What happens when boy meets girl but girl doesn't notice boy because she shares a body with another boy? When he's not gorging on desserts, calming his hypochondriacal mum, or getting bone-crunching hugs from his warrior dads, Virj Ofreesin spends his time writing a fantasy novel about Frayda, the elegant half of the two-headed Dwa. Life is adequately mediocre until he learns the Dwa are gravely ill, and a mystical cure grows on a planet between two infamously warring worlds. Ignoring all warnings of danger, Virj embarks on the journey to be Frayda's real-life hero, armed only with his stylus, and a boingy-haired nuisance who decides to tag along.
About the author
Cait (pronounced like 'cat') Gordon is a Canadian disability advocate who writes speculative fiction that celebrates the reality of diversity. Originally from Verdun, Québec, Cait worked for over two decades as a technical writer, then channelled her love for words into storytelling.
Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound Beyond Wonderland (Ed. Colleen Anderson), We Shall Be Monsters (Ed. Derek Newman-Stille), and Stargazers: Microtales from the Cosmos (Eds. Jarvey and MacNab). The Hilltop Gathering from We Shall Be Monsters features a disabled protagonist and was discussed at a symposium about Frankenstein at Carleton University.
In 2016, Cait founded the Spoonie Authors Network to connect with writers in the disability community. Her desire to find better disabled and autistic representation in fiction prompted Cait to co-edit Nothing Without Us with Talia C. Johnson. The multi-genre anthology features authors and protagonists who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, and/or who manage mental illness.
Nothing Without Us was included in the syllabus of a disability studies course at Trent University and earned a 2020 Prix Aurora Award nomination.
Even though her own works deal with issues about identity and human/alien/monster rights, Cait has always felt humour is an important part of world-building. "Without humour, it doesn't feel realistic."
Cait is also a musician and singer who has been living in Ottawa with her guitarist husband, author Bruce Gordon, since 1998. She's friendly, somewhat feisty, and really loves cake.
Excerpt: Life in the 'Cosm (by (author) Cait Gordon)
In the crystal tower stood the king's nephew, lost in reverie over the maiden with white hair. She was eighteen and a peasant, but a gleaming mane defied her status by giving her a regal elegance. Parraig sighed, leaning his chin on his hand. How could he be so smitten? His heart was both captured and captivated. Never in his regimented life had anyone distracted him so.
No sooner did he think to turn away when he caught a glimpse of Ceelyn toiling in the gardens below. Her hair danced in waves down her back and glistened in the sun, the beauty of her tresses obscuring the plain rags she wore. Any sense of self-control deserted Parraig when she began to sing. The haunting melody plagued his heart with longing. It was hopeless. She possessed him fully, without the slightest notion of his desire.
"This story should come with a warning label. Caution: might induce vomiting."
"Seriously, Virj? As if we haven't read this goop a bazillion times!"
"Look, Trance, I--"
"Unless you make it porny. Yeah, make it pornier, with sizzling shapeshifter sex!"
"I'm not going to make it pornier with shapeshifter sex. That's . . . no."
"Fine, mutant sex then. Super hawt mutants, though. Not the kind with eyeballs hanging from their sockets, or a foot for a nose. Give 'em lots of boobs."
Virj laid his head on the kitchen table. "I'm not writing that kind of smut."
"Why not? I'd buy that book."
"Cuz, you gotta entice your readers with the promise of a little erotica."
"No, I don't."
"Trust me, you do. Those are the books worth buying. I've tons at home."
"Remind me to take antibiotics if I ever touch your e-reader."
"You know, for a writer, you're clueless about best sellers. People want pervy stories with mutant shapeshifter sex."
"Enough with the mutant shapeshifter sex!"
"Well, don't blame me if nobody wants to read your syrupy junk with scenes of heavy hand-shaking. You'll probably only sell one copy, anyway, and to your mum."
Virj sat up and stared at the screen, shoulders tensed and practically reaching his ears. He hated when his cousin came round to the flat, especially on writing days. Invariably, Trance would peer over Virj's shoulder whenever Virj attempted a few sentences. Being an extrovert and a pathologically expressive one, Trance never failed to blurt his opinion.
"And who ever heard of an adolescent with white hair?"
"It happens," said Virj.
"Not to any girl I knew."
"Did you even notice their hair back then? Or were your eyes constantly locked onto the mid-chest area?"
"Mostly. Still, I liked gingers. I'm telling you, there's nothing like a ginger." Trance smiled at the memory of something deliciously smutty. "Hey, why don't you give your mutants ginger hair? Mm, smokin' hawt ginger mutant shapeshifter sex. Now that's a story."
Virj's head ached. "I want this girl to stand out in another way. She's innocent, untouched. The white hair emphasizes her purity, and gives her a mystical air."
"Ever see Granny Sherry? The white hair on her head makes her look like a toilet brush."
Trance walked over from the dinette to the living room and climbed into a hammock. It was Virj's Thinking Hammock, where the would-be author would let his imagination soar while wearing fuzzy socks. Fuzzy socks were essential for getting his creative juices flowing. Not to mention his synthetic furry blankie. Virj would typically write while lying in the hammock, but he'd slept in this morning and decided to put on a pot of tea and type at the kitchen table. He didn't expect his cousin to stop by.
Virj glared at Trance, who was cerulean-skinned, thinner, smaller-snouted, generally better looking, and oozing with confidence. He was also an invader of sacred spaces because even though Virj repeatedly told the man not to lie in the hammock, his cousin always did. Virj couldn't decide if Trance was a self-absorbed jerk or a malignant narcissist.
Out of the shadows appeared that rogue, Prince Vince, who--despite being told by Parraig not to approach the maiden--swaggered before the girl and bowed grandly. Ceelyn jumped, startled at his presence, and nervously backed away from him. When she found herself cornered against the garden wall, she cried out for help. Before Parraig could respond, a dragon swooped down from the heavens and swallowed Prince Vince whole, spitting out his bones in a sated belch.
"Are you still typing? Can we eat? I'm starving."
And people revered the dragon amongst all the beasts of the land, for ridding the world of that annoying, intrusive, obnoxious, tedious, imposing -
"Hey, cuz, are you even listening?"
- egocentric, insensitive, domineering, hammock-stealing wanker.