New Novel on the Way! MEAT LADDER TO MARS

Finished the first major draft of my “break novel” today, that I’ve written over six months while taking a break from Magnetic Water and Worms. Here’s a sneak peek at my new satire, the gentri-fi novel Meat Ladder to Mars! Should be out, and in physical copies, by Spring! Enjoy and remember, all the offensive material is real stuff that people volunteer to tell me!

From chapter 2:

Evening brought a breeze off the ocean and the brilliant red sunset permeated the smog until, saturated, it dispersed in purple and crimson scraps on a great yellow atmospheric puddle. Zosime didn’t have the humor to go out to Bushmeat, but she had to get something to eat. And if Gopman or Chesky were there, she could maybe set down the pigshaped stone lodged in her right ventricle, which thudded against her soft heart tissues and restricted her lungs. Time and routine had weakened her show of propriety. Just as before she’d let go and laughed at Clayton, she now felt ready to talk to her superiors if the situation should arise.

She took the bus to Agege, where a train ended and didn’t connect at all to the central Lagos station, and waited in the street, feeling charitable toward the North Dakotan. She peered carefully into the flux of people streaming past, the carts and taxis and bicycle rickshaws or scrimshaws or what the word was in English, in case she saw Clayton wandering around. But she didn’t peer too long. She joined the throng of bodies, the muddy, spicy odor of moving night, and walked or waded toward the stadium, around a rain-cracked stucco façade and into the roofless confines of the bar.

Launch systems analyst Gopman set his bottle of Star down and whispered hey to launch chief doctor Chesky. –That’s the intern. The ex-intern.

Ah god, where?

They hunched over their beers at the bar, surrounded by anonymous foreign workers but still trying to form a private space. Here at Bushmeat the two men tended to let go of their pretense of professionalism, a custom they clung to here in Nigeria in case anyone back at home looked.

So you had any dates yet? Chesky teased his colleague, who scratched his gel-stretched blond curls and rolled his eyes. –I don’t know dude … I just keep thinkin, yknow, in Africa, that they’re just gonna think my dick’s too small. His chief stuttered out a loud laugh. –Serious shit! Haven’t you thought of that?

I don’t know … Chesky’s eyes looked up from his beer, turned left and collided with those of the bright young former intern.

Doctor Chesky! Godsend said in Chinua Achebe’s stately English, –so it’s true you have dinner here!

We’re launching our space shuttle tomorrow full of cargo going to Mars, Chesky boasted to his beer, to the barkeep, –tonight we’re drinking.

He didn’t stop the kid from sitting down, who ordered a plate of chicken in half English and half Yoruba. Despite the heat his shirtsleeves, chest and back were still fresh as morning. He had the focus of a student about him, wide, attentive eyes.

Ah, to Shango himself! the intern said, –some real men must be preparing to travel to him. But as far as who sends them up, have you consulted with the boss about finding me a new position?

Look, Iyiola, it’s like I told ya. We already got a launch systems analyst, he gestured with upturned palm at Gopman’s beer, –your role, as well as his, have been reevaluated according to what we need for this mission, and that job’s gonna come out in the shape it comes out in, once we know what we need. We don’t know just now. We’ve got a launch tomorrow, and then maybe a launch as early as next month. There’s no time to learn all the systems.

Yes, Iyiola persisted, –but the last launch was only your first, correct? And you learned. The two Americans regarded him uneasily, unable to lie. They were new here, too, as if their habits didn’t give them away. –The only jobs we have are in loading.

Ha ha! Iyiola laughed an obscure laugh, genuine, scornful or both. –Who would take an unskilled job with training like mine?

Chesky’s close-set brown eyes crept up his long nose as he watched Zosime sit down at the bar to Iyiola’s left. She nodded at the young man, who stood coolly and said nothing to her. But it wasn’t all him. She would’ve said something to him any other time, or sat with him rather than with her bosses, if not for this gravitational field her bosses had, and this vibe that she had an unlisted duty not to talk to former employees.

I’ll be at the university library when you need me. I can quit there any day! He took the plate of chicken just as the barkeep handed it to him. He found a seat next to three older black men at the long yellow bench under the outstretched limbs of the bar’s plump Ivory Coast almond.

A leathery rope of elder woman, wrapped in her most attractive striped kaba, drew into the patio with a big basket in her arms. –Chicken and rice! she called out, –made at home!

Unnoticed by the other men at the benches, she approached Gopman and Chesky and repeated her solicitation. No thanks, they said, no cash.

Not here, the lithe barkeep reproved her with a surprisingly sonorous basso voice, –my kitchen’s cooking here. The woman reproved his uncooperativeness with a scowl and went on her way.

