Yeah, you do!
You’re in luck. I’m part of a promo that will knock your socks off, check it out:
My book is the one in pink. And it’s not just about bullets, it’s also about moms!
I’m looking forward to reading (for free! If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can tear through the whole lot for nada; isn’t that crazy?) the other authors in the group, and I’ll let you know if I come across something special-
Speaking of moms, have you seen the Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply review from my own?
Amazing!! Clever, funny, full of wit & humor, shocking, kept me intrigued to find out what would happen next…totally a fun, pleasant escape for me from today’s current events [smiley emoji with teeth and closed eyes]-My mom
“The primatologists learned it wasn’t only the monkeys on the lone island who were washing their sweet potatoes. After a certain number of monkeys learned the benefits, all the monkeys learned. On all the islands. Think about it. They didn’t even have the LINC. Or a market research corporation.”
“I don’t think you do.”Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply
The 100th monkey effect is part of the speculation that makes Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply speculative fiction.
It’s based on an unsubstantiated claim that a 1950s island group of monkeys began washing sweet potatoes and, when their behavior hit a critical mass, i.e., 100 of them, it impacted the species multi-generationally…including on isolated islands where there was no actual transmission of learning. Although the study was intended to be an example of cultural learning in animals, it wound up becoming a kind of parapsychology myth, that there was this non-local cerebral field. This is echoed in other pseudoscience classics, like The Field.
I revisit this concept every now and then to see if there’s been any actual study on the idea. I haven’t seen much in social science but I did attend the screening of a movie last week about theoretical physicist David Bohm, Infinite Potential, that very briefly covered some of his ideas on the non-locality of information storage. It’s worth a look if you get a chance. Nice biopic about an interesting guy who had a lot of ideas, and got shut out of a better career because he joined the Communist party in Pennsylvania to talk more about Hegel. Those Commies didn’t care about Hegel so he quit after a couple of weeks. Later on he lost access to his own damn research when his security clearance got yanked. What a bummer. But I digress. Back to the monkeys.
The ‘explosion’ of potato washing among the monkeys, unfortunately, was actually a slow and measured behavior change over a long period of time. Too boring for the plot of a near-future cli-fi action-adventure comedy, so obviously I went with the pseudoscience concept instead: the existence of a species-wide cerebral cortex.
The 100th monkey story is worth a read, but don’t look at the wikipedia entry if you want to hang on to the pseudoscience and myth that surrounded the original study. Also, there weren’t even 100 monkeys in the whole group. Disappointing.
I feel pretty confident that readers who like Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams will like Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply. Beyond that, I’m not sure. I’d love to product test with some Gen Z radical eco-activists. But I don’t know any.
The plot of the book is pretty simple, check it out on the book page. But I think if you want to know whether this book is for you before you invest the $4.99, it would help you to know more about the backdrop, the details. Not easy to keyword. I’ll try here.
What the top of a camel’s head feels like. The potential effect of electromagnetic field strength on the human nervous system and memory. Traveling from Cape Town to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal on a containership. The biochemical composition of the blood of Jesus Christ. An undergarment for testicles. 3D printed food with minimal nutritional input. Biodegradable drinking containers. Sky-walkways to avoid inevitable deaths due to glitches in self-driving car software upgrades. The rapture. Haplogroups. The Illuminati and the Rosicrucians. Post-flood USA architectural adaptation. Weather engineering. The field. Commemorative and instructional holograms. Snakes. Farming in Western Cape. Doing a yoga headstand with one stump and one arm.
I’m also trying to figure out what to put on the back of the book. I don’t know if this is it.
The release of Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply happily coincided with an upswing in the Black American revolution for social justice and sadly coincided with a global pandemic. I hope the former succeeds and the latter dies out.
I’d had a dry run on my book launch, leap year extravaganza, but by the time I published, it was no longer a good time to party.
Instead, I went flying. If you can’t launch your book, you may as well launch yourself. It was nice to get out of the house…way, way out of the house, after three-plus months of isolation. The Sahara dust cloud had already hit the United States, and there was a haze, but I could still see quite a bit.
