Today I’m highlighting author Valerie J. Mikles’ post-apocalyptic Science Fiction novel The Qinali Virus.
Available on: Amazon
Format: Paperback, eBook
Word Count: 82000
Cover Artist: James, http://www.goonwrite.com
Genres: Science fiction, adventure, quest, post-apocalyptic
Identities represented: Aromantic/asexual, gender-fluid, neutrois/agender, FTM (with the first two most prominent)
Tropes: astral projection, mental projection (empathy, telepathy), aliens, post-apocalyptic world
Keywords/Categories: asexual lead, sci-fi adventure, female lead, psychic power
Book Blurb: Rage. Poverty. Disease.
They’re gone. Every last one.
The cost was great. The population has been devastated. But for the survivors, utopia has arrived.
Then the suspicious death of a young person forces Amber to question her world like she never has before. The Contentedness Council is after her, determined to protect their perfect society. Now Amber must unbury her city’s repressed past, expose the crimes that led to their utopia, and find a way to stop the Council from killing the world… again.
Join astral-projecting asexual Amber and her telepathic sister as they fight to save the human race from extermination!
Jenise gasped. “Don’t do it.”
“Don’t call for help?” Amber asked, setting the tablet aside. “This is an astral injury. Maybe someone back home can help you.”
“No, please,” Jenise whimpered.
Amber felt her body vibrating and heard a ringing in her ears. The world became hazy and she saw her physical body collapsed on the ground. She hadn’t moved, and when she reached to the side, her hands passed through everything. This was how her book had described the astral plane.
“I did it! I’m here,” she squealed. Then she saw Jenise lying on the ground. A needle-like splinter pierced Jenise’s brain, and her aura seemed to ooze from the wound.
“Oh, this… this is bad…” Amber stammered, gathering the oozing essence back toward Jenise. Her hand went right through the glowing ooze and Jenise’s body. “How can I help you if I can’t touch you? What did the book say?”
“She’s coming for me,” Jenise murmured. Her physical form twitched, the red welts spreading as the needle dug deeper into her brain. Amber tried to clamp Jenise’s chin, but Jenise’s body passed through hers, so she grabbed the needle, and suddenly Jenise went still. She saw the needle because Jenise had described the needle. It was a manifestation of an injury; not a physical injury.
“I can manipulate a manifestation,” Amber murmured. Moving gingerly, Amber extracted the needle from her sister’s brain, and Jenise started to scream.
“Do you want me to stop?” Amber asked. Jenise kept screaming, oblivious to the question.
Gritting her teeth, Amber removed more of the needle, and her sister’s essence gushed from the wound. Amber blew gently on the oozing liquid and it seemed to dissolve into her sister’s skin. Once the needle was out, she molded her hands around her sister’s head, trying to close the wound. Her hands kept passing through Jenise’s skull, making her twitch. Amber didn’t like astral surgery, and she hoped she was helping.
“They’re coming,” Jenise murmured, her hands flailing, passing through Amber’s astral body. She felt her form vibrate and a ringing sound filled her ears.
“No. No, I’m not finished!” Amber cried, feeling an anchor pulling her back to her physical form. She curled into a fetal position, fighting to get back to the astral plane.
Jenise rolled onto her side and spooned behind Amber. “We have to run,” she rasped. “Someone’s coming.”
“Who? Is it Parey? Someone from the Council?” Amber asked. Amber heard the truck now, its wheels crushing the dirt and gravel as it came down the road from Highmere.
“I can’t tell,” Jenise rasped. “Don’t give up, Amber. Don’t go back.”
Amber sensed Jenise’s urgency, but when she saw the truck, she felt relieved. Running meant more isolation and uncertainty. What if Jenise wasn’t really better? Going back to Highmere made sense.
“Let’s go home,” Amber said. “You were scared, Jenise. We were scared. We can say… I don’t know. They’ll give us counseling and then we can go back to our lives.”
“I don’t want to go to brainwashing therapy,” Jenise said.
“Stop calling it that,” Amber explained.
“You don’t even know, do you?” Jenise said. “You don’t remember how you were before Cenn died. What “therapy” did to you.”
“It helped,” Amber insisted, looking hopefully at the truck ambling toward them. “I was a mess. I needed to be able to talk to someone without dumping it on all of you.”
“But you stopped feeling,” Jenise argued. “Not just the grief; you stopped feeling joy. You used to make twittering noises when you read books. You used to get so excited about things that Cenn had to sit you down so you wouldn’t pass out.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be calm,” Amber said, fighting for a reason to trust her people. “They want the tablet with Chenna’s research. That’s all this is. A misunderstanding.”
“I was almost misunderstood to death!” Jenise cried, kicking at Amber, and rolling out of reach.
“Jenise, unless you can move, we can’t outrun them,” Amber said. “I am not leaving without you. I—oh, no.”
