Stepping Stone / Love Machine: Crosstown to Oblivion

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Overview

Walter Mosley’s talent knows no bounds. Stepping Stone and Love Machine are but two of six fragments in the Crosstown to Oblivion short novels in which Mosley entertainingly explores life’s cosmic questions. From life’s meaning to the nature of good and evil, these tales take us on speculative journeys beyond the reality we have come to know. In each tale someone in our world today is given insight into these long pondered ...

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Stepping Stone

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Overview

Walter Mosley’s talent knows no bounds. Stepping Stone and Love Machine are but two of six fragments in the Crosstown to Oblivion short novels in which Mosley entertainingly explores life’s cosmic questions. From life’s meaning to the nature of good and evil, these tales take us on speculative journeys beyond the reality we have come to know. In each tale someone in our world today is given insight into these long pondered mysteries. But how would the world really receive the answers?

Stepping Stone:

Truman Pope has spent his whole life watching the world go by–and waiting for something he can’t quite put into words.  A gentle, unassuming soul, he has worked in the mailroom of a large corporation for decades without making waves, until the day he spots a mysterious woman in yellow.  A woman nobody else can see.

Soon Truman’s quiet life begins to turn upside-down.  An old lover surfaces from his past even as he finds his job in jeopardy.  Strange visions haunt his days and nights, until he begins to doubt his sanity.  Is he losing his mind, or is he on the brink of a startling revelation that will change his life forever–and transform the nature of humanity?

Love Machine

The Datascriber was supposed to merely allow individuals to share sensory experiences via a neurological link, but its true potential is even more revolutionary. The brainchild of an eccentric, possibly deranged scientist, the “Love Machine” can merge individual psyches and memories into a collective Co-Mind that transcends race, gender, species . . . and even death itself. 

Tricked into joining the Co-Mind, as part of a master plan to take over the world, Lois Kim struggles to adapt to her new reality and abilities. Is there any way back to the life that was stolen from her, or is she destined to lead humanity into a strange new era, despite the opposition of forces both human and otherwise?

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The unevenness of Mosley’s Crosstown to Oblivion series continues in the third pair of unconvincing novellas (after Merge/Disciple). “Stepping Stone” is the more compelling piece, relating the experiences of Truman Pope, a man who overcame learning disabilities with the help of a sympathetic teacher and who has labored for years as mailroom supervisor for a Manhattan financial firm. Pope has settled into a staid routine that comes to an abrupt halt when he sees a woman in the elevator whom no one else can see. The vision proves to be the first of a series of odd episodes that lead to an apocalyptic threat to mankind. “Love Machine” starts more strongly then it finishes, with the development of a device that allows people to share sensory experiences. There are flashes of Mosley’s lyrical gifts (“Slowly the night turned into another kind of darkness and the dreams settled into dust upon a vast, unseen desert floor”), but not enough. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
The creator of Easy Rawlins, whose ambition keeps sending him back to apocalyptic sci-fi scenarios with decidedly mixed results (The Wave, 2006, etc.), presents a pair of visionary novellas mainly designed to provide their characters with occasions to hector each other and the gentle reader with speechifying. Stepping Stone, the more interesting of these two tales, begins in quotidian reality before taking leave of it. Truman Pope, long ago identified as suffering from a learning disability, finds his uneventful tenure as mailroom manager at the firm of Higgenbothem, Brightend and Hoad disrupted by the apparition of a young woman in an ecru pantsuit whom nobody else can see. Minerva, as she calls herself, opens Truman's eyes to soaring new vistas, including the good news (Truman is God) and the bad (the coming of "the worst plague in the history of the human race"), before the millennial conclusion. Love Machine begins more forthrightly with technobureaucrat Lois Kim testing the Datascriber, which top neurophysicist Dr. Marchant Lewis has produced for her bosses at InterCybernetics International, and then realizing that she's given Lewis access to her memories and desires and opened herself in turn to the Co-Mind Lewis shares with Marie, a former employee he once threw across the workspace and lamed, and three other associates, one of whom, doubling as a coyote, chides her: "[Y]ou are still thinking as one person who is alone in the cold embrace of uncaring, inert matter." After some initial resistance, Lois quickly adjusts to her new status and prepares to forge her comrades into the new vanguard of humanity. Mosley, whose mystery novels (All I Did Was Shoot My Man, 2012, etc.) have won deserved acclaim, is here at his most declamatory, essayistic and oracular.
Library Journal
The prolific Mosley, who made his name with mysteries, has also written science fiction, a graphic novel, and film scripts. This is the third installment in his visionary flipbook series. Like the previous two titles (The Gift of Fire/The Head of a Pin; Merge/Disciple), it combines sf elements with an apocalyptic view of planet Earth. In Stepping Stone, a man everyone assumes is retarded sees a woman whom no one else can see. By the end of the story, he's leading a rearguard action against a race of "intergalactic social spiders." In Love Machine, a woman submits to a cyberexperiment that results in her joining a "Co-mind." Mosley's strength has always been getting readers inside the skins of people different from themselves, but that element is unfortunately missing in these overheated semiparables. They're abstract, hyperbolic, and padded with clichés and fuzzy language. VERDICT This double book will probably sell because Mosley has many admirers, but it's not very good.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765330109
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 849,429
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

