I am really thrilled about this one. To buy the book, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Criminals-Mike-Karpa-ebook/dp/B09GRTWYBF/
Thank you, Queerscifi.com
It’s a wonderful book. Mike Karpa is one of those writers whose prose doesn’t get in the way. It’s literate and careful, but it doesn’t try too hard to be poetic, nor is it flat and unemotive. This quiet realism works especially well with the story, which is a kind of post-apocalyptic maker romance.
We know that the story, set in some unspecified future, is post-apocalyptic, because the author tells us, delivering the truth subtly, in discrete little fragments of history that (as I came to expect) become increasingly hair-raising, even as they continue to be almost throw-away lines in the narrative. That’s a very awkward way to describe it, because I don’t want to tell you anything about the state of the world in which the story takes place. Discovering Mardy’s world is one of the delights of reading “Red Dot.”
Mardy knows he’s in a post-apocalypse world—because he has survived it; been orphaned by it. But it is a world that is weirdly familiar, and comfortable, and certainly pleasant enough for Mardy and his group of twenty-something artist friends to live in. Mardy, his friends Inge, Cat, and Devesh, and the mysterious Hunt twins, are part of a crew of young makers—artists who rent workstations at a high-tech maker-space in San Francisco. They use their skills to compete in shows at a local gallery—run by more friends, a gay couple nicknamed Flaky and Death.
Developing their various artistic practices (which is not entirely like art today, because this is a very high-tech world, in which AI is ever-present) is rooted in a network of competitions—local, regional, continental—that can boost their prominence and marketability. They all have guaranteed basic incomes, and most of them have “day jobs.” Art is their passion, as art should be.
For all its futuristic fantasy, Mardy’s world feels very like the contemporary craft world I knew as a lifelong museum curator. I knew what the red dot of the title meant immediately, and it’s a great title, because it symbolizes what Mardy and his friends strive for.
At the core of the story is Mardy’s yearning to become a fully-realized adult, both through his art, and through his unexpected relationship with a friend’s brother. It is not really a coming-of-age story so much as a coming-to-appreciate-yourself story. It’s not unlike what all of us experienced when we were in our twenties. Before the apocalypse. It is an ordinary story made fresh and emotionally involving through the author’s skill at creating a world that is both frightening to imagine, and somehow optimistic.
Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.
Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.
By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.
Thank you bloggers Bayou Book Junie (https://bayoubookjunkie.wordpress.com), MM Fiction Cafe (https://mmfictioncafe.com), Emotion in Motion (https://www.elizabeth-noble.com/thoughts-and-things-blog), Love That’s Out of This World (https://annabutlerfiction.com/blog ), QueeRomance Ink (https://www.queeromanceink.com), Liminal Fiction (https://www.limfic.com), and J. Scott Coatsworth (https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com). And hardly least, Joyfully Jay (https://joyfullyjay.com) has a post on the origins of Red Dot that you won’t see anywhere else, and Author Anthony Avina’s Blog (http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com) gave Red Dot a wonderful review, excerpted below. Please check them all out! There is a lot to see on these blogs, one and all.
This was such a beautifully constructed sci-fi world the author has crafted. The way they were able to bring about this post-dystopian world was so refreshing and unique, exploring a somewhat more hopeful future that sees environmental disasters conquered and technological wonders an everyday part of life. The emotional depth of a novel of this caliber that delves into the morality and heart of what an AI is or can be in life, and whether they can develop the same level of consciousness that humanity has, was absolutely outstanding and kept the reader both hopeful and teary throughout the read.
The character development of this narrative was stupendous. The LGBTQ representation that could be found throughout the entirety of this cast of characters was phenomenal to see and more relevant to the world we live in. This backstory for many of the characters, including protagonist Mardy himself, was perfect to mirror the themes and atmosphere that the AI conversation crafted naturally, making this such an exciting read.
Mind-blowing, thought-provoking, and emotionally investing, author Mike Karpa’s “Red Dot” is a must-read post-dystopian and sci-fi read! The fantastic character growth and rich and futuristic setting made this a captivating story, while the mix of romance and sci-fi morality themes made this one of those novels that readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!
Criminals launched as an ebook and paperback from Mumblers Press in October 2021 (or September, depending on who you ask). I nervously awaited the review from Kirkus Reviews, which was then in process. When it came out, I was all smiles. It was great! And when I looked it up on the Kirkus website, lo and behold, that review had a star. The full review is kind of spoilery, so I will just excerpt a part of it below:
Karpa’s comic noir has the feel of an Elmore Leonard novel, with colorful grifters and creeps tangled in tawdry machinations in a vividly rendered demimonde. Tokyo is a vibrant setting of traditional niceties and crass modernity, where “the diesel-scented air flowing freely into [Conner’s] lungs felt excellent.” The mysteries are psychological and spiritual as well as conspiratorial, as much about Conner’s thoughts about his sexuality and Marika’s longing “to see the vastness of the earth” as they are about drug-smuggling schemes. Karpa renders amusing action and intricate procedures in spare, observant, and mordantly funny prose that finds meaning in every gesture, as when a woman bows “too low, as women her age always seemed to do, as though competing for a national title in submission.” Readers will root for Conner and Marika to make it through…
Purty good stuff!
This memoir piece –Do You Have a Plan — may be the most personal thing I’ve ever done. It has been up on Foglifter’s site as a Foglifter Feature for some time now, but here’s the link in case you’ve missed it: https://foglifterjournal.com/2021/04/25/do-you-have-a-plan-by-mike-karpa/
Thanks for publishing it, Foglifter!
I am looking forward to giving a minor assist with this program, hosted by the delightful Anshu Johri who’s work I know from Play on Words, where she both reads (as an actor) and is read (her work by others). (I’ll be reading the Japanese originals for three poems translated into Hindi.) 8pm on Sep 26. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite!
This iteration of Perfectly Queer reading series features two authors I’ve read before, Jim Provenzano and Rob Rosen. Via Zoom Tuesday, September 29, 7pm to 8:15pm.
And now it’s live! Oyster River Pages is up, including my story “Scarce Adjusted in the Tomb” among a host of wonderful stuff from many genres. I am already well into reading through it–starting with fiction, as I do–and finding so many great reads. I may even start hopping around into the poetry and non-fiction, just out of curiosity, before I get to the end of fiction, because I have a hankering. So many words, so little time.
A story that appeared on the page many years ago in a very different incarnation for the fiction workshop at Stanford’s Continuing Studies has found a home! “Scarce Adjusted in the Tomb ” will appear this September in Oyster River Pages. This is especially welcome news in that I’ve become a professor again–teaching a graduate course at Kent State–so writing really hasn’t got the attention I want it to. (My writing activity has mainly been focused on the rewrite of The Wealthy Whites of Williamsburg, last year’s NaNoWriMo effort.)
The latest iteration of “Scarce” is darker than any yet, completely eschewing a traditional happy ending (Go ahead: Don’t grow! Run away!)–so I am amazed it didn’t provoke the opposite response–turning away in disgust. But it’s nagged at me all these years so I guess it nagged at someone else as well!