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Welcome Jonah Bergan

A big welcome to Jonah Bergan today as part of his tour with Creative Minds Promotions for his new release Off-World.

On Labels, Slurs and Epithets
by Jonah Bergan
I am sometimes puzzled by those who do not want to be labeled. My sentiment has always been that it isn’t the labels that are at fault, but how they are used that make them demeaning. On this topic, I once jokingly commented that “it isn’t the stick, but you hitting me with it that’s really starting to piss me off.” Setting aside the ease with which we abuse one another, and how labels, slurs and epithets act as a kind of permission to harm one another, I’d like to comment upon how important labels are to us, and how they help us find and embrace our identity. In short, I’d like to discuss the “up-side” of labels.

In “Off-World,” the use of labels as slurs is commonplace. Taine, an alien, is referred to as a “redder” and a “devil” because of his red skin and black eyes. Members of The Sisterhood of the Natural Order, an ancient religious-political organization spanning dozens of star systems are referred to as “witches.” Sunshine, Taine’s slave boy, is referred to as “a flit,” and even the word “male” and the word “human” is seen as a demeaning slur in certain circles. Tanner, Taine’s human male apprentice, struggles with that. Each of the characters approach and respond differently to the slurs used against them.

Sunshine (the flit) has suffered the abuse that is considered a socially acceptable and even reasonable behavior toward “flits.” He embraces the label, acknowledging that he is a “flit,” but doesn’t understand why the other men of his village don’t welcome his presence. In his simplistic view, he is able to offer them what the women of their world will not, and what they themselves could not offer one another. A more enlightened view of this might speak to the value of diversity, but Sunshine, alas, is unable to express such a sentiment.

Conversely, Taine, (the devil) is more-or-less indifferent to the slurs that are applied to him. After all, they are only human words, issued by beings much lower in the social strata of his universe. But as the story progresses he begins to realize how he has distanced himself from who and what he is, in part, by not embracing “the devil” he is.

Of them all, however, I think Tanner has the worst of it. On his home world he is a male, a condition that is just a small step above an animal—as evidenced by his inability to repress his lust for women. In the company of Taine and Taine’s slave boy (both flits in Tanner’s view) he doesn’t belong. He’s not a flit, and he’s merely human, and like any human and any male, he has needs. From our point of view, Tanner isn’t gay but he isn’t allowed to be straight either—he isn’t permitted to embrace the label that would help him find his identity. He cannot be empowered without it. Who among us can?

I am a gay man. I like being a gay man. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope that I am born as a gay man again and again. There are plenty of people who would find that sentiment confusing, even upsetting. We are only a few decades down the line from a period of time where people used the idea that people like me hadn’t chosen to be gay as justification for accepting us as gay. If I refuse the label, then I am merely a man. If I refuse that label, then I merely am—a state some people find desirable, even spiritual—but in this context, if I merely am, I lose all relationship with my fellow human beings. The difference the label applies to me allows me to declare myself. It needn’t be a declaration of superiority, or an accusation of inferiority, but rather it is a statement of individuality, and it gives me access to community and fellowship. That’s what a label does for us when we embrace it.

I’ll leave you with this. Steve Allen once performed the song, “Me and My Gal,” but he altered the lyrics and sang it as “me and my other of indeterminate gender.” It was funny, as intended, and it spoke volumes about the value of labels. I am certain that was intended too. We need our labels, and I’ll keep mine. I like them. Let’s just get “them” to put down the stick.


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AboutTheBook

Off-World-Full-Front-Cover

Title:
Off World

Author: Jonah Bergan

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks

Length: 240 Pages

Release Date: August 22, 2015

Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?

Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.

CommonExcerpt


“You his father?” Taine asked.

“Uncle,” the man said, glancing toward his wife. She looked away, a terse expression on her face. He looked back at Taine, bringing his chin up defiantly. “By marriage,” he said. “I did right by the boy.”

Taine shrugged. It made no difference—these backwater worlds, with their backwater cultures, none of that mattered to him. It was bad enough he had to ride in from the starport on horseback. Bad enough he had to dress the humble part just to avoid offending these rubes. Still, if he’d come blasting into town in his Hover, he’d have found half the doors shut to him, and the other half damned slow to open. Taine was a hunter, a Lowman—a red-skinned and black-eyed alien, and his kind wasn’t welcome everywhere, no matter how much they paid for what they bought. No point in making things worse by flaunting wealth in a place of such poverty.

