Monday, May 18, 2009

Good News from the Zeppelin

On Monday, May 11th, 2008, in Oberlin, OH, I asked the Abigail if she would marry me.

It wasn't that simple, of course. After being warned by my brother that something bad was happening, the Abigail had to find the magic ring where I had stashed it at the local games and comic store, Infinite Monkeys. Then she had to follow the clues to find out where I had hidden myself, arriving just in time to rescue me from ninjas. She had help from Jon, her occult expert, and Jacob, who was shifty. Of course, at our tearful reunion, when I asked the Abigail if she would be my wife, she said yes. After all that, how could she not?

And if you don't believe that we really are that dorky, check out the Abigail's livejournal.

In any case, the Abigail and my impending nuptials lead to a fascinating conversation, closely related to our discussion of girl fantasy. As pointed out by the Abigail's sex-therapist mother, why is it that no one in today's popular genre fiction - television especially - there are no long-term relationships that contain both happiness and good sex?

Now, I understand that having a single main character is an important choice, and it's popular for a lot of good reasons. A main character's dating habits can be a great way to hook new characters into the story, and the ups and downs of relationships can be a great source of drama. It doesn't bother me that a lot of main characters are unattached teenagers and 20-somethings. However, it gets old when every main character's friends, parents, mentors, and so on are divorced, undatable, or trapped in unhappy marriages.

Let's test my theory on some iconic geek tv shows. Buffy? Blargh. Lost? I'm surprised that anyone on that show can committ to a single long-distance carrier (with Penny and Desmond as a possible exception). Heroes had a dramatic super-powered couple, but first they were unhappy, and then they were dead.

For that matter, there is a lot of drama to be found in testing a long term committed relationship. Comitted couples are still open to temptation and disagreements, and every writer knows how much tension you can milk out of putting one member of a relationship of any kind in peril. You don't need a boyfriend of the week (or season) to have dramatic, sexy stories.

At least, that's what I'd like the people who write genre tv to figure out.

Moving on to books, a lot of fantastic fiction has romance, some of it has sex, and almost all of it but stops right before marriage. As usual, Tamora Pierce gets the Burning Zeppelin Award for Doing Everything Right. Although some of her stories stop at or before marriage, others continue to show characters dealing with the ups and downs of long term romantic life. Even those books that don't end some time after the wedding contain happy romances happening in the background. I find a lot of Pierce's fiction a welcomed change of pace.

What's going on? Frankly, I think it's laziness. Somewhere along the line, someone figured out that it was just easier to write drama in totally changeable situations and easier to hook readers into characters who are sad and lonely all the time. Easier, sure, but more rewarding? As a reader myself, I don't think so.

And as a fiancé, I'm frustrated. I've had enough of the dashing single heroes wooing the women and leaving at first light. I want a hero who reminds me of me, fighting evil alongside his best friend and partner.

(That last sentence is for the Abigail. It'll make her smile.)


Becca said...

I really like the Kushiel books for this reason. The main couple has been together for quite a while by the end of the latter books, and yet they still are happy and have a good sex life. Moreover, they deal with the fact that she's kinky and he's vanilla by allowing her to have kinky sex with paid clients three times a year. (The main character enjoys vanilla sex, but needs kink occasionally)

Anonymous said...

Turk and Carla on Scrubs I watched only the first three seasons of that show, but as far as I know, they remained together. Oh, and what's-their-names--Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel--on How I Met Your Mother, which I watched the first two seasons of.

There are some book couples too.

Anonymous said...

Ok, now I get that you're referring specifically to sci-fi/fantasy couples.

But the truth is, the lack of couples that are stable AND sexy is a problem in most fiction out there. Which is why the examples I gave jumped out at me--because I've had this conversation with a friend before, and those two examples came up.

And congratulations on the engagement, by the way.

Anonymous said...

@ Becca:

I've heard so much about this Kushiel series, and all of it good. I'm beginning to think that I should, you know, read it already.

@ jeepersteepers:

Scrubs is another thing I'm looking forward to consuming. The Abigail and I have Season One on DVD. We'll probably get to it in the downtime between seasons of Lost and Dollhouse.

And in general, don't sweat the "Sci Fi fantasy" specificity. I'm a firm believer in the principle that writing is writing, and most of what you could say applies to everything creative.