Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the eleventh one: “Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic” by Gord Sellar:
We started out as far from idealists, of course. As my teacher, Praxis, said when he met me: “Environmentalist? Ha, you know who gets laid less than a green radical?”
“Nobody?” I said, wishing I’d mentioned my day job as a lab tech instead of how I spent my weekends.
It was true, though. Women had seen fit to chain themselves to trees beside me, and join me in hijacking oil tankers on highways, and march arm in arm with me in the streets of a dozen countries by my side. But I’d gotten precisely one girl out of a bra in my life, and that had lasted just five weeks. 37 days, to be precise. And that had been four years before.
“‘xactly,” Praxis said with a sneer. “Nobody. But we’re gonna change all that. You’re gonna,” he said, on day one.
That was back in the days when fellas like Praxis were called mPUAs. Guys like him made a living running “boot camps” for AFCs, the Average Frustrated Chumps. Guys who didn’t know how to talk to women and were willing to spend a thousand bucks for a weekend of being coached on how talk to women.
Guys like me.
Mostly, they learned by being forced to go sarging—approaching thousands of women in a row, until they stopped pissing themselves with fear and grew a backbone. And Praxis was right: during that weekend, he changed my life… or, well, really, I did. He’d taken me and the other AFCs—a hardware engineer who called himself Axiomatic, a lonely high school teacher we dubbed Homework, a recently-divorced cop called Slammer, and some Japanese poet or something—and baptized us by fire. We went out sarging all weekend—chatting up hot women in bars and bookstores and coffeeshops, coming onto them and hassling them, teasing and rubbing shoulders and even scoring some phone numbers.
That weekend was the first time I ever wore leather. Tight leather. Peacocky leather. Praxis taught us routines, taught us cocky-funny, taught us rules of thumb and dozens of techniques, and by the end of it, every one of us had learned the secret: there wasn’t one. Getting a woman’s phone number—or anything else, for that matter—didn’t require magic, or an eleven-inch cock, or perfect white teeth. All it took was asking for it in the right way, once she was ready to give it… once you’d helped her become ready. Pretty soon, we were having the time of our lives with the kind of babes who’d terrified us just months before. I was no longer Andrew Dalton: I had become Organic, and now I was swimming in women. Tall women, short women, dark and pale, funny and serious, wild and schoolmarmish alike. I tasted every flavour there was. I’d learned techniques for getting them to come home with me in less than thirty minutes of first contact. For engineering a threesome. For getting them to give me a sponge bath dressed in nurse uniforms, while speaking in fake Polish. (Look, everyone has his kinks, and whoever claims otherwise is lying.) For the first time in my life, I was getting laid like a truckload of linoleum. And it was the part of me that was really, really enjoying all that sex that spoke first when Katana had laid out his plan.
That was the part of me that had stopped caring about how many trees got cut down at Clayoquot sound, and didn’t give a shit about the coral reefs and strip mining in the Northwest Territories. They say that a sense of impending death makes people have more sex—it’s a mammalian instinct. Well, the first year the icecaps melted completely in summer? I made that work for me, and worked out my own mammalian panic all at once. From there, I hadn’t looked back, not once, at the dying Earth.
Not till that day. And it hurt to look again at what I’d once cared about—which I think is why I yelped, “That’s fucking crazy, Katana! The tools we have… they’re for pickup. For getting laid. Not for… saving the world.”
“Yeah, man,” Biosfear said, nodding his head. “What d’ya wanna do, seduce the sun into shining less brightly? Sarge lumberjacks? Toss a few negs at metacorporations and hope that they go sweet on us?”
Biosfear laughed at the absurdity of it. We all did.
“You’re not listening, bros,” Katana said, his hands parallel in front of him like some kind of loony Japanese evangelical minister. His eyes shone with some kind of insane, holy-fire light. “You can’t seduce the sun, but you don’t need to. The environment? The ecology? It’s people. I’ve been rereading Dawkins and Page…”
We all groaned.
“…and there’s something to this extended phenotype thing,” Katana went on. “The world is what we make it. What governments decide. How giant companies decide to behave. But governments and companies, what are they?”
“People,” Biosfear said. “They’re just people, and so they can be seduced…”
“Wrong,” said Katana, flicking at the wall with his keychain remote. The smartwall flickered, and images from satellites flooded it at high speed, corporate logos and national flags flashing superimposed onto creeping desertification, megastorms, and black-smoke flashes of brief, vicious water wars. “They’re persons, legally and functionally. They’re the ultimate amogs. And they can be amogged too.”
Someone who hadn’t known us would have taken one look around the room at us in our freaky peacocky clothing—Homeboyostasis’ purple fur vest, my depilated scalp, Biosfear’s animated Magic Eight Ball T-shirt cycling through its advice—No Way!… Yes Way!… Maybe!… Go Fuck Yourself!—and declared Katana’s attempt to sway us a complete, hopeless failure.
Goes to show you what total strangers know about anything.
Gord Sellar was born in Malawi, grew up in Saskatchewan, and currently lives and works as a professor of English Language & Culture in South Korea. Since attending Clarion West in 2006, his work has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Interzone, Clarkesworld, Subterranean, and The Year’s Best SF Vol. 26, among other venues, and in 2009 he was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This story is dedicated to his buddies named Mike—in Jeonju, Utah, and Toronto alike, for being very different kinds of men, each excellent in his own way.
Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal.
Even more, check out the podcast, with a full cast, at StarShipSofa!
Gord Sellar offers up a great title—Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic)—and a great story about the use of the current creepy trend of Pick-Up Artistry, augmented by cyberstuff, to save the world and find a li’l love.
Gord Sellar’s Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic) fuses pick-up artistry with, of all things, environmental treaty negotiations — to amusing and surprisingly compelling effect.
Striking the balance between sense of wonder, hard science fiction (be it biological or sociological), and social relevance is Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic) by Gord Sellar. This one immediately catches your attention with the author’s style, and actually manages to sustain it until the very end. To me, this is optimistic science fiction done right, even surpassing de Vries’s own fiction. The conceit here is that the short story doesn’t read like it’s preaching an agenda to you, and Sellar’s enthusiasm for the story is conveyed in the text. There’s a Second Foundation vibe to it and reminiscent of Nicola Griffith’s It Takes Two from Eclipse Three but Sellar takes the concept into a different direction.
—Charles A. Tan;
Sarging Rasmussen: A report (by Organic) by Gord Sellar is unfortunately the one story I genuinely struggled with in this anthology. To be honest, I’ll say that it’s 150% my fault as I think it’s that little bit too hard edged for me to fully get into and comprehend. However, I’m sure that should a dedicated SF reader pick this up, they’d be laughing at my failure to get it.
An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology: