Queerpunk, which features my short story “Upload”, is now available in a variety of different formats from the following places:
Circlet is still having shopping cart issues, but it will be up there ASAP as well.
Queer sexuality has long defied the conventional standard of sexual expression; intersecting with the tech-driven backdrop of cyberpunk, it has now rewritten the rules completely. Queerpunk, with its collection of stories that revel in a near-futuristic vision of our own time, investigates the evolution of Queer sexuality under the smog-covered umbrella of urban and technological advancement. When the human body becomes a customizable canvas, either through mechanical implants or three-dimensional internet avatars, sexuality is given even more outlets from which to evolve. As the old social order succumbs to cyberspace’s commanding hand, Queer identity finds new nooks and crannies in which to root.
The stories that follow–“Rescue Wounds,” “Blindwire,” “Upload,” “The Real Thing,” and “Virgin”–craft worlds in which human connection punctures cyberpunk’s isolationist veil. In an otherwise impersonal and anonymous world, the bonds the characters forge through sexual expression shine a small bit of light onto the smoke, and a shred of warmth that pokes through the streams and pockets of internet data. Featuring authors Kal Cobalt, Eric Del Carlo, Sunny Moraine, R.E. Bond, and Kannan Feng, Queerpunk confronts this intersection and the question of what it means to be Queer in a world where the matter of identity has been revolutionized completely.
I love cyberpunk. I have since I was a freshman in high school and watching Ghost in the Shell for the first time and just starting to work out who the fuck William Gibson was. Cyberpunk is something that lends itself naturally to transgressiveness–of place and time, of geographical borders, of identity, of what’s real. So it also lends itself naturally to sex, and in this case to sex that reaches outside the norm of a lot of what I see in erotica. There’s death in here. There are sociopathic people, and sex that has very little meaning outside of two pieces of meat slamming into each other. There’s sex that provides a kind of healing to a profoundly damaged person, with faint echoes of The Matrix. There’s technology fetishism in here, which I found especially evocative, and which made me wonder: if a lot of sexual expression is culturally constructed, what will people’s kinks look like in fifty years? In a hundred?
Almost all of these stories are also about power and resistance, which is interesting in itself. Corporate power, governmental power, the power of massive institutions, and then the power that individuals exert over each other, and the power that someone can have over themselves. The power that the past has over the present and the future. The possibility of resisting external and internal control.
My story is very blatantly about resistance–my two main characters are the leaders of a gang of anti-corporate revolutionaries–but I wanted to particularly explore how cyberspace makes place and body and identity malleable, and to look at the vanishing line between humans and machines. Nothing very new, especially not in this genre, but I think I did pretty well with it. Hopefully you’ll think so too.
This is my third anthology with Circlet Press so far, and I have to say: I think it’s my favorite. And not just because I’m a contributor. There’s just so much to love in here. Circlet always puts out quality stuff, but I really think this is top of the line even for them. This isn’t just good porn, these are great stories, and I’m very happy that mine is among them. I can’t recommend it enough.
SFW excerpt under the cut.
Ajia stretched out the edges of her perception and searched. For now, she was only waiting. Beyond this point, she had no idea of where to go. It was a maze one might get lost in and never emerge from. But she was waiting for a signal and it came, very suddenly, very gentle, the equivalent of a soft tap on her shoulder, and all at once she knew where she had to be and how to get there.
She flew. It was easy. She remembered how without having to try, even as the sensation was strange to her. Navigation was something that the youngest children learned, but for her it felt like lifetimes since she had dared to try it. Too dangerous. Too much risk, the odds not tipped far enough in her favor to make the attempt worth it. But now she had the card, a once-in-a-lifetime shield, and she knew she was safe. She had to know it. She had to believe that this would work.
Ajia flew and she let the flow carry her, flashing from node to node in near instantaneous bursts, spiraling downstream, hidden in the bytes and bits, tucked away from view. She could feel her destination ahead of her, if ‘ahead’ held any meaning at all, and she surged through and into it, a tiny pocket of calm while the stream laughed and howled its way past.
She didn’t know where she was. There was no clear identifier. It could be anywhere; the mainframe of a banking system, a governmental database, a corporate hive. It didn’t matter. She was here, and…
And Nur was here.
Just a tickle at the edges of everything, but it swarmed in, coalesced and solidified, and there she was. Ajia was receiving images in short bursts. Nur’s dark, strong, tattooed body, her hair braided into wild and spiraling patterns across her scalp, black and laughing eyes, smiling lips.
In her chair in her room in some other world, Ajia gasped and twitched. Years. Fucking years.
“You look the same,” she whispered, and Nur chuckled and opened her finely muscled arms.
“Hey, Aji. Come here to me, pretty girl. Won’t feel like nothing in a moment.”
Ajia went to her, and it was the same as the real world, the world that bodies lived in, maybe even better, because there was no skin to get in the way. Only the virtual approximation of flesh and muscle and bone, and that was never quite as restrictive as the real thing. Ajia had missed Nur, so much, but she realized that she had also missed being logged on. The freedom, every movement easier and smoother than a thought.
Little wonder that some people came here and never left at all.
“Guess I don’t need to ask if you missed me,” Nur murmured, and leaned in and kissed her.
Three years. Longer, maybe. Ajia wasn’t sure anymore, but that was all right; she felt very deeply that she no longer had to be sure of anything, with Nur’s lips softly parting hers, tongue slipping past her teeth and into her mouth, gently dominant and gently taking, just the way she always had, and it was only virtual but it couldn’t have mattered less. Ajia pressed against her, data-heat against heat, and the years melted away like the snow that never fell anymore.
“You’re safe where you are?” Ajia breathed when she finally could, and Nur nodded, lips against Ajia’s jaw.
“Safe enough for now. It won’t last, but that doesn’t matter.” She reached up and her hands framed Ajia’s face, fingertips combing up and through the strands of her hair. “Baby… I can’t hide anymore. It’s time to come back out and make things happen.” She smiled. “And you always were the best at that.”
Ajia frowned slightly; she didn’t understand, and while that in itself didn’t always bother her, when it came to Nur… Nur had gone into hiding because it was a choice between that or death. Or vanishing into the depths of an interrogation block, which came to the same thing. So hiding it was, and Ajia ate the time, took it into herself, slept alone in her cold bed and waited, and when the leaders of what had once been a highly organized anti-corporate resistance group came to her and demanded to know what the next move was, demanded action, Ajia had simply shaken her head.
Not yet. We wait. We don’t move until we hear from her.
And one by one they had drifted away.
So was it safe now? What had changed?
“We’ve lost a lot of people,” Ajia murmured, nuzzling into Nur’s palm even as the real world distracted her. “I don’t know how many of my messages reached you, but–“
“We’ll get them back.” Nur kissed her brow. “Maybe some, maybe all. Don’t worry.”
Ajia smiled faintly, let herself sink forward and into all that heat, all that strength. Once she had been an awkward, uncertain girl, preoccupied with networks and bits–and then Nur had come along, and while she had remained lost in her nets, in her tech, Nur’s hands steadied her and Nur’s brazen confidence eased her. And now that was all here again, as if it had never been gone.
“I won’t. It’s just…” She shook her head, her hands smoothing down over Nur’s shoulders, the lines of her collarbones, the soft, small curves of her breasts. All so familiar. All like coming home. “I thought about this for so long. It’s hard to believe it’s really happening now.”
Nur kissed her again, deeper and longer, teeth catching Ajia’s lower lip and scraping gently, and when they pulled a little apart again, Ajia was gasping the air that wasn’t air, and Nur was grinning.
“I’ll make you believe it, then.”