Being “The Sampler” isn’t easy. As the weakest member of the Extrahuman Union, Jill is overlooked by just about everyone. After all, no one cares about an Extrahuman who possesses every possible superpower, but can barely use any of them. Jill is a nobody, on the run and out of a job, with no home and barely any friends to her name.
To make ends meet, Jill turns back to one of her favorite jobs: stealing. When her latest job goes terribly wrong, Jill is left with a mysterious alien artifact–one that starts whispers to her, unlocks impossible powers, and shows her incredible things.
Now Jill is on a quest for answers that will take her from the high mountains of Valen to the depths of interstellar space; from a bizarre prison planet where old friends and enemies are held captive, to the roots of St. Val’s mysterious letters and decade-spanning plans. The fate of her friends, her world, a vanished alien species, and the entire Confederation will rest on Jill’s shoulders.
Extrahumans is a tale of superpowers and long-forgotten mysteries, and the fourth and final book in the critically acclaimed Extrahuman Union series
“Come for the superheroes, stay for the characters and world-building.” — A Fantastical Librarian
Warning! This post totally contains spoilers for Extrahumans, so if you’re not in to that sort of thing, stay away! Otherwise, onward:
I didn’t start off this book intending for there to be a romantic relationship of any kind between the two main characters, Penny Silverwing and Jill Silver. Really! I was thinking at the very beginning that this would be a novel focusing on friendship between women.
And then the characters started bouncing off of one another in a way that suggested there was definitely more there, and, well, I decided to roll with it. The relationship grew so naturally, and seemed so right for both characters, that it wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d been writing a same-sex romance between two women who aren’t young—Jill is 38, Penny 51. And that really doesn’t happen much, anywhere.
Women over the age of 35 almost never get to be the heroes in fiction, much less have romantic lives and real character development. I love reading stories with young women as protagonists, but as I head for 40 I feel like I want to see more about women my age that isn’t pigeonholed into the usual stereotypes. I always think of Paladin of Souls and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, both by Lois McMaster Bujold, as incredibly satisfying examples of books with older women as protagonists.
It’s also rare to see stories featuring LGBT people—bisexuals especially—who aren’t young, as well. And yet these relationships happen all the time. I remember reading a book of true stories by women about the relationships they’d entered with other women after the age of 40, often after having been married to a man for a long time.
Again, I didn’t set out to do this, though I did want to write about both of them aging. The story takes place at a certain time, and the characters are all a certain age. Jill is established as bisexual in The Spark, but it’s one of those blink-and-you-miss-it moments that doesn’t get followed up on in the rest of the novel. As for Penny, her own romantic priorities are largely subsumed between her quest to find her son and get past her relationship with Sky Ranger. By the time the story in this book begins, though, both are ready for something new.
They’re ready to find one another. And I’m so glad they do.
About the author
Susan Jane Bigelow is a fiction writer, political columnist, and librarian. She mainly writes science fiction and fantasy novels. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” issue, and the Lambda Award-winning “The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard,” among others. She lives with her wife in northern Connecticut, and is probably currently at the bottom of a pile of cats.
Visit her website The Extrahuman Union.
About the artist
Kirbi Fagan is an award-winning, Detroit based cover illustrator who specializes in YA and MG fiction, fantasy and comics. Her illustrations are known for their magic themes, nostalgic mood, bright colors, and powerful characters. She received her bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design. Kirbi’s work has been acknowledged by organizations such as Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, ImagineFX, Art Order and the International Writers & Illustrators of the Future.
Visit her website www.kirbiillustrations.com