There’s a part in Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply in which the earth’s magnetic field weakens so significantly that planes start falling out of the sky. I had a half-memory that decades-ago me had researched this and determined its viability as a plot point. But current-me was too lazy to fact-check past-me, so I thought this would be a good way to verify. By the time we got up in the air, I decided against mentioning it to my instructor pilot.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut. And fly.
A brief note to myself, on the verge of publishing my first novel.
Even if you consider yourself an ally of the Black American movement to end the systematic slaughter and oppression of Black people, and you support this goal’s achievement by any means necessary, as you do, your writing might be just as racist as the country you grew up in.
Because it produced this:
Disproportionate death by coronavirus among Black Americans
And it produced you.
Now, 24-years-ago-you wrote a tale about a man from a country in West Africa who comes to America and gets exploited by a corporation. How can I go wrong? you thought. Aren’t I celebrating diversity?
That’s because you were a dingbat.
It was invented in your head, and you were born into a culture addicted to a corporate-entertainment-complex entrenched in white supremacy, not to mention the sexism, ageism, ableism, and heteronormativity. So did the book turn out racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and heteronormative? You betcha.
We’re gonna save our white woman tears for another time though, because grow up.
Here are just a few of the mistakes you made as a writer within the kyriarchy.
- The magical negro trope
- The book had a male and a female main character but the male character got all the air time
- You did include moms as characters in the book and not in servitude to their roles as mothers, then didn’t give them any speaking parts
- Heteronormative depictions of sex with cursory inclusion of a homosexual long-term relationship that doesn’t advance the plot, the bullshit literary version of that last scene in the final (or most recent, I don’t know what the future holds for that franchise, probably 10K more movies) Star Wars where two women kiss for .004 seconds
- Ableist terminology around a quadruple amputee
In fact, you were so ableist in your writing and thinking, that you thought it would be easy to get a quadruple amputee to do a sensitivity read of your novel. Because, of course, what does a “disabled” person with no arms or legs have to do with their time except read your book in exchange for a nominal fee?
The ableist thinking is built right into your mind and your book, just like your constant use of the word “crazy” to mean just about anything bad. Which is bitterly ironic for you, because the book is about mind-scaping and systematic mental programming. It’s also about genocide to incite the apocalypse, a civil war in America. And it was supposed to be fiction. I hope you see more and more every day how it’s based on a true story about your own mind.
Let’s talk about next steps.
Dismantle the racist publishing industry. Support black authors. Challenge all the oppressive assumptions in your book and be open to the idea that it hides in your work the same way it hides in city planning. Look at how your words commit oppressive acts.
And after you publish, and somebody sees your work for what it is, a racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative product of its environment, don’t hide from their words.
Because you deserve to feel shame. You have to have the difficult conversation too. It is not up to Black people to do all the work while you sit back and lead the privileged life of the white moderate. This is the death of the movement.
You’ve considered stalling publication, scheduled for 15 days from now. You don’t want to advertise in the middle of the revolution. You don’t want to take up space with your own privilege. You want to support. You want to be an ally.
Are you being an ally? Not acting at this point is categorically the same as the violent White reactions to Black progress. Worse, even. Because it is less visible and produces the same effect. It is not the oppressed individual’s job to educate the oppressor, though that’s what happens over and over again.
All I’m going to say to you at this point is, whether you publish now or you publish later, or never, don’t be a coward. Don’t hide. The streets are full of revolutionaries right now, risking their lives for justice. If you don’t actively work against oppression, you are the oppression.
Hi, pandemic survivors. I’ve been gone from this blog and author website for so long, when I sat down at my computer to write this update, I couldn’t remember the name of the website.
It’s my own name.
I was going to write the next installation in Corporate Torsos-related non-fiction blog content, but then I thought maybe I ought to update you on personal matters. I see other authors doing that with their newsletters and I admire them for keeping it real.
I was out of the country for about a month from mid-January into February. When I got back, I hosted an awesome leap year extravaganza as practice for my upcoming book launch extravaganza. We went to hibachi, we came back to my place for a dessert house party, we went indoor skydiving. It was fantastic. Best leap year ever.