The stress of the argument made her dizzy and she dropped to her knees. A moment later, she was standing by the road, watching the truck roll by. Her voice caught in her throat, but she didn’t need to call out. The husky man in the passenger seat saw her and hollered, and the truck screeched to a stop. She recognized him from the Council—Tobin Wauld.
“I know we’re not supposed to be here. We’re scared. Can you take us home?” she asked. The weight of fear lifted for a moment, but then Wauld hoisted himself out the window, and drew a long-barreled weapon.
“Well, well, Discontent Delouise. This was too easy,” he smirked.
Amber’s lips quivered and her legs froze. She’d never seen a weapon like that in Highmere, but she’d seen them in that zombie movie. Run, you idiot, her brain shouted. She’d muttered it at the characters in the movies often enough.
He shot Amber with an orange-tipped weapon as he stalked past. She felt the sting of the puncture and a thin stream of liquid dripping into her astral form.
“Tobin, you shot her!” his companion cried.
“We came with tranqs for a reason. We don’t have time to argue with discontents,” Wauld said.
Amber still couldn’t believe a councilperson had shot her. Pretending to faint, she turned and dropped, rolling down the embankment. The moment the truck was out of sight, she willed herself back to her physical body.
“How’d it go?” Jenise asked.
“They shot me,” Amber said. Her whole body was trembling from adrenaline and she could feel the spread of the tranquilizer dart pushing against it.
“Misunderstanding?” Jenise taunted.
“Oh, no. Very clear,” Amber said, blinking away the spots in her vision. She had never experienced violence in Highmere, and she didn’t even know her people had dart guns. The feelings of shock and betrayal hit her in waves, as did a profound sense of loss. This wasn’t a short camping trip that ended with a meek return home anymore.
Unique Post: OMG! What happened to my gender?
It’s a crazy story, really. The cat pushed it off the table and it just shattered.
It actually started several years ago, when I started researching top surgery. I knew I wasn’t a man, but I also knew that my body shouldn’t have breasts on it. I don’t think the existence of non-binary people was as well-socialized back then, but I also didn’t really feel insane dysphoria about being a woman. As I was already identifying aromantic/asexual, my gender didn’t come into conflict with any of my personal relationships, and I never really felt hindered by gender roles. I mean, I knew I was supposed to be representing for women in science, but I was lucky in that the woman part was just a biological fact, and not really a hindrance for me.
But as a female, I was told that I wanted my breasts. I had nice breasts. They were a good size. Maybe I could go down a little with a reduction, but I shouldn’t get rid of them. That’s just crazy! Right. Just crazy.
Then I wrote The Qinali Virus. I invented a world where everyone defaults to neutral pronouns unless the character specifically expresses a desire for gendered ones. At the time, I just thought it’d be good for non-binary representation. I wasn’t trying to represent myself. There’s a point in the book where my main character Amber is meeting with a neutrois doctor who never took on a gender, and in a passing thought, Amber wishes she’d kept her pronouns neutral. Several months later, as I began editing the first draft, I stopped at that sentence. As an aromantic, asexual astronomer, Amber is very much a reflection of me, and in that moment, I realized she was speaking for me. I wanted to be neutral.
The thing is, you don’t have to reject pronouns, dye your hair blue, and wear buttondown shirts to be agender. Not all agender people will present as androgynous. Before my top surgery, I was eating tacos with a friend, and there was a picture on the wall of a skeleton in a dress, and they didn’t need breasts to fill out that dress. After I got my top surgery, I made that dress. I present to the world as me.
I would love to turn The Qinali Virus into a series and let Amber explore her gender identity a little more. I love writing, because even when I don’t mean to represent myself in a character, I learn something about myself.
Author Bio: Valerie loves dancing, writing, astronomy, sci-fi, and grapes. She’s agender, aromantic, and asexual, and even though her labels describe many things she is not, her motto in life is “I can be everything I want, just not all at the same time.”
Although she has yet to get paid to eat grapes, she was delighted to learn that people would pay her to study black holes, and spent much of her twenties as a black hole hunter. She was rewarded with an astronomy PhD, which promptly inspired her to move to L.A. to be a screenwriter. How she ended up working on weather satellites for NOAA, we may never know.
Her passion for story-telling extends back to before she could write, and in fall 2017, she achieved a life dream and published her first book, “The Disappeared.” Valerie currently has six books published in her New Dawn series You can learn more about Valerie’s books on her website: http://www.valeriejmikles.com
An asexual activist, Valerie has written and produced a series of comedic short films featuring asexual characters. You can watch her films online at: http://www.aces-sitcom.com. Her third book ‘Trade Circle’ features an asexual protagonist, and interestingly, she created this character before she even knew there was a word to describe it. She is super-excited about the release of the Qinali Virus, featuring an asexual, aromantic astronomer (and a weather satellite for good measure).
Author Website: http://www.valeriejmikles.com
Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/vjmikles
Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/valeriebean
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-J-Mikles/e/B074K2QCHG