The Demon in Business Class AUDIOBOOK

The Demon in Business Class AUDIOBOOK is out!!

Laura Petersen’s gorgeous narration takes you on a fantastic journey across Europe, America and Asia, with secret magic, international conspiracies, and star-crossed lovers. Put on those headphones and fly!

Honestly, it’s my favorite version. Laura Petersen put in an incredible performance, giving life to a hundred characters and mastering accents from a dozen countries.

Here are some of the many places you can find it –

Audible
https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Demon-in-Business-Class-Audiobook/B08FVC78XP

Walmart
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Demon-in-Business-Class-The-Audiobook-9781734741032/218327830

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/audiobook/demon-in-business-class-the

Apple
https://books.apple.com/audiobook/the-demon-in-business-class/id1516610708

Google
https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details?id=AQAAAEDsLmtulM

Quarantine Inspiration on The Inner Loop Radio!

The Inner Loop is a Washington DC live-reading group that hosts fiction, non-fiction and poetry writers at monthly events. I’ve been pleased and proud to read work there twice.

They also run a terrific podcast on all aspects of writing. This week I’m part of their Qurantine Inspiration Series, with my own 12-minute creative stimulus – motivation, tips, a writing prompt, and a super-short story with my new take on a legendary being.

Here’s my podcast: https://soundcloud.com/theinnerlooplit/inversion-with-anthony-dobranski

For more inspiration, subscribe to their podcast at: https://www.theinnerlooplit.org/radio

BIG NEWS! A new edition of The Demon in Business Class!

Despite its reputation, Friday the 13th treats me well — maybe because 13 is a rare number, evenly divisible in a Tarot deck’s 78 cards.

Certainly this Friday the 13th is a great day to share some love — and, BIG NEWS!

The Demon in Business Class gets a gorgeous new edition this spring!

New cover, new layout, with illustrations! In hardback, paperback, ebook and – for the first time – an incredible audiobook edition, narrated by the amazing Laura Petersen.

New edition May 2020!

(If the novel is new to you, this is a great time to discover it — click here to learn more!)

A lot has gone into this, and there’s a lot more ahead…

… but I need your help to make it happen.

The link below – and on the ad above – is to sign up for the new edition’s Advance Review Copy. From now until the end of April, you can order an Advance Review Copy in paperback (US addresses only), ebook, or audiobook.

Advance Review Copies are FREE

If you pledge, scouts’ honor, to read it (or listen to it), and leave an honest review on your favorite site.

In modern literary life, reviews are incredibly important. If everyone reading the ARC leaves an honest review, it’s a huge boost to the Demon relaunch.

Want a free ARC copy? Sign up here!

I’ll be sending the ARCs out in early April – ebooks will arrive faster, of course 🙂

Official pre-orders begin on April 26 — exactly 6 months from the first edition’s October 26 release date. (Also, double-13, and another Tarot factor!)

That’s also when I reveal the full cover (unless you’re an email subscriber). The retail launch date will be May 26!*

Signing up for the ARC also signs you up for my mailing list – including: an early cover reveal on April 13, sample chapters, audiobook samples, and interviews with the amazing professionals behind the launch; plus, some very early passages from my second novel, The White Lake, a literary science-fiction tale unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s very different from Demon, yet completely my style.

BIG CHANGES AHEAD! I am sweating the details and you’ll see them in the coming weeks. I know they will delight you!

*May 26 isn’t a significant day for me, but Tuesday is a traditional book release day. Also, it is one day after the original release of Star Wars – May 25, 1977. So, that’s cool.

The bad news is, I was right

I’m finishing my second novel, but in the last few months I’ve spent some time with my first, The Demon in Business Class, as it enters a new medium. The amazing voice actor Laura Petersen has recorded the audiobook — early spring release! don’t worry, I’ll be posting about it.

I’ve been pitching in doing proofs, catching small errors, but mostly just being regaled. Petersen is hugely talented, nailing Demon‘s scores of worldwide accents, and also finding subtle line readings in both narration and dialogue. It’s been a wonderfully self-congratulatory exercise. Gosh I’m a good writer. I should do it more.

I’ve also heard how good I am at forecasting. I wasn’t looking too far ahead, and I had the small advantage of being a few years ahead of the times in my book.

Even so, I got everything right.

Back-cover copy is about drama, and my novel had that in spades, with fantastic powers, violence, conspiracies, and troubled romance. The Demon in Business Class also has: elites failing to see the difference between what’s good, and what’s good for them; religious people ever more tempted, and corrupted, by temporal power; the dissatisfaction with globalization; the angry assault on patriarchy; Russia’s aggressive refusal to play by American rules; China’s ever-greater confidence; a greater role for mysticism in public life.

