3

I know when William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols (as Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura) kissed in Star Trek, in the episode Plato's Stepchildren, it was the first interracial kiss on American TV.

But were there interracial romantic relationships in SF or F before that? I don't mean relationships involving races from other planets, but human relationships that were interracial?

It's possible to portray a romantic relationship without actually showing a kiss or direct contact. (After, for example, it was decades before American TV networks allowed a TV series to show a married couple sharing the same bed, but the couples were still known to be married.)

Are there any romantic relationships in SF or Fantasy that predate this interracial kiss? And if there are examples from print media that are earlier, are there also earlier examples on TV or film?

NOTE: It turns out the kiss on Star Trek is not the first interracial kiss on TV and not even the first one on U.S. TV. You can see more about it here.

  • 5
    There are hundreeds of examples of miscegnation in print media going back to ancient history. The recent (last few hundred years) history has really been about the negative connotations of this and the mores of the USA. – Stu Wilson Feb 10 '12 at 10:20
  • 1
    WTF does “interracial relationship” mean? Especially in an SF context? – user56 Feb 10 '12 at 22:47
  • @Gilles: What do you think it means? – Tango Feb 10 '12 at 22:52
  • 1
    @TangoOversway In an SF context? I don't know. Are you after stories that postulate the existence of human races? Or stories set in a racist society and portraying relationships that violate this society's social taboos? Or stories written in a racist society and portraying relationships that violate that society's taboos? – user56 Feb 10 '12 at 23:04
  • Apart from the scientific fact that all humans are of the race, that was not the first "interracial" kiss on American TV, and it wasn't even the first one in Star trek. See e.g. Wikipedia – JanC Jun 17 '12 at 17:34
13

If you count Jules Verne as "SciFi" as a whole, "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1873) had Phileas Fogg marry an Indian widowed princess Suttee he saved from being burned alive.

By American standards of Kirk's time, I'm going to declare that "interracial", though exact definition of what constitutes "interracial" is extremely vague (see spirited/nasty debates every time the topic comes up on Skeptics SE).

  • Kirk's time? I know that there was a forced kiss (exceptional at the time for TV) but it was hardly a relationship – user001 Mar 11 '16 at 9:50
6

Othello and Desdemona? That's pretty far back, I am sure there are probably several more answers that go back even further too. -As per comments this didn't necessarily fit within the genre, so:

Claribel and the King of Tunis from the Tempest.

Also references to interracial relationships can be seen in the Prose Edda, and various other classical literature dating very far back.

  • 3
    Is that in the SF&F genres? – Tango Feb 10 '12 at 15:44
  • @TangoOversway I suppose not exactly, but it was the one from Shakespeare that popped out at me the most, I'll update my answer with another example from Shakespeare (there are many). The point of the answer was to indicate that interracial relationships have been around in written works forever. – NominSim Feb 10 '12 at 15:56
  • I agree, they've been around forever, but I'm thinking specifically in this genre. I'm wondering if the genre as a whole avoided it for some reason. – Tango Feb 10 '12 at 15:57
  • @TangoOversway I added another Shakespeare reference that falls into Fantasy. There are plenty others as well from even further back. – NominSim Feb 10 '12 at 16:03
  • 1
    If you're taking Shakespeare: Midsummer Night's Dream and the donkey, I'm sure this counts as interspecies. – Separatrix Apr 30 '16 at 9:51
3

DVK has already brought up Jules Verne.

Another, although later, case would be Beren and Lúthien whose story Tolkien wrote first in 1917.

  • That's not interracial in Tango's sense, is it? It's more interspecies :) And definitely after Jules Verne. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 11 '12 at 3:57
  • @DVK: I believe Tolkien named these two races. ICBWT. – sbi Feb 11 '12 at 16:26
  • Heh... Biologist, Tolkien ain't. But I see your point :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 11 '12 at 17:40
  • @DVK-on-Ahch-To Elves and humans are not different species, by the biological definition. They can and do inter-breed, to the extent that pretty much every human by the end of the Third Age must have some elven ancestry (of course Tolkien wasn’t a population biologist,and probably didn’t realise this). – Mike Scott Sep 19 at 7:15
  • @Mike: I always found this definition dubious. Horses and donkeys interbreed, too. So do tigers and lions. Now what? – sbi Sep 25 at 11:02
3

In the Tale of Cupid and Psyche (200 A.D.) (the super abridged version):

Psyche, the beautiful mortal woman, is envied by Venus (Aphrodite), so Venus convinces her son Cupid (Eros) to strike Psyche with one of his arrows while she sleeps, and to place a hideous man before her. This would cause her to love the hideous man (and nullify her beauty, I suppose). However, Cupid accidentally scratches himself and falls in love with her.

