1. Author

    Well, I’ve already found something. Rather jaw-dropping at that. Yargo by Jacqueline Susann (1979) has both science fiction and romance elements.

    Blink, blink.

    The story is that it was published after her death when her husband found the manuscript in her effects and brought it to her publisher. Apparently, she never thought it was something that would work due to it being so different from the rest of her stuff. o.O

    The comments about it on both Amazon and GoodReads are intriguing to say the least. At the very least it’s a combo for sure. What I haven’t been able to determine is how it was originally sold and labeled – romance, science fiction or just simply fiction.

    Or if it even has a happily ever after, for that matter.

  2. I’m eager to find out about titles too! I just tweeted a request for titles if anyone knows of them and linked to this post.

    I think I’ve heard of Yarbo but it’s been a while so I’m going to check that out. Thanks!

  3. Author

    Yeah, I knew It was Yargo and not Yarbo it when I’d posted the first comment. (I went back and changed it. 😉 )

    Wasn’t there a movie of that name? Oh my god. Was that the Sean Connery fiasco that pops up every now and again? Nah, can’t be, the plot doesn’t match what’s described in people’s comments/reviews. And yet it niggles at the back of my brain that I have heard of this book. Somewhere, sometime.

    But I know I haven’t read a Jacqueline Susann. That’s for sure.

  4. I guess this is where I admit how old I really am (like old as the hills! LOl!) From what I remember of browsing books as a youngster and beyond, genres weren’t there. I’m walking around the library in my head and I see fiction. I see mystery, science fiction, non fiction. I don’t even remember a women’s fiction section, though that is what anything for women was called back in the olden days. That covered a lot of ground, too.

    Now I’m trying to remember my used bookstore, where I used to shop when I was a young bride and couldn’t afford new books. That would be late 70’s. I guess it could have a labeled romance section, but I don’t remember genre labels on the spines. And multigenre labels? I butted my head against those in the 90’s when i started writing. First breakout I recall was historical romance.

    but I could be totally wrong. It’s not like i paid attention. I just read books. Hmmmm.

    (back in the “olden days” Jacqueline Susann was considered scandalous reading–at least where I grew up. LOLOL!)

  5. Author

    Well, I’m not sure about single titles or any book that got released in hardback first but I definitely have category (# series) paperbacks from the 70s that have romance labels on them. And they aren’t from Harlequin either. (http://bevsbooks.com/notes/?cat=497) Grace Livingston Hill and Emilie Loring were both republished in paperback by Bantam under the Bantam Romance label.

    Glenna Finley was in paperback through Signet and her books were sometimes labeled fiction and sometimes romance. I think it really depended on whether they were selling them as romances or mysteries.

  6. You’re right. I’d totally forgotten about GLH and EL. I read them in jr high school and high school, so I guess I mentally assigned them as YA, even though the characters in them were adults. It’s funny how memory works. My grandmother used to get Harlequin romances by subscription and would let me read them. I was in high school, so again, there WERE romances. I know I never saw an SF romance back then, but not sure I was looking. I know I found LOTR in high school. And I read everything by Alastair Maclean, so I wasn’t just looking in women’s fiction.

    Interesting discussion! Was it there and I didn’t see it or was it not there? I know I did find in science in math in lower grades and then my grades got iffy in high school. Looking back, I can remember asking for help and not really getting it. No on patted me on the head, but there was strong impression that I didn’t need to do well, just pass it.The women’s movement was slow to arrive in Northern Wyoming.

    I do remember a lot of gothic romances. Victoria Holt et al.

  7. Author

    I doubt anyone was thinking in terms of crossovers since they were pretty much just getting to the point of the boom in romance paperbacks for one thing. With one major exception – I’m not sure when the term “romantic suspence” first came into use because I’m pretty sure it occasionally popped up at least within the blurbs of some of those early Gothics if not on the labels themselves.

    Then again, I’m not sure if that counts since I’m not sure if there’s a “suspense” genre. 😉

  8. I know I found Mary Stewart shelved in “fiction” in our library. About the time I realized I liked romantic suspense it was considered DOA in NY (early 90’s) and was called “women in peril” fiction for a while. LOL!

    It is my impression as a writer, than genre really began to matter in the late 80’s, early 90’s, but I can’t be sure, because I was still mostly reading at that point. Didn’t write my first complete novel until 1993. (And set firmly on a multi-genre path which made my work a hard sell). I know that by 2000 rom/susp was firmly established and that digital publishers had saved (?) early SFR? That’s my impression anyway. Or was it Dorchester that saved it? What i heard was that digital publishers had demonstrated the readers were there anyway. At that point, I still thought I was too stupid to read anything with SF in it. LOL! Boy, did I miss you, but glad I’m no anymore!

  9. Author

    I think it really all depends upon what one means by “genre”. I talk about Bookscans (http://www.bookscans.com/) a lot here on the blog. It’s an archive of vintage covers American Paperbacks from 1939 to roughly 1959 and while it’s sometimes difficult to tell what labels the books have on them because they don’t always show the spines, it’s not hard to tell there are already distinct themes developing in the very first years. And sometimes the labels are right there on the covers, either in a tag line or in the publisher’s name for the line.

