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The Most Interesting Scene in “Mr. Robot” S2E1



I remain absolutely riveted by USA’s Mr. Robot. It’s like a slow-motion horror movie—like literally if you took a horror movie about a man losing his mind and slowed it to like 1/8th speed, you would have Mr. Robot‘s episodes. Then a brilliant fan theory starts going around online that makes me appreciate what the show is doing even more. I mean, there simply isn’t another show out there operating on Mr. Robot’s visual and atmospheric level right now.

The show’s not perfect, of course, but every episode offers something, usually a sequence that is simply a brilliant mini-movie. This got me thinking about a sequence in the season two premiere that isn’t getting a lot of heat, but I think should: the hacking and takeover of Susan Jacobs’ smart house.

It’s no secret that Mr. Robot often films its episodes like a horror movie instead of a techno thriller or a story about hackers who actually kinda sorta resemble the real thing instead of the Hugh Jackman speed-typing sort you usually get. The lighting, framing, angles, and music all combine to offer up a tableau of dread that is very effective. And this scene is like a mini-horror movie without a payoff—or perhaps a delayed payoff to come.

Mild spoilers to follow if you care about spoilers.

Susan Jacobs is very rich woman, counsel to E Corp. She has a very nice townhome. It’s got a pool, a spa-like bathroom, and a “smart home” system that allows Susan to control everything via iPad. It’s kind of awesome, until she comes home and everything is misbehaving. The alarm won’t stop going off. Music blares at unbearable levels. Her shower is burning hot and the air conditioning has the place at 40 degrees. The TV won’t shut off.

She’s lost control.

The whole sequence is filmed like a horror movie and so it should, as the idea that by bringing these technologies into our homes we’re giving control of some of the most essential aspects of our lives—our shelter—into the hands of a) unseen corporate interests and their drones or b) hackers is kind of scary. By the time we get a smash cut to Jacobs, wearing a winter coat indoors and screaming into the phone that she can’t unplug anything because the wires are buried in the walls, we know she’s totally screwed. She schedules a service call, calls a car, and flees to her country house because of course she has a country house. And literally moments later, F Society shows up, turns everything off, and takes control of the house. They set everything to go crazy just to drive her away. Now they have weeks of using this awesome house for free.

Clever, but what’s really clever about it is how this sequence underscores something interesting: The hackers aren’t the heroes of this show. There are no heroes on this show. The hackers are just as menacing and destructive as the evil corporation. The hackers managed to erase the debts of millions, but this supposedly Robin Hood-like move has destabilized the world, and regular people are shown having to deal with the negative side of this Fight Club ideal: Sure, their debts have been erased … but so has all evidence that they paid those debts in the first place. As a sequence showing a woman desperately trying to convince the bank that she is up to date on her mortgage show, erasing all that data won’t cause the banks to shrug and say well, we can’t prove you owe us money so we guess you don’t! Instead, the more likely scenario is that we’d all find ourselves forced to prove the negative: That we don’t owe them money.

The theft of the smart house should be a chilling sequence for anyone who has a Nest installed and is thinking about an Internet-enabled lock or something. It should also serve as clear evidence that the show doesn’t think there’s really any difference between the hackers and the corporations. They both steal whatever they want, and the people who don’t understand the complex systems they administer—computers and the Internet Vs. money and finance—are doomed to be the victims of the people who do.


The Stringer Official Trailer

Hey, I have perhaps mentioned that I write things for a living. Sure, I’d write even if no one paid me, but since people DO pay me, I like to promote the things I write because mo’ money means mo’ liquor and a much greater chance of dying the way I’ve always dreamed: pantsless in a hospital under the name John Doe with a liver the size of a football.

Towards that end, here’s the shiny new trailer for The Stringer, an Ustari Cycle novella set after the events of We Are Not Good People that y’all should read:

About the novella:

Learn the Words. Get the blood. Rule the world. A stand-alone short story in the Ustari Cycle.

Most people never learn what a Stringer is—and their lives are better for it. Lem, however, gets to learn about them and possession by alien intelligences the hard way. A must-read in the gritty supernatural series that includes We Are Not Good People from the “exhilarating, powerful, and entertaining” (Guardian) storyteller of the Avery Cates series.

