Love, That Four Letter Word

What is Love?

Futuristic romantic couple by Leo Chuang, Pinterest

Love is a feeling of deep affection. Arguably, it is also humanity’s biggest mystery. Everyone seeks love but nobody knows where to find it. Or what it is love.

What is love? Unlike work, this is a four-letter word that defies definition. A strong emotion full of enigmas.

The ancient Greeks had four words for love: agape, eros, philia, and storge.

As human emotions go, love is a very powerful one. Perhaps the better question is, what would you do for love? What would you do to be loved? What do you love?

My answers: I will do anything for love. I would give anything to be loved. And I love many things, like God, tennis, anime, books, speculative fiction, my country, among others.

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a holiday for love and lovers, let’s take a look at love in speculative fiction.

Because fictional love feels real to the reader without none of the real complications.

What If Love?

Collider film

Love is within everything we do and everything we are.

Speculative fiction explores the possibilities of human experience through what-if stories. Since there is nothing more human than feeling love, love is a theme commonly explored.

By the way, I am not referring to paranormal romance, erotic horror, romantic fantasy or steampunk romance. Although those stories may contain love as a theme or objective, it is not usually the main plot. To clarify, I am referring to love as an emotion.

Whether it is sexual, platonic, friendship, tender, fondness, intimacy, unconditional or nurturing, love is a powerful emotion. At the same time, it is a cultural construction. Different cultures experience love differently. Who is to say our ideas of love cannot evolve or change with the times?

Speculative fiction, and in particular science fiction, is about imagining futures and worlds different from ours.

For example, intraspecies love, love with aliens or cyborgs, love as a commodity, etcetera. For example, science fiction writers explore different forms of mating, dating, and marriage.

Is There a Place for Love in Speculative Fiction?

Zach and Aerith, Final Fantasy VII

As long as science fiction, fantasy, and horror deal with humans as protagonists, and as long as love remains a part of our human experience; yes, there is a place for love in speculative fiction.

The problem sometimes becomes: when is a story a romance? Or when it is speculative fiction with romantic elements? Perhaps, the better question should be, why it cannot be both?

A story can be about magic, monsters, and aliens, but have two or more people who love each other in it. Or a story can be about two people in love; it just so happens that it takes place in a fantasy or alien landscape.

In contrast, for the Romance Writers of America organization, the romance genre needs to include two essential elements: a central love story; and a happy ending (happily forever after or happy for now).

What this means is, you can write a romance with science fiction and fantasy (or horror) elements as long as you follow those two main principles.

Love and the Speculative Writer

Pinterest image

For all the reasons stated above, the speculative fiction writer needs to explore love as a theme. But they also need to go beyond it. Imagine what love and romance would look like, be experienced and expressed centuries from now. Not an easy challenge.

Then again, if you write speculative fiction, you are up to it. A big imagination is part of the job description.

In conclusion, as long as speculative fiction deals with humans, love and romance are appropriate themes to explore. After all, to love is to be human. In any century, galaxy or dimension.

Reader, are you a fan of love in speculative fiction? What is your favorite couple in science fiction and fantasy?

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March 2023