Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Forbidden Relationships


There's some kind of spice, a charge (or maybe discharge) of emotional tension in doing the forbidden, the naughty, the unexpected. It's like crossing a line, going on an adventure, taking a dare -- being proved "right" somehow.

There's an expectation that others' opinion of you will change. Why?

Doing something for the first time is a kind of loss of virginity - a loss of "innocence." It doesn't much matter what the thing is. Skiing down a legendary slope, killing someone (on purpose or running them over by accident), or having sex.

When you do something you've never done before, it changes you. So you expect others to change their opinion of you. In fact, one thing that drives people to cross those lines, the taboos, is dissatisfaction with their current reputation.

Some of the things we do change us in good ways, make us stronger, more self-reliant, more capable of handling the world so that we can shelter children. Such things would be oh, maybe your first solo drive in your Dad's car, writing your first check, your first use of a credit card, your first stay in a hotel by yourself, returning merchandise to a store because it's defective.

These are landmarks on the road to self-reliance and dependability.

There are all kinds of things we do for a "first time" -- and later they just seem of no moment.

But each thing we do, each action we take, changes us as well as the world.

Remember, King David, the warrior King of Israel who wrote the Psalms which were sung daily in the Temple (which then was a tent), was forbidden to build the stone Temple because he was a blooded warrior, however righteous. He was a great scholar, a brave and powerful man, an artist of renown -- but that one task was forbidden to him and left for his son, King Solomon.

I've been thinking about that for a long time -- why King David was not given to build the permanent Temple. What quality had he attained that disqualified him from this task?

So this last week I was privileged to read Susan Grant's forthcoming (May 25, 2008) Harlequin SF-Romance, MOONSTRUCK, Book I in her Borderlands Series.

I do hope it'll be a long series!!!

MOONSTRUCK explores the ways in which having sex changes a person -- the first time, and what it means to be the only virgin on a starship full of tough customers -- and a peculiar type of "first time" when a jaded Captain used to "only sex" falls in love for the second time in her life, and discovers the unique experience of making love instead of "just sex" is more disturbing than ever she could imagine -- because it is with her enemy, her nemesis, the symbol of all that's despicable in her world.

Oh, Star Trek fans will love Grant's BORDERLANDS series. It's just what we've all been waiting for.

This starship captain is a woman with a sexual appetite and a lust for definitive action. She's carrying a huge emotional load that leads her to obsessive behavior and has distanced herself from all human contact because of that. Now, all of that has to change - fast - because she's been given a new ship to command and a First Officer (you guessed it) who was her enemy, her nemesis, the symbol of all that's despicable in her world. But that was before the war ended.

The BORDERLANDS universe will be familiar to some of Grant's fans, but MOONSTRUCK is an independent study in the reconstruction of a society fragmented for centuries by war. This novel introduces you gently to the universe that is so fraught with complexity you will live in it for years to come.

In fact, the Borderlands saga may owe as much to the turmoil in the Middle East as it does to Star Trek -- it is Nation Building seen from within. And as I've been saying in almost all the Tarot posts last year, the glue that holds this whole world together is LOVE.

Grant takes us on a love-venture (loventure?) into a relationship forbidden by religious and cultural rules, and forbidden by the common sense rule of the Service that sexual relationships up and down the chain of command do more harm than good, and forbidden by emotional rules about sleeping with the enemy.

This starship captain has few qualms about "just sex" with anything male, enemies included (remind you of James Kirk?). So no harm done? Right? uh-oh.

But after it dawns on her that it ISN'T "just sex" -- what then?

Doing something forbidden may have a certain spice to it -- but afterwards, is it worth it? What are the consequences and upon whom does the toll fall? If the cost is only to yourself, then it's nobody else's business. But if it involves another - that's a problem. If it involves two interstellar civilizations, that's something else entirely.

But if it weren't "forbidden" then there wouldn't be any consequences, right? It's crossing the line of "forbidden" that causes all the trouble -- not the act itself. Hmmm?

Or are things "forbidden" because some ancient ancestors got into trouble doing that thing?

Well, then but that was then and this is now -- rules have to change, right? The "forbidden line" has to move from generation to generation. No?

So we have to figure out what should or should not be forbidden in our own time. From scratch.

Should nothing be forbidden?

Should no action disqualify you for some other opportunity?

Is there some logic or reasoning that can be applied to select what taboos a culture needs?

Grant's first novel in her Borderlands Series could be viewed as a 3 of Swords process where the actions are crossing the lines of the forbidden, thus closing some options (as 3 Swords always does) and opening others.

See my August to December Tuesday posts for the 20 Tarot posts.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Man, I'm so looking forward to this book! For some reason I got it into my head that it came out in January and was very disappointed when I realized the real date is May.

