Friday, November 30, 2012

Jaydium - Chapter 22


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 22

The room shook as if Raerquel had slammed the door behind itself. Then came more rumbling, wave after wave, eventually dying into silence.

Kithri stared at the blank wall and the water that had splashed around the lip of the shallow pool where only a few minutes ago, Raerquel and Eril had performed that strangely moving ritual. Now her heart pounded and her hands clenched unconsciously into fists. Her mouth tasted metallic, as if she=d bitten her lip. Brianna might have turned inward on herself, shutting out the world, but what Kithri wanted to do--needed to do--was to run, strike out, hit something. Adrenalin, shock, conditioning--that=s all it was. Not enough to save any of them now.

Brianna and Lennart had not moved. Neither had Eril. He=d been standing with his back to Kithri, taut and poised for action. He turned and his eyes locked with hers, burning as they had in the shattered crystal garden. She felt him reach out an imaginary hand to her and felt herself grasp it. Fire and hope surged through her.

She took one slow breath and then another. Her heartbeat quieted and she realized the quaking had stopped. The room was silent except for Brianna=s sobbing.

"It=s all right," Lennart murmured, stroking Brianna=s hair. "It=s all over now."

Kithri and Eril sat down at the table again. Kithri felt even more useless than she had at the camp. There was nothing she could do for Brianna that Lennart wasn=t already doing. He kept talking to her, gentle soothing nonsense about how they=d be fine now and everything was going to be all right.

It worked better than the truth would have. Brianna stopped crying. By gradual degrees she unlocked her arms, straightened her back and lifted her head. Her hair hung around her face in damp curls and her cheeks were flushed, dark lashes beaded with tears. She dipped her hands in the table fountain and rinsed her face.

"You all right now?" Kithri asked.

Brianna turned reddened eyes toward her. "As much as any of you are."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jaydium - Chapter 21


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 21

What are they doing to her? She=s been in there longer than all the rest of us put together. It can=t be more than a bunch of stupid light tests... Raerquel might be willing to stop with a headache, but what about this Council committee?

Eril found himself pacing again. It had been several hours--three or four at least, it was hard to tell--since Kithri had been taken away. One moment he was sitting at the table with Lennart and Brianna, sipping table water from the cups they=d convinced Possiv to sculpt for them. Pretending to listen to their few attempts at conversation, going over the same speculations and words of encouragement. Trying not to feel how slowly time passed, as unbroken as the blank gray walls. The next thing Eril knew, he was on his feet, his body moving of its own accord through the common room.

He skirted the shallow pond, resisting the urge to jump in and kick up some waves, the way he had as a boy at the summer lake on Terillium, waves that left only a temporary mark on the surface of the water. It would do no good and space only knew how the gastropoids would react. The water was important, he could feel it even if he didn=t understand why.

Damn! What was taking them so long?

Was that any reason for him to fall apart? Whatever happened next, he=d need all his wits where they belonged, not scattered halfway to Hyades, which was where they were heading at the moment.

He stopped right where he was and took a deep breath. Where was that cool, level head that had gotten him through so many squeaks? How could he expect to handle the gastropoids--or anything else--if he couldn=t even sit still?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Proud Editor Grin - book trailer!

Earlier this year, I had the joy of co-editing (with Phyllis Irene Radford) an anthology of new interpretations of fairy tales - Beyond Grimm from Book View Cafe. One of the stories was an edgy, lyrical version of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" - Sue Lange's "Princess Dancer." Now Sue has done a book trailer of her story. It's quite an amazing thing to see a story I edited give rise to another art form.

Check it out! (And the original prose story, too -- both are amazing!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jaydium - Chapter 20


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 20

Having determined for the hundredth time the door to the living quarters was undetectable when sealed and being unable to think of anything more constructive to do, Eril wandered restlessly through the common room. He knelt by the pool of running water and dipped his fingers into it, noticing for the first time the four shallow depressions on the bottom. They were long and narrow, as if designed to cradle four prone bodies. Was the pool meant as a bath? The water, while not exactly cold, was far from a comfortable temperature. And, he discovered as he put his fingers to his lips, it was slightly salty.

Damned if I know what the thing is for. He got to his feet and tried the table water. It was fresh and cool.

There was no one to discuss the water and its significance with, and for some reason that bothered Eril. The entire suite of rooms felt echoingly empty. Kithri was still sleeping, or whatever she was doing in her cubicle. First Lennart and then Brianna had been taken away for testing.

