Wed
May 9 2012 3:30pm

Moms of the Future: Why Are There So Few Moms in Sci-Fi Romance?

Contact by Susan GrantAh, motherhood! It’s an unparalleled experience of cuddling with rosy-cheeked babies, holding the wee little hands of children during their wide-eyed discovery of the world’s myriad experiences, and defending humanity against a horde of alien invaders—

What what what?!

If you thought changing diapers or frantically driving kids from one after-school activity to another made for a hectic schedule, just think about the challenge of being a mother during a time of intergalactic upheaval!

Heroines in science fiction romance books who are also mothers are rare, but they do exist. And they kick alien butt. And wipe the seemingly endless snot from their children’s noses. On top of that, they fall in love. All of which points to the challenges of writing about such characters.

One of the biggest challenges that authors face in this subgenre is how to reconcile a dangerous, threat-filled setting with children in the mix. For some readers, children-in-jeopardy or potential jeopardy is a trigger. How can a reader be sure a child will be kept out of harm’s way? Or if they do fall into the path of harm, how will the story handle their fate?

Case in point: Susan Grant’s Contact. At the start of the story, the heroine is abducted from Earth and separated from her young daughter. Then aliens annihilate the planet. Rather a shocker, to say the least. How will the heroine cope with the aftermath?

Alien Proliferation by Gini KochThere’s also the issue of integrating child-related scenes with the romance, the worldbuilding, and oh yeah, the plot. That’s quite a few elements to juggle, never mind juggling them successfully. But it’s not only the author who strives to accomplish multiple goals. If any one heroine-mom in sci-fi romance knows about multi-tasking, it’s “Alien Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt” from Gini Koch’s Alien Proliferation.

The overall tone of the story is another challenge. The stakes can become pretty high in some science fiction romances, which often means a story with a grim or serious tone. And a child’s future and safety are very serious issues indeed. For stories that don’t shy away from raising the stakes in this regard, read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayar and Sandra McDonald’s The Stars Blue Yonder.

On the other hand, sci-fi romances featuring heroines as mothers offer chances to explore the psychological, social, and cultural issues associated with motherhood. Some of the “What if…?” questions posed are “What does it mean to be a mother in a technologically advanced society?” or “How might motherhood evolve in the future?”

Sci-fi romance allows readers to view the issues of motherhood through a different lens. Mothers from futuristic or alternate settings often face issues similar to those in contemporary society. Sometimes they handle them in different ways while at other times they approach them in ways that are achingly familiar. Enter Susan Grant’s The Star King. In that story, the heroine had a career as a USAF fighter pilot before becoming a mother.

On Wings, Rising by Ann SomervilleThese stories also explore the challenge faced by a mother who’s a non-human/humanoid (particularly when interacting with uninformed or narrow-minded humans). Stories that offer non-human/humanoid mothers include Starlander’s Myth by Melisse Aires—mom is a shapeshifting gryphon!—and On Wings, Rising by Ann Somerville in which the mom is actually a male humanoid with angelic features (i.e., wings) who possesses the capacity to give birth. How’s that for a turnabout? In futuristic/alternate settings, one can’t always assume a mother will even be female.

I’d like to take a moment to salute fictional moms of the future. I appreciate having the opportunity to read about their stories of adventure and passionate love. They are definitely an inspiration.

And maybe, just maybe, some enterprising person will invent a type of nanobot that eliminates excess nose mucus without mom having to lift a finger. Now that’s what I’d call a great Mother’s Day gift!

 


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 release is The Watchmaker’s Lady (Clockpunk Trilogy #1) from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.

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9 comments
Carmen Pinzon
1. bungluna
You have included my favorite sci-fi moms in this article. I avoid children in most of my fiction, especially when it's darker in tone, because that's one of my hot buttons (kids in jeopardy, I can't read it.) In lighter fare, like the Kitty Katt series, it has been part of the story and hasn't bothered me so much.

I have to confess that I'm wildly jealous of the uterine replicator in the Vorkosiverse of Bujold. That's one technology I wouldn't mind having access to.
Marian DeVol
2. ladyengineer
...wildly jealous of the uterine replicator in the Vorkosiverse of Bujold. That's one technology I wouldn't mind having access to.
@bungluna - Ditto! Had I had access to it, I would have been sorely tempted to reproduce. Of course, too late now. ;-)
Heather Massey
3. HeatherMassey
@Bungluna I think most authors avoid writing it for the same reason(s) you avoid reading it. I know that for me personally reading about kids in jeopardy became much more challenging once I became a parent myself.

