Family in SFF

The Big Peat

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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?

Maybe - but there is a decent whack of female writers and their works aren't much different in terms of the focus on a small group having an adventure of some sort. They might use family as a backdrop, a reason, a hook - Vanye's exile from his half-brothers in Gate of Ivrel, Chanticleer's search for his son in Lud in the Mist - but they don't use them as the whole story the same way Martin approaches doing so, or certain soap operas do.

I'd suggest we're maybe instead looking at perceptions of audience and their interest. Boys like adventure! They don't like complicated emotional stuff. Female fans who do like big ensemble dynamics - see a lot of Star Trek's original fanbase - are shuffled to one side. Female writers who write what boys want are promoted. Male writers who stray aren't promoted as much, although they might find their way there in the end.
 

tinkerdan

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I think we overlook RAH's contribution of things like the Rolling Stones, they were quite the family.
I just finished reading John Varley's Red Thunder and Rolling Thunder Series and that is all about family and at least three generations.
Even Podkayne of Mars was family with her her brother and their uncle.
Honestly any SF with colonization involved has to be family oriented--you can't colonize without families.

Seems very shortsighted to lump all SF into single family or lone wolf adventures when there are plenty of examples that go far beyond that

Even Seaton and Crane did not travel far in the Skylarks without their wives.

Then there was Zelazny's Nine princes of Amber.

And Philip Jose Farmer had his Tier Worlds.

And Julian May's Galactic Milieu Series.

Don't forget McCaffery's Tower and Hive series.


...
 

Abernovo

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Sorry to bang on about one of my favourite authors, but Becky Chambers has family feature in a couple of her books, particularly Record of a Spaceborn Few, which centres on family, including multi-generation families, and wider community.

I think one thing sff has done well in some circumstances is looking at found family. Jo's Abendau series also had that.

I'm pretty sure there are more examples I could find. I must admit, having no siblings or many close relatives, I find the community aspect interesting in books, rather than the idea of sizeable families. I'm sure I could expand on that in a better way, but I'm on a quick lunch break. Work calls! :)
 

HareBrain

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I think one thing sff has done well in some circumstances is looking at found family.

Actually that was one of the things that sparked this thread. Maybe it's the writers I follow on Twitter, but I noticed found family gets mentioned a huge amount there; saddled-with family, hardly at all.
 

Abernovo

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Actually that was one of the things that sparked this thread. Maybe it's the writers I follow on Twitter, but I noticed found family gets mentioned a huge amount there; saddled-with family, hardly at all.
"Saddled-with family"-- brilliant! :ROFLMAO:

Hmm, I think I saw you tweet on the subject, and did wonder. Oddly enough, I was watching a vlog which covered some of the same question, to a degree.

I would enjoy seeing more family mentioned in sff (and not just a cause for revenge in fantasy novels). I'd also like to see more diversity of families (not all 2 adults who have 2 kids (although they are equally important, and you are equally loved and valued)), and neighbourhoods of families. #Communitypunk, I think you just got created. :p
 

The Judge

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Not quite multiple generations with multiple children in each, but Carol Berg's Lighthouse duology is wholly dependent upon family relationships for every aspect of the plot. Valen's family which he escapes because of how he is treated within it by -- in different ways -- his grandfather, parents and siblings, and their inter-relationship is pivotal; the royal family which is tearing the land apart because three brothers all vie to be king; and the danae which are involved in familial relationships with them both, and one of whose leading families has unwittingly been the cause of even greater destruction.
 

HareBrain

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I think I saw you tweet on the subject

No, that wasn't me. I don't think I can have seen that one.

Perhaps that's a subconscious factor that puts a lot of writers off.

I know I've been guilty of an attitude of not putting in things that I don't think truly earn their place, without considering that some things are worth adding just to thicken the stew a little.

BTW, @Jo Zebedee has been mentioned a couple of times, and rightly so. Her yet-to-be published one that I beta'd is IMO her strongest example yet.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
BTW, @Jo Zebedee has been mentioned a couple of times, and rightly so. Her yet-to-be published one that I beta'd is IMO her strongest example yet.
It does rather put the dysfunctional into family life, though.