While I was gone from home, I got evicted. I tried to find a new place to live while I was away, but nothing worked out. I had my eye on an emu sanctuary Air BnB to stopgap when I accidentally leased an apartment through an automated application portal. So I moved into that accident.
Then the plague hit. I traded blogging for journaling so I could contribute to the written record of pandemic life.
Here’s a cross-section of entries:
- Slept 12 hours
- Virtual drawing competition w/Emily: rainbow, tree + unicorn, tomato, heart
- Play Boggle
- Work on puzzle
- Zoom kickboxing class, give up halfway through and work on puzzle
- Climb on kitchen island to see what that’s like
- Break kitchen island
- Go out to car to get tirejack and jack up kitchen island
- Make horrific Frankenstein mug brownie that fizzes in mouth for unknown reason
- Read restaurant menu for 45 minutes
- Put dishes away
- Scream into pillow
Anyway, things are pretty good here. I’m on track with my final edits, and I’m going to start sending advance copies next week (let me know if you wanna be my beta reader!); we’re less than two months away from publication date. Releasing an apocalypse-themed novel in the middle of an apocalypse-themed time is just about the worst thing a writer can do for sales, but then, I should have thought about that 24 years ago when I started this novel.
When I tell people I’m working on a cli-fi novel, I’d say about 80% (alert: made-up statistic based on anecdotal and half-remembered evidence) ask, what’s cli-fi?
I used to get excited about this lack of awareness around cli-fi as a genre, because I thought I’d invented something. But ever since sci-fi (and the more recent Psi-Fi, which we’ll get to in a bit) and probably even before that concept was phrase-captured, there was an apocalyptic climate element involved. Why? Because that’s the worst thing that could happen to us, and humans are great at imagining the worst. Creating the high-tech, fantastic part? That’s more work.
As usual, I had not invented anything (yet…I’m not done trying, there’s still time!). I had Columbused a thing that already existed.
Also as usual, Jules Verne appears to have started it, with the first science fiction novel about climate change due to axis tilt.
Side note: I’ve never read any Jules Verne, but the book I’m referencing here has an amazing plot and it sounds like something I already wrote, I swear I did not plagiarize him, we just think alike. It also has a fantastic calculation error plot twist reminiscent of the Mars Climate Orbiter debacle of 1999.
Anyway, let me get back to my original point, that the catastrophe part, the cli-fi, is really, really easy to imagine, but the fantastic, inventive part, e.g., is tough. Or, it was tough for 24-years-ago me. Since then, life moved on, and actual inventors created the technology I was straining to imagine when I started this novel in 1996.
Which brings me to Psi-Fi. Later renamed Iris, it’s a program (now an app) that enhances music based on an algorithm to recreate the sounds and effects of live music. It may also improve mental health? We’ll see!
Unlike Psi-Fi/Iris, all the tech in my book, including the ubiquitous headset, is harmful to humans and their brains. What a bummer! I’ll never be a tech innovator (or get shot into space, my real goal) if I don’t step up my game like the ‘hippie inventor‘ and ‘royal-adjacent entrepreneur‘ who made Psi-Fi.*
Even though I didn’t invent cli-fi or psi-fi, still pretty excited to follow up on both. Next time I’ll work on tech positivity. Just kidding! My next novel is an international biomedical espionage thriller. But maybe the one after.
*Phrases quoted from the article by Jonathan Margolis in 17 Feb 2020 print ed. Financial Times [+online link]
I walked into the Petra Museum gift shop to pick up a few postcards, in case I was too tired after my visit to make those kinds of decisions.
“How are you?” the shopkeep said.
“Great,” I said. “How are you?”
“Glad to hear it.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Nope. Totally serious. That’s my name.”
“I had a horse named Jessica! Old horse. An Arabian. Jessica!”
“It’s a pretty good name,” I said.
“She was the best!”
“We’re hard workers,” I said. “Jessicas. The horses and the people.”
