In Bloom

History: I wrote this beginning in NaNoWriMo 2018 and continued it in NaNoWriMo 2019. It's based on a short story I wrote called "Bloom" and it's very different, but uses the same characters of Kamber, Joanne, and the Grandmother, plus a "Bloom Day" celebration and a bunch of the symbols and ideas I invented for the short story. There are aspects of this that will make some people assume the references to genocide and colonization are a science fiction version of First Nations/American Indians narratives, but the actual inspiration for me there is a relationship with the Holocaust, which I'm drawing on as a Jewish woman who did not have any personal relationships with Holocaust survivors but still has lived under that shadow and felt it as a historical event that happened to "us."

About In Bloom: Kamber is your average Kinfolk teenager. She's fifteen years old, dutifully attending classes in the human-run school outside her Kin compound, attending her afterschool rune classes and her goddess rituals, praying at her altar every day like she should, and yearning for more freedom and more trust from her elders as she comes into maturity. Kamber has trouble imagining herself as a mature Kin woman, because in her culture that is synonymous with motherhood, but she's still frustrated that her family treats her like a baby.

Now Kamber's had a falling out with her two best friends because all they want to do is talk about boys, and Kamber has realized she would much rather talk about girls.

But she can't tell that to anyone because their race's sacred bond with the Goddess renders heterosexual coupling as a duty, and it's tough to ignore how important that is when the Kinfolk almost died out six hundred years ago because human colonization of their world accidentally poisoned them.

But this isn't the old homeworld of Mayu. Kamber lives on planet Telane, a more progressive settlement where their people are trying to work with humans. That's why she goes to human school. That's why they want the future generations to understand each other better. And that's why there's suddenly a very cute human in Kamber's school.

Joanne's arrival caused a splash, but now Kamber is drowning and she doesn't know if she'll learn to swim before it's too late. Joanne also likes girls and the two quickly fall into a relationship, but the more they learn about each other, the more they worry that their future together is impossible. As Joanne learns more about Kin culture and Kamber learns more about queer history, she wonders if she will have to risk excommunication to be allowed to love how she wants. And how can she ignore how selfish it sounds to be unwilling to carry the torch forward for her clan when her own family is an endangered species?

What follows is part identity exploration and queer struggle, part spiritual quest and sacred endeavor, and part fledgling romance. Kamber finds support in strange places, learns of dancing dolls and speaking trees, and does eventually gain the courage to touch Joanne's butt. (It was very nice.)

Kamber will have to carefully find allies while she's still blinking her eyes in the light after leaving the closet, trying not to let the simple awesomeness of her new relationship be tainted by her struggle to be allowed to have it. This is all amidst a very real spiritual journey as she tries to find her place among her people--which is an important part of her that her human partner can never understand.

Keywords: YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION LGBT ROMNACE: ya fiction, ya sf, ya science fiction, lesbian fiction, queer fiction, queer sf, spirituality, religion

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