|Quarantine by Lisabet Sarai.|
Ever since I was a kid, I've loved science fiction. In grade school and high school, I devoured everything I could find by Bradbury, Asimov and Heinlein, immersing myself in the worlds they created. As I grew older, I discovered new authors: A.E van Vogt, Robert Silverberg, Neal Stephenson, Sherri Tupper, Bruce Sterling. My hunger for startling, enlightening future visions was never sated, though as time went on I became frustrated by the difficulty of separating the wheat from chaff.
I fantasized about writing my own scifi, but aside from a few short stories, I never dared. I could visit the worlds of others, but I wasn't confident enough to create my own. Then I became Lisabet Sarai, a published author. Nevertheless, it has taken almost thirteen years for me to undertake a full length science fiction novel.
Quarantine was released last week. It's a dystopic M/M erotic romance, set in a near future America ravaged by disease and natural disasters and ruled by a shadowy cabal known as the Guardians of American Greatness. Half the population is illiterate. American technology is ridiculed the way Japanese tech was derided in my youth. And homosexuality is a capital crime.
I prefer “soft” scifi to the “hard” rockets-and-robots stuff. I'm most interested in stories that begin with a simple premise about future society and then explore the ramifications. I've tried to do that in Quarantine.
I have to admit, however, that writing this book was the toughest thing I've attempted since I began publishing. About half way through the book, I lost faith in my vision. I didn't write a word for nearly six months. Mostly it was stubbornness that made me pick it up again – along with some instructive conversations with my crit partner. I'd already invested so much time and energy in the darn thing, I couldn't stand the thought of not finishing it.
But I still worry – not about the romance or the sex but about the science fiction backdrop. In writing scifi, there's a constant tension between originality and believability. You want to demonstrate radical changes in technology and their societal impact – but go too far and you'll tip over into fantasy, where everything is magic and there are no constraints. (I view the fantasy genre as quite distinct from science fiction). Actually, though, in the case of this book, I'm concerned that my view of America thirty years from now doesn't show enough change. I really wonder whether my future is plausible.
Of course, my readers will likely treat Quarantine first and foremost as a romance. I'm on less shaky ground there, I think. But the book is still the most serious thing I've written, and the most political, too. I'm hoping that at least some readers will appreciate more than the tender kisses and the hot sex.
When love is forbidden, the whole world's a prison.
Dylan Moore will do anything for freedom. Seven years ago, a gay plague spread to heterosexuals, killing millions and sparking brutal anti-gay riots. The Guardians rounded up men who tested positive for the homogene and imprisoned them in remote quarantine centres like desolate Camp Malheur. Since then, Dylan has hacked the camp's security systems and hoarded spare bits of electronics, seeking some way to escape. He has concluded the human guards are the only weakness in the facility's defences.
Camp guard Rafe Cowell is H-negative. He figures the lust he feels watching prisoner 3218 masturbate on the surveillance cameras must be due to his loneliness and isolation. When he finally meets the young queer, he discovers that Dylan is brilliant, brave, sexy as hell – and claims to be in love with Rafe. Despite his qualms, Rafe finds he can't resist the other man's charm. By the time Dylan asks for his help in escaping, Rafe cares too much for Dylan to refuse.
Dylan's plan goes awry and Rafe comes to his rescue. Soon they're both fugitives, fleeing from militant survivalists, murderous androids, homophobic ideologues and a powerful man who wants Dylan as his sexual toy. Hiding in the Plague-ravaged city of Sanfran, Dylan and Rafe learn there's far more than their own safety at stake. Can they help prevent the deaths of millions more people? And can Rafe trust the love of a man who deliberately seduced him in order to escape from quarantine?
Excerpt (Rated R)
“You built something as sophisticated as a robot controller out of trash? But how…?”
“I’m patient. I’ve been here long enough to learn that at least. It doesn’t happen often, but every so often a 3DV set will die, or one of the antennas. Can openers. Cookers. Laser emergency lights. I even found a broken CCD camera once.” Dylan flashed him a grin full of white teeth. Rafe’s cock twitched as he recalled spying on the other man. But there was no way Dylan could know about that, was there?
