QSFer Janice L. Newman has a new queer sci-fi collection out (gay, gender fluid, non-binary): At First Contact.
The Fantastical Romances You’ve Been Craving
Hugo Finalist Janice L. Newman presents a touching trio of romances in a speculative vein. From the edge of space, to the shadows of the paranormal, to the marvels of the mystical:
At First Contact: A germaphobe and an android are assigned a mission to survey a planet together. Will they discover new life or a new love?
Ghosted: Leo is searching for the soul that used to haunt his grandmother’s house. Did Will ghost him?
A Touch of Magic: What if love could alter the fabric of existence? A fraught romance between two teachers just might be helped along by a touch of magic.
“A refreshing take on romance…surprising characters bring a human quality to alien settings.” ~Robin Rose Graves, The Book Wormhole
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From First Contact
“You know,” I said aloud, “you don’t have to wear your skin for me.”
Jay tore his eyes from the stars, his gaze finding mine. “What?”
“I mean. I don’t know if you’re more comfortable one way or another. I guess the skin provides you a measure of protection, so,” I gave an awkward, one-shouldered shrug. “You know what, forget I said anything.”
He frowned at me, turning to gaze out at the stars once more. After a few moments, he said, “Most people find us unpleasant without our skins. Too alien. Too other.”
I thought about how he’d looked without his skin, a hairless, silver being, androgynous and magical. “I don’t mind it.” I took a breath and added in a rush, “You were beautiful like that.”
He jerked around again. “Beautiful?”
I swallowed hard. “Yes.”
It took him a long time to respond. “We were taught,” he said slowly, “that humans would find our true form off-putting at best. Without our skin, we would be worse than naked. We would be monstrous—”
“That makes no sense!” I burst out.
He paused at my interruption. “No?”
“You were built to accompany a crew to new planets. Surely your designers knew that the people you would be working with had to be comfortable with the unusual!”
His brow creased in a frown. “I think the programming is universal to all androids.”
“Well, it’s stupid,” I said. Blinking, he looked over at me. “I can’t believe they built in a sense of shame.” I crossed the bridge to stand before him. “Do you think you can overcome it?”
He looked up at me, his brown eyes wide. “I…don’t know. I suppose I can try.” After another long moment of hesitation, he said dubiously, “If you’re sure it won’t bother you, I could take it off.”
“I don’t want to force you,” I said, suddenly uncertain. “I like you better without your skin, but the most important thing is that you’re comfortable.”
“You like me better without it?”
I felt heat spreading across the back of my neck. “I—you know my issues. You’re so human with your skin on. I know it’s not actually organic, but…” I stopped short as I heard myself. “But that’s not the reason why, not the only reason I—” I gulped and stumbled on, “— not the only reason I think you’re beautiful. It’s not because of my issues. It’s because you are beautiful, you really are.” I remembered how he’d looked when we’d put him back together. He was alien, but not like the starfish we’d met. He was ‘other,’ but in a way that reminded me of the stories of gods who came to earth to make love to humans.
Something in my rambling, or more likely, in my admiring gaze, must have come through. Jay said only, “Oh,” his voice laden with a wealth of surprise and wonder. “I see.”
He couldn’t quite face going into the empty kitchen yet, he decided, and turned to climb the stairs instead. ‘His’ room had always been at the top on the right, a small space crammed with books and seasonal boxes that he’d never seen unpacked, though his mom had told him stories about the Christmases they’d used to have when he was a kid. A single bed sat along one wall, still covered with the familiar, colorful quilt. Grandma hadn’t made it, but a friend of hers had. Leo set down his backpack and settled onto the bed.
“Hey,” he said quietly. “I’m back.”
There was no response. The house felt just as empty as it had when he’d stepped inside. A chill crawled down the back of Leo’s neck.
“Will?” he said aloud. “You can come out. There’s no one here but us.”
For a split second he wondered if his grandmother might be here, too, lingering in the kitchen to make one last batch of cookies. Then he shook his head. She’d often spoken of how she would rejoin her husband when she passed on. Her daughter was successful and happy, and her grandson was all grown up. She’d died peacefully in her sleep. There was no reason for her to stay.
Will still should have been here, though. He hadn’t been tied to grandma or grandpa or even the house, as far as Leo knew. If anything, it had been Leo that Will lingered around and appeared to. Leo’s secret friend, but not one he’d made up. Not a figment of his imagination. Of that, he was certain.
From A Touch of Magic:
Frowning, Sean turned away and started to fiddle with things on his desk. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know why you asked someone like me in the first place—”
“Someone ‘like you’?”
Waving a hand down his body in a sharp gesture, Sean said, “There’s not much about me that’s desirable.” His face twisted with ugly humor. “There’s not much to me, period. Add to that the fact that I can’t even sit down at a restaurant, or take a long plane ride, or—”
“I don’t care about any of that!” Lawrence’s outburst made Sean’s head snap up. “I—you—” He gritted his teeth, struggling to put into words his attraction and affection. “I like you,” he said at last, and felt himself grow hot with embarrassment at how immature he sounded.
“I like being with you,” he tried again. “I like listening to you talk about art, about imbuing, about your students. I like telling you about my fencing matches. I like spending time with you. You’re clever and funny and kind. And the fact that you’re short doesn’t bother me.” If anything, Lawrence admitted to himself, he kind of liked it.
Sean’s eyes were wide and stunned. “But,” he said, giving his head a little shake, “You—you’re you. You’re a gold medalist, you’re handsome and rich and could have anyone you wanted!”
Hugo Finalist Janice L. Newman lives in San Diego with her husband, daughter, and varied pets. Her first novel-length work seamlessly fuses romance with three speculative genres: science fiction, paranormal fantasy, and modern fantasy. Fans of fantastic love stories will be delighted to read her retelling of the Snow White fairytale, due out in 2022.