“Notes of the Founders” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Queer Young Cowboys, 2014).
I was leaning this way before reading this piece but am now convinced that, at heart, this author is a novelist. The second longest story in the collection, coming in at forty pages, this is a fully realized world with an interesting history not only of several characters but of the colony they inhabit. I don’t see any reason why the key events which are mentioned here in brief couldn’t be rendered in long form. I feel the same way about several of the pieces in this book, actually. These must be fragments of novels. They must be.
This is the story of the founders of a moon colony appropriately named New Sagan: Niko Miya and Peter Miller. It is told to us through journal entries as well as remembrances by Niko’s granddaughter. It’s a love story at heart, and here I’m not just talking about the magnetic pull between Niko and Peter but also about the way the colony itself is portrayed. This is a love song to the human race’s potential. Nothing is ever made of the fact that Niko and Peter are two men, aside from the fact that they had to resort to using a surrogate to bear their three children, and that, as scientists, they’d hoped for some other solution to that problem. (It is hinted that perhaps they found some measure of work-around, just as it’s hinted that the “Dome skin” that protects the colony, and which was their creation, is possibly alive.) I love that their sexual orientation is a non-issue, just as their (I’m assuming from their names) differing races is a non-issue. The only thing that matters to the members of the New Sagan colony is love and the right to self-determination. We can only hope that this fictional future comes to pass.
“Like They Always Been Free” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Queer Young Cowboys, 2014).
The titular story of the collection, this entry could not come at a better time, immediately after the unrelenting harshness of life in the midst of civil war. Here we’re on another planet, and while things have certainly been tough for the main character, Kinger, it’s a fight he has a hope of winning. He fought back at his oppressors while on a slave transport ship, killed a guard, and won a small victory. In that moment, too, he had a very brief interaction with a character he thinks of afterward as Boy.
The memory of Boy haunts Kinger during subsequent years, while he’s hiding in the Underground. He feels sure that Boy’s beauty, most notably his luminescent blue skin, has kept him from the hard life of mining that the other slaves were facing. Not that it means he got away easy; the sort of slavery Boy no doubt was headed to is one Kinger’s had a taste of, at the hands of cruel guards.
I really didn’t expect a happy ending to this story, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it has one.
“Goddamn Right” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Queer Young Cowboys, 2014).
Loeb and Whit live in a United States that has split into warring factions, the Redeemers and the Resistance. They belong to the latter group, and they work to move people and supplies through the tunnels beneath major cities, doing their part to assist in the effort to take back the nation. The story is chilling because at times it seems the growing divide in this country really could devolve into actual war. And, of course, this sort of thing does go on, is going on right now, in other parts of the world. I liked the story, but it is much bleaker than, say, Ethan and Lucas’ plight in “Spill Your Troubles on Me, Love”. There the problem seemed to be with them, their personal demons. They had somewhat of a grasp on a bad situation, and help seemed not so far away, if only they would decide to seek it. Here the whole world is madness, bullets are flying, and Loeb, perhaps because he is a soldier, or perhaps because Whit is half out of it with fever, comes across as much more reserved than Ethan.
“A Sort of Faerie Tale” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Young Queer Cowboys, 2014).
The author points out, deep into this tale, that it is “one not meant for children”. That’s because a white hot sexuality fuels it, underneath the lyrical prose and classic fairytale set-up. It’s most welcome. And, truth be told, most of Greek and Roman mythology, the Bible, and the works of the brothers Grimm also are inappropriate for children, though with the last it’s because they are too violent. Only the Greek and Roman gods experienced the sort of passion felt by the heroes of this story, in addition to violence.
Janos and Oren come from different non-human species, wolf and faerie, respectively. Growing up, each heard the myth that explains why peace exists between the two groups. It’s because, once every great while, both moons of their world rise on the same night, and the resultant lunar pull draws two individuals, one from each species, together. The way the story has always been told it is a wolf prince and a faerie princess who are inextricably bound together on the night of the double moons. Neither Janos nor Oren has ever liked the tale. Janos is attracted to other males in his pack, but sometimes to human males as well, and Oren feels likewise, only about faerie and human males. Each believes he has no use for the story of his ancestors, until the night of the two moons reveals that just because something has always happened a certain way does not mean it can never happen any other way, and myths and fairy tales are for everyone.
“Blood Sugar Sex Magic” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Queer Young Cowboys, 2014).
Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the first two stories in this collection because I reviewed “Closer to the Sky” as part of Best Gay Romance 2013 (Short Stories 365/15), and “Spill Your Troubles On Me, Love” (Short Stories 365/50) from Best Gay Romance 2014, published by Cleis Press. I, too, have a story in BGR 2014, which makes us “anthology mates”. Full disclosure: I received a copy of this collection from the author.
This is a really interesting piece because it’s told in third person present tense. I’ve loved stories told this way ever since I read Alice Hoffman’s Blue Diary. There was more distance between the reader and the characters of that book than there is here, with James. The tight focus the author places on objects James encounters, mostly signs, coupled with the unique language of his thoughts, has the effect of drawing you in so deep that it feels, truly, like being inside the character’s head, rather than being told a story.
Be warned, this isn’t a story with a traditional plot. It takes the reader to a few choice locales frequented by James, introduces the two guys he interacts with the most, and explains, by showing, why it is that he ends up with one and not the other.