melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2011-04-07 08:59 pm

Love & Marriage

One thing I love in a good SF story is ways of doing love, marriage, and romance that don't buy in to our society's idea of love+romance+sex+monogamy all on one single person as the only way to do it.

I have a small collection of worlds that have come up with better ways, and I have a great deal of fun trying to fit the 'shipping debates from various fandoms into these other ways of looking at love. I especially love the way that many of them explicitly acknowledge the value of non-sexual, sometimes non-romantic, relationships that are of equal importance with the sexual ones.

Since I've been playing with Dresden files crossover fic in a couple of these fandoms lately, I thought it might be time to introduce you all to some of my favorites! Plus I really want people to do more AUs using these ideas, so I am selfishly posting this in order to increase the probability (even if only slightly.) So here are my five favorite alternate marriage/romance systems as displayed in SF, in order of increasing complexity.

Original Source: Many, but you should all read The Tale of the Five because Diane Duane writes it more joyously than anyone. And without the creepy bits that Heinlein puts in.
Fanworks: Many! Not many TotF fanworks though. Which is a travesty.
Someone else's explanation: Group Marriage @ wikipedia

Explanation: Presumably all of my readers have at least a passing familiarity with the concept of polyamory and it not being horrible, right? Group marriage is a subset of polyamory (though there's an argument to be made that actually modern Western polyamory was born out of group marriage as portrayed by Heinlein.) Group marriage involves a group of more than two people (usually of at least two genders) formalizing a relationship in which they share, usually, some form of household and parenting duties, commit to the relationships within the marriage as their most important relationships, and generally agree to some level of sexual or emotional fidelity to the marriage partners as well.

Most of the other relationships described below are really subsets of group marriage, and a lot of SF includes versions of it, but the 'simple' form (not really simple at all!) that is just a group of people deciding they all love each other enough to attempt perfect union is always going to be my favorite. Especially when it's built into a world where that is considered completely natural and normalized.

Tale of the Five (Also sometimes called the Middle Kingdoms series) by Diane Duane is the series that does it best. It's a fairly standard High Fantasy trilogy about dragons and lost swords and magic and kingship and evil sorcerers, but it's set in a world where bisexuality and polyamory are the norm - all relationships are open unless otherwise stated, and marriages can have as many people as you want. And she works this into the cloth of the world seamlessly, with all the ramifications worked out. When I'm writing an everybody's-bi-everybody's-poly story, I think of it as a Middle Kingdoms AU.

The most important thing with writing a group marriage and making it interesting is to acknowledge that every smaller combination of people within the group has their own relationship within the larger marriage, and those relationships are all different, with their own dynamics, and all worth their own exploration. You get a good group together, marry them, and then start exploring all the inner 'ships, and you can keep exploring forever. (One marriage in the Middle Kingdoms has seven people in it, which makes 128 total relationships. Someday I am going to write a drabble series that explores them all.)

Group marriage is the obvious solution to shipping wars in about 90% of fandoms.

Original Source: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Fanworks:Not as much as there should be of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress fanfic.
Someone else's explanation: Line Marriage @ the Heinlein concordance

My Explanation: Heinlein played around a lot with polyamory, but I think line marriage is my very favorite of all of his ideas about sex, if only because it's so functional.

Basically, a line marriage is a poly marriage where every few years, as the older members of the marriage die, they marry in young people to replace them. So the marriage always has (usually it seems like a dozen or so) members ranging in age from teenagers to elderly. As a result, the marriage itself never dies. Children of a line marriage marry into other lines, and don't inherit from their parents, all the assets remaining with the marriage. In a lot of ways, a line marriage is like a corporation, only less soulless and with more sex.

Anyone in a line marriage is free to have sex with anyone else in the line, but sex and romantic love are not really the important part. And there are often complicated sub-relationships within the line, with some pairings and participants far more sexual than others, and also things going on around seniority, with lots of room for cross-generational goodness. The oldest members lead the family, but it requires a unanimous vote to add a new member.

