Thursday, April 16, 2009

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Bug-Eyed Monsters In Love

Nor Crystal TearsThe heartwarming tradition of Bug-Eyed Monsters (B.E.M.) is a convention of the science fiction genre that dates back to the 1930s. When these insectoids-on-steroids weren’t busy invading Earth and instigating general mayhem, they displayed an unabashedly insatiable appetite—in more ways than one—for human females.

Surprise, surprise. Yawn.

However, B.E.Ms aren’t all bad—they’re just drawn that way. My first experience in books with this particular trope was Alan Dean Foster’s NOR CRYSTAL TEARS. It’s a “first contact novel about the meeting of the insect-like Thranx and humans.” I remember reading this book several times but it’s been so long I can hardly remember a thing about it. But I recall enjoying it a great deal. And Foster’s skill certainly rendered the Thranx as far more sophisticated than the B.E.M.s of yore.

NOR CRYSTAL TEARS is told from the POV of Thranx protagonist Ryo (short for “Ryozenzuzex”). Ryo is a highly sympathetic character, if memory serves, which must explain the warm fuzzies I experience whenever I think about him.

Hold on a minute…just warm fuzzies, or something deeper altogether?


NOR CRYSTAL TEARS focuses on the psychological experience of first contact, but from the perspective of an “other.” Alan Dean Foster accomplished it so effectively that even the most squeamish, insect-aversive readers will be drawn to Ryo. Say…just like a moth to the light! (Ba-da dum!)

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I recently became smitten with another character of insectoid origin. His name is Vel, and he makes his first appearance in Ann Aguirre’s GRIMSPACE. This character’s role is expanded in the sequel WANDERLUST.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say anything more, except to emphasize that Vel is an intriguing secondary character. So much so that I believe he deserves his own book.

Yes, you read that right—I want to read an SFR featuring a romance either between two B.E.M.’s or between a B.E.M. and a human. What the hey-ho, let’s order ‘em both up! I think a story like that could be quite compelling. Although it’s easy for me to express my interest in such a tale, I can definitely imagine how difficult it would be to pull off that kind of feat.

To be specific, I don’t mean an SF book with romantic elements—I’m talking about a story where the romance is front and center, or at least 50% of the plot. It could include sexual relations, or not. I’m not seeking a voyeuristic peek into a B.E.M.’s sex life. It’s the emotional journey between a B.E.M. and a human that I’d like to experience. In fact, the lack of sexual relations, and/or the physical incompatibility that would inevitably ensue, would make for a much more intriguing journey. Bittersweet City, for sure.

Will I get my wish? Probably not. Even if Ann Aguirre wanted to write one, her publisher would probably decline it. Ace, you just lost a sale, nyah! A small press author might serve it up, though….

Now, you might have an opinion on simply the presence of B.E.M.’s in science fiction romance and by all means, I want to hear them. That in and of itself would make an interesting discussion.

But what about the idea of Bug-Eyed Monsters in love? Too icky, or too delicious for words?

Joyfully yours,

Heather