Eril tried to ignore how much their absence affected him. What did he think existed between the four of them? Some kind of solidarity, because they were all human? He didn=t even know these people. There was no reason one brief adventure should make a difference. For the past five years, neither constant danger nor Weiram=s powers of persuasion had ever made him feel like part of a team.

A door appeared in one wall, whispered open, disgorged Lennart and just as quickly sealed itself behind him. Lennart went to his empty bed and sat down. A trace of healing gel gleamed on his forehead and his eyes held a tight, strained look.

Eril leaned against the doorway, watching him. Memories stirred uncomfortably. "You don=t look too well."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Suicide Attempt Predictors Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (Article Review)

From Open Minded Health, reposted with permission:

LGBT youth are at elevated risk for suicide. Researchers have been looking into the risk factors for suicide in LGBT youth. Most of the studies so far have been cross-sectional; that means they only studied how things are once, at one point in time. Longitudinal studies, in contrast, measure at multiple points in time. Longitudinal studies are expensive, and risk losing track of participants, but they provide more information.

This year, the first longitudinal study of LGBT youth suicide risk factors was published. The participants were interviewed twice, a year apart. Both times, they were psychiatrically evaluated and asked about suicide attempts. They filled out questionnaires evaluating hopelessness, impulsivity, social support, gender non-conformity, age of same-sex attraction, and LGBT-related victimization.

In this sample, roughly 31.6% of the participants had attempted suicide. This is far higher than the 8% rate reported by the CDC. Seven variables were associated with previous suicide attempts: hopelessness, impulsivity, LGBT-related victimization, low family support, being younger when first feeling same-sex attraction (for LGB youth), and symptoms of either depression or conduct disorder. That is, the more hopeless or impulsive the youth, the more likely it is that they have previously made a suicide attempt. Gender non-conforming behavior and peer support did not seem to affect suicide risk. When it came to predicting future suicide attempts, the best predictor was previous suicide attempts. Youth who had previously attempted suicide had a 10 times greater risk of another attempt compared to those who hadn’t attempted suicide.

As always, these results should be accepted with caution

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Highly Idiosyncratic Orycon Diary

November 1, 2012. As usual, I began with good intentions to get daily exercise. At home, I typically exercise for half a hour before breakfast, and then get in a walk later in the day. So Friday morning I wended my way to the hotel fitness center. The treadmills, my torture of choice, were equipped with headphones and leeetle television screens. After flipping from one channel to another (which reminded me emphatically why I do not watch television), I discovered a program of videos made by Japanese children in the wake of the tsunami and then a year later. They were lovely, poignant, generous, joyful, grief-stricken, honest as only children can be honest. I wanted everyone to see them. They were all the more powerful in the context of Hurricane Sandy.

November 3, 2012. Writers workshop went well yesterday. Likewise my reading, which was well-attended considering it was 5 pm on Friday. I believe there were a number of snafus with other readings, so I felt grateful that mine actually took place where and when it was supposed to. Today’s panels went really well – as moderator for all of them, I happily accept my fair share of credit. Topics were: what authors influenced you (and what do you see as the wave of the future, which none of us were interested in talking about, so we ignored); gender (as if writing the other); is publishing obsolete. The latter two drew large, engaged audiences, always a nice thing for a panelist. I particularly enjoyed the gender panel; we started with the issue of whether/how we write opposite-gender characters and progressed to larger issues of gender fluidity, gay/queer characters, tolerance in general and how fiction informs and infuriates various audiences. I usually keep my own book pimpage to a minimum (no “wall’o’books” for me!) but I did get to talk about creating a gender-fluid race for my sf novel, Collaborators (forthcoming from Dragon Moon Press, May 2013). The panel gave rise to some pretty amazing connections.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jaydium, Chapter 19


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 19


The living quarters were the most boring Eril had ever laid eyes on. If this was a hotel, I=d turn around and check out now. How can these creatures make buildings that are so beautiful on the outside and so dull inside?

The four windowless rooms opened to a spacious central area furnished with a table, benches and a large shallow pool of water, constantly circulating through pipes at either end. The table was more birdbath than eating surface, its water replenished like that of the pool. The sleeping cubicles were empty except for an unadorned couch and a shallow ceramic fixture set in the floor, with perforated openings at one end and a large drainage hole at the other, like an awkward cross between a urinal and a bidet. Everything from the walls to the benches was the same neutral, indirectly-lit gray.

Kithri threw herself down on one of the beds, her back to the others. Brianna darted about, examining everything from the pool to the table to the cubicles with great enthusiasm. Lennart slouched on a bench, encouraging her until Eril wanted to scream at both of them to shut up. When Bhevon returned and indicated that Eril was to return to the laboratory, he went cheerfully.

