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Heinlein's male/female couples vs. those of other writers
http://www.heinleinsociety.org/thsnexus/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1328
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Author:  JJGarsch [ Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Heinlein's male/female couples vs. those of other writers

This derives from the "characterizations" thread:

How much "realism" do we expect when we encounter couples in SF?

One of my favorite Phil Dick novels has at its center a (childless) marriage gone terribly wrong: Now Wait for Last Year. This has been supposed to draw upon Dick's actual third marriage when he lived in Point Reyes Station, Marin County, in the early 1960s (similarly for the central marriage in Clans of the Alphane Moon, which did produce offstage children; Dick's third wife was a widow with daughters, and they also had a daughter of their own).

If personal experience did play a role in the creation of the occasionally suicidal husbands and self-centered, vindictive wives in those novels, then perhaps (by contrast to Dick's third marriage) Heinlein had such an untroubled third-and-final marriage that, as a result, couples required for story purposes tended to be ill-defined as couples. Example: Clifford's parents in Have Space Suit. We are told what a charming curmudgeon Dad is right off the bat, with the story of the IRS agent's visit, but of the couple we know only that Dad would curl up and die if anything happened to Mom, quiet and undifferentiated though she may be. (We do learn at the end that she was once his student at university, but that doesn't shed any light on her character.)

I don't mean to imply that an author's personal experience is required to create "realistic" characters (or couples), of course... nor that realism is always desirable.

Author:  PeterScott [ Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein's male/female couples vs. those of other writer

JJGarsch wrote:
How much "realism" do we expect when we encounter couples in SF?

Enough to move the story along and not hijack its primary theme. Assuming that the relationship of the couple isn't central to the story, the old comparison to a window applies; are they there to be plate glass, as transparent as possible, or stained glass, as beautiful as possible but necessarily opaque?
Quote:
I don't mean to imply that an author's personal experience is required to create "realistic" characters (or couples), of course...

Quite; numerous authors have created "realistic" fantasies without personal experience of goblins or mages.
Quote:
nor that realism is always desirable.

A wealth of potential discussion lies behind that simple clause. Look at Seinfeld, for example. It's basic structure relies on caricatures; taking personalities and behaviors to an extreme and then pushing them just a bit beyond what's customary and rational in order to create comic value.

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