I love line marriage; I rather suspect it's the best idea Heinlein ever had about sex. Line marriage is a fun way to do a family-of-choice that's a bit more structured and might outlive its founders, especially if you like adding a bit of incestuous overtones and/or age difference for spice. Crane Poole & Schmidt is totally a line marriage. So is SG1. So is the Batfamily. (In fact, a better example of a line marriage than the Batfamily I cannot imagine. Except for the way the writers are uncomfortable with line marriage and keep trying to make the younger members into blood relations: sure.)

Original Source: Short stories in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea and The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. Le guin (A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, Unchosen Love and Mountain Ways)
Fanworks: An Ever-Fixed Mark, the amazing Merlin AU of amazing.
Someone else's explanation: The Introduction to 'Mountain Ways'.

Explanation: On the planet O, there are Men and Women. There are also Morning people and Evening people. Your identity as Morning or Evening -- your moiety -- is just as inborn and immutable, and at least as important, as your gender. You are of the same moiety as your mother, and the only tabooed sexual relationships on O are between people of the same moiety.

A marriage on O has four participants: a Morning man, a Morning woman, an Evening man, and an Evening woman. The Morning Woman and the Evening man sleep together, and their children are Morning; the Evening Woman and the Morning man sleep together, and their children are Evening. The two women also sleep together, as do the two men. The Morning pair don't sleep together, nor do the Evening pair, but they are expected to have close nonsexual relationships.

This is complicated enough, especially since nobody is getting married until there is a complete foursome together, but Le Guin managed to queer it up even in canon: apparently, while it is not common, it is not entirely unknown for a sedoretu to have three men or three women in it, or for people to be genderqueer within the sedoretu. As long as the morning/evening ratios are right, and nobody's sleeping with anybody from their own moiety, the neighbors are generally willing to look the other way; moiety is more important than gender.

Sedoretu are amazing fun, and there need to be for fandom AUs that use them: I only know of the one that's linked above, in BBC Merlin fandom. But there are so many other fandoms that have central foursomes for whom a sedoretu would be perfect! To start with I really want to see some Stargate teams sent to O and assumed to be sedoretu. But there are plenty more possibilities. To bring up Harry Potter again: Harry and Hermione are both Evening people, obviously, and Ron and Ginny are both Morning since Molly obvs. is, so they can all get married in a sedoretu! And Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione can be awesome, and so can Ron/Harry and Ginny/Hermione, and meanwhile Ron and Ginny can be all sibling-y together and Harry and Hermione can be total best friends.

Really in any situation where people solve the problem of slash + canon het by pairing up the het love interests too becomes an amazing sedoretu. This happens especially a lot in RPS fandoms but there are lots of fandoms where sedoretu could fit seamlessly. (Hodgins and Bones are Evening, Booth and Angela are Morning: y/y/mfy? And Wilson needs to find a nice Evening girl who wants to stick around, so that he and Cuddy and House can get married already.)

Original Source: The Gameplayers of Zan by M. A. Foster + the rest of the Ler trilogy
Fanworks: None that I know of. ):
Someone else's explanation: Braid at the SF wikia

My Explanation: the Ler are a genetically engineered subspecies of humanity, intended to be 'supermen' but ending up more different than better. They live on a reservation on Earth and have worked very hard at building a separate cultural identity for themselves.

Ler have a complicated sexual cycle in which they go through long periods of sexuality and asexuality. They also have only two fertile periods in their lives, which means that the only way the population can grow is through very rare multiple births or third pregnancies. As a result, they have a marriage system design to maximize fertility and genetic mixing while still allowing a stable family structure.

