Text Mining: Roadwork

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The third Bachman novel, Roadwork, is another portrait of a seethingly angry man acting out against his grievances with society. In Rage, the protagonist dealt with his anti-social angst by taking his classroom hostage and killing two teachers. In The Long Walk, the protagonist deals with it by joining a ghastly game show that runs people down to their deaths. Roadwork is a little less kinetic than either; the protagonist here, George Dawes, simply gives into inertia and refuses to progress along with everyone else. A highway extension is slated to destroy an old suburban neighbourhood and Dawes is in charge of finding both a new house to live and a new location for the industrial laundry he works for. In an act of rebellion against the inherent unfairness of the situation, he decides to do neither. He refuses to vacate his property, and ends up getting shot and killed in a stand-off with the police.

In other words, it’s a very American story of the late 1970s, despite being set in the earlier part of the decade. Everyone else in George’s life has decided to go along with the change – say goodbye to the old neighbourhood, the old workplace, the old way of life. Things are getting meaner, and the little guy doesn’t have anyone to stand up for him anymore, not really. The oil crisis is settling in, the recession is hitting hard, and, as Bruce Springsteen would point out around the same time Roadwork was published, the good jobs were gone and they weren’t coming back. George lost his young son to brain cancer; now he’s losing his house and his workplace. Had he been faced with this crisis 43 years later, he would have been a Trump voter; like Trump, George just wanted to burn the whole thing down.

Here’s what it looks like:

RoadworkSoundwave

What leaps out immediately is that it’s very front-loaded. All of the emotional heavy lifting seems to occur in the first half of the book. 25 is the last section of any emotional weight until just before the end, and it’s coincidentally the beginning of the last third of the book, covering the events of January 1973 and the end of George’s life.

The line graph shows it even more dramatically:

RoadworkPositive

RoadworkNegative

The first half is dominated by big negative spikes and then, after the December-January changeover of 24-25, it sets into an even keel that trends slightly downward, in a muttering sort of way. George’s final days start with the highest positive peak of the book before settling down into their inevitable violent end.

As for the negative peaks, chapter 8 is where he meets up with mobster/car dealer Sal, who sets in motions the events that will eventually lead to George’s standoff with the police. 17 is where George takes a call and finds out his work family is shattered: his old boss is trying to find out if George was embezzling and his old co-worker Arnie killed himself. Also of interest is that the prologue of the book starts off highly negative, which makes sense since Dawes gets man-on-the-street interviewed and calls the developments “a piece of shit” and there isn’t much positive language to offset the negative aspects.

40, of course, is the final standoff, set to Let It Bleed.

The smooth line graph shows the same thing:

RoadworkSmoothLine

George’s life bottoms out around chapter 15 – the chapter where he meets up with his wife Mary and she lays on him in no uncertain terms the cold fact that wishing the construction work away won’t make their house continue standing. Our emotional reading of the situation rises from there, as George continues to refuse to deal with reality. This height tops off around chapter 26-27 – the beginning of that last January, as mentioned above – before hurtling rapidly downhill.

RoadworkHist

There’s the distribution for Roadwork. 70% or so of the book occurs within 20 and -20, but there are a lot of instances outside of that as well, making a map that gives those big spike points but also a whole third of the book that stays colouring within the lines.

The stats on this one look like this:

MIN: -85

MAX: 40

MEDIAN: -1

MEAN: -2.476

Interesting that, despite such deep spikes of sentiment, the mean sentiment score for the book is quite close to zero. It actually has the most positive mean score of any of the Bachman books. That seems odd, but then consider the other Bachman books.

Finally, the word scores, for anyone who actually cares about them:

RoadworkWordContri

(These will be more interesting when compared with each other and the overall corpus of King’s work in general).

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Interstitial Burn-Boy Blues

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Stuart watched the kid shake and mutter to himself in the seat across the aisle. His skin looked waxy in the dingy interior bus lights, and Stuart was sure that if he reached across and caressed the kid’s forehead with the back of his hand that skin would be near to scalding. He ran his tongue along the back of his teeth and watched the kid carefully. No one else in the general vicinity seemed to be concerned. Stuart noticed an old man dozing in the seat behind the kid, and a young couple murmuring to each other beneath a blanket in the seat ahead of him.

Continue reading

50 Days Of Soundcloud #13

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“The Long, Bloody Road To Hell”

This was back during a time when I was dealing with frenetic hand-drumming married to near-chaotic thumb piano lines. Early 2004, I think. A collection of increasingly ominous historical quotes from a variety of figures that ends with Rodney King’s sobbing plea to stop making it horrible for the old folks, and the kids.

Don’t forget to stop by the books page here to check out some fiction which you can use to subsidize my existence.

50 Days Of Soundcloud #12

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“Formula Modernia”

BUY SELL BUY SLEEP

Feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

Enter The Apocalypse: Russell Hemmel

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Enter The Apocalypse is a new anthology of short fiction from TANSTAAFL Press that I have the good fortune to be included in.  It will be the first in a planned trilogy of apocalyptic-themed anthologies from TANSTAAFL.  Enter The Apocalypse examines the apocalypse at the point of impact.  In celebration of it’s impending release, I have a guest blogger today!  This has literally never happened before, so I’m going to get out of the way and turn the proceedings over to Mr. Russell Hemmel.

(“Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Recent publications in Not One of Us, Perihelion SF, SQ Mag, and others.”)

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“You can’t but admire this virus’s purity. It’s elemental, uncomplicated, deadly powerful. We’re lucky not to be his target.”

“Virus are ten times more numerous than bacteria, did you know that?”

10 to 1.

