Love and Marriage

Since this post will go live in the morning of Valentines Day, the so-called day of lovers much beloved by chocolatiers, florists, purveyors of tacky cards, and so forth, I figured it might be interesting to ramble a bit about how matters of love – and, more or less inevitably, marriage – work in SF and Fantasy.

Well, kind of. Because what shows up in fiction of any flavor including our favorite genres is sort of an idealized capsule of how the whole messy deal works. And it is exceedingly messy.

There’s also two definite strands to the mess: the one that covers matters of the heart (and the hormones), and the one that covers matters of law and culture. The two sides do not always work well together. The idea that there should be love between spouses is actually rather recent, and most certainly not universal, as is the idea that marriage can only be between one person of the male persuasion and one of the female.

There are certain cultural aspects that poke their nose in around that point, and insist that the whole idea is to make sure that babies are made and that the one protecting the babies and babymakers is actually related to the kid. And since, absent modern technology or equally advanced magic, it can be a challenge to tell if a kid was actually fathered by the person who thinks he’s the father where it’s a rare case that you can’t tell if the mother gave birth to her kid (again, absent technology or magic). If the kid got lost along the way all bets are off, of course, but there’s a reason why the cultures that did a lot of raiding also had a tendency to sequester their women. And marry a lot of them.

Heck, it’s not that long ago that polygamy of sorts was semi-accepted even in Western society. Wealthy and powerful men weren’t considered sufficiently ‘manly’ if they didn’t keep at least one mistress in addition to their wife (and we won’t even go into the cultures that followed the ‘a woman for heirs, a boy for fun’ idea. History is not a nice place even though it has a lot of idea-fuel).

So the ideas of love and marriage certainly didn’t “go together like a horse and carriage” until fairly recently, which also means there are tons of stories to be found in history. Some of the better historical romances use arranged marriages to bring their couple together and place the happily ever after where the couple actually come to love each other.

I’ve seen similar themes in SF and Fantasy, usually in the background or as subplots to the main action, and where they’re done well, they make the world and culture feel more alive. Or where they’re played for laughs they can break tension like nothing else.

Just so long as the hearts aren’t torn still beating from the body of your enemies and the flowers aren’t carnivorous… Oh, who am I kidding. I can think of several scenarios where that would definitely count as a romantic gift.


  1. To demonstrate your love, bring me the severed sexual organs of a plant, then watch as I make sure that they die s l o w l y.

    Valentine’s day makes me pine for the innocence and cheerfulness of Halloween.

    1. Well, yes. Put like that it does seem kind of perverse, doesn’t it? Although no less so than having to hide the chocolates the Husband left on my desk so Her Royal Kittieness doesn’t open the box, extract the rolly things inside, bat them all over the house and try to eat them. She managed the first part once before I rescued the box and put it elsewhere.

  2. Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract

    A Viscount has to marry the only daughter of a very rich business man to save his family/estate from ruin.

    He treats her with the respect she deserves as his wife and by the end of the book, respect has turned to love.

    Oh, he also realizes that his wife was a much better person than the “woman he had loved”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Indeed so. That book is a perfect example of an understated romance where respect gradually becomes friendship and then love.

      1. I have to thank you MG crew here for discovering me Georgette Heyer, I didn’t know of her, but after your comments I have pick a couple of her books in my library. This week I have finished The grand Sophie (Spanish edition, but a good translation) and I’ve fallen in love. Unfortunately, there are not many books from her in my library (or translated to Spanish), and I’ll have to wait for sales to get her ebooks in English, because except for a few, most of them are quite expensive.

  3. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa,the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock,GA, gets aggravated with me when I tell her I don’t believe in love.
    And I don’t.
    Actually, what I don’t believe in is that version of romantic, true love that has been pushed by the movies and television in order to sell product. That falsehood darn near wrecked my life wen I was a mere stripling.
    What I actually believe in is commitment. And I also believe that warm, fuzzy feelings can result from certain activities but if you try to base a relationship on feelings you will get stomped in the ground.

    1. Skulls are better than still beating hearts, because you don’t have to go to all the trouble of storing and shipping your mortal enemies while they are still alive.

      Insert completely insane theory, based on extensive cherrypicking, that they are appropriate in American culture. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. I know a woman (not a Catwoman) who, after coming back from grocery shopping, likes to lay out her non-refrigerated purchases on the kitchen floor so that all and sundry will be duly impressed and will thank her for her munificent effort and expense.

    3. Aww, so cute. He’s bringing the skulls of your defeated enemies. (If you don’t view mice as an enemy, you don’t have a pantry.)

  4. So, what does an -extremely- homophobic [actual phobia with shudders, nausea, cold sweats] 23 year old straight girl with industrial strength, combat induced PTSD do when she falls like a brick chimney for:

    a giant tank,
    an alien artificial intelligence who is at most a week old,
    another alien artificial intelligence who is 10,000 years old,
    four combat spiders who were all born yesterday,
    a werewolf, also hundreds or perhaps thousands of years old, she’s not sure,
    who are all female (Sort of. Mostly.)
    a 16 year old boy. Who belongs to the werewolf like honey belongs to crumpets.

    And she’s got a 40 ton crush on somebody else’s robot girlfriend. So does the werewolf and everybody else.

    Answer: She gets a larger apartment. Now THAT is a love story! Valentines Day, woohoo!!!!

  5. I still remember the woman talking in an online writer’s group about how her husband went to the bookstore to get her a Valentine’s Day present of something she could really use, got some help from a clerk, and got a really weird look when he mentioned why exactly he was looking for a copy of the Writer’s Digest Guide to Poisons.

    He said, “I consider it an expression of trust.”

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