Dansplaining New Releases
These are my latest novels penned over the past few years. All are available for Amazon.com and Amazon.com.au both in Australia and the United States. I have included the links that will take you right to the website for each.
Dansplaining SOLASTALGIA Released 1 October 2021
SOLASTALGIA is the sequel to EIGHT and begins two years after the international astronaut team on Mars discovered alien artifacts. Trillionaire Jacob Jacobi, who financed the initial Mars mission, now establishes the Ancestor Restoration Project – the ARP – to awaken the digitally preserved brains of deceased aliens. Avoiding the political rivalries of China, America and the European Union, Jacobi chooses Australia as the home of the ARP.
Solastalgia, noun (so-lês-tæl-ji-ê)
Definition: A form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home, but the environment is changed.
Etymology: Coined by Australian philosopher and researcher Glenn Albrecht of the roots Latin sōlācium (comfort) and Ancient Greek algia (pain).
Returned Martian astronauts, Lochlan “Lochie” Greenbank, Parisa Henning and Arya Abass, join Australian ecopsychologist Kylie Childs and her Chinese colleague, Fiona Wu, as part of the research team at the Jacobi Research Hub in Fremantle. Now confirmed as an ancestor to Homo sapien, the alien species is officially named Homo parentibus reflecting that relationship. The aim of the project – to revive the preserved alien personas, get to know our ancestors on a personal level and potentially learn why our ancestors became extinct.
The ARP story already attracts worldwide interest and promises untold insights into alien science and technology. The project’s goal of knowing our extraterrestrial ancestors on a personal level promises human interest stories unlike anything covered by the media before. As journalists rush to Western Australia from all over the world, GNN again assigns reporters Sunlyn Singh and Owen Yates to cover yet another ‘biggest story ever.’
But all the global attention isn’t supportive. Many fundamentalist groups see any thought of an alien life form as threatening to Earthly religions. A worldwide protest movement spreads in opposition to the alien artifacts, the returned astronauts and the entire Ancestor Restoration Project. Chants of “Jesus didn’t die for any aliens” ring out from Washington to London to Perth. Increasing masses of peaceful demonstrators take a violent turn when one of the twelve returned astronauts, Steve Borkowski, is assassinated in a Washington, DC, restaurant. DC Police detectives Harry Grimms and Maggie Patton are again on the scene chasing down the assassins.
SOLASTALGIA explores a series of ‘what ifs’ humans have faced since the beginning of history. What if we could speak with ancient ancestors? What if we could develop a personal relationship with humans who had died a million years ago? What if these returned relatives had a message for us to save humanity? What if there is something more to the story of the universe than just Homo sapien? SOLASTALGIA opens an unexpected door into our past. Maybe we can go home again.
Quantum computer liquid helium jacket
Dansplaining RAINBOW Published September 2020
Surprise, surprise... I finished my third edit of a new novel in mid-November 2019, and a funny thing happened - it's name evolved from the working title of CIVITAS to the final title of RAINBOW. Quite a change, I know, but once you read the story, the name change will seem obvious to you. I am now in the process of collecting input from my core group of helpers without whom I could never get to the final manuscript. Well, it's nearly March as I type and things are progressing and we should should be all done by mid-2020. With any luck, RAINBOW will be published soon after. Let me give you a look into what it’s about and what made me want to write it.
I’m a close follower of historical and political happenings, and I assume that’s all a throwback to my early days when I was aiming to be a lawyer. My first undergraduate degree was in political science and history with the thought being that I would go to law school. Well, that never did happen, though I was never sorry that I chose a career in education instead. That said, we are witnessing a funny thing over the past several decades. The Western-style liberal democracy goes back two, three, four hundred years to European Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the founding of the United States. This classical liberalism is based on individual rights and is characterised by free elections, the separation of powers and the preservation of human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.
I'm a bit overly simplistic here, but in a sense, if you look at what statisticians call the “standard bell curve” shown here, Western democratic governments have tended rule citizens that might have fit that sort of curve. By that, I mean that the peak of the curve represents the millions and millions of citizens whose interests and desires are found somewhere there amongst the great so-called silent majority. That has more or less been a reflection of government across Europe, North America and Australia certainly through most of the 1800s and well into the twentieth century.
