Our Future Is Queer: On the Varuna

Our Future Is Queer: On the Varuna

Today – right now in fact – there is an exhibit being put on by the Multi-Faith Centre at UofT, displaying science fiction and fantasy art pieces exploring futures and realities where the systems of oppression that hold us back today weren’t in place. I have a short story in a paper zine form on display, a prototype of a zine I hope to continue publishing into the future.

Due to financial reasons, I wasn’t able to print off enough of these zines to allow for visitors to keep. Since the short story is definitely not one that can be read to completion quickly, I’ve decided to make a digital version available, for free.

On the Varuna follows Arya as they begin an internship at a new, state-of-the-art underwater research facility. They are a disabled nonbinary character living in a world that refuses to hold them back or limit their opportunities. This is an excerpt from a novel I am writing that will continue this story across more themes to do with race, gender, and ability.

This is the first time I’ve written a nonbinary character before. I had a lot of anxiety sitting down to write this character, a pressure on myself to keep the character female and cis. But I knew I would be letting myself down if I didn’t even try. And once I started writing it, it felt so right. At times the pronouns were difficult to navigate, but not more so than writing a story about queer women.

I purposely chose a gender neutral name that had roots outside of Europe. I was tired of nonbinary or androgynous characters with names like Avery, Sam, Charlie. I wanted a name that would fit on my skin, in my culture. I also named the facility, the Varuna, after a Hindu god of the ocean and the underwater realm. There are enough allusions to Greek and Roman gods in literature.

This is the first piece of science fiction I have written in nearly a year. In it I got to explore marine biology in a way that welcomed my body’s limitations, and gave me hope that one day I could once again pursue that dream. I learned that diving can be a very fulfilling and less limiting activity for disabled people. For so long I thought the partial paralysis in my legs would keep me from ever diving. But the water is more forgiving than the land, and there are courses and equipment and companion divers to make it possible.

Writing this story gave me hope. It gave me hope that stories about people like me would be interesting and captivating. It gave me hope that there exists a future where being disabled doesn’t mean that you’re incapable.

I hope it gives you hope too.

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Flash Friday: Spring Break

Part of writing short fiction is very much so just practicing and editing. Part of my practice routine is that I write flash fiction inspired by a short writing prompt. Sometimes I make up the prompts and sometimes I use prompts I get from friends.

The amazing part of doing this exercise with friends. It’s so amazing what different things we think of from the same prompt, and how trying out a new genre can become a fun break from your usual work.

Here is a sample of what happens from one of these prompts:


 

Kla’rac twitched. She still had enough room to curl her fingers and toes. She clawed forward until she cracked through the surface. A sudden shock of cold air slapped against her snout. She hesitated. Abruptly, she jerked the rest of her body out.

She shrugged the dirt from her shoulders and rose to her feet. Her body was alert; her tail twitched in anticipation. As her body relaxed, she let out a yawn, her tongue tasting the spring air.  It fluttered delicately, the flavour of Meekha filling her lungs.

Meekha’s nose broke through the surface first. Kla’rac darted over and began to use her long digits shovelling the sand away. Meekha’s fingers emerged from the sand and intertwined with Kla’s. She gripped Meekha and using her body weight, helped draw her out of the ground.

A small shiver rippled through Meekha’s body. Sand rolled off her body and pooled around her in small mounds. She was beautiful. Cream coloured stripes ran down her dark coffee coloured body. Her flat head swivelled back and forth observing the plain around her. She nudged one with a long toe and then sighed.

“I miss the warmth already.”

Kla nuzzled her long snout against the top of Meekha’s. “I know amante, but the air is already warming as the sun grows higher.” Even as she said it, her muscles creaked reluctant to move, definitely not at the speed she was used to. “Besides, we should get started on hunting. The crew will need it when they wake up.”

Meekha stared at her for a moment. Her face halved into a cocky grin. “Well they won’t wake up for a few more days,” she murmured. “We’ll be alone until then.”

“Meekha…”

Meekha tutted her long flickering tongue. “You know you’re very tense. The girls hate when you’re so tense. You become a bit of a hardass.”

Kla couldn’t help gazing along her long slender tail as that last word hissed on Meekha’s tongue. She watched as the artichoke coloured tip swung back and forth like a pendulum behind her. Then it flicked up and wrapped around Kla’s waist.

Kla nodded absently and then smiled. “Tense huh? Well I wouldn’t want them to wake to a tense boss.” Her head swung around and stared at the mounds of soil peppering the ground. “We can go to the–”

Meekha’s hand was already pulling her down and they both fell to all fours. Sand and dirt flew beneath their extremities as they raced across the sand. A wide path weaved behind them from the swish of their tails in the sand until they reached the mouth of a cave. They slowed and rose to their hind legs.

“Well you did say you wanted to be warmer.”