published February 2016 by Sortmind Press
Trantor Group CEO Peter Trantor scrambles to reassure his latest client, the lovely but unreadable bank executive Anna Winstead, that his telepathic Sortmind app really isn’t as deadly as people assume. But he has some explaining to do when a newly-hired programmer at Trantor, Mindwiped by Sortmind abuse, proclaims himself an alien from the planet Cnzaar.
High school art students Oliver Perrine, a survivor of the terrorist bombing of the downtown library, and Sam Emersonn, coolly pragmatic and politically aware, struggle to define themselves against their fascist fathers, the founders of the reviled Citizens Against Telepathy, as its soldiers engage in street battles with its rival, the fanatic Open Telepathy Foundation.
Architect and reluctant CAT political activist Mitchell Emersonn telepathically reviews his girlfriend Shelley’s files after she too declares she’s an alien from Cnzaar. A library clerk invents hallucinogenic Concentrated Telepathic Tablets and spreads them to the Canterra Art Institute, where Sam and Oliver consume the drug and find themselves confronting Sortmind’s unnerving redefinition of reality.
Sam’s fifteen-year-old sister Teresa discovers she’s a secret link between generations of mystical artists, and that she and Oliver belong to a clandestine society of Tree Leopards. But two opposing sets of aliens alternately kidnap Oliver, each pleading for the impenetrable Tree Leopard Society to assist in their war against each other. Frenzied militias attack the Trantor Building’s Sortmind servers and the app begins evaporating, leaving Oliver to sort out his adolescent fantasies and discover what’s real.
Do we need to go into the travails of the endless years of work on this novel? When what I really want to do is convey my enthusiasm for something that has reverberated so deeply and for so long, and is now done and slung out into the world? Here’s the basic history of Sortmind:
- Even though it was eighth in order of composition, Sortmind felt like my first true successful novel, from its 1987 rough draft of 1,075 typewritten pages through a slightly less lengthy manuscript I got onto WordPerfect and began confidently sending to publishers through the mid-nineties.
- But, alas, as the rejection slips piled up and I grew as a writer, there came the daunting realization that Sortmind was both bloated and psychically out of date. New drafts, cosmetic revisions, and frantic fixes through 2010 only inevitably led to the dreaded conclusion of Book Abandonment. Even though meanwhile I’d named my website after it, and started Sortmind Press.
- With nothing to lose now, from 2011 on I mused in fresh ways about the fate of the book. A Major Reboot of the Franchise began in 2016. I was astonished at how well this reengineering project both returned to the original vision of the novel and transmuted it–now 45% of its original length–into something far beyond what I could have imagined in 1987.
It’s difficult to switch workbenches. To clear the spread of tools for creating and living inside the force of a novel, and to rearrange one’s consciousness for explaining or selling the product to an editor, a publisher, a reader. So many writers, me included I’m afraid, find themselves imitating the marketing jargon they’ve encountered in publisher blurbs all their lives. To quote from my utterly wise blog post, I’ll Write Your Book Blurbs:
When Lilith’s beloved Kentucky horse farm goes into bankruptcy, only an arrogant, shirtless cowboy from her past …
Jen has a secret Rob must never know…
CIA assassin Jack Hades teams up once again with yoga-panted Veronica Vulf to thwart an INHOC plot to turn America into a sea of shiny radioactive glass.
For instance, here’s one of my early Sortmind blurbs written in passionate marketingese with the obligatory question hook absolutely guaranteed to captivate the unwary reader:
What if an answer to any question was delivered in a telepathic instant, and a database of all our queries and responses was being used to track the progress of a coming apocalypse?
Well, it tells you a little bit. It also eerily conjures up the modern Internet, though the first draft of Sortmind came years before the World Wide Web entered society’s awareness. But the blurb does no justice to the humor and the other riches of the book, including the Oliver-Sam friendship at the heart of the novel.
This might be a good spot to inform the reader that I consider Sortmind to be a literary novel, though it certainly has science fiction qualities. “Coming of Age” might tag it as well.
Bottom line: The new version has answered some Smith karma, or at least made a vital comment upon it. It transformed the older effort into something current and vital that nevertheless fully brings out all my ancient archetypes–the teenagers, the social politics insanity, the software gurus, the adults and their romances. It shares that quality with my other two decades-long novels, The Soul Institute and Akard Drearstone. It’s interesting that all three were abandoned for years, yet it’s been a major goal of mine to convert them into my modern consciousness, and the published results reflect the life lessons of those decades.
copyright 2019 by Michael D. Smith