Welcome to the Circuit Theory virtual book tour!
As a thank you for helping us celebrate the release of Circuit Theory, we’ll be giving one lucky reader a $10 gift credit to Riptide Publishing! To enter, just leave a comment with your email address included below. Earn additional entries by commenting along each stop of the tour. Thank you to the Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi blog for hosting us and helping us celebrate this exciting release from Riptide Publishing!
Ghost Men and Virtual Lovers
I’ve been tapped to make a post on the topic of the status of virtual reality lovers in the gay romance genre, which I’ve heard rumored isn’t a popular theme.
To be honest, I’m not certain that it’s not popular. I know that it isn’t being written, but scifi overall isn’t the most popular genre among the writers of gay romance. There’s relatively little of it compared to other romance sub-categories, but that doesn’t mean that the readers for it aren’t out there. I don’t think there have been any target studies in our demographic, but I believe that all we truly know so far is that the pool of gay scifi is limited.
That might be because there are misconceptions about what defines a science fiction story, or it could be because authors tend to have a weather eye trained on what publishers are looking for before they sit down at the keyboard. Either way, we can agree that, while it’s not virgin territory, science fiction itself could certainly use a little more exploration in gay romance.
When a writer sits down to write fantasy, the defining thought is “What if?” When they sit down to write science fiction, the thought is often “What if I could…?” People tend to automatically conceptualize the future with themselves participating in it in some way, even if it’s just a fantasy. Therefore, all science fiction is, in small part, a bit of a Mary Sue insert. Maybe that’s just fear of mortality making itself manifest, or maybe there’s so little virtual lover fiction because mortality is too present, with the very perfection of the avatars being a constant reminder that we’re looking at a clever illusion.
Those could be some of the problems with the lack of virtual reality lovers in gay romance. Or it may be that, unlike the devoted paramour/ghost lover trope, there is something disturbingly elusive and unknown about the virtual reality lover, even something faithless.
The virtual reality lover has a life apart from the object of his affection, usually a part that he can never share. When you dismantle the science-fiction framework from the story, the romance is essentially a classic Always Together/Eternally Apart trope (think “Ladyhawke”) which has to end with a total reversal of the tragic circumstances that brought them together, enabling the lovers to finally be together and live happily ever after.
In the case of virtual lovers, the thing that’s keeping them apart is virtual reality, so basically their world would have to blow up. I don’t know if that romance would prove to be satisfying reading, although if someone wants to take up the gauntlet and write a story where virtual lovers lose their digital space and have to make it work in the flesh, have at it!
Having to reconcile real life with virtual space is not always a given, though. Inside digital space, there are fewer logistical reasons to break up. In the real world, time passes, people move, jobs end, but avatarial lives and their virtual relationships can remain frozen in time indefinitely. Put Pinocchio in a corner and all he gets is dusty. Though termites might be a going concern for puppets, avatars would be more fearful of an industrial magnet degausser or EMP burst.
On the flipside, ghost lovers are incredibly devoted. Unlike the shadow and vapor that pixels can turn out to be, spirits offer hope of an enduring existence, and they’re the closest thing we have to ordinary human magic. There’s a sort of winsome promise in ghost lover stories; the appealing possibility of love conquering all challenges.
Of course, everything depends on the skill of the writer. Most ghost lover stories I’ve read were sad, because the lovers lived in two very different worlds that could never merge. In virtual reality, the ending is always up for grabs. Every motive is questionable and nothing is guaranteed.
Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake more brownies, read more yaoi, play more video games, and write her own novels.
Kirby is a 2010 winner of the Epic Award and a two-time winner of the Rainbow Award for her published works in fiction.
Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance, Torquere Press, 2005)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2006)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner’s Luck (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror, MLR Press, 2009)
Circuit Theory (scifi, Riptide, 2012)
Reya Starck lives in England, never gets quite enough sleep, and is a professional procrastinator and consumer of chocolate. By day she is an intrepid bacteriologist, eradicating microbes for a better world order. By night she writes wonderfully queer stories featuring an array of lovely men.
Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.
In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.
Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.