Author invents quirky future dialect of English for a literary tale of revenge

David Shannon’s absurdist satire, HOWUL, recounts an unlikely hero’s journey, in a ravaged yet familiar future

DARTFORD, KENT – 15 January 2021 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the publication of HOWUL, a life’s journey by David Shannon. Provocative yet savagely funny, this absurdist satire is ominously relevant today despite being set, in North Wales, in a future following an undisclosed catastrophe which has radically affected technology, culture, and even language. Shannon says, “Buried in it is a howl against austerity and oppression. My inspirations were Riddley Walker, Don Quixote and Mad Max.”

Cover design: Alison Buck

Lindsay Nicholson MBE described HOWUL as “Un-put-down-able! A classic hero’s journey, deftly handled. I was surprised by every twist and turn, the plotting was superb, and the engagement of all the senses – I could smell those flowers and herbs. A tour de force.”

Peter Buck, Editorial Director of Elsewhen Press said, “HOWUL is a brilliantly unique book that sparkles with wit and tells a compelling story. It is an account by the eponymous ‘hero’ of events that befall him on his quest to seek answers and revenge. It is, therefore, written in the patois of the future that Howul inhabits – a clipped, almost pidgin, dialect of English which is nevertheless entirely comprehensible. It not only adds authenticity, humour, and at times pathos, to the story, but also illustrates the skill with which Shannon has constructed not just the world and the storyline but even a consistent grammar in which to tell it – comparisons with Anthony Burgess are inevitable.”

HOWUL is available from today in eBook format and will be available in paperback from 15th March.

Notes for Editors

About David Shannon

David Shannon grew up in Bristol, the youngest of 3 children. Yes, he was the spoilt one. After stints as a TEFL teacher in Italy and croupier in London, he had a first writing career as a journalist working for (among others) Cosmopolitan, the Sunday Times, the Radio Times, Good Housekeeping, Country Living and Best. He wrote a lot about showbiz, interviewing and profiling many celebrities. Even though any actors he met kept telling him what a difficult career theirs is, he then abandoned journalism for acting. Many years later he’s still doing it, using the name David France. How successful has he been at this? Judge for yourself. Have you ever heard of him? He’s done plenty of low-budget feature films (including Werewolves of the Third Reich) but makes most of his living by writing, running and acting in murder mystery events. Chronic shyness afflicted him for many years but he is now painfully opinionated about almost everything. And he loves pigs. Despite this, he remains happily married to a writer slightly more famous than him – the 2019 Booker Prize winner, Bernardine Evaristo. They live in London.

About HOWUL

Books are dangerous. People in Blanow think that books are dangerous: they fill your head with drivel, make poor firewood and cannot be eaten (even in an emergency).

This book is about Howul. He sees things differently: fires are dangerous; people are dangerous; books are just books. Howul secretly writes down what goes on around him in Blanow. How its people treat foreigners, treat his daughter, treat him. None of it is pretty. Worse still, everything here keeps trying to kill him: rats, snakes, diseases, roof slates, the weather, the sea. That he survives must mean something. He wants to find out what. By trying to do this, he gets himself thrown out of Blanow… and so his journey begins.

Like all gripping stories, HOWUL is about the bad things people do to each other and what to do if they happen to you. Some people use sticks to stay safe. Some use guns. Words are the weapons that Howul uses most. He makes them sharp. He makes them hurt. Of course books are dangerous.

Visit bit.ly/HOWUL

The Founder Effect – no. 21

21.

 

Fingers flailing wildly for effect, I say, And so, and so, and so Churchill tells them, “Now that is precisely the sort of thing up with which I will not put.”

Raat! Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Chimpy’s nostrils spray a clumsy spritz of Moscow mule. Five sequential spouts ejaculate from the geoduck shelter. Naomi booms loudly enough to vibraslide Chimpy’s chalice off the coffee table, which he dives for to no avail. A lightbulb pops and crumbles in another room.

But of the mess I couldn’t care less. Today I turned 21 and I am having the time of my life. For breakfast, Chimpy prepared me a Yoshoku omurice made with silkie chicken and Electra performed a flawless rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mister President.” We have indulged in Dionysian pleasures since.

Mittgrabbing my tankard, I step over Gambino and Lucchese, stumble on a pile of pointed words and phrases that haven’t yet fully evaporated, and make my way to the loo. There are four trash bags crammed taut with crumpled paper lined up against the wall. The dolphins cost me half a closet of mail.

Before the porcelain god, I relieve myself. Hence my mind returns to Antonia, my leitmotif. There are certain facts about her. She has an aura that stimulates all five senses. If intuition is a sixth sense, then all six senses; if emotion a seventh, seven. I am confident it’s probably there on all the undetectable wavelengths, too. She is desirable and charming and I am charmed by and desire her. Calm is the key of her register, which is so constant it gives me doubtspook. While I admit that Antonia’s stigmata have become an unhealthy obsession—we are watching The Passion of the Christ tonight and I have moved the flat screen so that even Beethoven can join us—I am sure she is guilty of something. I always pick up that whiff of fear hormone whenever the animals engage her. My faith is in the universe, and I suspect she might be a protected witness, if not a repeat offender, if not a notorious felon, in the court of natural law.

