Find out More About Level 3 by Science-Fiction Writer Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl During OWS CyCon 2019
Welcome to another fantastic stop in our World-building Showcase blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting a story where the world changes or ends as we know it, but you can find a full list of authors and topics on the OWS Cycon website. Let’s dive in!
Welcome Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl!
Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is Level 3 about?
Level 3 is about researchers going above and beyond, creating a cyberpunk world, but abandoning ethics along the way. There’s failures and successes, but in the end, the series is about the research process.
What are the main differences between the “regular world” and the world on the other side of your barrier?
The main difference is the world in Level 3 is essentially a version of the normal world, if science had progressed faster and if some of the main questions in developmental biology and biochemistry had already been solved. There isn’t really a portal, but it’s definitely an alternate reality.
Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?
Equations are essentially a language and there is a lot of programming. Python counts as a different language, right?
What kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?
The climate is the same as on earth.
Is there any kind of faith system in your world? Did you draw inspiration from any real cultures, living or dead?
Most of the characters in Level 3 are atheists or believe, but don’t shove it into people’s faces.
What do people in your invented world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?
They don’t really have time for fun, but for the first three books, there’s a pub called Old Hare within a short walking distance of the research building.
When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?
I generally start with earth and decide how I want the world to be different from earth. Then I build it from there.
How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?
The setting itself is important, but it’s mostly internal, so it’s more a case of architecture mattering.
When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?
It goes bit by bit and there are references in the end of the book.
How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?
A lot, especially in this series. I love writing it and it is research based, so I really strive for accuracy.
Do you have any specialized training or background from your “real life” that has informed your world-building?
I’m currently in the final year of a BSc. Genetics and I studied a couple of credits physics in 2015/2016.
How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?
I write all my novels in LaTeX which allows me to have little note documents in my project folder.
Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing?
All the time. Research changes a lot and at some point you have to make a choice of which work you find most plausible.
Where can people find you on the web?
Join me this CyCon by having a look at my author booth and my CyCon event. Ethics, the first book in Level 3 is available on Inkitt which regular updates.
For more stops on our World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website. You can also find more great Sci Fi authors and books on our main Sci Fi event page.
This list is posted in conjunction with OWS CyCon, a massive cyber book convention happening in just a few weeks. In addition to this post, I’m participating in a Sci-Fi Punk Blog Hop, Cover Wars, and I’m taking over the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Readers Lounge on Facebook, on Saturday 5/18 from 4-5pm.
Here’s a link to my booth on the OWS CyCon site and there’s more information on CyCon at the end of this post: https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/forums/topic/alison-lyke-author-booth/
I decided to write my Top 5 post about my favorite places in science fiction so that I could honor the worlds I love and span multiple genres.
5. Tatooine from Star Wars
A "wretched hive of scum and villainy." – Obi-Wan Kenobi
As the first planet in the 1977 debut of the saga, Tatooine introduced Star Wars. I have an affinity toward the desert, perhaps because I was born there or maybe because I live in a cold place and I covet all that warmth. I love Tatooine’s city, Mos Eisley, because it’s an intergalactic melting pot with an unseemly underbelly.
4. Mars from Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
“Perfect, faultless, in ruins, yes, but perfect, nevertheless.” ― Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
To clarify, I mean Mars before the human colonization. Although the “There Will Come Soft Rains” Mars does have a kind of horrifying beauty. The Martians with their surreal homes and alien minds are the best part of the book, even though they don’t claim much of the narrative.
3. The Republic of Gilead from Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale
“This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.” ― Margaret Atwood, A Handmaid’s Tale
Gilead is a place that once was for all of us and still is for some of us. More importantly, it’s an emotional reality for every woman who has been underestimated, demeaned, and abused. The first time I read this, I cried through the whole novel because I felt it and because I was relieved. I was relieved to find out that someone was speculating on the consequences of modern misogyny.