Taine turned his attention back to the human he was here to inspect. He took a quick inventory of the boy. Pretty face, decent frame, all good starts, but the boy was un-groomed, pale and too lean for his age. Malnourished, Taine thought. Most likely in body and mind both. That might be correctable, might not. Sometimes that kind of damage can’t be undone no matter how much you pay to fix it. Still, the boy looked appealing enough despite the slight frame—long legs, long arms and a pretty face with a halo of wild blond hair like the rays of some golden sun. He’s young, but not under, Taine thought. Taine checked the boy’s teeth, running his finger under the boy’s lips and along the gums. He tugged a tooth or two—still solid.

“How old?” Taine asked.

“Nineteen now,” the boy’s uncle said. “Twenty soon. Been here more’n half that time.”

“Lazy?”

“Hard worker,” the man snapped. “Wouldn’t have lasted otherwise.”

“So why are you selling?”

“Hard times,” the uncle said, “and harder coming.” This brought a scowl from the missus, but she didn’t say a word. She’d had enough of the gambling, and the drinking, and she’d said so often enough that the words seemed to have lost all meaning. If her husband had saved his earnings, instead of squandering them, none of this would have been necessary. When he said, “It’s him or me,” she didn’t argue. After all, it wasn’t an ultimatum, it was simply true. She consoled herself by thinking about the money. It would help them get off-world before the aftermath of the war came upon them like some kind of tidal wave, and swept both of them away from her. Choose one or lose both, bane or burden. It had been an easy choice, at least until now.

Taine slipped his middle finger deep into the boy’s mouth. The boy closed his eyes, and his face blushed red, but he yielded, relaxing his jaw and taking the finger as though it were a cock. Taine moved his finger in and out, fucking the boy’s face, watching him blush and tear up. Taine had good reason for doing it, but he earned a sharp look from the missus anyhow. She nudged her husband and glared at him. He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.

“You buying or not?” he snapped.

“Maybe,” Taine said. “Hard to tell with him all covered up.”

The uncle grunted and stepped forward. He tugged at the waist of the home weave the boy wore. The coarse trousers loosened and then slid down the boy’s long legs. A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.

“There,” he said. “No need to make a show of it. Buy, or get out.”

Taine felt the boy’s tongue start moving against his finger. It surprised him, and he drew his finger back, but the boy sucked at it, trying to keep it in him. Taine obliged the boy, sliding it in and out a few more times and smiling as he felt the boy’s tongue bobbing and dancing beneath his finger. The boy wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t make eye contact either. His uncle had taught him that well enough, but the boy doing what he was doing with his tongue spoke volumes. That’s him just about pleading, Taine thought. What must life in this little hell be like, for the boy to yearn for a sale off into the unknown?

Taine leaned forward, drawing in just a taste of the boy from the air around him. He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.

He reached up with his free hand, taking hold of the boy at the back of the head and began slowly moving his finger in and out. He knew he was humiliating the boy before his family, but Taine closed his eyes, and drove his awareness deeper. There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.

Taine pressed his awareness into the boy, moving through the ebb and flow of the boy’s many complex flavors. He was careful not to feed, not to take any of it in. As was so with most humans, the boy was a stormy wash of conflict within. Taine found urges and desires and regrets, a mind in constant turmoil, and rife with fear—predominantly fear. Some of that fear had been earned, and some had been instilled and it lurked in the boy, like shadows in some dark wood. Taine pressed forward beyond all that and went deeper, reaching toward the source of the boy. Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.

Taine slowly opened his eyes and withdrew his finger. He wondered then, and not for the first time, why humans waste their children so, as though darkening them would brighten the world. Didn’t they know the world would be less hard with fewer hard people in it? It’s not an easy thing to change, it takes some real effort, but didn’t they know it could be changed? Didn’t they know those dark urges could be controlled and even used?

The boy had given him nothing but the idea of burnt toast between him and the seashore. Not much to glean from that, Taine thought. To learn more he’d have to feed, and that wasn’t something he’d be doing, not with an uncultivated and feral human. Still, he was curious.

“You about done?” asked the uncle. The aunt had turned away, and the uncle was glowering.

“Not by a long measure,” Taine said.

The uncle shook his head and waved Taine on. “Just get it over with,” he said.

