What would romance add to Sci-Fi literature?
September 25, 2015 § 1 Comment
Everyone can appreciate a good love story. The first meeting, the banter, the resistance, and finally, the admission of love. There’s something innately satisfying about seeing two people (or two mutants) that should be together, actually end up together. So why does most science fiction skirt around the idea of romance? Why is it so scary for authors to explore relationships and create sexual tension? Is it because those who write science fiction have little experience with relationships themselves (just kidding)?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy love-less science fiction like Nightfall and The Nine Billion Names of God as much as the next person, but I can’t say I remember the characters or even remember the ways in which they related to each other. When the people in the story aren’t relatable, it’s difficult to insert yourself into the situation and get lost in the story. And that, to me, is what reading is about: finding yourself so immersed in the conflict that the resolution is needed by the reader just as urgently as it is needed by those in the narrative itself. It’s much easier for this to happen when there is some dimension, some intricacy of emotion in the characters. Real feelings—of jealousy, anger, anticipation—are not new to characters in science fiction. Why can’t we make characters more complex by allowing them to feel love for each other, too? Not only does this give the reader more insight into the characters and their motivations, it also makes their experience a little more human, a little more familiar, and perhaps makes it seem a little more plausible. Just as Benford used Nick, Jake, and Faye in Relativistic Effects to introduce a recognizable love-triangle-esque conflict in an unfamiliar setting, other science fiction writers can use romance as a tool to reveal preferences, ambitions, and attitudes in foreign environments, where more futuristic forces are at play. Juxtaposing the known and unknown and adding an additional layer of emotion-driven struggle among characters serve to add a unique dimension to stories that may otherwise be quite formulaic and predictable. In much of sci-fi literature, we care less about the solutions to the scientific problems that arise in each story and more about how the characters work through said problems.
Of course, the essence of science fiction is the science, and science usually concerns theories and natural observations, not matters of the heart. So while it would be fun to see the occasional coupling of two of our favorite sci-fi characters, science fiction stories should not be defined by the romantic emotions of the characters, but by the possible scientific scenarios they explore and the future stories they inspire. Regardless, romance is fun, and a little sprinkling of it every now and again would make reading science fiction a lot more interesting.