Assassin in the Clouds by Robert R. Chase, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2018

When a secret agent is hired to protect a man aboard a futuristic zephyr made of transparent aluminum, what’s the worse that could happen? Well, somebody could tape an explosive to the bottom of the transparent swimming pool, for starters.

The blast begins a series of events in which the narrator/protagonist tries to uncover what Dr. Kamiji might have done or might be planning that would warrant an attack that could kill everyone on board.

At its core this piece is an action/mystery–most of the science fiction involved could be replaced with current technology in order to tell the same story. While this piece has some interesting visual descriptions and cool action sequences, it’s not anything particularly new, and even the reveals in at the end of the piece feel overdone from where I’m sitting–overly aware that Jeff Bezos is, someday soon, make all uneducated jobs obsolete with automation. Yes, this piece touches on this–it’s an exciting prospect, as we will have to find other ways in which to apportion wealth other than “work.”

A First Novel Finish

What’s it like to finish a novel? I’m unsure because I don’t think I’ve ever finished one. But that brings into question what the word “finished” even means in regards to a piece of writing. My first novel, which so also my thesis, which I’ve been working on for the last 3 years, has reached a “finish” of sorts, in which I’ve sent it off to a second reader. This means my thesis adviser has decided that, yes, he thinks this is worth publishing. But is it finished? I feel exhausted searching it these days, it’s just tiring trying to understand where it needs work. I think it accomplishes some of the things I’ve set out to do it in, but I’m also sure it falls flat in other places. And I’ve read it so many times I can’t tell what it’s doing well and what it’s not.

I wonder if people will some day read it and feel as though the characters I’ve created are real, or just cardboard. Some writers hit it big with their first novel. They blow everybody away and then are forever trying to live up to their previous work. I don’t want be like that, but I don’t want to be a flop either. Mid-list, I think, may be the best a debut novel can hope for. The pressure of the second book isn’t as great as it might be, the success of the first book is positive, but not overwhelming in its praise.

But then, what kind of authors even get to that mid-list point. It’s difficult to break into the publishing world, but then again, it’s also easier than ever before. The gatekeepers are frantic–it seems they’ve lost the keys. Amazon is bookstores worst nightmares and author’s best friend in many regards. While people love to slam Amazon, the giant corp does more for getting authors paid than almost any other company in the world–and that’s impressive.

But there’s no doubt that physical bookstores have their place and need to be preserved as much as possible. Readings and the social interaction that comes with them is essential for readers and writers and without this authors who aren’t well known fall easily into complete anonymity.

Small presses and indie presses are now publishing much of the great literature, but they don’t have the distribution to get it to the people who need it most. It’s all just a confusing time and finishing my first novel, instead of making things seem easier, have just raised more questions than ever before.

More People, Less Jobs

So I don’t have an issue making coffee for a living. I also write content for a broker, which is awesome–I mean, I’m a freelance writer who works at a coffee shop also. How Seattle is that? But what I do mind is people thinking those who don’t have jobs are lazy. See there’s a real problem in our society that equates work to productivity and your contribution to society. But making coffee for people doesn’t make the world a better place. It just feeds people’s caffeine addiction. Writing copy for corporations–and I’ve written for companies you’ve definitely heard of, doesn’t make the world better, it just tells people they should buy more things they don’t need.

Now I’m really lucky because with the advent of the internet I was given a job. Freelance writing from home is a great privilege and it’s a job I would not have had even 3 years ago. Or even 2 years ago. However, for every job the internet creates many are destroyed. I mean Amazon has made bookstores basically obsolete. Right now we have Uber and Lyft that provide jobs and autonomy to people, but what happens when Google’s driverless cars are everywhere. We won’t need human drivers to take us places. So technology is getting better and better and jobs are fewer and fewer. When do we, as a culture, a society realize, oh, there are way more people in the world than there are jobs. So the people who don’t have jobs aren’t lazy, there just isn’t paying job in existence for them. Do we let these people starve? Why would I need a janitor if we have a robot who can mop?

Look, I know it feels like homeless or jobless people are lazy sometimes. And some of them are. But many have skills that are simply not used anymore in the work place. A man who used to manufacture cars is no longer needed. Robots do his job and there’s another robot that fixes those robots. Just one guy is employed to fix that one robot, and that’s only part time. So what happens when work ends? I don’t know. But we need to come to an understanding that the end of work, isn’t as far away as we think.