deborahjross: (Jaydium)
I think we Homo sapiens have been discussing what being human is and means since we developed abstract language and probably before that. At first, the driving motivation was undoubtedly how to tell what is us and not-us. This is certainly a biological imperative at the cellular level; our immune systems must tackle the question every day, attacking foreign substances like viruses, bacteria, and allergenic proteins, and it’s also why cancer is so insidious (cells with the right molecular passwords that nonetheless behave like ravening barbarians). The same distinctions hold true at the level of the individual, family/clan, and larger, political units. Whether we’re talking about communities or nations, “us” = “human” = friendly, safe, cooperative, reliable, and “them” = “something else” = dangerous, untrustworthy, competitors for limited resources. In this way, “human” tends to be exclusionary and frictions tend to narrow the scope even further.

In science fiction and fantasy, however, we tend to use the term in a inclusionary way. Often the words “human” and “person” are interchangeable. Sf/f writers and readers pioneered the suggestions that all sapient races think of themselves as people and therefore, “human,” whatever the biological differences from Homo sapiens. I had a lot of fun with a race of giant slugs in Jaydium, who insisted that mammals were incapable of “personness.” The television series Star Trek often portrayed what Earth-humans and alien-humans have in common, rather than their unbridgeable differences. (The similarities were undoubtedly caused in part by the relatively primitive makeup and special effects, leading to the joke about aliens being actors with funny foreheads.) The creators of the series also exploited the romantic appeal of the exotic to generate love stories between members of different species, a phenomenon highly unlikely to occur in nature but one that had the effect of demonstrating the shared values of sapient beings. This is an example of broadening of the use of “human” as a term to include any beings of similar intelligence and culture that we can understand and sympathize with.Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)
I begin with an excerpt from my last post on Thinking About Gender:



In writing Collaborators, I wanted to create a resonance between the tensions arising from First Contact and those arising from differences in gender and gender expectations. It seemed to me that one of the most important things we notice about another human being is whether they are of “our” gender. What if the native race did not divide themselves into (primarily) two genders? How would that work – biologically? romantically? socially? politically? How would it affect the division of labor? child-rearing? How would Terran-humans understand or misinterpret a race for whom every other age-appropriate person is a potential lover and life-mate? Not only that, but in a life-paired couple, each is equally likely to engender or gestate a child.



We humans tend to think about gender as binary, and the concepts of fluidity (changing from one to the other, not necessarily once but perhaps many times during a lifetime) or being both male and female (or neither) are fairly recent additions into conventional public discourse. Fluidity is not the same thing as being transgendered (which is where a person’s gender – their identity – and their sex – their biological/genetic category) are not the same. Both are different from sexual orientation, which has to do with attraction to another person. All too often, if a species that does not fit into the female/male division is portrayed in media, they’re shown as sexless, not only androgynous but lacking in sex drive.


I take exception to this. I see no reason why sexual activity should not be as important to an alien race as it is to human beings. We have sex for lots of reasons, reproduction being only one of them. It feels good – no, it feels great. It creates bonds between individuals, whether as part of lifelong commitments or otherwise. It’s physiologically good for health, both physical and mental. So for my alien race in Collaborators, I wanted sexuality to be important.Read more... )
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
I hope you've enjoyed this adventure through space and time. All the individual chapters are available to read online - Click on Read A Story. Or you can download the whole thing from Book View Cafe (And the files will play nicely with your Nook or Kindle, as well as other devices).

Next week, as a thank-you treat for following along, I'll share how I revised the first opening scene of the book.

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Epilog
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Chapter 35 of Jaydium, for your reading pleasure:

For a long moment, Duvach sat immobile and Eril feared it was too lost in its own alien emotions to help them. Then it extended a feathery tendril and brushed Kithri's cheek. A droplet glistened on the silvery strand.

"Water . . . salt water. The water of life."

Behind Duvach's heavy, inflectionless voice, Eril sensed its wonderment. Kithri, beside him, gulped and blinked, more tears streaming down her face.

