Today I’m thrilled to have a guest post by Rachel Bach and a giveaway of the books in her latest series! The Paradox trilogy is a science fiction series containing Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight, and Heaven’s Queen (available April 22). Rachel Bach is also Rachel Aaron, author of the fantasy series The Legend of Eli Monpress, beginning with The Spirit Thief. I enjoy reading her own blog, and I’m delighted she is here today to discuss love and action in science fiction—and her inclusion of both of these in her Paradox trilogy!
Love and the Science Fiction Action Heroine
Three years ago, I decided I wanted to read a Science Fiction romance. Something with high stakes, shoot outs, and Aliens-style intense action, but also a meaningful relationship, preferably with sexy times involved. But, as anyone who’s ever browsed the Science Fiction section can probably guess, I had a bit of a rough time finding one I hadn’t read already years ago (Oh, Anne McCaffrey, how I miss you). So, since I’m a writer, I decided I’d write one myself. Three, actually.
The Paradox trilogy is the story of powered armored mercenary Devi Morris and her high ordinance quest for answers. The books, which started with Fortune’s Pawn back in November 2013 and will conclude with Heaven’s Queen on April 22, are the exactly ones I was looking for all those years ago, and Devi’s story has had a better reception than I could ever hope. Especially seeing how I am 1) a woman writing action Science Fiction 2) from the first person perspective of a female protagonist 3) with kissing. But of all the good things this series has brought, I was most delighted by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Devi herself.
If you haven’t read the books (and I very much hope you will, you can even try a sample free on my site!), Devi Morris is a pretty in your face leading lady. From page one, she’s ambitious, aggressive, and violent with a smart mouth and some serious anger and trust issues. She’s also a crack shot, a savant at using her custom suit of super cool powered armor, and a master of destruction. In short, Devi’s a Grade-A badass of the Starbuck/Ellen Ripley variety, and she kicks butt and takes names pretty much non-stop through three books despite being constantly in over her head. She also finds time to fall in lust and then love with a man she can never have…and that’s where we start to run into trouble.
As I mentioned way up in the first paragraph, this story was always conceived as a Science Fiction romance. Forbidden love was a part of Devi’s arc from the very beginning, and not just as a side plot. Love and trust go hand in hand, and who Devi can trust in this dangerous universe of killing secrets is an ongoing question throughout every part of the story, especially in the final book when the stakes are at their highest. For me, this added level of romantic complication felt like a natural and exciting extension of the story. I am both a Romance and Science Fiction reader, so putting the two together sounded like a peanut-butter-and-chocolate style match made in heaven. But from the very first novel, there were a lot of readers who, while they loved the rest of the story, vehemently disliked the romantic aspect of Devi’s story because they felt that the addition of a romantic storyline made Devi weak.
As an author, of course, my initial gut reaction to these criticisms was to blame myself—I should have written it better, I should have done this or that differently, and so on. That said, though, I personally love the romantic aspect of Devi’s story, and if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t make any significant changes. I also don’t blame anyone who didn’t like the love story. What is or isn’t romantic is highly personal, and what floats my boat may put a hole in yours. Different strokes for different folks. What I do not agree with at all, however, is the idea that the “mushier” aspects of Devi’s plot made her weak.
There’s a deeply rooted belief in our culture that falling in love and admitting it makes a person weak. I can understand the logic. Loving makes us deeply vulnerable, and even the euphemisms for it—softer feelings, going mushy, melting for someone—are all in the language of surrender. That’s scary stuff for a character like Devi who is so invested in being strong and invulnerable, and I understand how a reader could view my decision as an author to have Devi succumb to these softer emotions as a betrayal. It doesn’t help that falling in love is also seen as a stereotypically female weakness, making it a double punch to my strong leading lady. So yeah, I get it. I also think it’s wrong.
The whole concept that badasses can’t be in love is one carried over from the hyper-masculine ideal of the stoic, hard as nails hero. This manliest of men is only allowed to feel affection when the object of his love is the prize at the end of his quest or dead. (Sometimes, she’s both at once!) Either way, the relationship between the hero and his love is always a static element while the story is in motion. It has to be, because an evolving romance and all the emotional muddiness and feelings that go along with it is “girl stuff,” which we all know is verboten in manly hero stories. Sex with random women is cool, of course, so long as no significant attachments are formed.
This is the classic, sexist vision of acceptable action-hero love, and one Devi herself actually believes hook line and sinker, which was a great source of fun for me. You see, Devi, the soldier who will charge a breach ship full of carnivorous aliens twice her size without batting an eye, is terrified of love for all the reasons listed above. She’s trying as hard as she knows how to be that macho action hero, and a huge part of her development as a character is how badly she fails. Not because she is a woman, but because she is human, and humans fall in love. It is a natural part of being a person, and the irony of Devi’s situation is that she actually made way more trouble and danger for herself by denying her feelings than she would have if she’d stopped being so pigheaded and just accepted that being in love is part of being alive.
This is the reason I put a love story in Devi’s books. I wrote the Paradox trilogy specifically to be a feminist entry in the deeply macho genre of Military Space Opera, and part of that feminism is rejecting the outdated, sexist idea that love and romance are inherently female and, therefore, weak. The heart is a human concern, and it is no more gendered in nature than hate or rage or loss. To open yourself up to love is to become vulnerable, but the entire point of romance is to show how love makes us stronger and better than we ever could be alone.
This is not to say that I think everyone must read or even enjoy love stories. Fear is a part of the human condition, too, but I wouldn’t read a horror story if you paid me. That’s fine, everyone doesn’t have to like the same things. Even my book is only about one third romance interspersed with all the gun fights and conspiracies, but that third is as much a part of Devi’s kick ass woman in space story as the powered armor and the aliens. Her troubles and heartbreaks help shape her into the strong hero she needs to be every bit as much as the terrible moral choices or the life and death stakes. It’s a part of her, like all the rest, and her story couldn’t be the same without it.
Rachel Bach is the author of FORTUNE’S PAWN, the start of an action packed science fiction trilogy that concludes with the highly anticipated finale, HEAVEN’S QUEEN, releasing April 22! She is also Rachel Aaron, the author of the popular Eli Monpress epic fantasy series. To find out more about Rachel and read free samples of all her books, please visit www.rachelaaron.net.
Paradox Trilogy Giveaway
Courtesy of Orbit, I have a set containing all three Paradox books to give away! This giveaway is open to those with a mailing address in the US, Canada, or the UK, and it includes Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight, and Heaven’s Queen.
Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Paradox Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US, UK, or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, April 19. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books).
Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.
Note: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.