Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
Yes, the universe itself will eventually outpace the speed of light. Just how this will happen is a bit complicated, so let’s begin at the very beginning: the big bang. Around 14 billion years ago, all matter in the universe was thrown in every direction. That first explosion is still pushing galaxies outward. Scientists know this because of the Doppler effect, among other reasons. The wavelengths of light from other galaxies shift as they move away from us, just as the pitch of an ambulance siren changes as it moves past.
Take Hydra, a cluster of galaxies about three billion light years away. Astronomers have measured the distance from the Earth to Hydra by looking at the light coming from the cluster. Through a prism, Hydra’s hydrogen looks like four strips of red, blue-green, blue-violet and violet. But during the time it takes Hydra’s light to reach us, the bands of color have shifted down toward the red end-the low-energy end-of the spectrum. On their journey across the universe, the wavelengths of light have stretched. The farther the light travels, the more stretched it gets. The farther the bands shift toward the red end, the farther the light has traveled. The size of the shift is called the redshift, and it helps scientists figure out the movement of stars in space. Hydra isn’t the only distant cluster of galaxies that displays a redshift, though. Everything is shifting, because the universe is expanding. It’s just easier to see Hydra’s redshift because the farther a galaxy is from our own, the faster it is moving away.
There is no limit to how fast the universe can expand, says physicist Charles Bennett of Johns Hopkins University. Einstein’s theory that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum still holds true, because space itself is stretching, and space is nothing. Galaxies aren’t moving through space and away from each other but with space-like raisins in a rising loaf of bread. Some galaxies are already so far away from us, and moving away so quickly, that their light will never reach Earth. “It’s like running a 5K race, but the track expands while you’re running,” Bennett says. “If it expands faster than you can run, you’ll never get where you’re going.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Popular Science magazine.
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.