March Monsters from the Id

I’m not entirely convinced that social media is a positive thing.

Ostensibly, it’s to promote greater communication; I recall Demi Moore’s line in the film Disclosure about how one day a connected world would allow people to communicate as “pure consciousness.”

Except that in reality, it’s the Monsters of our Ids which appear to have been unleashed, like the final invention of the Krell. Social media has empowered a new form of tribalism and confirmation bias, plugging straight into the irrational lizard brain for too many, and it allows, in a way, the manufacture of alternate realities which don’t resemble the world of facts.

In these little insular bubbles, true dialogue is replaced by uniform chants. The slightest disagreements are cause for excommunication, and the very concept of finding common ground is made unthinkable in a world in which dissent can be silenced, blocked, deleted in a microsecond. It’s a world of insta-labeling. Criticize the stoning of a woman in an Islamic country and be branded an Islamophobe. Compliment the president and you’re a “libtard,” while criticizing the president earns you the honor of “rethuglikan.” It’s the Roman mob returned.

Only in such an environment could a Donald Trump materialize and be perceived as a viable political choice.

And Trump is not an accident. He is the apex predator of a political ecology that has been deliberately engineered by GOP strategists to reject facts, to swoon over bluster and red meat rhetoric, to take pride in ignorance, and to relish in pure rage as the emotional lingua franca of the online world. Trump has engineered his entire campaign to appeal to those who live in a sort of alternate reality in which America has been destroyed and leeched of freedoms by a supposed Muslim Kenyan tyrant. Republican elites deliberately cultivated this climate, and now they’re upset that something (Trump) has evolved to feast on its moronic layercake. For years, conservatives gleefully fed their media machine a steady diet of buzzwords about “morality” and “homosexual agendas” and “activist judges”, belittling science and rationality as “elitist snobbery” and stoking the flames of conspiracy theories about Jade Helm, Obama’s birth certificate, the loss of “freedom” (though they can never give an example of this), until the “other side” morphed in their consciousness into a vampiric and amorphous threat that must be stopped. The very idea of compromise and discussion has become unthinkable in such a petri dish. Emotion carries the day.

Now, Trump is using that low-info demographic to propel his campaign. He’s hijacked the mob from the elites. This is the natural end of our fanatically partisan climate, an indictment and byproduct of America’s unique strain of anti-intellectualism.


*pours a martini, sips, steps outside for a brief appreciation of a gunmetal gray evening*


On to writing.

I’m working on eight stories right now.

I don’t especially recommend loading up your plate like that. I get up early, usually around 5 a.m., and work on one tale for a couple hours, then shift to another one. (Usually no more than two in a given day… but it’s been as many as five.) This approach sort of grew up as a kind of yin-yang balance to my compositional interests: if I’m working on a hard SF space-based story, I like to counterbalance it with a mythic dark fantasy. Writing a humorous piece? Counterbalance it with gothic horror. Sort of like alternating workout schedules based on different sets of muscles.

The result is that I end up writing large groups of stories together, ushering them along their pages like various wings of a relentlessly advancing Mongolian horde. The advantage is that once they’re all within striking distance of being finished, I end up completing them all within a few weeks of each other.

The disadvantage is that it’s easy to overload, spiraling down into an event horizon of completing fictional worlds that contribute their own collective mass; it slows me down to a tortoise-like crawl. And the bitch of it is that it can morph into a kind of easy escape: rather than digging in your heels and addressing the challenges ahead, I end up creating a separate wormhole and diving into another world. (I strongly suspect that George R.R. Martin does this with his characters – letting new characters sprout from his head instead of culling the growth to focus on the cast he already has.)

That’s where I’ve been at since the start of this Fire Monkey year. Mired in a slow story crawl.

The eight stories I’m working on now are:

  • Sci-fi (gritty, grim, environmental-themed)
  • Sci-fi (nostalgic and surprisingly painful to write)
  • Sci-fi (socially conscious and exploratory of many of the themes in this very post, on the order of my story “Love Among Dead and Crawling Things.”)
  • Dark fantasy (a sequel to a story by one of my favorite British writers)
  • A flash piece (playful and cheeky)
  • Sci-fi (a story that has been a thorn in my side for a year now, but which I finally have figured out the rhythm and voice to finish it)
  • Sci-fi (optimistic piece being written for a specific open call – and I haven’t even started this one; I’m just playing it in my head right now, taking it for the proverbial test-drive)
  • Light fantasy humor (being written for an anthology call so goddam specific that if it gets rejected, I will never be able sell it anywhere else)

So, in order to preserve my sanity and clear off my plate (as well as replenish my bank of stories) I have decided to launch what I’m calling Project Nissaba (named after the Sumerian goddess of writing.)

Project Nissaba is a short-term motivational and organizational system through which I will push myself to complete one story per week, for the next eight weeks. Failure is not an option. Sumerian goddesses don’t truck with failure. And maybe it will get me out of this rut.

If I do sell any of this batch, I’ll refer to them as the Nissaba 8.

Because Mesopotamia, that’s why.



Sales news: In response to an open call for Chappy Fiction’s Time Travel Anthology, I wrote and sold an ambitious tale that combines multiple time-lines, styles, and subgenres into a regular stone soup of pulp goodness and playful homages.

It’s always a joy when you have fun with writing. My story, entitled “Omnipunks”, was envisioned as a kind of Tarantino-esque mash-up of multiple “punk” subgenres. Cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, and more… served hot and cold. Should be out by year’s end.


A postscript for the winter.

After Toronto, I decided to go somewhere warm, visiting friends in Puerto Rico. My idea of a relaxing vacation is not sitting on a beach. It’s sitting on a beach before hiking a rainforest, then exploring the ruins of 17th century seaside forts and kayaking mangrove islands at night and then knocking back endless libations with good friends as we discuss the wonders of science and the progress of history and the sorry state of American politics and the joy of literature and the promise of the future. With rum.

And so that’s just what we all did.

PR Brian and Jacek







PR Donna and friends






Sorry for the rambling post. In a rambling mood.

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