Tag Archives: Maddie Aflame

On Hidden Power: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

News, News, News!

The Swallowing Mansion, Maddie Aflame! Book 1 is now available!

 Not to get all bossy and pushy, but GO BUY IT NOW! You can find it at Amazon, Amazon UK, and at Go Deeper Press.

 And now, for the final post in the Maddie, Aflame! series…

maddieaflamecover300For this final post on Lana Fox’s newly released series, Maddie Aflame!, I want to focus on one of the story’s strongest messages—finding power in weakness.

It won’t spoil anything to say that Maddie struggles with more than an oppressive government with an conservative agenda. She has Combustion Syndrome, a disease that, when triggered, causes her body to combust from the inside out. While the ability to heal is part of the Syndrome, episodes leave her burned and weak, and are, quite honestly, a little terrifying.

By the time the book opens, Maddie has become hyperaware of what triggers the Syndrome and why, but the its aggression has caused Maddie to shrink into herself and fear what is, essentially, an integral part of her body. It doesn’t help that Combustion Syndrome is widely viewed as an affliction and misfortune. It’s certainly not seen as an asset. But, in a lovely turn of fate, the disease that she fears and considers her greatest weakness, may be the only thing that will help her save the people she loves.

As Maddie progresses through the book, she learns to stop fearing the disease and draw strength from it. Sex plays a large role in this and, as she awakens sexually, she finds incomparable power not only in the Syndrome, but in the many ways she can wield it as a defense. She just needs to learn to trust herself.

Maddie’s relationship to Combustion Syndrome also mirrors the struggles faced by the queer community in the series. When the book opens, being LGBTQ makes you vulnerable to attack and victimization. In fact, being queer is seen as a weakness to be exploited and eradicated. But…the vulnerability that comes with being queer in this world is also a source of strength, just like Maddie’s disease.

The sense of strength and unity that the LGBTQ community forms in response to its vulnerability is one of its greatest strengths. In fact, it’s that reactive inner strength that pushes Aud, Raj, Pike and Maddie to tap deep wells of compassion, and it’s that compassion that allows them to fight back.

It’s a useful message for all of us because we all have things that make us feel weak, or vulnerable or at a disadvantage. Life would be much easier if none of us were different, or had challenges to contend with. But we would also be missing opportunities to exercise strengths we didn’t know we had. As a journey of discovery for Maddie, it’s a wonderful lesson for everyone, and the fact that it’s wrapped up in a sexy, fast-paced, cracking adventure, make it all the better.

Other Posts in the Maddie Aflame! series:

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

Ghosts, Tech  & Swallowing Mansions: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

 

 

Ghosts, Tech & Swallowing Mansions: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

maddieaflamecover300In my last post on Lana Fox’s new series for Go Deeper Press, Maddie Aflame!, I talked about how sexual fluidity and identity are woven into different aspects for the story. For that post, I focused on the characters, their sexual and gender identities, and their relationships to each other. This time around, I want to focus on the world those characters inhabit.

I’ve written before about how hostile and rigid Maddie’s society is. Right at the outset, the novel’s greatest threat is the systematic assimilation and eradication of LGBTQ citizens. Lana Fox’s dystopia draws deeply from gritty urban fantasies while maintaining a light in the darkness through its characters and their relationships. Yes, magic and tech are used against queer people, but they are also wielded by those same people in defense of themselves and those they love.

So, let’s start with tech. For all that spirituality plays a serious role in the story, technology is right there beside it, helping the protagonists navigate their hostile environment. The tech that appears in Maddie Aflame! is either put to destructive use by the government (think viruses, mind manipulation, and surveillance), or it’s used by the protagonists for protection and communication. This balanced portrayal of everything technology can be, from a literal lifesaver to a tool of oppression, forces the reader to take it on contextual terms, something Lana Fox also asks you to do with its characters.

In a world with sentient buildings and conditions like Combustion Syndrome, where science and spirituality are woven through life in equal measure, ghosts play an interesting role. Maddie’s mother’s ghost comes to her to warn her at various points. Another character hears ghosts and can talk to them. One of the protagonists chooses spiritual over corporeal form. Ghosts are afforded more rights and protections that living queer citizens, and all the while, they represent the societal no man’s land queer people inhabit in the physical world.

In fact, ghosts and spirits gorgeously highlight a number of things in Maddie Aflame!

