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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Release Day Giveaway!

Here's a Release Day promotion I've never tried before. To take part, you'll need to go either to my author Facebook page or my Twitter feed at or after 6 p.m. EST (today, December 8, 2016). You can respond by commenting to the Facebook post about this promotion or replying to the tweet about it.

 The first twenty people (as best I can keep track, given two ways to respond) to post their favorite line from Who, based on Amazon's "look inside" or on one of the excerpts I've posted today, will get a free Who ebook in their choice of .epub or .mobi format. I'll send the winners a Facebook or Twitter message to get their contact information.

Ready; set; go!

Yet another excerpt - start of Chapter 4 of Who

Maybe this will be the last excerpt I post today. . . . I do want to give people plenty of fodder for the Release Day promotion I've got planned for 6 p.m. EST today. (It involves choosing a favorite line from the book.)

Here's the beginning of Chapter 4 (hence a little ways beyond what you can read in Amazon's "look inside" feature).

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Thea woke up. At least, that was how it felt, except that she was standing on her feet.
She had not known what to expect, even though she had tried to find out. She’d requested a face-to-face with the flutist, the only stored person with whom she already had a connection of sorts; but she had not yet received a response by the time she—what had happened? Had she drowned in some freak surfing accident? Or had it been the aneurysm?
Maybe she should have told Max about the aneurysm. She’d only found out about it during the exam that preceded her initial session with the storage company. They’d said it would be riskier to attempt a repair than to just leave it and hope for the best.
Thea was—had been—fairly skilled at putting unpleasant realities aside, if nothing remained to be done about them. But Max would have fretted, at the very least, and made pointless efforts to protect her; and that would have changed their lives in ways she didn’t want.
Well, their lives had certainly changed now.
If she’d had to guess, she would have guessed that she would awake disoriented, out of touch, maybe reliving some forgotten infant state. Apparently it didn’t work like that: her thoughts made sense. Her intellect seemed to be in its usual working order—or even a bit better, clearer. Was that the result of the analog-to-digital transition? Had there been some sort of tradeoff? She could think, but could she feel?
She had only to bring Max to mind to have that answer.
Poor, poor Max! What must he be going through? And how long had it been? How long had he been alone?
She had to talk to him. And she missed him, already, with an intensity that reassured her. The recreation of her brain had not omitted whatever signals would from now on substitute for hormones and other chemicals.
In fact, she could still cry. And crying felt wonderful and terrible at the same time.
She let herself cry for a few minutes, examining the process at the same time. There were tears, but her nose didn’t run. Had some programmer decided to clean things up?
How many other “improvements” would she discover in what it meant to be human?

One more excerpt from my near-future novel released today

This might (no promises!) be the final excerpt of the day from my near-future SF novel, Who, just released today.

This scene takes place after some members of the digitally stored community have begun mysteriously suffering from misophonia (a nasty condition where everyday sounds like people chewing can drive one into a fight-or-flight frenzy).

To read a longer (earlier) sample, head to the book's Amazon page and "look inside."

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Thea so rarely seemed frightened—and this time he could not reach out and hold her.
He waited for her to finish her story, so he could provide whatever comfort his words and tone could give. But in mid-sentence, moments after she said something about misophonia and before she could tell him what it meant, the call broke off. The screen switched from Thea, biting her lip, to some sort of logo, and then a swirling pattern of color behind the offensively cheery words, “Whoops! Something went wrong! Working on it. . . .”
What the hell? They’d never had a glitch before.
He had never been one to default to paranoia. But before he could be sure the timing was coincidental, he had better find out what misophonia was.
He looked it up. And it looked bad.

