Yes, I am queer. I don’t often make such a direct statement in this blog, because I haven’t always felt like I needed to.
Additionally, I don’t see myself as a “queer” or “gay” writer, though I do happen to be gay. Same goes for the label of “Latino” writer. I only think of myself as a writer. Recently,the concept of community has emerged and made itself more indispensable in my life. I have met people like Natania Barron, Fabio Fernandes, Chris Fletcher, Mari Kurisato and many others who feel a sense of kinship over shared experiences as people who fall under the many overlapping waves of gender queerness (encompassing gay, lesbian, bi, trans, more).
And thus the Outer Alliance is now up and running, and to celebrate our queerness, today marks the first Outer Alliance Pride Day. WAVE THE FLAG, MOTHERFUCKERS!
What does this mean for me? It means I want to show you a piece of my writing. I want to celebrate today by pulling “Mantis Love” from the vault and showcasing it here. It happens to be a story that’s more explcitly gay, in the sense that its characters are definitely gay. I wrote this during an unusual burst of creativity: I wrote “The 12 Burning Wheels” through what might be one of my own personal darkest time periods in my life. I wrote 12 stories in 12 days as a way to focus, reinvigorate my creativity, and to forget myself for a few moments each day during this challenging time. Just when things semeed like they couldn’t get any worse, out came “Mantis Love,” which somehow, in its brief narrative, fills the reader with…light. That’s the kind of irony that fills me with hope, Gentle Readers. My two little homos Ned and Martin are dear characters. Maybe I’ll write about them in the future. But what you may not know is that I often don’t write about gay characters. I write about straight characters, too. Lesbians. And other characters that go somewhere beyond gender. Of my two written novels, only one features a main character who’s gay. The other doesn’t. Who knows what will happen with “Rotnacht.”
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.
You should do the same thing on your blog. Show us what you got.
SMS transcript, May 2005.
Ned: My mom says I can go to prom with you. I gots permission!
Martin: Love it
Ned: But we can’t crash at a hotel that night. She won’t allow it.
Martin: Why not? It’s not like anyone’s going to get pregnant
Ned: Says too young.
Martin: Come on! We’re seniors
Ned: Whatev. Can’t. We can make out, though. You know, mess around.
Martin: Not. Good. Enough.
Ned: I want 2 too.
Martin: I know.
Ned: I can bring my Mantis.
Ned: Buncha seniors are riding in on unicycles. Why shouldn’t I?
Ned: For fun. Somethin different.
Martin: Those things don’t work. My Dad calls them carny junk. You have one?
Ned: They work, it’s true. My grandpa says they’re like magnets for all sorts of things. Weird things
Ned: Creatures. Whatever. I can ride it tho. You should see me. I’ll teach you. I can teach you things.
Martin: I just want you to teach me what your sweet spot is.
Ned: You’re crazy
From Martin’s Journal, June 2005.
Ned did show up to prom in his Mantis after all. He told me to wait for him at the front door while all the bros went around me like I was the living dead. After about twenty minutes, I saw him come round the corner. Wow. I had never seen a Mantis before, just in books. It had scuffs all along the seat and on its red metal paint. But Len didn’t care. He rode the thing into the prom, right past me and through the doors, and I’ve never heard so much applause. I wasn’t sure where to stand, and the crowd shoved me out of the way as he made his way to the center. He rode in circles for a few minutes, never losing his balance. It was awesome. Then someone behind me yelled “Faggot.”
Whatever. They say that word all the time in the halls, in the locker room, at the bus stop. Nothing new.
Other kids came into the gym on unicycles, but no one dared do it on a Mantis. Len was the only one who could ride it. While the other unicycles put their riders at a height of about six feet, Len’s Mantis put him about nine feet in the air. He was the skinniest giant on a single wheel that I’ve ever seen. I wanted to kiss him already.
And then someone knocked Ned off the thing. He fell like he was stage diving a rock show. Someone else threw a paper cup full of soda at his head. And someone else stepped on the wheel of the Mantis, bending its spokes. There was more faggot this, faggot that, and the hets who were with us began to shove back and forth. The rented tuxes and pastel dresses became a tangle. I wasn’t sure who was with us, and who wasn’t. I tasted blood from where someone punched me in mouth, but it didn’t matter cause it felt good for me to kick him back in the nuts. Somewhere along the way I felt a hot bud of fire on my face and when I looked down there was a flap of my cheek hanging off it. Small cut, but the bruise swelled up like a gory plum. My ribs hurt and the cops were already on their way. They pulled us apart, the adults did. Someone spit at Ned, but I never saw who it was.
The newspaper lady showed up, and the dudes from the TV station were there, too. They called me and Ned brave.
Whatever. I was so bored already.
The best part is that Ned’s parents came to pick us up. I just wanted to go home. Prom just sucks. I knew it was going to suck from the moment I had to rent that cheap looking tux. They dropped me off at home, and it was all sorts of weird giving Neda goodbye kiss in front of his Mom, so we didn’t.
The next day I went over to ned’s house. I walked over there. His Mantis lay in two pieces on his driveway. Just a wheel and then, about a foot away, a little scuffed up seat. Someone had scrawled “Faggot” in chalk on the sidewalk. I rubbed my foot over the letters and they blurred a bit.
“My parents are at the groceries,” Ned said. We each carried a piece of the Mantis and put them in his garage. “It’s virtually dead,” he said. “Whatever tricks the Mantis had in it, they’re gone. My grandpa’s going to have a heart attack. He had only lent it to me.”
Before Ned could rattle on some more, I leaned over the hood of his mom’s car and I kissed him. Just had to. Ned’s a good kisser, and I could feel the hardness of his shoulders through his Aphex Twin t-shirt. He tasted like something in a medicine cabinet, sweet like Pepto Bismol. I liked the bits of stubble on his chin. I was so happy. As we dug around on top of each other in the humid garage, the two halves of the Mantis squealed like rusty hinges under my foot. I must have stepped on it. Crunch. There goes that spoke.
And then I heard the screech.
The pieces of metal and the rubber wheel squealed like the techno songs Ned liked, like birds, but I kept on kissing Ned. It went on for a while, I figured it was air hissing from the unicycle’s tire. In front of me, I could see Ned’s eyes, brown and almond shaped. Then the strangest thing happened. The room lit up with fireflies, hundreds of them — no, thousands –flying through the air and tickling my skin, stinging where my bruise swelled over my eye. After a second or so of their light show, they vanished. Poof. Like smoke.
“Mantis is dead, for sure,” Ned said. He hugged me.
“Tell grandpa thanks for the fireworks,” I said. My bruise throbbed on my face, but I forgot the pain soon enough. Ned kissed me some more.