Last night in the dark as I stared at the ceiling waiting to turn 21, I contemplated all of the things Antonia might really be. The Frenchman’s minions had delivered my new pod of dolphins and crates of Greenland herring stuffed to the gills with roe; this excitement fresh on the mind, for some reason my thoughts hopscotched all the way to the topic of the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Plato wrote in the Critias that ‘Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman.’ What is going on here and now with Antonia feels like the opposite—it is I who is the mortal, she the deity, this menagerie our adopted children. Maybe she is a resurrection from a dead religion of a bygone world like Atlantis, for they, too, had their gods, no doubt. But perhaps she is something else. Perhaps she is the embodiment of a natural miracle: neither the incarnation nor the product of a knowing god but an issuance of matter (not spirit) that is perfect, or in some other obscure or oblique sense divine. That is to say, a holy thing. A wordless scripture. A solid æther.

 

Chimpy has lined up six yabbies on the coffee table, all six balancing perfectly still on their heads, his newest parlor trick. (Toast, out like a light, he signs.) I refill my tankard from the pony keg in the kitchen. Electra is lying on her back on the floor, playing dead for laughs, tongue dangling from her beak, one rigid talon twitching like a cartoon. Eve sniffs Electra with fearful concern.

She’s just kidding, I tell Eve.

Eve looks up into my eyes. Her tail comes to life.

Let’s take a walk, girl. I let her lick my hand.

 

The hallway outside my flat noisechurns with the sweet stink of petrol. Eve is by my side as we enter the unhinged doorway of no. 9.

The grindblast is coming from the heavy rotating saw that Antonia is guiding along a straight path in the floor. She is spraying the blade with a water hose. Scores of floorboards lean vertically up against a wall in tidy lines. Beside them is an equally measured stack of concrete slabs.

She stops the saw, pulls up another plank, adds it to the rest. She turns to me and Eve and smiles. She takes off her protective goggles.

Dozen it look hood?

It looks fantastic, I reply.

She gestures behind her.

Half the room’s floor is gone. About a meter down into the flat below I see a liquid surface tremble and ripple. The entire second floor of the building is nearly full with water, to contain the pod of dolphins. Vents such as this one will allow them to surface, breathe, and talk.

Do you think it’s full downstairs yet? I ask.

Antonia removes her gloves. Maybe buy tonight.

Eve dips her snout down into the floor, sniffs at the waves. Her ears stiffen.

¡Ya vienen!

I’m sorry, what?

A sharp, throaty mist erupts from the water, followed by another and another. Waves clap on the surface.

One dolphin raises its head completely in the air, bares teeth and tongue, and sings, Tktktktk ckckckckck ananananana ayuayuayu!

Others follow suit, with varying degrees of interest and intent. Tktktktktktk. Ckckckckckckckck! Kekekekekekekekeaaaaahhnaaapei.

I respond, I’m glad you find everything comfortable. Help yourself to some herring if you haven’t already. They’re spawning. Tkatkatkatkatka.

Antonia gasps. ¡Vaya, Raymundo! That so good!

I hadn’t realized I responded in clicks. It just came out of me.

Eve spinshakes from neck to tail to dry herself. She is grinning with open mouth.

I suddenly remember our other task, what I really intended for us to do.

No. 21, “H. Blindeth” (or so it says on his mail).

My tankard is empty again. I need a refill.

 

The Founder Effect – no. 20

20.

 

I light another cigarette, toss the match into the ashtray, and resume pacing around the room.

I ask, Is this what you meant when you said what you said to me that day in the pet shop?

“Don’t be so specific, man.”

Please. That time when Antonia and I were walking together.

Raat! Two peas in a pod.

Exactly. Is this what you meant? The superstitions, the followings? Beethoven said she is a goddess.

“…I knowww all there is to knowww about the crying gaaame…”

What do you mean?

Raat! Cut it off.

Cut what off?

“It’s not my fault.” “God made me this way.”

Electra, please. You’re mixed up. That’s not what I mean. I could plainly see under the black light that her hands bear the signs of stigmata.

Raat! “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

Well, that’s more in the right direction. But will you tell me: is that what you meant?

She’s no more a goddess than I am.

So that is not what you meant?

“Welllll, I do an’ I don’t.”

I ash my cigarette. I plead, Electra, I need to know.

Everything goes red.

Sheis th eMessi ah.

From behind a cloud of silt and ink, Beethoven unfurls a single tentacle, a limb as thick and twice as long as my own arm. Its suckers smush against the transparent boundary, warp and flatten, silent. They look just like the eyeless faces of burning, screaming souls.

The red ends.

 

I can hear my father now: Sinjoro devas marŝi, ne kuri. ‘A gentleman should walk, not run.’ But I wouldn’t expect him to understand my urgency.

