I’m very excited to share with you the book I’ve been writing called Electric Desert. I will be posting it chapter by chapter until it has all been shared, and then it will be available to download as an e-book (for free since I’m an open sourcer and all that).
Electric Desert is, essentially, a long narrative, poetic essay exploring ideas of urban survivalism, in both a literal and metaphoric sense–how we, as humans, can maintain our primal humanity and still immerse ourselves in innovative technology. It is both a guide book and an anthology of musings and poetry. It will also explore subcultures relating to these ideas. Enjoy!
“The increase of wild creatures is in proportion to the things they feed upon: the more carrion the more buzzards. The end of the third successive dry year bred them beyond belief. The first year quail mated sparingly; the second year the wild oats matured no seed; the third, cattle died in their tracks with their heads towards the stopped water courses. And that year the scavengers were as black as the plague all across the mesa and up the treeless, tumbled hills. On clear days they betook themselves to the upper air, where they hung motionless for hours. That year there were vultures among them, distinguished by the white patches under the wings. All their offensiveness notwithstanding, they have a stately flight. They must also have what pass for good qualities among themselves, for they are social, not to say clannish.” - Land of Little Rain by Mary Hunter Austin
I dream often of the desert. I see the long road stretching into the night and the shadows of the sunset cloak my shoulders. It’s a shroud, both the darkness and the scarf I’m wearing. I bought it in Turkey, on my first night in Istanbul. I always felt a kinship with the Middle East. Before I was an atheist I was enthralled by their devotion, God’s overwhelming priority in their lives. I was satiated by their poetry, their beauty, their ritual.
I am still driven by a ritual, but mine is driven by science. It’s like my brain can’t process things until it delves into its scientific method. And thus I view every decision as a hypothesis. Every step, every choice, has an impact. My life is Newton’s Third Law. If I ever bear a son I will name him Isaac. Which, incidentally, is also the name of an anarchist friend of mine.
The night makes the universe come alive. I can see the solar system when the city lights are miles away. This brings both comfort and fear—fear of darkness, of the atmosphere into which we could so easily fall were we to push ourselves off of axis. A precariously easy thing to do, like pulling the trigger of a gun. It’s tempting, too, like standing near the edge of a cliff and feeling the pull to jump. What holds us back? Fear of pain? Would we burn up or freeze out of orbit? Space is cold. But here, now, sweat pools under my toes.
Snakes slither around my feet but they do not bite. They can hear the blood pounding through my heels and into the ground. They can see the outline of my fixed blade tucked behind the zipper of my boots. I could kill them if I wanted to, but maybe not. Teeth move faster than hands.
It is hard to call this stubborn ground I stand on soil but it does provide life. More than 200 species survive and thrive in the desert. And I am one of them. An unique, hybrid species—part girl, part robot. The radio and telephone in my hands are extensions of my person. Can one exist without the other? Who am I without the web? I am a digital spider. I weave words that travel through tubes, images that penetrate the darkness and light the tiny screen in my palm. I see my face, my eyes—green, brown, grey, the color of murky wellwater—and his face, his beard, his glasses lined with metal. This is my life in pixels. I exist as that woman, and also as the human standing here, alone. Am I a tree fallen in the forest? Who and what would hear my screams? But I am not that secluded. If I tap on the screen, voices come alive. If I called for help, a cars with lights and sirens would come speeding out of the city. This makes me feel weak.
I use a chicken bone from my pocket to pick meat stuck between my teeth. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t be a vegetarian. I wanted to lose weight, become lithe, airy. But red meat awakens me, ignites my hunger. Even this stuff they’re calling pink slime and red glue makes my stomach growl. I’m not immune to cravings. And yet its the thought of organs that make me queasy–filled with bile and blackness, pushing chemicals throughout my anatomy. I yearn to hunt and connect with the meat I consume. It’s not the killing that makes me sick. Things have to die, and they should die with the purpose. It’s the skinning, the dissection, that I’m not sure I can handle yet.
But despite my hangups I am a scavenger. I scour the world for food, money, sex, fulfillment. I exploit sacred, precious resources, for a life of luxury. But I can throw my chicken bones and apple cores into a bin and turn my waste into soil. I can give birth to children who in turn will carry on my scavenging for generations. But they may also solve the world’s problems if they become engineers like their father. What would I, as their girl-robot-spider mother something, offer them? I am a writer. What worth are my words in a world that needs solutions?
I pull my knife from my boot and carve a word into the dirt–”waste.” A small gust of wind stirs up the dust and within a moment it is gone. But for a moment, I left a scar.
My phone buzzes in my pocket. His face lights up the screen. I answer, my voice feeling strange in my throat after hours of silence. “Hello?”
The cacti wail behind me as I drive back into the city to make it home in time for dinner.