Polyamory-Related Books

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Polyamory in Fiction

Fictional books that feature polyamorous situations, relationships, or concepts.

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein
Ace Books

Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land was a formative book for many poly people, and rereading it, it is very easy to see why.

Valentine Michael Smith begins the book as a human child, raised by Martians after a disasterous exploratory mission. Years later, he's found alive by a future expedition and brought back to earth.

The book explorers numerous ideas through Michael's eyes, as he learns about human society, sexuality, and religion. In particular he exposes a vision of love that isn't exclusive or possessive, but instead whole and generous. Eventually he forms a church (which, as I understand it, became the inspiration in the real world for the Church of All Worlds.)

This book manages to address quite a number of interesting issues in addition to polyamory, and the novel operates on a number of different levels. (Readers might be interested to look at the etymology of the names of the characters, for example.) Definitely one of Heinlein's best books, written long before he started on his "let's throw every book I've ever written into the same multiverse" crusade (which, for the most part, was a I period I could have missed.)

There are actually two editions of this book on the market. The one I've listed above is the book as originally published. The other reflects the book as it was originally written. When SASL was originally written, the editors requested it to be cut by about sixty thousand words. A few years back Heinlein's widow came across a copy of the original manuscript and, after rereading it decided that it warranted publication also.

I'm not sure whether I agree or not. I don't think that the added material is critical by any means... and I do think at times the enlarged edition has a greater sense of large drama because of its slightly slower pace. However, I don't think you'll go wrong either way. Since many people disagree with me on the issue of "which version is better", real Heinlein fans may wish to compare for themselves.

(NOTE: SASL is also available on cassette. )

Night Wing rates this book a 9 (Truly Delightful) and says:
While Stranger is an excellent work without any doubt, two other of RAH's books give a much more realistic, everyday view of polyamory marriages. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, you are introduced to the protagonist's marriage: Ten adults (at the beginning) ranging in age from 16 (this is a pioneer society) to over 80 in a harmonious, very long-term (over 100 years old) marriage. In Friday, you see how such a marriage could fall apart, too.

H. S. McCoy rates this book a 8 (Excellent) and says:
While I agree that Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are excellent fictional examples of polyamorous relationships, I'd also like to suggest Heinlin's Time Enough for Love. Though its portrayal of long term polyfidelitous relationships is similar to that in many of Heinlein's other novels, Time Enough for Love offers an epic plotline and a literary depth that most of his books--especially his later works--do not. Certainly one of his most underrated novels, Time Enough For Love is well worth any sci-fi fan's indulgence, especially those interested in polyamory.

A reader rates this book a 5 (Good) and says:
I think this book truly outlined what it means to be polyamorous. I am also an alien, sent down to earth to love and protect against profeteering from the exploitation of history, and I understand the passion of the leading character. We are all ultimately strangers in a strange world, and this fiction exposes the dynamic of interpersonal love.

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Robert A. Heinlein
Del Ray

Heinlien's Friday also touches upon alternative relationships.

Friday Jones is an operative for a secret commercial organization in a future world, and the plot quickly drags her from place to place at breakneck pace. The primary poly content is her involvement in a group marriage during part of the book, a situation which ends quite badly. A down note, for sure, but at the fault of the breakup is at least placed on a member of the family, not on the idea of the group marriage as a whole.

There are several things to like about Friday. The action is quick, surprises lurk around a variety of corners, and the portrayed future feels like it has depth and complexity. It also touches on important ideas as to the nature of what it means to be human. Moreover, unlike many of Heinlein's later novels, the book does not bog down in endless pages of "witty" banter.

There are some flaws, however. On the other hand, the ending of Friday just didn't work for me--it felt to me that Heinlein just ran out of steam and set down his pen. Friday's reaction to being raped by opposition thugs strikes many as ridiculously unrealistic and offensive.

