Ah, 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?
There’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.
These 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.