Meaningful looks, witty banter, a moonlit walk, and a sumptuous meal at a ritzy restaurant are just a few examples of the courtship dances we encounter in romance stories (oh, yeah, and there’s lots of dancing, too). But what’s a couple to do if they’re in situations where a traditional courtship isn’t even possible? You know, like when they’re on a starship racing through a wormhole to escape alien attackers. Yeah, that kind!
Many science fiction romances are exploring a whole other level of the dating game, one that at first glance may appear new and unusual. I’m often struck by how many relationships in this subgenre prompt me to reflect upon the process of what it means to woo one’s soul mate. This is especially true in stories with a heavy action-adventure angle where danger lurks around every corner. But such commentary also occurs in stories taking place where exotic cultural elements impact our perceived notions of what a courtship entails.
Settings alone dictate what kind of courtship to expect; with sci-fi romance, you have your choice of space opera, steampunk, military SF, superhuman, and more. So right from the start, you know to anticipate courtships with a different flavor. For example, in the television series Farscape, John Crichton and Aeryn Sun snipe at each other relentlessly, but it’s one of the most delicious courtship exchanges I’ve ever seen.
Science fiction romance in books is loaded with non-traditional courtship behaviors. Often, the behaviors perform a double duty, i.e., they move the plot forward and also provide ways for the hero and heroine to entice each other.
Here are a few specific examples that come immediately to mind:
* Hero and heroine engage each other in fierce physical combat to advance their individual causes, but the fighting is also an intense form of foreplay (Agent Provocateur by Nathalie Gray).
* Heroine saves hero from enemy attack using clever deductive reasoning and some serious acting chops (Alien Tango by Gini Koch).
* Hero hacks into a computer system, which allows him to manipulate the security program. (Enemy Games by Marcella Burnard).
* Heroine uses her political influence as a concubine to help hero navigate choppy diplomatic waters (The Antaren Affair by Erica Anderson).
Sci-fi romance courtships are often woven right into the action-adventure scenes. Sometimes these behaviors extend to intense acts such as defeating invaders/villains or firing upon enemy ships during space battles. As external threats test the mettle of our heroes and heroines, so also do they provide fertile ground in which attraction builds.
Another aspect to these books is that characters like pirates, bounty hunters, or military soldiers often have to rely on alternate courtship behaviors in the dangerous reaches of darkest space if they want to establish a relationship. And their potential mates are bound to be more impressed with their ability to infiltrate the enemy fortress than take them to a fancy party.
That said, the courtships you can discover in sci-fi romance are, at their core, the same as any other courtship: Two people meet and seek each other’s love using their unique talents. Of course, in the case of science fiction romance, talent could mean one’s prowess with a plasma weapon or the ability to manipulate the inner workings of a star (see: In Enemy Hands by KS Augustin)!
Do you have any favorite courtship scenes from science fiction romance books, films, or television?
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.