Cupid is quite distraught and stops performing his duties (of causing people to fall in love) and the Earth weeps. Ultimately Venus is persuaded to give Psyche a series of trials, which she passes, and she is allowed to be with Cupid. The two are married (God and Mortal).

Ultimately Pysche is given a special potion that grants her immortality, so she can live forever with Cupid, but it is certainly an interracial couple.

  • 1
    I don't think its interracial, or even interspecie...( is "god" a specie?) Interbeeing maybe? – Yasskier Mar 11 '16 at 2:49
  • If you’re counting a relationship between god and mortal as inter-racial, there’s one in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known work of fiction. – Mike Scott Sep 19 at 7:12
2

A few years before Star Trek, the 1959 postapocalyptic movie The World, the Flesh, and the Devil was about an interracial love triangle involving Harry Belafonte's character and the character played by white actress Inger Stevens. Plot summary from Wikipedia:

African-American coal mine inspector Ralph Burton (Harry Belafonte) becomes trapped underground in a cave-in while inspecting a mine in Pennsylvania. He can hear rescuers digging towards him, but after a few days they slow down and then stop completely. Alarmed, he digs his own way out. Reaching the surface, he finds a deserted world. (No bodies are seen at any time in the film.) Some discarded newspapers provide an explanation: one proclaims "UN Retaliates For Use Of Atomic Poison", another that "Millions Flee From Cities! End Of The World". Ralph later plays tapes at a radio station that an unknown nation had used radioactive isotopes as a weapon, yielding a dust cloud that spread globally and was completely lethal for a five-day period.

Travelling to New York City in search of other survivors, he finds the city vacant. Ralph busies himself restoring power to a building where he takes up residence. Just as the loneliness starts to become intolerable, he encounters a second survivor: Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens), a white woman in her twenties. The two become fast friends, but Ralph grows distant when it becomes clear that Sarah is developing stronger feelings for him. Despite living in a post-apocalyptic world and despite the fact that Sarah seems unconcerned with their racial difference, Ralph cannot overcome the inhibitions instilled in him in a racist American society.

Ralph regularly broadcasts on the radio, hoping to contact other people. Eventually, he receives a signal from Europe, indicating there are at least a few other survivors. Things become vastly more complicated when an ill, white Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer) arrives by boat. Ralph and Sarah nurse him back to health, but once he recovers, Ben sets his sights on Sarah and sees Ralph as a rival. Ralph is torn by conflicting emotions. He avoids Sarah as much as possible, to give Ben every opportunity to win her affections, but cannot quite bring himself to leave the city.

Ben finally grows tired of the whole situation, realizing he stands little chance with Sarah as long as Ralph remains nearby. He warns Ralph that the next time he sees him, he will try to kill him. The two armed men hunt each other through the empty streets. Finally, Ralph passes by the United Nations headquarters, climbs the steps in Ralph Bunche Park, and reads the inscription "They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more", from the Book of Isaiah 2:4. He throws down his rifle and goes unarmed to confront Ben, who in turn finds himself unable to shoot his foe. Defeated, he starts walking away. Sarah appears. When Ralph starts to turn away from her, she makes him take her hand; then she calls to Ben and gives him her other hand. Together, the three walk down the street to build a new future together. The film ends not with "The End" but with "The Beginning".

  • Good answer, but the Jules Verne answer still is ahead of this movie. (But it made me decide to order the movie so I could see it.) – Tango Mar 16 '16 at 0:23
  • @Tango Yes, I only posted this in answer to the subquestion about early examples on TV or film. – user14111 Mar 16 '16 at 1:01
2

If you want to count it as Arthurian Fantasy, Parzival has a marriage between Gahmuret and the Moorish queen Belacane that resulted in the birth of Parzival's older half-brother Feirefiz, who, if I remember, was spotted.

