Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Two Weeks Until BUSTED SYNAPSES!!!

November 3, 2020 is almost upon us, which marks a momentous event of great importance to everyone: The release of my rural cyberpunk novella Busted Synapses! The pre-orders have been open for some time now and will let you get a copy early, and there's also links to it on Powell's and Amazon. Here's what some people are saying about it:

"Satifka effortlessly packs a full adventure into a limited page count. Readers will be hooked." --Publisher's Weekly "Johnny Mnemonic goes Millennial. Cyberpunk is not dead, and Erica Satifka is its queen.” --Silvia Moreno Garcia, Mexican Gothic

"Busted Synapses is the cyberpunk cry of Generation Screwed—a shrewd look at transhumanism through the lens of insurmountable debt and a thoroughly dehumanized workforce. A stunning novella from a unique voice in the literary class war." --Meg Elison, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

"What constitutes a human life? Erica Satifka asks that monster of a question in Busted Synapses, and the answers offered aren’t for the faint. With poignant sensitivity and science-fictional rigor, Satifka proves herself an uncanny
chronicler of the huan—and inhuman—condition.”
--Jason Heller, Strange Stars

So what's Busted Synapses about? Like the Publisher's Weekly review said, there's a lot going on here. You can read a little about the things that inspired the novella in my piece on the Speculative Chic blog, but basically I wanted to write a story in a genre known for a particular kind of grungy, industrial, urban setting and instead place it in the kind of town that the great march to the future leaves behind, a town like Wheeling, West Virginia. In the world of Busted Synapses. the major cities are run by the Solfind Corporation, which has showed up in a handful of my published stories (and yes, they all interconnect). But these high-tech enclaves aren't for regular people, an injustice that call center employee Jess Novotny painfully learns when she's priced out of the newly bought "island city" of Pittsburgh. Into this despair-ridden world steps Alicia, one of the androids who's succeeded in making humans like Jess redundant, but who wants nothing more than to blend in with the denizens of Wheeling, including small-time drug dealer Dale Carter.

And that's just the first couple of chapters!

Busted Synapses also has a Goodreads page, so if you're planning to read it please pop on over to add it
to your list. While Busted Synapses tells a complete story, I have many ideas for future stories and novels set in this world, and there's a much better chance of that happening if this book does well. So pick up 2020's best rural cyberpunk novella set in West Virginia, before reality catches up to it completely.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Story Notes: "Sasquatch Summer"

First things first: Yes, after four long years I have another book coming out. I'll be making another post about it soon, but just in case that future post as delayed as this one I should mention that it's cyberpunk set in rural West Virginia, you can pre-order it now, and the cover is amazing. Oh, and the title is Busted Synapses, a reference to the side effects of the drugs used in the book, because you can't have cyberpunk without drugs. I'll be talking about it anywhere I can (which unfortunately doesn't include any bookstores or conventions), including here, but if you liked my previous book Stay Crazy I'd be real stoked if you pre-order this one too.

Sasquatch Xing Rectangle - World Famous Sign Co.But the novella isn't the only thing that's going down. I'm still writing short stories from time to time, and earlier this month one of those stories was published! Not getting around to writing up story notes until now is pretty inexcusable, but call it a combination of 2020, laziness, and believing the story pretty much speaks for itself.

"Sasquatch Summer" is my first attempt at writing historical fiction. Set in turn-of-the-last-century Oregon, it centers on a small town torn apart by the fight between a small-time timber industrialist, a trainload of New York City anarchists, and the gentle socialist sasquatches that lived (and as far as I know still live) inside Mount Hood. The narrator is Helen, a plucky girl who stumbles into this messy political situation when her brother is kidnapped by sasquatches. Here's an excerpt:

That was the summer the sasquatches came down from Mount Hood and put Papa out of a job. 
It wasn’t their fault, not really. Sasquatches don’t need tools to work. When a sasquatch wants to tear down a tree, he doesn’t use an axe. He grips each side with his leathery hands and just pulls until the earth decides to let that tree go. When a tree falls on a sasquatch, the company doesn’t have to pay his family any compensation like they did to Jimmy’s family. That creature just rolls out from under the tree and keeps on walking. 
Of course, most folks didn’t see it like that.
Automation has arrived in the Oregon wilderness, courtesy of cryptids who are too intelligent to understand money. To the rescue of both the exploited sasquatches and the dispossessed townsfolk come a motley gang of proto-feminist city folk who seek to form a sasquatch union, but the cultural disconnect between the brash newcomers and the unemployed townies seems like it may do more harm than good for everyone. In the end, the sasquatches need to speak for themselves, but how can a creature that doesn't talk have a voice?


Though written as a several-years-after-the-fact reaction to Occupy Wall Street, this story is really damn 2020. Because I want you to actually read the story, I won't go into the resolution, and will only say that it emphasizes the importance of helping communities on their own terms, and that it's pretty optimistic for one of my stories. You can read it right now at Kaleidotrope, one of the best smaller online magazines out there, and there are many other great stories in this issue. So go read it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Story Notes: "Trial and Terror" (psst... A PUNK ROCK FUTURE comes out today!)

