Growing up both gay and a girly-boy, I often felt as if I were looking through a window at a world that didn’t want me. For Nikki Ivanov, even though anthropomorphs like her now run the world, she still feels left out; rejected first by a father who doesn’t understand that she’s not a boy and, second, rejected by the boy she loves for being an anthrotiger.
In my novel, Sinews of the Heart, now available from Storm Moon Press, many elements of Nikki’s character grew out of that feeling of being different that I had when I was a teen. I felt doubly lost myself back then, being a boy in world where boys were supposed to behave in ways that I didn’t want to follow as well as being a boy who liked other boys. As with many gay boys, I fell hard for a boy who wasn’t gay and endured that all-too-common heartbreak. You can read about that here in my fact-based story, “The Yellow Bike”.
I drew on that feeling of otherness to create the character of Nikki. She’s an anthrotiger and a transgirl, but only one of those elements of her character fit in to the world she inhabits. Nikki finds acceptance and guidance from her understanding mother, but she still feels the pain of her father’s rejection of her true identity.
It’s not only Nikki who feels lost and outside. Kane Buckman is a human boy in a world run by anthros like Nikki and her family. Kane strives to be a typical boy in his father’s eyes while he tries to keep hidden from everyone, including himself, the growing awareness that he’s gay. And Rory Lusco, another human boy, saw his family die when they were viciously murdered by anthros. Although he’s lost his parents and siblings, the one thing he still possesses is the confident knowledge of who he is, and that he likes other boys.
Rory forces Kane to face his unacknowledged feelings for other boys. Nikki eventually learns that Kane’s rejection of her love is based not on her being an anthrotiger, but because she’s too girly for his tastes. When Nikki inadvertently outs Kane to his father, she draws him even further into a world of the other, of being an outsider, as Kane learns just how much his father dislikes the idea of a gay son. Rory despairs to find out that he’s lost Kane, the one anchor he had found in a world ripped apart.
Like young people in our world, these three youths have to learn to find their place in this fractured world. I use this world to heighten the effects of feeling outside, of being different. Being an LGBT kid often feels like living in a world where things have turned upside down, and belief in our society’s dominant values is hard, if not hypocritical. Though much about growing up LGBT has changed over the last few decades, it can still be a lonely and frightening experience, especially if the people closest to you don’t understand or if, like Kane, you’re afraid to even let yourself feel who you really are because you fear rejection.
Cody L. Stanford is a fan of both opera and Shakespeare, which inclines him toward fiction with strong plots and lots of thrills. He is fascinated by the arts, history, mythology, sexuality, and other elements that shape the forces and foibles of human nature. In his own work, Cody strives to combine compelling tales with interesting characters that reflect his ideas and his pointed opinions. Above all, he wants his fiction to entertain, but also to leave the reader with a feeling of satisfaction—that the valuable time a person has spent with his writing has been spent well. His latest novel, Sinews of the Heart, can be found at the Budding Moon imprint of Storm Moon Press.
Nikki was never meant to exist.
It started with the genchangers, human-made genetic viruses designed to meld animal features into humans for fun, fashion, or fetish. The viruses mutated, became airborne, began changing people at random. Then came the fear, and the war. The normal humans were quickly outnumbered and outclassed, hunted to the brink of extinction, and huddled in small, fortified settlements. Their only hope for survival was that the mutants would eventually die out. But the viruses mutated again, and many of those infected found themselves able to breed. Fur-borns like anthrotiger Nikki were the first of a new generation of life on Earth, homo superior. The world belonged to the anthros.
All of Nikki’s life, she was taught to hate and revile humans. But that was before she met the Buckmans, a human family trying to make it to a safe zone, nothing at all like the bloodthirsty monsters her father told her of. And in particular, the Buckman’s young son Kane, who stirs feelings in Nikki she doesn’t understand. Kane, though, wants nothing to do with her, and Nikki doesn’t know if it’s because she’s an anthrotiger, or because her father insists on calling her by her birth name—Nicholas.