Monday, December 14, 2020

Story Notes: "Where You Lead, I Will Follow: An Oral History of the Denver Incident"

Hello there! It's time for another installment of my "story notes" series, which comes around whenever one of my short stories gets published. Today's discussion/commercial is for the story "Where You Lead, I Will Follow: An Oral History of the Denver Incident," published October 2020 in the Baen Books anthology 
Weird World War III, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett.

In early 2019 I decided to join everyone else in 2016 and start getting into Pokemon Go. And as I do with all video games, I'm talking obsessive interest for like five months until it became something to check on my phone once a day. But during those months my mind turned, as it so often does, to figuring out how the thing I'm obsessed with could potentially be used to destroy the world.

If you don't know what Pokemon Go is, it's an augmented reality games played on your cell phone where you're shown a mini-map of your surroundings with superimposed Pokemon, stops, and gyms. The similar game in my own story, Follow the Leader, is the same idea with a paranoid twist: The game sometimes asks you to interact with your real-world surroundings in order to complete its "Instructions," while your phone's camera records your actions for posterity. What kinds of things were included in these "Instructions"? Oh, they're innocuous things like moving a post-it note or stealing someone's pencil or going into the basement of your apartment building. A lot of actions that don't seem like anything at all, until it's too late.

As the title implies, this is an oral history, told by ten characters each with their own special connection to Follow the Leader and the ensuing catastrophe. This is among the more experimental stories I've written, but it came from necessity: No matter how many "zero drafts" I did I couldn't find a way to get across the scope and reach of the fictional game without at a minimum three characters, and at that point I figured I might as well round up to ten.

It's not a spoiler to say that the eventual result of all these small-scale changes is that Washington, DC was vaporized in a nuclear explosion, as this is revealed on the very first page. And since this is an anthology of alternative Cold War stories, the putative enemy is also not in doubt. But could the Russians really be behind such a complex scheme? Get your own copy of Weird World War III to find out! (And check out the Tangent review if you have a moment, for short reviews of the stories in the rest of the anthology.)

Friday, November 27, 2020

My Obligatory 2020 Awards Eligibility Post

It's one of the most awkward times of the year for writers: the month-long flurry where we all pick our favorite thing we had published this year and why we'd be ever so pleased if you'd consider it for things of an award-ish nature. My one big publication this year, to nobody's great surprise, is my novella Busted Synapses, published by Broken Eye Books in November 2020.

Some reviews/blurbs:

"Johnny Mnemonic goes Millennial. Cyberpunk is not dead, and Erica Satifka is its queen.” -- Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic

"Satifka effortlessly packs a full adventure into a limited page count. Readers will be hooked." -- Publishers Weekly

"Busted Synapses grabs that familiar, thoroughly depressing reality outside the window by the sack and gives it a goodly twist, just like proper science-fiction should." -- Lawrence Burton, Pamphlets of Destiny

I won't lie: Being nominate for any one of the many extent SF/F awards would make me extremely happy on a personal level for all the reasons you'd expect. But I also want to get more eyes on Busted Synapses because it's a look at the kind of dystopia the 2020s might turn out to be: extreme income inequality, hyper-gentrification, and a descent into technological neo-feudalism. Busted Synapses isn't the only book out there tackling these themes, but it's the one I wrote and I'm pretty damn proud of it.

Anyway, if you'd like to get a review copy of my novella for possible nomination purposes, you can email me at satifka at gmail dot com or DM me on Twitter (my DMs are always open, baby).

In addition to Busted Synapses, I published two original short stories this year, "Where You Lead, I Will Follow: An Oral History of the Denver Incident" in Weird World War III (Baen Books), and "Sasquatch Summer" in Kaleidotrope. The latter is available online for free, and I can send you a copy of the former if you want too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Hello again, after a surprisingly short (for me) period of time! I'm not sure if anyone reads this blog, or blogs in general, but if you've gotten this far you might as well read the rest of the post.

