A-one and a-two and a-three and a-four;
Five, six, seven, eight!
Eight drops of nyquoliumquadrolate!
Suck it up onto the crystal dropper, suck it up, chin up, be a good trooper, make the music, make the money, make them all believe the lies–
“Caran!” Mindy Ming, body-guard-cum-tour-mom, olive cheeks, red flush. She’s twice everyone’s bulk and legal for retractable liteguns implanted where her ulnae used to be. She’s taken a bullet for me, more than once. That doesn’t make us friends. She’s corporate through-and-through. “We’re landed in ten.”
“Yeah. Hey thanks Min, thanks for canceling the opening night party thing.”
“LaRoque isn’t happy about it.” Jonathan LaRoque, Mister Manager. He’s half everyone’s bulk and shaped like the rat he is, but it’s not like I’ve any say in managers.
“LaRoque can bite me.” I’ve no say in schedule either, so what all’s left except expressing my feelings to the fullest extent possible. Sure I’ve got my own corporate identity under the swirly “CW” sigil clipped to the webbing of my right thumb but that’s still a sub-charter of 100 Worlds Music, fake as fuck like everything else. Don’t forget, don’t ever forget, it’s the price to keep the music. They own me but I own my songs. No one owns my songs. Like music could ever belong to anyone at all. It’s like owning atmosphere.
Mindy squeezes my shoulder but not hard enough for me to feel it. “And now we’re landed in nine.”
Got to take a few deep breaths. Got to get ready for show time in seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two–
I step onto the landing platform whistling, handlers surging from all sides, security, local and mine, pushing back media to make a path to the secure sonic VIP tube.
“You got a–”
“Is the kinetikosonus really–”
“Are the rumors–”
“Can I have your–”
Wave big, smile bigger, don’t show, don’t blow. “Coming to the gig tonight sweetie? Kiss kiss!” Inane whatevers. Never answer a question directly, redirectly. “Love the shirt! Did you buy the 2V of my set?” Wink-wink, flirt-flirt.
Next: Whisking down a blur of passageways on a private sonic tube, surrounded by–what are all these people for again?
For shoving food at me, water, prep for sound check, makeup in five, press your corpin to this form, you-need-to-see-this-media!, food, more food, vitamin water juice prep time, don’t forget your stretches, here’s a new shirt you like it huh?, put this on, sound-check, check-check, kinetikosonus has a hitch here can you tell the tech guys to, check checkcheck–
Thirty minutes later: Mainfeed all the way, and Bobbie from the Europan Monitor stands on the gold-sparkle Studio Six set. Beads of goldstuff on tracks running up and down the walls would have kicked me into instant overload except the drug puts that sharp edge of dull over everything, making it clear what’s going on. I can see each tiny bright-spark shimmering bead without losing my shit into screaming, biting, fight-or-flight. Might be frying my nerves on the down-spin but the up-spin sure did sing! Sparkle for the holocams pointed at the chairs, stage over to the right.
“Mx. Watts! May I call you Caran?” Bobbie looks female, sounds male.
“Yeah, sure.” I lean forward so Bobbie can catch my cheek. “You can call me anything as long as you give me kisses.” The cameras are rolling, seeking a candid of something hype-able. I shoot them a crooked smile to show I’m onto the game. Doesn’t matter what I say or do, media will spin it however it hooks the most consumers, what does anything matter.
Bobbie flutters impotently near my cheek and retreats. Bobbie’s braver than most since I told everyone I couldn’t handle yellow that day and then my six-o-clock from Red City Reporter had worn yellow and it was the worst kind of yellow all sharp and off-key screaming in my eyes just one thing too much in that moment and not even the drug could save me. Bit that reporter’s ear right the fuck almost off. Fans scream and clap every time the reporters flinch and cover their ears. They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, and neither does Caran Watts in meltdown mode; Bobbie you’re safe. “Don’t I get a wetter kiss. I won’t bite. Not you, anyway.” Oh yeah they’ll buzz over that when they run the backstage holo later.
“Very funny,” Bobbie says but doesn’t come closer. Instead they gesture to the clear easy-chair-shaped thing with the pink and green glowstripes around the arms and edges. I’d been right to wear the shifting metallic jacket, swirling colors in the glowstripes. Wrong to sit in the chair, cold and hard as a block of iron. Impossible not to fidget.
“Three… two… one…” studio staff counts and we’re live.
Bobbie to the camera: “I’m here at the Europan Monitor’s Studio Six Entertainment Stage with the famous–or should I say infamous–Caran Watts, who is starting a week of sold-out performances here at the Mnemosyne Theatre. Hope you’re one of the lucky few with a ticket!”
Bobbie to me: “So, I was at your Two Shades of Blue preview in Red City last week, very impressive.”
“Yeah, what’d you expect?” Flash, flash, the rakish grin.
Bobbie laughs, then gets Serious Reporter Face, brows in and down, eyes bright, mouth a fake-concerned line that says: I’m going to invade your privacy now; it’ll be fun. “The song about the boy who jacked in–‘Blood Deeps’–that’s a reference to 20th century notions of brain computers?”
