By consensus, most readers agree that the modern genre of science fiction was created by Mary Shelley. She wrote her oeuvre Frankenstein about a scientist creating life in his lab… and the world changed. Writers became dreamers, looking to the future, and inspiring real-life scientists to create it. But what I love most about science fiction is what it says about us, its creators.
Science fiction doesn’t take place in the vacuum of space (although some of our stories might). It is written by people on Earth. And the best stories tell us something about ourselves, exploring the human condition and how we relate to our world. For example, what would the movie Blade Runner be without its heart-breaking assessment of mortality? Or Jack Vance’s illumination on body image perception in Abercrombie Station? Or Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and its study of gender roles?
And so many readers like myself, also look for romance in our science fiction. Because to us romance and love are an essential part of the human condition–to love and be loved is one of our basic human needs. Intimacy and connection are things that humans seek, even in the harshest environments on Earth—so why wouldn’t they also be sought in outer space?
Science fiction romance is also character-driven story. All the most amazing technology in the world can be described in novel, but until you provide a sympathetic character to find awe in that technology, a book will read more like a manual than a piece of fiction. Character-driven stories allow readers to experience a world through the eyes of the protagonist, putting them in the story, and by extension, in the future.
And unlike our present day where the daily news is still inundated with stories about LGBTQ people being denied basic rights such as to love and marry a person of the gender of their choice, science fiction often occurs in a world where these restrictions have already been overcome. If a woman falls in love with a woman, it is something to be celebrated, not a touchstone for a debate. Science fiction romance is all inclusive of love, gender, and identity.
So what about you? Do you think love and romance are part of the basic human condition?