Anyone catch the New York Times piece on Literary Darwinism (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/06darwin.html)? It postulates that literature is driven by societal forces and its main object is to instruct future generations in the knowledge they need to successfully propagate the species.
Interesting. It makes sense, especially with “classic” novels. Othello teaches us that homicidal obsession is not the best path to successful mating while The Odyssey demonstrates that perseverance and patience are pretty good traits if you want to pass on your DNA. As You Like It has a lot to say about the importance of fidelity while A Tale of Two Cities reveals that one man’s sacrifice for the greater good is worthwhile if it allows another to successfully mate.
So what would a literary Darwinist say about romance? I suspect our works of fiction would score fairly high when analyzed. Let me take a stab at dissecting my own work.
In BLINK OF AN EYE (Tor Books, May 2006), the first in the Hart and Drake series, an ER doctor refuses to stand on the sidelines when it comes to protecting her patients. Her impetuousness almost gets her killed. The hero is a police detective who observes situations in minute detail before taking action. His reserve also places them both in jeopardy.
Hmm…doesn’t bode well for future generations if these two can’t live long enough to do some serious, hot and steamy propagating.
Never fear, once they begin acting together as partners, they find the strength to save each other and defeat the bad guys. And yes, some heavy-duty propagating action follows (and continues into the next book, SLEIGHT OF HAND).
By emphasizing the importance of not only finding a sexual partner but also the need to cherish and respect each other in a committed relationship, our Happily-Ever-Afters have a lot to teach future generations. Not only do our heros and heroines end up satisfying their own urgent imperative to propagate the species, their relationship provides an excellent environment to raise future generations and the balanced nature of their partnership creates enough extra energy that they actually have time to occasionally venture forth and save the world.
Seems to me as if humanity has a lot to thank us romance writers for!
So, next time someone dismisses romance as a genre, tell them we’re not just writing stories to entertain, our stories may just be the key to survival of the species.
Personally, I think we can use all the help we can get. What do you think?