The name Jessica was invented by Shakespeare. As an author, I’d also like to invent a name that becomes curiously popular for no obvious reason 500 years in the future too.
I’ll let you know if I ever come up with something.
Names are important. I wish I could remember when or how I came up with the title of my first and upcoming debut novel, Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply. Did it drive the plot or did I already have all those ideas? I’ve been working on it and thinking about it for so long I can’t remember. I do know it wasn’t intentional that the acronym CTNNA is also a gene, but when I found out I incorporated it into the book.
You never know what drawing the parallels is going to get you, if anything, but sometimes if you share the name of a guy’s horse, it brightens both your days.
After a few hours of walking and a couple of coffee stops in Petra, I got to the top, The Monastery. I’d gotten a tip that you should walk past for about ten minutes, where there was an impressive view. So I started. Rains came. A wind kicked up. I was running late in getting back to my ride. Should I carry on?
Then I saw a sign that said, “End of the World Coffee Shop” next to another sign that read, “BEST VIEWS.”
I couldn’t say no to that kind of advertising. I continued on, through the wind and the rain, to find this coffee shop at the end of the world.
“I’m going to die out here,” I thought.
I didn’t die out there. I made it. But there was no coffee to be found.
Deep down inside, I still applauded the concept. The marketing. The name.
When you’re trying to finish up the edit on your near-future cli-fi corporate conspiracy action-adventure comedy that you’ve been working on for 24 years, it gets you thinking about all the things you thought would be around by 2020, but aren’t.
The Jordan Times read my mind today (that technology probably exists) and re-published a USA Today summary of 20 Predictions for 2020.
It’s interesting to see what people got right and wrong, regardless of the amount of time between their prediction and 2020.
1. Life expectancy will rise to over 100.
Nope, Ray Kurzweil, in 1999, it didn’t.
Or how about:
3. Books will be dead.
Suck on it, Ray Kurzweil! They’re still around, 675 million of them in 2018 [according to that same article].
Apparently, in 1968, Stanford University professor Charles Scarlott thought we were going to replace natural gas with nuclear.
And, also in 1968, Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT thought nationalism would wane.
Wrong and so wrong!
Lot of expectations on 2020. In the 1990s I didn’t think books would be dead by 2020, and I thought I would have published some of them. I was wrong so far, but I still have the whole rest of the year to be right.
PS: I’m throwing a launch party for my self-publishing endeavor, actual launch included, so send me a note if you want to join…it’s part of my 2020 Leap Year Extravaganza!
…and other dumb rules. That’s what this blog post is about.
Those of you who know me (and let’s face it, that’s basically all of you. If you read this blog, you’re a personal friend) know that I go to great lengths to procrastinate writing. This year I picked a doozy: running a marathon.
I went out, a few months ahead of time, I bought a new pair of shoes with a new pair of insoles. I strapped all that on. I got out on the street, ran four miles, immediately contracted plantar fasciitis (again) and a mystery knee pain (well, either a mystery or an ongoing part of the 1999 Juarez cave bar incident).
And after that, I never really trained for the marathon.
There are a lot of rules in life. One of them is, don’t try to run a marathon you didn’t train for. Another is, don’t end a sentence with a preposition, like for. One of these rules is kinda dumb. The other is smart and great advice.
Guess which is which?
Anyway, I went to Honolulu and I did the marathon. I wouldn’t say I ran it. Maybe the first third. The second third, I trudged. And in the third third, I bargained with a higher power, hallucinated a bit, and tried to figure out if I was dying.
This was a stupid ploy to get out of finishing my novels.
This year I’m doing a triathlon.
And I’m publishing two novels.
It was another beautiful night in Kabul. I was on the terrace, watching the bats flit around a neighboring floodlight and thinking over a few things. Earlier in the evening, in a kind and thoughtful gesture from the government of Afghanistan, a Colonel with the National Directorate of Security (NDS) stopped by and informed me they had received intelligence that I was the target of a kidnapping plot. Unfortunately I wasn’t noteworthy enough to be a political kidnapping; this one was going to be for financial purposes. These would-be kidnappers obviously hadn’t seen my 2009 income tax returns.
