I have for you today another interview with a fictional character, this time from the amazing book THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, Please welcome Cassius Wagner.
Hello Cassius, how you doing’? nice to have you here today.
Thanks, good to be here! I— I’m not really sure where here is, come to think of it. But Minerva books my interviews and my car drives me there, so I don’t have to worry about it too much; on a whirlwind publicity tour for a book like THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, I don’t have time to enjoy a luxury like remembering where I am!
Q1. What is it like being a character in a book? What happens when somebody closes the book? Do you get fed up repeating the same story?
Good question! I have no idea how to answer that. I mean, where do you go when consciousness leaves your body, right? A reader reading a book is just the same as consciousness inhabiting an ego, so when the reader or consciousness leaves, what are we left with? When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? What is the sound of one hand clapping? What am I going to have for lunch today? Life’s great mysteries, friend. From my perspective, I’ve only ever lived my life once. I’m still living my life, after all, right now! After the events of the book, my co-authors and I went on to edit the text and publish it as the work known as THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, a contribution to a new genre we’re calling ‘psychedelic fiction’. So, that’s what I’m doing from my perspective, but from the perspective of thousands of readers in the universe where the book is a work of fiction, who knows? It might be that every time somebody reads the book, another alternate version of me is created somewhere—maybe a whole universe is created somewhere! It’s a pretty wild thought.
I do believe in an oscillating universe—that is, a universe that repeats itself on a grand scale—but I don’t think there’s any way for us to remember the repetitions in life. Pretty sure I’m 100% okay with that, too. But the way we read books, put them down, come back to them time and time again—it’s a poignant symbol of a repeating world.
Q2. If you had the ability to move into another book which story would you enter and what would you do to try and alter that story?
Woah! Crazy thought. Another book, huh…that’s a hard question to ask an author, especially one who’s only recently figured out his world is a literary one. Well— I’m too old to get thrust up in detective fiction these days, and probably shouldn’t do anything pre-penicillin, so that leaves sci-fi if I want something exciting. Maybe DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP; I’ve always wanted to be Harrison Ford in Blade Runner. I mean the really old one, kids, not the newer one from 2017. And as for trying to alter it, hell, I don’t know if I’d alter it so much as abuse my knowledge of the universe and its author to be an even cooler Deckard than the Deckard Dick decked. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Q3. The book you come from features a possible future for story writing, Do you think that is the most likely outcome?
Oh, the future of literature is a really interesting subject to me. You know, Katherine—my editor, wife, and co-author of THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE—Katherine and I have been watching a lot of that old HBO West World, actually from around the same time as the Blade Runner remake came out, as I recall; and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, this idea of the blurring of fiction and reality. It seems to me like there’s a law of diminishing kicks in effect for fiction. Every year, people want their fiction to be more real. To touch them more, to be more invasive in their world. When Disney bought Star Wars, they almost immediately started making hotels Star Wars themed, with plots you can interact with…then there’s that Japanese hologram mascot, Hatsune Miku, who’s a fictional character but also a beloved pop star in the real world. And my world, I mean— as far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly real, but to somebody else on another world, the only evidence they have of it might well be the text titled THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE.
I think the future of fiction is going to get into a really muddy, philosophical place. At what point does a fictional person become real enough, and their consciousness become individuated enough, that they could be considered ‘real’? Does it take a body to make a person real? I mean, from my perspective, I have a body, and I’m physical, and I see or physically experience otherwise, but the existence of THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, this book which wrote itself in my sleep courtesy of the thought to text device on my head, it seems to imply a higher order of reality where I’m really just a character in a book somewhere. If so, does the book I come from count as my body, static though it is? Or would I have to get a body of my own and have my consciousness uploaded into it in that universe in order to be considered as real there as I am here? And, if that happened, would I still be the same Cassius Wagner answering this question? What would happen to the me that was here, in this world? Would I appear to die here? I guess I really should try to get over into DO ANDROIDS DREAM, huh?
The future of writing specifically is interesting to me, because it’s the rawest form of creation that’s still more coherent than painting. Even if somebody doesn’t Receive a piece of fiction in their sleep while wearing the thought to text device called the Lightning Stenography Device, it still eliminates the need to do anything to be creative. We’re at a point where people just sit down and manifest fiction. That’s incredible. But when you’re manifesting something, are you really creating it? And if you’re not really creating it, then what, or who, is? I guess we’re not—or I’m not—at a point where that question can be answered definitively, but sooner or later, when machines have taken all menial labour and they begin to so streamline the process of creating art that even that, too, seems outsourced, human beings are really going to have nothing to do but to take an increasingly deep look at the mechanisms of how something is created out of nothing by the mind. And that will lead us, eventually, to the basis of reality, itself.
