Title: Moro's Price
Author: M. Crane Hana
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: June 26
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male
Genre: Science Fiction, sci-fi, aliens, abuse, captivity, abduction, dark, slave
While I adore love technically-accurate science fiction that 'works' on realistic levels (The Expanse, anyone?), I respond most deeply to stories that can blur the line between fantasy, science fiction, and romance.
Space Opera. Sword & Planet. Planetary Romance. Not all the same thing, but they have distinct lineages connecting back to the adventure tales of the 19th Century and early 20th Century. (Note: here, the 'romance' pertains to stories of adventure, not love/lust.)
'Space opera' is a formerly pejorative term that was re-purposed in the early seventies by publishers eager to counter intellectual, inner-space, experimental fiction and get back to more fundamental story-driven tropes. Easier fare, if you will. 'Star Wars' gave those publishers legitimacy and a huge boost, as did the popularity of Tolkien and his disciples/copiers.
Consider 'Sword & Planet', or 'Planetary Romance' to use the more currently-popular label. Wikipedia defines it thus: "Planetary romance is a type of science fiction or science fantasy story in which the bulk of the action consists of adventures on one or more exotic alien planets, characterized by distinctive physical and cultural backgrounds." Wiki has this to say about the subtle differences between the two labels: "In general, planetary romance is considered to be more of a space opera subgenre, influenced by the likes of A Princess of Mars yet more modern and technologically savvy, while Sword & Planet more directly imitates the conventions established by Burroughs in the Mars series."
I remember being in my early teens, at that magical age to really discover science fiction and fantasy. When not mowing lawns, I spent my summer afternoons spent reading reprints of Burroughs and Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, and E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith. Or new works by Tanith Lee, Jo Clayton, Christopher Stasheff, or C. J. Cherryh. I found myself at home in worlds that appeared low-tech and fantasy at first, but were revealed to be much more. Sometimes they were lost colonies or trapworlds settled by marooned star-farers. Sometimes they were set in alternate dimensions or histories. Unlike urban fantasies, they were set in different, strange places where the setting seemed almost as much a driving force as the characters or plots. The 'magic' was psionic, or half-forgotten high tech, or Ancient handwavium...or magic just worked on the bloody planet, and the reader had to accept it.
They all fed a deep wanderlust within me, and probably did as much as Tolkien did to jump-start my inner map-making, world-building geek.
I'm glad to see they're sort of coming back into fashion again, as subtle crossovers between mainstream science fiction and epic fantasy. This is the next big era of genre mash-ups, yes?
That I'm putting graphic sex into the mix isn't that new, either.
Thinking back, a lot of SFF from the seventies and eighties had sexual themes or scenes; a lot more than the nineties, I recall. No long-term spec fic reader will be unaware of John Norman's Gor series (Ugh. Just—ugh. Any woman who used her hair to clean flagstones would quickly look less like a pampered sex-slave and more like a bag-lady after a dust storm. Sexy? Not so much.) I used to employ Norman and Karl Edward Wagner as benchmarks for determining who was and who was not safe to date, among fellow college geeks.
Samuel R. Delany's work functioned equally-well on adventure, intellectual, philosophical, and amazingly hot levels, most of which I couldn't appreciate until I'd grown up and experienced enough of life to understand them. Thanks, Chip.
From the early eighties, I remember Andy Offutt's (writing as John Cleve) deviantly pornographic 19-book space opera series Spaceways. I wonder how many of the current crop of erotic SFF romance authors have ever heard of these? The books are hard to find now, and they were often nearly as awful as Norman's stuff. But they dared to embrace plot as well as passion, and spent some time in the characters' heads as well as beds.
The new crop of SFF romance, much of it driven by small press or self-published authors, is blazing trails and offering a wonderful mix of the fantastic and the romantic.
With the demise of the erotic romance publisher Ellora’s Cave, many erotic romance authors are moving away from sex-heavy formulas, and daring to play more with plot than sexual positions. That’s a good thing, even though it’s worth remembering that Ellora’s Cave began because mainstream romance publishers were sex-shy in the first place.
SynopsisCrown Prince, techno-geek, and secret sadomasochist Valier has lusted for years after the gorgeous gladiator called “The Diamond.” Meeting the escaped slave on a rooftop, Valier discovers Moro Dalgleish wants suicide before his former masters can reclaim him. Infected with a deadly symbiont, Valier proposes empty sex to satisfy his urges and grant Moro’s release from a horrible life. Neither man plans for Moro to survive, or how the morning after will shake three empires to their foundations.
