Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Science Fiction Romance, The Ultimate Fusion

If science fiction is supposed to be uber-macho, and romance ultra-feminine, then would you not say they make a perfect couple? 

“Male and female created He them.”  The Bible gave us this duality.  Yet must the world forever run with gender as definitive, me vs. you, extremes of the genetic spectrum, as if there will never be viewpoints upon which we can agree?  Or are we, indeed, two separate species?  

I believe this is why so many publishers and readers fail to see the power available in the fusion of the science fiction and romance genres.  We are not two species; we are one species with two flavors.  Literature should reflect that, and how better than to put some chocolate syrup on your vanilla ice cream?  God says, “Let there be light!”, whereas I say, “Let there be FUSION!”

In his book The Power of Silence, Carlos Castaneda quotes his mentor, the nagual Don Juan Matus, as saying, “Words are tremendously powerful and important and are the magical property of whoever has them.”  In Don Juan’s realm of mysterious ‘men of knowledge’, there are two ends to the spectrum of human perception, and they have nothing to do with gender.  One represents our modern era, when men began using language, and the other end is the quasi-mystical era of antiquity, when humans lived and acted upon ‘silent knowledge’. 

“Silent knowledge is something that all of us have…. Something that has complete mastery, complete knowledge of everything.  But it cannot think, therefore, it cannot speak of what it knows….   This silent knowledge, which you cannot describe, is, of course, intent – the spirit, the abstract….  Man gave up silent knowledge for the world of reason.”  P. 76

Yet with few exceptions (autism springs to mind), each and every person perceives both ends of the spectrum.  At times we talk incessantly, and sometimes we are made speechless by an emotion or insight we cannot describe right away.

The world of reason means language as communication.  Science represents the world of reason.  Whereas the abstract world, the world of symbolism and feelings and ‘silent knowledge’, is perfectly represented by romance.  Yet science fiction is not a grim realm of exclusively intellectual pursuits by spiritless, logical men and women; in any fiction, humans are somehow present, and actions performed by human beings are based on emotions.  Perhaps the overall emotion is an obsession, or perhaps it is a love of war or a hatred of conflict.  Science fiction writers attend to the emotional lacks and needs of their characters as much as romance writers do!

Why do we read and write books, anyway?  We use reams of words to convey the vast plethora of emotional states in which our characters are immersed.  Between reason and silent knowledge, literature is automatically a fusion.  Let’s take it a step further….

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the base of the pyramid is exclusively physiological.  Readers are not living in a persistent vegetative state, so automatically their needs are at a higher level of the pyramid.  The second step is about safety, and the majority of readers live in what might be considered ‘safe’ surroundings.  Things such as the family and employment are considered basic needs.  After all, homeless, starving people don't tend to read books.  As a result, any character an author describes that is not in a coma has emotions they will express. 

I would say a huge amount of science fiction deals with this step.  The invasion tears apart the family, the hero or heroine feels strongly about being employed as a physician, soldier, or physicist, humanity is being killed off by a plague, or the planet is being destroyed for scarce resources.  What is happening to their emotions?  What does it do to their love lives?

The third step of the pyramid is love and belonging, coming before the final two steps of esteem and self-actualization.  So how can science fiction characters express confidence in their achievements, use extensive problem-solving abilities, and expect the respect of others if they have no sense of loving or belonging to a community?

On the pyramid, as well as in real life, sexual intimacy is firmly established in the center.  The ‘tradition’ in literature seems to be that men want sex for relief of stress, and women want sex for a sense of belonging.  I am overwhelmingly grateful that these mores are changing, in both real life and the literature that reflects it!  Admit it, gentlemen, you want to be adored by the ladies!  Ladies, you must admit that sexual intimacy boosts your self-esteem and inspires you to make the most out of yourself – you took how long to get ready for the day? 

As a result, science fiction romance is the perfect fusion of so-called opposites.  I am reminded of a presentation by Dr. Bill Breuer at a convention.  Space Science Consultant and instructor at Bellarmine University and Adjunct Curator-Space Sciences at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, the amazing Dr. Bill gave a number of presentations about the space program, typically bringing artifacts he had collected.  One was a sample of glass used in space shuttles.  

Once upon a time, NASA accepted bids from a number of companies for glass that could withstand the vacuum of space as well as the temperature extremes involved, from the cold of outer space to the heat of re-entry.  All those companies presented extremely expensive bids to research and test such a product, until someone finally realized, “Why don’t we have this strong glass we already use simply coated with heat-resistant glass?”  Looking at the edge of the thick glass sample, the area where the two glasses blended was clearly visible.  Even then I felt it was a powerful symbolic lesson: the fusion of unique qualities could withstand extremes of pressure and heat.

The fusion of science fiction and romance does, too.  Do you love to read about how people resolve their lives when under extreme pressure?  There’s your science fiction.  Do you love to read about how people decide with whom to share their lives, or even just hot sex?  There’s your romance.  The fusion of the two makes for superlative entertainment.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  The Science Fiction Romance Brigade, an online community featuring SFR authors, feels so strongly about this issue that we are contributing stories toward a FREE anthology, Tales of the SFR Brigade, to promote the genre.  Our deadline is January 1st, 2013, and we anticipate a release date in late spring. 

You can visit the SFR Brigade at http://sfrcontests.blogspot.com/
You must be a Brigade member to submit your work for the anthology!  Please email Sfrpreview@gmail.com only AFTER you read the submission guidelines.
If you are an author wishing to try your hand at science fiction romance, come join our Facebook group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/130939813657941/
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