May 27, 2012 by Anne Tenino
I didn’t write the book I was supposed to. The book I was supposed to write—the one that was supposed to come after 18% Gray—should have been the story of Laslo and Logan, secondary characters in 18%. Laslo and Logan’s book is called One Queer Iota. But that name hardly matters, since I wrote the “wrong” book.
The name of the “wrong” book is Turning Tricks, forthcoming from Dreamspinner Press on May 30. TT features the same main characters as 18% Gray, and is next in the series I started in 18%, the Task Force Iota series. It’s a world about one hundred years in the future, and the United States is a very different place—a place that split up into separate nations, divided into the Red and the Blue. In the Blue, gay rights are what I would want them to be now—gay marriage is legal, LGBT citizens are treated like any others—but in the Red, being anywhere on the queer spectrum is illegal, punishable by a stint in re-education camp.
The series centers around a group of mostly military contractors who are initially in the business of rescuing LBGT citizens from the Red. Things get dicey in 18% Gray when James and Matt discover that a chip implanted in James’s brain has gone crazy after he was captured by the Red and placed first in POW camp, then in re-education camp. The chip makes James not only empathic, but slightly psychic.
I thought I James and Matt’s story had been told, but it turned out they had more to say. I tried to write in the rest of their story as a secondary plot line in One Queer Iota, but things kept growing. Actually, that seems to happen to me a lot . . .
Ultimately, I gave up and wrote a whole other 50,000 word book for James and Matt, and Turning Tricks is the result. And you know what? I’m glad I did it, because it turns out they not only had a lot left to say, they had a lot left to do. We meet a bad guy worthy of his name, and we meet (and rescue) a few more members of the newly formed Task Force Iota—a task force formed in TT, as a matter of fact.
Still annoyed you won’t be getting your Laslo and Logan? Well, how about a blurb and a snippet from Turning Tricks. If you still aren’t intrigued enough to read it, all I can tell you is not to fret: Laslo and Logan are coming, likely before the end of the year.
James Ayala thought life would be smooth sailing once he escaped from a Red Idaho reeducation camp and returned to Blue Oregon. He was supposed to get answers about the biocybernetic chip that made him empathic, face the man who implanted it, and then ride off into the sunset with his new boyfriend, Matt Tennimore. Life, however, has other plans: the bad guy dies without giving them any answers, they left their horse in Idaho, and Gramma Anais finds a parasite on James’s implant—one that forces James into isolation.
Matt just got James back to Oregon where he wanted him, and extraneous brain hardware or not, he has no intention of letting him go. But James hesitates to move in with him. Despite his hurt, Matt has to man up and do his job, leaving James behind, while the rest of the team struggles to find the real mastermind behind the implant and the parasitic “Trick”—before it takes over James’s brain. But will it be too little, too late to save him?
This is the prologue to Turning Tricks, and it introduces the reader to our villain (mwahahahahahah!). There is a much longer excerpt available on the Dreamspinner Press online store by scrolling down and clicking on “Expand” to the right of “Excerpt”. That excerpt begins with the prologue as well.
He started out as a single cell of evil. A little module, spawned from something larger than himself; that was all he knew. He was a tiny drop, less than a drop, a drop of a drop, of that immense being.
Actually, he knew a little more than that. He knew one other thing: he had been made in his creator’s image, and to pay homage to his creator he had to go out and make himself into the image of his creator.
First, though, he had to evolve some. Amoebas couldn’t really do much in the creation department.
He didn’t know where he picked up the name Amoeba. Somewhere back in his personal primordial soup, he supposed. It stuck, though. So did “he,” back in his aboriginal days.
In a place called Ireland during his early formative period, they called him a “wee evil beastie.” He still called himself Amoeba.
Time didn’t mean a whole lot to Amoeba, but he had the sense of it passing. Could have been eons, could have been hours. Meh. Whatever. He marked the passage of time by his travels. Far and wide, all over the world, finding other organisms to meld with. Mate with if necessary, but he tried to avoid that. It was occasionally unavoidable. While he got something out of it—DNA swaps or sometimes he cannibalized whole parts—he tended to leave little pieces of himself behind when he did that mating thing. His children, he supposed.
Not the offspring he wanted to make, those early accidents. So he kept traveling, picking up pieces here and there, adding to his knowledge, fitting it together, occasionally achieving some kind of synergistic melding, bumping him up the evolutionary ladder.
As he evolved, his needs evolved. His image solidified and became more complicated and beautiful. At first, it had just been the need to make evil, back when he was a wee amoeba, but he hadn’t had the ability to do much more than share it around. Now he wished to evolve into the perfect organism and then clone himself. Make millions of himself to inhabit his dark world and control it. For his creator, of course.
(Cue heavenly choir.)
By the time he’d made it to someplace called the Arabic Peninsula, he was much more evolved, more powerful, nearly fully formed, possibly. They called him “Djinn.” He liked that name. He kept it.
On this Arabic Peninsula Djinn learned to fully appreciate the visual. There he first saw the human form. Women were mostly covered there, but men were everywhere. That’s where he first learned to appreciate their bodies. He thought he might want one of his own.
That was also where he first realized that as a male, he would probably like to see a female body. Really like it. He just needed to see one. Until then it was just theory, right? After his mission was accomplished, and he’d served his creator appropriately. Unless he got lucky first. So to speak.
Djinn hitched a ride out of that part of the world when he figured he’d gotten everything it had to give him. He flew somewhere; he didn’t know where, just somewhere else, with a very wealthy businessman from Dubai. The businessman had a private orbit vehicle and private attendants who did very private things with the businessman.
It was something of an eye-opener for Djinn. Strangely, he wasn’t as interested in the naked women as he’d predicted. That penis between the man’s legs… when it got hard and wept like that… it made Djinn shudder so hard the whole craft shook.
(Causing a momentary break in the action. Djinn was very, very careful not to shudder again.)
He might like to have one of those penises for himself too. It came with the body, of course. Nothing to worry about. Plenty of time for that. By the time Djinn had boarded the businessman’s orbit module, he’d realized his ultimate goal was to perfect the human being. In worship of his creator.
(Heavenly chorus, blah-blah-blah.)
They landed, and Djinn slipped away from the businessman and (unfortunately) his penis and started checking out this new land.
The systems seemed familiar, somehow. So much like his early days. Djinn got excited and raced around looking at things, causing a fair amount of excitement and alarm. But of course he got away before anyone caught him. Passed himself off as another passenger in the traffic. It was easy, he’d done it forever.
He was more excited than he’d ever been.
Djinn was home, in the land of his creation, about to fulfill his destiny. Djinn resolved to find the few last necessary pieces to complete his evolution, and then to begin his ultimate act of worship: replicating himself endlessly for his creator.
(By this time—duh—Djinn had programmed the chorus to play automatically. Such a timesaver.)
Things didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. One awful day, Djinn realized he was missing one final piece, the thing that would allow him to reach his goal of becoming the ultimate evil and controlling the world and beyond.
He needed hands.
(A penis wouldn’t go to waste if he had one, either.)
All for his creator, of course.