Fairy tales are a proven trope to rewrite in any genre and science fiction romance is no exception. The themes are classic, with plucky heroines struggling against huge odds, stalwart heroes, love, magic devices (which could as easily be high technology, right?), alternate worlds, evildoers and inimical forces of the Universe ranged against the eventual happy ending. Adventure and action galore.
Today I’m going to highlight a few SFR’s that use a fairy tale as a launching point for their plot.
When I was writing Trapped on Talonque, I decided to take the take the story of Sleeping Beauty and rework it with science fiction elements, making the slumbering woman an ancient alien being and the ‘prince’ one of my Sectors Special Forces soldiers. Throw in a few twists and turns, such as the local population having conflated the legends about a particular volcano with this woman (because of the location of her expedition’s base), and deciding she was a goddess…and there’s a story! Here’s the longer description:
When a Sectors Special Forces soldier and his team crash land on an alien planet, they’re taken captive and given a challenge — win at the violent ball game of sapiche and live. Lose, and they die, sending a mysterious, alien beauty to an even uglier fate. To survive, these soldiers must win the game and find a way to free the dangerous prisoner from her locked chamber.
Nate Reilly and his team are in deep trouble. Prisoners on a backward alien planet, they’re brought before an alien ‘goddess’, sleeping in her high tech seclusion. Nate is astonished when she awakes and establishes a psychic link with him. But her news is not good — he and his men must win a brutal challenge set by their captors, or they will die. She’ll give her aid, but in the end their courage and strength must win the contest.
Bithia sleeps in her chamber, as she has for thousands of years, since her own people unaccountably left her there. Viewed as a goddess by her captors, she must hide her ancient secrets to survive. But only the bravest of men may free her. Can she use her psychic powers to keep Nate and his men alive long enough to help her escape, or will her only hope of freedom die with them?
New York Times Best Selling Author Marissa Meyer updated any number of fairy tales with her Lunar Chronicle series, beginning with Cinder in 2012. Here’s the plot: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Meyer has continued the series with books based on the ideas in Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and more, including the most recent entry Wires and Nerve, a graphic novel set in the Lunar Chronicles world. The synopsis: In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new,action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder, Cress, Scarlet, Winter, and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.
Her books are often listed in the Young Adult categories but personally, I’ve read a lot of great YA science fiction, so I never allow that to stop me from enjoying a good book.
Author J. M. Page has a specialty going on with her Space Age Fairy Tales, having written three so far. Alien Frog Prince was my favorite, a short and sweet retelling. Here’s the blurb: Prince Zakrom feels like everyone on Granota has found their One — their beloved for life — except him. His worried parents send him to visit Earth, hoping it will distract him from his solitude. Zak finds more than a distraction: Jennifer, the lovely human at the Interstellar Embassy, is his One! But surely such a beautiful creature can’t be interested in a strange-looking alien like him.
A diplomatic dilemma…
With the Ambassador called away on urgent business, Jen’s in a panic at being left in charge of the Prince’s visit. She loves learning about alien cultures, but somehow missed the file on the Granotans and is totally unprepared. If she blunders too badly, she could cause a diplomatic incident or even trigger an attack on Earth!
A galactic gambit…
But despite her constant gaffes, the Prince doesn’t seem upset. In fact, he seems to like her…rather a lot. When he invites her to visit his planet, will this unlikely couple finally have the chance to share an enchanted Kiss that will change everything?
Cinderstellar is a bit longer and here’s how the author has reshaped the fairy tale into science fiction adventure: Stella wants nothing more than to be a pilot like her mother, who died on a mission years ago. However, she doesn’t want to be like the arrogant “Aces” at Starforge Academy, especially that show-off Dax.
But the Aces aren’t her biggest problem. Her father — the Commandant of Starforge Academy — and stepmother won’t even let her enroll. Stella has to sneak into the flight simulators late at night, when no one’s around, to get close to her dream.
Dax is like the prince of Starforge — not only the best pilot at the Academy, but the son of a famous general. No one knows his secret: Dax hates his superstar status, and he doesn’t want to go fight on the front lines when he graduates. The pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps has taken all the joy out of flying.
When he discovers that someone at the school is beating all his scores on the simulators — and then hiding the evidence — he’s determined to find out who it is. Though he’s unable to discover his mysterious competitor’s identity, he learns enough to suspect that she just might be the girl of his dreams.
Stella learns that the Academy is holding a school-wide exhibition of flying talent, with the winner allowed to fast-track their pilot’s license. She has to find a way to enter, and show her father what she’s capable of. But that will mean outing herself to the school — and the ever-more-intriguing Dax. Will her stepmother ruin everything, or can Stella and Dax finally meet outside the simulators… and achieve their heart’s desires?
And Page’s third offering in the genre is Beauty and the Space Beast, which I personally found to be not what I’d been hoping for, a bit slow going and the characters didn’t resonate with me.
Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is fantasy, not really science fiction per se, but an enjoyable collection of fairy tale retellings I’d hate to leave out of any discussion of modern takes on the old stories.
What science fiction romances using the tried and true fairy tale elements have you enjoyed?