In the last six months I have, as a fiction writer, contributed stories to a few anthologies, all dealing, in a way or another, with visions of a dystopian future. While not all of them featured an apocalypse, they were all bleak enough to made readers think that one was indeed on the way, or had just happened.

As a (social) scientist and astrophysics passionate, I have to say that what scares me the most is not the possibility of destructive cosmic events – such an asteroid impact of the kind that’s considered responsible for the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction (and the death of the dinosaurs), even though books like Stephenson’s Seveneves are frightening enough. 

[In case you haven’t read Seveneves, I do recommend it – no matter if you’re not a SF fan. There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel that has nothing to do with SF. What’s about? It deals with the aftermath of an unexplained – and utterly disastrous – disintegration of the Moon, and the world efforts to preserve human society in whatever possible ways. The first one is to build arklets in lower orbit using the ISS as starting point.

I especially liked this quote, that I think represents well the book’s spirit. “We’re not hunter-gatherers anymore. We’re all living like patients in the intensive care unit of a hospital, and what keeps us alive isn’t bravery, or athleticism, or any of those other skills that were valuable in a caveman society; It’s our ability to master complex technological skills – it is our ability to be nerds.” ]

No matter how convincing Stephenson’s scenarios and frightening the dinosaurs’ destiny, as a professional statistician, I think it’s far more probable that the next global catastrophe is going to be man-made. Here the possibilities are endless – from climate change to a highly infectious plague to a nuclear holocaust.

What keeps me awake at night at times is the sensation we’ve now reached a level of scientific development where we can summon forces that can easily destroy the planet, without the wisdom to handle them and even less the foresight to understand cause-effect mechanism on a longer timescale than the human life. The endless discussions on the responsibilities of climate changes – from people denying global warming to others debating if it is indeed a consequence of human action (Crichton’s State of Fear is a good albeit fictional example) miss the whole point: the agent of changes doesn’t really matter when an epochal change is on the way. The state of the Arctic can’t be denied by anybody that makes his/her own research, as the mass extinction of species we are going to face in the coming decades and that already started. Science is pitiless, folks, it’s not a question of opinion. Evidence speaks louder than our delusional beliefs.

As anyone else, I have my personal vision of apocalypse, the one that would probably freak me out the most, and that I’ve often written about – and it is in the form of a plague we have manufactured ourselves in some sort of experiments gone wrong. Terror apart, I won’t be that astonished to read something like that in the press one day or another. If any, I’d be surprised it has taken so long to happen. Welcome to a dystopian world.

Enter_the_Apocalypse-FrontCover

Time Sinks, Obscure Metal Acts, and Crusader Kings II: I Nab A Guest Spot On Literate Gamer

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http://octopuspark.libsyn.com/crusader-kings-ii-trevor-zaple

Visit the above link.  Such is the path to madness You’ll find an excellent podcast episode of Literate Gamer featuring yours truly.  Crusader Kings II!  Was there ever a more fascinating way to avoid all of your responsibilities?  There most certainly was not.

 

HOLIDAY SALE

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Like the name says, my novel Disappearance is on sale for 99 cents for all of December.  Get it while it’s hot.  Or just get it.

GET IT HERE!!!!

If that doesn’t convince you (it’s less than a medium coffee ferchrissake) then let these carefully curated review snippets do their work:

“Zaple has captured the dichotomy of human nature perfectly, our desire for stability at war with our penchant for chaos.” – Ben Bales

“Great book. I recommend this for anyone that’s willing to hack through a thorny, demon-riddled thicket with a fantastic, raw talent.” – Rachel Litt

“The prose used within this book drips with the loving consideration of a man who delights in the english language.” – Heather Friesen

“”Disappearance” is an uncanny, poly-perspectival combination of bone-curdling psycho-social insights, darkly complex Canadians, scheming politicos, singing prophets, and rugged and flimsy individualists encountering displacement and correlation, vile erotica, and subtle narrative injections of theory. If Walt Whitman had a nemesis, it could have easily been Zaple.” – Sallow Siserary

“I loved this book. I think I went through every possible star rating as I read. Ultimately, it deserves high marks.” – Tiger Grey

“An interesting, fast-paced piece that sucks you in and takes you on one helluva journey” – T.J. Sidebottom

“What the hell?  I bought this thing for five bucks and now it’s on for a dollar?  Asshole.” – Ryan Kinder

 

 

Soon To Be Featured On Dirty Little Bookers!

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A rather excellent artist I know gave me some advice the last time I saw him, and it was to the effect that art announcements should only be done a week or so in advance, so people don’t have time to forget them.  To that end, I’m proud to announce that the November spot on literature blog Dirty Little Booker’s “Calling All Indies” feature was won by yours truly, and I’ll be featured over there starting some time in the next week (as they work a month behind or so).  So, like voting in Chicago elections, visit early and visit often:  www.dirtylittlebookers.com

Haus Keeping

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So I’ve put the completed discographies in a page on the sidebar, right under where you can find links to my wonderful works of fiction that you are strongly encouraged to trade your hard-earned dollars/euros/whatever for.  If you want to check them out, they’ll load much faster through there than through the Discographies category.  Coming soon:  Melvins and the Tragically Hip.

Did I mention that I have books you can purchase?  Well, book, and a novella.  Visit the Books page to find out more.  Purchasing them is just like donating money to a worthy cause, only you get more out of it than just a sense of well-being.  Don’t get me wrong, you get that too, but you also get some nifty reading material.

Also, I’ll be attempting at some point to map this over to a top-level domain.  That should be fun, and will in no way be a frustrating experience filled with madness.