Fri
Feb 14 2014 11:00am

“As You Wish...” Eight Unabashedly Romantic SF/F Love Stories

Though we know in our heart of hearts that the true meaning of Valentine’s Day is all about brutal martyrdom, it’s a little disheartening that the common reaction to the holiday is often kind of cynical and negative. While we’re not recommending that you go read a Nicholas Sparks novel or spend a bunch of money on bad chocolate or greeting cards, we do wonder: what’s so bad about romance? Or to put it another way, aren’t we allowed to love good love stories? In that spirit, here are eight love stories in science fiction or fantasy narratives that still make us weak in the knees (even if those knees are robotic).

Phil and Rita (Groundhog Day)

Everyone’s favorite time-loop paradox movie is also, at heart, a love story, and an awesomely sweet one at that. If trapped inside of one eternally recurring day, would you use that time to learn as much about someone you loved as possible? Because that’s essentially what Bill Murray does in this movie. The movie is so damn funny that it's easy to forget how ridiculously heartwarming Phil and Rita's gradual romance truly is. Who hasn’t had a day with someone you like that you felt like you were living over and over again?

 

Logan and Jessica (Logan’s Run)

Despite all the various differences between the novel version and film version of Logan’s Run, the story is ultimately not just about Logan, but Jessica, too! Without the romance between these two, the story of Logan’s Run doesn’t make any sense. Jessica is essential to Logan’s transformation from weird future-lawman to a more sensitive and (in some versions) revolutionary person. The other nice touch about Logan and Jessica is that they’re very romantic and caring toward one another in spite of the hedonistic, amoral, and oversexed culture they live in. The idea that once they’re removed from all that, they manage to naturally fall in love strikes a rather optimistic note in the midst of all the dystopian turmoil surrounding them.

 

Torchwood John Barrowman Ianto Jones

Jack and Ianto in (Torchwood)

Though there have been a lot of grand romantic moments in the contemporary Doctor Who universe, its misbehaving step-sibling Torchwood actually might portray romance more realistically. Captain Jack Harkness somehow went from being a lovable rogue on Doctor Who to being a kind of cynical, depressing, know-it-all asshole on Torchwood, at least at times. But, luckily Ianto Jones is there to turn that ship around. Yes, it’s terrible what ends up happening to Ianto (2010 spoiler alert!) but their genuine love for each other is part of what prevented Torchwood from becoming a relentless, brooding piece of dark matter hurtling through the Doctor Who mythos. Ianto and Jack, as a couple, are a massive bright spot in that world, and their relationship always seems real, relatable, and hot.

 

Han and Leia (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)

It may seem somewhat rote, boring, and cliché to throw this one on a list all about love but beyond the palpable romantic sparks between these two, the tension is also damn sexy. When we were kids, there’s a chance the following dialogue exchange went right over our heads: “Being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited!” says Leia. To which Han responds, “Sorry, sweetheart, we didn’t have time for anything else.” How wonderfully bawdy is that? This may be the most suggestive moment in Star Wars, ever. (Right next to Anakin’s rant about sand in Attack of the Clones.) But seriously, from the epic first kiss between Han and Leia, to their stirring theme song, the pitter-patter these spaced-out lovers continue to incite is pretty impressive. We love them. They know.

 

Dune Paul Chani

Paul Atreides and Chani (Dune)

Though Dune is chock-full of people screwing each other over, it’s oddly nice how tight Paul and Chani’s relationship remains throughout all the chaos on Arrakis. Sure, there’s Princess Irulan, who wants to have Paul’s baby and is his legal wife—but that never really gets in the way of his commitment to Chani. In fact, both Paul and his mom—the Lady Jessica—go to great lengths to point out that he considers his true marriage to be to Chani and not Irulan. This sorta makes Chani like the space version of Madame de Pompadour (except she and the Queen are really not friendly, this time around). All in all, Paul and Chani are just a super solid couple. They get stuff done, ride giant sandworms, and they love each other. Oh, and in the respective film versions Chani is played by Sean Young and Barbora Kodetová, who are both incredibly hot.