“Could be. Could be a reference to sex too.” I wink. Try to get comfortable in the chair. Back in the 20th century the scandal would have been the sex, not the tech. Fuck this chair itches.
“You know here on Europa there have been some recent, and very serious, terror threats by the Genetic Liberation Front, so there’s a lot of concern about anything that promotes mental control of computers. In fact, there was a bomb scare linked to the GLF just this afternoon, I think it delayed your landing? How would you respond to the Parent Monitor Association Corporation’s recommendation to tag the new track for age major-only?”
“More power to ’em, it’ll only make the sales jack!”
More Bobbie laughter. Reporter laughter. They all have the same laugh. Fuck, this is boring. “Great laugh Bobbie, you got a great laugh.”
“Seriously though, here are some of the lyrics,” Bobbie recites with no sense of rhythm, “‘Burning up for jacking in / See the sea and live again / Down in dirt I bite my tongue / Jack the sea and live again.’ You’re aware that some Operators refer to the Mem as ‘sea’ and the real world as ‘land?’ Still say the song’s about sex?”
I smirk at them. “Yeah. Sex is wet. Like the sea. Like the kisses you didn’t give me.”
“There are some people who say the kinetikosonus is either smoke and mirrors or uses some very questionable technology. How would you say your unique instrument operates?”
“Magic!” I shake my hands in the air, poof! No, Bobbie, no, the instrument actually runs on quantum code. I program it myself. That’s what’s really on the dataslip around my neck, not your stupid-fucking-normal 21st century silicon-chip code like you’ve been told every single fucking timeyou’ve asked that same, dumb, fucking question for the past ten years. Oops, Bobbie, big oops; I’m everything you fear and hate! Take that, Bobbie! Take that, world! Take that, truth!
Bobbie opens their mouth but I’m done with Bobbie so I gesture at the stage which is entirely taken up and then some by the kinetikosonus, all taboo naked circuit boards and valves and shimmering brass and glass and wire. “We gonna sing here today?”
Bobbie gives a hopeful nod, but I can see from their twitching right eye they’re pissed as shit there wouldn’t be more interview. Doesn’t matter what you want, Bobbie! You’ve come at me too hard too fast with the dangerous questions; you know better. Three questions about the tech is all you get! My PR guy insists! Plus you’re damn boring for an entertainment reporter.
I finger the warm, heavy surfaces of the platinum-coated dataslip around my neck. Eight fucking drops and I still can’t feel it as anything other than weight. The fast-talk and the walk-walk and the sparkle-tolerance are dark blue lies. But not the music. The music always tells the truth.
I stand and step onto the stage–OUT OF THAT FUCKING CHAIR, THANKS–by way of an impossibly small corridor between the eight meters of 4V projection plates upstage and the banks of electronics and acoustics downstage. The kinetikosonus is getting too big; time to strip away some of the sections. Maybe I can do with less brass, I don’t use the tuba-thing much ’cause the electronic effect that makes the bass-chest rumble is just fine.
Let’s do this thing.
The dataslip slots into the reader and the interactive 4V display turns on over the holoplates.
Awash in color.
Step within, moving my hands through sienna swirls to initiate a back-drone and all the tension goes.
Lashes wet on cheeks in sonic relief.
My skin shivers with the static tingle of Muse manifesting invisibly around, within.
<hhhhhiiiiiii soon sound satisfaction > it whispers to me, sharing the sensation of curling its consciousness into the amplifiers. < *warm eager* music good we agree? >
< yes, on music we agree > Fucking thing sure didn’t agree with me when I tried to down the whole vial of dark blue lies earlier. Zap-snapped my hand with so many amps I almost dropped it. Fucking thing won’t even let me die.
< not while we’ve music >
“Seeing as you liked my sex song so much, here it is, ‘Blood Deeps.'” No solutions, just a thousand shimmering paths to denial. Cover it all over in sound.
I blink the resonators on; my voice reacts with the drones, nonlinear sine-wave feedbacks. “Hear that, kids, turn on your mainfeed recorders, catch the tune before they ban it!” I sweep on the visualizers for the gestural controls. “Never let ’em take your sweet freedom!” Colors spray and the drones change pitch. I blow a not-wet kiss to the cameras, to the invisible crowds gathered at the local mainfeed terminals through the Europa torus and Ganymede too, standing in information hotspots, starting up at media projected onto the ceilings of tube stations and public ways. Everything bad washes away in sound. Whatever else happens, the music is mine. No, not mine. Ours, yours, hope, my gift to the world.
< *love* > echoes Muse.
“Blood Deeps.” The instrument picks up my voice and carries it with layers of whisper-tones, eerie ambience as I move and sway and the electronics rise and I twirl on the woodwinds and air rushes through the reeds.
Smash into the dance.
A wall of sound blasting from a tiny stage
splashing from living light
sharing symphonies inside my head
torched with power.
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. Dora is the author of the Hoshi and the Red City Circuit and Resonance, both available from Autonomous Press.
For more about Dora Raymaker’s work, read the interview with them in this issue of Wordgathering.
They can be found at doraraymaker.com.