Wired Hard 5 continues the tradition begun with the 1994 publication of Wired Hard, collecting five stories examining gay male sexuality through the lens of erotic science fiction and fantasy. Blending spacecraft and magecraft, hard edges and sincere sweetness, humanity and something other, the five stories in Wired Hard 5 explore themes of isolation, loneliness, and intimate connection.
In Jonathan Hepburn’s “The Halfway Point,” an astronaut finds himself gravitating toward a crewmate as their ship moves farther from Earth, while in Hero Freyr’s “Human Bonds,” an elf stripped of his magic finds solace in a being as lost as he. “The Amnesiaphiliac,” by Benji Bright, chronicles a doomed romance in a floating city consumed by an epidemic of forgetting, and in Laylah Hunter’s “Direct Connection,” a sentient artificial intelligence and a human man make the most intimate connection of all. Finally, an apprentice sex mage comes into his own in Sasha Payne’s “Season of Fire.”
Look under the cut for a hot excerpt…
from “Season of Fire” by Sasha Payne
Summer is the season of fire. The days are heavy with heat and the nights drowsy with lust. It’s the season of wanton flowers and rampant bees, of bulls breaking gates and cats calling in the darkness. Summer is the season of fire-aligned mages. My season. Oh, earth mages will tell you that spring is the best, and water mages will tell you that winter is the greatest, and of course air mages will swear it is autumn. They are all wrong. Summer is the season of fire, of passion, of rage, and of lust.
It was midsummer, the perfect day for a mage trial.
In the morning, I went about my chores. I fed and milked the cattle, fed the chickens and collected their eggs, and then mopped out the bullpen. You might wonder why an apprentice mage was looking after livestock, to which I would draw your attention to the word apprentice. You might also wonder why a mage has farm animals. I wondered so myself once.
“Master, why do we have cattle?” I asked as I mopped bull semen from the bullpen floor. This was a fortunately rare occurrence. When my feverish imaginings had considered what it would be like to be a sex mage, bull semen had not crossed my mind.
“We mate the bull with the cows and use the sexual energy for minor spells,” he said, “although if you were better at containing your sexual energy, no mage for miles around would need do so.”
“I try, Master,” I said, “and when I can’t then I send the energy to the apple sapling as you said.”
My master opened the window. “Do you mean that sapling, my boy? The fifty-foot-tall apple tree?”
“Yes, Master. I think it will drop more apples today,” I offered. “We can have apple pie.”
He rolled his eyes. They were deep, warm brown, and his hair was the color of honey. He was young for a mage of his reputation and as gifted in the rituals of sex magic as any mage would hope to be. I would have warmed his bed at the slightest hint, but alas he gave me none.
“Assan, there is a limit to how much apple pie a man may eat without exploding.”
“Yes, Master,” I said. “Master?”
“Yes, Assan?” he asked me with the expression of a man frightened of the question.
“Why do we have chickens? They can’t provide much energy,” I said.
My master nodded. “That is true, particularly as we have no rooster. Although I suppose that anything is possible.”
“Then why do we have chickens?” I asked.
“So I can have eggs for breakfast,” he said.
After I finished my chores I went into the house, where my master was putting out breakfast. One thing I learned early in my apprenticeship was that in some ways, an earth affiliation has benefits. Such as food. Animals give more milk or meat, crops grow faster, my little accidents notwithstanding, and cooked food tastes much better. Earth mages will rarely let non-earth apprentices cook if they can avoid it. They enjoy their food too much.
“Are you ready for the journey?” he asked.
“Yes, Master. I have spare clothes in my sack and all of my notes.”
“Notes! Since when did you pay attention to things I say?” Master Maran asked.
“Never, but perhaps my idle drawings will spark some memory,” I said.
Master Maran threw a wet cloth at me, and then we sat down to breakfast. We ate each meal together except for my afternoon off, when I went to the village and searched for a handsome lad to frolic with and feed me grapes. I had not been successful, but I lived in hope. It was to be my last breakfast as Master Maran’s apprentice, if all went well. It struck me then with more force than I expected. After five years apprenticeship I was about to become a mage.
There are four kinds of magic practitioners: blood mages, sex mages, wizards, and sorcerers. We used to say mages, wizards and witches, and sorcerers and sorceresses, but the witches and sorceresses decided they’d rather be called wizards and sorcerers too. Blood mages use blood sacrifices to power their magic–not always human and not always to death–wizards use magical books, sorcerers use magical objects, and sex mages… well, that doesn’t need an explanation. Wizards get the most respect–but I think that’s because they use magical books and most villagers can’t read, so any book seems mysterious to begin with–and then sorcerers. Blood mages, well, nobody likes them, they’re rather like that distant cousin you have whom everyone tells you not to be alone with. You can imagine how nervous people are around sex mages, lords and ladies as much as peasants. A blood mage will only kill them, but a sex mage can defile them in the most wonderful ways and make them enjoy it. That or they cover their envy of our sex lives with backslapping bonhomie.
I refuse to lie, there was a lot of sex. Why become a sex mage if not for the sex? Master Maran was always busy with fertility spells–the work of a village mage is mostly healing and fertility–and I was always happy to… learn my craft by his example. Master was more gifted with fertility than healing, he was an earth and healing is a water spell, and I had even less skill with healing. It wasn’t my fault, I was a fire. I had no more skill for water spells than Master Maran had for air spells. Not only could he not enchant with any duration, and had Master Kish teach me, he also couldn’t fly more than a few feet.
We went by cart instead. The fields stretched out around us, the air full of honeysuckle and cowslip. The air thrummed with heat, and we watched young farmhands as they stripped off their shirts and strutted through the corn. Sunlight shone off their gleaming, muscular bodies, made strong and taut by long hours of heavy labor.
“Summer makes everyone so beautiful,” I said.
“Lust makes you think so,” Master Maran laughed.
“Aren’t I meant to be lusty? What else should a fire-aligned apprentice sex mage be if not licentious?”
“It is an inclination,” he said severely, “not a stricture.”
“I’m inclined to be exceptionally lusty,” I sighed.
My master laughed and ruffled my hair. “Save your passion for your trial, my boy.”
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This fifth volume in Circlet Press’s Wired Hard anthology series collects five stories exploring gay male sexuality and themes of isolation and connection through the lens of erotic science fiction and fantasy. Wired Hard 5 includes stories by Jonathan Hepburn, Hero Freyr, Benji Bright, Laylah Hunter, and Sasha Payne.