Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland

Romance is in the air

Here's the first part of the "romantic plot / subplot" section - I'm still working on the game-related part of the chapter, e.g. character traits that are particularly appropriate to this type of plot such as "Devoted," "Unfaithful," "Wandering Eyes," etc., but that should come together fairly easily.

Anyway, here are the sample plots I mentioned - I've had to cut some of the suggestions down considerably, if I was able to use them at all, but I think everything based on suggestions is credited - let me know if I'm wrong.

… Suddenly he pulled her into his arms. "I'm not going to quarrel about whose fault it was," he said. "But we'll settle one thing immediately. We're going to Erotia, and that's where we'll be married, in a good American church if they've put one up yet, or by a good American justice if they haven't. There's no more talk of Madman's Pass and crossing the Mountains of Eternity. Is that clear?”
Parasite Planet

Love and Rockets

ROMANCE seems to bloom easily in space. This may in part be the result of the scarcity of single women; relatively few venture into space, about one for every twenty single men, and those who do often find that they experience a surfeit of admirers. This isn’t surprising, of course, but it occurs so often that it has become a cliché of romantic fiction.

The Eugenics Institute of Chicago’s 2093 study suggested that there is a measurable increase in intelligence in the children of off-world colonists, attributed to selection by the parents (especially the mothers) of second-generation colonists. It argues that women venture into space because they subconsciously seek intelligent husbands. Most other studies suggest a much simpler causal relationship; everyone going into space is to some extent selected for intelligence by (for example) passing tests to qualify as space crew, nurses, etc., and in many cases by surviving on colony worlds where those of lower intelligence would be more likely to die for one reason or another. For example, about 10% of “new chums” on Venus die in their first year, usually as a result of forgetting one or another step in keeping themselves fungus-free in the Hotlands. The survivors are likely to be of slightly higher intelligence, or at least more capable of following the appropriate instructions, than those who die.

Whether or not there is any true link between marriage and intelligence, it’s estimated that about 65% of single women who take up space-faring careers marry within five years, and that more often than not their husbands are colonists, miners, space-crew, or others whose career takes them into space.

Even the most cursory examination of the current crop of romantic literature suggests a few common themes and character stereotypes that crop up again and again, to such an extent that the same author may reuse them several times.

For example, in dozens of novels, stories, and video dramas the hero (often in fact an anti-hero who gradually becomes heroic as love blooms) is a trader, trapper, or other loner who rescues a beautiful heiress from certain doom in e.g. the swamps of Venus, the jungles of Io, etc., reluctantly agrees to help her return to civilisation, and gradually falls in love with her as the journey progresses. In such stories the gradual flowering of love is generally contrasted with the brutality of nature. Exploration is another popular theme, of course, with romance flowering as the characters explore strange new worlds, meet new life and new civilisations, and all too often end up destroying large swathes of both with flame guns, blasters, and other weapons.

A full list of the plots and tropes found in these novels would be wearisome; a few more examples will suffice:

Woke Up on Venus
The Hero and Heroine wake to discover that they have somehow been transported to an isolated area of another world (typically the Venusian Hotlands, sometimes the ice mountains of Titan or the jungles of Io), with no memory of having met before or travelled there, then learn that in the “lost” days they have apparently married, aboard ship or in a frontier town.
According to the needs of the story this may be the result of too much booze, a fiendish plot of some sort (likely if one or both are rich), or an unusual colonisation scheme. Naturally true love eventually triumphs, even if it is learned that one or another of the characters was in on the plot from the start.

The Pirate Queen
The original version of this hoary plot (which dates back to the days of sail and possibly even rowing galleys) has a rich bored heroine abducted by a particularly gallant pirate captain, and held under reasonably comfortable conditions pending her ransom. Needless to say his behaviour is impeccably correct, although she is completely at his mercy, and he actually protects him from less respectful underlings.

Gradually her hatred of him turns to love as she realises that her life is much more interesting since her abduction, she eventually confesses her love to him. Their romance continues until the ransom is paid and they are forced to part. But her old life no longer has any appeal to the heiress, and eventually she “escapes” and finds her way back to the pirates, and to a resumption of their interrupted affair.