He took the easy way out and called Thea’s mother; but she didn’t answer. So much for that: he would have to call her father instead.
When Bill answered, Max couldn’t resist asking whether Thea’s mother was busy. Bill, who probably shared Max’s preference that Max talk to his wife, showed no surprise. “Linda’s out back, elbow deep in mulch. Do you want her to call you back?”
No, that would be wimping out. “I just wanted you both to know about something.”
Max didn’t get far before his father-in-law started cursing. Max persevered, speaking louder than came naturally to be sure he wasn’t wasting his breath. When he had finally got through a short definition of misophonia, he waited until the older man ground to a halt and an even more awkward silence followed.
Bill broke the silence first. “It’s a devil’s bargain you made.”
Well, he hadn’t exactly made it. But he had, in the end. He’d made the decision. And what did that matter, at least right now?
Bill wasn’t through. “Of course the company’s pulling this shit. Did you, either of you, really think they’d care about what she was entitled to know?” He turned his head and appeared to actually spit.
The last thing Max had had the time or perspective, or much of a reason, to consider that day was what Thea’s parents would think. Now, he wondered. “If she’d left it to you, made you decide, what would you have done?”
The power of rage drained away from the older man and left him diminished, shoulders slumped, his face a decade older in an instant. “I’d have cursed the fate that put me in that place. And I’d have danced with the devil, all the way to hell, to keep anything I could keep of my little girl.”

He pulled together the strength for one more momentary glare. “But that doesn’t make it right.”

A third excerpt from my brand-new novel Who

Here's another excerpt from Who: A Novel of the Near Future, just released in ebook and paperback. This one reveals what would be a spoiler if I hadn't already telegraphed it in the book's teaser. It also includes some hints of the relationship between Thea, digitally stored, and Max, her husband/widower.

Again, if you'd like to read a longer (though earlier) sample, please go "look inside" at Amazon.

--------

Max’s line rang a few times, more often than usual. He must be busy with his own activities. That was good. Sauce for the goose and all that. Though she could hardly help wondering what he was doing, and if he was doing it with people she knew or with new people.
“Thea!” He still answered by almost shouting her name, that special joyous lilt in his voice.
These calls had a routine, by now. They took turns telling the other about what they’d done that day. Did he ever tailor, or even censor, his accounts? Had she been doing the same, without altogether realizing it?
Thea listened to Max’s account of yet another pitch session, one that didn’t sound likely to lead to a job, and of the neighborhood cookout at which he’d proudly taken charge of the grill. The most surprising news: he’d started taking surfing lessons. He’d always declined her offers to teach him, saying he’d rather watch and sketch her instead. Damn—she’d have liked to be his teacher. “So who’s teaching you?”
He looked faintly uncomfortable as he responded, “Just one of the neighbors. No one you’ve met. They moved in later.”
She noted the pronoun with amusement. Max tended to use gender-specific pronouns, probably because he was old-fashioned straight in his preferences and couldn’t help noticing gender before many other characteristics. So the neighbor was probably female and cute. The time might be coming to discuss how they should deal with their sexual needs in the future.
But this woman had better be careful about Max’s safety! “Gotten hit in the head with the board yet? Or thought you were drowning?”
Max chuckled. “Yes to the first, no to the second. It’s all good, except the water’s still a little cold. I tried on your wetsuit, but it’s too loose. No matter. Now your turn. What have you been up to?”
“Well, I just came back from another meeting. We’re taking a break from the new-community development and preparing for the next elections. We each took an elected position or a likely ballot issue and talked about the options we expect to have. It’s something of a waste of time, I suppose, since we don’t actually know what the options will be. But I presented the issue of raising local taxes to fund public support for artists.”
Max um-hummed along as she spoke. When she paused, he threw in, “That’s a subject you already know inside out. If you want to follow up, I can send you the letter you wrote last year, explaining why artists shouldn’t depend on public funding. You could bring it to the next meeting, or distribute it beforehand.”
Thea sat back, stunned. Max had been looking to one side, no doubt searching for this supposed letter on a split screen, but her continued silence made him glance back at her. “What’s wrong?”
“Hon . . . are you sure that’s what I said? Could you be misremembering it?”
“I don’t think so. I remember because you got interested in something political for a change. And because you made your point so well. There were a bunch of comments about that. You changed some minds. . . . Here it is! I’m sending it now.”
Thea waited, holding her breath, until her mail program pinged a moment later. She skimmed the message, then read it again, her heart pounding. “You’re right. That’s what I said. And I sounded very sure of my ground. So why don’t I remember?”
And why had she been so casually and confidently presenting the opposite position?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Another excerpt from my new near-future novel

Here's another short excerpt from Who, my latest near-future SF novel. (To read a longer sample, you can head to Amazon and "look inside.")