Q4. Share with me what you think is the creepiest video on YouTube….Or you could make your own.
Ahaha, the creepiest video on YouTube! That’s a tall order. Have you seen those Elsagate things, those creepy things the Russians or Cambridge Analytica or whoever make to traumatize kids? These videos, I won’t look them up to link you to them or I’ll get ads for similar stuff, but they’re, like, these really depraved videos featuring characters like Elsa from that Disney movie, Frozen, and Spider-Man and stuff. Katherine told me just the other day that they also have videos designed to teach children conspiracies, happy cartoon characters saying that the moon landing was faked, and all. I mean, what? I understand people have a lot of time on their hands these days, but come on…YouTube is getting to be a real cesspit. But for creepy that’s intentional, or some good, old-fashioned surrealism, there’s always the classic, Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared.
Cesspit it may be, YouTube is a great place to go for low-budget horror. You ever watch Marble Hornets way, way back in the days of the ought’s? That was a good show before Slenderman blew up and everybody got bored.
Q5. Here’s a question from Abbygayle, aged 6, from Upper Twatton. “My mum is trying to be a vegetarian, you ever tried that? I hate it, because vegetables suck!
Hi, Abbers! No, I have not tried going vegetarian. Tell your Mom that by the 2030s she’ll be able to eat lab-grown meat on the cheap, so she’d might as well pick up a burger and stop feeling guilty. But, to be honest, she sounds like by that point in time she’ll be one of these Anti-Labbers, saying lab-grown meat causes violence in autistic videogames or whatever it is they’re clutching their pearls about.
Q6. Here’s a situational question type thing. You have just finished writing a masterpiece, you print out a copy and then your computer dies, the manuscript you hold is the only one in existence. You are hand delivering it to the editors, when the boat you are on hits an iceberg, let’s call the boat…..The Titanic III…. There is only enough room in your lifeboat for 3 people. Yourself (with the manuscript), a child holding some flowers, a Nun holding the bones of Saint Bob, Clint Eastwood and the future inventor of a device that is better than sliced bread. Which three people get to go on the lifeboat?
Difficult…very difficult. I probably shouldn’t be allowed onto the lifeboat if I made the decision to get on the Titanic III, but I’ll probably force myself on there, which leaves room for the kid, and…well, probably the inventor, especially since Clint Eastwood died in 2024 and is probably therefore a zombie in my timeline. So: sorry, Sister. Hope Saint Bob’s bones double as a shotgun and a life preserver.
Q7. Could you give the readers a book recommendation to sit on our fake library?
I feel like my life’s mission, outside of promoting my own writing, is to make THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN by Gene Wolfe into mainstream sci-fi. Get yourself a copy of that—and, of course, THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE—for your fake library and your real one, and you’ll be a happy and very enlightened reader.
Q8. Who is your hero?
I have a hell of a lot of literary heroes, but maybe Walter Moseley. He writes books that remind me of the thrillers and detective stories I used to write, and he’s just so dedicated to the craft. I heard him speak once and his love for it was just phenomenal, you could really feel it. He’s not the most famous author, but he’s really churned out a lot of work, and he knows the secret to writing is to ignore absolutely everything going on around you, and write. He’s just a dude. He’s not all dysfunctional and dark like some writers feel they have to be; he’s also not this bastion of light and goodness the way mainstream, Oprah’s book club writers present themselves. He’s just a guy–a cool guy–who wears a cool hat and writes cool books. And brother, I dig that.
Q9. Being a writer means words are very important to you, is there a single word you love to use?
Lately, I’ve been really into the word ‘antimony’, and have been looking for a good place to put it. It just flows off the tongue.
Q10. President Trump has put on the Lightning Stenography device, after 15min of it writing his thoughts, you print out the results to read. Could you give us a summary of what it says?
It could go one of two ways:
“Okay, Mister President, just put this on your head and let’s begin.”
TEXT OUTPUT: See that’s a very— that’s a good idea because you know my Father was a smart guy— good genes, real good genes, but he just didn’t love me enough, which is why I have to lie and try to keep my thoughts on track and fill the void inside the place that should have housed my soul with money and spankings from porn stars. Why did I agree to this? Why won’t this thing stop? Is it possible to sue a machine? Can I Google that question? Can I Google with this thing? Where does the word ‘Google’ come from, anyway? I mean I know it’s a number but it seems like it’s from some kind of fake language, faker even than Mexican. Can I own Google? Can I sue Google? Why is this headband so tight? Is it possible for Secret Service to shoot a machine?
That or nothing, since when you put a Lightning Stenography Device on the head of a dementia patient it usually just outputs blank text.