Alien Love in a Future World Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of the series.
This week we hear from Sci-Fi author Alia Gee, (The Red Button Press) , and Sci-Fi Romance author Pippa Jay (Adventures in Sci-Fi). Also, don't forget to check the updated survey stats at the end of this post!
And now, Science-Fiction Author Alia Gee on Alien Relationships...
You asked me to write about human-alien relationships.
Also, here be spoilers. Sorry.
Here is my first thought:
I’m vaguely suspicious of human-alien relationships.
One reason is my brain parses it as “interspecies” and that invokes sheep. No one wants to go there. (Except the lonely shepherd. Ha ha ha.)
But seriously, when I think about this topic in relation to SF my first thought is 1950s B movies, and how it’s always this super-powerful Other (Kong, Big Green Men) who latch onto some not-that-interested human female. I suspect there are stories where it’s a strong alien female who kidnaps the male… but I’m pretty sure in the end the guy(s) are the ones who get the ultimate power, be it vis a vis the relationship or the laser guns. So the historically gendered power imbalance thing is a big turn-off for me.
And that’s key: it really comes down to sex/sexual attraction, doesn’t it? Long distance relationships are hard enough to maintain, if the relationship is interstellar there needs to be something intimate and purely, deeply human for the consumer of fiction to relate to. Lois McMaster Bujold, in the SF novella Labyrinth, explains why better than I can. Just go, read the story. Love Taura. Then come back here…
I think the physical compatibility issue is a big one that needs to be addressed by any author who thinks alien love would be delightful. Mercedes Lackey blatantly lampshades it in The Eagle and the Nightingales, part of her Bardic Voices mostly-fantasy series. I’m not sure it’s even possible to be subtle about alien plumbing. And I do like my subtlety.
Another issue is that to believe in the relationship, I need to believe in its future. And the future belongs to children.
The whole point about other species/races/aliens is that we might be attracted to their tentacles or silver fur, but we can’t have babies with them. Otherwise, they’re just long-lost kissing cousins (See the Jaran series by Kate Elliott). Kurt Vonnegut even makes a compelling argument in Cat’s Cradle that the potential to create life is a crucial part of the excitement of sex.
However, I’m not saying it’s all about the bayb3333s. Couples who don’t have children are still couples, in fact and fiction. Anne McCaffrey’s Freedom series has a strong alpha couple who totally save the universe and totally can’t have genetically shared kids with each other and the author makes this both an issue for the characters and, frequently, a plot point. No one questions their bona fides as a couple, though.
But again, it’s a thing that a thoughtful reader wants to have dealt with, and a good author has to do the heavy lifting around it.
So if it’s so hard to make an interspecies relationship believable, why do it?
Writers, whether they write pure SF or dabble in all sorts of places, are all about making the familiar alien, and the alien… human. Falling in love with the other makes them less other, makes their differences compelling and delightful.
If you can get your reader to fall in love with the alien story, so much the better.
So that’s what I think about that.
Science Fiction Romance Author, Pippa Jay:
Love conquers all?
Hi, I’m Pippa Jay, a girl who writes scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. Whovian, Scaper and Sith-in-Training. Double SFR Galaxy Award winner, and mum to three little redhaired monsters.
Do I believe that humans could fall in love and/or have a romantic relationship with an alien? In theory, yes. Last year I wrote my first human/alien romance—Imprint—which became part of the Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology. I’ve got to admit, I was probably more nervous about it that either of my characters ended up being, though I used that as part of the story. I wanted to keep the relationship realistic without being too weird or icky, but marking the differences. Sweet rather than brutally explicit, going for the emotional connection rather than the sex itself. But the whole point of the story was the fact that my male MC Tevik wasn’t human, so I had to put some detail into it. My main issue was not making him so alien that it would freak out either my female MC or my readers, or just coming up with something that would simply wouldn’t fit, work or would end gruesomely like Species. I think the part that probably bothered me the most was comparing an aspect of his anatomy to *cough* an elephant’s trunk (I’ve fed them at our local zoo and that’s an amazing experience), but my editor did end up commenting that she’d never look at an elephant the same way again! (And you’ll have to read the story to find out the details about that).
Writing an AI male was a breeze by comparison. Created to be exactly like a human, but with advantages in strength, speed, and full control of every part of his body, my sub-avatar Soren could be considered the perfect man. Except in the eyes of the law, he isn’t a man at all. Tied to the space station that maintains him, Soren isn’t free to do much more than choose which of the station’s visitors he’d like to spend his time with. Loaded up with his original human persona, he’s more than capable of behaving and feeling like the person he once was, even though he’s designated as a machine. Not everyone can accept him as anything more though.
In reality the likelihood is that any alien races we encounter will not be biologically and/or physically compatible in any way. In Imprint, I put forward the theory that in fact all the humanoid races in existence came from one common ancestor that another race had spread throughout the habitable worlds in the galaxy. Otherwise, at best we might only have diplomatic or political relationships with another race, possibly a marriage or partnership born from a meeting of minds, but unlikely to be anything more on the physical side. With AIs, we could create any kind of physical form for them to occupy, but would we choose to make them anything like human? Would it be necessary to do so? It seems the only reason we would do this is either to make interactions with them more comfortable in a psychological sense, or perhaps because we hope to interact with them on a more personal level. Would that lead to romance of any kind? We can only imagine…
So in my fictional universe, aliens and AIs are capable and willing to form relationships with humans. And why not? Is it really such a huge leap compared to our ability to love someone despite cultural, religious, and even physical differences? Love conquers all, as they say.
Thank you to both Alia and Pippa for your contributions!
Next week the series continues in Part 3 with Authors Judy Kirby and Author/Professional Book Copyeditor Rachelle Mandik!
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