WALTER MOSLEY is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than thirty-four critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

Biography

When President Bill Clinton announced that Walter Mosley was one of his favorite writers, Black Betty (1994), Mosley's third detective novel featuring African American P.I. Easy Rawlins, soared up the bestseller lists. It's little wonder Clinton is a fan: Mosley's writing, an edgy, atmospheric blend of literary and pulp fiction, is like nobody else's. Some of his books are detective fiction, some are sci-fi, and all defy easy categorization.

Mosley was born in Los Angeles, traveled east to college, and found his way into writing fiction by way of working as a computer programmer, caterer, and potter. His first Easy Rawlins book, Gone Fishin' didn't find a publisher, but the next, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) most certainly did -- and the world was introduced to a startlingly different P.I.

Part of the success of the Easy Rawlins series is Mosley's gift for character development. Easy, who stumbles into detective work after being laid off by the aircraft industry, ages in real time in the novels, marries, and experiences believable financial troubles and successes. In addition, Mosley's ability to evoke atmosphere -- the dangers and complexities of life in the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- truly shines. His treatment of historic detail (the Rawlins books take place in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the mid-1960s) is impeccable, his dialogue fine-tuned and dead-on.

In 2002, Mosley introduced a new series featuring Fearless Jones, an Army vet with a rigid moral compass, and his friend, a used-bookstore owner named Paris Minton. The series is set in the black neighborhoods of 1950s L.A. and captures the racial climate of the times. Mosley himself summed up the first book, 2002's Fearless Jones, as "comic noir with a fringe of social realism."

Despite the success of his bestselling crime series, Mosley is a writer who resolutely resists pigeonholing. He regularly pens literary fiction, short stories, essays, and sci-fi novels, and he has made bold forays into erotica, YA fiction, and political polemic. "I didn't start off being a mystery writer," he said in an interview with NPR. "There's many things that I am." Fans of this talented, genre-bending author could not agree more!

Good To Know

Mosley won a Grammy award in 2002 in the category of "Best Album Notes" for Richard Pryor.... And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992).

Mosley is an avid potter in his spare time.

In our 2004 interview, Mosley reveals:

"I was a computer programmer for 15 years before publishing my first book. I am an avid collector of comic books. And I believe that war is rarely the answer, especially not for its innocent victims."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Johnson State College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

ONE

 

 

“SIT DOWN, MS. KIM,” Dr. Marchant Lewis said.

Lois frowned slightly and then lowered herself into the chair he indicated.

Lewis was clad in a crisp white doctor’s smock that was at least two sizes too small for his great girth. Small plastic buttons strained to hold the garment across his belly. In the spaces between Lois could see the black T-shirt he wore.

When the big man looked down on Lois she shuddered inwardly.

Marchant smiled.

“Don’t be nervous,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt.”

With some effort, he walked around the table and took the seat across from her. As he wedged himself in a button popped off and struck Lois on the cheek.

“Oh,” she cried, half rising from her chair.

“Sit down, Lois,” he commanded in that rumbling low voice.

Lois regained her self-control and sat back.

On the table between them sat a sleek, silvery box about the size of the multimedia player that Lois had bought just that week. In the center of the glittering box was a red rectangular button, that was half the size of a matchbook and lit from underneath. Marchant depressed the button with a thick finger and two square plates shot out from either side, one for Marchant and the other for Lois. Each plate had a shallow, hand-shaped depression covering the most part of its surface area.

Marchant smiled and placed a mitt on his template. He indicated with a glance and a hand gesture that she should do the same with hers.

“Am I supposed to put my hand here?” she asked, stalling.

Marchant nodded. The fat of his face, Lois thought, made him look more like a grotesque baby than a grown man.

“What’s supposed to happen?” she asked with hardly a tremor in her voice.

“Exactly what I proposed to InterCyb,” Lewis said. “Through a noninvasive electronic medium I will be able to map the complete neuronal system of your hand, gauging the flow of stimuli with absolute accuracy.”

Kim stared at the colossus opposite her. She was made nervous, she knew, merely because of his size. Marchant Lewis was nearly seven feet tall and weighed, she’d been told by her boss, Ryan Lippmann, over five hundred pounds.

