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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A 2nd tRUMP Administration???


FROM the PROLOGUE of "The SwiftPad Extinction"

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 Real Prez was on his way to be ARRGH nominee again, probably by acclamation, even though he had entered no primaries. His dramatic return to power was portrayed in hushed adoring terms by  his minions in the press, who conjured a tale of a fanciful mid-night operation (organized by his son-in-law) that secreted him out of the private NJ sanatorium, whereupon he simply walked into the White House, reassuming power without a by-your-leave.

It was an illegal act of gall, upending his earlier removal by the 25th Amendment. But the Temp-Prez was hated by everyone, and after the failed (V)ICE invasion of Portland, something had to be done. Real-Prez’s chutzpah had worked, and even the displaced Temp-Prez (who returned rather unconstitutionally to Veep) was praising him by the end of the day. But the dramatic move was all theater – Real-Prez was the power brokers’ only hope, and they preferred Real-Prez’s unpredictable insanity to the charismatically challenged Temp-Prez. 

And since they had as yet not found a new Veep, dumping Temp-Prez would have elevated the Speaker, who was a Dee, and that would be infinitely worse. The coup had all been planned and approved by the power brokers and was accompanied by a great deal of back room maneuvering, the details of which are still mostly secret.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The SwiftPad Extinction - Chapter 9 Alison Flies into Dallas and Experiences C2B (Computer to Brain) Transfer




ALISON EXPERIENCES C2B (Computer to Brain) Transfer

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HER PLANE LANDED AT DALLAS-FORT WORTH IN A RAINSTORM, bouncing horribly during the descent, and even worse on landing. Alison put herself in a trance, waiting for her row’s turn to leave, grabbed her bag and headed out the breezeway and onto the tram. It had been over a month since she had left Northwest Portland in Telly’s helicopter and traveled to Salt Lake City, meeting the political wonks. The one thing she had liked about the nerdy ARRGHs (American Republican Righteous Going to Heaven) in Salt Lake City– even though most of them were awkward and repressed men who had not yet psychologically left their mothers – at least they were able to listen to a woman’s point of view. That, she figured, was a function of their sexual closetedness. 


The Salt Lake City ARRGHs also took the virus seriously, even though at the time there had only been a couple of cases in North America. Of course this was all theoretical then, but now it was getting serious. She just didn’t want to get sick.


Having spent a great deal of time with Senator Cadez, she was convinced that his consciousness was rotting out, even while he was putting up repeatedly strong shows of cogency when speaking or meeting with other politicos. He still wielded a powerful intellect, but it quickly ran out of gas, and soon after would melt into delusion and paranoia. For brief moments, though, he could put on pyrotechnic displays of analysis that dazzled everyone who listened.


Alison had managed to repulse his sexual advances. On the night before she flew to Dallas, at her hotel room door, Cadez had made an awkward play to get Alison into bed, a pathetic suggestion that they “consummate.” She easily parried it, saying she wasn’t “ready,” to let him off the hook. He pulled back into his shell and disappeared. She never thought of him as creepy, but something else, something much worse. She thought that someone or something was speaking through him, that there was no “there” there.


He had gotten worse in the month since leaving Portland. Without any visible embarrassment, almost robotically, he told her that her rejection would not affect their “professional” relationship.


And what was that relationship? Cadez had told her that he had come to trust her political judgment, which she found funny. She was playing a role that was a parody of a serious rightwing apparatchik, but he saw no satire at all. Even early on, she talked about politics to Cadez as if she were the comic fall-gal in a political farce. She found it hard to believe anyone could not see through it. How could he take her over-the-top rants against “leftists’’ seriously? She certainly didn’t. But Cadez did.


And so, with a small staff of well-groomed, sartorially resplendent young men as his team (most of whom projected an ambiguous sexual orientation), Cadez set off on a trip around the country, “campaigning,” which meant controlled situations: no interviews; short, tightly scripted speeches; a wave; and goodbye.


Not caring in the least whether their awkward moment at her hotel room door had any bearing on her status on his team or not, she happily accepted being dispatched to the Social Media Internet Research Konsortium (SMIRK) north of Dallas, in Plano, as its Special Projects coordinator and liaison with the Cadez campaign. But what was of particular interest – well more than just interest – was that Spence was there.


Alison and Spence had been colleagues at Reigny Deigh and – she thought – had been on the verge of something when the Insurgency in Portland broke out. They had kept it on ice for two years, partially successfully keeping their mutual feelings to themselves. So Alison was not completely surprised when she saw Spence waiting outside the gate to pick her up. He waved to her as she approached him. He wasn’t wearing a mask. The virus had first shown up in North America in, of all places, Texas. She knew it was only going to spread. They awkwardly shook hands and they made their way to the baggage claim area. Spence was dressed like he did in Portland: a t-shirt, green Dockers work pants, running shoes, and baseball cap, this time though, a Texas Rangers hat. He had lost weight, and had his hair cut pretty short. 


And he had new glasses. No more dark horn-rimmed frames, but thin, gold-tinted wire-frames. For Alison, this was the most disturbing change she saw, and she wasn’t sure why. As they waited and watched the baggage carousel, he suddenly gave her a hug, and she hugged him back. She said, “There’s my bag!” They broke off and he picked up her suitcase.