I am out of breath when I top the stairs and enter the doors of the Kant-Gump Lane Branch of the Public Library. Behind me, amongst the tourists in the street surrounding the statue of our city’s founder, two women—one shouting, the other sobbing—are pointing and gesturing at me while being restrained by police officers in black uniforms.

Under the light of stained glass and chandeliers, amidst the smells of paper and stone, I get to the books I need: leatherbound, brittle pages. In 1224, two years before his death, St. Francis of Assisi manifested stigmata of the Christ, the first known instance of such a thing ever reported. Without cause, he bled from hands and feet as well as from his rib, where Jesus was speared on the cross. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend (1266) records an anecdote about a portrait of St. Francis that temporarily displayed stigmata right before the eyes of the painting’s matron and a fellow witness, the marks becoming visible only when the two contemplated the miracle and vanishing from view just as swiftly. Nothing I read convinces me that the resultant stigmata tradition is anything more than a few hundred hoaxes exploiting superstition, but I cannot deny what I saw on Antonia’s hands under the black light in the bug suite.

A true stigmatic manifests all five wounds: both hands, both feet, and the flank of the torso. Outside the library, I stop to light a cigarette. A man with a shaven head wearing an orange toga and sandals kneels a few feet from me, his lips moving in prayer.

 

Everything turns red.

Imea nsh eis theM essiah.

I light another cigarette. I ask, Yes but what does that actually mean? Why does she have Christian stigmata on her? Of all things?

S he is the thirdr evela tion.

Fine, but why not the Sixth Sun or Shiva or Shangó?

Shebea rs thewounds ofcruxi ficti on. Ripp edf rom thec ross, handsa ndf eetsplit, and shehas heal ed andi srebo rn.

I think, I have no god. Or, at best, if I do, it’s the invisible hand. But not a thing worthy of worship. By no means.

An tonia is theo pposite ofyou.

The red ends.

 

In a brass Art Nouveau birdcage at the top of an eye-high pedestal, my new pride and joy snares and swallows yet another weevil.

She is magnificent, I say.

Antonia hugs my arm, leans her temple on my shoulder. On cheese prom México! Electra wheel loaf her.

I’m sure she will.

Antonia sighs, squeezes me tighter. A welcome gesture of sincere affection.

And yet my skin crawls. Ripped from the cross as Beethoven said. I think, For what crime was she punished? What heresy?

Antonia is the opposite of you. If so, I wonder: What is it she lacks?

I hear boots; the Frenchman appears. Stetson hat, bolo tie, velvet brocade on a gunfighter blazer.

Howdy patron, he says. Il dit que le camion livrera les dauphins demain soir.

I ask, Will the shipment include the herring?

He claps me on the back. Oui, bien sûr. Ils auront besoin d’accéder à l’ascenseur de service.

I’ll be sure to meet them when they arrive.

D’accord.

We shake hands.

Avoiding him, Antonia walks down an aisle, each animal in a cage or tank clamoring as she passes.

 

I unlock the door to my flat to find Rascal eating the remains of a pillow cushion. Goose down floats in the air like snowflakes, drifts of it piled against the walls. The cedar ribs of the sofa’s carcass horrorsplay from under torn fabric. What’s worse, Eve is balled in a corner where she never sits. She is licking in her groin what is an obvious wound. Neither Eve nor Rascal pay me any mind when I enter with the birdcage.

Raat! Who’s the fox?

She is your new companion, Electra. A Socorro mockingbird. From the Revillagigedo Islands.

Raat! Can we name her Elvis?

Of course we can.

The good news is the Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaeles in no. 20 moved out. They leave a letter they drop through the mail slot. I don’t have to open it and see that it is in fact from them to know so. Chimpy tosses it in with the rest in the now second mail closet (which is already near knee high).

Now all I need is no. 21.

 

“All of the conspiracy theories are true!” – Review of Million Eyes: Extra Time on SFCrowsnest

Cover: PR Pope

On the SFCrowsnest website, Eamonn Murphy has written a review of Million Eyes: Extra Time by C.R. Berry, the prequel to the Million Eyes trilogy which launches in January 2020.

Featuring a dozen time-twisting short stories set in the Million Eyes universe, which Eamonn describes as “very like our own universe but with time travel and conspiracy theories added for fun”. And then he adds “All of the conspiracy theories are true! It was the time travellers what did it.

Some of the stories have been previously published elsewhere. Having read, and praised, one of the stories when it first appeared, encouraged Eamonn to review this book. He avoids giving away any of the plots but says “if you can think of a conspiracy theory, chances are that C.R. Berry has it here”, adding that he “covers all the bases of urban legend”. He compliments Berry’s “very readable style” and the clever plots, and says it is an enjoyable read. He concludes by noting that the book is available for free download from the Elsewhen Press website, adding “Obviously, that’s a cunning ploy to get you to buy ‘Million Eyes’ the novel when it comes out but I think the ploy might work.”

You can read Eamonn’s full review on SFCrowsnest here.

