Lyra Alice Schneider has a new trans sci fi book out:
A western/sci-fi genre hybrid featuring a transgender protagonist. Penny Lux, currently experiencing a forced de-transition due to the failure of an irreplaceable piece of technology, seeks assistance in stopping a plot that could lead to disaster for her entire planet. First, from the woman she used to love, who caused her transition tech to fail; second, from the religious order she’s spent most of her life hating. Only with the cooperation of both can Penny hope to save her world.
So I found myself on the top of Star Hill, looking out over Ortis; our sleepy little town on the frontier of human settlement on Klea. Below me, to the north, was the town, candlelight slowly winking out as most folks got ready for bed, with a few odd electric lights running here and there at places that were open later – one or two taverns; the distillery; and, of course, my office, where I had a deputy on hand in case anyone wanted to report a crime in the middle of the night. In every other direction were miles and miles of prairie, covered in virtually nothing but rolling dirt and grass from Earth, split up only by the railroad tracks driving in a relentlessly straight line to the east, back towards the capital. Well, and there was farmland to the west, and plenty of it; beyond that, though, no one really knew, at least as far as I’d ever heard.
Overhead were stars – trillions of them, I figure – splashed around like water droplets when an animal tries to shake itself dry. I used to think that’s what the Milky Way was: a giant, star-studded animal that was so big you couldn’t even see all of it. Space was fertile ground for that kind of imagination, back before the Followers came; sixteen generations after being marooned here by the Yellow Sun, no one really remembered exactly what space or stars or suns really were.
As beautiful and awe-inspiring as all of those stars could be, though, they didn’t hold a candle to mooncross, which hung over Ortis like a distant, watchful eye. It was just starting then – the nightly transit of Metas, the smaller, brownish moon, across the face of Ventric, the bigger, whitish one. Metas, of course, had a few very conspicuous black patches on its surface, and more often than not, when it lined up right in front of Ventric, one of those black patches sat dead in the center, the pupil to Metas’ iris on Ventric’s cornea. The Followers had explained to us a few years ago that those patches were magma fields, but that didn’t stop the whole phenomenon from looking like a giant eyeball.
Oddly enough, that giant eyeball reminded me of Arabellis, being equal parts beautiful and unsettling. I guess most people eventually get used to it, but I never did; as a kid, I couldn’t get over the idea that it wasn’t just rocks flying through the air, but actually some kind of signal from someone. I was young, and couldn’t figure out how to explain what I meant by all that, so I just made up stories instead. I imagined it like a magical presence, something that spied on us and told what we were doing to someone – maybe its boss, or its mother, or maybe even the place the adults said we all came from: Earth. I was sure that big, terrible eye in the sky was talking to Earth, and telling them what we were up to. Were we good? Were we bad? But it wasn’t so it could punish us, or at least I didn’t think it was; I figured that it just had to know what we were up to so it could keep us safe from even bigger, scarier things out in space.
When I was 9 years old – about 15, in Earth years – I found out that there was more truth in my little stories than anyone ever would’ve guessed. Most kids that age would have been pleased to death to find out that they were right about something like that, but I guess I never was like most kids after all. I remember when the “other boys” had their voices starting to drop, right when our gaggle was all about turning 7, and how everyone was so excited for each of them when his new voice came, and how they all were dying to be next, but I just about cried myself to sleep every night dreading it. I’d stay up and stare at mooncross, clutching my throat and begging the eye to stop staring and do something, to use its magic power to stop my voice nice and high, right where it was. But it just stared at me, hard and pitiless and beautiful.
Arabellis to a ‘T.’
My voice did drop, and I hated it. I started figuring it was because my body wasn’t meant for me, and I got pretty obsessed with how unfair that was, that I’d be stuck with something that wasn’t mine. My mother, she didn’t get it, but I guess I can’t blame her for that – I was a strange little child who was never very good at talking, anyway. Point is I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it or any way to deal with it other than thinking about fairness all the time. The “other boys” started playing mean and dirty, caring more about winning than anything else, and I was always the one who stopped them. It got to the point where I was never even playing the games anymore, just being the referee. No one wanted to be the referee, but someone had to be, and I figured that someone might as well be me. I was a good referee, too, but of course that meant I made a lot of folks really angry, and let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of friends left in Ortis by the time I turned 9.
A few weeks later, the Followers showed up.
They dropped right out of the giant eye’s pupil in a big metal ship that hung in the sky for weeks, scaring the wits out of every living being on Klea. No one knew what to make of it, but it didn’t do anything, either, and so eventually we just got on with our lives. Right when having it up there was starting to feel normal, though, they spoke to us. Every radio in Ortis – probably all over Klea – suddenly lit up with an announcement.
“We are the Followers of the Flame,” it said. “We come in peace.”
Author Lyra Alice Schneider is a bisexual trans woman writing an intricate series of works set about 500 years in the future. Her stories deal with a variety of thematic content but always center on queer characters. Justice Calling is her first published work of fiction. </em