Tag Archives: series

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 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