 

“I adore how this book was written” – Review of Million Eyes : Extra Time on Storgy

Cover: PR Pope

On the Storgy Magazine website, Sandra Hould has posted a review of Million Eyes: Extra Time by C.R. Berry, which is available for free download here, as a pre-cursor to the Million Eyes trilogy (the first book of which will be published by Elsewhen Press in January).

Opening with “Wow, what a ride!”, Sandra clearly enjoyed the book – “It was for me like a drug” she writes – and was very taken with the whole alternative world where many of the best known urban legends and conspiracy theories are all linked to time travellers changing time to suit their own puporse. Of course we won’t know what that purpose is until Million Eyes is published – “I know I will certainly want to dive more into that world” says Sandra – but in the meantime these free short stories certainly set the scene. Describing it as “all very interesting and compelling at the same time” Sandra says she wasn’t able to put the book down and when she finally did she remembered “the conspiracies I had heard over the years and how they were so well knitted into the narrative of this book”. She said that while reading it “we forget that it is fantasy and it becomes so real”.

Her final verdict: “A true gem to read for all lovers of conspiracies that I highly recommend to all.”

You can read Sandra’s full review on the Storgy website here.

 

The Founder Effect – no. 19

19.

 

There has been, shall we say, a revelation, one that has occurred to me with the issuance of this chapter, since by its very nature, its coming into being is simultaneous with my self-awareness. And upon my self-awareness, the narrative is affected. As a result, the climactic moment of the aforementioned revelation is become the present, and all other action leading up to this moment, the past. That is, until the moment and the narrative converge into one and the same once again.

Prelude to the present: Days (weeks? a moon?) had passed since the last time I’d encountered Beethoven. Antonia and I have fully installed all of the MTEs, which results in a single transparent plastic tubular maze running throughout my home, from room to hallway to room to walkway, snaking around the entire flat. Dozens of meters of interconnected MTEs have come to surround me in my apartment, maybe hundreds of meters, maybe even thousands the vaguer I keep it. Some portions are attached to walls, others the ceiling, a couple of bends rest on the floor. At a meter in width, the MTE setup allows Beethoven to move freely, even expressively. A morning some time ago I dried the final coat of epoxy on the interior of the guest room, loaded it with sand and brackish tabs, set out pails of new breeds (Rex sole, Dolly Varden trout, grunt sculpins), and unveiled the coral baskets. Then I sealed the doorway, filled the room with water, and linked it to the MTE corridor. This gave Beethoven the space it demanded. Beethoven named it Todeshöhle, which Electra heard as ‘toad-in-the-hole’ but really means The Death Lair. Chimpy estimated that Beethoven’s body by now must be longer than his.

In the lead-up to the chillfate moment happening right now involving me and Antonia upstairs having some fun with the new moths (vestals, crimson-speckled flunkeys, and rosy underwings), I had become utterly consumed by thoughts and feelings for her. I would not say that Antonia has moved in, but she spends as much time here as she likes and I want her here all the time. My houndstooth-clad schoolboyish neighbor in no. 9 has moved out, finally, and by now lives with either his boyfriend uptown or his great-uncle’s widow Griselda down in windmill country.

The revelatory moment that we’re considering at present only lasts a few seconds.

Let’s say the whole moment lasts seven seconds.

The first second. In the first second, I feel a rush of curiosity and joy like I did yesterday when I powwowed my menagerie to ceremoniously welcome in the new cultures of tardigrades. (Also referred to as moss piglets or water bears in common parlance.) I have twenty-six of them of various classes and orders, names pending. And they are astonishing. These tardigrades can withstand 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal in the known world. They can survive 6,000 times the pressure of our planet’s atmosphere, at either the top of a mountain or the bottom of an ocean trench, as well as endure prolonged exposure to a vacuum, or to unfiltered ultraviolet light. They can suspend their metabolism for decades if needed, can live within a temperature range spanning hundreds of degrees. They are microscopic and indestructible. The Frenchman now wears Boss and drives a Jaguar.

In the second second, I tell Antonia, Let me see your hands. She wasn’t here when the emu egg had hatched, and I wished she had been. Naomi has gotten to roam loose throughout the building and she’s become big and beautiful. The last tenant holdouts are nos. 20 and 21 on the seventh floor.

In the third second, I wave a black light wand before my hand, wiggle all six fingers, check front and back. I hadn’t realized how much invisible bee pollen was stuck to my hands when we had begun the new moth setups. The drapes are drawn, there is only black light present. My hand looks splattered with neon flecks and streaks as if I were guilty of a heinous crime.

Mother had called again, and we had had a good talk.

She’d said, O nilo lati tọrọ gafara fun u.

I will, I’d told her.

O nilo lati ṣèlérí.

I promise.

O nilo lati sọ gbogbo awọn ọrọ.

I sighed like a tired boy and said, I promise I will apologize to Chimpy and the others for how rudely I spoke to them.

