Coming back to Cyberpunk
I love the 80s – You don’t have to spend much time around me to learn that. It’s when I grew up, and most of all, when I found my voice. My love of science fiction, which started in the 70s, really bloomed under the influence of writers like George Alec Effinger, Bruce Sterling, and of course William Gibson. Suddenly sci-fi didn’t have to be about far-away planets or shiny silver spaceships. It could be here on Earth, and it could reflect the grays of the noir films I also loved.
When I started to write the Corporate Services series, I kept a four word description of cyberpunk in the front of my mind – “High Tech Low Lifes.” I wanted to tell love stories for people who weren’t just on the fringes of society, they were effectively outcast from it. A professional thief and a high-end prostitute. An assassin and a runaway. A drug-addicted hacker and a mercenary. People who weren’t traditional romance heroines or heroes, but still deserved their own happily-ever-after.
I kept my favorite cyberpunk trappings – cyberware and bioware; corporations at war with each other; the near-future setting – and when I looked for a location, I took a page from George Alec Effinger’s brilliant Marid Audran series, and looked to the Middle East. Dubai, a forerunner in the creation of a technology driven future, seemed like a natural choice, and the disparity between its immigrant working class and native-born elite seemed a perfect soil to plant the seeds of my series. From there it was easy to find new locations through character connections in South Asia.
From there, everything else grew naturally. Corporate Services became the ostensibly neutral clearing-house that provided corporations with the talent to fight each other, while driving their own agendas. The high tech low lifes I wanted to write about were on both sides of those wars, scraping by as well as they could and looking for their own ways to escape when they find each other. People who find someone else to care about at the worst possible time, and come through their trials transformed.
They made him a destroyer
Thirteen years ago, Palash Joshi indentured himself to Corporate Services in exchange for the cybernetic upgrades that made him stronger and faster; giving him a better life in exchange for allowing them to whittle away his humanity one horrible act at a time. Now though, his time as one of their operators is almost at an end. Freedom is in reach, and his only remaining job is to revisit the only woman who had touched his heart and destroy her life’s work.
She needed a protector
Netta Schulmann knew her corporate masters would send someone to punish her eventually – she had stalled too long in developing their perfect weapon, and the company that had been her refuge couldn’t risk their investment much longer. She didn’t expect them to send the same man who had shown her solace and protection when she’d been on the run, the one person she had trusted implicitly.
Neither of them expected Corporate Services to send an assassin, to make sure they were both out of the way. Forced into flight, Netta and Joshi find that three years apart has only heightened their passion for each other, but with time running out, they will need more than passion to survive. They’ll need trust. But even that has limits, and as secrets from each of their pasts comes to light, not even love may be enough to save them.
Excerpt from Mumbai Manhunt
Netta shoved up into the joint with all the force her legs could muster. He huffed quietly, and she felt his shoulder dislocate and reseat itself. It came apart too easily for her preference. Maybe she’d misjudged how far along his rejection had progressed. The joint felt loose. “Is that better?”
Joshi stood and swung his arm in a few directions. She noticed he didn’t bring it above the line of his shoulder. “It will do. It’s better than it was, thanks.”
She stepped in under his arm and laid a hand on his broken ribs. “I’d feel better if we had resin cast available to protect these.”
“I’d feel better if I had a dozen military-grade drone rigs running double perimeters around us. We can’t all have what we want.” He looked at her mouth, a momentary lapse in his aloof control that brought memories rushing back to her. Frustration slithered in the spaces between her thoughts—wishing he’d stop the tease and tell her if their liaison three years ago had been business or pleasure.
Or she could just run with the now. She stepped closer and leaned up to kiss him. He pulled away slightly, and Netta could feel his nervous tension. “I’m not some lost girl anymore. I know what I’m doing.”
He nodded with a sigh. She slid her hand up his cheek, feeling the stubble grate against her palm as she tugged his mouth to hers. His good arm slipped around her waist, keeping her tight against his chest as their mouths took turns yielding to each other.
The patient insistence of his lips matched the quiet, slow-blooming heat that swelled out from behind her ribs and spread along her nerves like a warm blanket. She opened her mouth, inviting more, and he obliged her. Netta curled her fingers in the waves of his hair, keeping him as close as she could.
When she broke away to draw a breath, he leaned his forehead against her shoulder with a shuddering sigh. She opened her eyes to look at him, but her attention was pulled immediately to her picture on the AR Newscrawler.
“What is it?” Joshi stiffened and moved away from her. “What’s wrong?”
Netta forced herself to remember that he couldn’t see the wall, which was plastered with pictures of both of their faces and someone’s phone-cam footage of her burning lab. Her heart pounded against her ribs, desperate to escape, and any warmth the kiss had created in her had turned to icy water. It impressed her that, when she spoke, she could keep her voice stable. “We’re wanted. For bioterrorism.”
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About the Author
JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.
In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).
His newest novella – Mumbai Manhunt – continues the Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances set eighty years in our future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested, and our hearts are the hardest thing to keep pure.
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