The germ for my book Sensation was planted by my literary agent back in 2006 or so. My last novel, Under My Roof, was just on the verge of release after months of delays and was set to do…all right. Starred review in Publishers Weekly, an Italian edition, and a German one that was later nominated for an award. But the publisher and its distributor had gone bankrupt a few weeks before the book was released, the cover was awkward, and, according to my agent, Under My Roof was…too funny.
“You should write a book like Don Delillo,” she told me. “His books are full of jokes too, but they’re not funny.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) Delillo is also interested in social commentary and often dares commit near-future science fiction to make it. (White Noise is a good example.) So I did, and wrote Sensation, a near-future SF novel. I even predicted three things that have come to pass rather too soon—in a loose, vaguely anarchistic social movement known as SensationSans Nom plays a series of politicized pranks. Here in the real world, right after I finished the book the hacker group Anonymous declared their intent to move into the big leagues of Interactivism, first taking on Scientology and now defending Wikileaks.
Sensation also features a nationwide Internet shut-down. I wondered if it would seem implausible back when I was writing, but now in 2011 with the Mubarak dictatorship shutting down Egypt’s connection to the Internet, I know that it’s not.
It took a while for the book to be released thanks to a third prediction embedded in the book: the villainious nature of real-estate speculators. I finished the book in May 2008 and after a few tweaks, it was ready to be submitted to publishers…in July 2008. Just in time for the crisis of capitalism to be fully revealed thanks to the collapse of the mortgage bubble. We weren’t even getting rejection letters so much as we were getting notes that the editors we submitted the book to had all been laid off. Ironically, I landed a full-time job in publishing myself, and moved to California to take it while the economy crumbled around me.
Finally, once here in the Bay Area, I found Ramsey and PM Press. My roots are in indie publishing—I did political work at Soft Skull back when it was publishing Marxists and anarchists instead of angry Democrats. I’ve published essays in the popular Disinformation Books anthology series, and my novels have appeared with independent publishers such as Night Shade and Prime Books. PM felt like home. Plus, Ramsey and I sometimes shop at the same grocery store—if he’s late with royalty payments, I figured I could bang his shopping cart with mine.
So my third novel is due out ever-so-soon, and I am once again with an independent publisher because New York couldn’t handle it. Who could have predicted that?