Big men had always frightened Lois—ever since childhood. But she knew that her fears were unfounded superstitions based on her own size and the bedtime stories her grandmother had told her when Lois visited her in Korea Town. The stories always had ogres that were as big as houses with obscene genitals and fingernails like claws …

But those stories were for children.

Marchant Lewis was no ogre. He was the top neurophysicist in the nation; maybe in the entire world. The thesis for his Ph.D. from MIT was the complete mapping of the memory systems of pigeons, a revolutionary achievement for any biophysicist, comparable to the greatest scientific accomplishments in history. It was a coup for InterCybernetics International when Lois brokered the deal to hire him away from the government. She had to trust him; her future depended on the success of this man.

But still she hesitated.

“What will happen?” she asked. “Exactly.”

“Your hand will be drawn in and the Datascriber will begin its work.” Something about Lewis’s smile seemed threatening or maybe it was just that Lois could tell that he knew something that she did not.

“Will it hurt?”

“I sincerely doubt it.”

“I don’t really see why I have to do this,” Lois said, trying to keep the whine out of her voice.

“Somebody from management has to,” Marchant replied. “This technology is about tactile sensation. How can you justify the millions that you’ve put into my work if one of you doesn’t test it?”

Her hands clenched firmly together in her lap Lois Kim said, “That is precisely why I’m here, Dr. Lewis. Your method of farming out work to different unaffiliated labs makes it very difficult for us to judge your work—and its cost analysis.”

“You can’t judge without putting your hand on the template, Ms. Kim.”

There was nothing else for her to say. She’d put off this meeting for a month already and her boss was e-mailing her daily now wondering, forcefully, What is happening with the Lewis project? It was Labor Day Friday and she had plans with Grant, her boyfriend, to leave for Death Valley that afternoon.

Cautiously she laid her hand upon the template.

“Let the weight of your hand rest on it, dear,” the older man said.

The moment she let her forearm relax straps shot out from both sides of the plate looping and tightening over her hand, securing palm and fingers to the form made for them.

“What’s this?” Lois said, the hysteria fully formed in her words.

“Your hand has to be held completely motionless or the Datascriber won’t work. Relax, Ms. Kim. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about.”

While Marchant Lewis spoke Lois felt the insistent tug of the template pan as her hand was drawn into the silver box. She could feel her heart throbbing like that of a small, frightened animal. It was hard for her to catch her breath. A warm, viscous liquid oozed between her fingers.

Lois was ready to scream when she had the vision.

There was a long and very wide plain of green that spread out for what seemed to be many miles in front of her. This plain went on and on until it slammed into a slate-blue sky. A fluttering of red boomed above her head. She knew somewhere in a faraway place that this was just a redbird suddenly frightened and taken to wing. But in her heart this was an amazing event not unlike when the Lord spoke and life sprang from nothingness.

“Marky,” a woman’s voice called. “Marky.”

Lois cried for joy at the redbird and her mother’s call.

Mama never called me Marky, the distant thought chimed. But Lois didn’t care. She pressed her hands upon the green, green grass feeling every spiky blade against her tender palms. She heaved herself up making it to a wide-legged stance. A street appeared between the lawn and sky and a big maroon car zoomed past. Lois took in a deep breath hearing the growl of the car’s engine and her own breath simultaneously. She blew at the automobile’s red brake lights as it got smaller and quieter. She laughed—exultant at her own power.

Cars move due to the internal combustion engine, the faraway mind intoned.

“Marky,” Mother called from what seemed like very far away.

Lois spun around so quickly that she lost her balance and fell back onto the grass. The sudden motion of her body, the jumble of sky and green and street made for a joyous confusion that brought her to the edge of fear.

But then two huge black hands folded around her sides and Lois was suddenly like that redbird flapping her arms and legs in flight.

The broad brown-black face—Mama(?)—smiled, showing hungry teeth. Lois felt her bowels clench but she wasn’t embarrassed by the sensation.

“Marky,” the Woman said again.

“He’s a beautiful boy,” a deep voice boomed.

The Man standing next to the Woman scared and amazed Lois. This wasn’t Dada but still he kissed the Woman. He tried to do the same to Lois but she reared and slapped his big wet lips.

“Benny’s a friend, Marky,” the Woman said but Lois let fly a stream of curses that came out as one long unintelligible cry. Her bowels opened up and the redbird seemed to be flapping in her chest.

“Somebody needs changing,” Mama said and the world folded into flesh and the music of only the Woman’s voice and hands …

*   *   *

WHEN LOIS KIM opened her eyes she was still sitting across the table from Dr. Lewis. His smile was beatific and she realized, with some surprise, that he no longer frightened her. She had momentarily lost track of where she was and then, with a sudden fright, she remembered the lashes that had trapped her hand. She yanked her arm back only to see that she had already been released. She felt for the oil that had covered her fingers but her skin was completely dry.