In the fourth, fifth, and sixth seconds of this most revelatory moment, I feel the weight of new things. A lot feels new. Antonia acts shy, mutters, Butt-eye-dough-one-two, and hides away her hands. Her vulnerability nowadays affects me deeply and always, it seems. She had told me that her mother has been deceased for years and that she never knew who her father was. That no one believed her young mother was expecting given how virtuous and unassuming she was. There never appeared to be a father. An immaculate conception was the general opinion. And it would not be long after her birth for her to experience the sort of odd celebrity I had experienced my entire childhood, my entire life. By now we have wept together at least three times. I say, But you must, and pursue her in the fluttering, breathing darkness. I reach for her elbow, and when I get closer, even though she turns away, I take a hold of her wrist.

In the seventh second, I put the black light down to her hands. Under the black light, for just an instant, I can see, clear as day, that on each hand, Antonia has a prominent scar: a straight line running down from between two knuckles to a hole in the middle of her palm.

A pair of stigmata.

At this very moment, everything goes red, and from my third-floor flat to where we are now on the eighth, Beethoven sends a message that buzzes in my head: I tol dyou so.

 

The Founder Effect – no. 18

18.

 

Chimpy clicks on the aquarium light.

The flat has been growing. Spreading, developing as of late. Opening up. Areas have been coming into focus the more they’re needed. Before a need there is nothing but vagueness around what space of my home has been put to use. Like the Bonsai and the window alcove before: how that came into being (although I’m unsure of what need was fulfilled). Closets, rooms, mirrors all come into being only at their mention.

We settle into the Eames chairs. Chimpy places down ashtrays.

I tell him, So, you’re a native New Yorker.

He flicks his cigarette and nods.

I ask, Is there a good story behind that?

He signs, It’s got the birds ‘n’ the bees in it so maybe, but you’re eighteen now, Ray, so, no more earmuffs on the grownup shit for you.

Thanks.

Baby’s all grows up.

Get on with it.

Raat! ‘You can’t handle the truth!!’

Electra, please.

The room flashes red.

I rub my eyebrows and ask, Why must you all go on like this?

Beethoven buzzes in my head, Jailbait isdead.

The red ends.

Chimpy signs, Everyone pipe down.

Thank you, I say. I point my finger and add, I swear I was going to lose my shit.

Chimpy holds up both hands and frowns.

I’m sorry but you know I’m, I mean, I—

I know, Chimpy signs.

No you don’t, I say. I am getting sick of this. I drew every single one of you damn things into existence and this is the fucking respect I get?

Chimpy drops his hands, takes the nakedest posture possible. You do not need to be talking to us like that.

Like what?

Like that. You know what I’m talking about. I know you hear yourself if you’d take a minute and listen to yourself and the words you’re saying. That is not right. You know it.

What do I know?

Take that shit back.

Take what shit back.

That brought you into existence shit back.

Raat! Send him back to oblivion.

Don’t be acting like you’re the boss here, Chimpy signs. Don’t make me bring up the invisible hand here. You don’t even know why you love her. So settle down.

That’s not—, I start, then tell him, I don’t know what to say.

Chimpy pulls on his cigarette, waves away a wisp of smoke that touched his eye. You asked me a question.

Oh yes, right.

I was born in captivity.

He sets down his cigarette, to free his hands to speak. Have you read anything about circus chimpanzees?

You mean like the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey?

Fuck, man. I mean about the workers. The animals. Not the tweeds. He slaps his eyes, then signs, Sure. Barnum.

Yes I have, I say. I have in the past. I have in my past. I have a past.

Fucking terrific, Ray. That makes two of us. Which is what I’m going to tell you now.

Please do.

Chimpy frogstares at me the entire time he takes to reach and pick up his cigarette, drag it, set it back down, and blow the smoke up into the swirl of the ceiling fan.

My parents were from Africa. They came from the Congo. When they were babies they both lost their families because oil companies cleared away their forests. So they were taken in by sanctuaries run by the state and eventually sold to traders who sold them to New York to work in the circus. They were both still infants, still drinking out of bottles. They were taken to Coney Island in Brooklyn, put up in a carnival that travelled back and forth between Coney Island and Atlantic City. That’s how they met. They grew up together. Even though my mother was Eastern chimpanzee, so she was in the chimp act, and my father was bonobo, so he was in another act. She did the tea party, he did the knife throwing.

You don’t say. You are actually half-chimpanzee, half-bonobo.

That’s right. I’m mixed. I’m biracial.

I had no idea.

When I was born they knew I was his because they already knew they had a thing for each other going on. Plus my face was dark so they figured I was his.

What do you mean your face was dark? Your face isn’t dark now.

I know. That’s because my mother used to bleach me.

Bleach you?

Yes. She used to bleach my face. She would get hair bleach bottles with the sponge applicator and she would sit me in front of her with her legs wrapped around me so I couldn’t get away and have me face her and she would wipe the black off.

Why in the world would she do that?

So I could look more like her and less like my father. She was light. Their plan all along was to get me to look more chimp and then maybe if I was healthy enough they would sell me to the zoo. To get me out of the circus. To get me out of the game and into a healthier environment.