They chatted about the flight, and Spence asked her about their co-workers at Reigny Deigh, but avoided the unspoken herd of elephants lurking behind every word. Shrugged when asked if he worried about the virus. Alison let him drive the conversation, staying neutral but friendly. She had expected Spence would express in some way a feeling that he was a virtual prisoner. Shouldn’t he think that she had come to free him? That was what she wanted to believe, but Spence gave no hint of the quiet desperation she expected from him.


As Spence drove her from the airport, Alison realized this was the first time they had been together alone since their flirty, half-drunken afternoon in the East Portland pub – only a little more than a month ago. If he hadn’t left so hurriedly, and returned to his wife, she thought, who knows where it all might have led?


Then – two days later, when the guards took the hood off his head before putting him on the plane for Texas, Spence had looked at her as if she had sold him out. That look had hurt. He had been kidnapped and forced to work for the enemy. She fully realized that she had the same problem.

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“You look so strange wearing that hospital mask,” Spence said. “We don’t do it down here. Still isolated, it won’t spread down here. But I have to say – you look sexy. Mysterious.”


“I don’t care what anybody thinks. I don’t want to get sick. I am wearing it.”


“Suit yourself.” He thought he had given her a compliment, but  apparently not. He glanced quickly over at her, trying to find something to talk about. “You’re worried about it?”


“It’s a pandemic. Jesus, yes!”


Spence dropped it. He started rambling on about the changes just released in SP-Script program – mainly new functions that let you modify some of the media hooks into Gupta’s C2B interface. She barely heard him, because she was thinking about what Telly had said before she left. She had asked Telly how he was getting Spence to work on the C2B SwiftPad interface after what happened to him in Portland. Like she was looking for hints on how to keep him under control.


Telly had said, check out Helmut Gröttrup.

Alison did a quick S-Plog search and discovered that Gröttrup had worked with Wernher von Braun on the German V-2 rockets that killed thousands of Londoners during the closing days of World War II. While von Braun led most of his staff into the Western Zone to surrender to the Americans (after which he would lead the US rocketry development that eventually sent astronauts to the moon), Gröttrup, a secret leftist, stayed in the Eastern Zone, where the Russians held sway. At first he continued to work for his captors in Germany, but was eventually forced (with the remaining German rocket experts) to travel to Moscow to work on the Russian rockets. He was paid more than any Russian, his wife had a chauffeur, they lived in a mansion formerly occupied by a senior government minister, and they had freedom of movement, in Moscow anyway. 


So it sounded as if Telly was telling her that they were bribing Spence with money and status. And, she wondered whether, perhaps like Gröttrup, he secretly agreed with the aims of his captors? And wasn’t that what they were doing to her? Or was she just bait in a bigger game?

Spence had an Audi sedan, not brand new, maybe a year or two old. She didn’t know cars, but getting in, she began to know Spence a little better. Banana peels and apple cores were overflowing out of the plastic garbage bag, littering the floor of the front seat.


“You settled in pretty well,” she said.


“Well, I feel better. I got a message from Maggie. I guess she is hanging out with the SwiftPad gang at Kip Rehain’s place.”


“Really?” Alison had heard that the SwiftPad braintrust had left Portland, moved down to Benton County to the Rehain Compound, but didn’t know what had happened to Maggie.


“You know how someone sounds when they are breaking up with you? Kind of distant, but yet trying too hard not to hurt your feelings, to cheer you up?”


“Umm,” said Alison. Actually, she didn’t really know. She had always been the one who did the breaking up, and she had never sugar-coated it. Just ripped the Band-Aid off. Why leave any hope where there was none, she thought. No one had ever dumped her, but she still understood what he was saying.


“Anyway, Maggie and I – our marriage – was on the ropes for a long time. Our daughter is still in Boston and is OK, although I’m sure she is out in the street demonstrating for Rosie. I don’t know what to think.”


“Me either,” said Alison. She was not about to make any taxicab confessions (such as revealing what Maggie did during the Insurgency) or political statements.


“You know who is also down there at that Rehain place with her? Nate Schuette!”




“Yeah,” said Spence. He looked over at her and saw she seemed to understand what that meant. He really didn’t want to get into the whole story about how Maggie and Nate had lived together, and in fact, were living together when he – Spence – met her. Or the fact that he was Nate’s best friend – or that was how they both played it.


Alison had heard part of the story from Gordy, who could be so bitchy and mean – he had slept with Spence’s first wife, and made sure everybody at Reigny Deigh knew that too. They were quiet for a while driving across the flat plain north of Dallas toward Plano. She had never met Nate Schuette, but from all she had heard, it was pretty clear he was a typical Baby Boom hypocritical, self-involved jerk. A fucking great writer, sure, but that had nothing to do with his character or decency.


“I have to admit, you look – I mean – your eyes, that is all I can see of your face. I love them!”


“I just don’t want to get sick” was all she said.


“Yeah, I hear ya. Maybe I – anyway, sorry about the mess. Hey! Did you get a room yet? You want to stay at my place?”


“Well, maybe later. I already booked a room, and...”


“It is huge, and right on a lake too. Well, not a real lake like in Minnesota or the mountains in Oregon – it doesn’t have that much water right now, but – it’s water! I was going to get a boat next week, but the dockside is all just mud right now. Anyway – I know it’s a weird ask, but you don’t want to stay in a hotel, do you?”