 

Sheridan and Delenn (Babylon 5)

This couple probably doesn’t get the love their love deserves. Partly because Babylon 5 is often treated like the Ulysses of science fiction television: everyone pretends to know what it is, but few have actually sat down and watched all of it. Granted, Sheridan and Delenn have a very aw-shucks vibe to their relationship, owing mostly to Bruce Boxleitner’s shit-eating grin. But. It’s all pretty damn great. In the season 3 mega-finale “Z’Hadum,” Sheridan literally plunges to his death after his brainwashed ex-wife tries to turn him to the dark side. Sheridan then hangs out with a crazy being-from-before-the-dawn-of-time who knows even deeper magic than the Vorlons, who asks him if he has anything worth living for. The answer: Delenn. How nice! True love brings Captain Sheridan back from the dead! (1990s spoiler alert.)

 

Peter Pan

Wendy and Peter Pan (Peter Pan)

We know, we know. Nobody wants to date someone with a Peter Pan complex, but Peter’s love for Wendy is nothing if not innocent. Also, we're sorry, but if someone flew into our childhood bedrooms and helped us escape our boring lives, we think we’d fall in love with them, too. Peter also shows a willingness to sacrifice himself for Wendy in a way that isn’t at all creepy but noble, in spite of his careless nature. Further, Wendy is no wide-eyed, boring ingénue, but a vibrant, smart heroine who gives Peter a run for his money. Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning, you crazy kids!

 

Princess Bride Westley Buttercup

Westley and Buttercup (The Princess Bride)

Whether you’re referring to the book or the film, there is no doubt that this couple tops the list—they have the most passionate, purest kiss on romantic record! While your average match has their share of trials, Westley is (mostly) dead and still comes back to his beloved Buttercup because, according to him, even death can’t stop true love. (Have you ever had a significant other assure you of something that outrageous? We think not. It stopped Romeo and Juliet cold, after all.) They overcome an evil prince, a kidnapping, and several murder attempts, but more importantly, they overcome their own misunderstandings. Buttercup is very young and they're both a bit too dramatic for their own good, but in spite of their own failings and the obstacles in their path, true love really does conquer all. As you wish, indeed.

 

This article originally appeared February 14, 2013 on Tor.com


Ryan Britt is long-time contributor to Tor.com. 

Emily Asher-Perrin is the editorial assistant at Tor.com.

19 comments
Colin R
1. Colin R
John Crichton + Aeryn Sun
Rob Munnelly
2. RobMRobM
Wash and Zoe - Firefly

Robb and Talisa - Game of Thrones (TV version only)
Peter Ahlstrom
3. PeterAhlstrom
Richard Collier and Elise McKenna. None of the above can beat that. (Well, maybe Westley and Buttercup, though I'm a big fan of John and Delenn as well.)

The movie version of Paul and Chani was terribly cheesy. "Oh, Chani, I love you, I've always loved you," (out of nowhere).

Phil and Rita starts off as terribly dysfunctional, and his view of her is tainted for almost the entire movie. It's only when he starts focusing on helping other people (instead of advancing his own desires) that he changes enough to actually be a person worth falling in love with. But in that case, it's a story of personal change and redemption, and the possible love that results at the end is really peripheral to that. Rita's role is still problematic; some friends were discussing this the other day. If Rita is a "prize" to be won, that's a terrible message. If she's instead put in the role of judge, it's a bit better. It's still not a very two-sided relationship; Rita has only known Phil for less than a week, but he has known her for years. I have trouble seeing how that won't cause them problems in the future. And Phil now has to live in a world where your choices actually matter, when he's gotten very used to a world where they don't.
Dave Thompson
4. DKT
Tristran and Yvaine from Stardust.
Sandy Brewer
5. ShaggyBella
The space marine ( I forget the names)and Zoe Saldana in Avatar. He switched sides and saved a planet.
Colin R
6. big K
In every one of Edgar Rice Burrough's SF series, romantic relationships were an integral part of the plot - John Carter and Dejah Thoris, David Innes and Dian of Pellucidar and Carson of Venus and Duare. And of course the most famous of them all - Tarzan and Jane.
Colin R
7. Cybersnark
WALL*E & EVE. You know why.

Molly and Aikka from Oban Star Racers. Unlike so many anime couples (where one person is usually oblivious), this is a clear case of mutual interest, complete with flirting, playfulness, breakups, forgiveness, and alliance in the face of potential apocalypse. Bonus points for being interspecies (and points for the two of them not actually being shown together in the finale. That's what head-canon is for; they'll meet again).

