Monday, May 21, 2007

Love Beyond Boundaries

Continuing a subject touched on by Margaret in a previous blog...

Love beyond boundaries. A romantic relationship, a deep romantic committment that pushes past the edges of the ordinary envelope. The grist of many science fiction romances (and futuristics and RSFs, to be sure) but is it really all that foreign?

Centuries ago, on our planet, a romance between a high-born person and a commoner, a peasant and a landowner, was scandalous in many socieities. Unthinkable. For even longer, different religions didn't mingle, let alone marry. To marry outside your village, sect, caste, religion or region was cause for banishment.

We've come farther--but not vastly so. In my grandparents' and even my parents' worlds (1900s-1940s), it was still expected that a nice National Catholic Polish boy marry an nice National Catholic Polish girl. My mother is part Swedish, part German, part Polish and Roman Catholic. My Polish grandmother never fully accepted her.

There are still countries today where marrying outside your religion--or marrying someone not chosen by your parents--is tantamount to a death penalty. Interracial marriage has gained some acceptance but still has a way to go. Same sex marriage is a hot-button topic.

And some people look oddly at me when I say I write science fiction romance. And then wonder where I get my ideas.

How and why we--or a society--define love, and how and why we--or a society--permit love tells me a tremendous amount about us and about that society. Love is just the other side of the prejudice coin, and in many instances, is woven into the prejudice coin. Loving, liking, having sex with, working with, admiring, supporting this person is acceptable. That person is not and must be shunned.

Gabriel's Ghost is the novel where I address that situation most directly, both through the characters of Ren--an empathic Stolorth whose telepathic, pacificistic culture is viewed with suspicion by the human-controlled Empire; and through the Takan characters, who are forced into an almost child-like state and belittled by a religious system that purports to 'care' for them. It also forms the basis of the relationship between Sully and Chaz: can Chaz love someone she was taught to hate?

Because I do write romance, the theme of who and what and why and how we love someone is constant in my books. One of the male protagonists in Games of Command is a cybernetic human, stripped of the ability to love--or so his creators believe. Or so everyone who encounters him believes. So Branden Kel-Paten has to struggle to overcome not only his internal anti-love programming (and how many of us feel we're unworthy of love because of our own "internal" programming?) but also chance disbelief and ridicule from those around him when he finally admits that, yes, he has feelings.

What does it take to push beyond those boundaries? What does it take to tell your parents, your village, your society to take a hike, get lost, leave me alone and let me love? What does it take to risk it all, to throw away everything that has heretofore defined you as a person? What does it take to open your heart, fully expecting rejection?

What kind of person is that?

I write about those kinds of persons. Chances are, you read about them (since you've found this blog). And if you read about them, then you know that emotional heroism can be the most gripping, terrifying, most poignant and most rewarding experience on the page. Moreso than laser pistol battles. Moreso than cars hurtling over cliffs. Moreso than the secret spy trapped in a locked room. The severed arm will heal (and more quickly in SF). The lost secret formula will at some point be recovered (or recreated). Political scenarios shift with the wind.

But the instinct to love--and I do believe in humans and in many other species, it is instinct--cuts deeper than any light-sabre. A broken heart may never heal and a lost love may never be recovered. When you add the cultural or societal pressures on top of that--can a human love a shape-shifter? A cybernetic half-man, half-machine?--you, as writer or reader, venture into a vastly more dangerous landscape.

It's the landscape from which my books sprout.

And I hope this answers one recent question posed to me, and also a general comment I read recently on a blog.

The question was whether I'd ever write science fiction without a romance element. The answer is no. I can't conceive of a world without emotions as one of the driving forces in the story.

The blog comment--in a thread about Linnea Sinclair's books but addressing science fiction romance in general--was that SFR was "the kind of crap" the blogger "could write in my sleep." My comment back is go ahead, do it. Pen a really good, gripping SFR novel. Explore the depths of love beyond boundaries in a fully invented world, an unfamiliar landscape. Put your characters--and yourself--through the paces. Then submit it to my agent. She constantly gets queries from publishing houses looking for "more books like Linnea Sinclair's."

Namaste, ~Linnea


  1. Anonymous1:36 PM EDT

    SFR was "the kind of crap" the blogger "could write in my sleep."
    If only it was that easy to write good SFR I would have many more books to choose from for my reading habit. Meanwhile I will continue to search for "more books like Linnea Sinclair's."

  2. Anonymous1:45 PM EDT

    Amen, sister. To both of you.

  3. (points at ilona) What she said!

    Wonderful, Linnea! This is one of the reasons I enjoy your novels. I love to study culture anyway, but whenever it's mixed together it's even more interesting. No wonder I have it in practically every story I write!

    There are many reasons cross-culture romances happen. There is one I haven't addressed and I was wondering if anyone else has? Michelle Moran recently had a story on her blog about a girl being stoned to death for falling in love with a boy from a different religion.

    I wondered what would drive a girl to do something she knows will get her killed if she's caught? My thought is that her home life must be so devoid of love and joy that when she finds it somewhere else, she grabs it for all she's worth. All human beings need love.

    I wondered why would it be the death penalty for a girl to fall in love with someone? My thought on that is that a girl represents an unused sexual object. Men are terrified of being rejected by those they want to have sex with. Most men develop the courage to cope. In some societies and individuals, they don't. Rather than risk rejection, the girl's basic human right to choose her own sexual partner is taken from her. Like a non-sentient animal, she's not allowed control over her own body. To say nothing of her heart. This is rape, but some people dress it up in a religion or whatever.

    All things considered, it's no wonder a girl like that would risk death.

  4. I can't help thinking of the TV series BEWITCHED on the subject of marrying outside one's group. In one episode, Darren is talking to his boss about his problems with Samantha's family. Darren carelessly remarks that Samantha's father doesn't approve of mixed marriages. The boss says, "I didn't know your marriage was mixed." Realizing he can't say anything about witchcraft, Darren backpedals with some remark about his being English and Samantha's family Scottish (or something bland along that line). The boss says, "THAT'S mixed?" Darren says, "To her father it is." (Or maybe it was Swedish and Norwegian, I can't remember exactly what nationalities Darren picked at random. In the 18th century, English vs. Scottish wouldn't have been funny -- nor would Protestant Irish vs. Catholic Irish anytime up to the near-present. Funny how the most virulent ethnic conflicts arise between groups that, to outsiders, look almost alike. Sigh.)

  5. Anonymous10:50 PM EDT

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am about a month away from completing my own SFR, and Ms. Nelson is at the top of the list of agents I plan to query. Great to hear editors are looking for it. I think the market is wide open (and obviously so does KN).