2. USS Voyager from Star Trek
“Who wanted to muck around in the dirt when you could be studying quantum mechanics?” - Captain Janeway
I’m a fan of all of the ships in Star Trek, especially the new Discovery, but the USS Voyager is the most interesting. With the ship hopelessly lost in space, Captain Janeway pulls together two warring crews and navigates the starship through the unknown using a mix of resolve and compassion. Voyager is untethered from the Federation, so they are free to explore original places and dilemmas.
1. The Republic of San Lorenzo from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle
“Life is a garden, not a road. We enter and exit through the same gate. Wandering, where we go matters less than what we notice.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
San Lorenzo is a fictional banana republic in the Caribbean and the setting of my favorite book by my favorite author. It’s a gorgeous, lush, warm paradise with its own strange religion, banned by the government to make it more popular among the citizens. The foolishness and despotism of the leaders of San Lorenzo have far-reaching and globally devastating consequences. An important reminder in these times.
That's it for my Top 5 Sci-Fi Places - what are yours?
OWS CyCon Information
OWS CyCon officially runs May 17-19 with the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for our newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer. Plus, you can read more about our participating Sci-Fi authors and their Top 5 favorites in Sci-Fi before CyCon starts. Visit the blog hop page any time leading up to CyCon for the latest posts and your chance to enter our MEGA giveaway (open May 10)
Celebrating the Last Season of Game of Thrones
I thought I'd have a little fun with some medieval foods. These recipes were taken from A Feast of Ice and Fire and they are all dishes that are mentioned in the Song of Ice and Fire books.
For each dish, A Feast of Ice and Fire splits the food up into the includes a quote from the book discussing the meal, a recipe for a medieval version of the dish and a recipe for a modern version.
What's on the Menu?
From Winterfell: Beef and Bacon Pie and Onions in Gravy.
The pie was tasty and filling, and it looks like it's hard to make, but it's not. It was a huge hit with all the guys in my house. The onions were good, but the gravy took too long to thicken. I gave up and we had thin gravy.
From the Riverlands: Leek Soup served at the Red Wedding!
This soup was flavorful and a little spicy. However, I wouldn't want it for a last meal.
From King's Landing: Oat Bread and Sansa's favorite Lemon Cakes.
Tyrion always eats oat bread, so I had to try it. It was a heary compliment to the rest of the meal. Sansa's lemon cakes were amazing! They're chewy with a crisp crust and super lemony. I modified the recipe to make it even more lemony by making the glaze lemon-based instead of milk-based.
Have fun this weekend and watch out for dragons!
I have been practicing daily meditation for eighteen years and yoga for sixteen years. I’m a naturally anxious person. In a previous generation I may have been called a “worry wart,” but in the modern era it’s called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anyway, practicing yoga and meditation keeps me calm(er) and focused.
These are some of the books, products, website and apps that have helped with my daily practice. My top suggestions are bolded. As a side note, these recommendations are not sponsored or affiliate links.
The Crunch Candlelight Yoga
Includes a lot of modification for poses, so this is perfect for someone who has never done yoga or rarely practices. It’s also great if you’re injured or you need to relax without any “challenge” poses.
Namaste Yoga (with Kate Potter)
This is my favorite yoga practice and I’ve been doing these 22-minute flows for almost two decades. Unfortunately, the DVDs are pretty hard to find and the digital downloads are pricey. The good is, they still play these as episodes on television, so if you find them, DVR them and keep them forever.
Yoga with Adrienne
Adrienne has a yoga practice for every skill level and every situation! I always use her pre and post run stretches for my jogs.
Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures
This is great for getting young kids into yoga. These short videos use yoga movements and a green screen to guide children through an exciting adventure and meditative practice.
Meditation Videos, Websites, Apps
A large collection of breathing and relaxation instruction and guided meditations.
Amazing guided, silent, and sleeping meditations using binaural beats. Binaural beats are a whole other, extensive topic, but in short, they’re sound frequencies designed to stimulate different parts of your brain.
A guided meditation phone app offering dozens of courses and daily meditations. Very useful, but also expensive at around $100 per year.
