Spotlight, Excerpt, & Author Interview: Dark Factory + Giveaway

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DARK FACTORY
by Kathe Koja
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2022
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / SciFi / LGBT / Literary

Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.

Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club’s wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.

Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader’s creative mind.

Join us at DarkFactory.club. The story has already begun.

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Excerpt:

“Ari! Hey Ari, how’s it going?”
“Hey,” his nod to the skinny DJ on the bench opposite Jonas’s office, blue glass walls half-covered with overlapping Dark Factory posters, the effect is like peering into a paper aquarium. “It’s going good. Tight.”
“I just got in from Chromefest, I played some crazy great shit,” the DJ digging into his bag, a dangle of fake gold giveaway charms, too many stickers, TOOT SWEET, U DONT REDLINE U DONT HEADLINE, pulling out a mix stick. “You got a minute?”
“Got a meeting,” with a shrug, a smile, his public smile—
—but inside the office no Jonas, only his spoor: empty NooJuice cans, Causabon trainers still new in the box, a white dinner jacket hung on the hulking recliner, and between the tilting piles on the blue glass table that is Jonas’s desk, two burner phones, both vibrating like wind-up toys: Ari takes up one, then the other, neither are numbers he knows. Also on the desk is a flat delivery box stacked with t-shirts, a new streamlined design, and “Y makes the logo move,” Jonas at the door, slamming the door, Jonas wearing last summer’s t-shirt, black and sleeveless beneath a clear plastic wrap jacket; with his hair sheared at the sides he looks like a brand-new cleaning brush, Ari hides a smile. “Lee thinks it’s too subtle. What do you think?”
“Not if it moves,” an answer and a parry, Jonas likes to test everyone, Ari most of all. “Chockablock thinks of everything.”
“And overcharges for everything too. Wear it around, see what people say,” and as Ari drapes a shirt around his neck, “I know it’s your day off, but I need you in the box tonight.”
“Just me?”
“You and whoever else I stick in there. Be good, or it’ll be Lee.”
“I don’t have a problem with Lee.”
“That’s not what she says.”
“Then that’s her problem.”
“True. Got a smoke? Darcy’s after me to quit,” as Ari offers one of the black blunts he gets from the boys in the clubs, Jonas rooting in the desk’s mess for an ashtray, and “Lee said,” Jonas’s shrug half-annoyed, ”some woman gave birth on the floor last night? To an actual baby? What a mess.”
And Ari laughs—“The Factory’s first natural-born citizen”—and after a moment Jonas laughs too: “Your brain, Ari, your fucking brain,” pulling out his real phone, a quick dictating bark, “Lee, find those baby people, give the baby free admission for life. Tell Media to make a big deal out of it—”
—as Ari exits in a puff of smoke and a flutter of posters, past the still-waiting DJ, and two runners toting scent canisters like oversized silver bullets, another runner wrangling a wobbling rack of boxed NooJuice, provided to the production in exchange for ad placement, another of Ari’s ideas that Jonas approves, Jonas drinks half a dozen cans of that swill a day. Lee drinks it too, though Ari knows she hates it; sometimes he catches Lee studying him when she thinks no one can see.
In the performers’ lounge he slips on the new t-shirt—a little loose across the chest, he likes his shirts tighter—smooths back his hair, then heads for the NOT AN EXIT sign over the loading dock doors: a delivery van rolling out, another just backing in that he sidesteps, out to the street, Neuberg Street . . . A teenager, the first time, he came here to drink cheap lager and fuck and dance to loud music with boys—he still fucks and dances, but Jonas has taught him something about wine, so he drinks that instead, chilled and white, it pairs nicely with the blunts—sixteen then and wide open, new to the scene, new to joy: his look changed, his slang, even his walk, more swagger, more aware of his body as he roamed past the schnapps bars and phone stores and crumbled brick alleys, the corner charging stations shaped like top hats where the boys hung out, flirting and sparring in the noise of sidewalk speakers and the whirring purr of the trains, the muezzin’s call floating over avenues of beech and linden trees and the black-washed façades of the remodeled industrial flats, cafés hot with espresso and frothing oat milk, and the clubs’ 4 a.m. aroma of lager and latex and Club-Mate, dancing panting bodies, moisturizer and tobacco and tears. And now these streets are his streets, he lives in one of those expensive flats, he has everything he wants in this world, almost everything.
The October sky is overcast as a tarnished mirror, heat still radiating from the pavement, he stops at a Kaffee Kart for an iced espresso and “Your shirt’s really cool,” says the freckled barista, as Ari records her reaction for Jonas’s eventual benefit. “Dark Factory! I’d go every weekend if I could, it’s like the world if the world was perfect. You go a lot?”
“I go every night. I work there.”
“You work at Dark Factory? Oh cool! What do you do?”
And Ari smiles, because there is no name for what he does, what he is, what Jonas needs most, what Lee for all her stats and apps and 24/7 devotion can never be: the bridge between the Factory and the world, a native of both because “I’m the ambassador,” he says, and lifts his cup to toast—the barista, the Factory, his job, himself—as a sudden gust of steam surrounds him, like a saint’s silver halo, or a personal storm.


Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
All my books start with a character, someone I see in my mind’s eye, wonder over, consider; then that character opens the door to others, to their world, and to the book. For Dark Factory it was Ari Regon, wild hair and that smile, this guy was clearly out to have some fun. So I followed him.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
Oh, what a great question. I learned that my immersive event work—I’ve produced and directed over twenty live performance events, in places like galleries, museums, a Victorian mansion, a historic church sanctuary—could merge with my writing, and people could be invited to interact with a book the same way they do at the live shows: immersive fiction! And Meerkat Press was one hundred percent collaboratively involved with the concept, creating the Dark Factory site to invite readers into the story from the jump.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
How BIG it was. It was a world that knew exactly what it wanted to be, and do—just like Ari, whose role in that world is as producer extraordinaire, always looking to create the unforgettable night—and just kept growing and morphing. That’s one reason it took me twice as long to write Dark Factory as any of my other novels, over three years.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
It has more than one meaning, but Max Caspar explains it better than anyone.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people?
None of the characters in the novel, but there are more than a few real people interviewed by Marfa Carpenter/McSq2 on the site: a tattoo artist, several professors, an arts journalist/editor, a sound designer, a ministry worker, all of them offering their real thoughts and opinions on life, art, and their own fields and disciplines. Immersive again.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
That reality is a state more amazing than we ever believed.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Impossible to answer this one! But I do love the push-and-pull interactions between playful Ari and serious Max, on pretty much every topic, from the meaning of life to soba noodles.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Definitely Marfa—her changes over the course of the novel took me by surprise, but looking back, those changes were always there, always part of who she was and could become. That’s the way for all of us, though, all the potential selves we could be, that we make with our choices, every day.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
We have multiple launches and events scheduled, into June and beyond, and new fan content coming for the site. So it’s all Dark Factory for now.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Author Interview: Mage of Fools + Giveaway

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MAGE OF FOOLS
by Eugen Bacon
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2022
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / Dystopian / Afrofuturist
BOOK PAGE:  Mage of Fools – Meerkat Press

SUMMARY:

In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution.

Mafinga’s malevolent king dislikes books and, together with his sorcerer Atari, has collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for possessing the machine and its forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen who claims Jasmin’s children as her own. Jasmin is powerless—until she discovers secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.

BUY LINKS:  Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Excerpt:

Tuesday.

Outside the double-glazed window, a speck grows from the moonless night and yawns wide, wider, until its luster washes into the single-roomed space, rectangular and monolithic. One could mistake the room for a cargo container.

The space, one of many units neatly rowed and paralleled in Ujamaa Village, pulses for a moment as the radiance outside grows with its flicker of green, yellow and bronze. The cocktail of incandescent light tugs along a tail of heat. Both light and heat seep through the walls of the khaki-colored shelter, whose metallic sheen is a fabrication, not at all metal.

Light through the window on the short face of the house—the side that gazes toward Central District in the distance—rests on the luminous faces of a mother and her two young children, their eyes pale with deficiency in a ravaged world. It’s a world of citizens packed as goods in units whose short faces all stare toward the Central District that will shortly awaken in the dead of the night. The light drowns the toddler’s cry of wonder.

