Friday, August 21, 2015

Infected SFF: Where Romance Cooties Reach the Stars

Ray Bradbury famously relates a story about how much he loved Buck Rogers as a kid. LOVED Buck Rogers. Collected all the comics. Kept them in meticulous order while his friends jeered and laughed. They told him those stories were junk. Worthless. Finally, buckling under the weight of peer pressure, he tore up his comics and threw them all out. And for three long weeks, he was miserable. Life wasn't worth living. Then one day it occurred to him. Those people making fun of what he loved weren't his friends. Buck Rogers was. He went back to collecting comics, reading what made him happy, and found a new group of friends who didn't belittle his passions.

This is the long way of saying that if you don't like romance in your stories, then the stories I write with romance in them aren't written for you. They're written for the people who love that thing. Frankly, the question of whether romance belongs in any story, ever, is spurious. It comes across as trying to silence the voices of people who have visions of the future/alternate realities that aren't straight white dude centric. There ARE more things in heaven and earth, ya know. To quote a dead white dude.

If SFF is, at its core, an exploration of what it means to be human in the larger context of time and space, there is no way to carve emotional motivations out of characters. Humans are singularly messy creatures from a touchy/feely standpoint. If we weren't so messy, murder rates probably wouldn't be what they are, nor would birthrates. Doesn't mean that every story has to feature some frilly, blossoming lurv. Not everyone is motivated by sex or romance. For that reason, I'll argue there are no hard and fast rules about what belongs and what doesn't. SFF, to me, is about what you can get away with based on the notion that no one gets to invalidate someone else's experience, OTP,  or feelings. If a story moves you, it wins, no matter what form it takes.

The only thing any of us gets to do, then, is vote with our pocketbooks. I don't read Oprah books, for example. Does that mean I think those books aren't worth having been written? Not at all - I merely understand my own limitations. I can depress myself, thanks. I don't need a book to do it for me. That said, in no way does my personal preference invalidate the fact that tons of people adore those books. More power to 'em - readers and writers alike. I just won't be spending my limited book $$$ on stories that'll make me want to slit my wrists. Sounds like a joke, but it isn't. Managing a depressive personality and state means building some walls. Mine say "no reading this type of book" and "no graphic animal cruelty pics on the FB feed." If you have a rule that says "no kissy", I respect that and advise you to skip my stories.

So careful with the value judgments out there in the great wide world. Read what you love. Don't let anyone else convince you to shred your collection. But by the same token, don't be that kid trying to bully someone else into trashing the thing she loves. There are 7 billion + people on earth. Surely there are enough tastes to allow for all kinds of stories about all kinds of people, monsters, aliens and robots.


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, I do, too. It makes me smile every time. I think we all have our Buck Rogers - and probably someone trying to tell us why our Buck Rogers sucks.

  2. Great analogy, Marcella. I enjoyed your take on this ageless argument.