Colin D. Vaughn has a new queer multi-racial sci fi book out: “Expression: Telepaths Rising.” And there’s a giveaway!
It’s the year 2113. Telepaths are real. They’re exalted. Feared. Hunters. Hunted. Kingmakers and slaves. With his expression, Ken is catapulted into the ranks of a tiny elite. With immense telepathic potential, he will have to learn how to use his powers and whom to trust. And quickly. Because there are enemies, both within and without, and they’re not going to wait.
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Tarrington placed his datapad on the table. “This begins the psychic assessment of Kenneth Jared Kawashima. Nigel Tarrington, Authorized Facilitator of the Ministry of Citizen Services and Mauricio Vargas, an Authorized MCS Liaison from the Ministry of Psychic Affairs, presiding. Also in attendance are the subject’s father, Takahiro Kawashima; mother, Claire Alma Reed; and sister of minor age, Stephanie Fusako Kawashima.”
Tarrington turned to me: “Kenneth, pursuant to the Telepath Registration Act, as a suspected telepath you are required to undergo psychic assessment. You may not decline, delay or obstruct this hearing in any way. You may, however, have the presence of counsel at this proceeding. If you do not have one available to attend within 24 hours, one will be provided to you by the Ministry. Please touch the datapad and state whether you request or waive counsel.”
All of this was rather pro forma – I was surrounded by my family and it wasn’t as if a lawyer could stop or save me from this process. Not that I wanted it to stop. I touched the pad. “I waive counsel.”
The datapad chirped: “Identity confirmed. Waiver of counsel acknowledged.”
Tarrington turned to my parents. “Please touch the datapad to confirm that you have no objection to this proceeding, its recordation, or your son’s waiver of counsel.”
My parents touched the pad and it chirped: “Identities confirmed. Acknowledgements confirmed.”
Tarrington smiled, “Well, now that all that fussy business is complete. I will turn things over to Mr. Vargas.”
Vargas smiled at me, and then, clear as a bell in my head, I heard him sing a jaunty tune: I am the very model of a modern major general. I am the very model of a modern major general.
I laughed and asked him, “So you’re a general, eh?”
He smiled: No, more like a lowly foot soldier, little brother. Ask me a question. In your head – look into my eyes and say the words of your question one at a time. Remember, don’t speak.
I looked him straight in the eyes and thought: Where. Are. You. From?
Honduras. Suddenly I could see a wide stretch of forest, leading to deeply forested mountains, their tops veiled in low-lying clouds. Though I knew I was still crouched on the floor of our living room, I cool also feel moist spongy earth under my feet, a cool breeze across my cheek. This is my home. Well, actually, my hometown is the metropolis of Gracias a Dios, but the rainforests on the outskirts are what I think of as “home.”
For a moment, I almost felt like it was my home, too. I, who had only ever left Tennessee for our family’s annual trip to the Japan Territory, almost ached to return and hike those forests. Gracias a Dios. Thank you.
It wasn’t until Vargas smiled and said aloud: “My pleasure” that I realized that I had spoken to him mind-to-mind again, but in a natural, almost instinctual, way.
Was this what it meant to be a telepath? This incredible sharing, this intimacy? I felt as if Vargas – no, Mauricio– was some long-lost friend. Could he sense the same about me? I was just about to ask him for more when Tarrington clapped his hands once and said, “I take it that it was a success? He’s a true expressive?” I came to and looked around. My family was just staring at me. At me and Mauricio.
Mauricio nodded, then reached and touched the datapad: “Confirmed that subject’s telepathic gene has expressed, as verified through the receipt and transmission of audio, visual and tactile stimuli between subject and myself.”
Tarrington said: “Excellent! Now, Ken… I may call you ‘Ken,’ yes? . . . You understand that you will be more fully and properly assessed by the Psych Ministry at a later point?” I nodded. He then continued, “However, for myMinistry’s purposes an initial, somewhat rough assessment is necessary. Mr. Vargas will perform this. I am sorry for any discomfort.”
