Well, nobody else volunteered to take this one on, so I suppose it falls on my overburdened shoulders. Giving some thought to the topic of Valentine’s Day in the Science Fiction genre, I realized that there are a few directions I could take with this article. One could wander off into the historical origins of the day and then make comparisons to SciFi stories, but that sounds like a High School or College English class writing assignment and incredibly boring. One could also search the genre of Romance novels for those that cross over into the world of SciFi. I am aware that there are some of those, but that would require too much work on my part and just doesn’t appeal to me. What that means is that you’re just going to have to suffer through my dry humor as I consider the concept of romantic relationships as it applies to the vast body of books and movies that I know.
The first name that enters into my mind is Michael Valentine Smith from Robert A. Heinlein’s A Stranger in a Strange Land. If you have read the book, you’re probably wondering what it has to do with romantic relationships. Well, not a whole lot; it’s just about the only SciFi book that I can think of that even has the word “Valentine” in it, and it’s just the guy’s name. Besides that, the book does offer some progressive thoughts about communal relationships that, in my opinion, is very much outside of basic human nature. The problem with communes is that there’s always that one person who takes advantage of the situation.
Well, that was a shoddy start; where can I go next? If you happened to read my Father’s day article (here), you will recall that I mentioned Slippery Jim DiGriz, from Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat, but I didn’t mention his wife Angelina. Upon their first encounter, Angelina is a murderous psychopath, but Slippery Jim is quite taken by her, as she is the first one to outsmart him in a scam. Actually, he falls for the overly clichéd “damsel in distress” gag that most every reader saw coming a mile away. After the Special Corp and Jim finally capture Angelina, she is subjected to “psycho surgery” that removes her murderous tendencies but not her deviousness. So he gets his dream girl through the magic of modern medicine? That’s pretty far-fetched and probably not a good idea, but hey, this is Science Fiction.
I suppose I’m not getting much better here, so I’ll try again. How about Star Wars? Now, here’s a weird set of relationships. We have the beautiful Princess Leia, again a damsel in distress, but pretty good in the occasional fight and really good at hanging out in the control room looking concerned. So who’s the guy? Maybe Luke? Nope, it turns out that he’s her brother (sorry if that’s a spoiler to you; have you been living under a rock for the last twenty years?). So Han then, but what kind of relationship is this? Most of the time they act like a couple of grade school kids: he puts gum in her hair, and she insults him and his friends. Somehow they apparently figure it out, but we really don’t know (from the movies) how that turns out.
Hmm, perhaps I’m the wrong guy to write this piece. I’ve always despised Valentine’s Day. I suppose it began way back in grade school where the teachers would force us to distribute cards with sappy inscriptions like “bee mine” with a picture of a bee – clever stuff there. Then there were those disgustingly bad candy hearts with the same sappy inscriptions as the cards; basically flavored chalk. Do people actually eat those things? I’m convinced that somebody accidentally massively over-produced these disgusting little gems in the 60’s or 70’s, and they’re still dragging them out every Valentine’s Day attempting recoup a few bucks (and they taste like they’re that old).
High school and beyond were a bit better, at least we were no longer forced to participate in the farce. But with the onslaught of radio and television advertising, the retail community sure tried to make our lives hell. Chastising us repeatedly for not running out and dumping all of our hard-earned cash on chocolates, jewelry, and overpriced, low quality roses. Why roses? In February? Whose idea was that? And for us poor slobs with no dates? One was fearful to be seen in public, the filthy single person.
Ah well, perhaps enough ranting. Suffice to say that I did eventually find my special one. We have been married for thirty-five years, and both have similar attitudes about this day, which is this: romance is what you make it, it doesn’t need a special day, you need to make it happen every day (well, okay, you can have Mondays off). So have a happy Valentine’s day, do something nice for that special someone. If you happen to be single, either by choice or by chance, get yourself a pizza and a good book.