As soon as it was known that the pirate Red Peri was a woman, it was inevitable that the older pirate trope would have competition. The most popular current versions “borrow” liberally from the tales of this enigmatic figure, attributing her motives to love or a broken heart. Unusually for romantic fiction, the viewpoint character is often male, a captive who admires the pirate queen even as he seeks to escape or capture her. For legal reasons the real Red Peri’s alleged motivations are rarely mentioned in fiction; the Queen’s behaviour is generally attributed to revenge for abuse, infidelity, or other crimes against the Queen or her family.

Crewman “Bob” - Adapted from a suggestion by Mavis Cruet
The bluff no-nonsense hard-hitting Captain of a freighter cares for no-one… until he slowly starts to feel an odd trickle of affection for one of the new crewmen appointed by the shipping line; new crewmen who otherwise seem to take their orders from the company, not the Captain, and seem to have their own agenda which may have more to do with profit margins and inflated insurance values than the safety of the ship.

When the Captain confides in the only “man” he thinks he can trust, he learns that “he” is in fact a woman, whose father was the captain of another ship owned by the company, now lost in the deeps of space. Together they must work to overcome the company; inevitably, as they do so, they fall in love.

The Princess Bribe
A Russian Princess (in some stories she’s British or from one of the smaller states that still has royalty) decides that she has had enough of the decadence of Earth and wishes to experience the adventurous life as a pioneer. The hero is hired to make life unpleasant for her, but harmlessly so, with the goal of persuading her to return to Earth and resume her royal duties. Of course things aren't that easy, especially when love blooms, and eventually both are on the run from Imperial agents who want to return the Princess to the Motherland, and get rid of the hero permanently.

The Venusian Queen - Adapted from a suggestion by John Reiher
In the swamps of Venus, a missionary and his beautiful daughter are ministering to the “heathen savages.” But armed conflict has broken out between two of the largest tribes and their mission is in the middle of it. The hero and his friends run a swamp boat which normally delivers supplies to traders and other humans in the area; as the war escalates they’re asked to evacuate civilians from the area. But naturally the headstrong girl has other ideas...

Mighty Joe Yurgguh - Adapted from a suggestion by John Reiher
A young girl colonist on Mars wants a pet, and is given a small animal by some Martian friends, but doesn’t quite understand what they tell her about its habits etc. Inevitably it grows into a massively large and surprisingly intelligent creature that is nevertheless gentle under the ministrations of the young woman. A handsome entrepreneur convinces her to bring Joe back to the earth to star in a night club act, but Joe becomes bored then jealous as love blossoms between girl and entrepreneur. Problems ensue when Joe decides that it wants to go back to Mars, and isn’t willing to take ‘no’ for an answer or return alone.

On Location
Since many readers of romantic novels are also movie fans, it isn’t surprising that stories with a movie industry background are popular. In such novels the heroine is either a famous actress or (depending on the target audience) her secretary / costume designer / makeup artist, with a glamorous cast of actors, directors, etc. vying for their affections en route to film on Mars, Venus, or one of the moons of Jupiter. Sometimes that’s all that there is to the plot, and the story ends with the heroine and her newfound love continuing to work in the industry – a common variant has the heroine as the understudy to an actress who succumbs to some alien disease during the voyage, with the understudy going on to become a star – but usually the heroine finds love with a rugged spaceman, miner, explorer, etc., and the story ends with her leaving the profession to become a pioneer.

…Together They Fight Monsters
Inspired largely by the careers of famous explorers Ham and Patricia Hammond, and possibly by earlier sources such as the “Thin Man” movies of the 20th century, this variant on the traditional “oddly mismatched couple / opposites attract” love story is a romantic comedy in which the hero and heroine are already married but have contrasting personalities and constantly bicker. Usually their arguments disguise their love. In many examples the couple are forced to pretend that they are not married so that one can (for example) infiltrate a pirate operation, a hexylamine smuggling gang, etc. while the other pretends to be unattached and runs into romantic complications. Often the plot throws in misunderstandings such as apparently compromising situations which may briefly lead to estrangement, but this particular plot variant never leads to divorce; instead all problems are eventually resolved, and the natural status quo of the marriage is restored. Often such restoration occurs over the bodies of a few dozen pirates or several hundred aliens, but that’s romance…

Anyway, this takes me past 100 pages, once this section is finished I start on the adventures, which ought to go reasonably fast, various hand-outs etc., and I'm done.
Tags: forgotten futures, rpg, stanley weinbaum

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