Alison didn’t answer him. Spence looked over at her, and with her sunglasses and mask she looked like she was doing a feminist remake of The Invisible Man.


“OK, we’ll talk about it later. Let’s go right over to the campus then. You can meet the team. It is really pretty cool what we are doing.”


“That’s what I heard. Yeah, let’s go.”


The actual campus wasn’t as big as she had imagined. It certainly didn’t look imposing, more like a mid-sized shopping center.


“About half of the original Ross Perot EDS campus has been siphoned off as a business park. In fact most of our admin offices are in the Legacy – which is what they call it. You will have an office over there. Very upscale. I work down in the mausoleum with the hardware.” Alison looked at him, but didn’t ask him what he meant.


As they drove in, she began to understand the mausoleum comment. It did look like a half-filled cemetery surrounded by the reptile-den that was the Legacy business park. In fact it was hard to figure out which part was creepier, the sterile office buildings or the white concrete extrusions that looked like headstones.


“Come on, I will show you my office. Introduce you around.”


Spence parked across from one of the white outcroppings of concrete that was set back about 30 meters from the circular driveway. The rest was grass. The white cement bunker was in the middle, completely surrounded by a patch of bent, unnaturally green grass the size of a soccer pitch. As they approached this odd little building on the flagstone path, Spence said, “I’m not supposed to park there, but so far nobody has given me any shit.”


“Speaking of, what is that smell?”


“Oh, they water this grass with recycled sewage. Water shortage.”


It was oppressively hot, and the sickeningly sweet smell of the half-processed toilet water made it worse. The bleached-white concrete shed, with a single steel door, had an antenna jutting above it twice as high as the edifice itself. Alison thought it had an insect-like appearance.


“It looks alien, doesn’t it?” Spence gave Alison a goofy smile. She nodded. The door opened easier than expected, and they were immediately hit with an air conditioning blast that must have been 40 degrees cooler than outside. 


“You all work here?” The outer space crypt looked like it was only big enough for an entrance and a small conference room. Spence only smiled. It was a portal into an underground complex. They entered and stood at an imposing stone counter, and were separated from the guards by a very heav y plate glass window, with a recessed slot on the counter for sliding in ID papers and the like.


“You can’t park there, Mr. Stromborn.” The CCTV inside the cage was focused right on Spence’s Audi.


“Give him your driver’s license, Alison. I am only going to be a few minutes, Victor.”


“That’s what you said last time. If Mr. Turner comes by and sees your German automobile, you know what he is going to say.”


Victor’s short-sleeve blue-gray uniform shirt tightly covered his belly, which bulged way out above his thick black leather belt, on which hung a highly polished black holster cradling a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.


“Victor, this is Alison, she will have an office over at Legacy and will be here for a few weeks. Please make sure you get her a badge made up with all the authority. The paperwork should be in an email from Mr. Haines.”


“Yep, I saw it. Miss – Ack-Road, is that it?”


“Aykroyd – like the guy who played Beldar on Coneheads.”




Alison thought this whole place might have been transported from Remulak.




“OK, Ms. Ack-roy-ed.” Victor nodded, slowly, as he carefully copied out her name on a roster sheet and then stamped a paper badge. “OK. Here is a temp-oh-rare-ee badge – I will have your perm-a-net badge ready when you leave today. I have your pic-ture on file. I can see it is you. Be sure,” he looked at her meaningfully, “to pick up your badge – when you leave today.” Victor intently looked up at her to make sure she understood. “Now. Do you want a clip or a lan-yard?”


Alison looked quizzically at Victor, but got nothing back.


“He wants to know if you want to attach your badge to your clothes or hang it around your neck.”


Alison looked at Spence and nodded. “A lan-yard,” she said, pitching her answer to Victor’s tone and accent.


Victor shook his head slowly the way Joe Friday used to when talking to an LA hippie. “You will have a number of meetings and seminars to attend as well, Ms. Ack-Royed. They will be conducted by our Human Resources department. You must make sure you schedule them promptly or your card will stop working.”




“You will have to check the schedule.”


“No. When will the badge stop working?”


Victor looked at Alison for a couple of beats without reaction.


“Mr. Stromborn, please show her where the parking garage is – and where in the parking garage she can park. If in fact, she will be driving herself here.” Victor had a sneer in his Texas twang, somehow implying his disapproval of Spence, or Alison, or both of them.


“I was going to ride a bike,” she said cheerfully. “Do you have a place to latch it up?”


Victor just stared at her.


“She’s kidding, Victor. Come on, Alison.”


They took the elevator down. It opened up and in front of another security station, another guard, not as inquisitive as Victor, just did a badge check and a sign-in, and they turned left and walked down a long row of server racks. The pizza box–sized computers were putting out a humming heat that seemed counter-punctual to the dull, low-volume roar of the cool air blowing on them from every direction. A young server tech with a ponytail and red Real-Prez hat eyed Alison as they squeezed by.


“When are we getting those systems installed, Roy?”


Roy looked up at Spence. “Um, probably tomorrow. I think.”


“Do you have them?”


“Yeah, yes, we –”


“I need them up today. I want to start the SP-Script patch install before I leave tonight.”


“Yeah. OK, I’ll make sure it’s done.” Alison could see fear and anger competing for attention on Roy’s face.


“Thanks,” said Spence.


“I kind of admire Roy,” said Spence as they passed through an intersection of hallways. “He wears his Real-Prez hat, even though he knows Telly switched teams and is pushing Cadez.