What followed was the strangest examination Eril had ever undergone, and he=d passed some sadistically inventive Qualifiers at the Academy. The chair, again sculpted to his own dimensions, was superlatively comfortable, yet now he felt penned-in, cornered. Another of Raerquel=s many assistants, Possiv, had drawn six-foot high panels out of the bare walls and surrounded him with them. The panels were close enough for Eril to touch. They completely cut off his view of the laboratory.

Apparently all he was expected to do in this test was watch the patterns of light that flashed across the screens. Ripples of the subtlest shades of gray, barely distinguishable from one another, alternated with loops and squiggles of brilliant white and black. Occasionally they broke into stark geometrical patterns like aerial views of a psychopathically conceived labyrinth.

Eril couldn=t decide if it was the brightness that made his eyes water and ache, or it was the rapidly changing patterns. His leg muscles twitched and his hands curled unconsciously into fists. Something grated on his nerves, as if he were about to fly smack into an ambush. He couldn=t put his finger on what made him feel so jumpy. Whatever it was, it was getting worse by the moment. His vision blurred and the blood vessels behind his eyeballs began to throb.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

REVIEW: ROVING PACK by Sassafras Lowrey, or Why Every Straight Parent Needs This Book

This novel, told in the form of diary entries and email, offers a glimpse into the life of a young person who is gender*-fluid, marginalized, at tremendous risk for suicide, homelessness, and victimization by hate crimes, and who finds a tenuous stability in a loosely-woven community, where individual relationships are fragile but the group itself endures. It's extremely well executed, with a strong narrative voice, easy prose, smoothly handled nuances, and action that moves right along. Ultimately, it's a hopeful story, with resourcefulness and loyalty as well as despair. But it's also a disturbing book.

*Gender (as opposed to sex, which is the plumbing and genetics you're born with, or sexual orientation) affects so many aspects of our lives and how we see each other and the world. We grow up being told we're a boy or a girl and what those mean. (Whether we turn out to like boys or girls or both is another matter.) When a person experiences who they are as the opposite sex from the body and identification they've been given, we call them trans-gendered, as opposed to cis-gendered, when it matches. Some people are neither trans- nor cis-gendered; how they see themselves changes, not only from one sex to the other, but neither, something that does not fit into the tidy binary division. One such person is the narrator of Roving Pack, who over time changes name and gender as well as address.

When I made my way through this story, I became aware that I could not read it dispassionately. I could empathize, using my imagination and my past conversations with gay and trans-gendered friends and family. But everything I myself experience is colored by my own gender identification, which is fixed (as opposed to fluid) and congruent with my biology. I waded through the coarse language, the drug addiction, suicide, disease and promiscuity, trying to reserve judgment, trying to listen to what these kids were trying to tell me, to understand their lives in their own terms.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jaydium, Chapter 18


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 18


In another part of the laboratory complex, Eril wrestled with an entirely different set of problems. Opposite him, just beyond arm=s reach, sat the gastropoid Bhevon, Raerquel=s assistant and clan-inferior, patiently going over its questions one more time. As he formed his answers, Eril tried to analyze each one critically and to keep his own curiosity under control.

Yet his eyes sometimes strayed to the glass instruments lining the walls and he couldn=t shake the feeling of relaxed well-being, as if there had been some euphoric drug in the healing gel. All traces of the pirates= handling, even the pain from his fractured ribs, had vanished completely.

To make matters worse, his chair, which had been sculpted to his individual dimensions, was so comfortable, it presented a constant temptation to relax. That was a luxury he could scarcely afford, now of all times. How he handled these questions was crucial, even if the gastropoids seemed friendly enough to begin with. 

It wasn=t just his own impression that was at stake, but that of the whole human race.
What was his species? Terran human, technically Homo sapiens. He hoped the translator panel would make something coherent of the archaic terminology.

His individual name? Eril Jermaine Trionan. Colonel, Fifth Federation Space Service.

His phylogenic ancestry? Primates, and before that, mammals, and before that, some kind of reptile, he supposed, and before that... Well, certainly, they were all vertebrates, clear back to whenever animals developed internal skeletons.

By what means had he appeared in World-of-Home? That was a hard one. Some sort of time-space disequilibrium must have transported them. No, not across space, they were still on the same planet, except it was different. Either they=d gone back in time, or history had taken a different direction, or both. If the gastropoid thought this a preposterous explanation, it gave no indication.

How did his species differ from other animals? Why did they consider themselves human? At least, that was the word Brianna=s translator came up with.

What were they doing here? Who sent them?