The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance
The future is friendly. Well, actually, the future is more than friendly. It’s a bit over-friendly, if anything.
Clumsy spacesuits and clunky helmets have done nothing to dampen our ardor, and even in those bleak dystopian visions where we keep up our wanton environmental destruction of the planet we call home, it’s love that manages to provide some light at the end of the tunnel.
On space ships, on newly colonized planets, on versions of Earth that we may recognize, or not, and amidst our own and alien species, there is no shortage of love in the future. And that is a cause for celebration. Whatever lies ahead may be all-encompassing and vast, but we can be comforted by the knowledge that we’ll always be falling in and out of love, being swept off our feet by meetings with handsome strangers, and longing, lusting and loving, far into an uncertain future. Whether we travel to new worlds or struggle to adapt to radical new changes on Earth, we can always expect to experience the warm, familiar feelings that make us human.
Although the setting might throw you, you’ll feel right at home in the future. Meet hardy pioneers settling new planetary colonies, hoping for a fresh start on a new planet, complete with a government grant and a brand-new mate. Clashes with local, indigenous populations can lead to danger, adventure and interspecies love. Space is the newest new frontier, and the race to secure new territory brings all the old familiar faces out of the woodwork from Earth’s dubious colonial past.
It’s no surprise that big business plays a prominent role in the future, as does the military. Far-reaching corporations of limitless wealth finance the exploration of new worlds, seeking the profit that new, untapped resources can supply. The military provides the muscle to fight the wars in space or dirtside, complete with genetic modifications and space-age nutritional supplements. In the future, peace seems even more elusive than it does today. The post-colonial world is over, and the race for new colonies has begun, bringing with it the same age-old aggression and ruthlessness.
But romance always saves the day, and there is a light-heartedness to these future-set stories, with great lashings of humor and warmth. You’ll meet former romantic partners trying to put the past behind them – and not succeeding – as they prepare to enter an intergalactic space race; time-traveling rebels out to romance the past; and great characters like Linnea Sinclair’s recently deflowered bio-’cybe Kel-Paten, who makes living in space seem like a really good idea. Perhaps it’s true that in space no one can hear you scream, but after sampling the stories here, you’ll be sure that they must at least be able to hear you laugh.
Flying is Faster
For the human settlers of Maji – planet MAJ07, as it was officially designated in colony reports – Earth was a legend spoken of in the same reverent tones as Avalon, Nirvana, or Heaven. Wars, climate changes, and the decadent life of the ancient homeworlders had left only a blasted wasteland. Humans had had no choice but to take to the stars in search of new worlds.
The journey from Earth to Maji had taken hundreds of years. All settlers had been placed in cryogenic sleep, but small groups had been awakened along the way to run the ships, monitor the status of their fellow travelers, and procreate to ensure genetic diversity.
Ronan Frayne, like all inhabitants of New Denver settlement, had been born and educated on the colony transport. Upon reaching Maji, the towering mountains surrounding the settlement had both comforted and terrified him. Staring too long at their snowcapped peaks made his head swim and his stomach churn, but he loved the solidity they represented.
And solid ground was where Ronan desperately wanted to be. He clung to the ladder propped alongside the medical shelter’s newest extension. One of the workers had been injured, and as the colony’s doctor, it was Ronan’s job to assess the damage.
“Don’t look down,” he told himself through clenched teeth. Concentrating on the roofline above him, he clasped the next rung and pushed with his shaky legs. “Four more and you’re safe.”
An eternity seemed to pass, but Ronan finally hoisted himself onto the roof and his stomach dropped.
Large holes gaped across the incomplete structure, offering unfettered views of the debris scattered across the floor below. Groaning, he hooked his safety line to the cable skirting the construction zone and rose unsteadily to his feet.
“Over here,” one of the workers called, waving his hand from the other side of a chasm.
Ronan nodded and shuffled his way through the discarded tools and building materials. All work had stopped and wouldn’t resume until the injured worker was on the ground. He reached the two remaining workers and squatted. “What happened?”
“Laser welder malfunctioned,” the injured worker said. He held a bloodied hand to the right side of his face. “Focusing crystal shattered.”
Ronan set down his medikit and flipped it open. He grabbed the compact scanner and gently encouraged the man to lower his hand to reveal a deep cut over his brow. He swiped the scanner over the injury. “Was anyone else hit by the shrapnel?”
The other worker shook his head. “No one else was in the area.”
Finishing his exam, Ronan reached for a dermal regenerator. “This may sting a bit,” he murmured.
Blue light bathed the cut and the worker flinched.
Several minutes passed before Ronan disengaged the regenerator. The worker’s cut had mended, the flesh sealing itself and leaving only a thin pink line. He scanned the site once more. “That should take care of it, but you need to rest for the remainder of the day,” he said, stowing his equipment. “If you feel any pain or dizziness, let me know immediately.”
The worker grimaced but nodded. “Thanks, Doc.”
A shadow passed over the men as the second worker helped the other to his feet. Ronan glanced skyward.
A winged creature flew overhead, silhouetted against the afternoon sun. It swooped and twirled along the thermal drafts rising from the valley.
“Budgie,” one of the workers muttered.
Ronan frowned at the use of the slur. When human settlers had arrived on Maji, they’d been surprised to find it inhabited by a race of winged humanoids. The Auilans, as they were properly named, lived high in the surrounding mountains. Early contact with the tribal race had met with mixed results. Most wanted little or no contact with the newcomers. However, one clan, the Azein, welcomed the humans and frequently visited the settlement.
Sunlight flashed off white-and-brown feathers as the Auilan soared overhead.
Ronan’s frown turned to a smile. He knew that pattern well.
“It’s Data.” One of the workers groaned.
“Dotty,” Ronan corrected his mispronunciation.
One of the few female Azeins to venture into New Denver, Dah’Te was intelligent and curious about humans. Ronan looked forward to her visits and eagerly answered her questions in exchange for information on Auilan culture. He continued to watch as she circled.
Suddenly Dah’Te tucked her wings and plummeted toward the medical center.
He and the workers ducked as she unfurled her wings at the last possible moment and veered away, landing lightly on a nearby stack of steel girders.
A pair of great brown-and-white wings trailed down her back. His gaze drifted over her body, noting the elongated bird-like feet and four-fingered human-like hands ending in short talons. Dark hair framed her round face. Sunlight cast her skin in warm gold. Tribal tattoos traced up her arms and legs, and adorned her chest beneath a short toga-like covering.