To give you away?

Yes to give me away. Coney Island was no joke. So, they did that and it worked. When I was old enough I started performing in a magic act. Then my father told me I shouldn’t be so good at it in order that the show wouldn’t want to keep up with me and then sell me.

And it worked.

Yup. They sold me to the Bronx Zoo. I was there for like ten years, with the chimp set. Then one day there was a huge field trip full of kids with the Make A Wish Foundation, so, bored, I got out in front of them, started performing, doing flips, whatnot. News reporters came back next day, I did it again, and the rest is history.

What happened?

A network bought me. The Legendary Mr. Chimpy McPickles Variety Show.

 

Canadian author Tanya Reimer creates a future where AI is both essential and a threat

Two groups of people dependent on AI for their survival, one group knowingly and the other unknowingly, struggle to stay alive while that very AI is seeking artificial life for itself.

DARTFORD, KENT – 05 April 2019 – Elsewhen Press, an independent UK publisher specialising in Speculative Fiction, is delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of Programmed to Breathe by Canadian speculative fiction author Tanya Reimer. Set over 1000 years in the future, two very different groups of apocalypse survivors have been living apart and unknown to each other until they are forced to meet.

Dragon design: Alison Buck

In this post-apocalyptic world, one group of survivors have been managing to eke out a living in a village that they believe is maintained for them by a supernatural being they call Dragon. The villagers eschew technology of any kind, believing it to have been the cause of the conflict that devastated the world centuries before. Unknown to them, the heat and water that keeps the village alive are actually the by-products of an underground city, where a different group of survivors are being sustained by an artificial intelligence program known as Nogard. In the city, genetic engineering and cybernetics are promoting the rapid evolution of residents who have never seen daylight. Nogard has been evolving too and is intent on making the jump from artificial intelligence to artificial life. But a series of devastating earthquakes damages the city and kills many of its inhabitants, forcing a group of youngsters to try to escape to the surface, in the hope that it is habitable. Meanwhile, above ground, the villagers believe the earthquakes to be an indication that they have upset Dragon, and two of them set off through tunnels at the back of a cavern sacred to Dragon to try to placate it. Tanya’s story tells us of these two very different cultures that are on an inevitable collision course, how they navigate the dangers that beset them on their respective journeys, and what happens when they finally meet. Meanwhile the true nature of Dragon is revealed, as is the extent of Nogard’s ambition to become mortal.

Peter Buck, Editorial Director at Elsewhen Press, says, “It is interesting to compare Tanya’s vision of a future in the next millennium with that of H.G. Wells’ far distant future in his classic story, The Time Machine. But although both the village and the underground city are inhabited by separate groups of humans, they have not evolved according to class divisions as Wells foresaw from his Victorian perspective. Rather the diversity is based on the availability and attitude towards science and technology, perhaps a much more telling reflection of our own times.”

Programmed to Breathe will be available to buy on all popular eBook platforms from 26th April 2019 and is already available to pre-order. The paperback edition will be available on 1st July 2019.

Notes for Editors

About Tanya Reimer

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Tanya enjoys using the tranquil prairies as a setting to her not-so-peaceful speculative fiction. She is married with two children which means that among her accomplishments are the necessary magical abilities to find a lost tooth in a park of sand and whisper away monsters from under the bed.

As director of a non-profit Francophone community center, Tanya offers programming and services in French for all ages to ensure the lasting imprint and growth of the Francophone community in which she was raised. What she enjoys the most about her job is teaching social media safety for teens and offering one-on-one technology classes for seniors.

Tanya was fifteen when she wrote her first column. She has a diploma in Journalism/Short Story Writing. Today, she actively submits to various newspapers, writes and publishes the local Francophone newsletter for her community, and maintains a blog at Life’s Like That.

Programmed to Breathe is her fifth title published by Elsewhen Press.

Visit bit.ly/ProgrammedToBreathe

About the book

Title: Programmed to Breathe

Fiction / Science Fiction / Cyberpunk; Fiction / Science Fiction / Genetic Engineering; Fiction / Dystopian

Print edition:

ISBN 978-1-911409-43-4, 288pp, Demy; RRP £9.99 / €11.99 / US$17.99 / CA$23.99 (1 Jul 2019)

Electronic edition:

ISBN 978-1-911409-53-3, EPUB / Kindle; RRP £2.99 / €3.49 / US$3.99 / CA$4.99 (26 Apr 2019)

About the cover

The cover artwork, inspired by Tanya’s description of an image of Dragon in the sacred cavern, was produced by the artist Alison Buck.

The Founder Effect – no. 17

17.

 

Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with the line, ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Well, Leo, I have proven the exception to the rule.

Floors 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 are now completely vacated of neighbors (Monarchs and milkweed going up in no. 24 tonight). And no one in this city would move into any unit here if you paid them. The whole first floor—nos. 1, 2, and 3—are knee-high in soil and lichens. I picked up beetle snails and a pair of star nosed moles to put in there when I dropped off Antonia’s lunch this morning. They seem to love it.

