12 November 2011

Nervous anticipation

Lois McMaster Bujold recently posted that she's finished the near-final draft of her next book, which focuses on Ivan. Since Ivan is my favorite character in the Vorkosiverse (though Cordelia rocks, and Elena Bothari is awesome, and Laisa's pretty darn cool, too, and... yeah, it's hard to pick just one), you'd think I'd be jumping for joy at a book finally focusing on him.

I'm awaiting the release with trepidation. As much as I love Bujold's books (especially Memory), the constant backbeat of "happiness = man + woman + babies" is really frustrating to me. It's so darn heterocentric.

Not all relationships are man + woman. Not all man + woman relationships result in babies. (I have none, and no plans to do so!) Not every person who is single is desirous of and pining for a marriage/other long-term relationship.

Yeah, the Vor have the excuse of needing to carry on the family line because they're basically inherited nobility, but there's precedent in the text (and, you know, actual Earth history...) for nephews or cousins, etc, to inherit.

I'm sure I'll read it, and I'll enjoy it, but I'll be saddened by Ivan, who has spent the last 14 books avoiding marriage but having plenty of girlfriends and otherwise enjoying the bachelor lifestyle, succumbing to marriage fever. The explanation that he's "grown up" or "matured" and finally realized he needs to settle down and get married isn't all that great. It assumes that the only way to be a real grown-up is to get married (and, of course, have babies), which bothers me on a visceral level.

People say that you should write the book you want to read. That's why my characters reflect my experience. There are happily married people with children, happily married people without children, happily unmarried (single or partnered) people with or without children, unhappily married people (with or without children), and unhappily single people. That's a fairly reflective cross-section of people I know in real life (though I don't think I know any people who are currently unhappily married; I know some who were, but divorced and are in happier relationships now).

Fiction reflects (or should reflect) reality. Reality is pretty diverse and awesome.

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