Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Unsuspecting Bridegroom

A popular plot in both science fiction and historical fiction is that of the forced marriage. It is similar to the Sabine women plot, but there is an added twist in that one or both of the couple doesn’t have a choice, while the Sabine women were given the option of returning home. In historical fiction, the plot device typically centers on the cultural taboos of the day. The woman ends up pregnant and convinces some poor sap to marry her so the child won’t be born out of wedlock. In science fiction, the plot typically centers on the cultural differences between two planets. A visitor to a planet enjoys the local nightlife until some attractive woman offers him some kind of gift, like food or something else. Wanting to make a good impression, he accepts the gift, only to discover later that by doing so he has married the woman.

Both science fiction and historical fiction tend to be surreal. Everyone assumes that the law of the land doesn’t prevent these strange things from happening, but if we set the story in contemporary America, we begin to question whether someone would be so ignorant and whether there might be laws to protect the stupid. It is difficult to put it in a contemporary setting, though I won’t say impossible, without violating the suspension of disbelief.