Outer Alliance Pride Day

“As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.”
Outer Alliance Pride Banner
This is the Pride statement of a recently formed group called the Outer Alliance. Today is our version of Pride Day, and all supporters of the group like me are posting this statement on their web sites followed by a bit of their own work.
It’s quite true–I have trouble writing things that are completely heterosexual or heteronormative. In my mind, all my characters are somewhat bisexual, but the plot of every story doesn’t always leave room to bring that up. But I try to fit things in where I can. For me, of course, “queer” doesn’t just mean gay/lesbian, but bisexual, gender-queer, and poly-tribal-BDSM as well, “queer” encompasses all the intentional rejections of hetero-dominant sexuality and marriage.
This meant I had to give the heroine of my otherwise quite “straight” romance novel, Mind Games, a gay male best friend, as well as keep coming up with ways to challenge the heterosexuality of Kyle, my straight male protagonist of the “Magic University” books. And he is straight, or at least straight-ish. There are lots and lots of gay and bi characters in the books, but Kyle is one of the straightest of the bunch.
Here’s a segment from Magic U book one, “The Siren & the Sword” which illustrates what I mean. “Magic U” is about a college student who arrives at Harvard only to discover he belongs in one of their four magical residential houses. (Think Harry Potter Goes To Harvard.)
This scene is at a New year’s Eve party, and Kyle is one of the few undergraduates around for the holiday:
The pristine beauty of the first snow had faded by New Year’s Eve, as rain and sleet and more snow piled on, and Kyle didn’t see the sun for a week. He would be spending New Year’s Eve at Scipionis House, where a couple of the diehard graduate students had declared a party. Kyle was curious what a party run by Scips would be like, picturing a bunch of people gathered around a Scrabble board.

