QSFer Lilith Frost has a new queer gothic sci-fi book out (bi, gay): Claustrophilia.
Claustrophilia is a genre-bending sci-fi Gothic that dives deep into the psyche’s need for love and control while exploring the darker side of human (and non-human) relationships.
After the tragic death of his entire family, Thomas lives under a conservatorship overseen by his lover, Ethan. But Ethan’s job keeps him away. Isolated in the family’s decaying Connecticut mansion, Thomas lives a monotonous life under the watchful eye of a live-in security firm until one day, he discovers an alien hiding on the grounds of his estate.
Confronted with the challenge of helping to save an alien species from extinction, Thomas must overcome the forces that control him in his own home. In a world where reality is not always what it seems, and trust is a double-edged sword, one wrong move could turn his whole world upside down… again.
“It’s nine. Time to get up,” Aidan said, laying a series of rough taps on Thomas’s shoulder.
“Mmkay,” Thomas croaked in response, rolling onto his back to prove he was doing as he was told. In-person wake up calls were a daily thing—part of a care plan written in black and white. It didn’t have to be Aidan, the director of White Hat Security, a tiny private firm which had once been based in Hartford but was now fully operating out of the top floor of Thomas’s rural manor in Ambury, Connecticut. It could be any one of his five employees. It could be anyone at all, really, as long as Ethan had approved them.
The only thing that made Thomas quickly sit up, negating the usual need for Aidan to stand by continuously tapping him, was the knowledge that Ethan would be arriving at the manor later that day. Thomas stood up and dragged himself to his bathroom. He badly needed to pee. He closed the door, even though Aidan could watch his every move on the handheld surveillance app on his tablet if he wanted to. He only had to explain that he was worried about Thomas’s well-being and it would be fine. Thomas was past being bothered by his total lack of privacy, but he needed the illusion, so he still closed doors.
When he returned to the bedroom, Aidan was still there fidgeting on his phone absent-mindedly. “Breakfast is ready, so come on down when you’re done,” he said, then turned and walked out of the room, leaving the door open. Thomas closed it, disrobed, put on fresh underwear, and went into his massive walk-in closet to find clothes for the day. Unless he was bedridden, it was part of his care plan that he put on clothes and look presentable; Be clean and groomed. It showed he was doing well and that he was in good hands.
Thomas took his time picking out clothes. All of his clothes were on the neutral side of the color wheel and most of his pants were solid, having no patterns or prints. He’d never liked taking chances with style when he used to live alone and buy his own clothes. He had at least forty pairs of solid black pants and could see distinctions in each of them that made them good for different occasions; weather, activity, formality, and comfort level. It made getting dressed a no-brainer, which he apparently needed now that his days were spent in the country getting dressed just so White Hat Security could check a box to say that he did. His whole life was now a no-brainer. He could be little more than animated flesh, which he’d surely experienced at least a couple of times by way of the various medications he’d taken over the years, and it would please the doctors, lawyers, and judges, so long as all the boxes got checked.
He put on black pants and a dark-green t-shirt. He put on a similarly green-colored cashmere sweater over the t-shirt since he knew the temperature in the house varied floor by floor, room by room. Socks, slippers. He washed his face, brushed his teeth, and combed his hair into place. He looked at his face in the mirror after drying it. He looked good for his age. He regularly inspected his face for signs of crow’s feet, sun damage, or lines, allowing himself the fantasy that he had license to buy expensive, experimental creams and tinctures to combat his natural deterioration. Like he could run out, throw on shades, get into his Jag, and have an appointment to get CO2 laser on the parts of his face that were responding to the wear and tear of age and stress. Thirty-three wasn’t old, but his insides felt sixty-three after all the life he’d packed in in that short time, so he had to stay vigilant.
He figured if it was serious, Ethan would understand. Ethan would approve the creams and lasers. It was a quality-of-life issue. He might be dismissive at first out of concern, but if Thomas was persistent, he could have his way.
He applied to his face a combined sunscreen and moisturizer, a so-called beauty balm. He’d wanted the Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream—he even wrote that down to get approval sent from Aidan to Ethan. He included which stores carried it and the URLs to major cosmetics retailers. Aidan looked over his list of requested toiletries, noting the new item, and searched it online. He whistled when he saw the price—almost fifty dollars. Thomas begged and Aidan conceded, but what arrived in the mail six days later was by a bargain brand called AttaGirl and was a medium shade, a full shade darker than was appropriate for Thomas’s skin tone. He looked the product up on his phone. It retailed at just under three dollars and had an average rating of two-stars on the Rite Aid website. When he complained, Aidan got snippy and said he’d actually approved and bought it as a favor and didn’t have to do it again if the product wasn’t acceptable.
It was pointless to get too bent out of shape over sunscreen after all the things Thomas had lost control of.
Lilith Frost is a science fiction author who lives in the deep south and loves fast-paced stories with complicated characters.