He’s a decent tech, and knows it wouldn’t take much for me to get him canned. I enjoy fucking with him.”


Alison smiled, but something about how Spence was responding to all this worried her. He didn’t seem the same guy he was at RDM, (Reigny Deigh Media) she thought.


Through another door, then into another section, this one fluorescently lit to the point of enforced squinting. Mostly staffed with clean-cut young techs including quite a few young women, all stuffed into double-occupant cubicles.


“Spence!” From across the office, the call shot right at them, only one word, but wrapped in a Texas accent as thick as a 72-ounce steak. A dark-haired, voluptuous woman, clearly in charge, flashed a smile, while summoning them both with her finger.


“Maybelle, this is Alison.” Spence’s attitude switched to serious on a dime. “We worked together in Portland.” Maybelle was a bigboned white woman in her forties and, as with almost everyone else in the underground cavern, was not wearing a virus mask.


“Another one of them West Coast radicals, huh? Welcome, Alison, as you heard I am Maybelle, and this is my department. We are building all of the supporting structures, the garland of flowers to wrap around the product we will be dropping in 27 days, if not sooner. Do I have that right, Spence?”


“Yes. Ma’am!”


“I understand you are here to help, Alison. You’re not from the government, are you?” Maybelle gave Alison a mock serious look, then waved it all away with a laugh. “That got Ronald Reagan a big laugh once. Come on, I’ll meet ya the real brains of this bowl of chili.”




A dark-skinned, slight, older man was seated at a conference table large enough for about ten people all around. Of obvious south Asian origin, he was wearing a red, white, and blue face mask and was looking at a yellow pad filled with Devanagari script. In front of him were three  electroencephalographic “helmets” with embedded EEG hygroscopic sponge electrodes, and a flat copper band that was apparently meant to anchor the headset around the skull.


“Hey, Gopee,” said Spence as he sat down. “Are you sure we are ready to present the staff progress report?”


“Spence,” Gopesh said. “Yes, but perhaps – it might be more illuminating to present – a demo?” He smiled and waggled his head. “Maybelle has wanted to know what we have accomplished, yes? Ms. Aykroyd, what do you think? It is very exciting that you have joined us.”


“Alright, let’s not get too touchy-feely now,” said Maybelle. “A demo instead of a status report, huh? Well why not?”


“Your supreme patience up to now has been so appreciated by our team, Maybelle.” Gopesh smiled and wobbled his head, again doing the “achha.” “Since Ms. Aykroyd is joining us, I thought this would get her up to speed much more quickly than a dry report, with facts, figures, and projections, don’t you think?”


“Laying it on thick today, aren’t we?”


Gopesh smiled, and looked embarrassed. “Oh, no Maybelle,

not at all!”


Gopesh Gupta is trying to say something, Alison thought, but what? How much does he know about me?


“OK,” continued Maybelle. “I like your style, Gopee! Let’s fire the sucker up!”


Gopesh then pulled a MacBook out of a brief-bag on the floor, plugged in a cable, and started it. He fit the mesh-like helmets on Maybelle and Alison’s heads, adjusted the electrodes carefully, and calibrated each of the recessed, adjustable, touch-activated LED controllers. Spence fitted his helmet on himself, but Gopesh checked it. Then Gopesh placed his on his own head, and had Spence help him adjust it. Each helmet was connected with a cat-5 jack from the back, and then snaked into a five-slot Cisco switch, which had multiple connections into a three-foot-high, two-footsquare black, monitor-less and keyboard-less mid-sized computer.


“The wireless function works, but the signal is much stronger when hard-wired,” said Spence. “When we fine-tune it, we’ll go wireless, eventually.”


“If not sooner – right, boys?”


Alison watched Spence nod and “yes ma’am” her. She noticed the MacBook was consoled in with a Linux Bash shell.


“Excuse me, I need to ensure the connections are all properly responding.” Gopesh sat back away from the table and for almost five minutes was intently typing on his laptop, which he pulled up on his lap. No one spoke.


“OK, this first demo expresses how Americans, as a people, can overcome anything, and that we need to unite behind a strong leader, who will bring us out of our current troubles. There will be images that go with this – patriotic images of heroes, family, comradeship – all martial, masculine, uplifting, positive. It is perhaps crude, and of course the political team will need to redesign some of it. This is a mockup of a fictional TV awards show, with a C2B broadcast simultaneously tracking in, which matches the message. As you are transmitted the mental imagery, please notice how the impact is enhanced by the emotions projected into your head. Again, focus on the technique, not the message. This is only a demo of capabilities.”


Gopesh turned off the lights with a handheld controller, and it became pitch-dark.  “Are you all ready? Relax, take a deep breath. Here we go.”


Images began to flood Alison's head – waving wheat, mountains, the ocean, and a fresh, outdoor smell, with a hint of horse shit? There was no sound – but what I am hearing, thought Alison. It was almost a low, deep humming. How is he doing this?


A click, almost a grinding...


Alison, this Gopesh. genie loose. Tech flawed dirty seizures psychotic episodes braindumps I fix, do it all. Just you video0audio0brain00telio Cadez braindumps hopeless toxic schizophrenia sick 

Reading Question mark Question mark

tap left pinkie once on table

Alison tapped her pinkie on the table once, as though she were impatient.

