Accessible Detectives and Recasting the Noir Investigator as a Tiny Espresso-Swigging Woman

Dora M. Raymaker writes about her debut novel, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.

I created Hoshi Archer because I was in trouble. I wanted to write the two-part epic of the end of Operator enslavement, narrated by an unreliable, drugged-up, mega-star anti-hero, but after ten years of wanting I still couldn’t write narration anyone understood, let alone liked. So, in an equal an opposite reaction of frustration, I thought, Fuckit I’m going to create a reliable first-person narrator who is easy to love.

Hoshi Archer began as an exercise in what makes an accessible character with a reason to tell their story. Detectives are great because they notice things–accurately–and they have a reason to deliver exposition. It’s easy to sympathize with nice people who have been through mean circumstances, yet retain their niceness. Sympathetic characters love something. The reader shares their aims. And they have humor–or at least a voice that is delightful or beautiful to read. The glitch being that as an Operator Hoshi isn’t wired like most readers; she’s neurodivergent and that makes her less straight-forwardly like them. But at least I wasn’t also dealing with heavy anti-hero stuff on top of that. Maybe I could learn something.

Hoshi is a re-imagining of the hard-boiled detective as a small woman who downs espresso instead of whisky, and has little social privilege. How would Sam Spade have been different if he’d had to worry about being the victim of a hate crime? How would Mike Hammer have been different if he had a stigmatized disability? How would Philip Marlowe have been different if he relied on assistive technology to survive?

After growing up with little power over her life, shifting social policy “allows” Hoshi to be a detective instead of a programmer. She is in love with her city, despite its cruelty toward Operators. She can manipulate information systems with her mind, and lives in constant fear of losing everything. She shares my hatred of furniture. She’s the first character I ever had readers love as much as I did. Because doing so is in her nature (whether she’ll admit to it or not), Hoshi got me out of trouble.

–Dora M. Raymaker

Heroes Like Me: Neurodivergent Protagonists in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Dora M. Raymaker writes about her debut novel, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.

Growing up, the closest thing to a hero like me was Charles Wallace in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. Outsider characters sometimes came close–psychics and rebels, like Katie in Willo Davis Robert’s book The Girl with the Silver Eyes, which I re-read into pulp. Of course there were many heroes I loved–like Ged in Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea–but none of them were like me. They were like the majority of readers, and I am…not.

I cannot overstate the psycho-social impact of having no heroes who share your race/gender/ethnicity/religion/sexuality/abilities. Sometimes, maybe, if you’re lucky you’ll get a villain, a “magical cripple,” or some poor, unfortunate stakes character whose purpose is to pity or turn a plot point. But never a hero. The underlying message is: people like you are never heroes. And then, the usual cascade of oppressions: you have less value, less agency, less virtue, less power, less less less. You will never be the hero in your own story or anyone else’s, but here’s a penny for your cup, now don’t you go scaring us you hear?

So, um, fuck that? I want stories with heroes like me. Preferably written by people like me. And since there really aren’t m/any, I will make them.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set in a world where neurodivergent characters experience both immense power in their ability to control the interstellar network of quantum computers, and immense disempowerment through centuries of institutionalized oppression. Although the neural kink experienced by my characters is fictional, it is based on the way some of us experience autism. There are a number of complex reasons why I wrote this book, but one of the heaviest drivers was the need for neurodiverse characters in fiction to be taken from the margins into the center. Not as villains, not as charity or magical-cripple plot-points-of-convenience, or as faddish literary devices (I’m looking at you oh Curious Incident and all the harm you bring), but as protagonists.

In Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, the story’s hero, her best nemesis, and her worst frenemy are neurodivergent. They are heroes like me.

And maybe like you too?

–Dora M. Raymaker

OUT NOW! Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker
Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker

Now Available at the Autonomous Press store!

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is out now! The debut novel by Dora M. Raymaker is a neurodivergent cyberpunk murder mystery that unfolds with likeable characters, philosophical depth, and political relevance while hitting all the right notes of a head-scratching whodunit.

Murder wakes the sleeping city.
Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, and power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems. An immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city.

Advance Reviews Say:
“This thoroughly engaging book is a great many things — but above all else, it’s a gripping science-fiction mystery story steeped in the finest traditions of the cyberpunk and detective genres. Autistic author Dora M Raymaker has created a protagonist who’s a unique and believable person, giving us a fascinating vision of the roles and struggles of autistics in a future society. But you don’t have to have any interest in autism to enjoy the hell out of Hoshi’s race to solve this devious murder mystery before she becomes the next victim.”
— Nick Walker, co-creator of the Weird Luck stories and webcomic.

