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Fiction, Love and Psychic Ability

October 18, 2011

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot in paranormal romance. Psychic ability and its bond between two people, as a plot device. Being able to hear one another’s thoughts, or not hear one another’s thoughts, as an indicator of closeness, or even suitability for love.

I roll my eyes when I run across it as a plot device in something I’m reading. (“I can read your mind! We must be destined! It must be love!” groan) But I’m also interested in the literary and psychological implications of wanting to tell that story. It can be a cliche in the genre. A cliche, or a fantasy? Or a series of fantasies. Flawless communication! The fantasy of a one-true-love overcoming obstacles.  Ideas about boundaries, privacy, and how close a couple would want to get.

“You’re in my mind, reading my thoughts,” says “stalker” to me, rather than “lofty romantic ideal,” but it keeps getting idealized in paranormal romances.

I’m trying to come up with a list of books, to see how the psychic bond plays out as a romance catalyst. To really do this right, I’m going to have to reread some fabulously cheesy space opera. I am not sure I have a problem with this.

Off the top of my head, I’ve got two psychic rationales, but would be curious about other examples of the genre:

Psychic Bond = Automatic Romance Justification.

This appears to work best in an alien race setup where there’s implied social xenophobia. Psychic bonding gives a whiff of destiny, conveniently overriding any Romeo and Juliet bleak doubts.

Cut in case of spoilers for the Liaden universe, A Discovery of Witches, and In Conquest Born

In Conquest Born– C.S. Friedman. The Braxins dress in black and keep their thoughts to themselves, making occasional war on the brightly clad and psychic Azeans. He’s a stoic, Braxin military captain, locked in a feud with the Azaean captain he grudgingly respects, who happens to be A) female and B) exceedingly powerfully psychic.  You don’t have to be psychic to see where this is going.

Liaden Universe books, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. If memory serves… the Terrans (kind of like Earthlings) and the Liadens (also kind of like Earthlings, but shorter, with their own language and duty-bound clan customs) work together, uneasily and sometimes suspiciously of one another. Liaden boy meets Terran girl. Suspiciously, and with a decent dose of xenophobia. As they start having to work together… they get closer. And closer. If I remember correctly, two things stand out:

A) Signs of a psychic bond between the couple gets nay-sayers of the relationship to back off. If the couple can read minds and share thoughts, it must be True Love.

B) This storyline happens repeatedly, and with a certain amount of structural amnesia. Even though there’s already been a love match between a Terran and a Liaden somewhere in Clan Korval, the signs that it’s happening again play out like a big shock. Which I might have noticed because I read the books out of sequence.

I don’t remember the specifics of the empathic link between Del and Tiger in Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Dancer books… am pretty sure there was one, though.

I’m reasonably sure psychic bonding that fuels romance also shows up in the Anita Blake books, but I do not want to go back and reread them.

True Blood fans and Charlaine Harris fans, help me out. In the books, I think Sookie was psychic generally and attracted to Bill because she couldn’t read his mind, and thus found him restful. (I read a historical romance recently, where this was also the case, minus the vampires.)

And speaking of vampires and xenophobia and psychic ability and unlikely romance: A Discovery of Witches made me grouchy when the two main characters started getting involved and reading each other’s minds. I gagged! He’s a vampire! She knows that’s a bad idea. And yet… true love and mind reading! Feh!

Psychic Bond = Community Service/Utopia

Spider Robinson’s Callahan series plays out the psychic bond on a larger scale– the idea being that getting psychic is a heightened form of communication, overcoming your own emotional blocks to evolve enough to share fully with someone else. Sort of like a utopian view of very, very social networking.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 19, 2011 12:50 pm

    Timothy Zahn’s “Distant Friends” does use the “psychics fall in love” trope, though as I remember it, they fall in love through their psychic interactions, much in the same way that non-psychic people might. It’s not an instant thing at all.

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