Monday, August 31, 2009

Outer Alliance Pride Day 9/1/09



September 1, 2009 is the first Outer Alliance Pride Day. This is our mission statement:

"As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work."

I am posting an excerpt from a WIP here, and another (somewhat more "adult content") one at my "Region Between" blog. The item below is not particularly "queer," I suppose, aside from the fact of my authorship of it. The main character of it, Jun, happens to be gay, though that is not a major point of this particular excerpt. It matters to the story overall, however, (if it ever gets finished!) in that a love relationship he had becomes a sort of axis around which everything he does turns. The way he feels about that relationship causes him to make a decision that largely decides the outcome of the complete story, even though he is more of a secondary character through much of the book.

In this short excerpt from Draft One of my novel-in-progress (located perhaps a third of the way into the story), a teenage indentured servant named Jun has gotten free of his owner but has now found himself in the custody of someone who may or may not be a dangerous new foe…

…“I hate that term… ‘meat raider.’” Canaan’s smile dropped away and his soft voice suddenly sounded shot through with deep despair, as if he could not absorb one more affront to decency and dignity. “I can see that we have a lot of work to do down here to win over the hearts of the people and prove that we are not villains. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, obviously. I hope we can start correcting them now.”

“Letting me go would be an excellent start,” Jun said. With deep dryness, he added, “I can go around telling everyone how great you all are.”

Canaan’s smile returned, but it was more wistful now, and he completely ignored Jun’s sarcasm. “You do know, I hope, that we don’t really take people by force and make them do things they don’t want to do.”

Jun shook his head, amazed to hear such a claim from a member of the Hong itself. “So you say. Buying people and stealing them away to the Moon and the can cities sounds a lot like making people do things they don’t want to do.”

“Do your own people not trade in human bodies, Jun? Were you yourself not a slave, bought for money by a man who wanted you to do his work for him? Did you want a life like that?”

“I wasn’t happy there, no!” Jun said. “But Hagen never hurt us…well, he did hit us sometimes but he wasn’t a sadist. He didn’t hurt us for fun like your people do.” He glanced around the room. “And we weren’t jailed in cells like this either.”

His eyes wet wells of grief now, Faxor Canaan reached for Jun with both arms and clasped his shoulders. “You poor boy,” he whispered. Jun closed his eyes and stiffened his spine and let himself be pulled into the Hong man’s embrace. “I’m so sorry for what’s happened to you, Jun.” So kind in tone was the whisper in his ear, the words sounded quite nearly authentic. Jun shuddered.

“Jun, I need to ask you something: did the…uh, zombies, as you call them show you anything rather strange? An unconscious man just a few years older than you? He sleeps steadily and never awakens?”

The strigoi, Jun thought, alarmed, easing away from Canaan, back onto the bunk, back against the cold cinder blocks of the cell’s wall. He said nothing.

Canaan pulled his chair closer to the bunk. “He’s comatose or in some sort of fugue. They’ve left him naked so they can better observe changes in his appearance. He used to have a Force Ares marine strike force tattoo on his chest, but it’s faded away almost completely. His skin used to be quite dark—darker than yours—but it, too, has faded in color and become very smooth. Did you notice how smooth and pale his skin was?”

Jun nodded slowly and, in the next instant, realized that by doing so he had also accidentally admitted to having seen the strigoi.

“This sleeping man was once part of the Martian platoon that’s currently in your city. Did you know that?”

Jun shook his head.

“I think the Martians know that the zombies have their man and were thinking about rescuing him when you got caught in the crossfire.”

Jun felt increasingly confused. He felt nauseous with it. Either this Hong man knew more than he was revealing—more than what Jun himself knew, which was almost nothing—or he was fishing for clues that would support one theory or another. None of it makes any sense. Silence, Jun decided, was his best option. Let the Hong agent show what he knows.

“Jun, I’d like to show you something.” Canaan turned the small vid-screen of his handheld toward Jun. “Can you look at these images for me and tell me if any of it jogs a memory or means anything to you?” Apparently detecting Jun’s apprehension at this, Canaan reached out a hand and patted the boy on the shoulder softly. “It will just take a minute.”

Jun looked at the screen that Canaan held before his eyes. A hazy hologram blossomed from it, like a whorl of fog. Jun blinked, his vision blurring, and then he saw it:

The strigoi lies in air, afloat above a glassy slick of oil or water. He does not breathe; his chest does not rise or fall. Something pierces his chest, a smoky shaft of vapor, a ghostly stake.

Someone approaches the strigoi’s invisible bed and leans down, placing his head against the strigoi’s heart. The stake passes through this newcomer’s skull, but he does not seem to notice. His hair is thick, blond and tousled and his gray eyes smile when he looks up at Jun. It is Garren. But Jun knows that it can’t be Garren because Garren never saw the strigoi.

For the briefest sliver of a second, almost too quickly to be perceived, the top of Garren’s head explodes in a sleet of flechettes, blood and bone. But then Garren is still looking at him, uninjured and smiling. He turns away and circles the strigoi’s bed.

The sequence repeats itself: Garren approaches the strigoi, listens to its unbeating heart, smiles at Jun, dies in a hail of gunfire.

And again it happens.

And again, many more times….

“Please don’t cry,” whispers a soft voice. “Please, please, it will be all right again. I promise.” He knows it’s probably Faxor Canaan, the enemy, who embraces him and mops his tears with cold fingers. He lets himself be held anyway because it seems to make the images fade away and cease their terrible repetition. The one image he can’t get rid of, however, is the last one, the one that happens only once: Garren, bleeding and dead but still standing, turns his back on Jun and the strigoi and walks away into vapor and darkness.

“He is okay," said a voice. Jun gave into sudden sleepiness as he heard Canaan say, “He is ready for us now.”

From Shame, work-in-progress

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3 comments:

Nick Poniatowski said...

Nice stuff! If you need a betareader, I'd be more than happy to oblige; even if you don't need a critique, I wanna read the whole story when you're done. :-)

Christopher Fletcher said...

Now that I know someone would be interested in reading it. maybe I will get that motivation to FINISH it. It's been in progress for over a year, but about 80 percent of the work happened during the first 3 months of that...so progress has seriously slowed. About 30K more words!

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