Reading reading

Brain dump data big space small C2B broadcast simple short data small Gopesh slowing down, inserting sabotage Must not allow them C2B technology


Trust Stromborn not not

Trust you question mark question mark

Understand question mark tap left forefinger

Alison tapped

only you

again She tapped good

Echoes in Spence Maybelle of Lysergic alkaloid like intoxication elevated endorphins uplift time-released match telio

all feeling no content

you get content slow project Spence speeding.

Stop Cadez No Natural Fungus stop Cadez

Delete SwiftPad everywhere Natural Fungus Cadez trouble agents sent stop integration C2B Natural Fungus Cadez control mania.

Delete SwiftPad 

lose Spence  

No Script C2B SwiftPad

Portland control C2BTube transport C2B flawed SP-Script

SwiftPad Future bad

People Desperate normal auto C2B lies normal hero

Sheeps graze wolf feasts.


Suddenly, a feeling of immense relief rushed over Alison, the scenes of nature returned, then receded, and she began to regain control of her thoughts. She looked and Gopesh was narrating the re-entry, in his modest sing-song voice, soothingly addressing his remarks to Maybelle.

Maybelle and Spence acted stoned and dreamy, with a sense of amazement.


“That was really – something!” Maybelle started to remove her headset, then stopped, as if the effort was overwhelming. “I felt a surge of patriotism!”


“We will intersperse short Seed-a-Bee blips that, while slow and clunky to access even with the newest, most expensive C2B boxes, still should be quite impressive.”


“Have we overcome the problem of some receivers getting headaches?”


Gopesh shook his head, perhaps in the negative; it wasn’t clear.


Maybelle put her hand on her head, and looked groggy.


“Are you OK?” Spence got up and looked hard at Gopesh.


“Gopee, did you soften the D channel like we talked about?”


“Yes, I did, Spence, it was a very good idea, very good.”


“I am all right,” said Maybelle. “I just, ohhh. Maybe we still need to work on it some more. But – I received it. Yes. It was amazing. Clear as a bell, at least, at first. IT took over my mind! ” She took a deep breath and smiled. “I’m OK. Continue.”


“We are also experiencing some difficulties with S-Plogging,” said Spence. “I’ll take a look at that and see if we can de-couple that channel.”


“We’ll need to figure out how to combine them somehow,” said Gopesh. “SwiftPad Central in Oregon is blocking most C2B uploads, claiming it is a health and safety issue. So we need to provide proof that is fixed quickly. We are working on that.”


“That is your issue, Spence,” said Maybelle. “This is not ready. I understand it is – Spence, are you feeling sick?”


“No. Well, a little.”




“I am – it is like a mild hangover. I feel – carefree but not in a real good way.” She looked at Gopesh, who would not make eye contact with her.


“Yeah – hear that, Gopesh? We need to fix that!”


“I am so sorry, we will work to fix this.”


“Still, I have to say I am impressed!” Maybelle stood up and regained her composure. “Don’t get down, it ain’t all bad! I blame the jamming! In spite of the jamming coming from the SwiftPad shits in Oregon. Our revenue will remain strong, as long as we keep it light and fluffy. Public political statements should remain muted until we can properly control them, and direct them with precision.”


“And we need more computing power, much more,” said Spence.


“Whatever you need, just order it, I’ll sign for it.”


“Roy has promised that another bay of pizza boxes will be mounted and online by this afternoon,” said Spence.


Gopesh nodded. He looked just an extra second longer than necessary at Alison.


“Sounds like we are making progress,” said Maybelle.” Don’t worry about the SwiftPad links. We have irons in the fire.” She smiled, but waved away any questions as the other three looked at her.


“We should have a 15-second ‘American pride’ broadcast ready to test with a sample audience by the end of the week,” said Spence.


“Well, you know what they say about work estimates,” said Gopesh. 


“Double it, and multiply by a fudge factor. But we will do our best.”

“What is the fudge factor?”


“Much less than the over-promise penalty,” said Gopesh. “But I think we can have the overwhelming emotion ready to deliver at the end of your candidate’s convention speech.”


“Candidate? You mean Senator Cadez? It will be specific to him, won’t it?”


Gopesh smiled and let his head wobble with what Maybelle took to mean yes.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Interview with Reader Views Editor Sheri Hoyte

Interview with S. Lee Barckmann – Author of “The SwiftPad Trilogy”

Hi Lee, Welcome to Reader Views! Tell us a bit about The SwiftPad Trilogy

The Trilogy is an alt-history of the last decade. It starts with “The SwiftPad Takeover” which is a serial killer thriller combined with a peek at the business of starting up a worldwide social media system, as well as a fanciful sci-fi-techno tale about the features of an advanced social media app.

“The next book is “The SwiftPad Insurgency” which moved time ahead about 5 or 6 years. Now SwiftPad is a worldwide mega success. It has changed not only the characters in the story, but the city of Portland itself, bringing in money and influence to the city. Politically however, the nation has descended into fear and terror as a boorish monster has taken over the government and caused major disasters.

Portland, rich, turns into a human catastrophe with a million refugees. The city mobilizes to aid the homeless people who have descended on the city, and this infuriates the @RealPrez. One of the principal creators of the “SwiftPad” app is kidnapped. Much of the novel is about urban warfare, and its aftermath.