Mauricio then said aloud: “Ken, I will now force myself onto you” – at my sister’s gasp, he addressed everyone and continued – “in a very safe and controlled way, I assure you all. Though unpleasant, I will not harm Ken, I promise you.” Then turning to me: “Ken, what you must do is push me away. Pretend there’s a door that you’re trying to push closed. Or pretend there’s a pot on a heating unit bubbling over that you need to slam a lid onto. Or think of it however you think right – trust your instincts. OK, here goes.”
Then, before I could even begin to ponder what Mauricio was getting at, I saw his green light brighten and felt him touch me as he did before, but somehow both heavier and louder than before. Where before I felt like I was sharing with Mauricio, walking in his shoes, I now felt like he was walking on me. Instead of beautiful forests, I saw a man wielding a leather strap. The man – Father! – started hitting me over and over with the strap, shouting. It hurt! God, had this really happened to Mauricio? Or was this all part of the test? I couldn’t imagine my own gentle father or mother (however strict) ever acting so. But – ow! – the bastard kept hitting me! And I felt so angry, that he was hitting me, that he might possibly once have beaten my friend this way. I jumped up and yanked the strap from him. I then pushed him and lashed the strap across his face. He started to back away and I lunged after him hitting him again and again with the strap…”
“Expression: Telepaths Rising”
Are there underrepresented groups featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
Kenneth, the POV character of my novel “Expression,” is Black and gay, and his father is Japanese, so my book is written from that perspective. Also, because my book is science-fiction set just one hundred years in the future, I’ve tried to include characters from many different walks of life, including race and class, in a way that would be recognizable to someone from our time. Part of the challenge – and the fun – of science fiction is imagining how certain groups are viewed and treated at a future point in time. Spoiler-alert: in my book, we don’t have a colorblind society. That said, I wanted to depict a society where group associations and prejudices are more fluid, more of an in-group/out-group emphasis.
Yes, in-group/out-group dynamics really fascinate me, because they’re situational and always changing. Sometimes they can change in the blink of an eye. Using myself as an example, I am a man. I am Black. I am gay. Those groups are fairly clear-cut and static – I’ll be those things until the day I die. Since high school, I’ve also schooled, lived and worked in predominantly white spaces. To be a minority at a school, you might totally be part of the in-group when you’re at some competition or other event, for instance – you’re part of that school. But in a moment, you might find yourself on the outside looking in – someone says something racially insensitive or uses “summer” as a verb. Or you might find yourself excluding someone from your in-group because they don’t belong for some reason. None of this is unique to race or class, of course, but these feelings and this constant state of flux are elements I’ve tried to depict in my book.
Kenneth, as a new telepath, is going to be catapulted into a tiny minority that, by its very nature, is tightly and intimately bound. So there’s my desire to show that abrupt separation from his former identity, his former grouping. But then even within the telepathic community, I wanted to depict a diversity that would pull Kenneth in different directions as he learns and grows. And also touch on another theme I find fascinating – elitism.
Yes, maybe one of the most extreme forms of in-group/out-group. By nature of his abilities, Kenneth will be a member of an elite community, if a precarious, endangered one. But without spoiling anything, he will also be pulled and tempted by other elites. Writing about the temptations, the pitfalls, the noblesse oblige and the arrogance of it all has been really fun to do.
Colin is a Midwesterner by birth who lives in Washington, D.C. with his husband. Lawyer by day and aspiring writer by night (and lunch break). Since discovering Asimov and Tolkien as a child, he’s had a lifelong love of science-fiction and fantasy. And he has enjoyed the explosion of wonderful stories featuring fellow LGBT and people of color.
But the more he read, the more he realized that he had his own tales he wanted to tell. And themes he wanted to explore – power and temptation, social progress, the fall of civilizations, ways to love, futurism, beloved community, and many more.
He very much hopes you enjoy his story!
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