Deunan and Briareos from Appleseed and Ex Machina. She's a post-apocalyptic super-soldier, he's a full cyborg (the only organic parts left are a few internal organs). It's Beauty and the Beast reimagined as a cyberpunk action movie.

Max Sterling & Miriya Parino from Robotech. The modest human wunderkid pilot and the proud and heartless Zentraedi ace-of-aces, two of the deadliest fighters in the First Robotech War. It was inevitable (and the first time I realized that I was more interested in the romance than in the giant robot space battles).

Aang & Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender. As with Molly/Aikka, this was full of ups and downs, as both characters needed to get over their own expectations. Plus, a lot of ship-teasing.
Colin R
8. Soozcat
I'm trying to figure out how on earth you left off Isabeau and Navarre, from Ladyhawke. One of the most gorgeous love stories ever.
Colin R
9. Kat W.
Han and Leia are the best, closely followed by Delenn and Sheridan, and Westley and Buttercup. Missing from this list, IMHO, are Aragorn and Arwen.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
This is an obscure one, but my fave SF couple is Echo/Ballard from Dollhouse.

Because of the duration of the show, a lot of their development was done offscreen, during a three month unaired time skip, and later a ten year skip, and two huge brain changes that their love had to overcome. But the actors had a good chemistry, and Tahmoh does that kind of role so well.

Of course, being a Whedon show, couples in love are doomed, one dies. But because of the SF tech developed by the show, it's still able to reach a meaningful and powerful conclusion.
Colin R
11. Voryn Dreleth
What about John Crichton and Aeryn Sun!
Colin R
12. Brandoch Daha
And how could you ever forget Ravna Bergnsdot and
Pham Nuwen the Prince of Canberra? And Blueshell and Greenstalk? Not to forget Pilgrim and Queen Woodcarver ...? But we're forgetting Fuchsia and Steerspike, aren't we? And Oceaxe and Crimtyphon, Leehallfae and Shaping, and Maskull and Sullenbode ...

But the most heartwarming romance I've ever encountered on the 'Net, is the one of Our Sweet Lord Jerry Cornelius and Chewbacca the Blessed, whose wedding was witnessed by an as-yet-unnamed individual :
Here I am, standing in the entrance of the Cathedral of the --- , waiting while the bridal party arrives.

Chewbacca emerges from the spacecraft which has just landed, surrounded by his parents, relatives and friends. I have never been to thei rplanet, but it is amazing, seeing so many Wookies in one place.

Glancing down the Cathedral, I can see the groom Jerry Cornelius waiting impatiently, while the organist, Miz Mitzy Beesley, the accomplisheddaughter of the Arch-Bishop Beesley, improvises fugues on "Who will buy
this wonderful morning". The Cathedral is packed full of friends and relations of the groom; according to rumour, he had to revise plans for a much simpler wedding once he had issued raffle tickets for the front seats. The raffle tickets did finance the use of the much larger Cathedral, of course. So we should be grateful for small mercies.

Looking back outside at the bridal party, I am awestruck. Chewbacca looks stunningly masculine in his white wedding dress complete with veil - no, no veil, my mistake, that's a Rebel stealth cloth they use to
hide their presence during scouting trips on hold-out planets of the old Emperor. I suppose I can see the usefulness of the cloth, if the traditional object of the bridal party's traditional late arrival is to cast an air of mystery on the whereabouts of the bride until she
demurely treads the aisle towards her groom.

The bridal party has reached the entrance, where they have started an altercation, or something - it's about ... it's about what should be souvenired! These Wookies don't think small, do they?

That noise, it's just some of Chewbacca's rowdy relatives souveniring - oh my god! they're dismounted the doors and are souveniring them! and that screech of outrage you've just heard, it's Arch-Bishop Beesley dashing down the steps of the Cathedral after them, shouting at them to
return the doors.

It appears they came in their own private spaceship, so have loaded the doors and disappeared.

I did not think hand-grenades were appropriate parts of an Arch-Bishop's attire, nor did I ever imagine that an episcopal crozier held so many rounds, but he's blazing away at that spaceship like he knows his business.