Thea, who has been digitally stored after death, is preparing to talk to her father for the first time since she died. She wants to convince him that she is still herself.

----------------

Her father was not exactly taciturn, but words, for him, were secondary. She could talk to him, rattling on about anything or nothing, but only because he enjoyed watching her speak.
It had never before mattered so terribly much what she said.
When he called, his voice hesitant and hoarse, his face pale, she dove into the memories and let her tongue follow.
Fireflies flickering in the trees like escaped and feral Christmas lights.
Stars, dozens of them or even hundreds, up in the hills beyond the city lights.
The ocean, her first true sight of a horizon, blue-gray under clouds, then translucent and startling blue-green in sunshine; and her father’s large hand reaching down to point at the sandpipers scuttling up and down the beach, their spidery footprints left behind in the sand.
Those hands, so firm in their grip, holding her in the surf, letting her ride lightly at the surface, bobbing up and down.
Those hands, squeezing her arms in reassurance and letting her go, to be tossed and tumbled toward shore.
A campfire, and a crowd of families around it, and her father playing some wild, stirring tune on his grandfather’s balalaika while the wood popped sparks into the air.
Another night, another campfire, and Thea improvising along with her father, playing her first flute.
Her father looming over her and shouting, the night she wandered off into the woods in a thunderstorm and a tree fell across her path home, and she had to climb over it, scraping her hands and tearing her clothes.
Her father looking out the window at Max and their loaded car, standing in front of the door with his back to it, unconsciously blocking her way, as they made ready to move into that first apartment.
“Not exactly. I knew I was doing it.”
She had almost forgotten, riding the river of memory, that she was speaking to her father, and why. What had she been saying? Oh! “You did? What was the point?”
Her father gazed at her, and it was the same gaze she remembered from that day. “I needed one more moment with my little girl. I wasn’t ready to let her go.”
“I’m here, Daddy. I’m still here.”
He closed his eyes, heaved a heavy sigh, and opened them again. “I know.” But he looked at her, still, as if she were lost instead of found.

Release Day!

Well, after the usual rush of National Novel Writing Month in 2015, a few weeks off, and months of editing and revising and editing some more, and then weeks of uploading files and tweaking files and correcting typos and adjusting prices and negotiating various online mazes . . .

. . . the ebook and paperback editions of Who: A Novel of the Near Future are born, launched, released! (The scheduled Release Day is Thursday, December 8th, but everything is in place, so I'm going ahead and posting this on Wednesday. What the hey.)

Here, once again, is the cover, a collaboration with designer David Leek.



And here's the teaser:

------

Have they changed their minds? Or have their minds been changed?

Death is no longer the end. Those who prepare, and can afford it, may have their memories and personalities digitally preserved. The digitally stored population can interact with the world of the living, remaining part of their loved ones’ lives. They can even vote.

But digital information has its vulnerabilities.

After the young and vital Thea dies and is stored, her devoted husband Max starts to wonder about changes in her preoccupations and politics. Are they simply the result of the new company she keeps? Or has she been altered without her knowledge and against her will?

And if Thea is no longer herself, what can they do?

------

You may have already seen the short excerpt I posted the other day (the Prologue), but for a much longer sample, you can head over to Amazon and "look inside." Or you can get to quite a few other retailers from my websitehttp://www.karenawyle.com/buy_who.html.

Happy reading!