"My Clan-superior Raerquel was right all along," Duvach murmured. "The light is in each of us, however strange our outer forms. Beneath all differentness, our waters flow as one."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 35
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
On the run in an alien city under bombardment:

"You think youire frightened now, you should have been the decoy for those pirates!" Brianna snapped. Kithri ducked her head and twisted, as if to pull away, but Brianna held her fast. "You listen to me! The one thing--the only thing that kept me going was thinking, Sooner or later that untranslatable bitch will find something that's too big for her to handle, and I'll be around to see it." <\i>

Kithri flushed and met Brianna's eyes. She stopped shaking. Her chin lifted. "Maybe you will, but it won't be now."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 34
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Jaydium - Chapter 30

Eril's first impulse was to laugh in Brianna=s face. No one but his sister Avery could rant in such an operatic mode, and he thought Brianna would fare well in the comparison. But one look at Kithri's face convinced him that she, for one, was taking Brianna seriously.

"Calm down, Bri," he said as diplomatically as he could. "There's nothing to be gained by blaming one another. If there was a mistake, it was my mistake, not Kithri's."

"I don't blame her and I am quite calm already." Brianna began gathering the sheets of seaweed-film into meticulous piles, as if to underscore her rationality. "After all, she's had no more education than a herd-beast. Not a shred of decent methodological training. It isn't her fault--"

Kithri had started toward her own cubicle, but now she froze and turned slowly back. Her face flooded with color and her old nose break stood out as a chalky brand. She strode to the table and swept the entire contents--all of Brianna's notes, styluses, and specimens--to the floor. Still without a word, she shoved one fist a hairsbreadth from Brianna=s nose and made an emphatic gesture. Then she spun around and marched out the door.

Brianna looked at Eril, her eyes innocently wide. "What--what did she--"

"Never mind." Eril bent to pick up a pile of films. "You don't want to know what that meant."
deborahjross: (Deb and Cleo)
Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 29


"Forget what happened to me! What have we done to Raerquel?" Kithri reached into the cockpit and laid one hand on the gastropoid's silvery skin. There was no response, no change in its cool skin.

She started trembling. It was the coolness more than anything else that reminded her of her father's hand, how she held it through the long night until the last bit of body warmth had seeped away.
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Things get more desperate as war looms even closer. Read the latest chapter on my blog.

"I was wrong about you," Lennart said slowly. "What I said before the hearing..."

"We were all swiping at each other. You were just--"

"Shut up and let me apologize! I can't hold you accountable for the crazy things your Federation did, any more than I can blame Kithri--or Raerquel. Even Bri, with all her academic bullshit, she'd stand on her head to save these folks. Protesting all the while that her only interest was as a scientist. Maybe in my time, it was people like you that kept us from destroying it all."

"Hey, don't go making me into a hero," Eril said with an embarrassed laugh. "I'm just your everyday fly-boy. I followed orders, I didn't make policy."

"Maybe things would've been better if you had..."
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
If it's Friday, Kithri and her friends are about to be caught up in the aliens' interstellar war...

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 20
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Today's chapter of Jaydium includes the scene I dreaded would end up on the cover: my heroine, Kithri, is (a) naked because she's come through a time portal; (b) being approached by a gigantic silver slug. (who then informs her of the impossibility of vertebrate sentience). Instead, Vincent Di Fate gave me a rainbow crystal city...and a frankly phallic space ship.


The gastropoid came closer in a gliding movement. This time, instead of recoiling in horror, Kithri watched it curiously. It did not ooze along on a carpet of slime like the slug it superficially resembled, but propelled itself on a rippling ridge of muscle. The movement of the flesh suggested some sort of internal pumping mechanism or hydraulic system. That would make sense, since there would be no bony skeleton to support so much mass. She couldn't be sure. Her training in xenozoology was sketchy at best, most of it centered around the two alien races that were known to the Fifth Fed. Her textbooks hadn't even considered the possibility of invertebrate sapience.

"I am a scientist studying vertebrate life forms, my particular interest being mammalians," the gastropoid said. "Your species is most unusual, if you will forgive any inadvertent discourtesy in my saying so. I have never had the opportunity to converse with an intelligent vertebrate before. All the mammalians we have studied have been nonsentient."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium, Chapter 16
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
... haven't gotten to the gigantic silver slugs or the time-traveling spaceman yet, but today there's a touch of romance, not to mention lust...

Deborah J. Ross
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
In a fit of benevolent insanity, or maybe just summer wanting-to-dosomething-cool, I'm offering my novel, Jaydium in free serialized chapters on my blog.

The first chapter is up now, and others will follow, most likely on Fridays. If you're coming in later, there's an index and links under "Read A Story" so you can catch up. Enjoy! (And of course if you simply cannot wait to find out what happens next, you can get your very own copy from Book View Cafe, in a format that will play nicely with your Nook or Kindle or whatever.)

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