Taine ran his hands across the boy’s chest and down his flat stomach. The boy’s breathing quickened as Taine fondled his cock, teasing it to life. It responded by thickening and rising, though maybe not as fast as it should. The boy never raised his head, never moved a muscle, he just stood there like Taine had every right to touch and use his body. Taine gave the balls a firm squeeze, and the boy tensed, rising on his toes a little, but he never once raised his arms, never once tried to defend himself. Good submissive spirit, Taine thought, that’ll be important if we’re gonna heal him up.

Taine took the boy by the shoulders and turned him around. He meant to plunge his finger into the boy, just to check for damages, and maybe make the boy’s cock grow up full-sized, but the two cheeks were crossed with welts, some fresh and still white where the switch had marked him recently. Maybe not born to it after all, Taine thought. Maybe all that submission was just beaten into him. No way they nurtured it, no way they cultivated it, not the way the Lowmen would have with such a delicate specimen as this one.

Taine considered the welts across the boy’s ass. There were older ones across his back, a few sores, in-growns and pimples across his shoulders; nothing that couldn’t be tended to, and probably should have been before they offered him. These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?

Taine would’ve slipped his finger in right then, but by the scent of things they hadn’t cleaned him, so he traced his fingers along the welts on the boy’s ass instead, and then looked up at the uncle.

“Trouble maker?” Taine asked.

“No,” he said. “That’s just from his dailies.”

Taine nodded. “So, what’s your price?”

“Sixty,” the uncle said.

“Waste of time,” Taine said. He snorted and turned for the door.

“Sixty’s fair,” the uncle said, raising his chin. “More’-n-fair.”

“Yeah,” Taine said, “Not for that.”

“Now, don’t be disrespectful,” he said. “The boy’s family after all.”

Taine turned and looked the man squarely in the eyes.

“I’m interested, so you name me a real price and I’ll consider it,” Taine snapped, “but sixty is just plain fantasy.”

The man stepped close. That was a brave act, or maybe just a desperate one. Not many people dared approach a Lowman hunter, not with their alien looks and their reputation for violence. The solid black eyes and all that red flesh intimidated humans—something about their ancient myths. Still, Taine had gone to a great deal of trouble to make himself approachable to these backwaters, and now he wondered if maybe he’d done that a little too well.

“Boy sucks cock good as any,” the uncle said, keeping his voice low, as if keeping it from his wife.”He’s a good earner, and that backside’s got years of action left to it. I wouldn’t be selling if I didn’t need to, and I know you got your own expenses, so you tell me what’s fair.”

“Ten,” Taine said.

The man grimaced.

“Ten and you’re lucky to get it,” Taine said. “He’s nineteen, nearly twenty, easily a year past prime, and by my guess, he’s spent that time squaring up plenty of your debts. You’ve done nothing to develop him. By the time I’m done fixing what you’ve botched, I’ll be lucky to clear a slender profit. So that’s my offer, ten, or I’ll head over to Jenkins Creek where I hear there are a set of twins coming up prime.”

“I can’t take ten,” the man said, shaking his head. “I gotta have fifteen, and that’s a loss for me, Mister. I had him ten years under my roof. Fifteen don’t half cover it, but I’m willin’ to concede some, if you are. So there we are, it’s fifteen, or I’ll wish you a safe trip over to Jenkins Creek.”

Taine reached for the door handle, but hesitated. He thought about Shilandra, and what he had done to her. The memory returned, unbidden and heavy, like betrayal. He still had some of the boy’s scent with him, so he turned and looked back. The boy was standing there just about trembling—his head down, and face red, and his cock still jutting up. Would she even accept this one? He thought.

The boy was as lean a colt as Taine had ever seen, but the flavor of him showed promise. It’d take some work, bringing this one up, but there was something alluring about him—a hint of what might be found in him by skilled hands. He’d already found the boy’s name: Sunshine, and that was no small thing. Making him live up to that name, that’d be some hard work, and some expensive work as well, but if he did, if the boy did live up to that name, he’d be valuable well beyond his family’s reckoning of wealth, and well worth Taine’s time and investment. She’d recognize that at least, Taine thought.She’d see the value in him, wouldn’t she?

“I know I’m going to regret this,” Taine muttered. “You got his papers drawn up?”

“All but the price and date,” the man said smiling.


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AboutTheAuthor


Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.

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