For blood mages, the twenty-first century means hiding in the shadows, keeping society unaware of their incredible powers. The power-hungry sort plot quietly to manufacture tragedies bloody enough to give them the gas they need to cast something monumental. Lem and Mags, down-and-out bosom buddies to the end, try to be good, bleeding nobody but themselves, skating by on small Cantrips, cons, and charms.

So when the siren song of easy money comes their way in the form of helping out a friend, clearly no good will come of it. Blood mages are not good people. And neither are Stringers—alien intelligences that can take over a body and run it ragged. Stringers: they aren’t subtle, aren’t content to skulk in the shadows, and aren’t a houseguest anyone wants. Lem is about to learn what a possession hangover feels like—if Mags and his more tentative allies can figure out how to stop the demon without killing him.



Smug Bastards Can Go Pound Sand



I’ve never been what you would call a “hip” person. Or cool. I’ve never had my finger on the pulse, as it were; I tumble along, more or less lost in my own thoughts (you folks I’ve walked past on the street while you shout my name to no effect know exactly what I mean) and only occasionally surface to note the things around me. I’m more or less one step from living in my own fantasy world, and the only thing keeping me rooted to reality is probably whiskey.

In short, I’m blissfully unaware of most things.

My memory is also famously awful; my brain lives in the present, bro, and the past melts away and the future has no meaning. The memories I do retain tend to be powerful enough to gain some traction on the smooth, wrinkle-less vastness of my brain. One of the memories I came still summon up dates back to when I was about ten or eleven years old, and I just started to become aware of my social status. Up until then my identity had been wrapped up in my grades and the fact that my teachers thought I was adorable, and the opinions of my fellow children never really mattered; in my neighborhood I could beat all the kids in a footrace and thus considered myself King of the Block.

But then something shifted, and I realized I wasn’t King of the Block, I was a pudgy, glasses-wearing nerd. And this troubled me, because who wants that? So I began an incompetent and lazy campaign to make myself seem cooler, and part of this campaign involved the classic Jeff Somers strategy of pretending to be very knowledgeable about things all the other kids considered cool. And so, when challenged by a bullying classmate to name my favorite rock band — because this was back when rock bands were still cool, you see, which if you carry the two and divide by pi will reveal just how fucking old I am — I said Led Zeppelin, because I had vaguely heard the name before. Unimpressed, the kid demanded I name a favorite song, and, my knowledge of rock music exhausted, I was humiliated.

Now, since that day I’ve rectified both my knowledge of Led Zeppelin (favorite song: Black Dog) and my need for approval (somewhat) and am happy in my slightly obtuse existence. I have accepted myself and my limitations, even though this means I don’t get a lot of stuff. Like Pokémon Go. I barely understand what it is and have no desire to play it.

But, to paraphrase Voltaire, I will die to defend your right to play it.

The Smug Bastards

You know them: The killjoys who can’t stop announcing what they refuse to enjoy, or don’t consider interesting, or are mystified by. It might be Pokémon, it might be Game of Thrones. It might be Star Wars or sports or whatever — the only defining characteristic of the Smug Bastard is that they don’t share your enjoyment of something, and they wish — oh god how they wish, they wish hard — to let you know this fact.

The classic example has always been and will ever be the Person Without a Television. These days you could update that to The Person Without Any Sort of Screen. These folks have been waddling about for decades, proudly announcing that they are certainly not stupid and lazy enough to waste their time watching programs. They prefer reading books, collecting stamps, listening to the opera or some other Smug Bastard Approved form of entertainment.

These days, with pop culture fragmenting, Smug Bastards, much like bedbugs, are proliferating. It’s easy to fall into the trap; someone says “Hey, I love that show!” concerning something you’ve never heard of, and a cursory investigation reveals a cartoon whose premise seems silly to you. So you dismiss it. Now, you’re not required to like or even know about anything in this world. If you choose not to partake, no worries. It’s when you decide you have to let the rest of us know, in awful, horrible detail why you don’t care for it that you become a Smug Bastard, living in the damp, dark creases of the Internet.