He was surprised when he arrived how many people were there. He was by far the youngest, one of the only undergraduates he could see. Where had all these people come from? Then it dawned on him that there were grad students who lived off campus, who weren’t counted in the two dozen or so who were staying through the semester break.
Lively music was playing from a portable stereo set up on the mantelpiece and people were bopping near it without quite fully committing to dancing. Nearly everyone he could see had a paper cup or a mug in their hand.
He wished either Jess or Alex were there. Alex would have fit right in. No one was dressed up, most in jeans and flannel shirts. Even Master Lester was dressed down, swapping his tweed jacket and elbow patches for a comfy-looking cardigan sweater. Well, that was someone he could talk to.
(conversation with the professor ensues, he gives Kyle a blank book)
Back at the party, Kyle found he didn’t want to let go of the book, so he carried it in one hand, a drink in the other, drifting from conversation to conversation. He had to put it down, though, when he made his way over to Marjory Ransom, the only other person there he knew somewhat. Her eyes lit up as she saw him and held up an orange in her hand. “Kyle. How lucky.”
“Lucky?” he asked, looking more closely at the thing she was holding out toward him. It was an orange, but the rind was studded with cloves.
She smiled. “It’s a clove orange.”
“I can see that. But what does it mean?”
“Well, if someone offers you a clove orange, you’re supposed to either say ‘no thanks’ or you take a clove out with your teeth, and then you kiss the person you got the orange from.” She placed the orange in his hand.
It smelled lovely, the scent of clove and orange peel seeming to evoke a memory… except he’d never smelled it before. Marjory was smiling up at him, smug and sweet. She had cat’s eye glasses, and dark brown hair pulled straight back from her face in a ponytail. “And I don’t have to do anything magical for it?”
Her eyebrow quirked upward. “Who says a kiss can’t be magical?”
He blushed, recalling that she was doing graduate work in sex magic. “And Jess won’t be angry with me?”
“I’m sure if she were here, she’d play, too. The clove orange is just a very slow, ongoing party game. And everyone wins.”
“All right.” He kept his eyes on hers as he drew a clove out with his teeth. He held it there, trying to decide what to do next. He hadn’t exactly kissed many girls, and none in a room full of people, but he put a hand on her shoulder to draw her close, thinking, a kiss can be magical…
Marjory’s lips were soft and almost tentative, and felt so different from Jess’s that Kyle almost pulled back in startlement. But he applied just a bit more pressure and her lips parted, as she yielded to him in a way he had also never felt before.
When he pulled back he was short of breath and Marjory was beaming. “Thanks, Kyle!” She grinned and then walked away from him with a little wave.
He sat down on the edge of the hearth to catch his breath, and then it dawned on him he had the orange and had to find someone else to pass it on to. Could he just give it back to her? She hadn’t said there was a rule against kissing the same person twice, but…
But that really began to feel like cheating on Jess. Because now he wanted to kiss Marjory again, to see if the second time would be like the first, or if the effect would have worn off some. He took the clove out of his mouth and tossed it into the flames.
It was probably best to find someone to give the orange to sooner rather than later. He looked around for a likely candidate. There weren’t many girls standing alone. Perhaps if he wandered around some.
He took a walk out of the common room toward the dining room, hoping to find someone nice-looking browsing the bookshelves in the hall or on her way to or from the ladies room. He came to another room he hadn’t seen before, a smaller library. A group of five students had circled the chairs and were passing a bottle of something around the circle.
“Wadsworth, isn’t it?” said the blond woman holding the bottle.
“Um, yes,” he said, coming into the room properly from the doorway. He couldn’t quite place where he knew her from, only that she looked familiar.
“If you’d like a bit of this, I’d suggest you sit,” she said, prompting chuckles from the others. She patted the empty chair next to her.
“I, um, should probably get rid of this, then?” he said, holding up the orange.
“Ah, yes. That should make it interesting.” She patted the chair again.
As he sat he remembered her name. Kendrick. Polly? Patty? Something like that. She helped to run the Alchemy lab sometimes and graded their midterm exams.
Kyle handed her the orange. A moment later, she pulled him into a deep kiss, and her tongue tasted of something spicy beyond the clove in her mouth. When she let him go, she handed him the bottle indicating it should go from him to the fellow on Kyle’s left, while she turned to hand the orange to the girl next to her. Kyle tried not to stare while the blond woman and the African-American woman kissed, but he’d never seen two women kiss before, other than publicity stunt kisses on TV. He turned to the man beside him.
The guy had wire-rimmed glasses and a neatly trimmed beard. “Just lift it to your nose and sniff,” he said, miming it with his hand.
Kyle nodded, then took a sniff of the potion.
A moment later he wondered why he was lying on a rolled up newspaper. Then the world righted itself and he realized it was actually someone’s arm behind his back, and that they were helping keep him upright.
“Has quite a kick, doesn’t it?” The guy said, taking the bottle carefully from Kyle’s fingers and then sniffing it for himself before passing it on.
Kyle found his tongue had forgotten how to cooperate with his lips to form words. He nodded instead. He wanted to ask what the stuff was called, but just breathing was taking up most of his attention and focus.
Thus he was surprised when the man held up the orange. Oh. Right. It had gone around the circle the other way. Kyle swallowed hard. “Oh. Um.”
“Wow, I’ve never actually seen the deer-in-the-headlights look before,” Kendrick said with a laugh.
“You can say no…?” the man reminded him with a raised eyebrow.
But by then Kyle’s alchemy-numbed brain had decided that if he didn’t go through with it, it’d be disgraceful somehow. He took the orange, took the clove in his teeth, and then leaned in.
The beard was tickly, and the hand that slipped behind his neck felt disconcertingly strong, and he completely lost the clove in the small battle of tongues that ensued. And then he was free, breathing and blinking hard. “Um, thanks,” he said, just to prove he could speak again.
“You’re quite welcome.”
He then handed the orange to Kendrick, who kissed him even harder, and then got to his feet. “Um, thank you everyone, but I just remembered I left a book in the other room and I shouldn’t lose it.” The buzzing in his brain that had started with the bottle was still going on, so he felt a bit weightless as he took a step, and like their voices saying goodbye were already far away.
It wasn’t until he was lying in bed that night, still feeling a bit like gravity had not quite returned, that he realized he’d never learned the guy’s name.

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