Monday, September 29, 2008

Love in an (alien, high-tech) afternoon...

Just rambling here, because I've been conspicuously absent from this blog due to deadlines and edits and hence am not up on whatever current trend we're discussing (not that we write to trend here, but on occasion that seems to happen).

As Rowena noted, I had a blast reading her KNIGHT'S FORK. Her Djinn characters and "worlds" (not in the planetary sense, hence the quotes) are a total hoot and yet at the same time very thought-provoking. Much of it goes back to the us-not-them, and almost-like-us-but-not explorations. I'm reading (and laughing) about god-like people who have very people-like problems.

Which again gets me thinking about this genre and its proponents and nay-sayers. For what it's worth, I've seen a tad less naysayers lately in the sense that some blogging naysayers to the genre overall have been admitting that--while SFR certainly could never share the main table with SF, it might be able to at least be admittted into the dining room.

I think one of the reasons might be that a situation SFR often explores--love in an alien, high-tech afternoon--has started to become reality for those who've now met their significant others via the Internet. Facebook. MySpace. Those actually legit dating sites. Which means some of the "dating parameters" or "mate selection parameters" are again evolving.

History lesson: most of our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents (and further back) either had their mates selected for them by their relatives and/or social standing, or their selection was limited by locale and lack of transportation. When you live on a farm in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland in 1825 (my family's history), your likelihood of meeting a nice young man from Australia are slim, none and the rest of the cliche. You're going to marry/breed with someone from your village or a neighboring village. End of romantic story. You fall in love (the best you can) with one of several limited choices.

You know. It's like going to a fast food burger place. You can have a burger, cheeseburger, double of either, a fish or chicken sandwhich and, oh, you want fries with that? Choices, sure, but they all kind of taste the same. Even the fries.

Nothing exotic. Nothing different. Because of that, you might even come to fear the exotic.

Fast forward to 2008. The planet is now your village, thanks to MySpace and Facebook and LinkedIn and whatever. Sure, people post photos (and how accurate are they?) and sure, there's still the element of "I find tall brunettes attractive" (or not), but the initial contact comes via email. IMs. Text messages. Eventually telephone but for a goodly period of time, it's a contact devoid of physical parameters--sight, smell (where are those noted pheromones?), texture. Is his skin smooth or rough? Is her hair soft or coarse? Internet lovers-to-be don't know. They only thing they do know is this person's written communications with me make me want to have more written communications from them.

Fascinating, to quote Mr. Spock.

The attraction starts based on shared values and the ability to communicate same. Shared experiences but experiences at a distance: "Yeah, I like [fill in the name of your favorite band/singer/rap artist], too."

So if at the opening of the relationship, we're taking a great deal of the physical out of it (I'm assuming that most humans do not post their worst photos on Facebook), what are we connecting on?

Ideas. Ideals.

So how does this relate to high-tech aliens?

To me, it opens the question of a relationship with the Other. With the humanOID, not just the human. It means that as a society we are now learning (in baby steps) to look past the physical or to not put such huge import on the physical as the first parameter in choosing a mate.

Which means, to me, we're opening to falling in love with a human or even non-human alien.

I think of Worf and Deanna Troi from Trek. Worf, to me, falls into the category of humanoid. And yes, being raised by humans certainly changed his physical-acceptance parameters (ie: hot and sexy doesn't have to include forehead ridges). But Deanna had to change hers, as well.

Now granted, working alongside someone often has that effect. Watching someone in action can change the importance of the standard "tall dark and handsome." And Worf does have this awesome voice for whispering seductive sweet nothings.

But initially, the idea of a Klingon finding a human attractive (and vice versa) is hard for most of us to accept. What we find physically attractive is, to a great extent, pounded into us culturally.

Yet now we have the Internet starting dozens of romances based less on physical attraction and more on intellectual/shared value attraction.

If--no, let me say when we eventually create the means for interstellar travel, our Facebook and MySpace training may come in handy. We may be in communication with other star systems long before we actually see their denizens. We may be establishing not just rapport, but relationships.

Yes, we'll still have our preferences and our prejudices. I think that's human nature. But I feel our acceptance of "other" will be widened, will be vastly improved because we're getting a bit away from the "you look, feel, smell, taste like me" and over to "you think like me."

I find that exciting. And I think science fiction romance is one of the main genres that lets us explore the possiblities in that kind of future.



  1. Cool stuff, Linnea. Being raised in a small town may explain my love of exploration and other cultures.

    By the way, if you haven't already heard, Laurie's throwing a SFR bash all this week at

  2. The difference between you and my 1800's grandwhatevers, Kimber, is that even in a small town you had knowledge There Was More Out There. My grand-whatevers didn't have any kind of direct knowledge. For one thing, they were illiterate. So perhaps they heard songs or tales told around the hearth. That's more insulating, IMHO.

    Our culture changed a lot with the advent of radio. Hugely with television. More hugely with the Internet.

    Barring places with no electricity, there are no more small towns. IMHO. ;-) ~Linnea

  3. Anonymous11:02 AM EDT

    My grandfather used to tell us how in his small German town as a young man in the early 1900s, he scavenged the pieces/parts to build a radio.

    And how new worlds opened up for him - literally - when he was able to listen to a station from, of all places, Pittsburgh, PA. Later he emigrated, and ended up in Cleveland, OH. But without that experience, he probably would have considered the US as a sort of Klingon-land, totally alien and undesirable, and would never have considered leaving home and family to make a new start in a strange culture.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking column, Linnea.


  4. I think you have something here. Humans are in many ways xenophilic. Getting wistful about the "sexy stranger" may be in our genes and be part of the reason we are so much more varied in size/shape/color than our closest living relatives. if we ever meet someone else to talk to it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

  5. Great post!

    >-while SFR certainly could never share the main table with SF, it might be able to at least be admittted into the dining room.

    If I may be so bold, I think we just got invited for appetizers:

    SFSignal: What is your favorite sub-genre of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy?

    Grasping for the Wind: SF&F's Bedroom Antics

    Scroll down at both sites--my answers are farther down.

  6. Somebody (can't remember the author) has a SFR short story called (I think) "The Girl in the Box." A guy and girl fall in love through radio communications and don't meet until the end of the story. She's wired into a primitive box/wheelchair contraption due to lack of high-tech medical treatment and is ashamed to be seen. His people form involuntary bonds by breathing pheromones so he can't go out without a breathing mask or he risks bonding with some random, socially unacceptable person.

    I enjoyed the story and wouldn't mind reading more SFR about long distance lovers. I can think of a couple of Historical Romances where the H & H fall in love through letters and some readers think the books go downhill after they meet.

  7. BTW, I really like the Hope's Folly cover.