With St. Patrick’s Day rapidly approaching and being of Irish-American descent, I thought it might be appropriate to devote this column to science fiction romance with lucky charms or superstitions involved. I won’t be talking much about leprechauns though – they seem to mostly be featured in fantasy romance versus SFR. I guess that makes sense since the mischievous wee folk go hand in hand with the Fae and wizards and other beings more on the fantastical side of fiction.
I’m staying away from the “fated mate” concept for this post as well, although you do find that trope in many science fiction romances, including my Sectors New Allies Series and Cynthia Sax’s Cyborg Sizzle Series. The idea here, borrowed originally from the shifters in the paranormal romance genre, is that each person has one person in the galaxy made just for them, and will instantly recognize that mate the moment they meet. After meeting, there’s an unbreakable bond between the two characters, although sometimes it takes quite a while for the other person to believe in the fate! It’s a fun concept to play with in plots, but not exactly a lucky charm.
But there definitely are some examples of respect for the uncanny to be found in science fiction.
“Never tell me the odds,” snarls Han Solo in “Star Wars”, revealing his particular superstition.
The colonial marines in “Aliens” have slogans and symbols painted on their body armor to symbolically protect themselves as they sally forth on yet another ‘bug hunt,’ much as soldiers do on Earth today. (Fun fact – did you know actor Michael Biehn inherited the body armor from the first actor who was to play Corporal Hicks? James Remar had already painted his own lucky charms on the chest plate when Biehn was cast instead. Biehn wanted to start fresh and have symbols with meaning to him as the character on the armor but director James Cameron said no because (as I understood it from the comments in a 2016 special on the 30 year anniversary of the film) the costume had already been used in some shots. Biehn didn’t like having a heart painted over his character’s heart, because it seemed too much like a target.
Moving away from hard science fiction and into romance, I have a symbolic animal in my novel Mission to Mahjundar, where the heroine’s royal family is supposed to be guarded by the mythical cherindor. As my hero, Major Mike Varone observes early in the book: “The mythical, winged feline rampant on the banners resembled pictures he’d seen of Terran lions, but with a barbed tail and three eyes. The image was apparently ubiquitous in the city.” Heroine Shalira wants to believe in the possibility of help from the cherindor, but it’s a time of old beliefs and religions fading and she probably really doesn’t ever expect to see one. No spoilers, but uh, yeah, they do show up on occasion still, if you believe hard enough. I made the cherindor more of a carved pendant in the sequel Hostage to the Stars, and the hero of that book wore it as a definite good luck charm.
Of course Catherine Cerveny has an entire series based on luck being an inherent trait tied to certain DNA, which was a highly intriguing concept. Her most recent was The Chaos of Luck, set mostly on Mars and involving tarot cards, which combines the science fiction and the fantasy elements pretty seamlessly.
I threw out the question to fellow SFR authors and got a few more examples to share with you. Here’s what author Susan Hayes had to say about her book Double Down (The Drift Book 1): “Space freighter pilot Zura Watson isn’t overly superstitious, but she wears her father’s “lucky ring” on a chain around her neck as a good luck charm. When asked, she’ll say that “My father always said that luck was a poor man’s only insurance policy.”
Author and SFR reader Jenna Bennett (Fortune’s Honor) remembered a great example from Linnea Sinclair’s Finders Keepers: “…The heroine has a stuffed felinar (cat) hanging in her cockpit. (Not a real cat. Stuffed animal cat.) When her ship crashes, the hero saves it for her and gives it back to her later. I think she touches it or something for good luck.”
Author Rinelle Gray says, “I have a lucky charm that’s a jade dolphin necklace running throughout my Worlds Apart series. The hero’s brother bought it after a dolphin saved him from a shark, and thought it gave him luck. Then he gave it to his brother, who gives it to the heroine when they get together. Then she passes it on to the brother’s love in the third book. The heroine of book 3 gives it to the heroine of book 4 (Stranded in Space) when she realises she’s falling in love.”
Two forthcoming novels were mentioned. First, from Cailin Briste (book due to be released in July): “(The hero) in Rand: Son of Tallav wears a heart bead on a leather cord around his wrist. He rubs the heart whenever his thoughts get heavy. It was given to him by his sister, with whom he’s estranged by her choice. When she gave it to him, she told him it would remind him that she will always love him. He was ten-years-old at the time. It’s sort of a talisman to him, reminding him to give people an extra measure of the grace he’s been denied by his sister.”
And coming March 20th, from S. E. Smith, is The Dragonlings and the Magic Four-Leaf Clover (a fun offshoot from her science fiction romance series Dragon Lords of Valdier). Author Smith had this to say: “Morah Reykill has a magic four-leaf clover that she uses to help find her father and the other dads who have ‘disappeared’. The clover will help them find the King of the ‘Leprechauns’ and keep her and the other dragonlings safe.”
I guess we’ve now come full circle, to a leprechaun after all!
What SFR books have you read containing lucky charms or symbols that we’ve missed here?