I don’t mean to brag, exactly. It’s hard to take comfort in being right about so many things that wouldn’t be my first choice if I had a say.

Still, I did way better with my calls than most pundits and politicians. I am attentive to subtle currents and a clear-eyed thinker. It helps to remember that things always change, and that nature abhors a vacuum. These are cliches because of our complacency; step back, and they contain terrors.

I have my own formula, once a line of dialogue from an early failed novel, now a personal mantra, my walking stick as I scramble ahead of changes.

It says: When there’s no place else to go, you go there.

There’s been a lot of going there the past few years. More to come. Trust me, I have a good track record.

And, gosh, I’m a good writer. I should do it more.

I grieve for my beloved Hong Kong

It has bad air. I was still a smoker when I worked there, and I joked it was protective. It’s impossibly expensive, though plenty of people live there cheaply. It’s a culture clash, crash, and fusion — Chinese and Anglo, old and new, rich and poor, metropolitan and tropical, high-pressure and laid-back. It’s fast, so fast. After you leave, for a long time, everyplace else feels slow.

Of course I set part of my first novel there, the most raw part, the true climax. That romantic imagined life was my consolation prize. Had my parents been younger when I left my corporate life, I would have moved back there.

I love Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Lion Rock lit up as protesters gathered at its peak. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

I swore a while back not to write about politics, but this is more. Unique places are an endangered species. Hong Kong is its own strange ecosystem, married to change but in love with constancy. I admire its people. They are courageous and vivacious and more honest than most, except when haggling. I fear for them.

I’ve feared for them since the handover from British rule to Chinese rule, 22 years ago. I was happy for my Hong Kong friends after the handover — there was a pride then, akin to what African Americans felt with Obama’s election. Still, my parents fled Soviet rule. I saw this conflict coming — honestly, I expected it sooner.

It’s not the same, of course — unique is like that. It’s not left-right, not occupier-colony, not exactly rich-poor. For a shorthand, maybe old-new. Hong Kong is decades older than Communist China, but far younger at heart.

Call it this, now: One country, two incompatible hungers.

I’ve never lifted a billion people out of poverty. I do know something about the rare and the special. They are easy to milk and maddening to sustain — but if you don’t sustain them, if you don’t help them thrive, they dry up. There is no more special, and others know you for a fool.

China made a big deal, the biggest deal, about adopting this shining child, and then refused to understand it. Maybe it was jealous. Maybe it felt threatened. Maybe it wanted a trophy. Maybe it was just indifferent. Hunger, like justice, is blind.

China risks being a fool now. Soon, I fear, it will risk worse.

I grieve for my beloved Hong Kong

It has bad air; I was still a smoker when I worked there, and I joked it was protective. It’s impossibly expensive, though plenty of people live there cheaply. It’s a culture clash, crash, and fusion — Chinese and Anglo, old and new, rich and poor, metropolitan and tropical, high-pressure and laid-back. It’s fast, so fast. When you leave, for a long time, everyplace else feels slow.

Of course I set part of my first novel there, the most raw part, the true climax. That romantic imagined life was my consolation prize. Had my parents been younger when I left my corporate life, I would have moved back there.

I love Hong Kong.

I swore a while back not to write about politics, but this is more. Unique places are an endangered species. Hong Kong is its own strange ecosystem, married to change but in love with constancy. I admire its people, I call them courageous. I fear for them.

I’ve feared for them since the handover from British rule to Chinese rule, 22 years ago. I was happy for my Hong Kong friends after the handover — there was a pride then, akin to what African Americans felt with Obama’s election. Still, my parents fled Soviet rule. I saw this conflict coming — honestly, I expected it sooner.

It’s not the same, of course — unique is like that. It’s not left-right, not occupier-colony, not exactly rich-poor. For a shorthand, maybe old-new. Hong Kong is decades older than Communist China, but far younger at heart.

Call it this, now: One country, two incompatible hungers.

I’ve never lifted a billion people out of poverty. I do know something about the rare and the special. They are easy to milk and maddening to sustain — but if you don’t sustain them, if you don’t help them thrive, they dry up. There is no more special, and others know you for a fool.

China made a big deal, the biggest deal, about adopting this shining child, and then refused to understand it. Maybe it was jealous. Maybe it felt threatened. Maybe it wanted a trophy. Maybe it was just indifferent. Hunger, like justice, is blind.

China risks being a fool now. Soon, I fear, it will risk worse.

