QSFer SI Clarke has a new queer sci fi book out (ace, bi, lesbian, trans ftm), book one in the White Hart series: “Devon’s Island.”
Other stories will take you to Mars. This one will take you inside the boardroom, the pub, and the bedroom with the people planning the mission.
Gurdeep is an engineer and a soldier. Georgie’s a food scientist. One is pragmatic with a tough outer shell; the other’s an optimist, a person of ideas and compassion. Together, they’re humanity’s last hope for survival.
In the span of a single afternoon, the couple find themselves in charge of planning and establishing a self-sustained colony on Mars. They have 160 slots to fill with experts from all over the world as they set about designing an all-new society with its own government, economy, and culture – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With 1,114 days until the launch, excitement and tensions run high. Earth’s second chance hangs in the balance. Between strict genetic requirements and the dangers of the dystopian almost-present, will everyone make it to the final countdown?
This is a work of neurodiverse, culturally diverse, gender-bendy, socio-politico-economic, drunken-arguments-in-the-pub science fiction – not bang-bang-pew-pew science fiction. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Warnings: One character faces explicit racism / Islamophobia in one scene. The story takes place in a near-future world that’s not unlike our own (hostile to anyone “other”)
Launch minus 1,114 days
Earth, England, London
‘Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.’
I didn’t like him. Him with his blatantly insincere smile. He looked as if he were posing for a camera rather than conducting a job interview.
Shifting my weight, I touched the faux leather of the designer chair I was sitting on. I cast my eyes around the room, taking in the exposed brick wall and trendy artwork. Looking out the window, I admired the view of the Tower of London.
‘What I’d like is for the two of you to tell us about yourselves – your careers, your motivations, and your relationship. Think of this as more than a job interview. A life interview, if you will. Then I’ll tell you what we’re working on and why we thought you might be interested in joining us. Does that sound all right?’
His accent was that broad transatlantic that suggested he was well educated and had lived in a lot of places. Of course, I already knew all that. Nigel Hartley-Richards had long been a staple in business news and on current-affairs shows and even an occasional topic of conversation for the celebrity gossip sites. He was shorter than I’d expected, but still… I supposed he was handsome enough – if you were into old, rich white guys. Or, you know, men in general.
I forced myself to smile. ‘Thanks for having us, Sir Nigel. We were both intrigued by your message.’ Well, I certainly was. And Georgie said she was too. But it didn’t mean I had to like him.
‘Please, just “Nigel” is fine.’ There was that smile again. ‘But do continue.’ My gosh, he was full of himself. I looked at the woman sitting next to him. She was neat and well put-together. Tight curls of black hair tied back at the nape of her neck. Unblemished umber skin several shades richer than my own. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at her age. She had introduced herself as Laura, but hadn’t given her surname or role. Presumably Nigel’s assistant.
I launched into a canned speech about myself. Gurdeep Singh. Born and raised in Nantwich in Cheshire. Third-generation British-Indian. Considered myself both British and Indian. Master’s in mechanical engineering. Almost ten years as a sapper in the Royal Engineers. Deployed overseas three times to date. Oh, and hey… A few years ago I was a quarter-finalist on Bake Off.
Turning to my right, I looked at my wife. Georgiana Ionescu, my gorgeous and startlingly intelligent wife. My mind flashed back to the night I’d met her.
Home from uni for the Easter break, I’d been bored and lonely. I signed up to attend a public talk on sustainable futures, out of both interest and a desire to make friends. The event was at the local civic hall in Nantwich, so I walked over from my parents’ place.
Having arrived early, I positioned myself in the back row and watched the volunteers setting everything up. I spotted her from across the room, this curvy beauty brimming with contagious energy. Georgie smiled and waved when she caught my eye. She was a study in contradictions. Curly blond hair with rainbow streaks swirling through it. Fishnet stockings with trainers. Frilled blouse with torn denim skirt.
Watching her flit in and out of the room, running to and fro, carrying supplies and equipment, chasing panellists – I was instantly smitten.
I don’t remember a word of the speeches. I invented some excuse to speak with her at the drinks afterwards. She was particularly enjoying these dainty little Bakewell tartlets – not just eating them, but savouring them with a look of almost orgasmic joy on her face.
Not that I’d have had the first clue what an orgasm looked like back then.
‘I can make those, you know,’ I blurted. Still no idea where that came from. Please – I’d never baked anything in my life, but I knew I needed to impress this amazing woman.
She raised an eyebrow and flashed a smile that melted me. ‘Oh? You’ll have to give me a taste sometime.’ Honestly, I would’ve said anything to extend the conversation by even a few minutes. How could I get this stunning, smart, buxom, charming woman to pay attention to boring, serious me?
Somehow I left that night with her number, a date, and a desperate need to learn how to bake. I spent the next forty-eight hours locked in my parents’ kitchen making endless batches of tarts. The first few sets were inedible, but eventually I created something to be proud of.
The rest, as they say, was history.
‘And that leaves me,’ Georgie began. ‘I was born in Timișoara, in western Romania. My family moved to Cluj-Napoca when I was small. When I finished school, I moved to England for university. I completed my BSc in applied plant science in Cheshire before pursuing a PhD focusing on novel and more efficient food production methods, comparing both resource efficacy and nutritional content of mycoproteins and spirulina.’
‘After finishing my PhD I moved into industry, working with a food manufacturer, helping to launch sustainably grown meat alternatives.’ Georgie was on a mission to solve world hunger and making impressive strides towards achieving that goal. ‘But then, two years back, I chucked it all in to join MELiSSA, the European Space Agency’s self-sustainable ecosystem.’
Nigel plucked a piece of lint from his sleeve. ‘What can you tell us about that?’
‘The average human consumes at least five kilograms per day of air, food, and water as well as around twenty kilograms for hygiene – water and soaps and what not. To make permanent or even long-term space missions viable, we need to create a closed ecosystem wherein everything gets re-cycled, which means the only input is the energy that drives the processes.’ Georgie smoothed her skirt and pulled her hands in towards her chest. ‘All of which is pretty incredible when you think of it. We’re looking to make finite resources serve a small community of people indefinitely.’
SI CLARKE is a misanthrope who lives in Deptford, sarf ees London. She shares her home with her partner and an assortment of waifs and strays. When not writing convoluted, inefficient stories, she spends her time telling financial services firms to behave more efficiently. When not doing either of those things, she can be found in the pub or shouting at people online — occasionally practising efficiency by doing both at once.
As someone who’s neurodivergent, an immigrant, and the proud owner of an invisible disability, she strives to present a realistically diverse array of characters in her stories.
|Amazon Buy Link||https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1916287808/|
|B&N Buy Link||https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/devons-island-si-clarke/1135473443?ean=9781916287808|
|Other Buy Link||https://books2read.com/u/b5QdD6|