Where Are The Mothers?
This article first appeared at the Writers At Play blog, May 11, 2008.
Happy Mother’s Day!
On my personal blog, I often write about strong female characters who subvert common stereotypes of women, and who also often bridge the gap between Science Fiction and Romance. Whether or not to become a mother is a weighty issue from just about any angle, but these two genres uniquely reflect present day attitudes toward all sorts of issues, motherhood included.
I was, and still am, a bit daunted about how to talk about this issue, but something Jacqueline Lichtenberg on the Alien Romances group blog said last week gave me an idea. At the end of a post where Lichtenberg examines how the mechanics of human reproduction have influenced our social mores, she brought up great female characters like Linnea Sinclair’s Chaz Bergren (who I profiled as a Danger Gal on my personal blog) and Mike Shepherd’s Kris Longknife. At the end of the post she asks some potent questions:
Is the readership ready to explore directly the issue of the indomitable woman who has no dominating tendencies at all?
Is the readership able to conceptualize a human female who is neither submissive nor dominating?If she can find a mate — what would her children be?
Does Alien Romance have a place for The Mother? Where are the SF Romance novels about women with a passel of children to raise? Are children the plot or the complication?
That’s a huge can of beans Lichtenberg opened there and I’m not even going to pretend to answer all of them, but if nothing else we should take a moment this Mother’s Day and think about the recent books we’ve read or written and how they have portrayed motherhood. To answer Lichtenberg’s question, Science Fiction has a long history of examining the effects of technology on motherhood and reproduction, and Romance tackles this issue directly with many of Harlequin’s category lines including motherhood issues.
I think Science Fiction Romance is in a singular position to merge these two modes of examining motherhood, and to answer Lichtenberg’s question, three novels in particular come to mind:
- Catherine Asaro, The Radiant Seas: Primary Sauscony “Soz” Skolia is a bioengineered fighter pilot and heir to the Ruby Dynasty family of empaths. She’s also the mother of four to Jaibriol Qox II, her people’s archenemy, the Aristos.
- Susan Grant, Contact: Airline co-pilot Jordan Cady has one daughter at the beginning of Contact and then later creates a family with Kao, a man from another world who moves to Earth to escape a life of pain.
- Susan Grant, How To Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days: Evie Holloway, soccer mom and mother of three gives shelter to an extra-terrestrial hitman rediscovering his humanity.
- S.L. Viehl, StarDoc: Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil is not only a genius when it comes to exobiology, but she is also a mother.
Admittedly, I’ve only read a few of the books in Harlequin’s category lines that deal so much with motherhood. For those of you who have read deeply in these novels, what are some of your favorites that portray heroines as mothers? What about Historicals, Contemporaries and Paranormal Romances? I especially liked Lara Adrian’s Midnight Awakening, whose heroine Elise Chase dealt with her vampire teenage son’s drug addiction.
Ultimately, Romances reinforce the idea that none of us are in this world alone, that there are people in this world who care about what happens to each and every one of us, not the least of which are our mothers.