The Word of the Day is FUBAR (NSFW for work due to language)

The U.S. military, as many of you know, is fond of acronyms. In this it is like many other bureaucracies. Perhaps in mockery of this tendency, soldiers in World War II came up with a few acronyms of their own. The one I've heard most often is SNAFU, which stands for "situation normal: all fucked up." It became common enough in post-war English that it is generally written in lower case.

A less thoroughly publicized example is FUBAR, meaning Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. I've heard this mainly in what I believe (well, what Wikipedia reminds me) is the simple present passive voice, as in "CreateSpace's File Review system is FUBARed."

This is not a random example.

In what I must remind myself is a very contemporary, First World, great-to-have problem, the stage at which Amazon's Print On Demand arm processes submitted files and determines whether they are printable is off-line. A customer support representative suggested that the system has been overwhelmed by all the authors eager to have their books available before Christmas.

Yup, I'm one of them. And whether or not CreateSpace fixes the problem in time for me and my companions in frustration to achieve that goal, it's looking increasingly likely that the paperback of Who: A Novel of the Near Future will not be available by tomorrow's release date.

Fortunately the Kindle edition and other ebook versions will be -- in fact, already are -- available online. And (I remind myself every few minutes) I will now have an excellent excuse to publicize my book release twice, with Round Two heralding the eventual appearance of the paperback. (Actually, it'll be three times, since it takes longer for the paperback to get to Barnes & Noble than to make the short hop from CreateSpace to Amazon.)

If you will indulge me so far, I'll close with the teaser for Who.

------

Have they changed their minds? Or have their minds been changed?

Death is no longer the end. Those who prepare, and can afford it, may have their memories and personalities digitally preserved. The digitally stored population can interact with the world of the living, remaining part of their loved ones’ lives. They can even vote.

But digital information has its vulnerabilities.

After the young and vital Thea dies and is stored, her devoted husband Max starts to wonder about changes in her preoccupations and politics. Are they simply the result of the new company she keeps? Or has she been altered without her knowledge and against her will?

And if Thea is no longer herself, what can they do?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Suggestions for Anyone Lobbying GOP Electors to Vote for Kasich

Yesterday, I started hearing about a new wrinkle in the various attempts to dissuade Republican electors from voting for Donald Trump on December 19, 2016. Apparently some Democratic electors are hoping to recruit GOP electors in a joint effort to vote for John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio and erstwhile candidate for President.

To the extent I belong to any party, I am a libertarian Republican. (I ran for judge in 2014 in an election that, per state law, was nominally partisan, and ran as a Republican.) I know many Republicans, and follow many more on social media. So I have some possibly useful insights into what might make some slight impression (in a favorable sense) on Republican electors, and what would be counterproductive.

A key fact that anyone with hopes of influencing electors needs to know: electors are not neutrals who vote Republican or Democratic based on a state's election results. Electors are typically party stalwarts, experienced party officials. If the Republican presidential candidate wins a state (or, in a very few cases, a congressional district), these reliable Republican electors cast their votes for president in December. If the Democratic candidate prevails, the similar Democratic electors step up to bat. Persuading an elector to vote for the other party's candidate is a Herculean task, even when the elector's party's candidate is as atypical as Donald Trump (or as unpopular as Hillary Clinton).

That said, here are some suggestions for anyone desperate enough to try.

First, keep in mind that most Republicans do not entirely accept the portrait of Trump painted by most media and by the Democratic party. Any appeal based on the assumption that Trump is a neo-Nazi, a white supremacist, a twenty-first century Hitler, or a homophobe will quickly alienate Republican electors. More plausible concerns, from a GOP point of view, include his dubious impulse control, his arguably narcissistic personality, his occasional demagogic promises, his apparent shallow understanding of some political matters, his frequent changes of direction, and his treatment of women in general as available commodities. (Re that last, take care not to paint him as a sexist in the sense of someone who refuses to take women seriously as intelligent and capable in the workplace. His history indicates otherwise.)

