Hi guys, we have J.A. Rock stopping by today with her new re-release The Silvers, we have a fantastic guest post, a fantastic excerpt and a fabulous giveaway, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
What humans want from the Silver Planet is water. What they find is a race of humanoids who are sentient, but as emotionless and serene as the plants and placid lakes they tend.
B, captain of the mission, doesn’t believe that the “Silvers” are intelligent, and lets his crew experiment on them. But then he bonds with Imms, who seems different from the others—interested in learning, intrigued by human feelings. And B realizes that capturing, studying, and killing this planet’s natives has done incalculable damage.
When a fire aboard B’s ship kills most of the crew and endangers Imms, B decides to take him back to Earth. But the simplicity of the Silver Planet doesn’t follow them. Imms learns the full spectrum of human emotions, including a love B is frightened to return, and a mistrust of the bureaucracy that wants to treat Imms like a test subject, even if they have to eliminate B to do it.
Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and right now I’m touring the internet talking about my latest release, The Silvers. Thanks so much to the blogs that are hosting me on this tour, and be sure to leave comments on the tour posts for a chance to win a $15 Riptide Publishing gift card!
B is the captain of the Byzantine, the first crewed mission to the Silver Planet. He’s reticent, cynical, and…kind of a dick. He often acts selfishly, or fails to act when others need him to. He has some trouble connecting with people. His crew tolerates him, but doesn’t feel much affection for him. He approves operations that involve killing or injuring the planet’s native race, the Silvers. Plus, he doesn’t like George Michael.
A chance encounter with Imms, a Silver who’s very different from the others B and his team have worked with, forces B to step up and be kind to someone else. It’s a learning curve, and obviously it’s, you know, troubling that B only starts to treat Silvers well once he meets one he deems worthy of good treatment. Like all those romcoms where some alpha dude jerk treats women as disposable until he meets one who’s “different from the others” because she’s smart and pretty.
B was a tough character. I wrote The Silvers before I got into romance, so I never considered him a romantic hero. And in early drafts he was way worse, morally speaking, than he is in the version that got published. I remember asking my mom, after she’d read my first draft, if she thought B was a total dick. And she was like, “Definitely. But is that a problem?”
It might have been, since I did have to soften him up some before anyone would accept the manuscript. But I think most of that softening happened organically, as a result of revisions that added more B backstory, and more levels to B and Imms’s relationship. Once I dug deeper into the character, he became less of an asshole.
I realize I’m not doing a lot to sell B here. But I loved writing his subtle transformation. It’s not one that fixes him, or has him epiphanically realizing the error of is ways, but it’s one that pushes him to open up and figure out what’s really important to him.
They bleed the same as humans, but they are more satisfying to cut, thinks B. Something about the way the silver skin tears, like cloth, like the fat ribbon his mother used to wind around the Christmas tree back home.
This place is called the Silver Planet because of them, and because the lakes are like soldering metal and colors look accidental, like stains on the land. And they are called Silvers, though they aren’t shiny, aren’t metallic. The hue of their skin is an all-over bruise that hasn’t yet settled into those deep, wounded colors—blacks, purples, yellows.
They are bruised only on the surface, a cold, smoky gray.
They are called Silvers because of that surface bruise and because of their quick, gleaming tongues. Because their eyes look like glass, the irises not round, but thin, jagged fissures around the pupils.
B hates them, can’t say why. They are much like humans. They think, reason, laugh. Their language is complex, mathematical. They speak like an equation, factors on both sides. They derive each other’s meanings instantly, but the humans who have attempted to learn the Silver language struggle to find x.
B thinks he hates the Silvers in part because they are indistinct. There are no warriors, no politicians, no professionals or criminals. Just efficient regulators of an uneventful society. Males and females are nearly indistinguishable. Females lack prominent breasts, and the male organs descend only when they breed, which one pair is selected to do each month to produce a single offspring. B knows all this. He reads the reports.
Silvers don’t get angry. They feel affection, joy, even desire, but they don’t have that red spectrum of anger, hatred, jealousy. They don’t display it. They don’t outwardly grieve when something’s lost, but you can see the emptiness fill them, collapse them. They may wander into a lake and never resurface. They have no word for revenge, no concept of it. They want things like food, water, each other, but necessity, never greed, is what drives them to pursuit.
