If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I describe myself as much more of a fantasy girl than a sci-fi girl. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy sci-fi—Mira Grant’s Feed and Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet are both sci-fi and they’re both two of my all-time favourite novels—but fantasy is definitely the genre I’m more comfortable in.
I attribute the majority of that love to the fact that I’m a big history nerd and a lover of historical fiction, so on the whole I tend to prefer stories that don’t involve modern day technology because, for me, there’s more escapism in a novel with cosy, candlelit taverns than a novel with space travel. One thing I am a little tired of in fantasy, however, is reading stories about royalty.
That’s not to say that I dislike these stories, because that’s just not true. Any trope, however overdone, is good when it’s done well and my all-time favourite novel, The Goblin Emperor, is all about a royal. Much like with my historical fiction, though, I love to follow the members of society who are often overlooked in fantasy; given the choice, I’d much rather follow a con artist or a soldier than a king or queen. Especially in those fantasy tales with European-inspired (and particularly British-inspired) settings.
And yet I love, and am often drawn to, stories about royalty in science fiction. So what’s that about?
Well, being more of a fantasy fan than a sci-fi fan, I’m still learning the kinds of sci-fi I enjoy. I love what I call quiet sci-fi—novels like Becky Chambers’ which read like slice of life stories in space—but I also love a good zombie story and, of course, a good old-fashioned story of rebellion. (Although I’m weak for stories of rebellion and resistance in fantasy, too.) Therefore, I think sci-fi starring royals works as the perfect buffer for me as I step out of my fantasy safe space and dip my toes into the genre.
Royalty in fantasy is so common, and therefore so familiar, that coming across a royal in a science fiction novel immediately makes me feel a little more at home—especially if it’s the kind of high tech, military-focused sci-fi I might feel intimidated by. I know plenty of sci-fi fans might grind their teeth at that because plenty of them don’t want to hear ‘this story you love is basically fantasy in space’, and I can totally understand that, but when you’re interested in exploring more of a genre and have no clue where to start, the familiar is always welcome.
My fantasy education means I know where I stand when I come across a royal in a sci-fi novel, and that means I can focus on what else is around them to really get a sense of the kind of sci-fi I love.