23rd Century Romance
A "Sci-fi Romantic Comedy"
People are often confused when I tell them I’ve written a Sci-Fi Romantic comedy.
‘What is it about?’ They ask excitedly, usually greatly intrigued.
“The future of sex and relationships.”
Think You've Got Mail meets Brave New World, but inspired by the french philosopher Jean Baudrillard. The genius behind this wonderful quote:
Some of you who have not read Simulacra and Simulation may be wondering what that means and why it had to be accompanied by a naked ASCII woman composed of the word “sex.”
It means in the screen-dominated modern life, we are often confused between the things themselves and the representations of things.
What is love?
Images of Hollywood romance come to mind, countless romantic comedies.
What is sex?
Beautiful people fucking on screens! Women of impossible photoshopped proportions screaming in orgasmic ecstasy! (This is what virgin teenagers know from watching porn.)
What is war?
A video game (or movie).
We first experience these things through screens, so that when we do eventually really experience them, media has primed our thinking, and often the reality is disappointing—or in the case of war, horrifying.
Here is an amusing personal story to illustrate:
The "defining moment" of my life was sitting on a green carpet in front of a grainy old television, my father snoring on the sofa behind me dressed in only his underwear, and watching Star Wars. I remember the feeling, being completely and utterly captivated, inspired, chills running down my spine. I also remember turning around to look at my father to see him practically naked and scratching his balls. Star Destroyers, light sabers, the Force, my hairy father drooling on the sofa... subconsciously, something clicked. No longer would I be content with “normal” middle class existence. I would, I told myself, seek adventure, do something amazing, and someday walk among the stars.
The next day in my backyard, I was playing Jedi with a baseball bat and it flung out of my hands to come to a rest in the grass. I closed my eyes and stretched out my hand, trying to feel the Force, really wanting to believe in some magical power that Jesus might grant me.
But the bat didn’t move.
It was like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real; another conformation of the fact that this world was a sad, boring, non-magical place: a world of insurance agents rather than Jedi. I cried, having witnessed the danger of impossible expectations that could never be satisfied.
There’s sometimes this weird contrast in our lives—the difference felt between the real world and the screen world, the world of stories. Real life isn't like a fantasy, or advertisements. One of the key ideas behind Neal Gabler's book Life the Movie is how we increasingly understand our lives in terms of media. He writes, 'what the movies provided... was a tangible model to which one could conform life and a standard against one could measure it... Why can’t life be more like the movies? Viewers asked, and then answered that it could.'
But 9 times out of 10, when I shave with a Gillette razor beautiful women don’t come into the room wrapped in towels and eager to touch my face.
It seems silly to even write that, but media has power. What would you think about if your non-pornstar imperfect partner doesn't scream orgasmically during your awkward sex?
Would it be surprising given the thousands of advertisements that surround us each day that we are constantly thinking of sexual partners in terms of products?
Can't we just throw away relationships like we do a two-year-old iPhone?
Won't something new and better come along for us to consume?
Isn't this how we consume pornography? Oscillating between stimulation and boredom, moving on to the next thing, building a tolerance. We consume it, and it does something to us.
What is this ever-increasing on-rush of images doing to us?
The future of romance is filled with more difficult questions than answers. Answers that can only be answered on a person by person basis.
It’s been wonderful hearing the variety of responses and interpretations I’ve gotten regarding 23rd Century Romance. This pleases me very much, as I have gone to great lengths to preserve a certain sense of moral ambiguity about everything in the book. Even the sparse detail was a style choice that makes for a quick read where you can shape the characters in your mind how you will. The point of it all is that your interpretation matters.
Use your imagination.
Humans lives have changed radically in the last 50 years, especially in comparison to what they looked like for most of the thousand years we have been a species. Technology is throwing us into new environments and situations the human race has never encountered before, and we must deal with the questions and challenges as they are presented to us.
As a science fiction writer, my goal is to write stories that help us think about the future. In dealing with the rise of the Virtual, we need to ask intelligent questions about what the proliferation of screens might be doing to us.
I have my own take, but I’ll wait until after more people have read the story until I reveal my thoughts on the story.
But on a general level, for me, 23rd Century Romance is about the dangers of falling in love with the idea of something we can never really have.
Thus concludes my thoughts.
Reading the book is payment enough for me, but I would also greatly appreciate donations, not only to help me break even on 23rd Century Romance but to help raise enough money to spend more time working on my upcoming non-fiction book: How to become a better Christian by becoming an Atheist (and visa versa).
Why read this book? Have your say.
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Wonderful! Glad to hear it!
I enjoyed 23rd Century Romance, Jake. You made me care about Rai (the schmuck-) and Winry, and that's what counts.
I've just downloaded 23rd Century Romance. I'll be back when I've read it.