Today I am so pleased to welcome J. Scott Coatsworth to Joyfully Jay. Scott has come to talk to us about his latest release, Androids & Aliens. He has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!

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Exclusive Excerpt

The Last Human Heart

I run the lipstick over my still-human lips, staring at myself in the creased metal gas station bathroom mirror. The protective balm is a titanium blue, a radiant silver flecked with colors of the rainbow that accents the metallic skin of my cheekbones. Wrinkles line the edge of my lips where skin meets metal. You’re fucking perfect. Like a goddamned Monet.

I snort. I used to care about such things once. Matching my clothes for a night at the clubs with Erik. Choosing our elaborate costumes with care—exposing a bit of muscled stomach or a flash of ass with our tight, waist-hugging jeans. Sometimes bringing another guy home with us for a threesome.

The memories are cracked and faded around the edges. The upload to my quantum brain did something to me, changed me into this Frankenstein of man and machine.

I would have made a hell of a scene on the club circuit.

Crash.

What the hell? Wary, I slip the little jar of the moisturizing lipstick, snagged from an old department store, back into my satchel and swing it over my shoulder. Inside my titanium rib cage, my human heart beats faster—too fast.

I grasp the sides of the old porcelain sink and breathe slowly, calming myself until my heart slows again. Then, silent as a cat, I pull the door open and peer outside through eyes I wasn’t born with.

It’s almost dark, the last bits of evening fleeing across the empty countryside.

Another noise, this time a long, drawn out squeal. My eyes whir and focus. There by the gas pumps.

I breathe a sigh of relief. Just a scavenger bot. Their kind rule the world now, traveling through the rubble and recovering materials on a schedule only they know, stockpiling them for humanity’s return. I laugh bitterly at the thought.

I slip out of the bathroom to watch the little thing. It’s a third the size of my own cyborg body, and it’s working away at one of the old gas pumps, using a laser torch to cut it into pieces.

“They’re not coming back.” It’s a whisper, and an admission. Something I don’t like to think about for too long. You’re being morbid. Erik would tell me that with a flash of his bleached white smile, before leaping at me and pinning me to the bed for a kiss.

I bite my lip with metallic teeth and sigh.

The scavenger stops and turns as if to look at me. I can feel it scanning me for parts. Then it whirs, a disappointed sigh, and turns back to its work.

I’m worthless. I laugh ruefully, a sound more like pistons firing than a human laugh. Even this little metallic vulture has no use for the likes of me.

I consult my map, painstakingly put together from bits and clues found on the neural web. Fifty years after the last human upload, it’s a miracle the network survives at all. It’s a broken, feeble thing, limited to small nodes here and there, but still… a testament to the Remainers like me who maintain it, the humans and machines who survived the climate and the last wars.

Like many of them, I wasn’t “suitable for upload.” One hazard of being an early adopter. I laugh harshly, pistons firing in my throat.

This insignificant speck of humanity’s great accomplishments where I stand was once called Turlock, a tiny town in California’s Central Valley. I wince. I know that name—a friend of mine once lived here. Did she upload, before the end?

The Sacramento trading station is less than a hundred miles away, if it still exists. The last time I’d been there was two decades ago. With luck, I’ll be there in another day or so, and if I’m really lucky, they’ll be able to replace my worn-out ticker with a new one.

My heart beats faster. I close my eyes and urge it to be calm, hoping they will have what I need. Otherwise this might be the end of the line. Still, I’m ready to go, if it comes to that. Erik, I miss you.

I set out at an easy pace, leaving the gas station and the scavenger bot behind. Soon I’m back on the highway, or what’s left of it.

The full moon rides the clear sky overhead that’s full of stars. Most of humanity’s artificial lights are gone now, and once again the Milky Way reigns supreme.

A blistering hot wind slices at me from the south, as if pushing me toward my goal. I can sense the heat, but I only feel it on my exposed silver lips.

I remember cool nights in the summertime, lazy evenings at a rooftop party with friends in the City when the breezes blew off the Pacific. All of them dead and gone—They wouldn’t recognize this world we Remainers have inherited.

How I miss wrapping those lips around things… a Popsicle in the summertime as a kid. The sweet taste of a banana. Or Erik’s…

I derail that thought before it can overexcite my heart.

Erik uploaded fifty years ago. I wonder for the hundred-thousandth time what life inside the Core is like. Is he still Erik? Or has he become part of a hundred, a thousand other joined consciousnesses? Did he grow tired of it all at some point and self-delete? Does he remember me?

Broken, rusted-out cars litter the roadway. I don’t look to see if there are any occupants inside. I’ve already seen too much death.

My steps are measured and even, powered by the solar energy I’d absorbed during the daytime while I rested during the worst of the heat.

Something skitters across the lanes ahead, pausing to stare at me.

I stop and stare back, my infrared vision filling in the outlines. It’s a buck, a full-grown deer with an impressive rack of antlers as wide as my outstretched arms.

We stand there for a moment in absolute silence.

He’s gorgeous. I haven’t seen many animals on my travels—mostly smaller creatures, birds, squirrels, occasionally rats—in the hollowed-out remnants of the bigger cities. But nothing as magnificent as this.

I open my hand and shine a light on him. He’s white, and his eyes glint red in the reflected glare.

He nods and sets off at a trot toward the far side of the highway.

I watch him go, recording the moment to play back later. I wish I’d seen you in daylight.

When he’s swallowed up by the darkness, I continue on.


Blurb

android and aliensAndroids & Aliens is Scott’s third short story collection – eight sci fi and sci-fantasy shorts that run the gamut from cyborgs to (comedic) alien invasions:

Rise: Because of the rise in sea levels associated with climate change, Venice vanished beneath the lagoon half a century ago. But what if we could bring it back?

Ping: I was a real estate agent by day and a museum curator in the evenings at a sci-fi museum. What I saw one night changed everything.

What the Rain Brings: Miriam struggles to make a living in post-climate-change Vancouver. But her friend Catalina has it even worse in the Arizona desert. So Miri hatches a plan.

High Seven: Zan dreams of making full reals – immersive live virtual reality skins – but his low test score may doom him to a life of cheap graphic coding.

Full Real: Dek’s given up his life of spying for the city. But one more case awaits him. Will he regret it more if he takes it. or if he turns it down?

Shit City: The Bay Area’s being walloped by a hurricane, and seventeen-year-old Jason Vasquez has been relocated to a refugee city in the Nevada Desert. Will it be temporary shelter, or a change of life?

Firedrake: Kerry has always wondered about his deadly powers. But a mysterious bunch of violet roses start him on the path to discovery – even if he’s not sure he’s going to like what he finds.

The Last Human Heart: I’m one of the Remainers, the few cyborg humans still living on this busted planet. But if my still-human heart finally gives out, I may not live to find out the truth.

This is the first time all of these stories have all been collected in one place, and the first time the Pacific Climate Tryptich – What the Rain Brings, High Seven, and Full real – have been published in any form.

Warnings: Full Real contains attempted kidnapping and references to off-page physical and sexual abuse

Universal Buy Link: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/book/androids-aliens/


Bio

j. scott coatsworthScott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is the committee chair for the Indie Authors Committee at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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