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May, 2004 : Essay:

Detonating the Nuclear Family

When you are traveling to an unknown world, setting out on a quest, battling monsters of any stripe, you want to be able to keep your family safe in a place far, far away. Perhaps, in fact, you travel/quest/battle in order to do just that.

Science fiction, as a literature of escape, often defines escape as leaving the notion of nuclear family behind.

Why does the idea of nutritive pills hold appeal when so much pleasure is derived from eating? Popping pills implies an escape from the family dinner table.

Why does the idea of cloning hold appeal when so much pleasure is derived from current reproductive practices? Cloning implies an escape from the two-parent family.

With time travel, everyone you know is either dead or unborn. With single-gender societies, you've effectively erased your most difficult relationships. With virtual reality, you've lost all notion of blood-ties. With aliens, you've managed to turn your back on the human race.

Science fiction, as a product, is manufactured by a person working within a cocoon. Outside of that pod of isolation, parents, partners, and children are clamoring for the writer's attention. The writer imagines a world where there would be freedom from those pressures.

Imagine a world where I would be free from the horror of my mothers's alzheimer's, my partner's insistence that I paint the kitchen, my children's never-ending hunger for attention. Imagine the world free from the baggage of awkward silences or the alternate which is often worse.

My father's disappointment. My partner's bitterness. My child's rebellion.

Imagine a world.

Copyright © 2004, Stephen Rogers. All Rights Reserved.

About Stephen Rogers

Over three hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than a hundred publications. His website,, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.


May 21, 15:49 by John Frost
Comments on Stephen Rogers' essay.
May 21, 20:32 by Thomas Reeves
It's interesting. I'm not sure if he is saying the nuclear family is good or bad oddly enough. I do think too much SF tries to idealize "new" forms of family too much. I'm not saying alternate forms of family are bad, but that they are automatically healthier or more ideal seems a bit of a stretch.

For example there is a, mostly older, form of family dynamics I've heard some SFers embrace. That being the extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Now I kind of knew people raised in that system and although it has its good points there are negatives. The main ones being that it can be more stifling and the generational conflicts can be rough. For example my Father's folks were raised with a very old South WASP mentality. Men didn't eat with women, Catholics like myself were suspicious idolaters(certainly not Christians and as non-Christians potentially damned), and finally the most famous prejudice of the Old South was there too. My Mom's folk were more enlightened, but they had been through enough torment in their lives taking care of them would've been very hard. So thinking of my own family if the grandparents had lived under our roof I think it would've been a bad thing.

Not that other forms have to be bad always. On the other hand normal forms can be okay too. There are things about my childhood I disliked. Except for science fiction I felt little connection with my father until adulthood. Love of it maybe the only trait of his I didn't purposely, if quietly, reject. Yet now I like him. My parents have been married for forty years, and only one of my siblings ever got divorced. That divorce doesn't really count anyway, I helped fund it, as their marriage was a justice of the peace marriage. (Not meaning to offend, but as my family is Catholic I don't consider a JoP marriage valid among us hence I could fund a divorce with clear conscience. If you have such a marriage and you believe it's valid, then it probably is for you) We were even raised in fairly strict accordance with Catholic rules like birth control. I think in most SF, and indeed TV, we should be crazy people. In some ways we are a bit eccentric, but....

My oldest sister has an associate's degree, is politically active, and has a good secretarial job. Her eldest daughter is doing very well at college. She's never done drugs and has been happily married to the same guy for twenty years.

Eldest brother is working at the Pentagon and is a leading Air Force meteorologist. His wife is a criminologist.

Elder brother, computer expert happily married with two kids. Once among the top ranked public speakers in the US College system.

Elder Sister, practically ran two business and got her degree while raising a kid.

Little sister, going to Japan to teach and has a degree in Linguistic Anthropology.
Mar 27, 09:38 by
A teacher who has worked almost 30 years in the Washington, D.C area usually will never break $100,000; is talking about a 25 year-old, right from the law classroom getting more than a 60 year-old, has worked an entire career in the profession essential to sustain our democracy.

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