In news that is not related to Busted Synapses, two anthologies came out with stories of mine in them! One original, one reprint. The original is "Where You Lead, I Will Follow: An Oral History of the Denver Incident" in the Baen Books anthology Weird World War III, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett. I'll be writing a full post about it later (hopefully after another surprisingly short period of time), but basically it's the tale of how Pokemon Go destroyed the world. The anthology also includes many other stories of a US-Soviet war that never was from writers like John Langan, Martin L. Shoemaker, Nick Mamatas, Alex Shvartsman, Eric James Stone, and many others. Read more about the anthology and get your own copy at the Baen site.

Also out this month (along with Busted Synapses, which I'm getting to) is Wonder and Glory Forever: Awe-Inspiring Lovecraftian Fiction (Dover Publications), edited by Nick Mamatas. This one includes my Lovecraft/Cordwainer Smith mash-up "You Will Never Be the Same," first published way back in 2013. Also includes stories by Laird Barron, Molly Tanzer, Victor LaValle, and others. Get a copy at Books, Inc., or wherever else fine books are sold.

Now for the part where I talk about Busted Synapses! It's been out for three weeks now, and while I haven't collected many reviews yet (gee, it's like it came out on Election Day or something), the ones I've gotten have been fantastic, both in terms of being positive about the book and also making me feel personally good as hell. Over at Pamphlets of Destiny, Lawrence Burton says "Busted Synapses grabs that familiar, thoroughly depressing reality outside the window by the sack and gives it a goodly twist, just like proper science-fiction should. The call centers, screen addiction, and human populace reduced to economic resource will be known to most of us. The rest is extrapolated from where we are right now, but not by a whole lot, and not enough to leave us cosily reflecting on how at least things aren't yet this bad because they sort of are but for the small print."

And at Parsecs & Parchment, JonBob writes "Busted Synapses is the shot in the arm the genre needs. It has that gritty techno-pessimism that’s at the heart of cyberpunk, and it doesn’t offer a rosy picture of the future or indeed offer any solutions, but it has done what modern cyberpunk needs to do in order to have a future, and that’s start critiquing the corporatism of our own society which, in many ways, is manifesting the very dystopia the progenitors of the genre warned us about decades ago." (You can also read my interview with JonBob at P&P!)

Finally, on the off chance you're not completely content-ed out, you can read my Big Idea essay at John Scalzi's blog on rural cyberpunk: what it is, where it's going, why I made it up. And last but certainly not least, check out my episode of Podside Picnic, where I talk a little about Busted Synapses but mostly about short stories (most of which you can read for free!)

And that's it for now! If you'd like a review copy of Busted Synapses, please email me at satifka at gmail dot com. And if you've already read it, please take a moment to drop a short review (even star-only reviews are fine) at Amazon or Goodreads; they really do help both with sales and also with the appeasement of my neurotic existentialism.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

BUSTED SYNAPSES Has Been Released (for a week)

One week ago, while one of the many storylines of this strangest of years reached its climax, my novella Busted Synapses made its debut. If you're like most people in the twenty-first century, you've already seen my frequent posts about Busted Synapses on Facebook, Twitter, my mailing list, that courier pigeon outside your window, etc. And now you're reading about it here too!

Eternal thanks to Scott Gable at Broken Eye Books for bringing this book and its amazing cover to life. This is a strange little book set in a world I hope to return to again, described by one person on Twitter as Hillbilly Elegy meets cyberpunk. Hey, I'll take it. (And for some background on the setting and why I chose to write a "rural cyberpunk," check out my Big Idea essay.)

Here's a couple reviews I've received so far:

"Satifka effortlessly packs a full adventure into a limited page count. Readers will be hooked." --Publishers Weekly

"A superb example of dystopian, cyberpunk f lash fiction that echoes William Gibson’s Neuromancer, this volume may be slim but it packs a punch." --Library Journal

You can pick up Busted Synapses on Amazon (including Kindle), Powell's, or the Broken Eye Books website. You can also request it at your local library, even if you did buy it elsewhere. That would be really awesome, actually.

Now, onward, into our terrible future!

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!