Hong Kong’s Lion Rock lit up as protesters gathered at its peak. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

On being good at sales

I’m still not totally comfortable with being really good at sales.

Because, I am. I’m a sales machine. At large comic-cons, my single-title sales are on par with best-selling writers — which is good, because I still only have a single title. (Working on it.)

Other writers tell me I am good at sales, a complex compliment inside our introverted guild. It helps that, if a reader doesn’t want what I am selling, I will send them to another’s work with equal enthusiasm. I’m good in the booth.

I have made money in sales, covering all my bills during my year as a ski-bum in Lake Tahoe with a part-time telemarketing job. One of my most treasured compliments was from my manager there, who told me, “You give good phone.”

I am a fierce fan of my stuff. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for more than might initially see themselves buying it. I see my book becoming ever more relevant to the world outside it. I want the world to know so my subset of it will find me.

I don’t presuppose any strengths or weaknesses. I say what I have, strongly.

In a teen-focused genre, I write mature work. At cons and festivals, I say “10 o’clock shows, not 8 o’clock shows.” It’s a happy expression because it’s a fact they differ, it’s not an apology, and it hints at earned privilege, an adult’s welcome relief from explanation or euphemism.

Demon is a standalone novel. No sequels, except for a Tarot. “A big book, but one and done.” Maybe a fifth of people don’t find that appealing — Vayan con Dios. Most are at least fine if not happy to hear it. We talk about the joys of a certain ending, a lack of commitment, an amuse-bouche while awaiting GRRM.

While I can spot aligned styles — if you cosplay Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, I will sell you a book — even at cons I can’t know my readers on sight, especially since I am winning a few over right there. I assume all bipeds are in play until they make it clear they’re not.

That said, I know the wrong audience. 1-star reviews never go away, and a good way of avoiding them is keeping your work out of inappropriate hands — or, disappointed hands. I use horror as a flavor, but if you want it as a main course, that’s not my Demon. For action, I have some fisticuffs, but only one drawn gun in the whole book. I have bone-dry acidic wit, but no chuckles.

I say these things and people buy my books, people of all kinds, in very good numbers for the venue. I don’t know why it worries me, as opposed to the superpower that it really is. Maybe it’s impostor’s syndrome, that I am somehow more appealing than my work.

Maybe it’s not impostor’s syndrome but honesty, of a kind. My sales self also expresses qualities of my work: unassuming but distinctive, unflinching not crude, erudite not highfaluting, seeking clarity but understanding about the muddle.

It makes me nervous because it is not sales. It is an art, an ethic — like this blog post, a form of my writing. I can’t pretend it doesn’t matter, because it only works when it does matter.

Then I’m a sales machine.

The safe bummer of legal marijuana

In the small clear-plastic cube on the counter were two shelves of smoking accessories. On the top shelf, clear glass pipes printed with silhouette men and women having sex; on the bottom shelf, blister packages of metal pipe and grinder combos, in Jamaican flag colors, with a Bob-Marley-ish face in the grinder. The gear was less surprising than the store selling it: a gas station in Merrifield, Virginia, where I had taken my father’s old truck for its state inspection.

Virginia is not a state with legal marijuana. It wasn’t long ago that the few record stores and novelty stores that also sold bongs and pipes had to sticker them with notices that they were intended for tobacco use. We Americans have all grown used to these fig-leafs being lifted, and to the eventual likelihood of its pan-state (if not national) legalization.

Still, it disappoints me. Not that I want it recriminalized. I just want it to be illicit.

The legalization of something already widely accessible is an end to hypocrisy, a chance to research and understand its real effects, and a huge boon to the poorest and least privileged among us, too many of whom still sit in jails for an ever-more legal act. Back when I was an illegal pot smoker — as all American pot smokers older than 30 once were — I certainly would not have wanted to go to jail.

But, it was thrilling to be illegal, for an hour here and there, and be unscathed. Thrilling, and maybe necessary.

Criminality is a form of puzzle-solving. You are not supposed to do something, but you find a way to do it, with no great consequence and possible great benefit. It uses the same skill-sets that get salespeople good commissions, that got my father through nine months in a Nazi POW camp.

I know, in head and heart, that no crime is victimless. Someone suffers. The Buddha reminds us we all suffer regardless.

So I will just say it aloud for once. I miss the risk and the seediness of being a pothead, the odd skill it took to know whether it was good or not, the randomness of the available product, the curious investigations tracking it down in new places. I miss making bongs out of foil ashtrays and Pringles cans. I miss not explaining that the good wood I sought in hardware store scrap piles was for whittling pipes. I miss scoring my weed instead of shopping for it.