    Now, the thing we have to remember is that what publishers call things all the way back then isn’t necessarily what they stick on them today – or with same precise definitions used today. Because we’re talking about 7 decades of shift and change when it only takes one to create major ripples with the industry.

    Which is why I’m highly suspicious of a Jacqueline Susann book being the first crossover SFR novel… and yet. It’s absolutely tantalizing, isn’t it? Strictly speaking, if we go by content and not labels, it’s possible. Anything is possible. Just totally unexpected. 😀

  10. That’s so true about what publishers thought books were and what readers knew they were. Right to be suspicious! Lots to ponder here!

  11. I might have one for you – The Fatal Flower by Lynn Benedict, an Avon Gothic from 1973. There’s a botanist, carnivorous plants, and an HEA (you can’t be too careful with gothics). From references in the text, it appears to be based on “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    I think the old Gothic Romances, particularly the “paranormal” ones, would be a good place to start.

  12. Author

    You know, MaryK, you’re absolutely right. And one can never go wrong with carnivorous plants. So to speak.They’re simply so multipurpose useful in storytelling. Hehehe.

    I suppose I hadn’t given the Gothic’s “scientific” bent much consideration, but it is there, isn’t it? Lurking in the background. Which in turn is a large part of the inspiration for steampunk. Hmmm. And if one really dwells on that aspect, then we could possibly go even farther back… jumping right over the early 20th century and right into the 19th. I keep telling people not to let space ships sidetrack them and then I do it myself. Duh. 😀

    See, now I’m not thinking so much Frankenstein precisely but maybe some of the lesser known horrid novels of the later 1800s? Echoes of that theme, so to speak, but ones that might actually have HEAs and maybe even relationships of a sort. Whatever. Oh, wow. The mind boggles. Now, I gotta go talk to some romance academics. 😉

  13. Yeah, I think space ships are probably out in a search for vintage Romance with SF elements. 😀

    The Fatal Flower is a pretty good book; and you know, I’ve had it for awhile, and remembered it, because I thought it was so unusual. A lot of the mystery or paranormal in Gothics turns out to be Occult, but this one isn’t.

    If you’re thinking of this as a long-term project and of compiling a list, I’d be willing to help. I’m always happy for an excuse to rummage through old books. 🙂

  14. Author

    Oh, I’m definitely still looking, if that’s what you mean. I just sent an email to Laura V over @ Teach Me Tonight to alert her to this post/discussion and ask her about those horrid novels and whether some of them might’ve had scientific experiments in them. I’m thinking it’s a strong possibility. The question is just how much romance is in any of them and then there’s always the HEA to deal with. 😉

    I figure once I hear back from her, I may do an update post on what we’ve found so far, just to keep the ball rolling because I am fasinated by the topic. I’m thinking we may actually find something from around the turn of the century, AKA 1900 or thereabouts. Give or take a decade or so. It may be a short story and by a man but that’s what my gut tells me.

  15. I have to admit I’m not as interested in the earliest as I am in plain ol’ earlier, like pre-1980’s. Or maybe it’s just that the older they are the harder they’ll be to find, and I’m lazy. 🙂 I’ll leave the 19th century stuff to you and wallow in mid-20th century gothics for a while. 😉 Though if Laura has some leads, it might be fun to rummage around in Google Books. Hmmm.

  16. Author

    Well, it’s entirely possible that the romantic suspense Gothics from the early decades of the 20th might be where we’ll end up with this. You know, authors similar to Victoria Holt and her contemporaries. I just can’t remember hearing of any them having scientific experimentation in their plots. Or at least anything that might be considered science fiction. Spooky goings on, yeah. But actual SF storylines? No, not really. Then again, I didn’t read a wide variety of them either. And I probably wasn’t thinking along SF lines at that time so I’m not sure it would’ve made an impression.

    Now, I would certainly notice it. 😉

  17. I know next to nothing about “horrid novels.” But would Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days sort of count as science fiction romance? It’s definitely got lots of technology, because of all the travelling they do, and there’s a romantic element (with HEA). Probably not what you’re looking for, though.

  18. Author

    I’ve been having Internet access issues for the last day or so and am just now getting back online but I never really thought about Verne’s books. I tend to think more about H. G. Wells and he certainly doesn’t do romance well. (Not a pun, at all.) Around the World in particular just might fit the bill. Somewhat anyway. I’ll have to ask some of the SF geeks about it.

    Oh, Heather? You still here? 😉

  19. Yes! Yes I am.

    The Fatal Flower sounds great. I will keep an eye out for it.

    I’ve not read Around the World in Eighty Days (shocking, I know, and probably because the story is so familiar from other sources I feel like I already read it), but I’ve got a digital edition so I’ll bump it up my reading list.

    Bev, have you thought about approaching Smart Bitches with this challenge? Their readers might know a few.

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