Similar to Headspace, but free. With over 150,000 meditations of varying quality, it can be hard to navigate.
Zen and the Ways by Trevor Leggett
Gives a sweeping history of Zen Buddhism and its relationship to other aspects of life. Also includes translations of rare Buddhist texts.
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A collection of ancient Zen koans, which are stories meant to encourage meditation and introspection.
The Web that has no Weaver
A discussion on Chinese medicine and how to incorporate Eastern ideas into Western medical treatments.
What are your favorite yoga/meditation guides? Let me know in the comments!
My second novel, Forever People, will be released this week by Black Rose Writing! I have a ton of exciting news, links, appearances, and reviews.
The paperback edition of Forever People comes out on March 28th and the eBook edition will be released a week later on April 4th.
Forever People recieved a glowing, five-star review from The Book Dragon. Here's an excerpt:
"Alison Lyke creates a futuristic, compelling story that literally had me turning the page ... without break. I read this book in about 4 consecutive hours, it was that captivating. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, some event would throw the plan off-course, and I was left reeling with the characters."
You can find more reviews on Forever People's Goodreads Page. From Mar 03 - Mar 31 Black Rose Writing is running a Goodreads Giveaway for an advance eBook copy of Forever People. Don't miss your chance to win a free book!
I recently did an in-depth interview with Zealot Script UK and they also posted a book release announcement for Forever People.
From April 4th to April 11th I'm running a Kindle Countdown Sale of my first novel Honey, to celebrate the digital release of Forever People. Honey will be on sale for $.0.99 for three days and then $1.99 three days.
I have so many fun and fascinating events coming up:
April 13-14 I will be appearing in-person at the Flower City Comic Con. I have an exhibitor table, so stop by for a chat or a book signing.
April 22-29 I'm going on a blog tour with R&R Book Tours. Stay tuned for more information on my tour stops.
May 17-19 I will be appearing at OWS Cyber Convention, a massive online book festival. If you're interested in attending any (or all) of the event days, here's a link to the OWS 2019 Cyber Convention Facebook:
I have more virtual and in-person appearances in the upcoming months, but I'm waiting on official announcements, so I'll have to save them for a future post.
A huge thank you to all of my family, friends, and fans. Getting Forever People from story concept to finished novel was the hardest journey in my writing life so far. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but my loving family and amazing friends make sure I don't have to go through anything else on my own.
“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Sometimes...he’d stand on the hill across the street, staring at my front door for hours, waiting for my son to get back.
by Alison Lyke
As relieved as I was to move from an urban area into the suburbs, I was concerned that my son had lost his neighborhood friends. Single childhood is precarious and lonely, even for the well adjusted.
There were new friends to be had in our little condo community, but our son didn’t really take a shine to anyone until the new next-door neighbors moved in, about a month after us. There were two moms and a baby girl, it seemed, I didn’t notice the little boy until our son encountered him on a bike ride.
“He lives right next store. Isn’t that cool!” my son said.
Perfect. I was glad to solve the mystery of why a couple and baby needed such a large condo. The two boys spent many hours running around the complex, lost in a haze of semi-unsupervised boyhood adventure.
Then, his new playmate started coming around a lot more, but he never came inside. The kid had a knack for ringing the doorbell just as I was the most busy. When I opened the door, he always asked, “Is he there?”
Often, he was not. My son participated in several afterschool activities and he did have other friends in other neighborhoods.
Sometimes, the little boy would say, “I’ll wait until he’s home.” Then he’d stand on the hill across the street, staring at my front door for hours, waiting for my son to get back.
I thought I might just not answer the doorbell when my son wasn’t in, which turned into a huge issue. The boy would ring the doorbell relentlessly until I answered. I thought, maybe I should talk to his moms, but they didn’t seem to be home very much. The boy was often alone in the afternoons before they came home from work.
One morning, on the way to an early meeting, I drove past the bus stop and noticed that my son’s playmate wasn’t there with the other children.
