Thursday, January 6, 2011

wondering about interracial romance in fantasy and science fiction

When Emma made the romantic lead in War for the Oaks a black man, it didn't seem like a big deal because we were total Delany and Sturgeon fans: we knew interracial romance—meaning human interracial romance, not Space Princess romance involving white men and green or red women—had been written by the time we were teenagers, which meant it was ancient history.

But now I'm wondering how common it was. My google fu is weak; I keep thinking some genre historian must've made a list of interracial f&sf romance stories, but I'm not finding any.

The lead in Starship Troopers is a black South American Filipino*, but I can't remember if there's even a romance in that book. If I had to bet money, I would guess Sturgeon got to interracial romance first.

* Thanks to Anonymous in comments for correcting that.


  1. I remember that Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers was a Filipino, not black, but still it meets interracial criteria.

  2. Anonymous, right you are! I seem to remember (which obviously doesn't mean a lot) that there's a line in the book about his skin being brown, which could mean a lot of things, but in those days, it meant Not White.

  3. On a Heinleinian tangent, the lead in Tunnel in the Sky from 1955 is black, as noted here:

    Although in that case the character is never involved in a consummated romance, so it's not strictly relevant to the question. But look at the hoops Heinlein felt he had to go through just to have a implied Negro lead character at all, even without bringing interracial romance into the mix…

  4. Heinlein on race is mighty interesting. Farnham's Freehold creeped me out when I read it in my early teens as a proto-hippie, but he was writing about a world in which race superiority had flipflopped, not disappeared, so it's possible the creepiness was intentional.

  5. In Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Manual's family is very interracial. Starship Troopers, if I remember correctly, had a female interest - the pilot - and Johnny Rico joined in the first place to impress her. It is still in his teen period, so I don't remember it getting even mildly explicit. Farnham's Freehold bothered me a lot in my early teens - and I still will not reread it.

    I actually look to Amazon sometimes to find book lists, and they do have an interracial SF list:
    Curiously enough it does not include anything by Sturgeon or Delany, but has Philip K Dick and Ursula LeGuin.

  6. I wasn't going to mention Farnham, partly because there's no interracial romance. (Actually, if there had been, it would have been a very different book!) But am I ever glad I was told what it was about before I read it. I'm pretty sure Heinlein's intent was to depict a family of casual racists who consider themselves "liberal" and put them into the most extreme white supremacist fantasy scenario, turning the tables on them while also turning the knobs up to eleven. That'll teach them the error of their ways! Unfortunately, he then produced a book in which no one learns anything or is changed by their experiences, so any point he hoped to make is foiled.

    Rebecca, that's why Manny's arrested on Earth, right? Carmen Ibanez in Starship Troopers is just a platonic friend of Johnny Rico, at least in the book; in the movie she suffers the worst fate that can befall a fictional character, that of being played by Denise Richards.

    Which in turn leads me to remember there was at least one mixed relationship in Tunnel in the Sky -- two classmates, Carmen Garcia and Bob Baxter, marry and have a child. (I had to look up the names.)

  7. Rebecca, useful list. I was surprised by how many of the books came out after 1987, but given that the list was compiled recently, that doesn't necessarily mean a thing.

    We were Butler and LeGuin fans, so they were part of the reason we thought interracial romance was nothing unusual. For some reason, neither of us went through a PKDick phase.

    I have very fond memories of Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but Friday just made me roll my eyes.

    Richard, grin of agreement on Denise Richards.

  8. Verhoeven had to cast Richards. It was part of his plan to subvert Heinlein. Without her terrible campiness, and Van Diem's universal awfulness as a performer, I doubt he could have pulled it off.

  9. Yes, the Professor uses Manny's family photo for agit prop :)

    I think Heinlein has a number of racial types throughout his books - they do not always become more than clichés. It is not because they are not Caucasian, because a number of his other characters, especially female characters, are clichéd. I think Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my favorite of his books, because Manny really works for me.

    It is funny, and it may be related to what Will said about not thinking an interracial couple was anything remarkable when I read them, but a number of the books on the list never made an impression on me as an Interracial Romance. Different backgrounds would shape characters, but race didn't seem to seem to pop out as remarkable.

    I had to find my copy of War for the Oaks and check, because I didn't have an impression of anything out of the ordinary in the romance. It just worked. The Seelie and UnSeelie difference was what I took away.

  10. Greetings! If folks are interested in interracial romance fiction; BM/WW, I would like to tell you about my new book. It's entitled "Find the Flower that Blossoms." Its the story of blond blue eyed Ashley and her relationship with Black and beautiful Adisa. They both experience racial strife in which Ashley's best friend is murdered. The result is Ashley suffers from depression and anxiety and begins to drink heavily. She manages to stop drinking, but then succumbs to an addiction to sex. The book is available through all the usual channels. I think you'll find it's a must read for 2011!!