Anyway, Gopman continued right where he’d left off, –it can’t be that hard. I’m just being a pussy. There’s whores here, right?

There has to be.

Plus people don’t shower here as much, so I don’t think they’ll criticize anything about me. Hey. You ever pull down yer pants and confuse the smell of come with the smell of yer regular dick? Serious shit! He looked at his phone. –Where’s the fuckin food, already?

Just then doctor Chesky perceived who the woman was two stools away. –Shut up! he told Gopman, –Shush! He turned to Zosime. –Hey … you’re our loading shift leader, right?

Zosime was trying to swallow her shot, and even though it was expected that he should await her response until she finished, she was annoyed that he said something to her midswallow. –I am, she addressed the empty shot glass with its miniature stem and foot, –unless you have something better. She nodded after Iyiola.

Hah, yeah really. Whatcha drinking? Pernod? Sounds good. You tried the local beer?

Zosime shook her head. –Yep, Gopman observed with relish, –Star dappa doo dar. That’s why we’re in Lagos, Nigeria. Not cause of the equator, but cause the beer matches the company.

I wish it wasn’t so far, Chesky talked through his swallowing, –the boss’ll probably never come out from California to see us.

Why don’t you think? Zosime asked.

He’s lived in airplanes all day for ten years! Chesky explained. –He’s reinventing the world all day, by the time he gets to Silicon Valley to check on his money, he’s gotta go back down to So-cal to check on the Mars mission!

He’s a genius, Gopman added.

He’s the innovator of innovators, Chesky gushed, –you’d wanna work for him no matter what, to be part of the future! To really make your mark on the future of the human race.

He paused to remember. –I remember when his biography came out, I was just an undergrad, I tried to get a copy so, yknow, it’d be a conversation starter. I couldn’t even afford to buy it, my rent was so high for my studio. There was … I remember it, seven holds on each of all their copies, in town and down in Oakland.


I tried Frisco. A hold on thirty-nine copies. I even tried to get it from San José. Multiple holds on all nine copies. So, I mean, yeah, I got it on my phone. But the boss … he’s like, bigger than Steve Jobs!

Serious shit! I mean Steve Jobs … he’s just like, digital! The boss is like, voluminous, yknow, like he says, physical. He knows the drag coefficients for everything he builds.

He’s like, the definition of innovation. I mean, the sheer achievement.

Zosime was beginning to perceive another unlisted duty: adulate the boss. –I don’t really know anything about him. I haven’t had time to look. Before I was hired I thought I was working for New Sky Lines, I didn’t know it was Star-X. The two young men looked dumb at her, then carried on.

So, we’re gonna make a lotta money off this job, Gopman suggested to her across his boss’s chest, –my advice to you is work hard in the silo, and get into real estate now, while there’s nothin holdin our money down.

Chesky sneered at his analyst. –You’re really gonna jump in and buy houses here?

Cmon, chief! Remember the famous Airbnb class at Berkeley? I was in that fuckin class! I already got people findin me property all over, right here in Africa. Fix some places up, flippem. It’s the same everywhere.

Zosime found his idea absurd, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. –Where is the good real estate?

It’s wherever they’re redeveloping. One neighborhood at a time, they’re redoingem, makinem more upscale.

Are the neighborhoods abandoned? Zosime asked, smelling a rat.

I don’t know, Gopman threw his free hand in the air, –but the poor people’ll go somewhere. Who lived there before the redevelopment aren’t gonna wanna pay higher housing prices. There’s plenty space. There’s a new economy now. Innovators like us need room! We need space to innovate. It’s a process.

They’ll move until there’s nowhere to go. Gopman goggled at her. –The slums in Lagos have to, how do you say, take in the people who lose their homes. But they can’t all go to the slums if you send them out,

That’s ridiculous! Gopman chugged his beer, –you’re not even re-tarded. That’s pre-tarded.

Blue Doughnuts for SJ Homeless

Liccardo avoids the epidemic of homelessness in San Jose while having the 87 overpass on Santa Clara street done up like a video game, design by Seattle artist Dan Corson. Now drunk Sharks fans crossing from the SAP center to downtown won’t trip over themselves, and homeless senior citizens on the Guadalupe path will be able to read at night.


New Black and Green Review

The new Black and Green Review is out! Don’t miss an issue! Buy a few copies so they take slightly longer to go balls up!

Here’s an essential article on climate refugees, reprinted here. The active bibliography is available at BAGR’s website above, and yes, those footnotes are active.