The basic Ler social structure is a braid. The core of the braid are two insiblings, who were born and raised in the braid, but are not genetically related to each other. When the insiblings undergo their first fertile period, they have sex, and have a child together; that child is the elder outsibling. Before their second fertile period, each of the insiblings finds an outsibling from another braid who is about to reach their first period of fertility, and "weave" the new outsiblings into the braid. The children of the outsibling+insibling pairings become the insiblings of the next generation. Finally, the outsiblings have their second fertile period together, and their child becomes the braid's younger outsibling. The genes of the braid's founding insiblings are carried down through the generations without the insiblings ever being blood relations. (There is a science-ex-machina reason why the gender ratios almost always work out right.)

Relationships within the braid, and how those relationships change between sex allowed, sex required, and sex forbidden before & after the fertile periods, can get really chewy and complicated. (Also, while homosexuality is pretty much invisible in this canon, there are various ways that they get queered up anyway. My username comes from a character in this book & I am amused that even ten years ago I chose to identify with the minor character who is vaguely genderqueer and markedly, freakishly asexual by her society's standards.)

Braids are chock full of incesty fun. In fact, they are practically an excuse to do incest 'ships without making anyone be actually genetically related. One example of a story that would be *immeasurably* improved by giving them Ler braids is Wuthering Heights. It also works really well with fandoms where there's a core het partnership, and then canon brings in outside love interests for them instead. No need for tearful breakups or writing people out, just weave all four of 'em into the braid!

Original Source: Homestuck
Someone else's explanation: Troll Romance the short version

My Explanation: Oh, Homestuck trolls. I don't even read the blasted comic, and yet.

Homestuck's trolls acknowledge four types of romantic relationships: Matespritship, Kismesissitude, Moirallegiance, and Auspisticism. We are told that the main thing troll romance has in common with human romance is that it's incredibly confusing for everyone involved, and most of what we know about it in practice comes from the experiences of a group of very young trolls who have other things to think about - it's like trying to derive human romance by reading Twilight.

As a result there is a lot of debate in the fandom as to what the four 'quadrants' actually involve, complicated of course by individual fans' shipping preferences, so any attempt at explaining them is probably going to cause controversy. There have also been various attempts to systematize the relationships, but I happen to disagree strongly with fanon on that, so we're not going to get into it here.

Troll relationships are usually put on a grid, which each relationship in a quadrant. The left column is the "concupiscent" or sexual relationships; the right column are the "conciliatory" or nonsexual romances. The top row are the "red" or postive relationships; the bottom row are the "black" or negative relationships. A troll's goal for fulfillment is to have someone to fill each of their four quadrants, presumably in a stable or semi-stable way. The relationships are (ideally) mutual - if A is B's matesprit, then B is A's - but each of the four relationships is not necessarily linked to the others. Gender is irrelevant. Trolls also believe that each person has a destined partner for each of the four quadrants, who they will eventually find, hopefully in time.

There is a lot more symbolism and terminology and argument around troll relationships and biology, but I am not going into it all here.

Matespritship is Lust and Liking. It's the closest to what we think of as human romance and love. But trolls don't expect matespritship to be the be-all and end-all of romance, and don't expect a matespirit to give them everything they need, so matespiritship is both simpler and more complicated. I imagine that without the pressure to be everything to each other, the illusions of love and perfection get to last a lot longer.

Kismesissitude is lust plus hate. It is what fandom likes to call "Foe Yay" or hatesex - nemeses holding on to a rivalry fuelled by unwilling respect and sexual tension. Humans - or at least fannish humans - tend to have a good understanding of these relationships, there are certainly enough people who ship them in fandom, but among humans, generally a "happy ending" for such a pairing is supposed to include not being enemies any more. Trolls, on the other hand, consider the foeyay relationship to be the goal - kismeses becoming matesprits happens but is far from ideal. (Matesprits becoming kismeses happens a lot too. Sometimes a relationship oscillates wildly between the two down the concupiscent side.)