“The SwiftPad Extinction,” the final novel, follows the action from the previous installment as nationwide the conflict spreads.  Simultaneously the world is hit by a pandemic of a bizarre disease with unpredictable symptoms, that baffles science. The story is about the coalescing of the nationwide resistance to the dictatorship. It is also about the main character’s search for his kidnapped colleague and for a cure for the pandemic.

What inspired you to write this particular story line?

The first book was written with no thought it would become a trilogy. My career as a corporate  IT troubleshooter came to an end before I was ready, so the first book was meant to be, in part, a satiric account of the IT business from different perspectives, from the C-level negotiations, to the business of “consultants”, down to the people who actual do the technical implementations. It was sort of a ‘revenge of the nerd’ story if you will.

It was completed in 2014, so I had no idea how the 2016 US Presidential election would turnout.   But as  the deepening realization hit of what tRump actually wanted to do, all that seemed to cause me to be consumed by politics. I could not believe it was my country, the United States, that I was watching. So, I turned that to writing as an outlet, and decided to write a sequel to “The SwiftPad Takeover”.

“The SwiftPad Insurgency” was published in 2019. “The real “Insurgency” in Portland, when DHS Security troops were kidnapping people into unmarked vans happened in July 2020. I wasn’t looking to make prediction, but only to find a story angle where I would be familiar with the setting and locale.  I live in a Portland suburb. By listening to the rhetoric coming out of the White House and right-wing News, where the word “Portland” was used as an epithet, it seemed like a logical outcome.

What are some of the relevant topics readers will encounter in your series?

  • The theory and design of an ideal social media app.
  • The business requirements of starting a software company that has a worldwide footprint ( on the cheap).
  • The sick mind of a psychotic sadistic rapist/serial killer
  • How to hack a communication system.
  • The kinds of disasters that an American fascist can create, when combined with climate meltdown and a widespread epidemic.
  • Extrapolations as to the nature of 21st Century Urban warfare.
  • How a country can slowly be draw into a civil conflict that almost no one wants
  • How to hack and disrupt a major infrastructure.

Tell us about your lead characters – what motivates them?

  • Kip – a laid back son of a rich, cutthroat limber baron.  Kip is a nice guy, a stoner, with traces of the Big Lebowski’s “The Dude”, a man in his early 40s who seems completely guileless and without ambition and who lives on a dwindling trust fund and who stumbles into a role of worldwide business leadership.
  • Jim – Jim Kip’s childhood best friend who was raised in the woods by a poor single mother and is competitive with Kip. He goes into the Army, catches his CO in an East German Honey trap, and gets total freedom to wander disguised as a civilian on both sides of the Berlin Wall. He returns to civilian life as an IT troubleshooter for Global Industrial Processing, (GIP), a declining mega IT company.
  • Paula – a 60s Political radical, and hippie goddess who discovers the fountain of youth (Fungus) and travels through the second half of the 20th Century as physically a young woman. She taught Nate the tricks of love when he was young and they get together again.
  • GG – the real brains behind SwiftPad. Sleeps with Kip and the next morning she gets funding to start her Social Media development project.
  • Senator Cadez – a former Nixon operative who also discovered the Fungus and is running for President in 2020
  • Spence – a weak but brilliant software engineer who is building the computerized link between recorded mind reads and the internet. Married to Maggie but has a crush on Alison.
  • Nate Schuette – an old man who has forgone perpetual youth and is Paula former sometime lover
  • Maggie – Spence’s wife who becomes a feared urban guerrilla. Formerly Nate’s girlfriend when Nate was still on the fungus.
  • Alison – Work colleague of Spence, who comes to play the pivotal role in the climax of the conflict.
  • Leone (Humpkin) the shadow leader of the opposition to RealPrez and Nate’s old college roommate

Did you let your characters dictate the story or did you map things out first?

The characters, and the thread of the story itself took on a life of their own. I had only the vaguest idea where I was going as I was writing.

What kind of research was involved in writing The SwiftPad Trilogy?

I took most of the technical ideas from my own experience. But I did a fair amount of technical research. I studied specs for high end process control systems. I took most of the technical ideas on Internet hacking from my own experience (as an Internet security administrator for Oregon State Government and a system monitoring specialist in the private sector). I did recycle some of the back story of Nate and the origins of telepathic recording and transfer of mental images from a previous unpublished work from many years ago, (when I did research on 1970s technologies).  I read a book about Ed Snowden. And I certainly did do a lot of research on existing technologies as disparate as light plane flight specs, current EEG sensing and recording of brainwaves for legitimate  usage.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your series?

I was surprised by how violent things could become.  I hate violence, and am uncomfortable writing about it, but I think it is important not to be too comfortable when writing. The study of the past has been a serious lifelong hobby for me, so as I wrote, I thought a lot about how much pointless violence happens during revolutions and how horrible civil wars often turn out. 

So, the violence is meant to be a warning. We are in some ways sleepwalking, like Europe was in August 1914.  The threat of civil conflict is real and our responsibility to avoid it is paramount. This Trilogy is a fictional warning. It is not a prescription. As the author I claim no ability for prognosticate.