  • 1
    Interesting; I didn't know that one. I don't know if it counts as "SF or Fantasy" for purposes of this question, considering that Shakespeare (which is less legend/myth) wasn't accepted, but it's still a neat find. – DavidW Sep 17 at 19:42
  • 2
    Also as this is a “first” question it would be helpful to edit in the year for this. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 17 at 19:45
2

Most of the answers here are not genre SF; the accepted answer, Around the World in 80 Days, is not science fiction or fantasy at all. Here is an example from genre SF, from a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some of the United States, in which the interracial relationship is central to the story.

1957: "Pretty Quadroon" by Charles L. Fontenay, first published in If, June 1957, available at the Internet Archive; also at Project Gutenberg. The title, of course, is from the old song "My Pretty Quadroon".

The setting is the Second American Civil War; the protagonist is a Confederate general named Beauregard Courtney:

When the Second War for Southern Independence (the Northerners called it "The Second Rebellion") had broken out, Beauregard had feared it would be a swift holocaust of hydrogen bombs, followed by a cruel scourge of guerilla fighting. But not one nuclear weapon had exploded, except the atomic artillery of the two opposing forces. A powerful deterrent spelled caution to both North and South.

Sitting afar, watching the divided country with glee, was Soviet Russia. Her armies and navies were mobilized. She waited only for the two halves of the United States to ruin and weaken each other, before her troops would crush the flimsy barriers of western Europe and move into a disorganized America.

So the Second Rebellion (Beauregard found himself using the term because it was shorter) remained a classic war of fighting on the ground and bombing of only industrial and military targets. Both sides, by tacit agreement, left the great superhighways intact, both held their H-bombers under leash, ready to reunite if need be against a greater threat.

Just now the war was going well for the South. At the start, the new Confederacy had held nothing of Tennessee except Chattanooga south of the mountains and the southwestern plains around Memphis. That had been on Beauregard's advice, for he was high in the councils of the Southern military. He had felt it too dangerous to try to hold the lines as far north as Nashville, Knoxville and Paducah until the South mobilized its strength.

He had proved right. The Northern bulge down into Tennessee had been a weak point, and the Southern sympathies of many Tennesseans had hampered their defense. The Army of West Tennessee had driven up along the Mississippi River plains to the Kentucky line and the Army of East Tennessee now stood at the gates of Knoxville. Outflanked by these two threats, the Union forces were pulling back toward Nashville before Beauregard Courtney's Army of Middle Tennessee, and he did not intend to stop his offensive short of the Ohio River.

The title character is the general's mistress, a mixed race woman named Piquette:

Piquette's skin was golden, like autumn leaves, with an undertone of rich bronze. Her dark eyes were liquid and warm, and her hair tumbled to her shoulders, a jet cascade. She was clad in a simple white dress that, in the daring new fashion, bared the full, firm swell of her breasts.

Beauregard took her in his arms, and as her lips clung to his he felt a grey old man, as grey as his braid-hung uniform. He held her away from him. In the mirror behind her he saw his face, stern, weather-beaten, light-mustached, with startling blue eyes.

"Piquette, what on earth is this folly?" he demanded, kicking the door shut behind him. "Don't you know I'm moving on Tullahoma in the morning?"

"You know I wouldn't call you unless it was important, Gard, as much as I long for you." When she talked, her delicately molded face was as mobile as quicksilver. "I've found something that may end the war and save my people."

"Dammit, Quette, how many times have I told you they are not your people? You're a quadroon. You're three-fourths white, and a lot whiter in your heart than some white women I've seen."

"But I'm one-fourth Negro, and you wouldn't have married me, for that, even if you'd known me before you met your Lucy. Isn't that right, Gard?"

"Look, Quette, just because things are the way they are...."

She hushed him with a finger on his lips.

"The Negroes are my people, and the white people are my people," she said. "If the world were right. I'd be a woman instead of a thing in between, scorned by both. Can't you see that, Gard? You're not like most Southerners."

"I am a Southerner," he answered proudly. "That I love you above my own blood makes no difference. No, I don't hate the black man, as so many Southerners do—and Northerners too, if the truth were known. But, by God, he's not my equal, and I won't have him ruling over whites."

"This is an old argument," she said wearily, "and it isn't why I called you here. I've found a man—or, rather, a man has found me—who can end this war and give my people the place in the world they deserve."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.