Miz Mitzy Beesley has started a fugue on "Hey Jude". Chewbacca is shouting angrily at his relatives. They've been discussing what else they can souvenir, and apparently someone mentioned Jerry Cornelius -
but Chewbacca's shouted that suggestion down, pointing out that he is the only one who is souveniring Jerry Cornelius.

Where is the Royal Consort Han Solo? In between shouting down his unruly relatives, Chewbacca's been scanning the sky, hoping to see him.

Ah, here he comes - or at least, that's the Millennium Falcon hovering, surrounded by some heavy and light units of the Royal Stellar Wing that surrounds him and Princess Leia whenever they visit outside their sphere of reign and influence.

And here they come, Han Solo looking a little stylish - and absurd - in what must be the latest court fashion, all dark reds and light creams, puffed-out collars and sleeves and stripes down the side of the shirt. But although Chewbacca's laughing, he accepts Han Solo taking his arm and marching him down the aisle.

Meanwhile - I don't believe this! but I just saw Chewbacca's mother souvenir one of the Beefeaters standing guard at the entrance. Nobodymoved. But she handled him with special care.

And Jerry Cornelius has had some harsh words with Arch-Bishop Beesley up at the front of the Cathedral. The Arch-Bishop lost his mitre chasing the two louts who souvenired the doors, and has had to retire to his rooms to find another one.

While he is finding a new mitre, Chewbacca the Blessed advances down the aisle towards his beloved spouse-to-be Jerry Cornelius, to the accompaniment of variations on "Sympathy for the Devil", which is not what I would have picked as the bridal march for this auspicious occasion, still, organists being organists ...

(damn, this tricorder's running out of juice! This is the last time I buy any more BAE electronic gear! I'll be buying a Chinese tricordernext - they may last the distance. Now I'll have to take shorthand notes
- on this of all days!)
And to think, it all came about because Our Sweet Lord Jerry Cornelius sailed Manhattan across the Atlantic to save its inhabitants from a nefarious consortium of city councillors and developers, who intended scuttling it for the insurance ...! (If he had never sailed it across the Atlantic, he never would have beached it unintended on the Godwin Sands, and thus the Millenium Falcon would never have crash-landed on when it did, thus neither would have met each other. Thus is the web of fate woven ...)
Colin R
13. Dianthus
@8. Hell yeah!

Also, too: Spike and Buffy. The Sacred Fire that errupts btwn them in their final moments together, Buffy's 'O' face, Spike's redemption.
Preston Flagg
14. Pre5to
Elend and Vin from MistBorn! Love how two people so different mangae to make it work in that one. Also, second Stardust as my favorite genre romance ever.
Colin R
15. JohnnyMac
I like Liz Sherman and Hellboy from the first Hellboy movie. There is a great scene just before the end:

Hellboy is holding LS's lifeless body in his arms. He bends over and whispers something. A long pause and then, her eyes snap open and she gasps in breath. Then these lines:

Liz Sherman: "In the dark, I heard your voice, what did you say?"

Hellboy: "I said: "Hey, you, on the other side--let her go. Because for
her, I will cross over....and then you will be sorry!"

Then one of the great movie kisses which leaves them wrapped in blue fire (Liz Sherman is a pyrokinetic and, fortunately, Hellboy is fireproof).
Colin R
16. Ninotschka
Adama and Roslin in Battlestar Galactica. A great example of a love story between two complex characters that are not in their 20s. I still feel weepy when I think of the end.
Colin R
17. LadyMaljinn
I do second the John Carter/Dejah Toris suggestion, but my personal favourites up to date are Logen and Ferro from The First Law trilogy (which is, however, not unexpected of someone with such a nickname, I know). The subtlest chemistry ever + worst breakup ever. The runners-up are Lyra and Will (His Dark Materials) and Dany/Drogo (ASOIAF).
Greetings from Kyiv (a.k.a. Kiev)!
Colin R
18. Rainphase
Henry and Claire in The Time Traveler's Wife (the novel)

Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games trilogy
Colin R
19. S F Warwick
If we're talking books....
Aral Vorkosigan and his Dear Captain Cordelia
Val Con yos' Phelium and Master Sergeant Miri Robertson
Alec and Margrethe from "Job; a comedy of Justice" by Heinlein
and for that matter, Bob and Ginny Heinlein from "The Amazing, the Astounding, and the Unknown" by Malmont
Honor Harrington, Emily Alexander and Hamish Alexander

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