I also discovered, to my surprise, that I could create and write under deadlines and pressure. I need to say, that on one level writing the Trilogy was a collaboration with my editor Linda Franklin. She didn’t get involved until I was “done” or thought I was. But during her engagement almost every day she would send me notes on things that were weak or missing.   I would make corrections and because I wanted us both to stay engaged I wrote a number of major (and maybe the best) storyline additions overnight.  If I had to describe the perfect editor, it would be Linda.  I was lucky to be introduced to her by Inkwater Publishing, a great organization that got me on the right track in a number of ways. (Masha Shubin, also from Inkwater did the interior design and implemented my ideas for the covers.) 

How does The SwiftPad Trilogy stand apart from other books in the genre?

Honestly, it is hard to think of a specific genre. I guess it is alt history, like Phillip Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”, about life on the American West Coast if Japan had won World War II. Or John Brunner’s novels, such as “The Society of Time”. about time travelling in an alt-world where the Spanish Armada successfully conquered England.  As I think about “The SwiftPad Trilogy”, it really is about a second Trump Administration.  But it is also speculative fiction in that it extrapolates where technology might be taking us. It is also social commentary, about where our social behaviors are leading us. There is a bit of the old “ripped from the headlines” about it too. But really, I hope it is more story about the characters who work through the problems that are unexpectedly (to me and them) thrown at them.

One thing I don’t want it to be, is a counter story to something like “The Turner Diaries” which is a right wing fantasy about a revolt against a “liberal” government. My books are not made to inspire anyone, but to frighten them. “The Turner Diaries” was a handbook for Timothy McVeigh. On the surface The SwiftPad Trilogy” might seem like something similar, but that is not what the books are about. Yes it recounts a civil conflict in the US from a particular side, fighting a corrupt wannabe dictator, but the “power” is far away, most of the time. The issues in the story personal and “locally sourced”. And it is clearly fanciful. There is no attempt to attach anything real to any real people, except in satire. If it is a “Protocols of a Libtard Qanon”, then it is obvious satire. The difference is QAnon believers really believe tRump is Q or is close to Q.  The SwiftPad Trilogy is fiction. It is not “liberal Anon.”

What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

Some negative. I can’t deny the Trilogy is political and people who see it through that lens only, and dislike my politics, will likely dislike the books. I certainly don’t disguise that it is (in part) a revolt against a tRump-like figure. Wackos like those that attacked the Capitol on Jan 6 tell themselves “we have the guns”.  And clearly that is true. The story is a bit of a meditation on how it might play out, especially in a city like Portland where almost no one is armed. While the extreme right is armed in an infantry sense, those advantages are not necessarily so overwhelming. I wanted to explore how that might play out in a “war game” like scenario.

What do you like to read?

Fun books. Carl Hiasaan is a particular favorite. Donald Westlake.. I like le Carre, and the noire writers of the 30s and forties, James Cain, Dashille Hammit, Raymond Chandler, Eric Ambler. I like Walter Mosley, Of course Tomas Pynchon. I don’t know Don deLillo, Jonathon Lethem. I thought Joan Didion’s “Play it as it Lays” was great, and I have read much of her nonfiction. John D. McDonald, Martin Cruz Smith,  Phillip Roth, Kingsley Amis, James Ellroy – and of course the greats, Shakespeare,  Melville, Faulkner, Ken Kelsey (“Sometimes a Great Notion” is the greatest American novel, needs to be read again and again…) but I read a lot of history too. Recently half of my bookshelf is history.

Which book has most influenced your writing?

Gravity’s Rainbow. I got it right away, and most people shake their heads and say it is incomprehensible. I studied a lot of 19th and 20th century German history in college, and some physics too. And his sense of humor really appealed to me. So, of his more recent work I have been indifferent to though.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m wife and I were both decent runners in school. We try and help each other stay in shape. We hike and do camping in the late summer. Nothing too radical, maybe 5 days in the woods at a time.

What’s next? Are you writing another book? What can you share with us?

I have a couple of ideas. I want to write a mystery set in the 50s. Maybe through the eyes of a young boy. Also thinking about a comedic-satiric political scandal in a modern small city. A la Anthony Trollope. Comedy is hard, as they say, but I like to read it, so, maybe I can pull it off.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

Do what you like to do. The hard part though is knowing what that is.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t quit your day job.


My wife Mary and I  live outside of Portland Oregon now. We like to go backpacking, biking, and enjoy playing with our grand daughter, who lives with our son and daughter-in-law not far away. 

I grew up in Barnegat NJ, and had a Huck Finn childhood, surrounded by woods, streams, and meadows. In the 1950s, 1200 people lived there. I have two younger sisters, Laura and Liza.

 My Dad was an amazing story teller, and a town character.  Mom was from the mountain region of North Carolina.  She graduated from college and taught us kids to read early.   My parents bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, along with the Britannica Junior set and also a set of books of mythology and heroes, such as William Tell, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce, (through my mother’s Appalachian family, legend says Bruce is a direct ancestor).  

We moved from Barnegat to a north Jersey suburb when I was 12.  I ran track and cross country at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.

I studied Economics and History at the University of Kansas,  moved to Eugene Oregon, and then met Mary.  I did various jobs, and then went to China to teach English.  Mary joined me.  After two and a half years, we returned to the US, broke, with Zach on the way, and I got a job in a Florida strip mall computer store.  It was a hard few years, but I learned computers and the associated technologies. I went on to a career in IT, from which 30 years later I retired from IBM.  During that time I wrote intermittently, mostly on “Farewell the Dragon”.   

