One Sunday in May, many years ago when I was in college, I got a call from my sister. Since it was Mother’s Day, I was expecting that she had called merely to remind me to call our mother, but it wasn’t that. She was calling to warn me that Mom was a mess because our father had just that morning left her. I found out later that after 28 years of marriage, Dad had learned that a woman he had known more than 10 years before, the wife a fellow naval officer, was now a widow. He had been to see her and had received enough encouragement that he had found an apartment and was leaving Mom.
A pretty crappy thing to do, no? And on Mother’s Day, too! Our family was in shock for years. Mom was especially hard hit because she had been a Navy wife for 20 years of her marriage. We had moved every two or three years. She had a college degree, but had never worked outside the home or had a chance for a career of her own. Even after he got out of the Navy, we moved twice for Dad’s job.
I spent a lot of time pondering whether my mother was better off knowing the truth about how Dad felt about her, or worse off because she had been so dependent on him for so long and was now alone. I could never decide. Neither alternative sounded good.
It was many years later, after I had started writing science fiction, that my parents’ divorce planted a seed in my brain. What would life be like if there was no such thing as divorce? What if finding a mate was a matter of biology and not feelings? And furthermore, what if a mated-for-life pair experienced total empathy with each other? They couldn’t then hide their true feelings. This was obviously not possible with humans, so I came up with a whole new species. I named their planet Wakanreo and the people Wakanreans.
Once I got going on the story, I had two main tasks. First, I had to decide how this quirk of biology would affect Wakanrean history and cultures. Second, I had to decide how it would affect individuals, more specifically my protagonists.
For the first task, I decided that one effect of uncontrolled life-long pairing off would be that Wakanrean society is less stratified than ours. Even if there was an aristocracy, arranging marriages only with other aristocrats wouldn’t be possible. Ergo, people could not be kept in their “place.” In modern time, a corporate CEO could step away from his or her desk and suddenly be mated to the office cleaner. Also, being good looking counts for a lot less. No one tries to alter their looks to attract a mate because that doesn’t work. Since biology does the deciding when it comes to mating, there would not be cultures with different family structures—no polygamy, as such, although I did allow for the rare instance when one person pairs off with two others simultaneously. And all cultures have to accept the results of biological mating. If you bond to someone of the same gender, or to two people instead of one, everyone knows it’s not a choice. Sex is in no way related to morality.
As for how this circumstance affects individuals— are Wakanreans better off than humans or worse— I decided that would vary. Luck is very much the decider; if you are a kind person and you bond to another kind person, then the chances are you will both be happy with each other and thus happy in life (Although you could make that case for human marriage, too, I think). But on Wakanreo, if you are a kind person and you bond to a selfish, cold-hearted person, you are truly out of luck. If they dislike you or hate you, you will feel it. And since you can’t divorce a biological process, you are stuck for life. In the end, I decided that Wakanreans are luckier than humans in that they can’t be deceived in a mate, but less lucky in that they have fewer options.
Of course, Wakanreans exist only in my head, and in my books. This is one of the few instances where I knew where a story idea came from. Usually a situation or a scene just pops into my head, but for Alien Bonds, I knew exactly what had planted the idea.
NOTE: the views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and not the SFR Brigade.
A story of two very different people from two very different cultures, a sort of AVATAR combined with PRIDE & PREJUDICE. In ALIEN BONDS, two lives are changed in an instant. Industrial chemist Dina Bellaire travels all the way to the planet Wakanreo to advance her career. Her carefully planned life goes up in flames the second she meets Kuaron Du, a Wakanrean who makes his living singing ancient songs in a dead language. Both of them know they can’t go back to the way they were before they met. They just have to convince the rest of the universe that what happened to them is real.
About the Author
A voracious reader since childhood, Carmen Webster Buxton spent her youth reading every book published by Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, and Georgette Heyer. As a result, her own books mix far-future worlds, alien cultures, and courting customs.
Carmen was born in Hawaii but had a peripatetic childhood, as her father was in the US Navy. Having raised two wonderful children, she now lives in Maryland with her husband and a beagle named Cosmo.
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