Ah, love is in the air! Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and you don’t need to be in a relationship, nor do you need to read romance, to really appreciate a good love story. They’re everywhere, especially in speculative fiction. From Han and Leia’s “I love you”/”I know” in Star Wars to Westley’s “As you wish” to Buttercup in The Princess Bride, love stories can often provide an emotional core to the adventurous tales we immerse ourselves in when it comes to science fiction and fantasy.
So it seems only fitting to ask the Speculative Chic bloggers:
What is your favorite love story from a speculative fiction work?
Check out their favorites below, and then please, share your favorites in the comments!
Nancy: I’m a sap for a good love story. It seems like there’s always a couple that I’m rooting to end up together on my favorite TV show, book series, or movie franchise. Unfortunately, once we finally get to that big kiss/I love you/marriage proposal, a lot of authors/screen writers/showrunners don’t seem to know what to do with them next. As a result, the couple becomes stagnant, or worse, they’re broken up without a really good reason.
One of the couples who managed to sidestep these pitfalls are Jane and Vincent from Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist History Series. In the first book of this “Jane Austen with Magic” series, our couple ends up getting together, in a very Austen-like way, but it’s not until the series continues that things really get interesting. Instead of breaking them up, Kowal decides instead to explore the lives of a functioning married couple. Of course, there is conflict, coming from both outside of their relationship (the Napoleonic Wars! Pirates! Slavery!), as well as from the inside (seriously, how much did Austen heroines really know about their love interests when they married them?). The constantness of their love becomes the beating heart of the series, even when everything around them is going crazy, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, just as they had fallen in love with each other.
Carey: When Ben Browder and Claudia Black showed up on Stargate: SG-1 as Cameron Mitchell and Vala MalDoran, they were fresh off the proverbial spaceship from the Australian/American concept show Farscape (1999-2004), about a human astronaut finding his place among a crew of ragtag alien prisoners on the other side of the galaxy, pursued by an intergalactic force, with no way home.
Browder and Black played their roles to perfection — Browder as John Crichton, the “astronut,” and Black as Aeryn Sun, an excommunicated pilot. Crichton and Aeryn made their home on a living prison ship named Moya and formed initially uneasy alliances with Moya’s other crewmembers — D’Argo, a towering warrior; Zhaan, a peaceful, blue, plant-based priest; Rigel, an amphibious (and very greedy) deposed sovereign; and later on, the grey thief Chiana, Moya’s offspring Talyn, and a host of other people (who also brilliantly played their roles) pursued by the Peacekeepers (that pesky intergalactic force). Browder and Black had a natural chemistry, and the show allowed their relationship to evolve as naturally as possible (before little plot interferences like character deaths).
Farscape was a wild ride. Friends became family and enemies became friends as the crew pulled off intergalactic bank heists, impersonated planetary royalty, infiltrated the Peacekeepers, evaded mad scientists, hired themselves out as mercenaries, and time-traveled back to Earth. The third season furthered the relationship between John and Aeryn — with a twist: Crichton was “twinned,” a plot device that allowed the show to follow the exploits of two crews (and allow actors time off) — and play havoc with hearts. Aeryn fell in love with Crichton’s double; when the double died, she couldn’t transfer her feelings to Crichton; Crichton later discovered the Aeryn he fell in love with wasn’t the real Aeryn at all. (No spoilers here; go watch the show!). Both characters made personal sacrifices to pursue their relationship. Both characters also died several times, most notably in the last episode when the show was “WTF, SCI-FI??” canceled in 2003. By then John & Aeryn’s relationship had become the heart of the series.
But Crichton and Aeryn, and Farscape fans, got their happily-ever-after ending in an action-packed miniseries, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, that aired a year later in 2004.
In 2017, Farscape is still scifi perfection because of its strangeness, fresh concept, tenderness, humor, excellent acting, and John and Aeryn’s romance. Go watch it. I’ll be here when you get back.
Tez: In Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, human Cat Novak is five years old when her father introduces her to Finn, an android she’s supposed to tutor. Cat ages over the course of the novel, though Finn is an adult from the very start.
As a teenager, Cat falls in love with Finn, though he lacks the emotions to reciprocate. Is it OK for a human to use an android to serve their sexual and emotional needs? Finn doesn’t object, but can an android really consent?
It’s a quietly elegant story of two people, human and android, trying to cope with the way society operates and how it impacts their relationship. Rest assured that it all works out in the end, but this is a happy ending that must be worked for, and the characters are put through their paces to earn it. It’s often a sad tale, but one well worth reading.
J.L. Gribble: My favorite love stories from speculative fiction taught me that love can be deep, but it can take many forms. And especially that not all love stories have happy endings.
It all started with Will Riker and Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, watching the show with my grandmother and reading the used novels that appeared in the paperback exchange where she worked. I always knew something deeper was going on between the characters, and my gleeful discovery of Peter David’s media tie-in novel Imzadi brought depth to the relationship. Worf’s character threw in an interesting twist that upset the balance, but as I followed him to Deep Space Nine, I cheered for the developing romance between him and Jadzia Dax, inspired by the passionate conflict between two equally strong personalities. I’m a sucker for weddings, and “You Are Cordially Invited” remains one of my all-time favorites on page or screen. I was heartbroken for both of them when Jadzia died, and I wish more time could have been spent developing the intricate balance of past and future between Worf and Ezri Dax in the show’s seventh season.