I have a few ideas as to what kind of fiction I will write next. I love history, but the responsibility of “sticking to the facts” is more than I want to take on. So in the meantime, I am exercising, reading a lot and occasionally writing book reviews for my blog.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Notes on the Ballooning Crisis with China


The recent political eruption over the Chinese balloon has revealed an ugly and dangerous  underside of ‘Twitter politics’. This kind of sensational ‘journalism’ is not new. Remember the Maine? If you were alive and paying attention in 1898, you would remember this slogan that drove us to an imperialist war with Spain.  A bomb went off under an American warship, (The Maine) sinking it in Havana harbor. We didn’t know  who set the bomb, and to this day have never determined it, but it led to a rush to judgment and jingo! We stole Spain’s colonial empire. 

Or how about the Incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, where McNamara exaggerated a minor naval incident into a Casus belli that led to 50K American and up to a million Vietnamese dead for essentially nothing?


  This sort of spark is not uniquely American by any means. Bismarck wanted war with France,  so he edited a telegram, (see Ems Telegram) about a minor disagreement with the French to seem as though the French had been insulted, egging them into starting the war that they would lose badly.

 One gets the feeling that we are experiencing this type of public opinion manipulation now. Everybody is jumping on the attack of the balloon, from Fox News to MSNBC. As of today, (Feb 10, 2023) we have heard from  the US State department, claiming that the balloon was capable of sophisticated data collection, hinting at possible telephone conversations being overheard, and used this as the rationale for shooting down the balloon over the Atlantic.  But at the same time they are saying that measures were taken to ensure no important intelligence was leaked. What is this really about?

We have the “China Hawks”, who are shouting about shooting it down sooner, and taking retaliatory measures, that appear to have no bounds. These China Hawks have an irrational hatred of China, and are part of a multi-generational American faction that have hated China ever since Truman stopped MacArthur from nuking Beijing (or Peking, as it was known in the West in those days.) Their motto then was “Unleash Chiang Kai Chek!” under the delusion that the losers of a 20 year Civil War could return from Taiwan and take back the Mainland from the Party that had just defeated them.     

The China Hawks grumbled when Nixon went to China, yelled when Carter let the Mainland into the UN, (and demoted Taiwan), and have silently simmered as their bank accounts fattened as more and more trade developed between the US and China.

But this trade (in part) led to the demise of many industries here, and it has hit working people the hardest. There are other factors involved in this decline that have nothing to do with China, as well, but they are glossed over. This decline in American manufacturing has led to a reorientation of US politics, flipping the economic classes and the parties that represent them. The result being the rise of Trump, who leaned heavily on racism and warlike bluster to gin up hatred of China among the Walmart shoppers who purchase Chinese made consumer goods. The Rs cravenly jumped on the Trump bandwagon and turned China into a sinister ‘Fu Manchu’ power that has a ‘Plan’ to destroy America.  


Oddly, many of those same ‘China Hawks’ have shown sympathy for Putin, and seem ready to forgive his blatant attack on Ukraine.  

We have been through this before. In the 1950s, many of the Americans who really understood the facts on the ground in China were purged from government and academia.  They had seen the futility in supporting the Guomindang, (国民党)ie. The Nationalists, who ended up fleeing to Taiwan in 1949.  This led to a loss of knowledge about China, creating a blind spot that led to disastrous mistakes.

As we subsequently learned, Mao had no love for Russia or Stalin, and we could have avoided the Korean War with a bit of diplomacy.  Mao had no love for American liberal democracy either, for sure, and he did  become  unhinged with his many mad schemes from 100 Flowers, Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, etc. But how much of that was the result of the American imposed international isolation? It is impossible to answer that, but the policies we did have at that time were a failure.  They led to to two wasting wars on the Asian mainland, and 30 years of non-contact.  Would the aging Eisenhower have allowed those policies to flourish  if he wasn’t protecting his ‘crazy right flank’(ie. Joe McCarthy)?   

Biden appears again to be  allowing us to fall into another period of China bashing, also at the behest of his Crazy right Flank, (ie. Kevin McCarthy - front man for Cotton, Marco, Cruz, et al).  He is trying to control it, with nuanced outrage, canceling the Blinken trip, and protesting the balloon. Hopefully this will die down as the Rs seem more interested in Hunter's laptop.

China is not going to be internationally adventurous. Its recent outbursts have been extremely costly and will weaken Xi’s grip on power. He has awakened Japan, the Philippines are re-signing treaties with the US, and the Indian border is warming up. They don’t need any of this after losing two years of economic growth because of COVID. It has too much to lose. It is surrounded by potential enemies that loom much larger than the US.  Xi’s (and his right wing) recent threats to Taiwan are hollow.  Stability is its prime directive. They will go to any length to maintain it, including locking up its own political dissidents, which is horrible, but this is nothing new, and we can’t totally remake a country with 5000 years of continuous history, and ways of governing itself. 

Biden’s instincts are correct, that we engage with China, adjust to the changing economic situation regarding trade, but keeping in mind what any student of economics knows - that trade is good, it lifts everyone, it adds wealth to all. But we should not fall into the ignorant cacophony of China bashing.  Having lived there and developed friendships, yes, I am biased, but I also have the benefit of understanding a little bit about how things work and how China really thinks and feels about the world and the US in particular.  They know we are a better bet long term as friends. We should not close them off again.  


For more on American blunders in Asia see review of "The China Mirage". 


The China Mirage