It’s my great pleasure to announce that my next two novels have been acquired by Mark Teppo at Resurrection House. Chimpanzee and Totem are the second and third books in the thematic cluster that began with Noise, and they will be released in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
I’m very excited to work with Mark to bring these two books fully to life. I’ve worked on several different projects with him over the years, often trading editorial roles, and he knows the dark turns and bright lights and imaginary friends of my fiction sometimes even better than I do. The excitement he’s bringing to these books is outmatched only by own, and then only barely. I can’t wait for the journey.
Please, help yourself to descriptions of Chimpanzee and Totem
(Special thanks to my agent Kris O’Higgins at Scribe Agency.)
The second novel in the thematic cluster that began with Noise, Chimpanzee is an existential Near-Fi conspiracy theory, set in a dystopian, post-collapse America.
. . .
Unemployment has ravaged the U.S. economy. Foreclosures are rampant. People struggle everywhere, exhausted by the collapse that destroyed their lives . . .
Benjamin Cade is an expert in cognition and abstract literature, and before the flatlined economy caught up to him, he earned his living as a university instructor. Now, without income, he joins the millions defaulting on their loans—in his case, the money he borrowed to finance his degrees. But there are consequences.
Using advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy, Ben’s debtors can reclaim their property—his education. The government calls the process “Repossession Therapy,” and it is administered by the Homeland Renewal Project, the desperate program designed to salvage what remains of the ravaged U.S. economy. The data Ben’s repossession will yield is invaluable to those improving the “indexing” technology—a remarkable medical advance that has enabled the effective cure of all mental disorders. By disassembling his mind, doctors will gain the expertise to assist untold millions.
But Ben has no intention of losing his mind without a fight, so he begins teaching in the central park, distributing his knowledge before it’s gone in a race against ignorance. And somewhere in Ben’s confusing takedown, Chimpanzee arrives. Its iconography appears spray-painted and wheat-pasted around town. Young people in rubber chimpanzee masks start massive protests. A new use of the indexing technology shows up in bars across the country. It’s called “chimping” . . . named after the mysterious protest movement, and it uses goggles and electrodes to reverse the curative indexing process, temporarily (recreationally) offering those inclined a mental illness of their own choosing.
As Ben slowly loses himself, the Chimpanzee movement seems to grow. And all fingers point to Ben . . . or maybe the voice that speaks to him every time he uses the chimping rig. As civil unrest grows, and Homeland Security takes an interest, Ben finds himself at the center of a storm that may not even be real. What is Chimpanzee? Who created it? What does it want?
And is there even enough of Ben left to find out?
After its ancient enemies reduced the Aeri empire to only its capitol, it ended up the tucked-away stepchild of different kingdoms, states, and republics as each took its turn with the territory. None of its conquerors cared much for Aer itself, the world’s oldest and largest quarry-turned-city . . . though its stone was useful—sometimes for buildings, sometimes roads, now and then simply for smashing at the hands of sun-bleached slaves. The mass of Aer’s excavated, exposed, and sculpted stone provided an entire world for its inhabitants. But the stone is naturally radioactive, and Aer’s unimaginable volumes of it are enough, over a lifetime, to kill the Aeri. Slowly. Painfully. Religiously.
Aer’s last overlords suffered the misfortune of inheriting the place just as modern science determined what all that stone was doing to the Aeri. The city was an international treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it was a money pit and a death trap. Human Rights advocates and trade alliances and world courts all demanded the republic properly fund and treat all seven figures of Aer’s residents. IMF aid poured in to finance abatement technologies: photocatalytic pollution-absorbing paints, and sheets of radiation-trapping tarps like industrial flypaper, and colonies of radiotrophic fungi. Theorists mapped out a rotational housing plan to minimize inequality of exposure to the city’s hottest zones—the plan had to be subsidized and underwritten, and when the republic finally tired of spending its fortunes on the world’s largest cancer ward, they threatened eviction.
Aer’s indigenous faith, its attachment to those sacred, transformative stones, and its history of inhabitation appealed to the world court: they deemed forced relocation illegal, and all those donors, those humanists, funneling charity to the long-suffering spiritual people of Aer, pushed their governments and social clubs and trade alliances into threats that escalated into no-fly zones and U.N. Peacekeeping monitors. When Aer sued the republic for independence, it won, and the republic redrew its borders with gusto. Aer had its autonomy back, so long after the fall of its empire, and with it, the full responsibility of keeping the place habitable. The world watched while the tiny city-state settled into its abatement lifestyle. It was a contemporary microcosm on an antique stage, rooting the entire modern world to one of the histories that created it.
When the sun’s cycle hit its most recent solar maximum, and researchers from a cooperative of world-class research institutions discovered the hole in Aer’s ozone, the struggle to survive in one of the cradles of civilization garnered even more charity—enough that most Aeri could now subsist at a meager standard of living without working at all, opting instead to sit at airy café tables drinking tea, smoking, and talking about leaving. Some decided they would finally get out of the city and dodge the solar radiation that, increasingly, was outpacing the abated stones. But they found the outside world had limits. Funneling cash and tax write-offs into the lax regulatory environment made great sense for neighboring nations, but making room for its refugees meant something else altogether. The old republic didn’t want them, Aer’s other neighbors found the faithful heretical, and beyond that range, no Aeri could really be bothered to emigrate much farther. And Aer wasn’t in the habit of granting visas and expatriations—all those bodies were worth a lot to Aer’s oligarchs, who had grown rich keeping people alive.
Despite the great charities, the mobilized cultural protection institutions, the impassioned outsiders, the Aeri exist for the rest of the world: to live on that precipice between death and beauty—a great, social pressure-valve for people in gentler environments to ponder, a way to define their own lives and what they don’t have to worry about. The world likes Aer just as it is. Overcrowded, dirty, bright. Lethal. And one young man named Belan is left with his friends to suffer the new threat idly, to decay fashionably and create their own answers for life’s largest questions. Belan and his girlfriend Vesse party their way into social violence, where they find themselves abruptly radicalized by a government that demeans their very existence . . . all while their parents march in exposure rotation processions, chanting familial prayers and looking upon the face of God, which is, after all, all around town.
Totem is the story of a struggling people, and Belan and Vesse’s story of love and rebellion will thread together the lives of dozens of Aeri. The pious cleric who hopes to become a holy figure himself. The American radio correspondent reporting the Aeri’s struggle. The workaday cop who pays his bills and cleans his apartment and runs his errands like everyone else—when he isn’t on shift with the security League, detaining and molesting dissidents. Nosy neighbors, concerned family members, bored administrative secretaries—all of these people are dragged into the story of two young lovers and what it means to fight back in the world’s biggest cancer ward.