Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Linnea Sinclair and Mike Shepherd

Margaret Carter noted, in a comment to my April 29th 2008 post here, That ALIEN NATION (the TV show -- which I was and am a fan of!) presents a species that doesn't biologically require submission in order to reproduce.

Since it was a TV show, (based on a film) they really didn't develop the alien-ness of the aliens very well. When they did explore a premise, it usually made no scientific sense, but it did make a kind of psychological or artistic sense.

I'm assuming fans of Alien Romance are all thoroughly familiar with the film ALIEN NATION and the show that sprang from it. If you missed it, get the DVDs.

ALIEN NATION was only marginally successful as a TV show, but it did spawn fanzines gallore. You might find some good fanfic still posted. Many Sime~Gen fans participated. But I originally brought up the topic of "submission" as part of the Romance formula because the Romance field is changing with the attitudes of the general public and the romance reading public.

How much of sexual submission is biological -- and how much just cultural conditioning?

Obeying or defying cultural conditioning can deliver a sexual thrill just as intense and primal as biology. How do you tell the difference?

In my July column, I've reviewed Linnea Sinclair's new book SHADES OF DARK as well as a new Kris Longknife novel by Mike Shepherd titled AUDACIOUS.


The Kris Longknife novels aren't technically "alien romance" -- they are military Space Opera with a female lead character tough as nails and twice as deadly. But in that category, they are really good reading.

My only quibble, that I didn't mention in my review, is that there are "anacrhonisms" sprinkled through the backgrounding of the Longknife novels that irritate me. The rest of the writing is so good, though, that I suspect we will eventually get a good explanation for these anomolies.

Kris Longknife and Sinclair's Captain Chasida "Chaz" Bergren are characters made popular by our culture's search for answers to the question I raised in my April 29th entry.

Can a society have "freedom" at all if half the people willfully submit to the other half?

Will refusal to submit result in an ever lowering birth rate and thus extinction of the species?

Margaret Carter touched on that in her entry here of May 1, 2008 -- a new theory that the human species, our own ancestors, once shrank to a gene pool of about 2,000 individuals.

And that brings up all the issues connected to questions of who among us holds power over reproductive choices. Margaret mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels -- when the lost Terran colony ship crashed on Darkover, it was decreed that the women would become breeders and have no other responsibilities. The men decreed this, and made it stick, and that shaped the subsequent cultures.

Currently, disaster preparedness officials are debating how to handle pandemic or other disasters that limit medical treatment resources. How do they decide who dies?

None of the plans considered, as far as I know, called for volunteers. The Darkovans, facing a tiny gene pool and no help coming, didn't call for women to volunteer to breed, even though under primitive conditions, that does risk life iteself. Did our 2,000 ancestors call for volunteers?

Now look carefully at Chaz Bergren (did I mention SHADES OF DARK is a strong, fast moving, intricately backgrounded, splendid great good READ!!!???) Linnea Sinclair has given us a female lead character who is confronting head on the basic biological conflict of dominance/submission male/female. And she's considering what to volunteer for.

Chaz isn't even sure she's "married" to this man whose strange telepathic talents are morphing so fast he doesn't even know who he is. But he's sure she's his wife because of their telepathic bond.

Kris Longknife is in the part of her adventurous life where she's not marriage material. Being royalty, she will be, and she knows it. But she's not confronting that dilemma yet while she is sent off to various trouble spots in the galaxy to solve problems.

Her psychic talent, in addition to some telepathy, seems to be to bend the laws of probability in her vicinity such that her rather ordinary actions produce extraordinary results. This talent runs in the family, and thus the Longknife family has a fearsome "reputation."

Kris's conflict is with her mostly invisible older relatives who are pulling her strings.

Then, when embroiled in an external conflict by actions of her relatives not her own choice, she resolves it. Mike Sheperd is a good enough writer that I believe the series will eventually come to a confrontation with marriage, dominance and submission.

There are a number of really good novel series featuring female lead characters like Kris Longknife -- tough bitches embroiled in so much action they have no spare capacity for romance.
There are a number of really good SF/F Alien Romance series where the female lead character is so embroiled in romance that she has barely enough capacity to survive the action exploding over her head.

And then there's Chaz Bergren and her ilk -- a rare breed of female character whose life's main external action-conflicts are fully integrated into her internal romantic submission and sexual issues. This creates a karmic picture that makes sense, adds up to a statement about the purpose of life, and also delivers an entertaining good read.