A kidnapping would be a big fiasco for me personally. Maybe if it had happened earlier in my stay, I would have had the energy for that sort of thing, but I had been living and working in Kabul for months already. I was tired and frayed around the edges. Besides, I had led the majority of my loved ones to believe I was in India and it seemed hurtful for them to learn the truth from a Yahoo! news brief.
What to do? Well, Kabul Conference was coming up, which meant lockdown was at hand in a few days and movement around the city would become nearly impossible. The Colonel from NDS had suggested I disappear for a week, possibly take up residence in another hotel such as the Serena or the InterContinental. Both seemed unlikely options, as they were not within the budget of a civil servant such as yours truly and would soon be loaded with guests who were political kidnapping worthy. Besides, I already knew the risks at my current site: it was haunted by freaky ghosts and people were trying to kidnap me. Who knew what I would face at the new location?
My visa expiration was rapidly approaching anyway, and my departure from Afghanistan was imminent—less than a week away. Although I was going to miss my Central Asian home, it was time for a vacation.
I never thought I would be the kind of person who was intimidated by or jumped at loud noises, but propane accomplished its mission of fully scaring the hell out of me when it somehow ignited and exploded in the shower this morning. Luckily I was practicing the wasteful western habit of letting the water run for no good reason while I accomplished other tasks at the time. I made an executive decision to stop trying to take hot showers, as they get tepid at best anyway, it’s July, and the rise in temperature isn’t worth the accompanying skin graft.
G: How are you?
J: Good. Just got back from a UNDP meeting. I am like not entirely excited about going places in a car marked with UN in big letters on the side of it since that one got attacked.
G: Yeah, don’t go high profile. Keep it low.
J: There’s no way, they put a gigantic UN on all the vehicles. A car was attacked last week, the driver was shot. I don’t know the details. Maybe a gambling debt. But they always blame the T.
G: We’re always using soft shell local vehicles with local drivers. That’s a lot safer than a big hard shell with idiots.
J: Yeah, if we rode around in taxis with cracked windshields and no AC I guarantee there would be no attack. People would realize we had suffered enough.
G: That’s right.
J: They would probably offer us some funding from their kidnapping money so we could be more comfortable.
My car pool had determined that as a native English speaker, I was obligated to teach them two new words a day. The program seemed to be going well.
On Wednesday the driver pointed at the windshield.
“Windshield,” I said.
It came out the next day that this had been a misunderstanding. The driver had actually been pointing through the windshield at a horse and cart.
I explained the options for animal-pulled transportation and their various conditional uses: cart, carriage, buggy. The lesson was satisfactory and met with some approval. Later on in the day the lesson became more relevant when Kenta needed to change money on the way home, and a donkey-pulled cart collided with our vehicle as we were stopped on the side of the road.
“I never should have asked to stop for my personal reasons.” Kenta shook his head regretfully.
“At least the English lesson will be useful,” I said.
That afternoon I stopped by a French development organization that had offered me a job.
Me: As headquarters explained it to me, they can’t hire me until this other key position has been filled, or it’s like putting the cart before the horse.
Them 1: Right, except in this case, we don’t even have a horse.
Them 2: There is no horse.
Things haven’t been the same around home since My Friend left, a key staff member at my hotel. He was a vital component to interests near and dear to my heart, like breakfast. I don’t really know what My Friend’s real name is. There was a Japanese woman around for a few days who has been coming to Afghanistan since 1996, and one time she called him Hussaini, but I never heard him introduce himself as anything other than My Friend.
At first, none of us took My Friend’s alleged departure to the south seriously. “He’s been saying that for two years,” Abdullah said. Still, I threatened to hobble him, and Ged and I discussed some sort of captivity plan. Eventually My Friend escaped anyway. As a former teacher, he had to fulfill several more contracts before he could receive his pension. They sent him to Kandahar along with ten other teachers, perhaps Helmand and Uruzgan to come. I haven’t really been able to secure a breakfast since, and the days of two cups of coffee in the morning are long gone.