Speculative fiction also taught me that loyalty, dedication, and selflessness are the root of all forms of love. While I’m buckled up for the twelfth season of Supernatural and anxiously awaiting lucky thirteen, I’m only half-watching to see what crazy ideas the writers will come up with next. The enduring bond of brotherhood between Sam and Dean Winchester, as they continuously sacrifice for both the world and for each other, is the emotional connection that sustains my love for the story. While both brothers have had fleeting romantic entanglements in the show, I find it fascinating that the strongest character bonds over the 12 seasons have been that of friendship and family. This is another subtle win for diversity in speculative fiction, along with an important distinction in a culture of entertainment that sometimes feels like it promotes the idea that characters can only be fulfilled once they have achieved a romantic partnership.
Casey: I am not a big romance reader at all. I don’t seek out love stories very often. That said, when I come across a good romance that happens in the background of a greater story that I’m reading or watching, I usually turn into a great big sucker. A really great example of such a relationship takes place in Kim Harrison’s urban fantasy series The Hollows. Specifically, main character Rachel Morgan and villain turned…less villainous, Trent Kalamack. Harrison really plays the long game with her readers in this one. Rachel and Trent don’t get where they want to be until several failed relationships on both their parts. In the first novel in the series, Dead Witch Walking, Rachel and Trent are outright enemies. Rachel starts out the series trying her hardest to bring Trent, a shady businessman, to justice. Over the course of the next ELEVEN novels, the readers are given the opportunity to watch these two truly difficult individuals circle each other, try and fail to have other relationships, and finally come to realize their attraction to each other before ultimately giving in. No spoilers, but suffice to say that by the series finale, The Witch With No Name, Rachel and Trent’s story has come to a very satisfying conclusion.
Lane: I found this a surprisingly tricky question. Eventually, I realized it’s because when I think of “romance,” I think of the couple meeting, misunderstanding, and achieving the HEA (Happily Ever After). Most of the SF/F novels I read have a different formula — after some initial ups and downs, the pair tends to work together like a well-oiled machine. My brain still resists considering that “romance.” WTF brain, wtf? Quibbling with definitions aside, I’m going to give you three favorites, because I can’t narrow it down any further.
For actual “romantic” stuff — where the focus is still firmly on the relationship despite all the other magical bells and whistles: KJ Charles’ Charm of Magpies series. Stephen Day and Lucien Crane get together aggressively in the first book, then spend the next few actually learning who they are to each other.
For a sweet inversion of romantic tropes, I recommend Martha Wells’ Raksura series, which starts off with a quasi-arranged “marriage” where both parties want it to work but have to find out how to make it work. The inversion comes in that it’s Moon, the male, who’s nervy & shy, coming from an angsty past — Moon is definitely a damsel in distress. A damsel with really really big claws and fangs. And Jade gets to be the possessive and protective one.
Lastly, for a more classic “get-together” story — a stand-alone, where the book ends with the presumed HEA — Ned and Verity in Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. It’s comedic, it’s full of hijinks and misunderstandings, and has a hero who, through a series of specific events, manages to have his first kiss with Verity last for 169 years. Now, there’s romance.
Kelly: Warning! Major Game of Thrones Spoilers Ahead.
In my opinion, tragic love stories are the most romantic and my favorite is the doomed love between Jon Snow and Ygritte in Game of Thrones. While I enjoy both the books and television show, the show amplifies the emotions of this love story and it doesn’t hurt that Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Rose Leslie (Ygritte) are beautiful people. Jon Snow is a member of the Night’s Watch, the defenders of the Wall, who has taken a vow of celibacy. Ygritte is part of a group of Wildlings who plan to attack the Wall. Jon Snow is noble and strong but also sensitive. Ygritte is fierce, “kissed by fire” (meaning that she has red hair), and funny. Her quip, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” sparked a thousand memes. When they first meet, Jon tries to chop her head off with a sword, but he is unable to bear killing a woman. Jon pretends to disavow the Night’s Watch in order to learn the Wildlings’ plans, so we are aware from the start that his love for Ygritte is hopeless. Ygritte herself tells him, “You’re going to be loyal to your woman. The Night’s Watch don’t care if you live or die. Mance Rayder don’t care if I live or die. We’re just soldiers in their armies, and there’s plenty more to carry on if we go down. But it’s you and me that matters to me and you. Don’t ever betray me.” Even though there are no happy endings in George R.R. Martin’s world, you still root for Jon to choose love over duty. When Jon and Ygritte kiss at the top of the Wall, it’s one of the most romantic and cinematically stunning moments in the entire show. When Ygritte learns that Jon is abandoning her, she doesn’t take it well, although we’ve all been there in wanting to shoot an ex-boyfriend full of arrows. The moment of Jon’s betrayal is comedic, which makes it all the more tragic when Ygritte dies in his arms after being wounded at the battle for the Wall. The scene of Jon building a funeral pyre for Ygritte (after Tormund Giantsbane tells him, “She belongs in the North. The real North.”) is one of Game of Thrones’ most tear-jerking moments, right up there with the Red Wedding and Ned Stark’s execution. The silver lining to this sad tale is that Kit Harington and Rose Leslie are dating in real life, so Jon Snow and Ygritte’s love lives on.