I do love writing family stories. There is so much room for conflict - big personalities, people winding each up in the way that only family, who know each other so well, can. Different life focuses but the overall pull of blood (a huge part of Abendau). You only have to look at Harry and William (Windsor) to see it play out.

To be honest, I'm surprised it's not a bigger element in stories. A few others come to mind (since it appears I write what I read...) and they include Luna by Ian McDonald, which is a massive sprawling family drama, a Dynasty in space; St Mary's Chronicles with Jodi Taylor (the later books, after the initial introductions have been made); Ender's Game, where Peter, Ender's brother, is probably the most interesting character in it, and the one most able to get under Ender's skin; The Martian, where families all come into play in terms of decisions made and add the gravitas to the crew's stories.
 

Montero

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Elizabeth Moon Vatta series - large space trading family - focussed on one character plus her interactions with the rest of the family (and lots of other people)

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's enormous Liaden series which is entirely centred on a trading family. Individual books may be one or two people off adventuring, but on the whole the more extended family comes into it.
 

sknox

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There can be books with families in them, but that's not quite the same as being a book *about* family (e.g., Steinbeck's East of Eden, or Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion). I agree with others that fantasy tends to be about adventure and going out into the world, whereas family tends to be about remaining. People have to stay more or less put for the conflict to happen.

But a whole family going out on the adventure, now that's a possibility. Not a lot of that.

I'd like to offer another spin on this interesting topic. We SFF writers talk about other forms of politics, economies, even realities, but it's rare to see other forms of family addressed (Left Hand of Darkness?) and I think there's real opportunity there. We have aliens (or elves and dwarves). Why not explore types of family in those contexts?
 

HareBrain

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But a whole family going out on the adventure, now that's a possibility. Not a lot of that.

I'd love to see that done, say five-six family members (maybe including at least one grandparent) on a classic adventure. Or has it already been?
 

Montero

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I'm not too keen on books that are *about* one thing - so for example I like adventures where family is part of it - taking Vorkosigan saga for example. There are all sorts of motivators for different characters, and family is part of it - in Miles's case wanting to make family proud especially his grandfather and in Ivan's case doing his best to avoid his family - but there is also standing in society, curiosity, driving energy, the need to be in charge, proving that you can do things despite being disabled, helping friends, fancying a young lady and so on. I love multi-nuanced books.
 

farntfar

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but it's rare to see other forms of family
Have you read The gods themselves, by Isaac Asimov? The middle section shows a new type of family, being about an alien race that has 3 sexes.
Although their worries and concerns are very similar to our own, the family problems they need to address are somewhat different.
It was also one of the first books to consider the idea of the multiverse as a scientific question, rather than just a vehicle for an adventure story.
 

Brian G Turner

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I want to make parenthood a key theme in the chronicles series, namely because I don't normally see that among protagonists in fantasy - especially in terms of how it affects self-identity. However, it's taking a while to write. :(
 

Maseeha.Aellari

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I agree. Most writers like the orphan trope, and any family found in the story isn't a direct relative but more of a companion (e.g. Frodo and Sam). I think this still counts as family though because it has a similar bond. Another trope writers enjoy is the loner-turned-friendly-guy IMO. For this to happen, the person can't have any family, at least anyone who they have a close relationship to.

The Mortal Engines Quarter does delve into family later on, with the struggle between parents and children the driving force for the plot of the third novel. Maybe family in SFF is people thrown together by "fate" on a quest? In most cases they argue a lot and eventually realise they actually have something in common
 

Wayne Mack

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Perhaps by removing family from a writer seeks to create compassion for a main character and a justification for the main character to act uniquely from others in the imagined world. This also sets up the opportunity at the end of the story for the main character to rediscover family or a family surrogate at the end. If one accepts having family as 'normal,' then by stripping family away makes the main character unusual and unique.

I just had this thought while reading a different thread on characterization, so I am not sure I am able to fully justify it, but I would be interested in hearing others' reactions to the idea.
 

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