Second, do not aim for the moon. A vote for Kasinich, with the goal of sending the election to the House of Representatives in January, is -- however unlikely it may be -- more palatable to any wavering Republican than a vote for Hillary Clinton. Most Republicans hold views of Hillary Clinton that would shock anyone who has spent the last year or more in a liberal or left-wing bubble.

Third, do not vent or call names. This should be obvious, but given the passionate intensity of so much opposition to Trump, the temptation will be strong. A corollary: do not, whatever you do, say anything that could be taken as a threat. If you threaten them, Republicans will immediate class you with the paid agitators who disrupted Trump campaign events and the thugs who have physically assaulted Trump supporters since the election. (Even if you don't believe these things occurred, be assured that most Republicans do.) The quickest way to drive a GOP elector further into the metaphorical arms of Trump is to act like a bully. (Your view that Trump is the quintessential bully is, as to this point, irrelevant.)

Finally, be polite. Be especially polite if you are able to, and do, contact electors individually rather than through open letters or the like. Republicans value good manners.

The odds of persuading thirty-seven Republican electors (the necessary number to bring Trump's total below the required 270) to vote for anyone other than Trump are awfully small. But if you want to do anything but reduce them further, I would, for what it's worth, suggest keeping these points in mind.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Excerpt from my near-future SF novel coming out this week

My latest novel comes out this Thursday, December 8th -- so here's a short excerpt (namely the prologue).

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The ultimate sweepstakes, or an elaborate prank? A monumental research project, or a diabolical temptation, or both at once? Opinions differed greatly; but millions of people were willing, for whatever combination of reasons, to take part.
After all, one need only choke down an unpleasant quantity of colorless viscous liquid, and then submit to a series of scans (if indeed any scanning took place) over an eight hour period, in order to receive one’s initial payment. The sum, always in the local currency, would more than cover a dinner and a show, or a bowl of hashish, or a prostitute. And supposedly the nanoparticles (if there were any) would exit the body within a day or two.
Those who believed, or did not entirely discount, the asserted goals of the research would then enter their contact information in the growing database. If they wished, they could return for new scanning sessions once a month, to keep the recorded information current, and receive another (smaller) payment each time.
After that, it was just a matter of which lucky participants would die first.
The first few to be successfully revived in virtual form would achieve both historical and digital immortality, while their conventionally surviving families would become wealthy overnight—wealthy enough to join their pioneering loved ones, whenever their own time came. For of course, once testing was complete, those who sought digital revival after death would be paying, not paid.

---------


And because I'm still in love with it, here's the cover again.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Riff on Some Apt Vulgarity from South Park (NSFW Due to Language)

Many people looking back on the just-concluded presidential campaign may recall the South Park episode in which students were compelled to choose between a giant douche and a shit sandwich for school mascot. To me, this image is lopsided, whether in general as the portrayal of an election between equally dismal candidates or as a symbol of what we've just been through. After all, a douche has some, if often minimal, hygienic value, whereas the only thing to do with shit is to eliminate it.

I offer the following revised comparison -- though I should note that my own view is not quite as jaundiced as this suggests, since I hold to a modest hope that Trump's presidency will not prove disastrous.

Picture, then, two shit sandwiches.

The Donald Trump sandwich has, scattered through the shit, small chunks of habanero peppers. Its odor: pungent. The bread, though white, is somewhat fresh and not entirely devoid of nourishment. It may be possible to peel off bits of bread without picking up much shit.

The Hillary Clinton sandwich has a uniform consistency, with no surprise ingredients. Its odor: rancid. The bread is stale and brittle, offering neither nutritive value nor protection for the fingers. The only worthwhile ingredient is the "First Woman!" label on the wrapper.

