Guest post by Stephani Maari Booker
“I once saw two beautiful children playing together. One was a fair white child; the other was her slave, and also her sister… I foresaw the inevitable blight that would fall on the little slave’s heart. I knew how soon her laughter would be changed to sighs.”
In her memoir Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet A. Jacobs wrote about the ugly intimacies created when the master and the slave share a blood relationship and/or a household. The “house slave” who played with the master’s offspring (who might be her sibling) as a child would grow up to be used and abused by the master and his family as an adult.
The convoluted dynamic created by household and kinship proximity between a master and a slave stuck with me when I read Incidents years ago, and I was inspired to create a version of that dynamic in my science fiction novel manuscript Secret Insurrection. The novel takes place in a future in which sexual reproduction on Earth is restricted and people with enough money can get up to two clones of themselves. An original, Lydia Ehemwah, and her two clones Lydia 2 and Lydia 3, raised together as siblings, have worked all their adult lives as space traders and have made a fortune that the original is ready to retire with and go back to Earth.
When Lydia Ehemwah announces to her clones in the community room on the spaceship that they are returning to Earth, it upsets Lydia 2 so much she stomps out of the room and goes to her sleep chamber. Lydia 3 doesn’t have a problem with it; whatever her “big sister” wants is ok and she accepts her place as a clone as just the way it is. In this excerpt, Lydia 3 is in Lydia 2’s sleep chamber trying to comfort her distraught clone sister:
Lydia 2 clicked her tongue, rolled her eyes, and then said, “You must like being treated like dirt.”
“Uh, no I don’t,” Lydia 3 responded.
“No, you must,” Lydia 2 said more forcefully. “Because that’s how we’re going to be treated back on Earth!” With that, Lydia 2 rose up onto her hands and knees and crawled along the soft pad to the window. As she gazed through the glass at the stars outside, she said, “After all the times we’ve visited Earther colonies — you know how we’re treated, how we have to act, how it is in those places for us!”
“I know,” Lydia 3 said. “It’s hard for us when we haven’t lived in Earther jurisdiction for so long — we just visit those places every now and then — but we’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a life of travel and freedom that most people like us don’t have. And Lydia has never treated us as lower than or less than she is. She’s our big sister; she loves us…”
“She’s our original,” Lydia 2 interrupted. “She’s over us, she gets to tell us we’ve got to go live on Earth for the rest of our lives, and we can’t do anything about it — big sister, my ass!”
“Lydia, she owns this ship, and it’s her business,” Lydia 3 said. “If she wants to stop working and go back to Earth, she can do that.”
“She can do that because she’s an original and we’re clones!” Lydia 2 turned away from the window and yelled at Lydia 3. “She owns this ship and this business because we are not allowed to own anything!”
About Secret Insurrection
This passage is part of one of two self-contained excerpts of my novel that are in my chapbook Secret Insurrection: Stories from a Novel of a Future Time. Because I want to write people similar to me into futuristic narratives where they are rarely seen, Lydia Ehemwah, Lydia 2 and Lydia 3 are cis women of African descent who are queer and over age 40; they are also polyamorous, coming from an Earth culture where non-monogamy and sexual and/or romantic relationships involving more than two people are part of the norm.
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About Stephani Maari Booker
Stephani Maari Booker, owner of Athena Persephoni Publications, also writes prose and poetry for the page and for performance in which she wrestles with her multiple marginalized identities: African American, lesbian, lower-class, nerdy and sexy. She has nonfiction, science fiction, erotica and poetry in many publications.