QSFer Amy Hoff has a new queer fantasy book out:
Loka’i is known for its excesses. The cultural capital of the world is famous for its food, its wine, and its pleasures, but the jewel in the crown of the city are the men of the famed harem of Loka’i, chosen by the Connoisseur.
Aiea, a young girl, is chosen as the next Connoisseur of Loka’i. She is immersed in a world of luxury and beauty, with a lingering darkness behind the gilded veneer. The shadow of war threatens to upset everything those in Loka’i hold dear, and the carefree tropical days on their island.
A world of beauty and hedonism, choice and sacrifice, The Connoisseur is a story of the sea, island life, and the importance of a good bottle of wine.
Amy is giving away an eBook copy of her book “American Drifter” with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
Aiea lay between Kane and A’o on the ship’s deck, looking up at the night sky. The creaking of the vessel as it moved through the waves was hypnotic, and the warm winds played with the loose fabric of their robes.
“That one’s the Lost Dog,” said Kane, pointing up at a collection of stars.
A’o burst out laughing.
“There’s no such constellation!” he said.
“I beg to differ,” said Kane, trying to keep a straight face. “I am the scientist here, storyteller.”
A’o made a noise of mock disgust, throwing a piece of fruit at him. Storyteller was a pejorative term used by scientists for experts in any non-scientific field.
“Now, that one is Cat That Has Fallen Off Something And Tries Not To Look Embarrassed,” said Kane, pointing at another random group of stars. Aiea laughed, and stopped them before an all-out food fight started.
“A’o,” she said, after they were quiet for a while, “tell me a story.”
“Oh, I see how it is,” said Kane, and Aiea shushed him.
“What kind of a story?” he asked.
“Alyeta,” she said, “the lost king.”
“You’d rather listen to fairy tales than scientific fact?” he asked, “Not only that, but the most traditional fairy tales we’ve all heard millions of times?”
“Your constellations weren’t exactly in the realm of scientific fact,” said A’o, “and there may be some truth behind these stories.”
“Historians are all the same,” said Kane, “show them a shattered piece of pottery and they faint. Millions of interpretations, millions of possibilities. Science isn’t an opinion, it’s fact you can’t argue with.”
“Come on, Kane, you don’t even have a little magic in you?” asked Aiea, “Honestly, how are you from the poet’s island? If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you were Sntai!”
“I’m only interested in proven facts,” said Kane. “Math is always there, it’s solid. Everything else is slippery, you can’t trust it.”
“What about poetry?” asked Aiea, “That’s not very logical.”
“Poetry is like math,” said Kane. “It is metered, it has rules.”
“And yet people have always told stories,” said A’o. “Now quiet down and let me tell the Connoisseur a story.”
Kane grumbled, but was silent.
“Long, long ago,” A’o began, and Aiea’s eyes sparkled as she smiled up at the stars, losing herself in the tale, “The Wide Lands were ruled by the wonderful royal family, greater than our princes and kings today. They were more beautiful than we can imagine and held the power of the Song of Life. They sang the lands into being. We know the Sea King and the merfolk hunted every member of the royal family and killed them, because he was jealous.”
“What did he have to be jealous of?” Kane interrupted, “He lives underneath the sea.”
“Shh,” said Aiea, nudging him.
“Thank you, Connoisseur,” said A’o, and continued, “So we lost the Wide Lands, and only the islands remain. The memory of peace, of prosperity, of the perfection that came before, is evident even in tribes like the Hoisdean, the half-human, half merpeople of Hois. This shows that we once lived amicably with the merpeople until their treachery. These stories are well-known, so much so that every child in Amala knows them, and the details, from early childhood onward. Despite appearances, we are still at war. Our oceans are still empty of fish. We do not know what the Sea King’s intentions are, or what he and his people are planning, but the continued silence from beneath the waves has been speculated upon for years. The final outpost of the war, Ona, still stands guard.
“Although this story is not new, and is told to children at bedtime nightly around the world, partly to explain Amala’s history to them and prepare them for a possible return to war, what I am about to recount is far less known, and may be unfamiliar to you.”
At this, even Kane perked up. Both his companions looked over at A’o, but he was caught in the story now, and his eyes stared up into the heavens as if reading it there.
“It is whispered, in some places,” said A’o, “that if the royal family had truly been destroyed, there would be no islands at all, but a wide and endless sea. So, some historians and myth-trackers believe that someone has survived.”
Amy Hoff spent years traveling across the United States, living out of cars and cheap motels. She was a weightlifter and street-fighter, collecting monster legends across the country. Eventually she left the USA and continued traveling around the world. She was educated in Scotland and specialized in Scottish history, literature, and folklore. She is now a folklorist and historian whose primary research interest is monsters, and a specialist in American highway legends. She has never owned more than what can fit into a backpack and a suitcase.