Saturday, May 15, 2010

Romance through Technology

I came to RSF from science fiction, or more accurately I came to romance through technology, both in my art and in my real life.

I started off studying art and moved my focus to sculpture. A sculpture lab is a great place to see what can be done with tools and materials. For about five years I melted, burned, and blew up materials. I love the gritty honesty of working with real tools and real materials. I love how bronze glows vermillion orange in a crucible, the feeling of power in cold bending steel, and the technical challenge of turning an idea into concrete reality, sometimes using Portland cement.

In the midst of this exploration I fell in love with an engineer. He was a brilliant and creative man, one who could design and make almost anything with limited tools and materials. It was a romance of technology. Early in our courtship, we had construction dates. I'd go to his place and we built his garage, that later became ours when we married. We did gardening and red worm composting. For a birthday present he gave me a drill press.

He was also dying of a rare neurological disorder that ate away at his brainstem leaving him struggling with physical coordination. I came to identify with the B&B ships in McCaffrey's Ship Who Sang. I was the brawn and he was the brain. I craved stories about machinery melded with the human body.

My husband, medical retired, threw himself into volunteer work. He became coordinator of a statewide volunteer effort to put computer networks in schools, and I became his assistant. We put computer networks into every school in the State of Alaska. Ironically he did this while the neurological network of his brainstem was failing. I became a certified network installer and attended seminars on such things as fiber optics. Oddly, I was often the only woman at these seminars.

I began to see that society considers some technology and materials to belong to men and other technology and materials to belong to women. Steel, concrete, electrical wiring, drills, and soldiering irons are male. Fabric, textiles, sewing machines, and laundry irons are female. Women often don’t think of women's tools as technology even though the girls' stuff is often more complex and technical that the boys' stuff. Just bring up the subject of quilts and see how technical women can get in their discussion. And actually, installing a computer network isn't any more complex than crocheting, depending on the project.

In my art, I began combining male and female materials and techniques. I made clothing such as bras and hoopskirts out of male materials: steel, rubber, concrete. Most of these were not wearable. Then I moved from sculpture to writing, but I'm doing the same thing, by combining romance with science fiction. I'm taking the girl stuff and putting it together with the boy stuff. This is hot. I love technology, but even more than that I love techy men. I love how they think and how they solve problems.

My husband died of his disease, but I now write about romance heroes who are tech nerds like him. To write these characters I've got to get the technology right. Boys love their tools in a particularly male way. In showing male characters it helps to understand this love and to share in their fascination with things that go boom. Go borrow their stuff. I want to tell you girls, that you can go into the garage and use boy's tools, or buy your own. And for you boys in this group, you can use tools from the sewing room. Be sure talk to your sweetie when you do it. He or she will want you to treat the tools with care and will have good information on how to use the stuff. As a reader or a writer, don't be intimidated by either male or female technology, you are as smart and technically savvy as member of the opposite sex. And they are willing to share.

6 comments:

  1. What a powerful post, Lizzie. Thank you.

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  2. Love this post!
    Glad to read that I'm not the only one that thinks that romance and technology can go hand in hand! ;)
    MJ

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  3. Nice post Lizzie! I love techy boys and the way they think too. And the boy's toys are so much fun!

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  4. Wow, Lizzie. What an inspirational story - a real blend of minds here. Your partner sounded a great guy!

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  5. What an amazing, inspired post. SFR is often about looking at familiar ideas in a new light, and you certainly did that. Loved the comparison of crocheting to installing a computer network. Brilliant...and fundamentally true, though I've never thought of it in quite those terms before.

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  6. I love this story, Lizzie, thanks so much for sharing.

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