MY HEART IS HUMAN by Reese Hogan (COVER REVEAL AND EXCERPT)
Today we’re super excited to welcome Reese Hogan back to the Hive!
Not only can we reveal the cover of his upcoming post-apocalyptic tale of trans identity MY HEART IS HUMAN, but we’re also treating you to an exclusive excerpt!
First of all, the official blurb:
It’s been nine years since the government banned all technology. So, when Joel Lodowick, a young transgender father struggling to support his five-year-old daughter, has an old bionic upload itself into his head, he is faced with a Go to the cops and risk prosecution? Or use the robot’s skills to turn his life around?
Scared of losing his daughter, Joel chooses the latter. Heightened intelligence and physical enhancements quickly land him a better job and a brighter future. But things take a sinister turn when Joel realizes his uninvited companion has an agenda of its own, which may or may not include leaving him in control.
Unable to approach the government who covered up the truth about AI sentience, Joel finds himself on the run. With his daughter’s life on the line and his own body turning against him, he must find a way to convince the bionic in his head to value his human life before he loses the chance forever.
And now for the cover!
Cover designed by MoorBooks Design.
Let’s hear a little from Reese:
MY HEART IS HUMAN is a story with many layers, encompassing topics including the fear of tech, the struggle to be accepted as transgender, the need to express ourselves through music and art, and ultimately, what it means to be human. The cover designers did an incredible job using a high-concept image to capture all of this: the laptop with a half-human, half-bionic heart trapped behind a shattered screen, with band stickers on the background depicting pride and trans colors in worn but vibrant definition. It’s everything I’d hoped for when I wrote this book, and I couldn’t be happier with it!
My Heart is Human is due for release 11th July 2023. You can pre-order your copy HERE!
Joel unzipped the hoodie and slid it from his shoulders, gritting his teeth as he worked the sleeve past the sodden bandages. It looked even worse than he’d expected: the white wrappings were soaked in red and slipping loose in places where the moisture had drenched his clumsy bandaging. He knew it was probably too early to be worrying about infection, but he couldn’t help putting a tentative hand to it, feeling for hot skin or swelling. He couldn’t tell anything. It was just a mess of pain, especially the raw parts that had been exposed where the bandage had slipped. He swallowed back a surge of nausea, trying to focus.
The bionic first. Then he could decide whether to bring this to the hospital or not.
He collected the business card he’d dropped when he stumbled, then made his way to the other side of the couch, lowering himself onto the edge of the end table. Clear line of sight to his daughter’s door. Upright enough to come to his feet at a second’s notice. The phone within grabbing distance. Would any of it matter?
He cleared his throat. “Acubens?” he said. “If you’re still around, please come out here.”
After a second, he heard the unmistakable whir of Acubens’ metal joints. The bionic came out of his bedroom. It stopped, studying him with those emotionless eyes.
“Where were you?” said Joel quietly.
“You instructed me to stay out of sight until you needed me again,” said Acubens.
“That’s true,” Joel allowed. “But still…surely a Sapling officer should’ve found you. It’s their job.”
“I projected a negative refractive index,” Acubens said. “This caused the light reaching the back of the closet to bend around me, thereby preventing the officer from seeing me.”
Negative refractive index? What the hell was it talking about? Did the Sapling agent know it could do this? No, of course not; he didn’t think it could even be turned on. It means technology reaching a point where it starts evolving on its own…
Joel’s throat tightened. He fought to keep his breath even. “What about that locator beacon they mentioned? What kept that officer from walking straight to you?”
“My locator beacon is no longer functional,” said Acubens.
“Sometimes, components can be damaged during moves from one storage room to another. If so, it could have caused a hardware fault when I was reactivated.”
Joel nodded uncertainly. Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet. Not slowly enough, though, because the room pitched again. He grabbed the back of the armchair just in time, struggling to see through the spots blurring his vision.
“You’re looking very pale, Joel,” said Acubens.
