but you can’t find them on other ebook seller sites like Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or Kobo.)
There’s a whole debate to be had among authors about the merits and issues with KU and I have no desire to get into all of that here, but I do think it’s a noteworthy aspect of the scifi romance marketplace, being so heavily committed to KU.
My books are all ‘wide’ and I’ve never been in KU. I have an instinctive aversion to putting all my eggs in one basket and I like the fact my readers can purchase the books on whatever platform they prefer. I understand I might be leaving all kinds of royalties and bonus payments on the table by not being in KU but the joy of being self-published (for all of us) is that we can make our own choices for our own reasons about how we want to define and pursue “success”.
What do you think is going to be the next hot trend in scifi romance?