The Dark Creases

Resting. Smug. Bastard. Face.

Resting. Smug. Bastard. Face.

The Internet, of course, is where most of the Smug Bastards thrive. The disconnect, the digital wall between you and everyone else — plus the other Smug Bastards who rally around you — makes it seem almost okay to shit all over someone else’s enjoyment. You meet Smug Bastards in real life, of course. People who will dismiss all of rap music, for example, as unworthy of their attention, or people who love and praise the worst movies made before 1970 but despise everything since. But it’s on the Internet where the Smug Bastards thrive, clogging up your Facebook feeds with smug declarations that what you enjoy is stupid, or less worthy.

Fuck ’em all.

I’m just as guilty of Smug Bastard Syndrome as anyone else. In fact, where some folks have a Resting Bitch Face I often have a Resting Smug Bastard Face, and my kneejerk reaction to just about, well, everything is bored, superior disinterest. But you know, at least I don’t post it on the Internet or walk around announcing it. When with my fellow humans, when something like Pokémon Go comes up, I smile and feign polite interest.

Because that’s what you do in a society.

So, to repeat: Fuck ’em all. Have a good day.


Weekly Recap July 8, 2016

recapSo, another week over, and what have I don? Not that much, as it happens. Still, once you start one of these sorts of Blog things, you have to keep it up or everyone stands around laughs at you because you can’t maintain even the simplest of projects. So here I am, are you happy? Are you happy judging me for my inability to even do a simple recap post on a weekly basis?

Ahem. At any rate, here’s what y’all need to know happened in The World of Jeff Somers this past week, because life moves pretty fast:

1. We Are Not Good People is still $1.99 for the Kindle (and Nook, Kobo, etc) version, and will be until July 31st. Kirkus called the book an “insistently entertaining novel, Somers creates a world of seedy urban crime that develops into a violent epic.” It’s also a good way to be ready for The Stringer, dropping in August for just $0.99.

2. I wrote a thing (right below this thing!) about how I hate several things that other people go crazy for, especially parades. If you agree with me that these things are terrible, please comment and support me and maybe we can defeat the evil Parade and Fireworks Industry. UNITE!

3. I posted this photo of my cat Coco Chanel and an expertly photoshopped cover of The Stringer:


4. I wrote several things for the Internet:

And that about covers the main points. Until next time, I will be drunk and pantsless.



On the Dark Side

Can't Tell if the Cop is a Costume or Not

Can’t Tell if the Cop is a Costume or Not

Increasingly, we live in a world where shared, universal experiences are fewer and further between. Where once you could count on a few tens of millions of people watching a TV show with you—and often at precisely the same time—these days DVRs and streamed video means you can watch things literally years after they make their cultural splash, and even if you do watch them at the same time as just about everyone else, chances are a much smaller number of people are watching it with you.

Which leads to the most ridiculous of all ridiculous First World Problems: Trying to find a TV show everyone at a dinner or other gathering has watched completely in order to have something to discuss passionately. It’s a lot harder than it should be.

Cranky and Humorless

It also highlights one of my own problems: I hate many things that most people love.

As I ease on down into middle-aged crankiness, I am increasingly comfortable openly admitting to absolutely hating things I am expected, for some reason, to love. It’s like politics: Have you ever had a total stranger just suddenly start talking to you about their batshit political beliefs because they simply assume you’re one of them? Like, you’re chatting with a neighbor on the street and they suddenly unload a torrent of anti-Obama invective, and you’re standing there wondering what it is about your specific T-shirt and shorts combo that somehow projects I AM AN INSANE RACIST?