They do not fight. They do not kill. They are faster than humans and can go into the lakes and hold their breaths for a long time. B and his team have tried provoking them, taking things from them, turning them against each other. The Silvers simply run away or hide in the ground. They can do that. They press themselves to the earth and become part of it. B has ordered his team not to harm any more of them until the next project begins, but it happens anyway.
B rubs a hand across his chin. He stares across the pale plain but sees nothing unusual. The sky is always black and starless. The planet’s atmosphere is a shroud that blocks the rest of the universe from view. Light here comes from within the ground, and different sections of the planet are illuminated at different times of day. The plain he looks at is all bright earth. It’s cold.
He hears a sound, like a clock ticking half seconds, quarter seconds. Grena finds him moments later. He starts to ask her if she knows what’s making the sound, if she hears it, but she interrupts to tell him the tranq guns are loaded. He asks her if the lab is ready. She says yes. He asks if Gumm has stopped puking. She says mostly. Gumm has trouble with the atmosphere. Grena and Joele can go outside without first dosing themselves with Atmoclere, a drug that helps them all breathe. Vir did all right too, back when she used to go out.
“Then prepare for Project HN,” he says, wishing he had the theatricality to imitate one of those barking commanders from old TV shows and movies. His order just comes out sounding tired. B is a captain in title only. He handles paperwork while the others explore.
They’ve told NRCSE that HN stands for Humanoid Neurogenics. But to the team, it stands for Hard Nipples. It’s so cold on the Silver Planet that their chests chafe raw against their shirts; Joele heats stones over the stove and puts them in her bra. Having this private joke lends color to their exile.
They’ve spent three months observing the Silvers, interacting with them. Cataloging the terrain of the planet, the few and scattered life forms. It’s not so much an ecosystem here as it is a barren garden tended by the Silvers. One species of flower is a blue, bulbous thing that looks like dead, swollen lips. The Silvers pollinate the flowers, pinching pollen from the centers and depositing the grains in the carpels of others to produce a flat, gray fruit called quilopea, the only thing Silvers eat. Moon chips, Joele calls it. The rest of the plants are menacing, brittle weeds. The only other creatures look like snakes, but they are blind and harmless.
The team has dug into the cold, gleaming earth and filtered the liquid-star lakes. The Silvers have let Grena and Vir study their clans, but they have fared better learning English than Grena and Vir have trying to master the Silver language.
Now the team wants answers the Silvers can’t give. Why the empty space where blazing emotions should be? Why don’t they fight? They are certainly intelligent enough to see that if you hit hard enough, you get what you want. Project HN involves tranquilizing three Silvers and bringing them into the ship’s lab. The team will study three things: the ability to rouse Silvers’ emotions through physical stimuli, solidarity among the captives, and the Silver brain itself. They are targeting three Silvers Vir and Grena don’t know. Vir’s request.
Grena boards the Byzantine to collect materials. After a moment—still that damned ticking noise—B follows her. He goes to the kitchen for a soda. Joele is there, and she’s got blood on her suit.
B nods at the spatters. “What happened?”
He knows she’s lying. He pops open a soda. Hal’s AstroFizz in Lunar Lemon-Lime. Joele started calling it AstroGlide, and now B always feels a little funny drinking it. “We’ll collect them tonight.”
“You still say ‘tonight.’”
“Force of habit.” B tells his team “good morning” too. The sky never changes. Sometimes B could swear time isn’t passing at all. Yet he wears a watch. He lives his life by the hours of his old existence.
“You seen my flashlight?” he asks. “I wanna check something out.”
“What are you, ninety? You asked me last week if I’d seen your reading glasses, and you were wearing them. You sure it’s not tucked down your pants?”
“A lot on my mind.”
“Worried about Hard Nipples?”
I want to go home. I’m worried about the things I left. I’m worried about what this place is taking from me.
Aloud, he says, “You ought to be too.”
“Yeah, yeah. This fails, it’s back to Earth for Team Fuckup. Think we’ll spend the rest of our lives behind desks.”
“That doesn’t bother you?”