Losing Ground: Syria’s Climate Refugees
Evan Cestari, Black and Green Review #2, Fall 2015

The climate wars have already begun. In the parlance of the State, climate change has proven to be a “threat multiplier” that has become typified by, among other conflicts, a war in Syria that to date has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced over 9 million.[1] With people throughout the Middle East escaping the ongoing resource wars and desperate for some semblance of stability, Europe now faces its greatest refugee influx since World War II and fears over a reactionary fascist backlash loom in the background.
All this when we’ve only just scratched the surface of climate change. With a 0.85°C increase in global average temperature over since the Industrial Revolution, the United Nations estimates that 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes.[2] Meanwhile, as global average temperature is widely expected to climb past a catastrophic 2°C limit, analysts predict that number to more than double to 150 million in the next 35 years. Ten times that figure, or nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, are at direct risk of displacement due to climate change.[3] What an increasingly probable 6°C or higher global temperature increase may bring becomes a frightening proposition.

The Syria-Climate Connection

The haunting image of a refugee Syrian toddler’s corpse washed up on a Turkish beach is now weaved into our nightmarish cultural subconscious. But sadly, such a tragedy had been long predicted in a part of the world where water was scarce, populations growing, and pressures to develop advanced agricultural economies reached new levels. At least since the 1970s, Syria, Iraq and Turkey were locked in tense standoffs, and even “undeclared wars” over access to the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.[4] By 1999, Turkey, a NATO member and European Union candidate nation, succeeded in quelling Kurdish resistance and wasted little time in advancing a series of dams and irrigation projects that left Syrian farmers with a trickle of their former flows. Meanwhile, population growth surged in all three countries at a rate that would double the number of inhabitants in mere decades. As analyst Michael T. Klare stated in 2001, “The stage is being set for a series of recurring crises over water supplies in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.”[5]
Enter the threat multiplier, climate change. From 2006 to 2010, as moist Mediterranean winds weakened and surface temperatures spiked to new highs, an epic drought plagued the region. It was reputed to be the worst in Syria’s recorded history and at least two to three times more likely to occur due to climate change. In an area already short on water, 1.5 million starving villagers fled to overcrowded city centers. With a crippled domestic agricultural industry also came a catastrophic loss of imports as Russia, a main supplier of grain, halted all exports in 2010 after a “once in a century” heatwave triggered wildfires, destroyed crops and claimed the lives of over 50,000 Russian people. Food riots erupted throughout the Middle East, eventually cascading into the Arab Spring. The Bashar al-Assad regime reacted swiftly and violently to the desperate migrants while brutal ISIS gangs, dependent on an economy of pillaging and slavery, stepped in to fill the void. As the conflict escalated throughout both the cities and countryside, both sides didn’t hesitate to deploy chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and other indiscriminate weapons causing the casualty figure to surpass 250,000. Determined to escape what can only be called a living hell, 3 million Syrians sought refuge abroad, including 150,000 who treked to parts of Europe by the Autumn of 2015. It is currently uncertain exactly how welcoming the European nations will be. Some states, such as Germany, have pledged to take in tens of thousands; others, such as Hungary, have actively resisted the influx.
Syrian economist Samir Aita notes the historical irony of the disaster’s location: “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”[6] However, considering the rising climate pressures, it is doubtful that any political leader, democratic or authoritarian, could have ever succeed. Despite attempts to obfuscate the crisis as the result of mismanagement, the truth is that it is more structurally rooted in a globalized industrial economy that is both perpetrator and victim of its own catastrophe.

Climate Migrations in Past Collapses

Like every other symptom and driver of a collapsing civilization, what is new here is the global scale rather than the crises themselves. Mass migrations due to climate change have been repeatedly pointed out as a culprit in the sequence of events leading to the collapse of complex societies. In his sweeping history of the role of climate change as a “serial killer” of civilizations, Eugene Linden convincingly portrays the Mongolian barbarian intruders that overwhelmed the Roman Empire in the 6th century as exiles of a conflict catalyzed by sudden global cooling around 536 A.D.[7] Ethnic Avar horsemen, who increasingly lost economic and political influence to their rival Turkic herders after a severe drought decimated their primary equine resources, moved west gathering other disaffected groups on the edges of the Empire. Few historians point to barbarian invasions as the sole cause for the collapse of the Roman Empire, yet combined with other factors including food shortages, disease, and population overshoot, Rome became progressively overburdened by a series of related and ruinous catastrophes.
Jared Diamond illustrates another example of such a process in his book Collapse while discussing the last stages of Greenland Norse society shortly after the start of the Little Ice Age between 1400 and 1800. While Greenland’s Western settlements experienced the worst effects and became unable to grow hay for livestock, the Gardar settlement in the East was located in a more resilient area that could still support cows, the preferred source of protein among the settlers. Diamond suggests how the final breakdown unfolded:

