Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cynthia Ward Strikes Again!

The Internet Review of Science Fiction features Cynthia Ward in February as she presents "Interplanetary Romance: Swords and Sense of Wonder."

Be aware: she's talking "romance" as a literary term (i.e. grand sweeping emotional adventure) as opposed to "romance" genre. Read the article with that definition in mind, and you may find, like I did, many opportunities for speculative romance writers to consider.

Cynthia points out that the heroes like John Carter in A Princess of Mars are all about being alpha male characters. "…they're daring men, often soldiers, who explicitly or implicitly follow a chivalrous code of honor as they battle nefarious villains, escape durance vile, and rescue beautiful alien princesses from a variety of deadly dangers and fates worse than death."

I am not overly fond of the contemporary alpha male hero (understatement of the day), but even I can see the need for rugged, manly, take-no-shit warrior-men on Barsoom. By blending the setting and character elements of an interplanetary romance, authors can create an alpha hero that even I might be able to fall for. (And that would be a huge accomplishment!)

Specrom authors have a chance to rehabilitate the unpleasant themes in the original interplanetary romances. Ward points out that the originals "reflect the sexual, racial, and colonial attitudes of their era." With the new diversity in speculative romance, we can write "sword-and-planet" stories that feature heroes from all races and all sexual orientations. Most importantly, we can write out heroes Ward calls "species-ist." We have the cultural and literary latitude to describe relationships between humans and true aliens, as well as elevate those alien princesses from passive victims to active heroes in their own right.

And that would make for great reading. So, you know what to do. Go forth and write.

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