[LMB] Nora Roberts, was More UF and PNR, was Hugos and slates

Paula Lieberman paal at filker.org
Wed Apr 8 19:39:45 BST 2015

I overdosed on her J. Robb writing when I borrowed some number of the In 
Death (which I thnk outnumber Jim Butcher Dresden File books) books from the 
NESFA Library (NESFA has a lending library for member local to the area) and 
proceeded to read five or six sequentially--I burned out.  They're slightly 
deeper than popcorn books, but don't stand up to poking at the 
world-building.  That's why I had "SF Lite" in my description.  The are 
people out living in space, but the mechanics of where/how far away, might 
be slightly more credible that the space physics (ha, ha, ha...) in Firefly 
[my willling suspension of disbelief was subterranean...).

My suggestion to folks who are thinking about reading J. D. Robb books, do 
NOT  do what I did, do not read multiple of them in succession without 
taking days of breaks in between, because there is too much sameness from 
book to book if reading with eyeballs and mind processing not already 
attuned to J D Robb Appreciation.   There is too much relative of Mary 
Suewish fulfillment --the male lead is handsome and the richest fellow in 
existence, so there is the magic moneybelt he can buy anything purchaseable, 
rent anything he wants to rent, commandeer a spaceship at an instant's 
notice going offplanet, etc.

Lois mentioned months ago having read a Jayne Ann Castle (not the same 
person as Nora Roberts!) book, Jayne Ann Krentz (who also writes as Jayn Ann 
Castle, and Amanda Quick) maintains that what she writes is "romantic 
suspense."  Her Amanda Quick books are set pre-20th century--she will not 
write books in the times where there are the shadow of WWI and WWII and the 
winds of those wars approaching, the shadows of those times are too dark for 
her for her to be willing to write in those settings (source, live online 
chats ), her Jayne Ann Krentz novels are contemporary times, and her Jayne 
Ann Castle books going forward from some years back, are on colony 
planets--the setting she settled on sticking with is the planet Harmony, 
colonized though a "curtain" which acted as a Gate, which closed a few 
generations before the times of her stories started.   They're on the 
intersection of science fiction, romantic suspense, and futuristic romance. 
The worldbuilding is stronger than the J D Robb In Death series--Castle has 
alien gardens and alien artifacts, left behind by a vanished sapient race. 
J. D. Robb has New York City  sometime in the future as the principle 
setting, and therefore the worldbuilding is projection forward of what 
exists today.

Since JAK is writing romantic suspense and follows various conventions, each 
book has a romance in it of a new couple, and there are threats on the lives 
of heroine and/or hero, and usually dead bodies along the way with one or 
more murders to have to solve.   The creative aspects involve the 
worldbuilding and what new things the characters have found/are discovering 
about the world, and what dust bunnies may be in the story and what are they 
going to do.... "little furry animals with Great Big Teeth!" is one 
description which can apply to them.  They are sources of humor, also, and 
they sometimes do use those Great Big Teeth on The Bad Guys.  And they have 
idiosyncracies.. which can be highly amusing.

Lois did an analysis of the JAK book she read.  They've got more depth than 
creampuff reading, some of it is subtle. But they also follow conventions 
(see above) which tend to be scope-limiting as regards depth.  Her main 
characters are heteronormative and destined for coupling.  Her minor 
characters include male/male domestic partners.  Her social arrangements 
have two forms of marriage, one of convenience  which can be terminated with 
little legal muss or fuss, and "Covennt Marriage which is permanent and very 
difficult and expensive to get out of.

Her characters don't do lots of Serious Introspection and don't that I 
recall do non-self-deprecating obsession about partnering interest objects. 
There are veins of humor running through her books (dust bunny antics are 
not the only humorious parts) which leaven the darker parts (o d being 
romantic suspense, there is going to be content which is not all light and 

Because each book focuses on a sepaate pair of people, the readership quorum 
which depends on following the same character or characters as protagonists 
through a series of books, doesn't exist--each book has to have its own 
focal point romance and protagonists.  There are minor characers who can 
overlap among books, but two characters and the leads of each book, and any 
future appearance of them is as minor characters... the readership following 
which does exist, depends on commonality of setting, on author reputation, 
and on the conventions of the genres involved, to be attracted and stay with 
the series.

--Paula Lieberman
-----Original Message----- 
From: Louann Miller
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2015 07:23 AM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] OT: More UF and PNR, was Hugos and slates

JD Robb's books, in the language of mystery writers (which is as detailed
and technical as our own) are police procedurals. They are shelved in two
places, neither of which is romance: the mystery section, and the
bestsellers. The lead characters are married, and the continuing secondary
characters are gradually pairing off over time, but there's by no means
enough romance content to keep a clear-quill romance reader happy.
Robb/Roberts is just as active as Lois online in her own way, btw. A good
place to start for interested parties is her website,
http://noraroberts.com/ . If a Bujold reader wanted to enter the JD Robb
universe I would suggest starting with her very different take on uterine
replicators, "Origin in Death." She also has a freestanding, modern-day
mystery/romance called "The Liar" coming out next Tuesday.
My personal suspicion is that Roberts might be wary of a Hugo if one were
offered, since her success is based on breaking out of the romance ghetto
and entering the sf ghetto might seem dicey. My personal opinion as a Hugo
voter is that her stuff, while good, is neither *excellent* enough in style
nor innovative enough in predicting future science and sociology to really
make the Hugo cut. Not that she needs to. She gets George RR Martin-sized
piles of money at regular intervals, gets plenty of mainstream press, and
has founded about six businesses in her hometown.


On Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 5:59 AM, Paula Lieberman <paal at filker.org> wrote:

> The J D Robb books are not urban fantasy[UF] , they're murder mystery lite
> science fiction, they're not the contemporary (or past...) world with any
> or all of witches, shapeshifters, elves/fae, and/or vampires.   Nora
> Roberts has written paranormal contemporary romance, though, I think--but
> not under the J. D. Robb byline. 

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