As sudden as the ray’s emergence, it evanesces and snatches away its radiance, leaving behind hoarfrost silence. A sound unscrolls itself from the darkness outside. First, it’s a thunderhead writing itself through desert country—because this world is dry and naked, barren as its queen.

The lone cry of a wounded creature, a howl or a wail reminiscent of the screech of a black-capped owl, plaintive yet soulful, rises above the flat roofs screening the wasted village. The cry is a dirge that tells an often-story of someone in agony, of a hand stretched out to touch an angel of saving but never reaches. A second thunderhead slits the sound midcry, nobody can save the mortally wounded one.

Jasmin closes her eyes. She needs no one to tell her. She knows.

Everybody knows—except the children. That King Magu’s guards—so few of them, yet so deadly—have found another story machine, and its reader.

“Siyent yight,” says two-year-old Mia. Her owl eyes—evolved to navigate darkness—gaze into Jasmin’s. But they are eyes that are also glows: they not only see but soak light to illuminate her world.

Jasmin does not speak. She’s unpacking the reality of what’s just happened. She is overwhelmed by an emotion that’s not yet rage. Her ears are ringing, a child’s sound toy, but there are no more toys in Mafinga. The country’s reality is cold, gray. Its wind vibrates with the dirge of a better yesterday. It’s a world gone dumb—must all be broken? The bones of the ancestors pop with metamorphic hymns of water that is ruler and land that is slave, as people degenerate into crustaceans.

“Siyent yight, Mamm,” says Mia again.

Jasmin’s fingers rest on Mia’s twin cornrows that end in pigtails.

“Yes. The silent lights.”

“Someone hurt?”

Jasmin is taken aback. She never imagined Mia understood.

“The sirens are coming,” says Omar in his grown-up voice. Even at four, he hasn’t outgrown the burst of curls on his head. His pale chocolate skin is still baby soft.

“Soon,” says Jasmin. “You know what it means.”

She glances at the children still hugged to her hips. They too are readers, partaking of the story machine, they just don’t know it yet. Each time she narrates from the device—

She closes her eyes, unwilling to fathom how much she has endangered them with her oral tales.

“I bwashed my teeff.”

“Good, Mia. Now you, Omar. Make it happen.”

He peels himself from gazing at the world out there.

Mia stays. Her eyes seek assurance. “I good, Mamm, aight?”

“You’re always good, dear goatling.”

The children know about goats. The goats from the stories Jasmin tells them. Tales of animals so calm, you think they are stupid, but their working minds sharpen with each bleat. Despite their odd pupil shape, how unsettling to a human eye, goats are intelligent beneath the horn.

Jasmin watches as Omar navigates the space between the unpartitioned living area with its metal-like seats and spartan table, its kitchenette with a tiny chiller and microwave, its multipurpose sink, the sleeping area with its floored mattress, its toilet—only a curtain for privacy. One wall is fitted with an automated screen that turns itself on, off at central command. You don’t flick channels to choose the news, sports, documentaries, music or entertainment. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen comes on at a whim with the propaganda of the moment: sometimes it’s a choir of children in flowing pinafores and jester pantaloons singing slogans. Or the same children in sisal skirts and war paint doing a folk dance, chanting the Hau, Hau, Acha We song about decrying dissenters. Pzzz. Pzzz. The screen goes silent as it does now, momentarily asleep.

All units in Ujamaa Village are the same. They are metallic khaki in color. Everyone’s within a kick, right there, next door. But you never hear anything—except the outside. And, mostly, as just then, the outside world brings the sound of dying.

Once a week you get a pass to use the Ujamaa Facility. It used to have gendered showers: hot sizzles and soap dispensers, a luxury despite the blandness of their products. But there are no more men in the village. Now the sizzler showers and their weekly extravagance are for everyone. There’s no place for modesty.

Whoop. Whoop. The work siren goes.


Author Interview:

What inspired you to write this book?
I really wanted to write an Afrofuturistic novel, it was just something I wanted to do. It took a while for the idea to form, clarity on where the story might go, and it leaned towards dystopia.

Unlike everything I’ve ever done, this one started with a title: Mage of Fools—way before I knew what I was going to write.

What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I remembered that writing a novel is bloody hard! I am mostly a short story writer, and I use a model of stories-within-a-story to craft a novel. Often, I tuck little stories and poems inside, layered vignettes invisible to the reader, and they carry the mutability and intensity of a short story, which seems to power my longer forms.

