In the Bush
In the Bush is a story written by shukyou and illustrated by veektro. It ran in Yes, And 2 at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/282146.html, and is mirrored at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/in-the-bush/.
Polyamorous bird people. ...What? It is!
From pinboard.in: "the one about bird-people, with a bunch of neat genderfuckery"
From fairyninjas.wordpress.com: "It’s the tale of a man meeting his new self while settling into his new home at the reserves. And also meeting the new neighbors."
In the Bush is very gently set in the same universe as Decanter, though it takes place under an extremely different set of circumstances.
After the real-world emotional wrecking ball that was Six Sundays in July, I figured that this year's Yes, And story should be something a little less dire. Thus, when veektro and I combined forces, I had the thought of POLYAMOROUS BIRD PEOPLE and it never quite went away.from http://ladysisyphus.livejournal.com/870514.html
...But, uh, I don't know enough about bird biology to make an honest-to-goodness run at making up a race of real bird people, so I decided to take a page from Iron Eater -- and a fairly literal page at that. Her story from last year, Decanter, provided a setting where humans could get some fairly crazy things done to their bodies recreationally. That, plus my having reread Transmetropolitan recently, brought me to the idea of, what if these people are not born birds, but made birds? And even more than that, what would significant bird-like modifications do for your ability to interact in everyday society?
Thus arrived the idea of the Reserves, a place where people can not only use their modifications to their fullest extent, but can also get away from the folk who might raise eyebrows at a feathered dude on the subway. If you're a person who doesn't mind some curious looks, then by all means, you can get your plumage on and go about your life just like you did before! But not everyone can or wants to do that.
I don't mean Eryn's early-life rejections to be a criticism of all young people who want to transition their bodies and identities, because there are several folk out there who know from a very early age that their biology and psychology are out of alignment. Instead, young Eryn hated himself in general and turned to what he thought was a quick fix for self-hatred -- if you don't like who you are, try being someone else! The doctors were right to reject him, too, because he didn't want to be those things so much as he wanted to not be himself anymore, and getting gills or covering his body with hair wouldn't have changed any of that. I personally have met a number of people who did drastic things, identity-wise, when they were young and found themselves wishing as older people that they could walk those things back, since they were made for the wrong reasons. Of course, when you're young and angry, everything seems like a personal affront, so it's not surprising that being told 'no' just made Eryn madder and more likely to lash out.
The other thing I want to point out, especially if you've read Decanter, is that yeah, I know there's a lot of gender-binary stuff going unquestioned here -- like how Eryn assumes (correctly) 'he' for Ahn when they meet. (In fact, my thinking is that Ahn was probably born with something that was more vaginal than not.) Bird species can be pretty sexually dimorphic, and I wanted to convey that even though this is the future and it's a universe with a lot of gender options, when you start living the avian lifestyle, you actually slip back into a male/female mode of thinking -- one that can be transgressed without penalty, sure, but one that colors everyone's initial assumptions. Their creating a functioning, long-term, equilateral three-way relationship would be the queerest thing to happen to Paristu in a while, in terms of family dynamics.
Iron Eater and veektro both deserve a huge amount of credit for asking questions in all the right ways and veektro gets extra credit for doing such spectacular and inspiring bird-person drawings. Thanks, guys!
This story really is meant to be happy, downy fluff. There are some serious issues covered, but mostly it's about being happy and having happy endings for everybody involved. And also about designing a bunch of bird people. That was fun. Pretty much everyone's name is a bird pun in one way or another, too.
Also, Eryn needs to go back and hook up with Crista again when he's not such an emotional mess, because damn, no matter what gender's going on there at the time, that peacock's hot. In fact, my original plan for them involved sex, but the more the story went on, the more I realized what Eryn really needed was to have a good cry. Better luck next time, buddy.