1. Kessie says:

    Great article! I think this series is off to a great start!
    In I, Robot, by Asimov, half the robots in the stories are motivated by love. It leaves you wondering if this love is merely the robot adhering to the First Law (don’t harm human or allow a human to be harmed) or if this love arose from simply following the First Law.
    Robots are a really interesting way of exploring love, because love is a completely foreign concept to a machine. And science would like to tell us that we’re only machines made of cells. So how does love come into it? I think that’s one reason I love robots (like that brilliant cartoon The Iron Giant). When they’re good, they’re very very good, and when they’re bad, they’re horrid. 🙂

    • Fred Warren says:

      Stories about sentient robots often include the robot’s dawning comprehension of love and other emotions, as one of the defining characteristics of a living being. In a single stroke, this reinforces the importance of love and explores what it really means to love. The Iron Giant is a great example, as is another story by Isaac Asimov, The Bicentennial Man.

  2. Great post, Fred. I’m glad you anchored your thoughts in Scripture and pointed to God as the summit and source of it. (Great phrasing). I like that example you used from Star Trek. I think I remember how it ended.

    You’re right to say that that TV program didn’t get love right very often, and my guess is they probably would resist the idea that this particular episode was about love. No, they’d say, it was about friendship. I think our culture has a very narrow view of love.

    Recently one of Sarah Sawyer‘s commenters mentioned that even literature written for the young plays up romantic love — something far advanced from their target audience’s experience. Instead, what they should capitalize on is familial love or friendship. But I’m guessing our culture hardly recognizes those as love any more. 🙁



    • Fred Warren says:

      This is one area where I’m really frustrated by the imprecision of an English word which relies heavily on modifiers to be properly understood in context. Friendship often matures into love, moving from affinity to affection, and at some point that affection is strong enough to be called “love.” I agree that modern society has muddled love and sexuality to the point that it becomes hard to think about one without the other, though I don’t think that’s anything new. I expect talking about a non-sexual love between men who aren’t family probably qualifies me as an alien life form, at least in the U.S.

      Interestingly, Mirriam-Webster’s first definition for love is the “strong affection” variety, equivalent to the Greek storge.

  3. Galadriel says:

    In the comment you quoted, I was referring mostly to romantic (ie ‘kissyface’) love, not the friendship love. Friendship love is severly overlooked in all fiction fields today, not just fantasy and sci-fi. To add to the TV examples, I will refer to my current obssession: Doctor Who. In both the classic and revived series, the Doctor has strong, sacrificial love for his friends. Four introduces Sarah Jane as “my best friend,” and Eleven gets seriously angry when his friends are threatened–witness this speech from “A Good Man Goes to War”
    Those words: “Run away.” I want you to be famous for those exact words. I want people to call you “Colonel Run Away.” I want children laughing outside your door because they’ve found the house of Colonel Run Away. And when people come to you and ask if trying to get to me through the people I love (deep breath)is in any way a good idea… I want you to tell them your name.
    Ten has a similiar quote. It can overlap with romantic love, but I think it speaks to all his relationships with humans:

    They leave. Because they should or because they find someone else. And some of them, some of them … forget me. I suppose in the end, they break my heart.
    -The Next Doctor

    One issue that I think speculative fiction needs to explore more is the problems that can arise with love between different races/species/cultures, especially when one has a far longer lifespan than the other

  4. Fred Warren says:

    Nice example from another fine Doctor. Hang in there, the kissyface is coming. 🙂

    Every time somebody comes up with a new issue (like the robots, or the interspecies/differing lifespan problem), another Star Trek example comes to mind. I’m going to try to keep this from turning into a walk down Trek memory lane, but it’s gonna be tough.  : P

  5. Galadriel says:

    Kissyface is okay in some situations.

  6. Julius says:

    …. The word “kissyface” amuses me greatly. 😀

    Whenever people start talking about love outside of a romantic context, I always think about Cicero, who wrote on friendship.

    To be honest, I’ve never thought of love in that way when I’ve written. Looking back, two of my main characters, the center of almost all my long fiction, are best friends. They save each other, they help each other. I just never thought of that as writing love in any sense, I guess it just seemed natural for friends to act as such.