“A fantastic debut. Read this neurodivergent allegory and save yourself from the pathological paradigm.”
— Ralph James Savarese, author of Reasonable People and See It Feelingly.

About the author: Dora M Raymaker, PhD, is a scientist, writer, multi-media artist, and activist whose work across disciplines focuses on social justice, critical systems thinking, complexity, and the value of diversity. Dora is an Autistic/queer/genderqueer person living in Portland Oregon, conducting community-engaged research at Portland State University, knitting fractals, and communing with the spirit of the City. http://doraraymaker.com

 

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: Serial Murder & Cyberpunk with an Alien Psychic Twist

Dora M. Raymaker writes about her debut novel, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker
Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker

In a far future, on the cusp of a major civil rights movement, a private investigator whose disabilities aid her in her investigations must stop a serial killer while political forces manipulate her for control of her beloved city.

It’s said, “write what you know,” but I say, “write what you love.” Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to my favorite stories, from early devourings of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, to later walks down William Gibson’s Sprawl and Blade Runner’s gritty, neon streets.

It is a full-hearted call-out to the silenced and the weird, to the people like me who never see themselves the hero of the book because they are disabled, or queer, or otherwise pushed to the margins and told to stay. It is a love song to those of us who say, “no, I won’t stay; I have something beautiful to chase beyond your walls!”

It is an ode to cities where I’ve wandered: from the towers of New York to the parks of one Portland and the seaports of another.

As far as the alien psychic twist…Anne McCaffery imprinted me early with her alien psychic dragon companions. But mix that with darker companions, echoes of Madeline L’Engle’s ecthrohi, Ged’s shadow in A Wizard of Earthsea, and the utter alienness of Lovecraftian horrors. My beloved cities, too, have spirits, each a unique, flavored personality. What if we could talk to our cities? What might my city, constant companion who enfolds me, say? Would she be light or dark, or, likely, both?

Lastly, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to a world I hope we are still trying to build, one which is unafraid to explore power and privilege, and dis/ability and social norms, as both Hoshi and the city–as we–struggle to come to terms with a more justly integrated society.

–Dora M. Raymaker

AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER! Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker
Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker

Available for Preorder at the Autonomous Press store!

Ebook available now; free ebook with paperback preorder!

Coming very soon, the debut novel by Dora M. Raymaker, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit. This neurodivergent cyberpunk murder mystery is now available for preorder!

Murder wakes the sleeping city.
Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, and power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems. An immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city.

Advance Reviews Say:
“This thoroughly engaging book is a great many things — but above all else, it’s a gripping science-fiction mystery story steeped in the finest traditions of the cyberpunk and detective genres. Autistic author Dora M Raymaker has created a protagonist who’s a unique and believable person, giving us a fascinating vision of the roles and struggles of autistics in a future society. But you don’t have to have any interest in autism to enjoy the hell out of Hoshi’s race to solve this devious murder mystery before she becomes the next victim.”
— Nick Walker, co-creator of the Weird Luck stories and webcomic.

“A fantastic debut. Read this neurodivergent allegory and save yourself from the pathological paradigm.”
— Ralph James Savarese, author of Reasonable People and See It Feelingly.

About the author: Dora M Raymaker, PhD, is a scientist, writer, multi-media artist, and activist whose work across disciplines focuses on social justice, critical systems thinking, complexity, and the value of diversity. Dora is an Autistic/queer/genderqueer person living in Portland Oregon, conducting community-engaged research at Portland State University, knitting fractals, and communing with the spirit of the City. http://doraraymaker.com

 

COMING SOON: Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker
Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora M. Raymaker

Coming very soon, the debut novel by Dora M. Raymaker, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit. This neurodivergent cyberpunk murder mystery will be available for preorder any day now.

Murder wakes the sleeping city.
Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, and power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems. An immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city.

Advance Reviews Say:
“This thoroughly engaging book is a great many things — but above all else, it’s a gripping science-fiction mystery story steeped in the finest traditions of the cyberpunk and detective genres. Autistic author Dora M Raymaker has created a protagonist who’s a unique and believable person, giving us a fascinating vision of the roles and struggles of autistics in a future society. But you don’t have to have any interest in autism to enjoy the hell out of Hoshi’s race to solve this devious murder mystery before she becomes the next victim.”
— Nick Walker, co-creator of the Weird Luck stories and webcomic.

