If you ask me about my influences, you’re gonna hear something different, strange, a little odd. Mass effect. Yep, one of my greatest influences for writing science fiction romance is a video game. An interactive fight to save the galaxy from the Reapers that is pretty much a choose-your-own-adventure book of killing things, making epic friendships and romancing the space.
Commander (insert your name here) Shepherd is tapped to rid the galaxy of our new dreaded enemy, the reapers. You have a ship, the Normandy, and a crew with epic awesomeness included, and a mission. First, find and stop Sauren from doing his thing and destroy the giant reaper that attacks the citadel, then you pick a love interest because well…. we could all die. Assuming you love shooters, which I didn’t at first. I was a Skyrim girl. Give me a sword and a dream, and I was a happy camper.
Assuming all that, you get to the point of Mass Effect 2 where you start making choices and they start having consequences on … personal relationships, so a word, a simple choice of your response and instant romance.
Now, I admittedly do not MACO. For those of you familiar with the small, metal bundle of gaming frustration, it’s a vehicle, a clunky, hard-to-use killer of Geth. Like all but the most die-hard of Mass Effect groupies, I hate that thing. My games start on 2. I admit it.
My first play through was Thane. Okay, if you are a Mass Effect virgin, Thane is an alien, non-human, assassin who joins the crew of the Normandy to make amends for his life choices before it ends. So, from the first, my guy was dying. How epic is that? What becomes clear throughout the progression of your game is that nobody is getting out of this alive most likely, Well, certainly nobody named Shepherd. This is the environment, the circumstance of my first Mass Effect romance, and I still love Thane. Really.
He’s the philosopher, the rogue, the forbidden, the bad boy, the hero, all rolled into an exotic green package. He’s also the most tragic. You help him find and restore his son to a life of non-violence and reconnect him with his father. As long as you can do surveillance correctly, which is apparently a challenge for some of us. My fail rate is around fifty percent. You can stop laughing. I heard that.
Anyway, Thane was my first, and you never forget your first, Siha.
My point is: Our influences, inspiration, media connection is changing. It’s becoming more dynamic, more fast-paced and more interactive. I believe the burgeoning popularity of science fiction romance is, in part, due to this trend. Women are gaming. Sorry, guys. And are frequently so much more of the market, that I think the industry has some soul searching to do about letting women in and respecting the input they bring to the table. That’s a whole other discussion.
Romance novels in sci-fi are simply an extension of that influence, a possible symptom of approaching equality in the last bastion of manhood, gaming. Older women, like someone possibly like me maybe, are not just buying their kids games. They are playing with them. My son and I discuss strategy. We analyze plot lines and argue over the effectiveness of weaponry. It’s a brave new world.
There appears to be a subtle shift from sex to romance among the gaming producers. Now, I’m not saying that woman are going to show less cleavage in games. That’s not going to happen. (Cough…Miranda) What I’m saying is that as the platforms and tech expand women are going to get a piece of that pie, and by pie, I mean, feeling the love.