ExcerptMoro’s Price M. Crane Hana © 2017 All Rights Reserved Chapter 1 A thousand spectators watched Jason Kee-DaSilva, the Leopard of Saba, ruin his career two minutes after his comeback victory. The Golden Cage Arena spanned the top floor of a gaudy casino skyscraper in south Cedar-Saba. At the center of the domed auditorium, a thirty-foot circular steel floor slowly revolved to the right. An airy dome of gold-plated steel filigree mesh arched thirty feet over it. The mesh was stronger than a spaceship’s skin. Two gates led into the Cage. Once a fight began, they’d stay locked until one man lost and yielded to the other. DaSilva had broken two men already tonight: two in credits, the last in flesh. The deceptively delicate dome had just lifted from the bloodstained circular steel floor to let a cadre of medics through. Huge holo screens in the dome played highlights from the first rounds of battle or lingered over shots of the Leopard swiftly claiming his last victim. He hadn’t been brutal, merely thorough. The orgasm he’d wrung from the other man had been as much a symbol of victory as the final punch-down. In better days, DaSilva had been a glorious bronze godling of the Cage, always dressed to show off his sleek muscles, dapple-bleached short hair, and the leopard-spot tattoos covering his shoulders and spine. He’d regained most of the muscle, though it was still pared down from illness. Haunted hollows showed around brown eyes, and his hair was growing out to plebian brown curls. His knee-length kilt was simple grayish-brown poly-silk, without Garibey Shemua colors or concentric teardrop pattern. Now DaSilva looked up angrily, shrugging off the lackluster attentions of his own single hired attendant and the man’s low-budget medical kit. In place of DaSilva’s legendary anthem, a rights-free generic martial score rumbled in the background from expensive speaker systems. In the first tier of seats behind the three red-clad referees, a bald man in Garibey Shemua’s purple and silver robes tapped studiously at the keyboard manifesting across his left sleeve. He glanced at DaSilva, as if just now noticing the fighter’s thunderous expression. DaSilva glared at the Shemua official and then pointed toward the nearest speaker. “I paid, damn you. I wrote my anthem years ago!” he shouted, stepping aside to let the medics work on the other fighter. “While you were under contract, Sero DaSilva. We’re happy to lease the rights back to you for single-use or month-to-month,” the bald man said with a mild tone, pitched to carry perfectly past the low music. The hovering audio drones made certain his words were broadcast over the whole arena. “I paid yesterday.” The Shemua official’s polite, calm expression never wavered. “Which was applied to last month’s fees. Which were in arrears, I’m afraid. It’s a new month. Your employment liaison should have told you to pay today, too.” “My liaison went on a convenient fishing trip to Lariden Lake last night and couldn’t be reached. What the hell do you people even want?” The Shemua official lifted a red metal collar from his right sleeve and waggled it in the air. The collar clasp glittered with purple enamel and white diamonds in Shemua’s concentric teardrop emblem. A concerted gasp came from the spectators who knew what it was: the Leopard’s Red-Band bonder’s collar he’d worn while being owned by Garibey Shemua. “This can all work out for the best, Sero DaSilva, if you’d just see reason and come back.” Until the previous year, the Leopard of Saba had been one of Shemua’s feted, pampered bondslave fighters. Their star. DaSilva stepped a pace backward. The crowd moaned as one. Another onlooker began slowly, derisively clapping: a huge old man clad in a brilliant white suit, sprawled a dozen seats down from the referees. The camera drones focused on him, then longer on the silent, nearly naked man kneeling in front of him. A buzz ran through the crowd. “The Diamond.” A whisper from a few hundred hushed voices, as everyone was reminded of who else had watched every moment of DaSilva’s three comeback fights. The silent man’s black collar indicated a murderer or traitor under arena sentence. His odd black-and-white coloring marked him as a legend equal to the Leopard. Heavy cosmetics rimmed the man’s eyes, exaggerated his refined cheekbones, and shaped his lips into a courtesan’s scarlet smile. Flinching at the sight of himself on the giant screens, the painted man lowered his head in a spill of long black curls and huddled against his master’s legs. Everyone in the vast room saw how long the Leopard looked at the Diamond.
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