“Is your friend sick?” I asked later that afternoon, hoping for a few days respite from the doorbell.
“He’s never at school. I think he’s homeschooled.”
I mentally rolled my eyes. That explains why he’s so lonely.
A few nights later, I was startled awake by the boy’s ring. It was around one a.m.
“Is he there?” the boy asked when I swung open the door.
I sent him on his way, making sure I saw him go into his own house. I resolved to talk to his parents as soon as I could. The next morning, he was standing on the hill, watching my son as he left for school.
Around noon, I started out to speak with his parents, but they were loading up a moving truck. Well, that takes care of that. The poor kid was just having anxiety about moving, and missing his friend.
But, why live someplace only five months? Why pack up and move so often, and with the little baby girl in tow?
“I’m sorry your friend moved,” I told my son that evening.
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “I guess.”
Several days later, the doorbell rang. I knew that insistent ring, it wouldn’t be anyone else.
“Is he there?” His playmate asked.
I nodded yes and watched as my son ran off to play with the boy.
"I thought your friend moved,” I said over our dinner last night, an unambitious, mid-week, tuna casserole.
“I looked in his condo. It’s all emptied out. No furniture or curtains. I watched his moms load up their van.” I said, starting to feel nervous.
“Well, he does still live there. He said has lived there for a long time, and he probably will live there forever.” My son said.
I’m shaking while I type this. It’s almost one a.m. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when the doorbell rings.
NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge #1
A special agent enlists a comedienne to covertly deliver a flash drive to a group of Tibetan monks.
In the empty club, with its stage curtains drawn, and its smell of floor polish not yet trodden to oblivion by the footfalls of three hundred patrons, Victoria sat at one of the clean, white, linen-covered tables with her arms folded across her chest, perhaps to keep her heart from beating right out of her rib cage.
A man strode across the floor and sat opposite Victoria. He had an unkept beard, jeans with tears in the knees, and he wore a denim jacket over faded tee-shirt that said Party Time.
“Victoria Robin? I’m Special Agent Brian Dicus,” he said but did not extend his hand.
“Excellent,” Victoria said. Her voice shaking, she tried to crack a crooked smile.
“What?” Brian asked.
“You know, ‘Party time, excellent,” Victoria pointed to his shirt.
“I’m undercover,” he explained as he removed a pack of playing cards from his jacket pocket. He pulled out a card and slid it over the table with two fingers.
Victoria picked up the card and studied it. It looked like the ace of spades, but instead of a spade, there was a dark green cobra head at the center of the card.
“Ace of snakes,” Victoria said.
“It’s a flash drive packed with sensitive information,” he said.
Victoria held the card up to the light and saw the glint of the computer chips in the cobra’s two eyes.
“At tonight’s show there will be a contingent of three high ranking Tibetan officials,” Brian continued while Victoria inspected the flash drive, “you’ll easily recognize them because they are monks and will be dressed as such. It doesn’t matter which of the three you slip the card to, they will all be expecting it.”
“Once the drive is safely in the hands of the Tibetans, your assignment will be complete and all of the charges will not only be dropped, but erased from the records. As if it never happened.”
“Perfect. Anything else?” Victoria asked.
“Tell me a joke,” Brian demanded.
“I’m not that kind of comedian. I tell funny stories.”
“A funny story then,”
Victoria paused, pulled her fire red hair back from her copper colored, almond eyes and said, “A few weeks ago I went on a blind dinner date with this guy. When we got to dessert, he kept staring at my tits; so, finally I say ‘hey buddy my eyes are up here.’ It turns out he was staring at a huge glob of ice cream that I had slobbered all over my chest,” Victoria paused for effect “Well, at least my dessert got to third base,” she finished.
Brian was stone faced. Victoria snatched the card pack from the table and tucked the Ace of Snakes into it.
“There’s no accounting for taste,” she said.