  7. Katie says:

    I thought of a speculative fiction book on love. I believe it is t the center of the story and in the series reaches towards the loving your enemy piece you talked about here. Leave it to Ted Dekker to write it. It is the Circle Trilogy, Black, Red and White. 

  8. He laid his life down for his enemies–freely, purposefully, without any assurance that his sacrifice would be appreciated or his love returned.

    Just one thought … I would strongly question whether Jesus had no idea whether His giving His life would “work,” or if He was really so duty-driven as that. Citation:

    [After Paul’s exhortation to Christians to be humble and serve others] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    Philippians 2:5-11

    Moreover, Christ Himself spoke confidently — overtly and in parables — of how His disciples would do greater things (in many respects!) than He did, and that they would take the Kingdom into the world and it would result in an incredible harvest. It seems He fully expected to fulfill His crucial role in His Father’s plan to redeem His people.

    His love was motivated by that greater desire: to glorify His Father, and to receive His subsequent exaltation. That doesn’t make His sacrifice any less sacrificial, though; if anything it enhances its worth, even in our limited minds, and especially because Christ Himself encouraged His listeners not to ignore the idea of rewards or pretend we don’t care about that sort of thing, but to seek the best reward — the Kingdom, God Himself.

    But, I put that likely-slightly minor quibble first, because I wanted to praise this:

    Christians believe that God is the summit and source of all love. In the person of Jesus Christ, He displayed a love that is mirrored only imperfectly in the fictional example. Jesus exceeded the greatest love possible for a man because He didn’t stop with laying down his life for his friends.

    I am so glad you pointed that out, because I think it sometimes goes un-commented upon during discussions about sacrificial themes and “Christ-figures” in stories. I doubt Christians would reject this concept if someone showed them; they just don’t think about it when they praise a story for its “greater love hath no man than this” messages. It’s the fact that in most good stories, the heroes die or otherwise sacrifice for their friends. That’s based on Biblical truth, for sure (John 15:13). But Jesus died for His enemies, yet to cause them to become His friends in the future.

    For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    Romans 5: 7-8 (emphasis added)

    So, did Christ die for His friends or for His enemies? Both.

    Very rarely does a fictitious hero approach that. I can think of Aslan, perhaps. And a more-recent example might be Thor, in the recent Marvel film, just on DVD, yesterday. (Slight spoilers here.) Like many heroes, Thor lays down his life for his friends, and then later is shown sacrificing, not his life, but something very valuable to him, in order to save not his friends, but the very enemies he and others battled earlier in the film.

    As one reviewer said: “We’ve been conditioned to see heroes make sacrifices for their friends or values. But when Thor sacrifices something of great value to save his eternal enemies … well, that puts this warrior on rare ground.”

    My question: how can Christian speculative stories show, without even more trite “allegories,” how Christ’s loving sacrifice wasn’t just for His friends, but His enemies?

  9. Fred Warren says:

    He laid his life down for his enemies–freely, purposefully, without any assurance that his sacrifice would be appreciated or his love returned.
    Stephen: Just one thought … I would strongly question whether Jesus had no idea whether His giving His life would “work,” or if He was really so duty-driven as that.

    Just to clarify–I wasn’t implying here that there was any doubt about whether his sacrifice would “work,” but simply noting that his motivation wasn’t, and couldn’t be, driven by certainty that the object of his love was going to return that love. Multitudes have in fact rejected that sacrifice and turned their back on him. He loved them, and still loves them, anyway.

  10. Morgan Busse says:

    Great post 🙂 Very thought provoking…

  11. Nikole Hahn says:

    I missed that episode. I am a trekkie. Watched the old shows as a child. It’s interesting that they used biblical scripture in that.

  12. […] Last week, we talked about the nature of love, offering a couple of examples from speculative fiction. Self-sacrifice figured prominently in that discussion, and I argued that love in its most refined form is fundamentally other-focused. Love seeks the best for the loved one, even if that means giving up everything, even life itself, if necessary, to make that happen. On the high road of love, everything is pure and noble and admirable, but… […]

  13. I was more moved by the philos among Kirk, Spock, and Bones than the “love” Kirk always taught the alien ingenues in tinfoil bikinis.

    The blue-eyed captain would “fall in love” with a new woman every other episode at least. Nothing special about that kind of “luv.”

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