Family in SFF

HareBrain

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Watching a (non-SFF) Netflix series recently in which extended family plays an important role, it struck me that we don't see this very often in SFF, despite its enormous potential for complex relationship maps, rivalries etc, with all their dramatic possibilities. I'm talking about the kind of family with two-three generations and multiple children at each level. ASOIAF is the obvious one that builds on this, but apart from that, are there many I'm missing? Even LOTR seems to only include small families -- where are Boromir's cousins, for example? And if it isn't used often, why as writers don't we in SFF do more with it? Why is it left to literary fiction?

I think it hasn't occurred to me before because although I'm one of five children, and my mother was herself one of five, my family was and is pretty dull in terms of the kind of fireworks that make good storytelling. But I can't imagine that's more generally true of SFF writers than lit-fic ones. Obviously exploration-type stories aren't suited to the whole family traipsing along, but often the MCs don't even seem to have much in the way of family in their backstory.
 

Mouse

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Song of Ice and Fire?

HB does mention ASOIAF.

I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I guess that not everybody in a family can be interesting. Most I've done in my own writing is mum/dad + two kids.
 

alexvss

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Dune? It's centered in a clan war.

I think that what often happens in SFF is the orphan farm kid trope, because it's cheap and it works, it creates immediate connection with the reader.
 

farntfar

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where are Boromir's cousins,
I think the Prince of Dol Amroth pretty much fills that spot, although I can't find the family tree to prove it. Certainly Boromir's mother was from the Dol Amroth family.
And Pippin was Frodo's cousin, not to mention the vast and interconnected family trees of Elrond, Galadriel, Aragorn, Isildur, and most of the heroes of the Silmarillion.

Also the Lensman series is almost entirely populated by multiple generations of Kinnisons, forward and backward from the Grey Lensman. So the extended family theme is certainly present.

The Galactic Milieu series, by Julian May features large numbers of Remillard, along with assorted McGregors (even passing down by sperm donorship to Aiken Drum), and several other families of both good and bad persuasion.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Vorkosigan is all about Family and multiple generations.

i write loads of extended family - my fascination seems to sit with the teen-adult relationship spectrum. So much conflict there.
 

CTRandall

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A big part of Naomi Novik's recent Spinning Silver is centred on family relationships, both dysfunctional and non-dysfunctional (which would be functional, I guess :unsure:). They aren't large families but the relationships are as important to the story as anything else going on.

I think that, overall, you're right about this. I can't count how many SFF books I've read that seemed more about showing off a unique world/technology/magic system backed up by paper-thin characters and even minimal plot. Oddly, sometimes a spectacular world is enough to make it work.
 

Dave

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I think it is more because of the exploration/quest nature of many stories, or where the orphaned farm boy rises to become King/Jedi, or of long space journeys sitting in a tin can, or space marines, or apocalyptic stories where everyone has died and society collapsed. I can think of several other examples where family is important, apart from those already given, but I admit that they are few and far between. I'm not sure about the other possibility, that you allude to, that it is because the author's own life experience is not one of a large family. I don't think that can be the whole reason.

It is certainly true that classic age sci-fi and fantasy was more about showing a unique world/technology/magic system and characterisation was poor. I don't think you can say the same about modern sci-fi and fantasy, but then you still get something like Harry Potter, for instance, a orphan living under the stairs with his aunt and uncle and vile cousin.
 

Ursa major

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They may not exactly fit the bill, but Dennis E, Taylor's Bobiverse (SF) novels (We are Legion (We are Bob), For We Are Many, All These Worlds, Heaven's River) have a lot of (unusual) family dynamics in them, across a lot of (not in the least bit typical) generations.
 

hitmouse

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Little Big by John Crowley is all about a large, multigenerational family living in a big house.

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake is about a complicated and neurotic family living in a big castle.

The Earth Abides by George R Stewart has family as a major theme.

Harry Potter is to some extent an extended meditation on family.

or you could try One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magic realism rather than strict sff, but still.

The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen. Sprawing multigenerational family saga. The family happen tobe the titans, gods, and demigods of Greek myth.
 
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HareBrain

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A controversial thought here - is it to do with the relevant absence of female writers in classic sf? Is our focus different and more on family matters?

That might be part of it, though the literary fiction equivalents that came to my mind are often (but just as often?) written by men (e.g. Jonathan Franzen, John Updike). I guess it might also be that the kind of person drawn to writing SFF, male or female, might tend to be more interested in exploring new worlds, magic etc, rather than family dynamics.
 

Droflet

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Abendau's Heir by Jo Zebedee, had heavy family connections. At least at the beginning. This informed the MC throughout the novel.

 

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