She shrugs, stands. She towers over him. She towers over everybody on the team. “I’d like to make a name for myself, sure. But I wouldn’t say no to getting the hell off this planet.” She unclips her flashlight, hands it to him. “Don’t lose it.” She leaves.
B finishes his soda and crumples the can. They’ve tried to bring Silvers on board the ship before, but the creatures died within the first hour. B assumed they were unable to tolerate the ship’s circulating supply of Atmoclere. Now Gumm has found a way to shut off the flow of Atmoclere to the lab. They’ve picked and stored enough quilopea to feed three Silvers for a week. They have drilled holes in the steel table, looping belts and rope through.
Three. One will be Joele’s. She is going to test her Silver’s reactions to physical stimuli. One is Grena’s. She will offer her Silver the chance to influence and abate the suffering of the first. The third Silver belongs to Vir. She will perform a vivisection. She will examine the creature’s brain and try to learn something about its heart.
A Silver’s heart drifts through its body, bumping softly against walls and other organs. Sometimes it’s illuminated, and you can see it beneath the bruised skin, floating along like a lantern underwater. In the past, when they’ve had access to dead Silvers, the team has cut the bodies open and examined the hearts, but they’ve learned very little. When a Silver dies, the light of the heart dies too, and the heart no longer drifts. It returns to the center left of the body and rests there like a cold stone. What they want to do now is study the heart while the Silver is still alive.
Privately, B worries Vir will have a hard time. She has always hated to kill Silvers or cut them still alive to watch how that delicate skin tears and the blood sneaks out. The Silvers stay away from humans now.
They look like sea creatures, and in a way they are. Now that they know what the crew members are capable of, they flee to the lakes when they hear humans approaching. They can hide in the liquid metal of the water, grabbing a breath every ten minutes or so. B has watched them. They are fast but not terribly graceful. They have lumps on the backs of their ankles, like pasterns on horses.
He leaves the kitchen and goes to the lab to make sure everything’s in order. They’ve dragged the kitchen table down there and fixed restraints to it, so they’ll have more than one workspace. The third Silver can be kept in the narrow closet Joele has cleared out. There is no danger of the Silvers becoming violent, but they may try to run.
Vir is in the corner of the lab, writing in a notebook.
“Hey,” B says.
She doesn’t answer.
“You all right?”
She snaps her pen down, rubs her eyes. The lab is dark, except for a ring of light from the lamp next to her notebook. “I lived with them,” she says.
“They’re smart. Smarter than us, probably.”
“All the more reason we should—”
“It’s okay to hurt them because they don’t fight back? Because they won’t get angry? It’s like chopping up a fucking manatee.”
“Vir, they’re not us. They don’t think like us. They don’t feel betrayal. They may not even feel fear.”
“They understand danger.”
“They may understand it, but they don’t feel it.”
Vir draws a shaky breath. “You remember the one Joele—”
“Joele was out of line.”
“It didn’t make a sound.”
“Precisely. Can we even be sure they feel pain?”
“Of course they can.” Vir rarely raises her voice. It’s a horrible sound, Vir amplified. “I’ve asked them.”
“We’re not going to kill them.”
“Mine will die,” says Vir. “We’ll be lucky to get a few minutes looking at the heart. We don’t have the right space, the right equipment. We were supposed to come here for water.”
The uncrewed mission sent to the Silver Planet last year picked up only the most basic life forms—the flowers, the fruit, the snakes. The Silvers must have used their ability to become part of the planet’s surface when the rover came through. It didn’t pick up a single one.
Why hadn’t the Silvers hidden from humans when they’d arrived? The creatures had been as dumb and trusting as dodos. They’d approached the Byzantine, babbling in that strange tongue. One had tried to put its arms around Joele, and she’d shoved it so hard it fell.
“What we found is much better,” B says. “When we’re gone, they’ll send other teams better equipped to study these creatures. But we’re the first. People will remember us.”
Vir shakes her head. “I’m doing this. But I want you to know that I have lived with them. They’ve told me stories. Many of them picked up our language very quickly. They are not robots. They’re not insects. They’re people.”
B feels a little sick. “They’re not us,” he repeats.
“Grena read to them. I don’t know how she can—”
“Vir,” he says, “pull it together.”
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/the-silvers (Just click the excerpt tab)
J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All The World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.
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