The All Suits Comedy club usually tailored to diverse upper middle class customers and those aspiring to be upper middle class with an over-budget night out. The patrons were moderately well dressed, rowdy, and relaxed by the club’s expensive spirits and light fare. During Victoria’s set she noticed the Tibetan contingent tucked into a the back corner of the club, wearing orange and white robes, their heads shaved and their table bare, aside from a pitcher of water.
She rushed through her comedy routine, barely noticing when the audience laughed or when a punchline fell flat. The pack of cards sat heavily in the hind pocket of her jeans and more than once she reached back and absentmindedly touched it. When Victoria left the stage, Frank, a lanky fellow comedian, who wore his pet ball python around his neck like a slithery boa, stopped her in the wings and asked why she kept scratching her butt through her performance. He also had a message for her,
“Some scrub friend of yours grabbed me on my way into the club and told me to give this to you,” Frank pressed a crumpled note in Victoria’s hand and took a moment to pet Bertha before they walked on stage.
It read: Count the Monks
Victoria waded into the crowd and counted the monks as she navigated through the tables. There were four monks instead of the three that Brian had described. Hot blood pounded into Victoria’s head, blurring her vision and beating in her ears as she tried to puzzle through the conundrum.
One of them must be undercover and not a real monk, Victoria thought, and he can’t be trusted. Why else would Brian warn me?
Victoria pulled an extra chair over to the monks’ table, while, on stage, Frank told his opening joke, something about how his python is even bigger than Bertha.
“Hello gentlemen,” Victoria said and each of the monks nodded to her in turn.
“I love monks, you know,” Victoria said, “but they don’t love me. I sometimes bartend and I meet all types. Three monks once walked into my bar and ordered martinis. I said, ‘hey fellas, how’d you like your martinis served’ and one monk answered, ‘in silence.”
When she finished speaking, Victoria leaned in and closely studied the faces of the monks. Not finding what she was looking for, she leaned back and tried again,
“I’ve heard that monks are so spiritually in tune that they can go an incredibly long time without eating. One famous monk set out to learn how to fast for months at a time, but he died in the process. At his funeral, his master said it was such a shame that he died just when he had learned how to not eat.”
This time all of the monks laughed except the one on the far left. He remained stone faced. Victoria pulled the card deck from her pocket, removed the Ace of Snakes and handed it to one of the laughing monks. She narrowed her eyes at the last monk on the left and said,
“There’s no accounting for taste.”
There was once a king who was so evil that the gods created a wild, beast of a man to keep the king in check. After an initial scuffle, instead of fighting, the king and wild man teamed up and attacked the gods themselves. As you may imagine, they fared poorly. This is the story of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest piece of literature on record.
Many of these ancient stories, the Odyssey, for example, tell tales of man versus gods, and it’s always gods in the plural because back then there were gods of each aspect of life and not a god of all. A man might win against a god, eventually, but he will always lose something of himself in the battle, for better or for worse. I wanted to repeat this kind of tale, in my own way with my own gods, in my last novel.
In my upcoming book, men, well, mostly women, are again fighting the gods, but these deities are a man-made side-effect of a world altering technology, and are not quite aware that they are gods. I wrote this with an eye on the Zuckerburgs and the Gates of the world who certainly did not seek to bend the fabric of our reality, are not great philosophers or ethicists, and yet, by virtue of the technology they created, make decisions that control the fates of individuals and, arguably, nations.
Why do I gravitate toward man versus the gods stories? I’m Buddhist, so my god is amorphous, singular, and often not quite a god. I’d like to say that it’s because this type of story is the ancient cornerstone of narrative, but I’m not actually that fancy. I think it’s because I like the idea of being able to act against what fate, or the gods, or the universe, or just life has dealt us, however lowly or futile our actions might play out.
I know what it feels like to be a victim of random misfortune; worse, I know what it’s like to have sorrow heaped on top of sorrow until it feels like I may be crushed to death. Sometimes, it feels like the primitive gods are real and they all have a personal vendetta against me. I fight sorrow on a personal level with everyday actions: meditation, family support, work, and self-care. But, I can use my stories to seek vengeance, with the hope that I fare better than Gilgamesh.