She offered to bring back stacks of plastic modular tank extenders (for cost and space, they’re the most efficient solution, she says). In exchange for three lobsters, Beethoven has agreed to not complain until I can install the MTEs by sometime tonight.

As well as last night went with Antonia, we’re celebrating with a little sherry. Now that I’m 17, Chimpy today is calling me Jailbait.

Jailbait, pass me the lighter.

Jailbait, you want ice?

Haven’t you already seen this Antiques Roadshow episode, Jailbait?

He’s in a much better mood than he was last night. Having the chance to cook really does soothe him, and his amuse-bouche of ceviche de pulpo is undoubtedly fine by any standard. After the stunt Beethoven pulled—Antonia was a terrific sport about it, though—and the second she left, Chimpy was ready to kill it on the spot. At one point I thought I had him talked down, but when I turned, Chimpy made a sneaky dash for the aquatank and I had no choice but to physically restrain him.

The compromise was to spare Beethoven’s life. But it did cost the price of sixteen suckers worth of a single tentacle. Just one. And not even most of it. Chimpy made a very persuasive argument that Beethoven would never learn otherwise and in the end I had little choice but to agree. After all, Chimpy is an animal, and Beethoven is an animal, but I am not. So I deferred to his judgment.

I love the ghee finish on that tangerine brine, I say.

Chimpy leers at Beethoven as he signs, Can you tell how the ginger and garlic are just rubbed on? I just rubbed them on the tentacle? Without mashing them up into the marinade?

Mmmm, I say. So that’s it. It’s really tender. And subtle.

There’s nothing in the marinade but the juice.

Amazing, I say and stab the last piece. No salt?

Just in the ghee.

It’s exquisite.

Chimpy is surely being cruel, but I cannot deny the results. Beethoven has been limited to mealtime conversations, and by permission only. And again, the lobsters bought me a day of peace and quiet about the space, which I’m already taking care of.

Things are happening outside the flat in the hallway.

Everything goes red. Just as suddenly, the red ends.

In Mrs. Boerenpummel’s apartment, it sounds like a firework explodes.

Raat! Cleanup on aisle two.

Chimpy displays agitation.

What the hell was that?!

Raat! Five-O.

A small spout of water squirts up into the air from the geoduck shelter.

There’s a hatehiss coming from the other side of the apartment wall. A slam, a snap of breaking wood, followed by a number of stomping boots. I rush to the front door.

I look through the fisheye lens of the peephole. I hear what is left of Mrs. Boerenpummel’s door collapse, then speaking in the hallway, then the jingle of chains. Eight Gurkhas, in two-by-two formation, march by. Then Mrs. Boerenpummel shuffles past, shackled neck to feet. Then a Borinqueneer wearing the bars and pineapple of a Master Gunnery Sergeant. Last, ten Legionnaires with bayonets pointing up on their backs. They all tramp away.

I turn my head around. Sorry, Chimpy.

He signs, It’s cool, really. It ain’t a thing.

The Frenchman told me there might be an orangutan in the works before long. A female.

That’s what I’m talking about, Jailbait. I love Malaysian chicks.

Well I can’t promise you anything because, remember, if she does not reciprocate your affections then the point is moot, right, Mr. McPickles?

Something brushes against the door. I look through the peephole again and see the three armed men in berets I had seen on the street before. One of them bows.

A sealed envelope falls through the mail slot, landing on my foot.

I pick it up, look at both sides. I hand it to Chimpy. He skips over to the hallway closet, cracks it open, hurriedly stuffs the envelope inside (without letting the rest of the mail avalanche out onto the floor), and pushes, presses, works the door back shut.

 

Chimpy sprinkles some flakes into the fish tank.

I say, The Frenchman assured me that these three are also females. I wonder if Haffenreffer will go on to be male.

What do you mean?

She’s the mature one. When a group of clownfish are all females, the mature one usually will turn into a male.

Are you serious?

Indeed I am. It’s called protogyny. A lot of fish species do it.

Chimpy lights a cigarette and passes it to me, then lights his own. And then they mate?

That’s the point, yes.

No kidding.

Hundreds of fish species are protogynous. Including wrasses.

Chimpy blows a smoke ring through another smoke ring. The wrasses are asses.

Ah, yes, well, ha, that’s good.

You think what I did to Beethoven was too harsh.

No, I don’t know.

In a couple weeks it’ll be all grown back.

Yes, I know.

And it tasted great.

It was so, so good.

Thank you. Trust me when it comes to animals. I know how to deal with them.

Chimpy?

What is it?

I ask, Were you born in the wild?

He ashes his smoke. No I was not. Born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx.

 

The Founder Effect – no. 16

16.

 

The flat is immaculate. My master suite is crisp and bright in cotton, marble, and mahogany. Birds of Paradise in the vases, a hint of lemongrass in the air. Spiritmasks on the walls, furniture engineered and minimal. Perfection in tribal modernism.