Somehow, the van makes it most of the way through Iowa. Then it dies all at once, spectacularly, farting out its reserve of gas like an old man on taco night in the run-down nursing home his good-for-nothing children stuck him in after he drove the family sedan into a telephone pole. 
Most of those things don't exist anymore. No nursing homes. Only a few sedans. And don't get me started on the lack of taco nights.

Another two months, another story post! My newest one is the 6000ish-word "Trial and Terror," which is my first published sequel.

When the editor of A Punk Rock Future solicited a story from me for the anthology, he specifically mentioned my Interzone story "The Big So-So" (also in audio at Escape Pod) as a story that would fit the theme. And that was when I realized that I wasn't quite done with these characters or their world of permanent ennui due to the sudden withdrawal of alien love drugs. So what did I do? I, uh, wrote a 40,000-word novella with these characters.

I am not a fast writer, nor do I really like writing or pretty much anything about the process other than the brief shot of dopamine when I see my name in a table of contents. However, I finished this novella in about three months, with over half the work squeezed into a two-week span, and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it. The story, naturally, was far too long for a short fiction anthology, so I wrote another story (the aforementioned "Trial and Terror") that chronologically takes place after the novella, which means that this is not just a sequel but the sequel to a sequel, although all of the stories can be read separately from one another and make total sense.

So, anyway! "Trial and Terror" is, as its name implies, a courtroom tale. As in all the Magic Band stories (so named due to featuring a band that is magical, because I bleed creativity from my very pores), your unreliable narrator is Syl, who's not unreliable in the "lies about murdering people" way but instead in the "has spaced five times on picking you up at the airport, will absolutely flake again" way. Not that there are airports in this acktshually decimated world. Unfortunately for them, the band encounters one of the few towns that still clings to something like law and order, and it's up to Syl to get her friend/vocalist Frank's head out of a noose. And maybe there's some romance in the mix? (There is!)

Like I said before, this story (and everything featuring these characters) was insanely fun to write and also funny, at least to me. Maybe you'll laugh too? To find out, buy A Punk Rock Future at Powell's, Amazon, or anywhere else books are sold. There's 25 other "punkpunk" stories in this anthology, including rocking tales from Spencer Ellsworth, Sarah Pinsker, Marie Vibbert, Wendy Nikel, and many more.

(And that novella? Well, I'm still tinkering away at the edits, and whether it's published by someone else or self-published it won't be out until 2021 at the very earliest. In the meantime, I'm definitely open to writing more stuff in this milieu that I love. Big hint.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Story Notes: "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Apocalypse?" (+ Bonus Flash!)

After over a year of not having any stories published at all, suddenly I had two of them come out in the same month. That's how these things happen sometimes! The first and shorter of these is the self-explanatory "You Have Contracted a Deadly Song Virus," which you can read for free at Daily Science Fiction. It's my tenth story there, and probably my most horrific one.

If you like your stories to take longer than five minutes to read, pick up Interzone #282, which includes my short story "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Apocalypse?" illustrated by Vincent Sammy. (Aside: This is my third story with a Sammy illustration, and damn if he doesn't do some insanely incredible work.) A very short excerpt:
A dozen little dead kids sit on the Styrofoam steps outside the only apartment building on Gumdrop Road. They're listening to the newspaper seller. He's talking to them about time.
As is obvious from the title of the story, Gumdrop Road isn't a real place. Like the educational program/media empire that it's based on, it's a television show watched by the last remnants of a dying world that's been annihilated by a virus that attacks the reproductive system. In a world where there's nothing new -- because what's the point? -- people escape into a reboot of childhood comfort viewing. But how do you get child actors when nobody can be born? Well, you read the excerpt.

This spun off from the same flash-writing challenge that spawned "Song Virus," although it quickly expanded beyond flash length. What I'd intended to be a cynical commentary on reboot mania became something much more, as I thought about how this form of cultural recycling might be a reaction to the apocalyptic feel of our times. If you and everyone you love is going to die anyway, why not go with what's safe? Nobody cares about innovation when the world is coming to a close, especially not in the arts. And if it takes digging up a bunch of dead children to lend your comfort viewing the proper amount of verisimilitude, that's not really so bad, is it? It's the end, after all.

Yeah, real cheery story I wrote here.

Anyway, you can get a copy of Interzone #282 from the TTA Press site, on Amazon, or in your classier local bookstores. I have at least one more story coming out by the end of the year, which means I'll be posting on this blog at least one more time. Smell you later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"The Big So-So" Now in Audio; Classes at PCC!

Pleased to report that my short story "The Big So-So," originally published late last year in Interzone, is now out in audio on Escape Pod! This is a story very close to my heart, as discussed in the story notes, and I'm happy to see it released to a wider audience (the text is also there if you prefer to read it). And if you like this story, there will be another one set in the same world out in the Kickstarter anthology A Punk Rock Future sometime next year, as well as a novella that is currently in the early editing stage. Fight the entropy of a world gripped by drug-withdrawal-induced ennui with a maybe-magical garage band straight outta Pittsburgh.

Also, I'm teaching another round of my six-week "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing" adult extension class at Portland Community College. It will run on Saturday mornings from January 26 through March 9, 2019 (with the week of February 23 skipped due to Rainforest Writers Retreat -- put it on your calendar for 2020!), and will be back at the Southeast Campus. You can register here, or email me at the link at the PCC site for more information.

See you in hell, 2018!