I finished my second novel a few weeks ago. It’s about a future where the minds of the dead are stored digitally in a computer system, known as the Node. I set out to finish writing the novel in about two years, because that’s how long it took me to write my last book, Honey. But, my brother died and things got complicated. As Vonnegut says, “And so it goes…”
This book means a lot to me. I think I took a little extra time finishing up because I love the characters so dearly. We lived together for five years and I wasn’t quite ready to leave them. I must remember that they are immortal in two ways. First, all characters are immortal because they are born again every time we turn the page. Second, in the world I created for them, everyone lives forever, albeit with varying degrees satisfaction.
The manuscript is going into editing with my friend and editor, Patty from the Write Writing. I’ve chosen a unique artist for the cover art. My plan, since my previous publisher is defunct, is to enter it into the Kindle Scout program. I’m going to put it through a round of the agent/publisher circuit, if that doesn’t work.
With Honey, I strove to be published, which I saw as legitimization. With everything I’ve been through, I was just happy to finish Forever People. I hope that other people read it, like it, and it brings them joy, but, I’m less concerned about how people read it.
by Alison Lyke
I woke up seven minutes before the alarm went off. I stared at the barred windows. In between the slats glowed a grey, treeless morning sky.
“Good morning. You are not in prison,” my alarm said in a soothing, recorded voice, paused and the repeated, “you are not a prisoner,” until I turned it off. Moments later, my counselor, Angela, appeared in my door frame. She did not knock.
“You ready? Are you getting up?” She asked, my eyes drifted from her high, blonde ponytail to the Glock 22 in her hip holster.
“Breakfast,” she was no longer asking. I nodded. I opened my small set of corrugated wood drawers and pulled out my yoga pants and a cardigan. I can wear my own clothes. I am not in prison.
I ran into one of my favorite ladies in line for my powdered eggs, orange juice from concentrate, and my choice of white, rye or wheat toast. Margie was kind, and round, and optimistic that she could go home someday.
“There’s a new man here and he’s about your age,” she smiled knowingly. She was hopeful that I’d find someone in here and join her and Stan in the couple dorms, “He’s in rough shape though, you know.”
Fantastic. A brand new broken toy all for me. I didn’t see anybody new in the cafeteria, so I headed out into the lawns. I walked past one of the two whole families that we had in here. A husband, wife, teenage daughter, and an elementary school-aged son were eating at a picnic table. The kids were allowed fresh fruit that gave me a twinge of longing. I bet it was the teenage girl that got them in here. I know that there are whole facilitates just for teens, but she must have done something to put her whole family in danger.
I saw my new broken toy at the farthest picnic table looking every bit as damaged as Margie had promised. He had recently been beaten and it seemed that whoever it was took care to do most of the damage to his face. He was facing the eight-foot metal fence that ran around the facility.
I asked, sitting across from him in a way that forced him to turn all the way around and look at me.
“I can’t swallow. They stepped on my neck,” At least he said it with authority and didn’t cry. There were a lot of criers. Not that I blame them. I noticed that he was very clean even though he was wounded. His clothes were neat and there was no blood under his fingernails.
“Why are you here?” He asked after looking me over as well. I wonder what he saw. Probably my messy hair, my tired eyes, and my unnecessarily warm, worn cardigan.
“I ran a dog fighting ring,” I said in the isn’t-that-funny-but-not-really voice that I always use when discussing my situation.
“Why are you really here,” he dismissed me.
"Good morning. You are not in prison"
“Oh, we only talk about that in counseling sessions. People get too upset,” I paused, hoping I wouldn’t have to ask, “Why are you here?”
“I’d rather not say,” he looked down at his nails.
Pedophile or rapist I thought. Probably a pedophile because, at this point, most people would cop up to being labeled a rapist.
A small wave of counselors left through the facility’s front door and Angela headed towards our table.