Sinclair is practicing a more complex artform here than the genre publishers are equiped to market.

Is the readership ready to explore directly the issue of the indomitable woman who has no dominating tendencies at all?

Is the readership able to conceptualize a human female who is neither submissive nor dominating?

If she can find a mate -- what would her children be?

Does Alien Romance have a place for The Mother? Where are the SF Romance novels about women with a passle of children to raise? Are children the plot or the complication? Ever read CHILDREN OF THE LENS by E. E. Smith?

I'm also a fan of the old TV series, SCARECROW AND MRS. KING (1983-1985)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085088/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Jacqueline, just when I think you can't get any more insightful and thought-provoking, you post again. I'd love to borrow your brain for a day.

    Yunno, I'm a gut writer. I do NOT plan out themes or deep-seated messages. I write what my characters dictate to me. I'm amazed at what you see in my character of Chaz Bergren, yet I'm not.

    BTW, my agent, Kristin Nelson, agreed with your assessment. Great minds...

    **Is the readership ready to explore directly the issue of the indomitable woman who has no dominating tendencies at all?

    This is so the quintessential Chaz. If someone had asked me six months ago, I'd not have been able to define her quite that way but yes, she is that.

    The 'why' she is has a lot to do with why I write SF/SFR and not contemporary romance fiction. Her character would be less believable in today's world. In SF--assuming one understands the characters, like people, are shaped by their environments--one has the option of creating environments that in turn create very interesting and different characters.

    Such is Chaz. Thank you muchly for the insight. Hugs, ~Linnea

  2. Jacqueline said, "Does Alien Romance have a place for The Mother? Where are the SF Romance novels about women with a passle of children to raise? Are children the plot or the complication?"

    That's what I'd like to know. I mean, good grief, I see powerful women who are mommies all the time in Real Life. (I used to be a nanny, you know) These women are neither dominate nor submissive to their mates. Motherhood and romance are integrated into their lives.

    *Integrated* is the operative word here. Integrate- 1) to make whole or complete, 2) to bring parts together into a whole; unify.

    There's so much more to womanhood and this is the ideal subgenre to explore it.

  3. Anonymous8:24 AM EDT

    Interesting question, and I'm looking forward to the answer, because there's a gender flipside: how would such a world view a man who's neither dominant or submissive? Would his percieved value to that society be less or even nil for not subscribing to the prevailing dominant/submissive cultural model?

  4. I've seen plenty of highly valuable men in Real Life who were neither dominate nor submissive, David.

    I wonder, does it enter into the mind that there is a third option - *partnership?*

  5. Jacqueline said, " Where are the SF Romance novels about women with a passle of children to raise? Are children the plot or the complication?"

    I'm working on that, maybe some day I'll get published. I think I'm almost there

    Seriously, "Are the children the plot or the complication" is the idea that got me thinking about writing my own SF. (My friends were all haveing 'Oh my God I'm 40 breakdowns, I just dealt with mine and forgot to have kids' differently)

    Hybrid alien/human kids are a staple in SF, but I can't see that they would occur naturaly. So, who would create them? Why? What do you do with them once they exist?

  6. On human-alien hybrid kids (biologically one thing, nurture-wise another thing) -- read C. J. Cherryh's CUCKOO'S EGG and the new Sawyer novel I was talking about here.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  7. Jacqueline, an outstanding article that raises some very good questions. The responses were good too. The strongest women that I have ever observed had no need to dominate. The same goes for men. It seems to me that when an individual, be they real or fictional, insists on dominance, there is an inherent weakness that they are trying to conceal. Just a thought.

    Yes, I agree -- but that's a point that many people seem to miss. Also it's very hard to convey in fictional format and still get published.

    I think the world is changing such that this concept (of domination as weakness) which has been long known and acknowledged in psychology, is becoming part of our general culture. But we've a long way to go.

    That's why I watch trends in fiction.

    Yes, Rollback -- I held back some interesting information that turns out to be relevant to this topic that makes ROLLBACK relate to CUCKOO'S EGG. Also I think there will be a sequel -- I hope so -- to Rollback.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  9. I've read Cuckoo's Egg. I love Cherryh, and Rollback is in my TBR pile.