Samuel R. Delany, a great writer and greatly carnal man, laments the transformation of his youth’s Times Square from dangerous and cheaply decadent to Disney-fied and casual-dining. Breaking Bad‘s murderous, enslaving white supremacists lament helmet laws. I lament legal pot.

I am grateful that my children, should they choose to use pot when they are adults, will never have to risk prison to get it. I alas feel this safety as a loss. Sometimes I wonder if our anxious populace clamors for CBD because we’ve taken away the risk of getting THC.

In the way of stopped clocks, do the desperate and the horrid have a valid point about the over-management of modern human life?

It’s an irresponsible question, but not an idle one. Even the optimists behind Star Trek had to admit, through the invention of Section 31, that society needs those willing to violate the Prime Directive on more than a captain’s whim, and with a very different sense of the greater good. The Devil’s Advocate was a real job in Vatican canonization trials. He kept the unworthy out of the ranks of the saints, and performed penance when he lost. Since John Paul II diminished the office, one could argue we’ve had saint inflation. (Someone should tell The Good Place.)

The CIA might want to leave the Ivy League to corporate recruiters. The children of today’s Dreamers may be America’s best future spies.

Science-fiction is neither cyberpunk nor broken

In his new Slate essay, Lee Konstantinou opines that Something is Broken in Our Science Fiction.
He isn’t really talking about science-fiction, so much as its subgenre of cyberpunk, which certainly still influences science-fiction subgenre naming, from steampunk to hopepunk. I’m not sure that cyberpunk has more influence than that these days – but let’s talk cyberpunk, for now.
Konstantinou calls cyberpunk a genre where the “hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better—but not so much better that the author can’t write a sequel.”
Never mind that this is the story of many novels in many genres. It’s a poor fit to cyberpunk, which usually sweeps its anti-heroes into situations where they are fitfully, perhaps only for a moment, masters of their fate. Usually, cyberpunk contents itself with not letting things get even worse. Its antecedent is the bitter Sisyphean resignation of Philip K. Dick. It’s telling that the book Konstantinou calls a parody of cyberpunk, Snow Crash, is one of the few that really embrace his straw-man of story concept in a funny and self-aware way — though, without a sequel.
According to Wikipedia, I am twelve years older than Konstantinou. I am fifty-three, so doing the math will show those were a significant twelve years. When he was a kid, he had the hammering-down of the Berlin Wall. When I was a kid, nuclear war, waged across that wall’s spiked concrete, was such a certainty that the network ABC made a prime-time movie about it.
In that light, cyberpunk was hopeful. Ecodeath and corporate control notwithstanding, we still had a world, and satellite casinos too. To state baldly, as Konstantinou does, that “cyberpunk is arguably a kind of fiction unable to imagine a future very different from its present” ignores that the present got more hopeful after the fiction. In its day it was a vast imagining, counter to both the militarized and the utopian strains of science-fiction, and more realistically human than either.
Konstantinou also dismisses style, which is a big part of cyberpunk. It’s like faulting Edgar Allan Poe for brooding. Even in our days of smartwatches, the scene in Neuromancer where the AI Wintermute chases after Case by ringing pay-phone after pay-phone is still powerful — BBC’s recent Sherlock steals it to introduce Watson to Mycroft Holmes.
Konstantinou’s biggest error, of course, is to conflate cyberpunk with the whole of science-fiction. In this century, most good and well-regarded science-fiction books are not cyberpunk, in either setting or style. Now that so much reality has come to resemble cyberpunk, in its technofetishism and anarchic capitalism, we do need new imaginings.
Thing is, we’re getting them. There’s lots of good sci-fi, and most of it owes its predecessors. No one would call N K Jemisin cyberpunk, nor Ann Leckie, nor Cixin Liu. All of them work in older traditions, and also do many things new.
So what does Konstantinou want? For his Twitter feed to be less full of optimism and fads, it seems.
Maybe the problem is less in science-fiction than on Twitter?

First look at Business Class Tarot!

COMING FALL 2018

Are you a business person, entrepreneur, or maker?

Do you work where product meets brand? Where data and money become one?

BUSINESS CLASS TAROT™
See the Present — Change the Future

Tarot cards have centuries of wisdom about human nature and power dynamics, hidden behind obscure symbols and outdated worldviews.
BUSINESS CLASS TAROT brings the Tarot’s deep knowledge and interactive format into our world of global connection, massive scale, and brutal competition.
Artist Jamin Hoyle’s beautiful, surreal images evoke the rush, despair, and joy that inform and derail life’s major decisions.
Designed and with guide by author Anthony Dobranski.