#1999

I dreamed the kind of dream that makes you wish you could draw or were otherwise skilled in a visual art, because there’s no way words can adequately describe it. The dream took place in a militaristic, space-based empire of genetically advanced humans. In this empire, warriors and knights each had their own personal weapon which could be summoned at will (much like the gems in Steven Universe). The weapons were formed with a sort of black energy, which lent them additional versatility and destructive power. Warriors in higher military commands were also linked with their own starships (which looked like Ryo-Ohki from Tenchi Muyo). These ships existed primarily in an alternate but parallel dimension, but could be summoned into the main dimension when needed for battle; in fact, their ability to exist partially in both dimensions simultaneously made them ideal for large battles becauses they could fire on an enemy yet not be directly hit. (Imagine massive starships that can literally ghost through solid objects, such as buildings, to fire on the inhabitants.) Often the ships and weapons were used in honorable battle between knights, but also frequently for full warfare between the empire and dissidents. In addition, the most powerful warriors could also form an energy shield/aura called an ‘aspect storm’ (my brain borrowed the term from The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan) which, if the warrior was particularly skilled, could be controlled like a giant monster to do widespread damage.

In this dream, Tanim was the emperor’s son and being groomed to take his father’s place in the future. He was an admirable warrior with his own ship, and his personal weapon was a black lance that could be turned into a powerful longbow when battling aspect storms. At one point in the dream he stopped by a training session in which some of the best warriors were teamed up against a single man dressed all in black – I recognized him as Daren, though in the dream all Tanim knew was that the stranger was new to his father’s service. Despite being surrounded and outnumbered, Daren easily held command of the fight. His weapon, thin double blades that allowed him superb speed and range of motion, was somehow set to instantaneously cauterize any wound it created. In this way, Daren was able to deal legitimate injuries but the risk of killing someone in one blow was small. Still, he severed several fingers and at least one arm, and maimed others in ways that would permanently remove them from the emperor’s service. Tanim was certainly impressed (okay, and probably pretty turned on), and I think they ended up fighting together against a gigantic aspect storm later on. At any rate, there were lots of explosions and space battles and stuff, and it was awesome.

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#1898

By the end of the dream I am an old woman, still walking proud and tall in this place of smaller beings, but wrinkled and tired nonetheless. As the suns set, I watch the children of our peoples’ union dart between the mud houses in play. They are growing up in a world where they are the minority, little half-breeds of two alien races, but here they are treated like the blessings they are. Back home, two universes away in a place to which we can never return, they would be hated and mistreated. Those of us who remain from the first colony remember the way hate’s seeds spread so easily through our species; that we did not bear them in our own hearts was why each of us were chosen for the worldjump.

Evening cools the hot, dry air of this desert planet, and the flattened dirt road retains just enough warmth to soothe my bare feet. I take a moment to pause and stare up at the sky, at the familiar constellations and circling moons that once felt so foreign and frightening. Now, they are a comfort. I think of those of us who have perished on this planet; do they look down on me, one of the very last, from their home in the heavens? Tears well in my eyes. I wish you were here, I plead to the beloved who was taken too early to witness this planet’s miracles. I wish you could see what we’ve created… I wish you could have known our children. I sink to my knees, weeping, my tears darkening the ground like the rain which never falls here. I miss you! I cry. I miss you so much, darling! You should be here; you should have shared all of our joys! I love this place. I love these creatures who have shown us a different way of living. But love does not replace the ones of my own species who are gone and never to return. I am one of the last. And my time is short.

#1856

Moth: Darker, Realer, and (Way) Gayer than The Hunger Games


“Five years ago, I wrote a YA novel. Like all my novels, it had a lesbian MC. But this one was different from anything I’d done before. With this novel, I got an agent. It was put out on submission & every editor who read it said it was awesome. But. Well written. But. It was too controversial. Something that they said, and I quote, “American kids wouldn’t believe.” … I wrote it because I was angry. And anger, right now, is SO important. Anger will save us. Anger will give us strength, help keep us brave. I’m releasing the book editors said was too controversial. The book that made them uncomfortable. The book American kids “wouldn’t believe.” I told this story for all of us. For every pain I’ve suffered. For every pain you’ve suffered.  Stay angry. Stay brave. Don’t fall asleep.” – S.E. Diemer

Back when The Hunger Games fandom first exploded, the books were recommended to me by my sister when I told her I was looking for more fiction with “badass women”. I read the books, mildly enjoyed the first two, and rolled my eyes through much of the third. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t speak to me like they did to so many others. In the end, I think that’s because the world they’re set in, an unspoken but clearly post-apocalyptic-style future North America, didn’t feel realistic. The story was good – dark, but full of hope; real, but just fantastical enough to keep you reading – but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe Panem was once my America, and so the terrible future in the books never felt like a real threat.