I feel that way when people discuss any of the following activities, which I am somehow weird for not enjoying:

  1. Live music. Fuck concerts. I went to a lot of them when I was a kid because it was just what one did. I’ve always despised the experience, though. Crushed, shoved, expensive drinks, and music that sounds a millions times worse than the carefully recorded and engineered versions. These days I’d usually rather have my feet cut off than go to a concert.
  2. Parades. Sweet baby jebus, parades. A slow, grinding assault on my time here on Earth, a parade is literally a way of measuring off how much of your life you’re wasting that day. Unless you’re in the parade, possibly carrying one of those batons that you pump up and down in the air while leading everyone. That’s a different story. And basically how I spend my Sundays, although so far no one has spontaneously followed me as I march around, which has surprised me.
  3. Fireworks. Our country’s recent birthday reminded me just how boring and awful fireworks are. People who enjoy setting off fireworks are sociopaths, and people who enjoy watching fireworks are people who believe entertainment literally equals staring at bright shiny things for fucking hours.
  4. Travel. The Duchess will burst into tears and punch you in the face if you ask her about my aversion to travel. The Duchess wants to go everywhere, even places where the local residents are getting into leaky boats and risking dangerous trips to escape from. I want to go nowhere. The idea that the future of mankind somehow hinges on broadening my understanding of other cultures is debatable, and travel is uncomfortable, exhausting, and just makes me really, really want to go home. Of course, since I am married to The Duchess, the travel continues, until I die, most likely while strapped into an economy seat heading god knows where.

It’s freeing to be old enough and mature enough to just admit I hate these things and not worry much whether it makes me weird, even if I suspect the world has a few more concerts, parades, and fireworks in store for me, because the world is cruel. In the mean time, if you see me marching up and down in full-on parade regalia, please do join me.


Weekly Recap July 1, 2016

recapHey there hi there ho there, it’s time for the Weekly Recap, where I basically regurgitate everything I’ve already posted, published, or announced this past week. Or, lacking any news, where I will most likely complain a lot about miscellanea. You’re welcome! This is born out of that old idea that you have to tell people things like 5,000 times for them to remember. Will I tell you 5,000 times that We Are Not Good People is $1.99 in July and The Stringer is available for pre-order. YOU KNOW I WILL, BABY. That’s what authors do, after all. We spend about 5% of our time writing and the rest weeping as our crippled fingers tap out Tweets about our books.

Anyways, here’s what happened around these parts this week:

BUY MEDid I already mention that We Are Not Good People, books 1&2 of the Ustari Cycle, is just $1.99 in digital format? I can’t remember, so there it is again. Kirkus Reviews said “In this hefty and insistently entertaining novel, Somers creates a world of seedy urban crime that develops into a violent epic with the help of an intriguingly bloody magic system.” INTRIGUINGLY BLOODY, what are you waiting for? If you already own the novel, you could go post a short review on Amazon, Goodreads, or someplace else. It helps.

Eat me.

Right here on this wee blog, I posted an essay about disturbing commercials that feature food not only eating itself cannibalistically, but eating itself cannibalistically with what can only be described as gusto. To say that I am freaked out and disturbed by this is an understatement.

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of LifeThis was actually a few weeks ago, but I can do whatever I want because I am awesome and also the god of this here wee blog: I did an interview with Matt Handle that includes the quote “I am something of a natural asshole. My friends will nod enthusiastically if you ask them, ‘Is Jeff an asshole?’ Their nodding will be tinged with affection, but they will still be definitive gestures of agreement.”

ROCK STARI published an essay over at concerning the fact that more than 25% of Americans say they hadn’t read a book in the last year, and how James Patterson has a solution for this. I also had a solution, but it involves an eat-your-veggies approach of offering up some easy-to-read books, so naturally everyone ignored it.

I posted this photo of my adorable cat, Spartacus. It was a hit:


sewer_ratAnd finally, the July Jeff Somers Rocks You Like an Email Hurricane newsletter went out, containing the free Avery Cates short story The Sewer Rat. If you weren’t signed up for the newsletter, you have two choices: Find someone who was who will send it to you, or sign up now. If you sign up and send me a note, I’ll send you the story. Why not?

Until next week, I will be drinking heavily and writing under the influence, which usually generates sentences like “He stepedhgu iuntio the room and rhfdjhsfjkhsdkfjdskjfhdskjhfldksjhfkdsjhfdskjhfksjdh.”



On Food Cannibalism in Commercials

Eat me.

Eat me.

