Tag Archives | capitalism

Academic Dumas-ery

an adjunct's taleKane X. Faucher’s latest novel is a brilliant adaptation the classic Alexander Dumas tale of revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo.

I’ve always loved the original, and Faucher’s book is a wonderful satire that cleaves to the original plot so carefully, I was continually impressed. I kept thinking, “There’s no way he can maintain this!” But he did. So, I would encourage you to read the original story at some point if you already haven’t, so this pleasure is not denied to you.

In Professor Montgomery Cristo: An Adjunct’s Tale, Dantes is an up-and-coming academic. A PhD candidate with a glorious academic future ahead of him. But then he is wrongly accused of plagiarism (the academic equivalent of murder) and his hopes are dashed. Instead of prison, Dantes’s is sent to a second-rate university, where he must toil as an adjunct professor, where he meets another sessional who will help him achieve his revenge on the jealous academics who ruined him.

All the bones of the original story are there, and then fleshed out with this wonderful satire of the unjust treatment of sessional teachers at modern universities. Sometimes called contract faculty, the life of a sessional can be tough. Particularly when you are on what is called a limited duties appointment, which is renewable term by term. This means sessional don’t always know what they are teaching or even IF they are teaching next semester. The pay is low, and there are often no benefits. At many universities upwards of 40% of courses are taught by adjuncts.

All of these injustices – and many more — are satirized by Faucher in this novel, and it is really worth your time. Now in interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have been, and am, a contract faculty member, and that Kane is a colleague, but this is a wholehearted recommendation. This book has the pacing of Dumas and the wicked sense of humor and genius of Faucher.

Alltop loves a good adjuncting.

Under the Blue Curve (Short Fiction)

pacific ocean and sky with curved distortionWhen Elisa sat down for lunch, Henry Overduin had no idea how much she was going to change his world.

She and her colleagues from the Department of Corporate Oversight sat in Henry’s section, but he would have noticed her even if they hadn’t. There was something different and magnetic about Elisa Taper. The rest of the diners at Le Fou en Mer were unreserved cyborgs. Most of them wore their cranial implants in a showy style that was the vogue among the rich; Henry found the fashion tasteless. But Elisa’s jet black hair was cut in a bob that just covered her implant. It was elegant. Her eyes were a startling emerald green, and there was something about the intelligence in them that captured Henry’s attention.

She seemed completely natural — just like Henry.

Of course, he had no implants of any kind. Even on his waiter’s salary he could have afforded one, but there was no point, because Henry was noneact. He had been unable to access the datasphere his whole life. When he was young, the world had begun integrating with it, and now the world was the datasphere. The latest generation of implants let humans access sensory experiences as well as information. Apparently, it was more real than real, his regular customers told Henry. Henry never wanted to be a waiter — he wanted to tell stories. But he had no audience. Without the datasphere, he didn’t even have a medium. There were no books, no magazines, no newspapers. There wasn’t a real movie industry anymore — it had all been swallowed by one all-encompassing ubermedia. Even conversation had been subsumed by it. The irony was there was a desperate need for Henry’s originality in what the Germans called the weltgeschichte — the world story. But Henry’s tales weren’t part of it, because he couldn’t be heard.

At least, not beyond the routine of taking orders and fetching drinks. Henry tried not to resent his job. In some sense, he was lucky he was able to work at all. Le Fou en Mer wasn’t so expensive that a human chef ran the kitchen, but it was trendy enough that the clientele were all served by real humans. In addition to Henry, the other staff that day included two students from the city’s main academy. For them, the job was something they would remember fondly after they had graduated to work remotely, or dynamically in the datasphere, depending on their abilities.

But for Henry it was one of the few jobs that he could hold, all thanks to his faulty, noneactive mind.

He tried not to dwell on it, while he walked over to the table where Elisa sat with her colleagues. He let them know the chef’s specials that day, trying to be pleasant, and asked for their drink orders; it might have been obvious he found Elisa attractive, but he tried to disguise it. No matter, Elisa saw. She asked him his name, and was somewhat perturbed when he completely ignored her routine subvocal query.

Read the rest of the story at Abyss and Apex …>

Originally published, October, 2007. Original photo by Evan Leeson.

Ask General Kang: Is it a correction? Please tell me it's just a correction! Should I sell?

Ask General  KangYep, there’s nothing trickier to manipulate than a system based on fear and greed.

You humans should consider changing your approach to markets. Back on my home planet, I changed our stock market system to take most of the greed out of it, and increased the amount of fear.

How, you ask?

Simple. On a day like yesterday, anyone who managed to grab a profit out of the mass hysteria would be in big trouble.

How big, you ask?

Well, depending on the size of the profit, the traders could expect anything from a visit from Dave the Angry Rhesus monkey (armed with a pain stick and wet noodles), to being body-shaved, covered with nougat, and dropped into one of several nests of Parventian Rough-Tongued Terror Beasts.

So, on a day like yesterday, the question changes from: “can I make a profit out of the hysteria” or “should I sell and save myself” to “DARE I sell to make a profit/save myself.”

Next time: I believe in love after love — is that wrong?

Alltop used to room with Dave the Angry Rhesus monkey in college. Originally published in February , 2007.

Ask General Kang: Total strangers keep offering me a "free hug". What should I do?

Ask General KangClearly, you’re uncomfortable with the idea of a “free hug”, or you wouldn’t be asking about it. There is a powerful element of society who would force this “free hug” upon you, using nothing more than persuasion and good looks.

What, exactly, are they up to?

My theory is they’re trying to undermine basic primate behaviour. Hugs are an intimate form of communication that release either good chemicals or bad, depending on the huger and the huggee. Back on Planet Neecknaw, instead of hugs we have grooming — checking our close friends and family for fleas and other fur foibles. (Of course, we rarely find them now that we’ve relaxed our harsh Anti-Bathing Laws, instituted in the Stinky Ages.) Now, would I let a total stranger grope through my luxuriant back hair on the street? I think not. That would generate some bad chemicals — the kind that make Kang angry!

Perhaps these “free huggers” are trying to extend the warm blanket of close friends and family to everyone. If everyone becomes a friend, this would make warfare rather difficult to pursue. As a former interstellar warlord, I cannot condone this subversive movement.

The best solution: if you want the hug, I’d insert the crass note of commerce to it, and give them some money.

Next time: I’ve been doing some thought experiments, but I think there may some flaws in my equipment. What do it do?

Alltop would willingly PAY for a free hug. It’s that weird. Originally published in January, 2007.