Above: My Friend gleefully shows us his plane ticket, as we all voice our disapproval. “I’ll take a picture in case you get kidnapped,” I offer. “Okay,” My Friend says. “Thank you.”
A pond of fecal waste material, complete with decorative fountains, outside a military installation in Kandahar.
Photo complements of Paul Junior, reporting from Kandahar.
The concrete wall I usually face when I walk outside was totally missing this morning. It was visually shocking, but I knew its disappearance was coming. The cranes had been working on it all night, removing the cement barriers that ran the length of the road, the same that hid virtually all the buildings in Kabul for security purposes.
Mustafa came into our sitting area when they first started to remove the wall yesterday afternoon. He said Karzai signed a deal with the Taliban and both sides were making concessions: no more suicide bombings, no more barriers. The old foreigners I live with all grumbled something like: “…grumble grumble….until the next suicide bombing….grumble grumble….,” but I celebrated the peace agreement, because even fifteen minutes of peace agreement seemed better than no peace agreement, and I was looking forward to seeing what some of these buildings looked like after all.
I searched for some news on it later in the day, but there was nothing, and like most things here in Afghanistan, I had absolutely no idea if it was true or not.
“I was at a meeting with an NGO and I asked ‘Is the assistance going to the poorest?’ and no one answered.”
-Resident of Kabul
At home, I was still trying to rack up support for the filming of a new movie about the hotel. I needed a host for the segment. I thought about it every day when I went out onto the roof. I was smoking up to a pack a day, sometimes more, cleverly edging the dust out of my lungs with smoke, which was especially useful lately, as the dust had been swirling around us at an even more frenzied clip. I was watching some birds build a nest in the bathroom window down by my portion of the fourth floor. Between that and the ledge outside my bedroom, these pigeons had me surrounded with their habitat. My living space echoed with a persistent cooing at certain times of day.
In the old days, the Soviets used the building to hold, interrogate and torture potential enemies. Now it was my hotel. It was so goddamned haunted. A hotel employee had once seen an apparition so terrifying, he fired his gun at it and then fled the hotel, never to return. Although I had heard some impressive stories, I hadn’t seen much of anything too frightening, but then again, I was often too exhausted to humor any dead people in my down time. I was sleeping through everything: gunfire and explosions, pigeons, ghostly torture victims. The foreigners at work told me that as foreigners, we have a stamina expiration date of about 3 months in Afghanistan, and if you don’t take a vacation after that amount of time you usually wind up sick or crazy, or both. So I was pushing the envelope, but I wasn’t exhausted enough to sleep through the seismic tremors a few mornings ago, although I didn’t immediately identify them as earthquake material, instead pinning the shaking walls on my new, possibly frisky neighbors or their many lively children.
The Rhodesian gunsmith and I were sitting around, watching some lousy movie on cable as usual. He was naming all the different kinds of guns as they appeared in the movie and commenting on their comparative advantages.
The Danish botanist was depressed, lying on the couch. I knew he was depressed because a little bit earlier I had pointed in his direction and shouted,
“Look at him! He’s depressed!”
“I am,” he had confirmed. “Every day I think I’m going to get my visa extended.”
He was facing disappointment on a daily basis, reminiscent of the woes that had initially surrounded Paul Senior’s visa extension application, slowly torn in half before his very eyes at the Ministry of the Interior. The botanist was aiming for not only a visa extension but also some permits to extract vegetation from Afghanistan that he found relevant to his botanical research in some way. It all seemed highly unlikely to me given the track record of other foreigners I had witnessed before him but I was keeping my potentially negative mouth shut due to his already-descending depression. He was the third Danish expedition dispatched to the Wakhan Corridor. I think he said the last one was deployed about a hundred years ago.
But so far he was trapped in Kabul due to these aforementioned visa concerns, as were many others (c.r. the Swiss motorcyclist, until his eye had gotten so infected he had to go home because he was becoming a medical emergency and just the sight of him was starting to get a little bit sickening).
The next day, at the office, I went to print something, but when I tried to retrieve it, the printer was missing. I saw it later on, sitting in a wheelbarrow outside Building A.