The intersection of love and technology, part II
Sci-fi romance stories explore many interesting ideas since they bloom at the intersection of love and technology. This creates an opportunity for insights into how advanced technology could impact how romance develops in a future that may very well be quite different from life as we know it today.
In “The Intersection of Love & Technology, Part 1” (Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly #5), I discussed three main points:
1) technology has a far-ranging impact on society, culture, and romance
2) SFR becomes more meaningful when the created worlds reflect technology’s impact by introducing at least a few key changes at the societal and cultural levels
3) an SFR’s subtext can undermine a story if the worldbuilding fails to take into account how technology can affect things like birth control, marriage, and legal rights
In light of how technology can strongly influence romantic love and sexuality, here are some areas SFR has the potential to explore in greater frequency:
- To what extent will religions play a role in regulating our sex lives, if any? What might a story look like if heroes and heroines belonged to spiritual movements removed from the concept of controlling a woman’s body and her reproductive rights?
- What would romance be like for women who don’t have to constantly fear unwanted pregnancy or experience the onus of being in charge of birth control? In that situation, how might a courtship differ from those of today? How will heroes and heroines view love and romance without the fixation on a woman’s virginity?
- If science never develops more advanced forms of birth control, what else might change in society to allow women more sexual and personal freedom?
- Where will gender equality be one hundred years from now? Three hundred? Will it change faster in some countries (or colonized planets) than others?
- How will gender systems manifest in the future? Is projecting gender binarism into the far future on a repeated basis the most plausible way to go for a genre based in part on “What if…?” speculation?
- How diverse is a story’s characters? How might technology impact multicultural and interracial romances?
- How much will technology even the playing field for SFR heroines? For example, birth control for men; genetic or technological advancements that provide women with the option to become physically stronger (safely!); or alternate ways to reproduce for career-minded women.
- Women’s rights—how comprehensive are they? Women can currently vote and (married) women can own property in the U.S., whereas about two hundred years ago they couldn’t. (See Wikipedia’s handy Timeline of women’s rights (other than voting) for more information.)
Many SFRs take place hundreds of years in the future, so can authors plausibly claim similar key changes won’t have occurred between now and then? Will marriage as the institution as we know it today even be the same four hundred years from now? Many authors have already seemed to take this possibility into account since quite a few SFRs end with the couple together, but not legally married.
- Does gender equality exist in education, especially with math and science? Is there increased access to science and technology education and jobs for women across the board? Did space travel become possible because a team of women scientists broke the glass ceiling? If so, which of them seeks love, and how will their romance evolve?
- What if women could speak their opinions online or other future virtual environments without the fear of rape threats and other violent retaliations? Who is the SFR heroine who lives in this culture, and how does her love life change accordingly?
Quite a list, eh? In case you have any doubt, SFR features scores of heroines in a variety of high-tech jobs and leadership positions. Heroines routinely go on adventures and generally share the action stage equally with the heroes. Many stories explore meaty themes. And there are plenty of progressive heroes to go around.
SFR can be all that, and more. Teasing out the delicious, nuanced layers of romance in the future is an experience SFR is in a unique position to deliver. Here’s a fork—let’s dig in!