This Saturday is Valentine’s Day, at least in my part of the world. As someone who is a big fan of love, I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. One th eone hand, I really feel that having a day you’re compelled to show your romantic affection is the opposite of how romance should work. On the other, when you stop bellyaching about it being a ‘Hallmark holiday’ and other buzzwords, it’s nice to know out society isn’t so far gone that they can’t set a day aside to celebrate romantic love.
All that aside, I’ve talked several times on this blog on the subject, and I figured I should say something this year too. The trouble is what to say that I haven’t already. This is a blog about speculative fiction and writing; I’ve gabbed all about writing love stories, and documented my favorite super-couples, so what’s left?
I really don’t have a set idea, and if anyone has an idea on what they’d like me to say about love in this space, please comment, shoot me and email, or post it on the forum. This week though, I think I’ll meander a bit with a few more or less random bullet points on the topic. Some of these might be duplicates of things I’ve said before, but with years of articles under my belt, it’s hard to recall.
Tampering With Love
I know I’ve talked about this before, but you know who’s terrifying?
This little wing’d bastard packs an arsenal of arrows that, depending on the story, alter your mind so that you fall in love. Whether it’s with the first person you see (traditional), or whoever the matching arrows hits (used more often today),
Fake emotions are a thing for me. It’s why I made Melissa’s primary power arc revolve around being unsure of whether it’s her powers making people feel things or not. Love would be the worst of all the manufacture, because its effects are so wide-ranging. Making someone hate or fear or feel sad won’t bind them to another person and won’t give them as many external buttons that can be pushed. If you can make someone fall in love, you have the means to wreck them for a long, long time.
Undoing love is just as scary. I’m sure readers of The Descendants are familiar with the Knights Amore Detestabilis. Their back-story is, at least to me, a horror show. They love each other eternally, always know they’ll find one another, and then a mistake—not even someone’s design twists that to make them not only hate each other, but do so with an intent to kill.
The whole idea messes with my head so much that I cut a more in-depth look at their localized side effect where they made all couples bicker, fight, brawl, then go homicidal based on exposure. It just went too far for me and I backed off for good or for ill. That’s saying something considering I went through with the stuff in Vorpal: Gyre and Gimble, and that creepy scene from D:LA (You know the one).
When it comes to love potions, I’m a bit more tolerant because those never work and the backfire always forces the brewer to switch for a less horrific. Honorable mention goes to the Harry Potter Universe because… holy cray the wizarding world is scary. Like seriously, love potions are cheap and easy to purchase, undetectable, and the counter is complex and apparently dangerous. And no one seems to care. Like at all. Ignore everything trying to kill you in that setting, everyone can do lots of other things to you. At least the Killing Curse is forbidden; the thing that utterly brainwashes Ron isn’t just allowed, it’s highly affordable.
Common wisdom in the writing world is that people love the chase; the will-they-won’t-they.
Again, I’ve talked at length about the real and interesting drama that goes on in healthy relationships. This has only been strengthened by a recent segment I heard on my local radio station where an expert noted that a lack of fighting is actually a sign of an unhealthy relationship because that usually stems from a lack of passion or concern for each others’ opinion.
But let me make a different observation: There seem to be only two types of starts to relationships in fiction: ‘meet cutes’, where the characters run into each other in an interesting fashion and hit it off either immediately or soon after, and ‘friends first’, which I hope is self-explanatory.
I have no problems with these types of starts; Ian and Alexis were friends first, Warrick and Tink were a meet cute. However, allow me to paint a picture for you using a personal story that is probably going to turn embarrassing once my friends read it:
Several years ago I met a young woman at a friend’s wedding. We didn’t know each other, but had a mutual friend, and that was enough to strike up a conversation. An amazing conversation. Nothing romantic or anything, we just talked for like four hours and it was one of the most intellectually stimulating and engaging four hours of my life. And for the next few years, we would just run into one another at friends’ parties and always, we had then long, fun talks. I even referred to her as The Great Conversationalist (because the second time we met, I forgot her name).
Nothing came of it. A few people moved away, the parties stopped and we didn’t cross one another’s paths. To tell the truth, I never got to the point where I gave much thought as to whether I was romantically or platonicly interesting. The point is, maybe a bolder me could have asked the young lady out at some point and that we weren’t bosom buddies; we didn’t hang out every weekend. Hell, we never had on another’s numbers. And other people I know have started relationships this way. I’ve seen marriages come out of gaming groups, from small talk on line at restaurants, I’ve gotten into them during group projects for classes (not the way Warrick did, I was never so bold)
Maybe it’s a conservation of detail thing, but you very rarely get the maximum effect of things so simple as ‘do I actually like this person enough to date them’ or ‘should there be a second date’. Even in romances, that’s usually not something you see and I kind of want to see that; just watching the relationship develop.
Dates in Fiction
Movies. Dinner/Lunch. Minigolf. Carnival. Walking somewhere.
That’s it. Holy crap are dates in fiction boring. Maybe it’s because I’m a geek who went to a fairly geeky high school and then a super-geeky (and majority female) college, and don’t actually know how real human beings date, but jeez.
My first date was going to see Charlie’s Angels, but afterward, we spent like fifteen dollars playing the Tekken and Wild West COWboys of Moo Mesa arcade cabinets. My typical high school date involved watching Dragonball, Fushigi Yuugi, and Vision of Escaflowne in a girl’s living room. My most memorable date was spent browsing a thrift store for two hours before hitting the local library to pick out a book for each other.
… and oh my god am I a nerd.
But you get my point right? Like normal people do analogous things, right? Like… I dunno, going to a sporting goods store and getting hiking gear? Doing one of those learning annex classes like in Hitch? (I loved Hitch, by the way, if only for the fact that the titular character, while a phony jerk at the start, was at least clever and creative).
And yes, while I’m never going to knock dinner and a movie, I’m bored to death with those being the only dates available in fiction land.
Special mention: the carnival.
Okay, I get why you use the carnival: it’s a place where t’s okay to act childish and uninhibited, there’s a lot of color and the illusion of variety (even though inevitably it’ll just be a game to win stuff animals, a cotton candy booth, then off to the merry-go-round-and ferris wheel). But aside from those living in a major city, who the hell has free access to a carnival whenever they want for dating?! I don’t get how a carnival has become one of the official and traditional Dates with a capital ‘D’. That’s one of the things that messed with my head coming up because I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t take a girl to the carnival.
In closing this section, I demand all writers watched the following:
The Final Word
I am obviously a huge fan of speculative fiction, and if I can only say one thing about love and romance in the super-genre, that one thing would be ‘more’.
More romance. Not more sex, because we have a ton of that.. The moment Laurel K Hamilton made paranormal romance a thing that makes money, we’ve had a loooot of sex (usually with monsters), but there’s still a dearth of love stories in the genre. I dare say there’s less now than before, considering my own lamentations on the death of the supporting cast in comics and the rise of the HBO-ification of speculative fiction focusing more on sexy-times than emotion.
I’m not saying I’m against sex. I’d just like to see more love… more focus on love and relationships.
Right now, you’re probably reading the Avalon arc of The Descendants, and if you have, you’ll notice that I’ve spent a good portion of that and the previous issue re-establishing the romantic relationships even in the midst of all the mythology stuff I’m laying down here. This is because I’m going to do more with them (and other supporting cast members, fans of Kay and JC) in Vol 8 because just like when I started this series seven years ago, if I want to see a certain story, I have to do it myself.
And I want to see love. Not shallow love interests, not established couples going through the motions. The trials and tribulations, the high points, the awkwardness, the confusion, the choices, the difficulties. So that’s what’s coming in Volume 8.
I guarantee you I’ll surprise you.
Next week, Super-Support: Supporting Casts and Why We Need Them.
Before I go, I’d like to plug my friend Perry Constantine’s new superhero serial that’s on sale now on Amazon. He let me have a copy and it’s kind of awesome, so check it out.
Oh, and join my on Twitter @ParadoxOmni this V-Day for #BadVDayAdvice