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Group Dynamics

Over the past thirty-odd years, Nina Kiriki Hoffman has sold adult and YA novels and more than 300 short stories. Her works have been finalists for many major awards, and she has won a Stoker and a Nebula Award.

Nina's novels have been published by Avon, Atheneum, Ace, Pocket, Scholastic, Tachyon, and Viking. Her short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies.

Nina does production work for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and teaches writing. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

For a list of Nina's publications: ofearna.us/books/hoffman.html.

***********Editor's Warning: Adult Story--Horny Gods***************
I should have gotten out of the goddess business a long time ago. It's hard to let go of power, though, even when most of it is gone. It's not like I can grant people good luck at the casino anymore, or destroy the crops of people who irritate me. I can wave bad luck toward them, but not the way I could in my heyday. Sometimes I miss. Sometimes it bounces back on me. And sometimes it takes a long time to manifest, so I think nothing happened, which is frustrating as hell.
I was waiting for an elf named Chandra to show up at the Santa Tekla Natural History Museum Saturday afternoon. There was a prehistoric giant sloth skeleton there I couldn't turn away from. I remembered some animals that had gone extinct, but a sloth taller than a Yeti? Before my time.
Chandra was part of my Supernaturals kaffeeklatsch. We met every Wednesday afternoon at Chupacabra Coffee Shop. It was a great group before Zeus joined. He was an irritating blowhard, and he had wandering hands, even when it looked like he had them in his pockets. Somehow since he joined, every meeting was about him--his suffering because of his jealous and vindictive wife, his suffering because of his sex-addictive personality, his suffering because not everyone loved him the way he deserved to be loved.
At first we all tried to help him, offering support and suggestions, but he wasn't interested in actual help. He was sleeping his way through the group. Half of us were pregnant.
Chandra and I were planning a breakaway group. We wanted to invite all our favorite members of the old group to the new group, and not tell the others. The biggest challenge would be keeping it secret from Lightning Lad. He wasn't much of a soothsayer, but he knew how to ferret out information we didn't want him to know.
Someone tapped my shoulder. "Hey, Eydis," said a low, pleasant, fluting voice.
I turned to see Chandra, along with her wife, an angel named Iris. Chandra was tall, slender, brown-skinned, and brown-haired. She looked like a tree limb from one of those smooth-barked trees whose leaves flutter in the wind. She wore her long hair in lots of little braids with beads woven in. They didn't quite hide her pointy ears. Here in this laid back coastal Californian town, people just assumed she dressed funny, which covered a lot of issues for the folks in Supernaturals.
Iris, on the other hand, looked like a normal native. She was medium fat, had short, tight black curls with white streaks in them, tanned skin, and eyes that glowed amber. She dressed in tie-dye tees and faded jeans, and she always wore sandals. She was the first angel I'd ever met, and I still wasn't sure of her gender. She was okay with me calling her "she," though.
"Do you remember when giant sloths roamed the Earth?" I asked them both. The giant sloth skeleton was twice as tall as Chandra.
"I'm from another reality," Chandra said. "So no."
"Before my time," said Iris.
I sighed and turned away from the exhibit. We looked at a lynx skeleton in a glass case.
"How do we get rid of Zeus?" I asked.
"You can't kill a god," said Iris.
"I don't want to kill him. Well, I do, but I know I can't. I just want him to stop coming to Supernaturals and whining about how he isn't bad, he was just worshipped that way, and that's why he's perennially unable to keep his hands and other body parts to himself."
"What he really needs," Iris said slowly, "is someone to put a curse on him."
Chandra cocked her head and looked at Iris. I did, too. Iris was solid and quiet, and I had never heard her suggest a dark act before.
"Who?" I asked.
"Well, you," said Iris.
"Risky," I said. "I'm out of practice. Sometimes my curses backfire. Let's go with my first impulse and just set up a secret group and leave him out."
"That is so high school," said Chandra.
I shrugged. She was right, and yet....
"Hello, ladies," said a voice behind us.
Zeus. Curse the man, he had found us.
I turned. He was a squat, powerful man with long, dark, oily ringlets and a full beard, combed and curled, a wide smile, and cold black eyes. He wore a red, orange, and green dashiki, an olive Utilikilt, and a strong scent of musky sweat. He sent out a constant vibe that woke some women into smiles. It made me feel icky and slimed.
"How do you keep doing that?" I asked.
"Showing up where you're not wanted?"
"Eydis, my delicious morsel, I am never not wanted."
"Get a reality check," I muttered.
"What are we studying?" he asked, and pushed past me to stare into the glass case at the lynx skeleton. "What the Hestia?"
"Historically indigenous," Iris said. Often she spoke in a small, colorless voice that was easy to ignore. I had learned to pay special attention when she did that.
"So what?" said Zeus.
"We're studying the local flora and fauna," Iris lied.
"Hmm," said Zeus. "I hadn't thought of that, but it might be a good idea to speak with local deities. I've been on vacation lately, but I've been getting prickles of power reminding me of my true job."
"Yes?" Chandra said. "You actually work? At what?"
"Being the boss and the father of everything."
"Oh," I said, "could you be any more irritating?"
"Why yes," he said. "Yes, I can. Eydis, my plum, I want you. I want you now."
To my horror, my body responded to him. Heat flushed through me, and damp where I could use lubrication. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to strip off my clothes and his and couple with him, here among the skeletons of beings who once were. I wanted him inside me. I wanted to suck him dry. I wanted his child.
I licked my lips, and he smiled, reaching for his dashiki as if to take it off.
Iris pinched my arm.
I remembered who I was.
I gathered up all the heat and desire he had sparked in me and crafted it into a ball of angry power, and I spat it at him without knowing what would manifest.
He staggered back. Sparks of power flashed across his face and through his hair. He blinked rapidly, then shook his head. His mouth opened and closed. He took one more step backward and tripped over a bench.
"What?" he yelled from the floor. He pounded a fist on the bench and it broke in half. One half fell on his foot. He yowled in pain and outrage. He struggled to his feet, his eyes flashing at us, and bumped his head on the lynx skeleton cage. He fell down again, blinking rapidly.
Go me!
I grabbed Iris's sleeve. "Let's get out of here."
She nodded, and she, Chandra, and I hotfooted it out of the museum.
"What did you do?" Chandra asked when we were sitting at our favorite table in Chupacabra.
"I don't know," I said. I had an inkling, though. I just dumped a big batch of bad luck on a dangerous god. Probably it would come back on me, but hells did it feel great right now.
Iris smiled and drank hot chocolate. When she set down her cup, she had a chocolate mustache on her upper lip. "It was lovely," she said.
Chandra cocked her head, looking at her wife sideways. "You worry me," she said.
Iris smiled and licked chocolate off her lip. "Good."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 26th, 2019

Author Comments

For Valentine's Day, the Wordos workshop challenged each other to write anti-Valentine stories. I had fun with this one.

- Nina Kiriki Hoffman
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