Never Say Never
I was just getting to know Aleksandr Voinov when he casually mentioned a couple of sci-fi anthologies he was putting together for Noble Romance, one M/M and the other M/F. Now I don’t know about you, but there’s always been one genre I’d sworn never to write, and for me that genre was sci-fi.
Why? I’m not sure. Sci-fi was something I read and watched in my childhood and teens. A steady diet of Doctor Who and The Tripods gave way to Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Dune series by Frank Herbert, and various manga and anime series, but after that I abandoned the genre. For whatever reason, I told myself I’d never write sci-fi. After all, I’m a historian, not a scientist; my brain can barely comprehend simple mathematics, so the thought of grappling with the laws of quantum physics made me want to run screaming for the hills.
So when I read Alex’s email, I should have said, “Thanks, but no thanks”, right?
Right. But I didn’t. I decided this was an opportunity to challenge myself to come up with a sci-fi story. Even if it turned out to be a load of old bilge, at least I’d tried it. I believe no story written is ever wasted--you learn something from everything you write, even if you’re the only person ever to see it--so I figured I had nothing to lose.
That decision made, I then flailed madly over the many sub-genres of sci-fi. I didn’t want to write about space ships or alien tentacle monsters or robots because I don’t think I have the world-building skills to pull that off. So with hard sci-fi out, I turned to soft sci-fi, and remembering how I used to love Masamune Shirow’s manga (Appleseed, Dominion: Tank Police, Ghost in the Shell), I thought I’d try my hand at soft cyberpunk.
The first draft was rubbish. I had my characters--Toki, a half Japanese, half Chinese genetic upgrade and his ex-husband Ismail, half Scots, half Arab--and I’d picked a futuristic Edinburgh as the setting. The first version was too dark and cynical, and I had to remind myself that there was supposed to be a romance in the story! So I scrapped it and started again.
This time, it just flowed. The story unfolded so cleanly in front of me, I knew this was the one. I don’t regret losing that first draft--I’d been trying so hard to write what I perceived of as a ‘sci-fi story’ that I’d lost sight of the goal. Working outside of my comfort zone had made me blunder, but taking that wrong turning helped me, as the second version of Conduit turned out much stronger for it.
The story was accepted, and it joins three others (including stories about robots, space ships, and aliens, if not alien tentacle monsters) in Noble Romance’s M/M anthology Echoes of the Future. I’m really glad I took the chance to try something different--and never again will I say “I can’t write X” until I’ve tried it.
So what about you? Have you got a genre you absolutely won’t write? Have you ever gone out of your comfort zone and tried a completely different genre? How was the experience for you? I’d love to know!
Echoes of the Future
Edited by Aleksandr Voinov
Burn by Aleksandr Voinov
Flight Lieutenant Chris Waters is the pilot of a cutting-edge unmanned SAD fighter drone that is used for secret government missions. Chris is cutting-edge technology himself: his neural network is upgraded with cyber-technology and software that makes him the interface of his combat drone.
Then, something goes wrong as he connects to his drone. Haunted by strange, disorientating impressions, a so-called 'ghost', he hooks up on leave with fellow pilot Cyril for a night. But Cyril is not the man Chris thought he is, and Chris soon finds out what the 'ghost' in his body really is, as well as the truth about his missions.
Conduit by Kate Cotoner
Ismail and his ex-husband Toki are divided by class and circumstance. Toki is a cybernetic upgrade human and part of the city elite, while Ismail is a baseline human and a cop. Their brief marriage failed when Toki walked out, but now he's back, asking for Ismail's help against Hanuman, a malicious cyber-intelligence who plans to poison the water supply of all baseline humans in the city. Now Ismail and Toki must find the underground reservoir targeted by Hanuman before time runs out for them both.
Rescue Me by Jude Mason
Assigned to guard Leetchi Ambassador Dar and his family, Lieutenant Thomas Patch finds himself inexplicably drawn to Jad, the diplomat's son. The tall, slender Leetchi turns out to be as gay as Patch and steals his heart. When Jad is kidnapped, Patch goes undercover to find and rescue him. The rescue takes him to the underbelly of the space port city and a whore house where slaves are bought and sold at will. Finding Jad proves easier than he'd hoped, but the rescue takes an insane twist when their escape attempt is thwarted by the one person they knew was on their side.
Will Jad's enslavement tear the lovers apart? Will Patch be torn from the love of his life? Find out, in Rescue Me.
Reversal by A. B. Gayle
Sebastian is bored. He has another five years of lone duty supervising his family's robots on their space station. The last thing he wants to do is the housework. For Christmas, his mother sends him a Domestic Darling cyborg. True to form, she purchases a factory second and sends one that doesn't quite fit the bill. Instead of being a pert blond with big tits and a cute ass like in the advertisement, this one is six foot tall and built like a Greek god, a very virile Greek God. In an attempt to improve its functioning, Sebastian uses some of his brilliant programming skills. The resulting changes ensure Sebastian will never be bored again.
Read an excerpt of ‘Conduit’ here