[A]t the end, Gardar was like an overcrowded lifeboat. When hay production was failing and the livestock had all died or been eaten at the poorer farms of Eastern Settlement, their settlers would have tried to push their way onto the best farms that still had some animals: Brattahlid, Hvalsey, Herjolfsnes, and last of all Gardar. The authority of the church officials at Gardar Cathedral, or of the landowning chief there, would have been acknowledged as long as they and the power of God were visibly protecting their parishioners and followers. But famine and associated disease would have caused a breakdown of respect for authority, much as the Greek historian Thucydides described in his terrifying account of the plague of Athens 2,000 years earlier. Starving people would have poured into Gardar, and the outnumbered chiefs and church officials could no longer prevent them from slaughtering the last cattle and sheep.[8]

In both Linden’s and Diamond’s accounts, developed states over time became overpowered by hungry people. And in both cases, climate change fueled that hunger.

Migration and the Collapse Forecast

What remains clear, even to those in power, is that the Syrian situation is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the displacement that is in store. Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly called Europe’s refugee crisis a “small indication of what the world will be like” adding that the tens of millions of refugees today will increase exponentially. Indeed, all this was forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its very first report on climate change in 1990 which foretold “millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and severe drought.”[9] As the effects of climate change continue to be felt more directly in the First World, we become more and more likely to see conflict. John Gray wrote in his 2003 book Al Qaeda and What it Means to Be Modern that “global warming may well overtake scarcity in energy supplies as a source of geopolitical conflict.”[10] Gray foresaw major disruptions in food production leading to mass migrations that would eventually be blocked by both autocratic and democratic regimes.

     Echoing such a proscription, in 2008 journalist Mark Lynas painted a dismal prognosis in his book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet:

With structural famine gripping much of the subtropics, hundreds of millions of people will have only one choice left other than death for themselves and their families: They will have to pack up their belongings and leave. The resulting population transfers could dwarf those that have historically taken place owing to wars or crop failures.

…Conflicts will inevitably erupt as these numerous climate refugees spill into already densely populated areas….Tens of millions more will flee north from Africa towards Europe, where a warm welcome is unlikely to await them; new fascist parties may make sweeping electoral gains by promising to keep the starving African hordes out. Undaunted, many of these new climate refugees will make the journey on foot, carrying what they can, with children and old people trailing behind. Many of them will die by the wayside. Uprooted, stateless, and without hope, these will be the first generation of a new type of people; climate nomads, constantly moving in search of food, their varied cultures forgotten, ancestral ties to ancient lands cut forever. But these people may not be content to remain passive victims, for they will surely know that the world they inherit is not one that they have created. The resentment felt by Muslims towards Westerners will be tame by comparison. As social collapse accelerates, new political philosophies may emerge, philosophies that seek to lay blame where it truly belongs- on the rich countries that lit the fire that has now begun to consume the world.[11]

Today, Lynas seems incorrect only in terms of exactly who would be the first to experience such climate change induced famine. Certainly, it is not difficult to find parallels between the ideology Lynas describes and the bloodthirsty quest for revenge espoused by ISIS.
Of course, the blame of the rich nations that Lynas describes only scratches the surface; anarcho-primitivism digs deeper to lay the finger on domestication and civilization itself. As Tim Garrett, professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah explains, civilization is fundamentally a “heat engine” programmed for climate change as it “consumes energy and does ‘work’ in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy.”[12] The task facing anarcho-primitivists then becomes engaging the crisis and the “climate nomads” in ways that expose the underlying culprit while resisting emerging fascist and xenophobic tendencies. Simultaneously, we can lead attempts to reconnect with wild places that may be on the margins for agriculture, but which may allow a more flexible resource base through foraging. The solutions to foraging in dry environments will undoubtedly vary from area to area, but any attempts to do so can draw hope from contemporary foragers. As !Kung elder Moloreng states in James Workman’s important book Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought; “The old…They know how to live without the water.”[13]
Perhaps the most hopeful vision we can draw upon is that of the Greenland Inuit during the course of the Norse civilization’s decline. While not immune to the effects of climatic variations in an already marginal environment, with large fluctuations in the populations of prey species meaning sporadic community starvations, Inuit culture as a whole was able to draw upon a wider variety of food resources to adapt through the Little Ice Age that starved out the Western Settlements and eventually even the rich Gardar. Amidst social collapse the Norse were unable to overcome their ingrained contempt for Inuit culture and could therefore not seek assistance from those who most knew how to persist. It is now our duty to not repeat their mistake.

Far Cry sci-fi zine

This zine out of Greenfield MA, edited by the hardworking Anika Balaconis, only makes paper copies, and they’re not expensive at $4. I got people selling their Kinkos-copied busride doodles for $4 at zine shows (respect, guys). They do serious speculative fiction that’s off the usual genre stuff. Check them out!

Far Cry Zine