To be clear, I voted for neither sandwich. But considering these choices, I cannot, in the end, wish that the other had prevailed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where David Duke et Al. Got the Idea that Trump Was Their Boy – The Left’s Shared Responsibility

One of the most upsetting aspects of Trump’s victory is that it has delighted and energized various varieties of bigot, repulsive people like David Duke. For now, at least, they feel empowered, believing that the president-elect is on their side. Trump certainly bears some responsibility for that impression: he did not convincingly disown them, and occasionally signaled to them (e.g. by his series of tweets about Jon Stewart’s birth name, Leibowitz). Did he do so because he is indeed a racist, an anti-Semite, and a homophobe – or because he was willing to take votes anywhere he could get them? Neither is admirable, but there’s a big difference. If the latter is true, how did the Trump-the-ardent-bigot meme get started and gain its initial momentum?

I’d deal with the second question first, but that would look to some as if I’m evading a crucial issue. It is, however, that second question that led me to write this post – so I hope you’ll either read to the end or skip to the end.

First, as to the question of whether Trump is a virulent bigot: let’s see now. He has, and is close to, an Orthodox Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. He has consistently supported Israel. He has employed black people in positions of authority with no apparent reluctance. He made a point of welcoming gay Republicans at the GOP convention. And he’s a longtime New Yorker who regularly hangs out with other New Yorkers of all stripes.

He throws around ethnic stereotypes with the carelessness that characterizes so much of his speech. But he doesn’t act like a bigot.

He is, of course, the ultimate narcissist. So it’s reasonable to assume that he thinks the very best thing to be is a tall, hefty, cisgender straight man. But he doesn’t surround himself largely or exclusively with Trump clones.

There’s been less discussion of whether Trump is what some would call an ableist, someone who is prejudiced against the disabled; but his mockery of a reporter with a congenital disability has been widely condemned. Based on still photographs, a great many people believe Trump was imitating the man’s disability. Video tells a somewhat different story. The reporter has a muscular contracture of one arm, but has no uncontrolled motion. Trump flailed his arms around. That could be explained as an inaccurate attempt at imitation, but Trump has made the same flailing motions on other occasions when mocking a supposedly flustered opponent. It’s a childish and crude  way of commenting on an opponent’s discomfiture – but I wouldn't call it ableism.

On the arguably related issue of whether Trump is a sexist, he certainly seems to assess women, routinely, by their physical appeal as rated by him. Obnoxious and infuriating as that is, it doesn’t wipe out of existence his track record of hiring women for major jobs, not only in traditionally feminine jobs and starting well before it was common.

His alleged history of sexually abusing women, corroborated (though not necessarily proven) by his own boasts, is appalling – but it’s not inseparable from and doesn’t necessarily show a belief that women are or should be second-class citizens. And the Trump-as-bigot-and-sexist meme was in full cry long before the leaked Access Hollywood tape and the accusations that followed.

So how did the idea of Trump as a homophobic racist become so pervasive that young people, liberals, gay people, black people, and homophobic racists believe it?

Here’s a hint: which political demographic typically resorts to laundry-list accusations, so that anyone accused of, say, sexism must be a racist and a homophobe as well? It isn’t the right, or the nebulously defined alt-right. It’s leftists, Democrats and otherwise. And they have been raining these labels down on Trump from the moment he jumped into the race. Now we’re living with the consequences.

I hope, but would love to be more confident, that he’ll go out of his way, and soon, to take the wind out of the racists’ sails.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Unexpected Comfort in Maureen Dowd's The Year of Voting Dangerously

Opening caveat: I have not read very far into Maureen Dowd's collection of essays, The Year of Voting Dangerously. But I have already found not only the expected humor and trenchant observations, but unexpected political balance; and, more important on this Monday before Election Day, unexpected comfort.

That comfort: Dowd's reminder that "even though we spend years exploring every aspects of presidential candidates . . . we can never really know what kind of president they will be." Dowd quotes Harry Truman in support of this view, and Truman (though a relatively unexplored VP candidate before FDR's death in office) should know.

Dowd runs through some recent presidents and presidential advisers whose resumes full of experience did not prevent them from making what she views as disastrous blunders. And she closes the introduction to this volume with what I believe should become our secular national prayer:

"[W]e must hope that the worst of the job brings out the best in our next president."