“Yeah, you watch us 24/7, or so you think,” the prisoner continued as though he could hear Rafe’s thoughts. “Spy eyes in our dorms.” Rafe hardened further. “Cameras in the kitchens, the greenhouses, the workshops, the recreation halls. But you’d be surprised how many places there are in Malheur Camp where the cameras don’t reach. Nobody ever bothered to train a spy eye on the dump.”
“But then why do something as obvious as your…um…variety show?” Rafe didn’t get it. Clearly this guy was brilliant. The ability to control the robots, even one at a time—well, that gave him a lot of power, enough to make Rafe feel queasy with fear. If the Guardians found out…
“I wanted to entertain my mates,” Dylan replied, his grin becoming broader. “Got to do something to fight the boredom.”
“Damn it, don’t fuck with me!” Rafe lurched forward and grabbed a fistful of pink shirt. Dylan’s eyes widened as Rafe dragged him roughly to his feet. The barest hint of fear flickered in those green depths.
The inmate was finally afraid. The sight inflamed Rafe. His erection surged inside his trousers. He wanted this cocky little queer, he realised. And he wanted to teach him a lesson.
Rafe shook the bound man like a rag doll. “The truth!” he shouted, delighting in the way the other man cringed. “Why did you risk everything on your stupid little stunt?”
For the first time, Dylan lowered his eyes. His voice was so soft that Rafe had to strain to hear.
“Because,” he said, “I wanted to meet you. In the flesh.”
Astonished, Rafe let go of the man’s shirt. Instead of returning to his chair, however, Dylan sank to his knees, inches from Rafe’s swollen groin. “What are you talking about?” Rafe croaked.
“I know you watch me,” Dylan answered, all the brashness gone from his manner. “Well, I watch you, too.”
“How…?” Rafe slid his fingers into Dylan’s reddish thatch and raised the inmate’s eyes to his own.
“Easy. I programmed a guard to change the video routing. To feed the stream from here to the screen of my controller.”
So there were spy eyes in the control room after all. “No…”
“Yes. You know that hard-on of mine that you enjoy watching so much? That’s for you, man. When I jack off at night, I’m thinking of you.”
Rafe’s mind reeled. He snatched his hand from Dylan’s hair as though he’d been scalded.
“Unlock the cuffs, man. Let me touch you. Let me show you how much I want you.”
“Shut up, faggot!” The key burned a hole in his palm. His rigid dick strained against his zipper. He was tottering on the edge of a precipice, tempted to jump. Tempted to give in, to release the rash young man who’d delivered himself into Rafe’s hands.
But that would be suicide. The penalties for breaking quarantine were more severe than for murder.
I want to thank Kayelle for having me as her guest here at Romance Lives Forever. This post today is part of my Quarantine blog tour, which will run through the 24th of July. I'll be giving away an ebook to one commenter at each stop on the tour. So leave a comment – and don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you!
I'll also be choosing one commenter from the entire tour to win the grand prize – a $50 All Romance Ebooks gift certificate. Meanwhile, all comments at my own blog Beyond Romance () during the tour will also go into the drawing for the gift certificate.
Check out my sensational trailer! And if you're interested in getting your own copy of Quarantine, just go to Total-E-Bound http://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?P_ID=1725
More than a decade ago LISABET SARAI experienced a serendipitous fusion of her love of writing and her fascination with sex. Since then she has published four single author short story collections and seven erotic novels, including the BDSM classic Raw Silk. Dozens of her shorter works have been released as ebooks and in print anthologies. She has also edited several acclaimed anthologies and is currently responsible for the altruistic erotica series COMING TOGETHER PRESENTS.
Lisabet holds more degrees than anyone needs from prestigious universities who would no doubt be embarrassed by her chosen genre. She loves to travel and currently lives in Southeast Asia with her highly tolerant husband and two cosmopolitan felines. For more information on Lisabet and her writing visit Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory () or her blog Beyond Romance ().