Let’s stipulate that two of the more disturbing things in this world are A) advertising in all forms and B) eating other living things for sustenance. Stipulated. Now, put those things together and generally speaking you’ll get some of the most insane, soul-killing stuff ever committed to paper or video, and anthropomorphic food is definitely at the top of the list. Every time a hot dog dances onto a movie screen singing about treats, I think about that fucking hot dog screaming in horror when someone eats him. The upcoming film Sausage Party gets this, since the entire film is all about anthropomorphic food that thinks being chosen at the grocery store is ascending to paradise, only to be completely horrified to discover what it really means.

So, as with most dark stuff, there’s humor there. Even so, sometimes there are commercials that are so ridiculously strange they make an impression—but what really makes you wonder if you’re living in a computer simulation created by aliens with an imperfect understanding of humanity in general is when the strange commercials all have the same weird, disturbing thing in common.

For example, food eating itself.

You’re Eating Yourself, You Don’t Believe It

Now, on the one hand anthropomorphic food eating itself—eagerly—isn’t necessarily evidence of anything beyond the fact that people working in advertising and marketing are the Worst People in the World (this is a fact, go look it up). I mean, if we imagine that Mrs. Potato Head actually exists as an intelligent, sentient being, then if she chooses to grind up her fellow potatoes and fry them up into delicious chips and then eat them, well, maybe sentient potatoes have different traditions and religious beliefs.

Dig the Trump Hair

Dig the Trump Hair

Or if our breakfast cereal spends its free time chasing its fellows around so it can literally tear them apart with its teeth (teeth?) and eat them alive while they flee in fucking terror, then who am I to say otherwise? Again, maybe sentient cereals have developed a different standard of morality.

I see this in my nightmares, now.

I see this in my nightmares, now.

These are just two of several advertisements for awful processed foods that apparently believe that cannibalism, terror, and the complete and total breakdown of society is an aces way to sell you horrible things. There are the M&Ms commercials, of course, which are not so much cannibalism as simply the predatory consumption of sentient, thinking beings who are completely aware that we all wish to consume them. I mean, seriously, this is a shitshow of psychological horror centered on convincing us to eat food we should never, ever actually eat. (Although, to be fair, Lay’s chips are fucking delicious).

My conclusion is inescapable: As I have long suspected, you all want to eat me.

I Am Delicious

Here’s my unbreakable logic:

  1. Advertising firms have the resources and motivation to get to the bottom of the human psyche. If they can crack the mind-control codes that stumped the CIA during the MK-Ultra years, they can make us give them our money for things like shit cereal that will 100% give you diabetes within a few years.
  2. Thus if all the trends in food advertising use cannibalism and the violent murder and consumption (usually raw) of sentient beings, the Advertising Illuminati must know this will appeal to you. Because you—yes, you—are a horrifying animal who secretly wants to murder and kill me.

I think I’ve proven my point: If you buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you’re a murdering cannibal. Or could be a murdering cannibal. Either way, I don’t want to be left alone with you. You can just mail me my Ph.D. in Thinking, I’ll just be sitting here drinking whiskey and watching far too many television commercials about predatory cannibalistic food.


Weekly Recap June 24, 2016

recapSo, this will be a new thing I do at least until I forget about it sometime in the Fall: A weekly recap of things I’ve posted, announced, linked to, complained about, or otherwise referenced in my social media, private out loud conversations with myself I could swear I transformed into a blog post, or other communications channels.I may be stealing this idea from someone, but since theft is the foundation of all my online promotion, why stop now?

So, this week you may have missed

  1. Infographic Porn 4I wrote an article titled “I Asked Novelists How Hard It Is to Write a Novel” that is pretty much what it says on the tin, and which includes fascinating facts such as the fact that 52% of all published authors admit to the use of black magic to get their publishing deal.
  2. sewer_ratTechnically this was last week, but that fits the general theme of incompetence I wallow in, so I’ll allow it: There’s a new Avery Cates short story coming, but you’ll have to be signed up for my newsletter in order to read it, which is some flat-out illuminati stuff, brah.
  3. snowcountryI wrote a new piece for Barnes & Noble about novels that inspire vacation destinations, including A Fine Balance, one of the best books you’ve never read, Ulysses, and one of the best books you’ve never heard of, Snow Country. Read it here.
  4. rebellionI wrote a piece for touting some of the most patriotic bestselling books you can read in order to celebrate the upcoming 4th of July with a modicum of American literary spirit while you drink a beer that’s literally been renamed America. Read it here. I also wrote a piece for B&N about books that were written in prison, because making the act of writing a novel seem exciting is not easy. Read it here.
  5. A lot of cat-related photos, like this one.