The ghosts underscore the fluidity I talked about in the last post. Maddie and her friends blur the lines of traditional relationship structures, binary sexual orientations and gender identities. Likewise, the ghosts blur the lines between two static worlds—that of the living, and that of the dead. Their active presence in the story sends the subtle message that not only are the lines of existence blurrier than laws and customs admit, but that bodies (with all of their markers and expectations) are temporary – the soul that occupies the body is what lives on in the world.

And then there’s the sentient mansion. While I don’t want to give too much away, it’s a metaphorical masterstroke that deserves a mention. The mansion, which, for all intents and purposes should be just a normal house, is a feeling, sensing thing, more creature than building, cognitively speaking, as it responds to the emotional state of its occupants. Like magic, tech and ghosts, the mansion bridges a gap and blurs the line between expectation and form to defy its own weaponization, making it not only a compelling character in its own right, but a powerful metaphor for the breaking of traditional worldviews in favor of wider possibility.

In the end, that is one of the most universal messages in the series—that your physical self is not, in reality, a boundary against inhabiting your full self and loving people in the way that is right for every individual relationship. The supernatural elements in Maddie Aflame!, are fabulous allusions that works on every level, particularly because they are woven into the fabric of the world with so much care. The society Maddie lives in is draconian in its adherence to tradition. It makes absolute sense that shadows of an alternate way should defy control and drift around its streets.

Stay tuned next week for my final installment of this short series on Lana Fox’s Maddie Aflame! And stay even more tuned for the first book in the series, coming very, VERY soon from Go Deeper Press!

Other posts in the Maddie Aflame! series:

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

UPDATE:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie, Aflame!

 

maddieaflamecover300In last week’s post about Lana Fox’s upcoming new series, Maddie, Aflame!, I looked at the roles queer marginalization, community and found families play in Maddie’s world. This week, I’d like to springboard off that topic and talk about gender stereotypes and sexual fluidity, and how they play out in Maddie, Aflame! Hell, while we’re at it, let’s talk about fluidity in relationships too.

One of the most interesting things about Maddie, Aflame! is that the tension between rigid conformity and humanistic fluidity is one of the plot’s main drivers. The antagonists go to great lengths, including kidnapping, murder, and torture, to impose a rigidly traditional social structure on the populace. And yet, beneath that structure, individual people reject conformity in favor of boundless self-acceptance and love. It’s that sense fluidity (in gender and emotional / sexual relationships) that ultimately helps our heroes counter the rigid traditions that threaten them.

It’s a bit tricky to talk about without spoilers, so forgive me for being a little circumspect as regards plot. What I will say is that, while the governing body responsible for the kidnapping and oppression of queer citizens tightens it’s net over the course of the book, Maddie and her friends and lovers slowly discover freedom in their conscious lack of conformity.

When we meet her, Aud, a spiritually minded young woman whose sexual identity defies labeling, is in a loving relationship with her boyfriend, a trans guy named Raj. With these beautifully drawn, deeply humanized, stereotype-defying characters, even the expectation of a traditional relationship is undermined when it’s revealed that they’re non-monogamous. And, while this is new for Maddie, they are so accepting and positive that she finds herself falling for them both.

Their relationship, as well as Maddie’s (absolutely fucking lovely) relationship with Pike, another member of their group, opens her eyes to new ways of engaging partners both sexually and emotionally. In Raj and Aud, she finds two people engaged in a healthy non-traditional relationship, while the fact of their queerness poses a real, imminent threat to their safety. And yet, Lana handles their relationships and identities with such grace that their fluidity acts as a counterpoint to the negativity that surrounds them. These are people who defy the stereotypes attached to the queer label by replacing it with love and openness.

This is an important thing. Maddie Aflame! is a damn sexy series, but it’s also a story that I would hand to anyone, including older teens. It depicts LGBTQ characters and alternative relationships in such a warm, accepting way, that it gently, but effectively, makes the point that labels are tools, not identities. Far more important than a label, is the freedom to be who you are and love whoever you love without falling victim to the fear of gender or social conformity.

The fact that Maddie is attracted to Aud and Raj, doesn’t make her attraction to Pike, a cis male, any less plausible. In fact, her relationship to each of them can best be described as “human” in the very best of ways, defying the constraints of gender, sexuality and even the corporeal body.

We hold onto labels to define ourselves, and labels are incredibly useful. But the defiance of concrete labels through sexual and emotional fluidity is a healthy thing, just as healthy as its traditional converse. The themes of identity, defiance and conformity show up in various genres and in various forms, but I’ve never seen them approached through the lens of gender and sexuality with such openness and frank compassion. It’s both supportive and subversive, and that makes it something special.

