Sunday, December 07, 2008

High Romance: Addiction in speculative romance

How many Romantic heroes can you think of who are addicts of one sort or another?

Add up all the alcoholics, the sex addicts, the gamblers and risk takers in your favorite novels. You might be surprised. I was... although I've certainly done it myself in the case of Djetth (aka Prince Djetthro-Jason, aka Commander Jason) in Forced Mate, and in Insufficient Mating Material.

Why is that? And, is it irresponsible of us (authors of alien romance) to portray dangerous and potentially antisocial behavior as heroic?

I submit that it is partly a function of characterization. The hero has to have a flaw when "his journey" begins, but it has to be one that the reader can forgive. Therefore, a treatable addiction works very well.

The flaw in his character has to get him into trouble. He has to have an excuse for the sort of behavior that lands him in an unprotected and compromising situation with a bed partner he would --when in his right mind-- go out of his way to avoid.

It is plausible. The alpha male personality calls for some degree of obsession, compulsive behavior, and savage competitiveness. Very often, our heroes are warriors, and may have turned to alcohol or other substances to dull their harrowing memories, or their unhappiness with what their duty and rank requires them to do.

The alpha female personality ought to call for competitiveness, and a certain reckless determination to get her man (or grasp the glittering prize) too! However, we don't see as many heroines who are drunkards, who hazard their own or other people's family fortune and dependent family members at the intergalactic gambling hell.

I'm using Regency Romance terminology. In my opinion, a lot of futuristic and speculative romance is a "Regency", or a "frontier Western", or whatever beloved genre is currently not so much in fashion in an outer space setting. The historian in me approves. So does my lawyer!

Last Tuesday, I did my monthly "Crazy Tuesday" internet radio show. In theory, we were talking about the heroes of short stories, but also heroes who wear short garments such as shorts, loin cloths, breech cloths, kilts.

Diane Davis White, author of Moon of the Falling Leaves, discussed a vision quest, where a shaman would starve himself until he hallucinated. She also described a breech cloth as worn by the Lakota. I never realized that a breech cloth is a tiny, independently hung curtain at the front and a second one at the back.

I'd assumed that TV Tarzans wore authentic garments!

Jacquie Rogers, who is an expert on rodeos, contrasted the breech cloth wearer's lack of sensible protection between the legs to the kevlar underwear sported by rodeo clowns to protect them from the blast, because apparently rodeo clowns have their trousers blown off them (with explosives) on a regular basis.

Risky behavior indeed!

Bottom line. (Hah! Pun!!!)

We already have legal disclaimers claiming that our characters are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or deceased is pure coincidence. I wonder if it would be a very good thing if we added a "Do not try this yourself" warning rather like that used by the Mythbusters on TV.

What wording might we use?

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    One reason I like the hero of Sandra McDonald's THE OUTBACK STARS so much is that his addiction is he can't stop standing up for people in need even though it frequently gets him in trouble and even beaten up for it.

    It really grounds a character and adds realism to include details/flaws/addictions like that and the ones you pointed out, Rowena. I'm all for it. Lack of character arc=boring.