Irresistible Forces

To the dancers and teachers of The Ballet Theatre of Maryland for their expertise, kindness, insights and most of all for helping a starry-eyed young girl reach for her dreams.


I would like to thank the people who made this book possible. To Denise Little, who listened to my dreams of such an anthology and led the way; to Laura Anne Gilman, our much appreciated editor at

Roc; to our agent Lucienne Diver, who worked wonders for us; to Marty Greenberg, for his help and support; to my assistant editors, Jeri Smith-Ready and Tricia Schwaab, for their thoughtful input; to the publisher and all the fine people at NAL who put out this book; to publicist Binnie Syril Braunstein, for her enthusiasm on our behalf; and to the authors, who were a joy to work with.

— Catherine Asaro


Writers are fond of two adages: Write what you like to read, and write what you know. I've always enjoyed love stories and I'm a scientist, so I naturally write science fiction romance. When I first started, I had no idea it was an unusual combination. I didn't know optimistic stories of courtship and love had an entire genre called romance or that science fiction with a strong scientific basis was called hard science fiction. I just knew I enjoyed both.

I never expected my work to stir controversy. So I was startled by the commotion my first book caused. Commentators remarked with surprise on how I blended strong romance with strong science fiction. Yet to me, both romance and science are integral aspects of life. I have always thought that the sharp distinction we make between our emotions and intellects arises more out of cultural expectations than an intrinsic quality of the human mind.

Some of the best authors in both romance and the genres of science fiction and fantasy have blended these aspects of our humanity to beautiful effect, as in Ursula Le Guin's classic science fiction romance, 'Forgiveness Day.' In fact, the seeds of speculative romance are as old as storytelling itself, such as in the Greek myths, when our ancestors tried to understand both the human heart and the universe they lived in by invoking a pantheon of gods and goddesses with the power to alter nature.

Today, what characterizes a speculative romance?

I've often thought of romance as the figure skating of literature. Skaters constantly seek to perfect their performance, to go for the 10. Romance seeks to tell the ultimate story of romantic relationship, including such classics as a Regency tale of a rake falling for a vicar's daughter, or a time-travel adventure with a modern-day woman stranded in the past. We watch figure skating or read romances for the sheer pleasure of seeing it done well. And just as ice-skaters push the boundaries of their sport with innovative movements, so romance authors push the boundaries of their genre with innovative ideas. As a literary movement, romance is an art with many and diverse forms.

With science fiction and fantasy, my thoughts turn to rock music. It may be wild or lyrical, rough or gentle, based on classical technique or it may challenge accepted forms, but it always pushes the envelope, trying something new. It's no wonder that such music has become inextricably linked with youthful rebellion: It's about breaking rules. So it is with speculative fiction. It wants to be different. The stories may be exhilarating, dark, optimistic, dire, humorous, gritty, beautiful, in-your-face, or sedate. But they always push boundaries. Extrapolate into the unknown. The story must differ in some basic way from our normal lives. It asks the question 'What if?'

So how do we mix the genres? It doesn't surprise me that science fiction romance became popular in hard science fiction. Such works are about science, and science is about solving problems. Science seeks to better understand the universe, to extend our knowledge and discover new insights. That worldview— or perhaps I should say universe-view — is why hard science fiction is often referred to as an optimistic subgenre; inherent in many of its works is the assumption that whatever intellectual problem drives the plot will be solved. Not all my works or those of other speculative romance authors fit into the hard science fiction sub-genre, but they do share that optimism.

Romance is the emotional equivalent of hard science fiction; fundamental to its many forms is the assumption that no matter how great the problems of the heart, we can solve them and achieve emotional fulfillment. Underlying romance literature is an intrinsic faith in the human spirit — a belief in the strength of love, honor, and loyalty.

In my more mischievous moments, I think of science fiction as a strapping young fellow showing off for his ladylove, romance. Intrigued, she comes closer, deciding that maybe this handsome stranger isn't so strange after all. Science fiction romance is their marriage. As in any marriage, it succeeds best when the two partners love and respect each other. A fantasy or science fiction romance will work if the author enjoys both genres and translates that into her or his fiction.

In this anthology, I have the pleasure of bringing you stories by many accomplished writers in both speculative and romance fiction. They offer a cornucopia of romantic adventures that take the best of these genres and meld them into a marriage of heart and mind.

Best regards, Catherine Asaro

Winterfair Gifs

by Lois McMaster Bujold

From Armsman Roic's wrist com the gate guard's voice reported laconically, 'They're in. Gate's locked.'

'Right,' Roic returned. 'Dropping the house shields.' He turned to the discreet security control panel beside the carved double doors of Vorkosigan House's main entry hall, pressed his palm to the read-pad, and entered a short code. The faint hum of the force shield protecting the great house faded.

Roic stared anxiously out one of the tall, narrow windows flanking the portal, ready to throw the doors wide when m'lord's groundcar pulled into the porte cochere. He glanced no less anxiously down the considerable length of his athletic body, checking his House uniform: half-boots polished to mirrors, trousers knife-creased, silver embroidery gleaming, dark brown fabric spotless.

His face heated in mortified memory of a less expected arrival in this very hall — also of Lord Vorkosigan with honored company in tow — and the unholy tableau m'lord had surprised with the Escobaran bounty hunters and the gooey debacle of the bug butter. Roic had looked an utter fool in that moment, nearly naked except for a liberal coating of sticky slime. He could still hear Lord Vorkosigan's austere, amused voice, as cutting as a razor-slash across his ears: Armsman Roic, you're out of uniform.

He thinks I'm an idiot. Worse, the Escobarans' invasion had been a security breach, and while he'd not, technically, been on duty — he'd been asleep, dammit — he'd been present in the house and therefore on call for emergencies. The mess had been in his lap, literally. M'lord had dismissed him from the scene with no more than an exasperated Roic…get a bath,

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