Cut to the recent US election. Cut to the quote I shared above. Cut to Moth, a book about a future America where being black, queer, non-Christian, dissenting, outspoken, even just a little too rebellious can get you sent to re-education camps to be burned, electrocuted, and brainwashed (if you’re lucky) – or simply killed. This book, like The Hunger Games, is YA. It’s meant for teenagers, for the exact audience editors apparently didn’t think would buy its setting. Let me tell you – I buy it. Because this isn’t post-apocalypse, this isn’t mutant monsters, this isn’t crazy sci-fi technology and vast conspiracies…

This is North Korea. Now. Everything that happens in this book, everything our heroine experiences, has happened or does currently happen in countries across the world. It’s not impossible to imagine queer kids being forced to undergo traumatizing, sometimes deadly attempts to “fix” them. That happens. It’s not impossible to have a character whose father is killed just because his skin is dark. That happens. It’s not impossible to learn about an underground railroad ferrying kids up to Canada (the border of which is soon to be blocked by a giant “freedom” wall), nor that the European Union has cut off all aide to the country. Those things happen all the time, and have throughout history.

This is an America ruled by a dictator who claims to speak the very will of God. There are no mutants or science experiments here – just fanatical people who think the world should run their way because They Are Right. I don’t know about you, but these days that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched future.

This book has its little flaws, like all books do, but no major detractors. More importantly, what it has at its core is the anger and fear not of someone looking into a possible sci-fi future hundreds of years from now, but someone living right here with us who sees a path our country could easily take. As much as we’d like to pretend democracy is unassailable, our form of government is as vulnerable to corruption and dissolution as any other. Will we ever become a totalitarian dictatorship in which we gleefully watch children murder each other for food and fame in gigantic stadiums full of technological death traps? Probably not. Will we ever become a theocracy in which dissenters are “re-educated” to fit the Christian model of good citizens? Maybe, yeah.

So read this book. It’s worth it.

(For those who need it, here are the book’s major trigger warnings: Homophobia, racism, physical and mental/emotional abuse, suicide, violence)

#1820

Isaac slumped against the loft railing, staring down to the floor below where his companions worked to reinforce the boarded windows. He vacillated between admiring their stubborn determination to keep fighting and pitying them for not being able to accept the bleak truth of their situation. Mostly, though, he watched Michael move among the busy scene and wondered how things would be different if he had met the handsome doctor under better circumstances. When you couldn’t even leave the building without carrying a gun, or at least a crow bar or sturdy length of wood, romantic overtures were quite low on the list of priorities. Of course, it also didn’t help that you had zero privacy and were never more than fifteen or twenty feet from one of the other survivors. Was it wrong to wish a few of them might disappear, to whatever end, just to ease the crowded conditions?

“Isaac, you look like you haven’t washed in days,” Maria’s heavy boots thunked along the cheap plyboard as she climbed the loft stairs, a hammer hanging from her belt loop and spare boards tucked under her arm. She looked him over with a motherly frown of disapproval. “Your hair’s all greasy.” Isaac wanted to reply with, We’ll all be dead soon, why does it matter if I don’t look my best? or perhaps, That’s what concerns you? I guess you didn’t notice that I haven’t eaten in two days, but he held his tongue and answered instead with a careless shrug. “Maybe the dead won’t want to eat me if I taste like unwashed skin,” he added as an afterthought, but Maria had already turned away to block up one of the second story windows. She could be friendly, and her nagging was well-meant, but sarcasm had no place in her version of the apocalypse.

To be fair, Isaac had very little energy or desire left for sarcasm himself. He also didn’t particularly mind that no one had yet noticed his share of the rations went untouched, though just from feeling his own body he knew the effects were becoming noticeable. Whatever. He wasn’t trying to be a martyr or anything; he just honestly felt that what little food was left to their ragtag group should go to the people who still clung to hope and life. Sure, they’d be dead soon either way, but at least they would fight until the very end. Isaac had given up, plain and simple. At this point all he wanted was to finish this slow wasting away so they could bury him and forget he’d ever existed. That had already happened to a couple billion other people, after all. What was one more?

Isaac closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the splintered railing, letting the sounds of hammering and urgent discussion wash over him like a white noise machine. Exhaustion and hunger made his head spin and when he woke later he couldn’t tell if the memory of Michael kneeling beside him, his handsome face creased with concern as he checked Isaac for fever, was real or just a wishful daydream.