While not technically a part of new business this week, let’s all take a moment to pre-order the upcoming Ustari Cycle novellas: The Stringer, Last Best Day, and The Boom Bands,which are coming to blow your mind very, very soon, plus the anthology Urban Allies which contains my short story co-written with Stephen Blackmoore that combines my Ustari Cycle universe with his Eric Carter universe. And finally, don’t forget The Shattered Gears: Omnibus is just $2.99 right now!

Enjoy your weekend. I plan to drink a lot and complain.


Authoring is Hard Work

Cats Ate My DeskIn 2002, a year in which otherwise almost nothing I can remember happened, the New York Times reported that “a recent survey” confirmed the worst fears of many Americans: 81% of the country thought they could write and publish a book. Eighty-one percent. Considering there are about 319 million people in the U.S.A. alone, that means about 258 million people figure that someday when they have some spare time they’ll bang out a novel. Or, more accurately, they’ll go find a writer friend they know, drunkenly explain the story idea with helpful doodles on cocktail napkins as visual aids, and then let that writer friend write and publish the book while splitting the profits 70/30.

At first blush, the 81% number seems high, especially when you consider that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counts just 129,100 authors and writers in the country as of 2012. Although, when combined with the explosion of self-publishing in recent years, that seems like a dubious number too, especially when you learn that the Bureau also claims the median income for authors and writers is $56,000 a year when most writers are constantly Googling “how to boil shoes for dinner” or “how long can I eat nothing but Ramen before getting scurvy”—although to be fair when you include people like James Patterson or Stephen King or E.L. James in the calculations, that median is going to shoot up quickly.

However, when you think about how many people participate in things like NaNoWriMo every year (more than 300,000 according to the website) and how many people are publishing novels—more than 750,000 traditionally and self-published books annually in the United States alone—it starts to seem like that 81% number might make sense after all.

In reality what this means is that an enormous number of people think they can write and sell a book, but less than 25% of them actually do, one way or another. That’s a big gap, even if we remove those helpful folks who are always offering up brilliant ideas for novels and seeking to split profits and restrict ourselves solely to people who would, you know, actually be willing to write a book. As an author myself, there’s only one explanation for the this discrepancy that makes sense: writing a novel is hella hard. Selling a novel is even harder. Black magic may be involved.



New Avery Cates Story

bey_lord_omniIf you’ve been paying attention, you know that over the last 1+ years I’ve put out six novellas continuing the story of everyone’s acerbic, desperate Gunner, Avery Cates. Those six stories were compiled into an omnibus edition (The Shattered Gears) which is currently just $2.99 as an eBook, and it was received pretty well by fans, and there was much rejoicing across the land. Eventually I have 2 more novels in this narrative to write, though I don’t know when that will happen.

Still, I can’t quit Avery. He’s just so much fun to write for, and it’s always intoxicating to have an excited reader base. So, I’m working on a new Avery Cates short: The Sewer Rat. Here’s a work-in-progress cover for it:


Now, this is just a short story, and while it fits into the continuity of the new Cates stories, it’s meant to be more or less standalone, meaning it’s not essential reading for continuity’s sake.

To read it, though, you’ll need to be one of two things: 1. Signed up for my newsletter, or 2. Friends with someone signed up for my newsletter.

Wait, Jeff Has a Newsletter?

Do I ever! You can sign up for it with the form on the right:


The newsletter is an informal affair where I’ll announce news, giveaways, and that sort of thing. It’s also where I’ll be sending out The Sewer Rat, a free Avery Cates short story, in July. If you want to read it, sign up for the newsletter and prepare to be amazed. Or start buttering up someone who’s already signed up.