Friday, January 26, 2007

Thoughts for the Day

This morning as I was reading some 'flash fiction' I was reminded of the BBC's Thought for the Day programme. At 7.45 am, from Monday to Saturday on BBC Radio 4, speakers from a variety of different religious faiths give a very brief talk which, they hope, will give the listeners something to think about for the rest of the day. I'm still thinking about these short flash fictions, and I thought I'd share them with you. They're not really romances because they're too short to show the development of a relationship, but they are romantic and optimistic in their endings. One could maybe be labelled 'paranormal' and the other possibly 'science fiction', but only in the very loosest of senses. The first, Goddess by Jon Hansen, involves, as you might expect from the title, a goddess. The second, A Clockwork Break by Shawn Scarber includes some clockwork (again, as might be expected from the title), but the object could not be built using current technology.

Sarah's been blogging about paranormal romances and whether, as Eric suggested, this sub-genre 'lends itself to allegorical reading, or at least metafictional reading'. I couldn't help but read Goddess this way. It seemed to ask questions about what it is that we fall in love with when we love someone and it seemed appropriate in the context of our recent discussion of how romances span the range from the mythic/paranormal to the mundane. All love may seem divine, but there's more than one kind of divinity, just as there's more than one kind of love, and which kind of love brings the most contentment to the individual?

A Clockwork Break also provides us with contrasts, this time between the mundane mechanical production line and the mechanical object created not to serve capitalism, but out of love and imagination. One seems to imprison, the other sets the characters free.

I hope you enjoy them too.

Oh, and they're both written by male authors. I didn't actually realise this until I read the mini-biographies at the end of each story but I thought I should mention it given that Sarah's discussion was also about heroes created by women writers.

7 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed those issues of Abyss and Apex. I think science fiction romance, specifically stories that are more in the tradition of social science fiction tends to question the cultural status quo toward love and romance. This follows a pattern of social and cultural critiques set by works such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Female Man.

    In contrast, paranormal romance as well as futuristic romance, originating from the romance genre leans more towards reinforcing certain cultural attitudes towards romance, specifically, that love and romance are important and worthy things.

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  2. I think science fiction romance, specifically stories that are more in the tradition of social science fiction tends to question the cultural status quo toward love and romance.

    So what about Linnea Sinclair? She writes science fiction romance and I had a look at some of her online stories (the list of them is here) and while Gambit and Silent Run have somewhat more open endings (I'd call them 'optimistic', rather than happy-ever-afters), she also has Macawley's List which is very clear about which of love or career should be the top priority. I'd be a bit puzzled if something labelled 'romance' didn't put a high value on love and romance.

    Hmm. Maybe I've misunderstood what you're saying and/or maybe we're working with different definitions. After the recent controversy over the very meaning of 'paranormal romance' which began a couple of weeks ago over at Dear Author I feel rather cautious about making assumptions about what other people might mean when they talk about some sub-genres of romance, particularly 'paranormal romance', 'science fiction romance', 'erotic romance' and 'romantic suspense'. They aren't sub-genres I've had much contact with, and I freely admit my ignorance.

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  3. Oh, those two stories are beautiful! Thank you for posting them.

    In a way, they remind me of poetry. I think it's the tightness of the structure--how neatly the allusions behind the supernatural/sci-fi symbols are created and fulfilled--and the carefully chosen words. "Goddess," in particular, seems to slide into place with a click at the end, like the bird's wing in "A Clockwork Break."

    I like how heightened language of passion in "Goddess"--blood rushing downwards, a woman whose laugh is "ringing drops of crystal sun", magnificent breasts and being "electrified by her closeness"--which is often used to indicate the hero/heroine in romance novels, is compared to the true heroine of the story, "winter-pale and a little flabby in her softer places," but smiling "like a mischievous six year old," and wonderful in her human way.

    Even the dialogue strongly suggests the mythic vs. the mundane. The goddess says pretty, rich things like, "It would delight me to retire to some place more private with you, removed from the harshness of this world." In contrast, the heroine greets her husband with a simple "Hey."

    I love the way the story seems to say that we lowly creatures of the earth are good enough in our brief sparks than any bright inhuman sun. Maybe even better.

    "A Clockwork Break" is the sort of reading that is education in empathy. I love that. I love feeling the heroine's tentative hopes, the little joys, the tin creation and its ticking heartbeat.

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  4. Thank you for your kind words about two of the stories Abyss & Apex has recently published.

    Quite a bit of our fiction deals with relationships, and though not all of them are romantic many are. Recent examples include "Nomad" by Karl Bunker (4th Quarter 2006) and "Unicon's Rest" by Jill Knowles (2nd Quarter 2006). There are romantic themes in a number of the other stories ("Godspeed," "Ageless," "When Maxwell's Demon Met Schrödinger’s Cat," and " All the Wonder in the World" for example. Let us know if you'd like to know when the future editions are publised by sending us an email at abyssandapex.announce@gmail.com

    Wendy S. Delmater, Managing Editor
    ABYSS & APEX
    http://www.abyssandapex.com

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  5. I'm very glad you enjoyed them so much, Angel. And your comments express perfectly why I wanted to share them, though I didn't write about them anywhere near as eloquently as you did.

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  6. I guess in defining the modern speculative romance genre as being more status quo, I'm taking a cue from the many romance readers who commented on Dear Author that to be considered a romance, the story MUST have an HEA.

    I haven't read Linnea Sinclair's works that you've cited but I wonder if those "open-ended" endings could still be considered happy endings.

    "I'd be a bit puzzled if something labelled 'romance' didn't put a high value on love and romance."

    I think what I'm trying to say that apeculative fiction love stories that are more rooted in a classic science fiction tradition, might tend to question the value of love and romance. However, the conclusion the story might ultimately come to are that love and romance are unworthy of the exalted status given to those emotions in our culture. So while the very act of posing the question accords a high value to the emotion, the answer may not ultimately be one acceptable to modern romance readers.

    Modern science fiction as we know it, really begins with works like Shelley's Frankenstein and H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, both of which were written as allegorical social and cultural critiques of its time. The modern genre of Romance, (I think) in contrast, is more rooted an epic storytelling tradition.

    However, I admit, my academic work in romance genre is about zero, while I have done graduate work in science fiction, which is just about the opposite of you :)

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  7. The short stories by Linnea Sinclair are available free on her website, and yes, the ones I mentioned as being a bit open-ended would count as 'happy endings' even if not tied-up-in-a-bow-happy-ever-after ones.

    Modern science fiction as we know it, really begins with works like Shelley's Frankenstein and H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, both of which were written as allegorical social and cultural critiques of its time.

    As I've mentioned before, I've not read much science fiction for years, but when I did, while there were some novels which did seem to ask interesting questions about society, human nature etc, there were others which seemed to be about gunfights involving extra-big, extra-complicated guns, lasers, warp drives and space ships (so similar to a particular kind of Western, but set in space), or which appeared to be using the science fiction genre as an excuse for long descriptions of sex between cloned individuals and humans and/or humans and robots.

    The modern genre of Romance, (I think) in contrast, is more rooted an epic storytelling tradition.

    Well, I suppose you could argue that, but then the same would be true of Fantasy. I think a lot of the novels which are precursors of the modern romances, such as those written by Austen, the Brontes, Trollope etc can easily be read as social critiques. And fairytales, which are often referred to in romances, have been used to teach social norms, or, if they're more subversive versions of the tales, to subvert and critique them.

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