Friday, January 31, 2014

2nd Annual SFR Galaxy Awards: Round Five by Donna S. Frelick

Best Hearth-and-Home Novel
Cottonwood - R.Lee Smith (A Red Hot Romance Novel)

The Last Hour of Gann might have garnered all the attention last year, but Smith’s companion tale of a concentration camp romance between an alien stranded on Earth and the idealistic “social worker” assigned to him resonated more with me. Smith explains in her own afterword that she conceived of the two books at the same time. In the first, “we go there”.  In the second, “they come here”, the signal aspect of most “hearth-and-home” novels.

In this case, much like my favorite H&H story, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, the heroine must protect the aliens from her fellow humans, who seek to exploit them and their technology in every way possible. In the beginning, Sarah is na├»ve and easily manipulated by her employer, the owner of the worldwide network of camps confining the “bugs” who have crash-landed on Earth. But like generations of development workers before her, once she is over her culture shock, her innate sense of justice and compassion give her courage.

Then there is Sanford. And his son. Yes, it is a joke, played by some insensitive official whose job it was to give the aliens pronounceable human names. Sanford was a soldier; now he scrounges for reparable electronics in the Heaps (a garbage dump) to keep his little family alive.

These two unlikely characters make a connection in the squalor of the Cottonwood camp in Kansas. And once Sarah’s eyes are open, she can never go back to sleep again.

If you like your SFR long and deep enough to sink your teeth into, your ET’s truly alien and your romance built on something more than just sexual attraction, this is the one for you. (And, as a former PeaceCorps Volunteer, I have to say I LOVED this one!)

Best Subgenre Mash-Up
The Titan Drowns - Nhys Glover (Belisama Press)

I would have just called this Best Time Travel Novel, but that would have so understated what the book is as to do it an injustice. So let’s call this an SF/historical romance novel.  No one accidentally gets thrown back (or forward in time). Carefully selected team members go back to Retrieve people for whom the historical record ends abruptly—victims of disappearances, drowning victims in which the body was not found and so on. The victims in the case of this book? Doomed children on board the R.M.S. Titanic, whose bodies were never recovered.

Why, you may ask, are they bothering to intervene in Fate?  Because a plague in the future has decimated the human population and left the survivors sterile. Oh, you can place your consciousness in a new clone ad infinitum, but without Retrieval, the future is a closed loop, with no new input. With little possibility of finding a way out of the world’s dilemma.

Okay, maybe all this is a stretch, but it has a more scientific base than falling through a circle of stones in Scotland and finding yourself on the battlefield in Culloden. And there is the never-ending fascination of the Titanic. Against that backdrop—in the luxury of First Class and the boisterous crowding of steerage, among the wait staff in the dining room and with the stewards and stewardesses in the passageways—we follow the Retrievers as they work to identify their Targets. They must convince those facing certain death to choose life in the future, without branding themselves insane.

Love blooms between three of the Retrievers and their Targets, despite the desperate circumstances. Perhaps Fate is at work after all.  But the deadline of 11:40 p.m. April 14, 1912 looms throughout the taut novel. The Retrievers and 1494 other passengers have a date with an iceberg, and both love and mission are at stake.

Heroism and true romance set inside one of the most heart-rending tragedies of all time? Oh, yeah, that deserves an Award!

(The Titan Drowns is a stand-alone novel which is also Book Six in the New Atlantis Time Travel Romance Series. I’ll be checking out the others, too!)

Best Female Role Model in Film
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in GRAVITY (written and directed by Alphonso Cuaron)
This was not a great year for SFR in film. But it was a terrific year to see a vision of what the future could be for women in space in Sandra Bullock’s nuanced portrayal of newbie spacer Dr. Ryan Stone in Alphonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY. In the beginning, like all rookies, Stone is tentative, unsure, overly reliant on her more experienced partner, space-sick to the point of barely being able to hold it together. When the space junk starts hitting the fan, she—well, there’s no other word for it, she panics.

But Cuaron’s film is about a heroine’s journey, about growth, about digging deep and coming up with your true self. When she is left on her own, Stone finds resourcefulness, calm, determination, courage. She faces death and chooses life.  She fights and never gives up.

We’ve seen heroines like this before in science fiction—Ripley in ALIEN, Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR—but they are rare, especially lately. It seems women are more and more relegated to the “fighting girlfriend” trope, when they are allowed to carry a weapon at all. And brains?  Fuhgeddaboudit. They’re only good for eating if your enemies happen to be zombies.

So thank you, Alphonso Cuaron, for giving us Dr. Ryan Stone, a smart, brave WOMAN IN SPACE, and thank you, Sandra Bullock, for playing her with such humanity. You deserve this award!

About Donna S. Frelick
Over the years I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, endured the life of a government bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., raised two girls (and helped raise one grandson), tried organic farming, worked as a freelance journalist and editor, been a community activist, earned black belts in two different styles of martial arts, and written four STAR TREK fanfic novels (and a number of short stories) for “underground” publication.

Five years ago I launched my science fiction suspense romance writing career.  In 2012, my first two SFR novels finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest.  I currently live in Fredericksburg, Virginia with my husband and two talkative cats.  When I’m not writing, I teach tai chi and karate and dream of moving to our 44 acres in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina.



  1. Congrats all! Great picks, Donna.

  2. I did enjoy Cottonwood, and loved the "they come here" vs. "we go there" comparison to The Last Hour of Gann. The Titan Drowns is already loaded on my Kindle and I LOVED Gravity. Great choices for this years awards and congrats to this year's winners!

  3. This award has made my week, or maybe my year! Thank you so much. To have peer recognition means a lot. How do I get a little icon to go on my website? I want to do some more bragging! :) The last time I won an award was back in High School a very very long time ago, LOL.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.