A funny thing has happened over the past few decades, though, and the trend seems to be enhanced by the explosion of social media we now have. That standard bell curve seems to have abruptly shifted to a “U curve” as seen in the second graph here. What this represents are two polarised sides that seem pretty much set at the extremes in nearly all social and political arguments nowadays. Consider the nearly even split within the United Kingdom over Brexit. For a once united people, the Brexit issue easily fits the U curve. The same is true in Greece, France, Hungary and Poland. The United States has increasingly polarised to a point at which many fear it is ready to split in two.
This problem of polarisation on a broad scale level got me to thinking of how human development could be used in a tale. Enter Hayden McNally, an IT guru born in Western Australia, but who spent the better part of his career lecturing at the University of California at Berkley and then founding his own tech company that propelled him to the richest man on Earth. Two sad events changed McNally’s life in peculiar ways: first of all, his only daughter succumbs to social media bullying and suicides, and second of all, his wife’s university lecture hall is terrorised by a gunman who kills a dozen students and her in a rain of bullets. McNally is crushed, but instead of using his billions to revenge their deaths, he chooses to build a model community to overcome the polarisation of cultures.
That is the basic premise of RAINBOW. McNally conjures up what he thinks is a solution to the emotional cry of populism and seeks to level the governmental playing field by turning a portion of the power over to the most advanced artificial intelligence imaginable. He purchases hundreds of square kilometres of land in the Western Australian outback and founds a new town he names Civitas after the Roman concept of the social body of citizens. The idea is to build everything new from the ground up, make Civitas the envy of Australia and the world, and moderate the government structure by having a Triumvirate of three supercomputers (AI Red, AI Blue and AI Yellow) overseen by a moderator supercomputer (AI White Light) act as a primary source of advice. McNally’s vision is for the system to
summarise the collective findings of the Triumvirate into the members of the city council before they make decisions on all matters. In a sense, McNally plans to use the system of supercomputers to allow the U curve of polarised citizenship to somehow return to a more sustainable Bell curve-shaped population.
The novel is not at all political per se, and I have made sure that I haven’t headed down that rabbit hole. I have stuck to looking at the possibility of using a less emotional arbitrator in a system of government and of all that might entail. Since I love writing thrillers that can keep you guessing, I’m sure your imagination can conjure up directions I might take. I still aim to surprise you.
Why the name RAINBOW? I could tell you, but... well, you know where I was going with this statement! Now, I need to get back to finishing the final touches of RAINBOW.
Australian National University's new Gadi supercomputer in Canberra, Australia.
Dansplaining EIGHT (Published January 2020)
In my writing chronology, I wrote EIGHT before FEVER during the second half of 2018, but due to the marvellous twists and turns of multiple publishers, EIGHT waiting a full year until published in late January 2020. I am fairly certain that it will be released within the next few months. Hallelujah!
Oh boy… where do I start with EIGHT? For starters, EIGHT takes place in the mid-2040s and includes a cross-section of characters from America, Australia, China and Europe. Probably a third of the novel takes place in Perth and Sydney, Australia, a third in Shanghai, China, and a third in Washington, DC.
A part of EIGHT is a throwback to the first novel I ever wrote a few decades ago called Journey to Mars. The novel never made it to a publisher, but it did pique my interests in the Red Planet. It’s funny because, in those days, I really thought we’d have Mars colonies with thousands of people living there by now, but obviously, that didn’t happen. For that matter, I doubt that will ever happen, though I am convinced that a small group of people will wind up there eventually and probably sooner than we think. But I doubt it’ll be a government thing, rather a rich person or two wanting to have the ‘Mars Accomplishment’ as bragging rights. In EIGHT, I include a small group of a few dozen folks who were funded by just that sort of super-rich bloke to travel to Mars and set up a research base there similar to that of scientists in an Antarctic base today.
So, why did I write this story? Remember, I’m Dansplaining here, so check The Novels page for a synopsis. I think the two primary issues that inspired me to write EIGHT are the environmental challenges we face as a species and the impact of technology and social media on our socialisation processes. Both of these matters play into the tale of EIGHT.
I tried approaching the ecological aspect of the novel from the perspective of what a planet other than Earth is like. The obvious contrasts are both Mars and Venus since planetologists tell us all three may have had quite similar beginnings in planetary development. Fast forward several billion years. Mars is oxygen and water deficient with freezing temperatures most likely inhospitable to life. Venus is a planetary hell that underwent a disastrous runaway greenhouse effect so severe that its oceans boiled. The resulting Venusian environment today has extreme atmospheric pressures and temperatures to the point it is lethal to any life forms we can imagine. I don’t want to go much beyond this point for fear of giving away the plot, but I would think it should keep you guessing right up until the end of the book as long as you don’t look ahead and cheat!