Moirallegiance is positive feelings without lust. This is probably close to how fandom feels about "partners". The duty of a moirail is to keep their partner sane and at least semi-functional, or at least stop them from snapping and killing other people, or themself. The first fandom example I can come up with is Mulder and Scully, due to it having the relevant risk of snapping and death all 'round. Holmes and Watson are moirails too. So are House and Wilson. This quadrant can be read as romantic friendship/platonic partnership, only drop the fluffy illusion endorphins part and have them see right into each other's weak points and dark places from the beginning. In some ways it's the deepest of the troll relationships, but keeping it non-sexual is important.

Auspisticeship is the relationship that probably has the most confusion about it. It is romance with neither lust nor liking. I propose that its closest analogues are relationships that humans think of as familial, like parents or siblings: you are auspistice for someone you don't necessarily always like, and don't want to sleep with -- heck no, that would be a trainwreck - but somehow you care about their welfare anyway, and your life would have an empty place without them. An auspistice apparently spends most of their time making sure their partner's other relationships are functional and at least quasi-stable, and it's implied that their most important role is to keep kismeses from killing each other. You can probably think of a fandom with characters like that, and if they aren't seen as familial, they're probably exes.

In practice, working with a network of troll relationships gets complicated fast - the fewest trolls you can have in a closed system and still mutually fill all quadrants is six, but in practice, there are these tangled webs where even trolls get quickly lost figuring out who is what to who ... kind of like human relationships, only trolls have names for more of them.

It is, however, still awesome to work out troll relationship quadrants for people. For example: Harry's matesprit is Ginny, his kismesis is Draco, and during the books Ron and Hermione fluctuate between being his moirail and his Auspistice, but I think by the last book Ron is moirail and Hermione is auspistice. Meanwhile, Hermione is matesprit with Ron and mutual auspistice with Harry, but I am less sure about her other two quadrants - I suspect the first person she played blackrom games with was Rita though, and she could probably pull off moiraillegiance with Viktor. Ron is matesprit with Hermione and moirail with Harry, and I suspect his auspistice is Ginny (I have decided incest is irrelevant in the conciliatory quadrants), but he has had no luck at all finding a proper kismesis. Ginny is matesprits with Harry, auspistices with Ron, and kismeses with Tom; I suspect she has a moirail too, we just didn't see enough of her to know who it is (but it ought to be Neville!)

See, doesn't that make a lot more sense than the 'shipping arguments people usually have? :D

Also, because I hate all the terms currently in circulation in the asexual community for the not-sexual-not-exactly-romantic-but-necessary-to-life partnerships, I am considering trying to sneak "moirail" into the discourse...

So what are your favorite fictional systems of romance and marriage? What do I need to add to this list?
sqbr: Nepeta from Homestuck looking grumpy in front of the f/f parts of her shipping wall (grumpy)

[personal profile] sqbr 2011-04-09 09:59 am (UTC)(link)
Oh wow I love this post. I'm actually not all that into AUs which write people as other species etc, but I am a HUGE fan of interesting alien attitudes to sex/gender/relationships etc so it was fascinating anyway.

With Homestuck: An Auspistice relationship has three people, not two. A keeps B and C's relationship stable, and the A/B/C triple is the relationship, not A/C or A/B. Fanon has a lot of Auspitices keeping kismeses etc from killing each other etc, but afaict it only comes up in canon as A stopping B and C from becoming kismeses in the first place (because B is already kismesis with D, say)

It's worth noting that Homestuck troll society is very anti-poly within each quadrant, and that this is one of the reasons auspitices are valued. Thus far there have been no poly troll relationships (from a troll POV) in canon, though there has been people having crushes on multiple people at once, and complicated feelings between exes who have new partners. Friendship (rather than being moirails) is kind of queer, I guess, it's certainly seen as strange.

