QSFer Ashley Daily has a new queer sci fi book out:
The cycle of seasons on Ceres, a temperate and bountiful spring and summer season followed by a horrifying and extended freeze, rules the minds and lives of all inhabitants of Earth’s third sister planet completely. Cereans are an industrious people bound strictly by tradition and by their original colonization directive– be fruitful and provide the much-needed sustenance for the sister planets.
In Whitewater Valley, Attis is something of an outcast. Born a spring child with the mark of fire, a telling sign of misfortune, Attis knows firsthand the horrors of the freeze and the deadly consequences of the sleeping sickness. However, it is not the dangers of the freeze that haunt Attis, but the lingering childhood memories of a mysterious onyx-eyed boy in the marketplace.
When memories once again become reality, and Attis finds himself behaving in ways that break every Cerean tradition, he must discover for himself his place on Ceres and in the universe.
Lacuna Chronicles #4
He was a spring child, born just as the warm breath of a new season swept through the green valley. Attis, his mother had named him, a name he later discovered was something of a curse. He often wondered why his mother had chosen such an unlucky name, but then, his story was as confusing and unsettling as the history of his given name.
Attis came into the world screaming at the top of his lungs, a head full of bright red hair shining in the golden sun that streamed through the tall windows of the farm house. Though she had cursed him by giving him the name she had, his mother had called him a lucky baby to be able to see the sun, to have its warmth on his skin the first thing he felt upon coming into the world. He would survive because he had born in the spring. She had also told him she’d known he would be a handful once she saw the fire in his hair.
Red was such a rare color on Ceres, a trait that branded the few who had the coloring as volatile and wild, something Cereans scorned. Gentleness was revered, said to aid in the spring season when they worked to repair the damage wrought on Ceres by the long freeze.
As a child, Attis had tried tempering his spirit, but the stories about the fire in his soul had proven true. He’d always been quick to anger, had raced the farm’s horses across the fields every chance he got though he’d been forbidden to do so, had run away from the farm several times over, and had gotten himself in trouble more often than not. He was obstinate, but he was also a hard worker.
He grew up with his hands in the warm soil of Ceres and had always had a knack for making things grow, urging the green to push its way to the surface; it was probably the one trait that had saved him from being thrown off the farm completely.
Though his stormy temperament wasn’t always pleasant to those around him, Attis tended to blame his father for those traits. His father had been a traveling merchant from some faraway sister planet with the same flaming hair, someone who had only stayed around long enough to put him in his mother’s belly before leaving.
His father had never stepped foot on the farm again, and his mother had blessed the ground with her lips when he left, bidding him never to return. She had probably feared the child her merchant lover had left her; she had been right to do so.
The freeze, like everything on Ceres, came in cycles. The early colonists had kept to the old Earth calendar, despite Ceres’ much longer, elliptical orbit around her sun. One Earth year– approximately three hundred and seventy-five days of spring and a gentle summer, followed by two years of bitter cold and little sunlight. The freeze.
When the freeze came around on his eighth birthday and killed off half of the farm, his mother among the dead, Attis couldn’t remember mourning her. She had never been warm to him, had given up trying to tame his wildness, and had eventually left him to his own devices in the fields. He’d spent most of his childhood free of a mother’s harsh disciplining hand.
The great collective system of the farm consisted of a large network of both blood relatives and outsiders working to make the farm run smoothly. It had always looked on him as the fire-headed child who wandered freely around the farm, no one’s child and yet everyone’s in a way.
It was his third freeze, the one that took his mother among so many others, that Attis considered a turning point in his life. Until then, he had lived blissfully unaware of Ceres’ dark side. He’d been kept safe from the freeze as a child, and could only remember the warm sun on his golden skin.
He lived so much in the sun, Eirene, his mother’s sister and the woman who kept the farm fed, loved to tug at his hair and tease him about the light dusting of freckles on his nose. Kisses from the sun, she would call them.
Eirene had always held a fondness for him, the only one who seemed to care about him, and had put up with his wild behavior since he was a child. She had even defended him when the farmhands blamed him for failed crops or diseases that fell on the animals.
His red hair was a bad omen for the farm and he never made it any easier on himself, rebelling the way he did. But there was always Eirene to run to and she would always hold him close and pet his hair adoringly.
“They only fear you because you have fire in your hair and fire is dangerous,” she would whisper, wiping away his tears with the apron around her slender waist.
He had always favored her more than his mother in looks. He’d inherited the softness of her face and the large eyes, doe eyes, Eirene had often teased him. Where his mother had been tall and plump and dark-eyed, he was slight and willowy like Eirene, with eyes that mirrored the green hills that enclosed them in their little valley.
When the freeze blanketed the valley and killed their crops and his mother all in one sweep, Eirene and her husband Niram had all but adopted him as their own. Niram was a man who towered over people, intimidating upon first meeting, but he was warm like the sun in spring, and a good man for Eirene, though he was quiet as the freeze itself.
Attis had heard him talking once to Eirene, the only person he really said anything to, shuttered away in their bedroom near the great fireplace as the cold tried seeping its way through the house. Niram had been speaking about Attis’ mother, about how she wouldn’t last another night.
She had been sweating and coughing in the great room by the fire where Attis sat beside her, watching the shadows of flames lick at her face. He’d always been motherless, it wouldn’t matter now that this woman was going back into the ground from which she came. He doubted she had even loved him in the short time they’d had together. After she had given up trying to beat the flames from him, she had treated him like all the other farmhands, outsiders in Whitewater Valley.
The farm was home to a waterfall that poured down into their little valley from the nearby mountains, and it had always been his sanctuary. The night his mother had passed away, Attis pulled on his heavy furs and went to see it, though no one ever ventured out into the freeze unless it was an absolute necessity.
He hadn’t cared that night. The moon had been shining on that waterfall, frozen mid-motion, a great ice wave roaring down from the mountain. He’d watched it glitter for a long while until the cold began to seep into his bones and he’d returned home to help Eirene with his mother.
Attis’ temperament had been stifled during the hard freeze. He’d learned to live cooped up inside of their old farmhouse for so many long months, and when the ice began to melt and he ventured outside once again, he promised to focus on helping the farm to grow again. He tried not to be a burden to his new mother and father. Death had sobered them all.