I imagine that I am not the only one worried about the impact of technology, especially on kids. After a lifetime as a teacher and lecturer, watching developments from PCs and the Internet to smartphones and social media has had a big impact on my thinking here. Could kids become so distracted that they actually begin to lose touch with others because of, quite paradoxically, an overload of social media? I tried to extrapolate the current use of smartphones to the point where no one will want to actually ‘carry’ their connection to the internet. That said, I created the ‘SAM’ chip, that is, a Subdermal Angel Microchip implanted under the webbed skin between the thumb and forefinger, technically called the purlicue. Why angel?
If you have a pet dog or cat in most of the western world, chances are that you have had them micro-chipped under the skin so it can be read in the event of the pet being lost. These ID chips are a passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) encapsulated, rice-sized piece of electronics easily inserted painlessly under the skin. A more sophisticated version of this type of chip is being trialled at companies in America and Sweden where the RFID becomes an employee's pass card that you can never forget or have stolen. Implanted personnel can use them open doors, log onto computers and otherwise function in a high-tech workplace. Some companies have offered sweeteners such as pay bonuses to extra annual leave days to employees willing to trial the embeds microchips. A small fraction of the population has somehow found a 666 reference to RFID chips as being the “Mark of the Beast.” The tag was applied to the use of the RFID chips, and they have been referred to as 666 chips.
I took the RFID a step beyond, thinking that in the future, these embedded chips will not remain passive. When we consider the incredible acceleration of miniaturisation, I reckon a full-scale computer will be scaled down to the size of a grain of rice and then implanted in most humans. Of course, if many are fearful of a passive RFID implant, how would you ever sell a full-on computer chip.
I’m glad you asked… I reckon an astute company might want to brand their chip more pleasantly and that’s why I call them the “Angle Chip”. The marketing idea is selling the notion that your implanted computer device is your guardian angel. That leads to a global company not unlike our major mobile manufacturers today marketing these SAM chip, that is, a Subdermal Angel Microchip, to everyone from teens to the elderly. What could possibly go wrong? [RIGHT!]
In similar fashion to what I did in FEVER, I tried to follow a blend of scientists, law enforcement people and journos trying to dig to the bottom of some serious questions. Two Washington, DC, police, Agent Maggie Patton and Detective Harry Grimms, pursue a couple of teenagers who shoot up the apartment of two local journalists. One of them, Sunlyn Singh, teams up with GNN colleague Owen Yates and try to solve the problem on a broader scale, looking at a global outbreak of zombie-like kids, becoming increasingly withdrawn, regressive and suicidal. They journos meet two psychologists, Australian Professor Kylie Childs and Chinese Professor Fiona Wu who introduce them to the term solastalgia and chase the issue across the planet to China and Australia.
The term solastalgia has been around been around since early in this century, and the term was coined right here in Australia. It combines the idea of ‘solace’ or a feeling of peace and comfort along with ‘nostalgia’, that longing for something now gone forever. Professor Glenn Albrecht coined the term in the work he did in New South Wales at the University of Newcastle a couple decades back. He postulated a previously unrecognised form of psychological stress experienced by people in the Hunter Valley Region, whose home environment was changed dramatically by both natural and man-made impacts. Solastalgia applies to people in the Hunter Valley specifically because the coal mine expansions and bush fires there left so many residents with no home to go back to. I use Albrecht’s words when he says that solastalgia is the "feeling of homesickness while still being at home”. He also speaks of the distress an individual or an entire community experiences about their “loss of endemic sense of place”. As an aside here, I never met Glenn Albrecht, but we both finished our university careers contemporaneously at Murdoch University… small world, yes?
I very much enjoyed writing EIGHT. Firstly, there’s a lot of real, hardcore science in the tale, and I just really enjoy exploring scientific ideas in novel ways. Secondly, I also enjoyed tying in a global setting which approximately has a quarter the novel set in the USA (Washington and Hawaii), a quarter in Australia (Perth, Margaret River and Sydney), a quarter in Shanghai, China and a quarter on Mars. It’s great fun for me to take the reader on a journey that chases a story around our planet and – in this case – across our solar system.
I'm anxious to hear what you think of EIGHT after you read it.