The first room is Chimpy’s and Electra’s. Their bunkbeds are made, everything sorted just right. The legendary Mr. McPickles pulls a Zippo from a pocket on his crushed velvet smoking jacket to light a stick of patchouli.

Rascal’s room is trashed. I cannot say with confidence that the Billy goat is one of my favorite animals. He’s been starting to show signs of playing too rough with Eve, first at mealtimes, but now more recently it’s been whenever. And he’s a chewer. And a climber. I tether him and lock his door.

Electra is perched on the grandfather clock performing New Age spa sounds. She’s agreed to set the mood. My Wing Woman.

I’m hoping the emu egg will hatch tonight while Antonia is here.

It’s as if a red lens has fallen right over my pupils. Suddenly everything is tinted with a red light. Everything everywhere.

Iwan tmo respace, I hear in my mind.

Who wants more space? Who said that?

Everything is still red.

Iam nota fraid tokil lyou.

Not afraid to kill me? Did you hear that?

Raat! Hear what?

Chimpy signs, Hear what?

How could you not hear that?

The voice buzzes in my head, Ifyo udonot giveme mores pace, I willeat allof yo urani mals.

The red stops.

I look around. Everything is back to its natural color.

Beethoven suspends itself front-and-center in the aquatank. Our eyes meet.

You said that, didn’t you? I ask.

Beethoven stares me down, its tentacles gathering.

You’ll eat all of my animals if I don’t give you more space?

Everything goes red.

Doyouk now whothe wo man is?

Which woman?

Yo urgues tton ight.

Antonia?

Raat! She’ll be here! Don’t worry! He’s lost his marbles.

Eve sits alert at my feet, ears stiff, paying me mind. Ready to hunt. At my word.

The wo man isag oddess.

The red ends.

Electra’s wings beat violently. Raat! Who the hell are you?

I say, Electra, is it speaking to you now?

She croons, “The Lady in Redddddd…”

Electra, what is it saying?

Raat! Thanks but no thanks, partner.

She launches herself from the top of the grandfather clock, dips into the tight corner, flies right into her room.

Chimpy grunts, drums his chest, then straightens up. He has a far-away look in his eyes.

I ask, Have you heard it yet?

He stands perfectly still.

Is it speaking to you now? Does everything look red?

Chimpy waddles over to the aquatank, knocks on it three times, backs up and signs, If you ruin tonight for Raymundo and Antonia, that cleaver right over there hanging on the wall is the knife I’m going to use to chop you into bits and feed you to the platypuses. Gambino and Luchese. We call them The Syndicate. They will eat you whole. Even when you rot.

What did it say? I demand.

Chimpy freezes again.

What is it saying?

He signs, So, we have an understanding.

Who? What understanding?

I can hear Electra in her room mimicking the theme music from The Twilight Zone.

If you break that promise and don’t show respect, I swear on my life I will fry you. Don’t kid yourself. I will fry you alive to a crisp. We’ll all eat you. The goat, too. Ray will put out all the special sauces. Believe that.

What is it saying? I ask again.

It says it won’t interfere but it does need more space. It’s not mature. It’ll get way bigger soon.

Fine. It said Antonia was a goddess. What did it mean by that?

Chimpy signs, It means that she’s a goddess.

 

Buenas noches, Raymundo.

Welcome, come in. You are a vision.

O, Raymundo. Chew our saucewheat.

Please. Let me take your cape.

 

¿Cangrejos?

Basically. They’re called yabbies.

¿Y les gustan?

Oh, it’s their favorite thing to eat.

 

I’m sorry. It’s only that I just got it today and it’s super temperamental. I didn’t mean to sound critical of you.

She smirks kindly and shakes her head. Jude hidden.

 

¿Podemos ir a ver a las abejas?

Upstairs?

Sí, arriba upstairs.

I did get two beekeeper suits.

She gasps and applauds. ¡Que divertido fun!

I smile. I ask, How do you do that?

 

Chimpy returns with two pisco sours in stemmed glasses on a sterling silver tray. Antonia and I trade our empties for the refills.

She looks at Chimpy, taps her mouth, then beckons him. Thank you, darling.

 

Antonia has flipped off her shoes. She’s spread out comfortably on the sofa, playing with the red ribbon.

I’m in the loveseat. I begin to read from the book she gave me, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery: “Here is an animal with venom like a snake, a beak like a parrot, and ink like an old-fashioned pen. It can weigh as much as a man and stretch as long as a car, yet it can pour its baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of an orange.”

Antonia grabs her mouth and gently squeals.

“It can change color and shape. It can taste with its skin.”

She sticks fingers in her ears, kicking the air, wincing as she giggles. ¡Dios Mio!

I continue, “Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart. This bore out what scant experience I had already had; like many who visit octopuses in public aquariums, I’ve often had the feeling that the octopus I was watching was watching me back, with an interest as keen as my own.”

Playfully protecting herself, as if I were flinging atrocities, Antonia holds up crossed arms. She covers her eyes with the backs of her hands, the folds in her palms shaped into curved lines, like two perfect question marks.

Everything turns red.