What surprised you the most in writing it?
I was astonished how much I connected with the characters, and how they wrote their own stories. I finished the first draft of the manuscript in three months of straight writing, on top of other writing, editing, and a day job. I was married to my text.

If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
It is a spoiler. Somewhere in the novel, someone says it, and the meaning is evident.

Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
“The transformation of Mafinga happened seemingly overnight. People became their own labor, coerced into the spirit of Ujamaa.”—excerpt, Mage of Fools.

King Magu is the caricature of a past president of Tanzania, my birthplace, who was somewhat of a dictator. He’s long dead now, so it’s best that I don’t dwell on him.

When the United Republic of Tanzania first gained colonial independence under its first president Julius Kambarage Nyerere, it was a socialist country that adopted the premise of ‘ujamaa’, sharing and togetherness.

Ideally, ujamaa should have worked—it’s a beautiful and generous concept. In practice, it created corruption and one of the poorest countries in the world.

Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Mage of Fools is a story about the spirit of humanity, and free will. It’s about hopes and dreams, country, liberty and belonging. A secret story machine tells of fate, love and promise, charted by bold authors and their indelible scripts.

Jeffrey Ford, in the book’s commendation, captures it best:

“Eugen Bacon’s unique vision, Mage of Fools, is a wonderfully imagined dystopia; a techno/folklore blend with a resourceful mother at its heart.”

What is your favorite part of the book?
I honestly like them all, but I took special delight in Atari’s story—developing this character who needs so much, until his needing becomes destruction.

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
I felt all the major characters in Mage of Fools. I find immersion in writing, and I morphed as I wrote, becoming Jasmin, becoming her lover Solo, her husband Godi, the deadly Atari, Queen Sheeba, the children Mia and Omar… I connected deeply with each of them, and I think it helps in the robustness of their characters.

I’d say that, perhaps, the secondary characters who needed to play a role, albeit small, were a little challenging: keeping their roles minimal yet relevant.

What are your immediate future plans?
I have books spilling out, it’s not funny. In 2022, there’s Chasing Whispers, a story collection by Raw Dog Screaming Press, and An Earnest Blackness, an essay collection by Anti-Oedipus Press. I have finished a cross-lingual hybrid project (Languages of Water) that’s just entering the publication process, and I am co-writing a time travel novel with European slipstream author Andrew Hook.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

eugen bacon-firstchoice-colorEugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press and Writing Speculative Fiction by Red Globe Press, Macmillan. Eugen’s work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Recorder + Giveaway

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Congratulations to author Cathy McCrumb! This week marks the release of Recorder, the first book in her Sci-Fi series, Children of the Consortium. Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed hardcover of the book!

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Recorder

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction/ Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Enclave

Children of the Consortium

When a research station goes dark and a rescue mission goes wrong, a young woman with no name, no family, no friends loses everything that defines her…

Donated to the Consortium before birth, the Recorder’s sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing any display of bias.

Suddenly cut off from the technology controlling her, she tastes freedom and what it means to be human. But if the Consortium discovers her feelings, everyone she knows will be in danger.

With no name, no resources, and only an infinitesimal possibility of escape, the Recorder’s time is running out.

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Excerpt

I did not have a name—none of us did—but once when I was young, I had a friend.

Early in my tenth year I slipped away from the other girls of my cohort. Their approved games did not interest me, and since I had fulfilled my physical activity requirements, I took refuge at my favorite place near the artificial brook.

Light sparkled on water rippling over smooth brown stones. Either the brook’s engineers or its gentle flow had sculpted rounded banks in the loam, and lavender and thyme grew between orange lilies. The self-pollinating plants bobbed and dipped in the breeze created by the giant fans in the lofty, domed ceiling. It was a close approximation of a real brook, from what I had read.

Available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble!


About the Author

Cathy Hinkle Cathy graduated from Biola University with a degree in literature and a love for stories. She and her husband, whom she met while writing letters to soldiers, have five children and currently live within the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While writing is one of her favorite things, she also enjoys reading, long hikes, long naps, gluten-free brownies, raspberries, and crocheting while watching science fiction movies with friends and family.

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