  2. The wait will be worth it. I read the unproofed ARC. Susan is a really good writer, but everyone needs editing.

    Live Long and Prosper,
    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  3. I can't relate to the idea of the Forbidden being enticing in any way. It's just not in my personality.

    I think the appeal of MOONSTRUCK will be in the Heroine's journey back to herself, the reconstruction itself. I will also be interested to see how she reconciles her responsibilites as commander with that journey. I think the reader who leans more to the Sci-Fi side of SFR might worry that reconciliation won't be believable. Considering Susan's experience in the military and as an author, however, I'm not worried.

  4. Jacqueline, I can’t even begin to express how meaningful it is for me for someone of your caliber to comment so favorably on my book, this book in particular. Many times we read books about wars and epic battles, but what happens AFTER the war ends, especially a devastating war fraught with political was well as religious conflict, has long been a fascinating topic to ponder. I couldn’t help thinking that when the Otherworldly Men trilogy ended and the treaty was signed, the real work was ahead of them all. That’s when I decided to take out some of the comedy and probe some darker issues, creating a spin-off series. I love that you raised the subject of Israel and Iraq. Yes. I thought of Yugoslavia as well as I wrote Moonstruck, the mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and the like, and Israel with settlers moving into contested territory. These were all in my mind as I wrote Moonstruck, and as I am writing the next book this series, The Warlord’s Daughter (4/09) (yes, THAT warlord, think: Hitler’s daughter, if he had had one, would she grow up fearing her own genes?). I am very deep in deadline and must return to the writing, but I wanted to make sure I commented on your amazingly insightful blog post, as well as your uplifting and definitely motivational words on the story itself. Knowing your background and experience level, I can say that it means a tremendous amount to me.

    Thank you.

    Kimber, the forbidden aspect of the love the heroine discovers isn't what entices her--at all. It repulses her. However, forbidden makes for strong conflict, and perhaps that is what is attractive to readers. I do know there will be several scenes in this book that you as a mother will find hard to read. I know I as a mother found it hard to write. Nothing graphic, just emotional.

    Thank you everyone for your comments!

  5. I was also one of the blessed who got to read this book in its early stages and it's just phenomenal. If SFR has been waiting for a break-out book that will draw readers in, I truly think MOONSTRUCK will be it. Because in addition to being a gutsy book and one with deep messages...it's just damned fun. It's fast and sexy and fun. And it's not always easy to combine the two. Sometimes books get preachy. Sometimes they're all fun. It's a joy to find one that's deeply moving, well-thought out AND edge of your seat. ~Linnea

  6. Sounds good, Susan. I like stories in which the couple go for each other *not* because it's forbidden, but in spite of it being forbidden. The potential for happiness is worth the risk involved. That shows incredible courage, I think.

  7. Kimber An

    As Linnea commented, MOONSTRUCK has the makings of an "important" book.

    It does tackle transgressing the forbidden without the appeal being in fact that it is forbidden. However, because it's a powerful narrative well focused on the prime characters, that very focus raises the questions I laid out.

    The reason MOONSTRUCK may be a AR field defining book is simply that it raises questions OTHER authors must tackle in answering this challenge.

    Remember, I have always said that the fiction field is a big room party with everyone talking at once, and dozens of conversations shouted over the noise. These are questions, answers, topics, and well woven conversations.

    Susan has picked up on a thread of the conversation in Star Trek fandom and taken it one step further, then placed it in a complex background more fitting for a novel than a TV series.

    That particular conversation is one I find "fascinating."

    To do worldbuilding well enough to create another world as suitable for this conversation as MOONSTRUCK, you have to go "up" to the meta levels, way into the abstract, and ask Folklore questions and anthropology questions, such as "Why do human societies develop taboos at all?"

    The whole concept of the Taboo is that it is advice from your ancestors plainly saying that NOTHING you could possibly gain could ever be worth the price you will (definitely -- not a risk, but a definite) have to pay.

    This is a B&W absolute passed down from ancient times.

    There is a segment of any young human population that will never, ever challenge that -- and another that will always challenge. Then there's the rest of us in the middle.

    Linnea has accurately nailed it. This is a conversation our current civilization must have.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  8. Susan:

    I just watched a FLASH GORDON episode where Ming's daughter and successor (who hates her father, but she may just be worse) finds out that she has a brother. Her father sent that baby brother to be killed for genetic abberation, and his nurse stole him away and raised him. He is now leader of a group of genetic deviants living in peace - and the ep ends with Ming bombing their home city, but the brother survives.

    You are right on target with this discussion, this topic.

    Yes, it's one of the oldest cliches, but it's new again, timely, topical, and in the headlines (and on Oprah).

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  9. I too was one of the lucky ARC readers and I can agree with all that Jacqualine and Linnea said about it. I enjoyed it so much I am going to be buying a copy in May when it comes out because I expect to read it to shreds :D
    If the rest of the series follows the excellent story started here I am hooked for years to come.