Issue 84 – September 2013


Another Word: I am an Endangered Species

Sometimes, I read reviews people have written of my work. Sometimes I don’t. It’s no big deal. I do like to make comments on people’s blogs thanking them for their time—they do appreciate it, and I’m prepared to take the bad with the good. I recently found a perverse pleasure in responding to people who auto-Tweet their reviews (good and bad) from Goodreads. I giggle at the mental image of them freaking out (good and bad) because THE AUTHOR IS WATCHING.

My favorites are the three-star reviews, those bastions of subjectivity! Based on the reader’s experience, three stars can mean that they couldn’t put it down, or that they dropped it in the tub. One of the best wondered, “Was the author tripping on drugs?” But my favorite to date asked, “Three days to fall in love with a frog? How realistic is that?”

The question references my fairytale novel mash-up that opens with a retelling of “The Frog Prince” by the Brothers Grimm: A fifteen-year-old introvert writer wanders into a glen and finds a frog who’s actually interested in her work. We find out in the course of the novel that there were magical forces at work that not only orchestrated their meeting but also facilitated their affection but let’s put that aside . . . what fascinates me most about the comment is its willingness to suspend disbelief for the fairy tale world problem but not the actual life experience.

Has our concept of “reality” come so far that we’ve begun to question real life? Or worse, have young people really become so jaded that no one believes in love at first sight anymore?

Consider the science, both chemical and psychological.

  • Limerence is defined as an involuntary state of obsessive-compulsive longing for emotional dependence, and is a result of biochemical processes in the brain.
  • A “look of love” must last 8.2 seconds, and no less. Love at first glance is the very science behind Speed Dating.
  • Attraction happens within the first three minutes of conversation.
  • Infatuation—the thing often born from raging hormones and imagined, unrealistic expectations—is a less mature form of limerence, but does not always mean it’s not love.

This love you speak of. It is a thing. People have it. We can PROVE it.

I fall in love with people all the time. All. The. Time. I mean, yeah, I was once a boy-crazy preteen who had pictures of actors all over her walls and made up all sorts of grand futures for myself and the Boy-of-My-Dreams-At-the-Moment, but I’m talking real love in real life. It doesn’t have to be the romantic kind.

Mary Robinette Kowal locked her keys in the car while we were introducing ourselves, and I’ve loved her ever since. Casey Cothran and I watched “Poltergeist II” at the same church lock-in. Edmund Schubert and I sat on a bench at a convention and ate granola bars. Catie Murphy and I happened to be taking the same shuttle bus. I was in the front row when John Scalzi crashed my friend’s reading. John Ringo and I shared cheesecake at a publisher dinner. Sammie Bitner bumped me in a busy food court and cried, “Oh, my god, I love you!” I yelled back, “Oh my god, I love you too!” We’ve been great friends ever since.

All of these people are friends so close I consider them family. They inspire me. They increase my endorphins and raise my serotonin levels. I love them all—real love—but each instance definitely started with infatuation — silly, fifteen-year-old-girl-type infatuation.

So . . . what does it take to make a society disbelieve the idea of infatuation?

I blame two things: Fear and loss of hope.

This world we live in is scary. Even scarier than it used to be. Terrorists are real and soldiers go to Afghanistan and angry people with guns shoot up food courts and movie theatres and elementary schools. There are people honestly preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Love, too, is a scary thing. When you open yourself up to the possibility of love, you also open yourself up to a possibility of pain. Once that person gets inside your head they know how to hurt you worse than anyone else. Is it a stretch to imagine that a child who grows up afraid of being hurt physically would similarly be afraid of being hurt emotionally?

And then there’s hopelessness. In the eighties, popular culture was filled with books and stories of how one man/woman/child could Make a Difference and Save the World! We now live on a planet in the throes of global warming with seven billion other people, and the pop culture icons that save the world only do so with inhuman abilities and catastrophic damage of public property. Legions of apathetic teenagers would much rather sit around and play Call of Duty. Make a difference? But that takes WORK.

So does love.

Fascinating, isn’t it, that this random three-star review could open my eyes to the dystopia in which I already appear to be living—a world that might consciously be evolving away from infatuation and love at first sight. I must face the very real possibility that I, and optimists like me, have become a dying breed. Perhaps I should be more careful when proposing silly ideas like cerebral infatuation leading to a healthy relationship and a happily ever after.

Happily ever after! That’s right! I said that!

But I’m probably just tripping on drugs.

Author profile

Alethea Kontis is a princess, author, fairy godmother, and geek. Her bestselling Books of Arilland fairytale series won two Gelett Burgess Children's Book Awards (Enchanted and Tales of Arilland), and was twice nominated for the Andre Norton Award. Alethea also penned the AlphaOops picture books, The Wonderland Alphabet, Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome, Beauty & Dynamite, The Dark-Hunter Companion (w/Sherrilyn Kenyon), and a myriad of poems, essays, and short stories. Princess Alethea lives and writes on the Space Coast of Florida with her teddy bear, Charlie.

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