Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth [Book Spotlight – Queer Sci-Fi]

Skythane - J. Scott CoatsworthJ. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out, Liminal Sky: Oberon Cycle Book 1: “Skythane.”

Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.

Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.

Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them.

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Unique Excerpt

Skythane MemeThe shuttle blasted away from Titan Station, moving at a serious clip. It swung in a wide arc, eventually turning around to give Jameson a view of the donut-shaped installation. It was not the largest station he had ever been through, even in his short lifetime. Transfer Station, anchored to the elevator cable that touched down on the equator in Earth’s South American quadrant, had that honor. Jameson had passed through Transfer a year before, when he’d gone to San Francisco on old Earth for his Masters training with the guild. It was as big as a city, six tori stacked upon one another, each one as large or larger than Titan, and they were expanding it yet again now.

As the shuttle veered around, Oberon came into view. The shuttle shot out past the ragged edge of the world, over the rim wall that encircled it a half mile high.

Zefron and Davis were in the seats in front of him. The boy’s hands were pressed against the cool plas window, his eyes wide with wonder.

Jameson was about to say something when the shuttle banked, coming back around toward Oberon and giving him his first real view of the backside of the world. The Split.

The landscape, if you could call it that, was half in sunshine and half in shadow. The part that was illuminated was a nightmare of shattered stone, although much of it was hidden under perpetual cloud cover. A great storm circled the center of gravity like water around a drain, throwing off periodic tempests over the rim of the world, smaller storms that spilled over the mountains like the fog over the old Golden Gate Bridge, back on Earth.

The fact that he could make out details at all at this distance made it clear the huge scale involved.

Out toward one edge of the Split, a patch of light glowed.

“That bit of light out there? That’s Alpha Camp,” Zefron was telling his son. “That’s one of the places where they mine the ores. It’s all done manually, because electronics don’t work out there. There’s too much interference.”

“Then what are the lights?”

“Smart kid.” Zefron glanced back at Jameson and grinned. Jameson gave him the thumbs-up. “They burn oil. That’s a huge chimney that lights up the area and carries off the residue up into space.”

Jameson activated his cirq. “Angie, I want to review my notes on Oberon.” Angela was his mother’s name. It had just seemed natural to use it for his PA too. His parents frowned on bioware because it “subverted God’s plan,” but it had been invaluable in his career, and this was his way of making it okay.

“Here you go,” Angie said in a voice that was eerily similar to his mother’s.

He closed his eyes and the documents appeared in his mind’s eye.

Discovered by AmSplor in the second wave in 2857, Oberon’s unique geology had provided a raw ore called amalite, a compact power source useful in many areas of the Common Worlds’ far-flung economy. For two hundred years afterward, OberCorp had run the planet as its own personal fiefdom until it was brought to heel, forcefully, by the Common Worlds.

The corporation still held sway here, unofficially. The Syndicate, an organized crime ring, was also a factor.

Interesting. There’d been two waves of human colonization here, not just one. The first had been from a life ship that had reached the planet five hundred years before the first FTL ships. The skythane, as they were called, had created their own culture, and their language drift had made early interactions with the landers, the second-wave colonists… difficult. There were rumors of a virtual genocide of the original population.

The shuttle started to tremble. They were entering the planetary atmosphere. Jameson opened his eyes and looked out the window—they were about to pass over the edge of the world once more.

“Attention, passengers, in about thirty seconds, we will lose power. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. We’re coming close to the interference zone. The shuttle was built for this, and we will be past it in just under a minute.”

Easy for you to say.

About twenty seconds later, the power dropped down to nothing. The g-force created by the thrust was there, and then it wasn’t, and the cabin lights went dark.

Davis started to cry in the darkness.

“Hey little guy,” Jameson said in his best singsong voice. “Let’s play a game. Let’s see if we can hold our breath until the lights come back on. What do you say?” He demonstrated.

Davis looked back at him in the dim planetary glow and nodded. The boy took a deep breath.

Jameson counted off the time, and Davis did too, though his counting was off.

Zefron shot him a thankful look.

Just when Jameson thought his lungs would burst, the lights came back on. He exhaled forcefully and took a deep breath.

Davis laughed. “Let’s do it again!”

Jameson shook his head. “Sorry, but you’re too good for me!”

“You’re great with kids.” Zefron smiled.

“I’m a psych.” Jameson grinned back. “I worked with a bunch of them during my training.” He glanced out the window. The ground was rushing up toward them, the waters of the Gildensea reflecting the light of Oberon’s primary. The clouds were dissipating.

Oberon City sat at the edge of the planet’s only continent, bounded on the west by the Gildensea. The city spread out from the edge of the water like a complex spiderweb. As the shuttle descended, Jameson could see the spine of the arco towers that housed most of the residents of Oberon.

“That’s Oberon City,” Zefron said to his son, pointing to the towers below as morning swept over the coast. They grew steadily, ten of them running in a long row, all identical, built by the OberCorp to house most of the city’s tens of thousands of permanent residents.

“How many stories?” Davis asked.

“About two hundred.”

Causeways led out of the core of the city into the other cities along the coast on the “smooth” side of the world on Oberon’s only continent. The rest of the world was wild—the Outland, the locals called it, at least according to the dataset OberCorp had slitted him. Old Oberon, as he thought of it, mostly untouched since before the current wave of mankind had come here five hundred years before.

Outside the city core, lower buildings spread out, in some areas fairly well organized along a standard north-south street grid, in others a vast shantytown spread out like a cancer. The Slander. He’d read about this lawless zone at the city’s edge, but the reports didn’t do it justice. It was vast.

In the distance, he saw the Pyramus Mountains, apparently thrust up when the world had been so violently sundered in two.

The shuttle veered away from the city, g-force pushing him back into the padded chair, and banked toward the landing pad that sat on the metropolis’s outer edge. A company representative would be waiting there for him. Perhaps he could convince them to give him a tour of the Split, and maybe even show him the source of the psychoamoratic drug, pith.

He wondered for the hundredth time why he’d been chosen for this particular mission. There were thousands of pith specialists in the Guild, a number of whom had half a hundred years of experience or more. Perhaps they didn’t want to be sent to this backwater end of the Common Worlds?

He was inordinately grateful for the opportunity, though, having spent the last three years in virtual oblivion on Tander’s World, counseling lonely miners on that desolate outpost. Here at last was civilization, of a sort. Though he doubted they had a ballet, or even space opera.

The shuttle braked with an intense, ear-splitting whine, the g-force pressing Jameson back into his seat once more. It lasted for about ten seconds, and then just as quickly the pressure eased. The shuttle settled down on the concrete landing pad with a shuddering sigh.

“Welcome to Oberon City,” the pilot said over the intercom, and the door irised open, extending stairs to the ground below. “Please be sure to take all your belongings with you, and enjoy this beautiful day.”

Jameson gathered his suitcase from beneath his seat, brushing some stray lint off his jacket, and clambered down the stairway into Oberon’s gilded light. He breathed in deeply. The planetary air smelled amazingly fresh after years of being locked up in tin cans, first on Tander’s World and then in the Arcatus on the trip here.

The wide-open horizon was intimidating too. He was disoriented by the broad expanse of green-tinted sky. This was all going to take some getting used to.

Hopefully he’d be safely back inside shortly.

Author Bio

J. Scott CoatsworthScott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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