“What’s this” he asked me.
“There must be protesters at the first gate. Sometimes they break through and shoot at us. The councilors are rounding us up,”
Angela beckoned me, knowing that I didn’t have to be told. My broken toy and I walked back up the hill together.
“Not to be mean or anything,” I told him, “but this protest is probably your fault. It sounds like you’ve done something pretty awful.”
He was suddenly scathing and I saw the man underneath the swelling and the bruises, “Let’s not get funny. None of us have done anything.”
He was right, but I couldn’t have that discussion again. I have had it hundreds of times, with strangers and with family members, but not with the people in here because we all just know.
A year ago I got a raise at work and I could finally afford an apartment in the suburbs that allowed dogs. I always wanted a dog, but my parents only let us have small animals. Growing up I had a succession of hamsters, then a turtle, and finally a frog. None of them offered the tangible companionship that I saw in dogs.
"It’s just a picture that says that you abuse dogs."
As soon as I was settled into my new apartment, I headed to the shelter and rescued a corgi. He came with the name Sebastian, but I changed it to Franklin, then shortened it to Frank. If there was any real mistake I made, it was buying just a leash and collar for Frank. I should have bought a harness because Frank was a runner and a fighter. When he would run at other dogs at the park, I’d have to pull up on his leash and his collar would lift up, choking him. I soon figured out that a harness would solve this problem, but it was too late. Someone had taken my picture pulling up on Frank’s leash.
The first post I was a picture of me pulling up on Frank’s leash. It looked horrible, like I was really hurting him. Whoever took the picture captured a moment where I somehow looked happy to be tugging on Frank’s neck. The caption said, “If you find this animal abbuser [sic] please detain her and call the police.”
An aquatinted sent the meme to me and I cried. I posted my very first explanation of what was going on when the picture was taken. The only thing I succeeded in was identifying myself so that I could be targeted some more. The stories and pictures came in a flood. There were manipulated photographs of me standing amid violently abused dogs. The worst was a photo of a woman who looked kind of like me taking bets in a dog fight between two Corgis.
There was news casting me as a suburban mom making gobs of money from my underground dog fighting rings. It didn’t matter that I was single with no children.
My mother, scared and confused, called and asked why the national news was reporting that I abused dogs.
“Don’t just read the story on social media,” I told her, “go to the actual website where it’s posted and look around. These websites try to look official. They mix real news with fake stories. Once you’re on the site, look for clues that let you know if the website is official. Read the About Us page or find the Contact information,”
“Why are they doing this?”
“Because outlandish fake stories get people to read their websites and they get paid per person that they can get to go to their page or website,”
“What about these pictures,” my mom asked, “I can’t prove that they are fake because there’s nothing to click on. It’s just a picture that says that you abuse dogs,”
Fake memes were hard to explain to my mom. The people making them hope that people will just read, believe, and keep scrolling. My mother doesn’t quite understand how the Internet works. She still posts those silly social media disclaimers: by this statement, I give notice to my social media account that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile… She has never bothered to check on the legitimacy of social media posts before and was just realizing that anyone can post anything.
Then, someone found my information and made it public. My apartment was vandalized, protesters stood around my place of work. The police tried to help, but how can you fight something so random, so amorphous.
I was on my way to meet a friend at a restaurant, sitting at a red light, when someone threw a brick through my car window, knocking me unconscious. My car drifted into oncoming traffic and I almost died. That was when I petitioned for protection.
Now, I live here in a protectoral facility. I am not in prison. There are a lot messages about how we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not allowed access to social media, which is understandable.
I hear gunshots as Angela hustles us into the facility. It sounds like the protestors have breached the first gate. Sometimes, I hope that they will breach the second gate and put an end to my quarantine.
Pay no attention to what the clock says in the morning or the friendly smiles of the counselors. This is a prison. The people outside the gate are not our only captors. We are held prisoner by the constant, unrelenting spread of deceptions and there is no end in sight.