Personally I would love if one of the trolls decided they were asexual in one or more quadrants, since there's no longer a death sentence on being single. There's certainly some who seem very unenthusiastic about finding a kismesis.
Edited 2011-04-09 10:03 (UTC)
sqbr: She's getting existential again. It's ok I have a super soaker. (existentialism)

[personal profile] sqbr 2011-04-19 01:11 am (UTC)(link)
I do tend to read it as a three person thing from canon (though I tend not to agree with the way fanon extends it) but since I'm also not convinced that that actually works I can accept your interpretation :)

(Anonymous) 2011-05-30 07:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I know I am late to the party, but from the in-canon explanation the Auspitice is a negative relationship, meaning it's not needed to keep moraillegiances and matespritships stable; it seems to indicate that its main function is to keep new kismessitudes from occurring when someone already has a kismesis. That's how Hussie explains in it-comic, anyway. The negative could indicate one of two things: either the negative feelings are towards the person keeping the other two from killing each other (which in troll society doesn't seem ridiculous; they seem very much capable of strongly disliking someone without disregarding everything they say), or that person is "neutral" and the trying-not-to-get-killed person is the negative. But it's still negative in some way, so having them as a (postive) friend that manages the positive romances doesn't really make sense.

And I think it's pretty reasonable to take Kanaya as an example, given that she is the only example; it's the least-explored romance in the comics, with a set of guidelines put out that are never truly met. She may not be perfect but she's what canon gives us.

It's just... there's no canon account of an auspitice getting involved in a person's moraillegiance or matespritship, in canon or through what the author says. And since it's a platonic relationship (that, as is stated in the comic, involves three people) there's no real reason to believe it involves a person's kismesis. (The kismesises generally don't want to kill their partner anyway; their hate is fulfilling and killing them would be like killing their matesprit and would leave them without that quadrant filled.) Also, when two quadrants were specifically linked it was mentioned in canon: the kismesis and matespritship.

I'll also note that although ideally they want all four quadrants filled, most trolls don't seem particularly concerned with that quadrants, except maybe Kanaya; they're also significantly less concerned with moraillegiance, even though that is the only stable troll relationship among the kids we see. That's probably at least in part due to the fact that matespritship and kismessitude are considered necessary for reproduction, and if someone is unable to provide genetic material when the time comes they are killed. That's no longer an issue for the trolls in the comic, but those quadrants are still at the forefront of their mind. So, basically, the left quadrants are seen more or less as necessary, while the right two are more like highly desired. And, probably because the entire thing is seen through a human lens anyway, there's more focus with the kids on matespritship. Kismessitude is a close second, but aside from Eridan no one's actively looking into one, and Eridan's actively looking into all of the quadrants. All of them. (Though we do at least have a canon example that occurred before those trolls were hatched, now, even that one managed to fall apart. Although it was a pair of which half was a lawless pirate who probably had no trouble escaping the imperial drones, which is just as well, given that she appeared to have no matesprit for hundred of sweeps.)

/rambling but basically: auspitice is three people by canon, at least, and a negative, platonic relationship

I hope I don't sound like some angry lump of person, but you did say you didn't read the comic, and I have ingested the entire thing in under a month with near constant reference to the pages about troll romance.
phidari: (Default)

[personal profile] phidari 2014-04-01 04:25 am (UTC)(link)
Hey! In this post you say you haven't read Homestuck, but that was like three years ago; has that changed? Because the canon page that describes auspisticism is pretty close to what you describe as the "fanon" version of it:
This quadrant involves a particular type of three-way relationship of a black romantic nature. Falling on the conciliatory side, it has no bearing on the reproductive cycle, except for indirect ramifications.

When two trolls are locked in a feud or some otherwise contentious relationship, one can intervene and become their AUSPISTICE. The auspistice mediates between the two, playing the role of a peace keeper, preventing the feud from boiling over into a fully caliginous rivalry.

Since such lesser feuds are quite common among trolls, there is a significant need for auspisticing parties. Without them, too many ashen feuds would become caliginous, and begin to conflict with other exclusive kismesis relationships, leading to a great deal of social complexity and sore feelings (even more so than black romance usually involves). Without auspisticism, the result would be widespread black infidelity.

In fact, your description of auspisticism is an unfortunately widespread fanon misinterpretation! I was wondering if you still had this opinion?
Edited 2014-04-01 04:25 (UTC)