We need more portrayals of non-traditional relationships in fiction. We need more characters that aren’t defined by easy-to-digest sexual labels. We need variety in story telling that better reflects humanity in all its various forms. In short, we need more advocacy and education and, though not the point of erotica or sexual literature, the fact that it is such a meaty part of Maddie, Aflame! makes me respect both the story, and its author, all the more.

Next week, I’ll be tackling one of my favorite topics in any genre – world building. Stay tuned….

Update:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

Disclosure:

I’m in the privileged position of not having to promote a project unless I truly believe in it, so when I do promote a novel or series, it’s because I’d be shoving it into people’s hands if I was still worked in a library or bookstore.

Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to read large, addictive chunks of Maddie Aflame!, Lana Fox‘s (a-maze-ing) new work for Go Deeper Press, so I can say with total honesty that I’m a fan. While you may not get Vulcan-level objectivity from me, you can bet that everything I say comes from a place of genuine excitement and admiration.

 

maddieaflamecover300This post is the first in a short series on Lana Fox’s new series, Maddie Aflame! The first book comes out in October, so in the weeks leading up to its release, I’m going to look at some of the ideas and themes Ms. Fox explores in this genre-bending story of a young woman with a dangerous gift.

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I’m just going to toss some high points at you:

  1. Gorgeously complicated, sexy as fuck characters that break gender stereotypes, sexual stereotypes and all of your grandma’s ideas about what a loving, stable relationship looks like.
  2. A massively oppressive society that values sexual homogeneity more than the safety of its citizens.
  3. Lots of sexy times (in lots of sexy ways).
  4. A mansion that swallows people. No joke.

All of that was enough to pique my interest (especially the mansion. It’s rad), but there’s a lot more to it than sex and hungry houses.

In Maddie Aflame! Lana Fox created a story that draws from the political and cultural realities permeating LBGTQ lives (as well as the cis / straight lives of the people who love and support the LGBTQ community) today. While the story is a sexy, fast-paced adventure through a dystopic, alternate world, the themes that underpin the series reflect serious issues like sexual fluidity, “otherness”, and the struggle to find strength in what the world considers a weakness.

What I especially love about Maddie Aflame!, is that it features something that’s been largely lacking in erotic literature—queer-centered, empowering, inclusive portrayals of characters in their late teens and early twenties. Young adulthood is a challenge, even more so for people who may not conform to societal norms. The fact that Lana Fox tackles those issues here, and did it without sacrificing the book’s compulsive readable-ness is, quite frankly, fucking impressive.

Like I said, I’m a fan.

So, now that you have a spoiler-free sense of the series, I’d like to tackle one of its central themes—queer marginalization and the sense of community that emerges from oppression.

When we meet Maddie, she is fairly alone in a hostile world. She suffers from a dangerous medical condition, her mother’s passed away and her father is gay in a rampantly homophobic society. In this series, LGBTQ people experience everything from institutional and legislative marginalization to violence in the streets. And then they start disappearing.

But inside this social pressure cooker thrive small pockets of community—found families that span every aspect of the LGBTQ spectrum. When Maddie goes on a date with Aud, a girl she’s in a class with, she stumbles into one of these found families and enters into a romantic relationship with Aud and her partner, Raj, that is one of the most supportive and inclusive I’ve ever seen in erotica.

And that’s when everything starts to happen, and Maddie takes her first steps towards freeing both herself from the oppression of her condition, and her society from homophobic repression.

So, here’s what I love about this set-up. The world Maddie lives in is practically defined by queer marginalization. In fact, the overall threat in the series is the eradication and assimilation of LGBTQ citizens. But just as in real life, the marginalized group responds in a beautiful way. Just as with the Stonewall Riots and the early days of AIDS, community becomes a coping strategy and as a strength.

 Marginalization has another effect as well. While oppression is (obviously) meant to weaken a group, small acts of defiance signal a strength that allows emotional and sexual bonds to form—bonds like Maddie’s with her found family of lovers and friends. The fluidity of her relationships with Aud, Raj and their friend, Pike, give Maddie a safe place from which to embark on a rescue mission (see, the people-swallowing house) and explore her body’s ability to generate fire, a condition she’s always seen as a disease.

In a world where magic swallows deviants whole, Lana Fox created the ultimate response—a loving group of people who are committed to each other’s well-being and safety. As in real life, those bonds celebrate the strength inherent to the marginalized community, while underscoring how important it is to take part in and support it.

Next week, I’ll be looking at sexual fluidity and how it informs people and relationships in Maddie Aflame!

Update:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK