The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Five

Last night's interview/signing with me and Ben Aaronovitch at Blackwell's Charing Cross was a real joy, with the audience, and ourselves, under the influence of the Kitschie's sponsors, Kraken Rum.

(Photo by Pornokitsch.)  In the audience were Irma and Mark Buckingham from Fables, and novelist Scott Andrews.  

(Photo by Pornokitsch.) And Tor's editorial party showed up on the way to their editorial party, although not, unfortunately, having already changed into their costumes of Jane Austen and Barbara Cartland.

(Photo by Julie Crisp.) I loved the comment on this one from @EmmisMiddleMa on Twitter: 'So why are we not talking about the elephant in the room?'

You can see some new photos from the London Falling launch at Forbidden Planet at Tor UK's Flickr Photostream, including one I love of me with little Tom.

And I was very pleased by this review of Saucer Country from Teresa Jusino.

For those of you wondering, our This Time Next Year Game ends at midnight, and so tomorrow's blog will feature the results, show the final league table and declare a winner!

And now to today's main feature, our continuing guest blogger journey through 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'.  Today it's editor, presenter and journalist Rose Fox, talking about Five Gooolllld Riiiiings!  Hello, Rose... 

'When I snagged this, I told Paul I’d probably write about marriage in speculative fiction.  Once I started thinking about it, I realized that what I wanted to write about was marriages in speculative fiction.  The two are not the same.  Writing about marriage might mean examining Heinlein’s line marriages or asking how concepts of marriage might differ in created societies.  I’ll touch on that, but I want to make this more personal and look at marriages: individual committed relationships.

People are tremendously varied. Every marriage is unique because it reflects the personalities of the people in that marriage.  But just as many authors fall back on old tired character traits, they also fall back on old tired marital tropes.

Five marriages we frequently see in speculative fiction
·      The political or dynastic marriage.  Usually arranged; usually at least one party is reluctant; usually comes with pressure to procreate.  Only happens to extremely wealthy or titled people.
·      The defiant marriage.  This happens when someone who’s supposed to participate in a political or dynastic marriage follows their heart instead.  Usually leads to someone getting disowned, which may or may not be regretted later.
·      The estranged marriage.  The sullenness or anger displayed by one or more parties is usually leveraged by villains into getting them to do something stupid.  A romantic subplot may involve the estranged parties getting over their differences and belatedly falling in love, and/or realizing their sexual chemistry is so amazing as to overcome all other problems.
·      The fated marriage.  This is the equivalent of the political or dynastic marriage for the lower classes, with fate or gods or prophecy playing matchmaker.
·      The perfect marriage.  Will last indefinitely and never change.  Only happens to background characters, who will also last indefinitely and never change.  Most often encountered in sequels and used as an easy way to get readers to stop thinking about the previous protagonists, who will clearly never face any challenges again.  Bonus points for the current protagonists being the previous protagonists’ children.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I don’t know anyone whose marriage looks like any of these.  At all.

Five marriages we frequently see in real life but almost never see in speculative fiction
·      Married young and went through some real struggles before figuring out how to develop an adult relationship.
·      Staying together for the sake of the children.
·      One partner in prison or on a long military tour while the other raises the kids and struggles to get enough emotional support.
·      Amicably divorced and still sort of friends, or at least friendly, or at least on speaking terms.
·      Bitterly divorced, possibly with a restraining order.

I include divorces in there because marriages that end are still marriages.  Realistically married people in speculative fiction are rare; realistically divorced people, even more so.

My challenge to speculative fiction writers is this: sit down and think about how marriage fits into the worlds you create.  What is its purpose?  Why do people do it or not do it?  How does it tie into concepts of property ownership, if at all?  How are children affected by whether their parents were married, if at all? How is it solemnized?  Pick any character in your work and imagine them getting married to each of your other characters; what makes some pairings feel plausible and others ridiculous?

Then look around you at all the marriages in your life; think about celebrities and how fame and fortune affected their marriages.  Consider religious marriage, same-sex marriage, May/December marriage, double-income-no-kids marriage, interracial marriage, cross-cultural marriage, cross-class marriage, cross-species marriage (yes, people marry their pets!), marriage for citizenship, marriage for money, plural marriage (in all its forms), shotgun marriage, arranged marriage, incestuous marriage, extralegal marriage, illegal marriage. Consider all the ways of ending a marriage too.

People are complicated and unique, and the connections they form are complicated and unique.  That’s as true of marriage as it is of friendship, or of the connection between parents and children.  I hope to see more fiction that reflects the real-world diversity of marriages, and less lazy reliance on “happily ever after”.'

Rose Fox wears many hats at Publishers Weekly: SF, fantasy, horror, and romance reviews editor; SF/F/H blogger for PW's Genreville and PWxyz blogs; presenter on the regular PW's Week Ahead feature of Copyright Clearance Center's Beyond the Book podcast; and co-host of Publishers Weekly Radio, a weekly book news and gossip show on SiriusXM Book Radio (channel 80).  Rose also provides freelance editing services to unpublished authors and nonfiction presses, and helps to run the annual Readercon speculative literature convention.  Rose lives on Twitter... er, in New York City with two partners, two cats, four computers, and four thousand books.

Thank you, Rose.  We'll continue tomorrow with Doctor Who jack of all trades Gary Russell talking about... Six Geese A Laying. Until then, Cheerio!

5 Response to "The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Five"

  • Alex Wilcock Says:

    The elephant in the room was pleased to meet you at last (and Ben again) – he is of course famous blogger Millennium Dome, Elephant. I was glad to see you both again, too!

  • Alex Jamieson Says:

    Thanks for a great talk last night. Highly enjoyable! And thanks for signing my book!

  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks for coming along, you two.

  • Richard Says:

    Had a great time at the London Falling event, Blackwells On Thursday night Thanks Paul for signing copies of your book for me. A few of my Photos from the event online on my flickr page:



  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks for coming along.