“A fantastic debut. Read this neurodivergent allegory and save yourself from the pathological paradigm.”
— Ralph James Savarese, author of Reasonable People and See It Feelingly.

About the author: Dora M Raymaker, PhD, is a scientist, writer, multi-media artist, and activist whose work across disciplines focuses on social justice, critical systems thinking, complexity, and the value of diversity. Dora is an Autistic/queer/genderqueer person living in Portland Oregon, conducting community-engaged research at Portland State University, knitting fractals, and communing with the spirit of the City. http://doraraymaker.com

 

Insurgent Otherworld serialized at Weird Luck

From early 2017 through April 2018, Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart serialized an epistolary mosaic novel called Insurgent Otherworld on Patreon. This book precedes the Weird Luck webcomic and directly follows Andrew’s story “Monsters” (featured in Spoon Knife Anthology 2: Test Chamber, and reprinted in Weird Luck Tales No. 5).

Now they’re releasing it for free, serializing it at the Weird Luck website. Late in 2019, Argawarga Press will print the paperback. But you can read it now, one chapter per week, for the next 63 weeks. Since it’s an epistolary novel, most chapters are short — a journal entry, a transcript of telepathic surveillance, a pamphlet from a fringe political group, or the like. So, you can think of it as over a year of free flash fiction.

The first chapter is the revolutionary screed of an anti-gentrification terrorist: “Declaration of Baraka Monster upon the destruction of ThingTown Station.” Enjoy!

Weird Luck Tales No. 6 Debuts at the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird

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Here’s the full run of 99 copies of the limited first edition of Weird Luck Tales No. 6, available only to attendees & supporters of the 2nd Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, this Saturday at the Winchester Mystery House.

The 2nd limited edition will be available for purchase here soon.

Features “Space Pirate Stowaway” and “The Art Collector’s Dream Diary” by Andrew M. Reichart

cover illustration by Caitlin Hackett

obvious politics in fiction

[A few words from Andrew M. Reichart about a recent installment of the serial novel Insurgent Otherworld, co-written by him and Nick Walker.]

One of my fears as a writer is being seen as didactic. A lot of my characters spout political opinions, and I fear they’re taken as just Mary Sue mouthpieces for my own views. In reality, though, I can critique any political statement by any character of mine threefold, if not tenfold.

So here we have an open letter from some sort of witch-coven basically “cosigning” a previous open letter by a terrorist / freedom-fighter. Is this just the author (me) doubling-down on the mouthpiece action? Nah, opposite. My dream is for the careful reader to ask questions like:

What’s the social position of this speaker relative to the previous speaker? How does that affect the implications of them chiming in like this?

What are their shared interests? Are there points of intrinsic conflict, regardless of whatever promises or pretenses they may be entertaining? What’s the on-the-ground relationship between them?

Is this an example of a genuine comrade rallying their followers towards a shared cause? Or are they trying to ingratiate themselves, generate social capital through association, and/or even co-opt the initial speaker’s work?

Is this speaker going to do any actual work to support the first speaker’s cause, beyond this solidarity statement? Even if so, how are they going to direct their efforts such they can be sure they’re helping and not unwittingly hindering?

Of course these are the sorts of questions I’d hope anyone would ask regarding any political statement from anyone….

review of The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett

I had the perhaps unusual experience of having heard several interviews with the author before listening to this book. This gave quite a bit of context that richly enhanced my enjoyment, without (as it turned out) any spoilers (except for, y’know, that one time where the guy finds that thing in that place). I don’t necessarily recommend this approach, it just happened to work out nicely.

So, having already listened to his voice for hours, already accustomed to him telling his own tales, I was psyched to learn that he performed this audiobook. He’s frickin’ great. Oddly enough, this background didn’t prepare me for the exquisiteness of his writing. I found him so engaging in those interviews, I didn’t really think about the text itself.

Hypnotic, evocative prose plays out an alienated vantage, transporting us sideways into an uncanny world almost exactly like ours. But askew. Unsettling and beautiful. From things as mundane as air pollution, self-help, and ventriloquism technique, these tales unfold with elegant gradualness into revelations of something cosmically horrific.

If the world unfolds as I hope, someday I’ll see a production of the creepy one-act play in this collection. (If you’re a theater person looking for sinister material, the piece in question might just make yer head spin….)

I love this book.

 

buy it here I guess

great interview, part 1 of 2

great interview, part 2 of 2

another interview

audio excerpt