DSP Publications author Bradley Lloyd has a new queer sci fi book out:
Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.
No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.
Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.
THE CONTESTANT peered at the faded “4” over the rusty door. He pulled out the small slip of paper from his leather armguard and read it again. Mutual Conglomerate Building. Entrance 4. Visiting Team. 11:48 p.m. 9/08. Justin hoped it was 11:46. He’d rehearsed the route, but if he was nervous and off by a minute or two, he could be penalized. He hadn’t brought a watch or a phone. That had been his handler’s job, and his handler was dead.
But he wouldn’t think about that. Instead, Justin turned the paper over and read the note he’d copied there. They were his kid brother’s words, and Justin mouthed them softly, like a mantra. Justin does his best even when it’s hard, even when he’s tired and maybe hurting a little bit. He always shows courage. That’s why he’s the person I look up to the most.
Tonight was for Charlie. Charlie was his reason to fight—his reason to win.
Justin tore up the note. The lake breeze slipped past him, carrying the bits of paper away—a prayer on the wind. It was cold for September. A thin layer of petroleum jelly covered his face, but his bare skin prickled along his arms. He turned to glance over his shoulder. Darkness and fog. He listened. Out over Lake Michigan, a distant foghorn sounded. Then silence. No drones buzzing, and no one was around.
He grabbed the leather mask he had hidden beneath his T-shirt and quickly tied it over his eyes, tightening the lacing. He removed the shirt and cast it to the side of the doorway, glancing one more time at the dim 4 overhead. He stepped forward, giving the metal door a shove inward.
It opened. He shouldn’t be surprised. This was a Shadow Fray, and the doors to a Shadow Arena always opened, right on time. Justin stepped inside. No—not Justin. Someone anonymous. Someone who would win tonight. Someone who would finally earn a name.
The concrete corridor he entered was massive, supporting more than thirty floors and a cell phone tower. His mother once told him the building held the world record for the largest consecutive concrete pour. Cement trucks lined the streets for two days, stretching blocks back to their home. She hadn’t been alive to see it; in fact, it was before the Thinning. How had she described the scene from the distant past so vividly? If it was even true.
No matter. She was gone, and he was here for his sister and brother. My brother does his best even when it’s hard, even when he’s tired and maybe hurting a little bit. He always shows courage. Justin took a step toward the one florescent lightbulb illuminating the long hall. Then another. Then another.
Boarded and reinforced doors lined the corridor, a few with the metal framing from years ago when they used to hold glass. It was clear this basement area hadn’t been used in ages, yet he passed down the hall half expecting some random person to step out of a doorway.
His heart was pounding. Just nerves. He paused, bounced in place, and shook his arms out. He breathed deeply, slowly, and scanned above the doors, down the length of the hall, not spotting what he was looking for.
He walked to the first junction where the hall split left and right, then paused. To the left, three doors down, he saw it, almost in total darkness—the small green light above the doorway that signaled the show was on. He approached, saluting the camera.
Beneath the door, a dim sliver of light indicated the room ahead would at least be illuminated. He pushed the door open and stepped forward, already beginning to raise his arms.
“Hands above your head,” said a voice to his right inside the door. He was shoved forward by a palm between his shoulder blades and assumed this was his opponent’s handler.
Justin ignored the contact. In his periphery he saw his opponent, but his main focus was on the Arena itself, looking for any advantages. The walls around him were bare—just cement. The room was not overly large. The walls would be an issue, especially with someone stronger who could shove him around. Justin wouldn’t hold up well if he was being driven into the concrete.
Not much to this Arena, so he shifted his focus to his opponent. The guy was bare-chested except for the leather harness crossing his upper body in an X. He was big—big arms, big chest. He had skinnier legs—those would be a weak point. The center of his harness contained one pointed metal stud. Decorative, but also potentially very painful. Justin grit his teeth. It would have been Joe’s job as handler to prohibit the stud. Justin would just have to avoid it.
Bradley Lloyd is a Chicago-born author who studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was raised in a conservative religious household but became aware of his sexuality at a very young age—about the same age he learned of his ancestry to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by this knowledge, writing became an outlet that helped him cope with inner conflicts and bullying.
Of course, he was no angel and occasionally used his storytelling powers for evil. He once convinced the neighborhood children that gnomes had been real before all being turned into lawn ornaments.
Later, these experiences lead him to work with middle-school students. Now a teacher in the inner city, he shares his love of writing with a captive audience of kids, who are thrilled with true(ish) tales of their haunted school building.
Interestingly, his favorite UFC fighter and former world champion was a student at his school, and when Brad is not reading or writing, you might find him hosting the next UFC pay-per-view event party. His dreams of becoming an ultimate fighter are realized vicariously through his stories and video games.
Brad is happily married to a wonderful husband. Their tenth anniversary was also the day same-sex marriage became legal, and they were couple number seven at the courthouse.
You can read more of Brad’s (free) tales on his website BradleyLloyd.com, check him out on Medium, follow IMBradleyLloyd on Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail him directly at [email protected]