When I was reading Melisse Aires' STARLANDER'S MYTH I noticed I was very sensitive about the heroine's daughter's needs, e.g., where was she going to sleep, was mom going to be there when she woke up--that sort of thing. Fortunately, the author made sure she was well taken care of.
And I agree that tone can make a difference.

I wouldn't mind more moms in SFR if there'd be a way to have the kids, but not necessarily put them in harm's way. Of course, then there's the issue of *mom* being in harm's way and how will that affect her kid(s)?. But with an HEA there's some built-in reassurance.
T.K. Anthony
4. TKAnthony
Sounds like I've got a few authors to put on my TBR list. Funny, I didn't really think about the children (or lack thereof) in SF. My favorite authors integrate them into their stories, just as they are in real life. Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan was in harm's way in utero, a victim of an attempted assassination against his parents; five-year-old Emperor Gregor fled from political assassinations...all in a day's work during Barrayar's civil upheaval. In Lee & Miller's "Local Custom" two-year-old Shan yos'Galan is the source of a lot of conflict and misunderstanding between his parents--and sees his share of danger in the company of his mom. Both great reads!
Darlynne
5. Darlynne
One of the things that frequently bothered me about Disney and other animated films is that a parent or two seemed obliged to die at some point (Bambi, Finding Nemo, and so on). It was explained to me that, for story-telling purposes, the parent must be gone--permanently or otherwise--in order for the child to have an adventure. This made absolute sense, because what parent is going to allow their child to have the kind of adventure that would thrill/terrify those fictional kids? The light dawned.

Of course, it doesn't necessarily follow that an adult can't have adventures when children are around, but as you've noted, things are different, as they must be. Kate Daniels, for example, has a young character she has more or less adopted and that situation weighs heavily in every decision she makes now.

My point, which is around here somewhere, is that I'm not surprised there aren't more mothers in scifi. Both characters--adults, kids--are going to have different adventures without the other.
Darlynne
6. Diane Dooley
Oh, I LOVE reading about motherhood in science fiction romance. The fierce tenacity with which mothers try to protect their children can really drive a plot, plus providing yet another opportunity for strong female characters. Ella Drake's 'Silver Bound,' Ainsley Davidson's 'Lesserblood Lies', and Greta Van Der Rohl's 'Starheart' all feature mothers driven into extreme situations and adventures by the need to protect their children. Not a trigger for me, obviously *grin*

It was always confusing to me that science fiction had so few children in it. All that colonization of other planets -- how do you do that without breeding? I just love that moment in Aliens when Ripley, protecting a child that isn't even hers, confronts the alien with the words "Get away from her, you bitch!" Was Ripley ever more ferocious than in that moment?
Darlynne
7. Pauline Baird Jones
I think the closest I've come to a child in jeopardy is in one book--spoiler, so won't say which--but it was pretty brief. I saw Hunger Games for the first time. I had not read the book, so don't know about Katniss's mom, but it wrung my heart, watching those parents march their kids to the ceremony that could end in the death of their child! It is why have not read books yet. So yeah, trigger for me. (wry grin)
Darlynne
8. Melisse
Ps. The board wouldn't let me post as Melisse Aires, hahaha
Melisse Aires
9. Melisse_Aires
Okay, I'm logged in now. Duh.

I don't care for dark, children in jeopardy stories. I don't really care for much darkness or pain in any story. I'm more with the heartwarming stories, really. But I do find mothers compelling as heroines. The stakes are so much higher when the life of your child is involved, even in just an ordibnary courtship. Think how upset we get about the playground bully or the unfair teacher! Grr, right.

My imaginary space universe is filled with colonies, cities, wild west places where people stake claims and forge communities out of the alien wilderness. So moms are there, and children. And my future children still have to be potty trained and taught how to read and put to bed on time. They need to play and be cuddled, and they'll want toys. Because children have needs that are unchanging over the generations. And somehow, starfaring humans would figure out how to raise families.

Once, when my own kids were in gradeschool, I left work in the evening during a tornado outbreak. By the time I got home thirty minutes later, the tornado had struck the SE side of Wichita, where we lived. I will never forget driving through residential streets with powerlines down, trees and debris everywhere. I could have stopped somewhere for shelter, but all I could think of was to get home to the kids--who were safe at home with hubby. I think if it had been an alien invasion, I'd have done the same thing. I think most moms would! Moms will white knuckle their way home. I try to get some of that into my writing of mom heroines.
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