“I’m fine,” said Joel, drawing in a ragged breath. Stay focused. All he had to do was walk over to Acubens and pull that chip out of the back of its neck. Then he’d clean his wound again, get rid of the body, and move on with his life. The life with no job, no one to watch Clementine, hardly any money, a serious injury…
He was about two feet in front of Acubens when the bionic spoke again, in the same soft mechanical tone.
“It goes against my programming not to help, if possible. Tell me what I can do.”
A chill went through Joel. It almost sounded like it was trying to bargain. But surely not. If it was capable of bargaining—of wanting to bargain—it would have done so before the cops had shown up.
Unless it hadn’t known then, he realized. Before it had heard them here, it probably hadn’t fully grasped bionics’ status in this new society—or lack thereof. It was one thing to realize bionics weren’t being used anymore, but quite another to know they were being actively hunted.
But it shouldn’t matter, right? It was only a machine.
“For example,” Acubens went on, “my knowledge could be very beneficial to someone in your situation. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Joel swallowed through a suddenly dry throat. He forced himself to meet its eyes. “Honestly?” he said. “Yeah. It would be beneficial. And if I could get all your knowledge without the danger of keeping you here, I would. I’d also ask you to babysit, get me a new job, and teach my kid algebra. But none of those things are worth getting hauled in for. It sucks. I know. But I don’t want to get locked up and never heard from again either, and I sure as hell don’t want that happening to my daughter. You get me?”
Acubens’ eyelids flickered. “But if there were a way, you would do it,” it clarified.
“Of course,” muttered Joel. “Who wouldn’t?” If hearing that its knowledge was desirable made any difference to this machine before it was shut down, who was he to deny it that small comfort?
He raised his right hand and slid it to the back of Acubens’ neck, worried he’d find only smooth metallic skin, but there was the seam, exactly as he remembered. He popped the panel open and ran his fingers through the wires beneath it, feeling for that chip. The whole time, he stayed in front of Acubens, holding its gaze. There was something undeniably intimate about it—shutting something down as he stared into its eyes—that gave him a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. He pressed his fingers farther in, looking…
He froze as something wrapped lightly around his left arm, right over his wound. He wrenched his gaze from Acubens’ face and looked down, seeing his own blood running in rivulets over Acubens’ metallic golden fingers.
“W-What are you doing?” he choked out.
“I am implementing a solution to fit your needs,” said Acubens.
Before Joel could answer, another wave of dizziness hit him, followed by stabbing pain in his skull. He gasped as his knees buckled. Acubens caught him—he thought—but his head was spinning so fast that gravity had ceased to exist. A surge of fear shot through him. He was gonna pass out. He couldn’t pass out. He grasped for something to hold onto, anything, but the room pitched again, and he fell this time, hard. His head slammed against the carpet. White stars exploded in his vision. He squeezed his eyes shut, whimpering through the sudden onslaught of pain and nausea.
It seemed like an eternity passed as he lay on the floor, barely clinging to consciousness. But gradually, the world stabilized again. When he finally forced his eyes open, the first thing he saw was Acubens lying a foot away, motionless and staring, like a corpse. A low buzz of panic hummed at the base of his skull. The room was dead quiet except for his own labored breathing.
Slowly, he pushed himself to his knees, being careful with his wounded arm…until he realized that the pain of it wasn’t blinding him anymore. In fact…
He ran his right hand over the back of his left forearm, feeling the wet bandages, the residue of blood beneath them. And below that, a closed scar, as if the skin around the gaping wound had been sealed together.
That buzz of panic intensified. He put his hand out and shoved the bionic’s body. “Acubens. Acubens! God damn you, wake up and tell me what happened!”
“You wanted my knowledge, Joel,” said Acubens. “And you needed my help. I have found a way to give you both.”
Joel jerked back, a scream catching in his throat. The voice had come from inside his head.
Reese Hogan is a transmasc science fiction author from New Mexico. His short fiction has been published in The Decameron Project, A Coup of Owls, and on the Tales to Terrify podcast, as well as in two anthologies. My Heart Is Human is his fourth novel. In addition to writing, Reese enjoys singing in the New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus and running. He lives with his two children in New Mexico.