Still, that aside, there's a lot to like here, and I do like the book overall.

friday jones (fries @ hog.net) rates this book a 7 (Very Good) and says:

Heinlein's "Friday," like most Heinlein novels, is replete with Heinlein's personal observations on human nature, as well as his typical reiterations of his Libertarian societal ideals.

Among some of the notable passages is the one in which Friday meets a young man in transit and they hit it off, but neither of them pursues a relationship because each of them is just "passing" for human, and neither realizes that both of them are Artificial Persons. Another passage describes how Friday joins a group marriage in New Zealand, and is "asked to leave" when she admits in an unguarded moment that she is an AP.

These passages seem to be making a parallel between Friday's class of Artificial Person, and the now-defunct classes of mixed-race ancestry that were once so important in America (such as "octaroon" or "half-breed). In America of the 1930's, there were laws that discriminated against non-whites, including mixed-race persons, and many men and women of mixed-race ancestry made the attempt to "pass" as white, to escape persecution.

There's another parallel to the book: in the Thirties, the world was heading into war and chaos, much like the world of "Friday." Both in the novel and in the world of the Thirties, only the permeability of the international borders saved many people from internment and death, and many more were not so lucky.

As for the Group Marriage angle, while Friday's first one was a disaster, the main reasons were due to a lack of honesty by Friday and her senior wife. Friday was so convinced of her own unworthiness (due to being an AP) that she never even checked to find out if any other family members cared about it. As for the senior wife, her motives were suspect because she had made preparations for Friday's "divorce" well in advance of knowing she was an AP.

Her second group marriage, mentioned at the end of the novel, appeared to have avoided these pitfalls. Heinlein's idea of a group marriage isn't really very workable, however: in his other novels, such as "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls," he revisits this concept thoroughly, and his version of group marriage doesn't exclude sex with blood-related children. In one passage in "TCWWTW," two of the group's children, 12-year-old twin redhead girls nicknamed Laz and Lor, "manage to convince" their genetic parent Lazarus to copulate with them. No self-respecting polygamists would put up with a co-husband who can't keep his hands off the group's kids.

On the whole, "Friday" is eminently readable, a real page-turner, and has some interesting perspectives on freedom and society, but it cannot be viewed in any way as a blueprint for a Utopia.


jeff ball ( balzig @ hn.ozemail.com.au) rates this book an 8 (Excellent), and says:

In response to the previous writer, who in passing comments that in a novel called The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the character
Lazarus agrees to sexual relations to laz/lor to whom he is a genetic parent.

Closer reading of this novel and its thematic precursor Time Enough For Love, will show that the girls are actually clones of Lazarus himself with genetic manipulation done to make them female. While this may be masturbation it certainly isn't incest. Since this type of situation is currently impossible it cannot be judged under any morality with which I am familiar.

Also please note that it is the twin girls who go to great length to seduce him not the reverse. The technology of this novel also precludes that any genetic hazard could result from
this joining, thereby removing the practical basis from what is after otherwise no more than a cultural taboo.

Otherwise I agree with your review, althogh I don't think there is sufficient evidence that the senior wife in the first group marriage has plotted Fridays removal prior to her revelation of her ancestry--but on that issue I may be wrong.


XMalice rates this book a 9 (Truly Delightful) and says:

Almost all Heinlein novels that discuss relationships have some version of poly marriage. In defense of the incest, any Heinlein novels where true incest actually happens occur in situations where fear of defects and genetics problems have been removed and are always initiated by the children as adults. I like to see it as more of a statement that the mores against such physical relationships are purely for health and safety reasons, and it is perhaps unwise to perceive it in another way. All parents involved in the stories resist boldly and some actually succeed in this resistance. Basically, I think it promotes a tendency to not think of things in the commonly accepted way. Plus child molestation is very severly avoided in all situations, so it's not really a matter of someone "not being able to keep there hands off of the groups children" so much as a lifestyle and an attitude being so thoroughly accepted by the younger members of the group that they do not l!
et societal mores affect their behavior more than is absolutely neccessary. I actually find it refreshing, as I do most Heinlein novels.

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