An illusion?

As if in answer to her unasked question Marchant held up his hand showing that it was coated with thick, brightly glistening fluid.

“Did you feel the oil on my hand?” he asked in the tone of a much younger man.

“Y-y-y-yes,” she stammered. “How did you do that?”

Marchant’s smile turned quizzical.

“That’s hard to explain,” he said. “As you know when nerves are excited they send an electric pulse down a conductor. This pulse transmits data that becomes the semblance of information in the brain.”

“I do have a degree in bioneurology, Dr. Lewis,” Lois said. The anger she felt also elated her. She was glad to be irate. The emotion somehow anchored her inside her own feelings.

“Yes, of course. That’s why I wanted you to come and be the first to experience my little device. That … and other reasons too, I guess.”

“What other reasons?”

Marchant smiled. He paused for a moment before speaking again.

“My research has found that when any nerve fires a tiny fraction of energy comes free and travels out of the body. This pulse has a very specific, if weak, signature. What my Datascriber does is read this signature, magnify it ten-thousand-fold, and transmit it to the waiting cells of another.”

Lois was astonished. She had expected to be presented with a binary chart mapping certain human nerve pulses and associating those excitations with general realms of sensation. It was the overall opinion of the scientific community that actual sharing of sensate experience was at least thirty years away.

“That’s incredible, Doctor,” she said.

“Did you feel the warm oil on my hand?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, definitely.”

“Then it has gone from the incredible to the commonplace.”

For a time they sat there in silence. Lois was trying to absorb the ramifications for InterCyb. This was completely new technology like the steam engine or the lightbulb. The Datascriber would put them in the position to bring in billions of euros on the open market. Her employee stock in the company would double in value within hours of the public announcement. All she had to do was call her immediate superior, Orlando Mimer, and …

But if she did that Mimer would take all the credit. He’d go to Lippmann and together they would take the project from her. She’d be cut out of the loop after delivering the report. Lewis would be moved to the company’s labs in Mumbai and she would be transferred to some other project; a pat on the head and a ten-thousand-euro bonus would be the most that she could expect.

“Who else knows about the scope of your work, Doctor?” she asked.

“Only you, my dear Lois.”

She was taken slightly aback by his intimate tone but any eccentricities on Lewis’s part were negligible compared to the immensity of his discovery and her part in its development.

For a moment she was reminded of the vision she’d had, the child called Marky, but she dismissed this as an illusion brought on by unfounded fears.

“Maybe we should keep it to ourselves until…,” she said, “until I’ve had a chance to work out a strategy to approach the board with.”

“And why is that, Lois?” Marchant asked, a knowing smile on his dark bulbous face.

“Well,” Lois said, “there’s the question of the allocation of funds. We’re in the middle of an acquisition—Neurotel Techtronix—and of course there’s your position on the project.”

“My position? Why I’d be the chief scientist in charge of everything, wouldn’t I?”

“Yes. But InterCyb always assigns a team manager when they move to an A-level project—”

“A-level?”

“Yes. This is a giant breakthrough. It’s so big that there’s no telling who they might assign. And the team manager has more say over the project than even the chief scientist.”

“No,” Marchant Lewis said. “How can someone with lesser knowledge have more control than the inventor himself?”

Days later, thinking back on their discussion Lois realized that Marchant was having fun with her. But at the time she was so amazed by the magnitude of the invention that she missed the subtle change in his voice and the twinkle in his eye.

“It’s because their major concern is profit not the advancement of knowledge, per se. They’ll put somebody in to make sure that they have some toy on the market rather than a truly advanced system that will facilitate the shared human sensation that your project portends.” Lois stopped a moment, pretending to be overwhelmed by the possibilities when really she was just holding herself back so as not to overstate her position. “But if I work with you privately for the next few weeks we can … um, position the project so that you maintain control of its direction.”

While she spoke Dr. Lewis smiled down on Lois. His responses seemed to be more about what she was thinking than to her words. She felt like a child lying to her mother. The smiles seemed to say that the doctor knew what she was trying to get away with but also that it was okay—he still loved her.

Love? Why would she think about love talking to this hulking middle-aged man, this misanthrope?

“I’m sure you’ll do what’s best, Ms. Kim,” Marchant said in his slow ponderous voice. He folded his hands over his large stomach and smiled.

“So you’ll wait until I call before filing your monthly progress report?” she asked.

“If that is your advice.”

“It certainly is. There’s no reason to blunder ahead if you can get a better situation by taking the time to consider your position.”

Lois got to her feet and waited while Marchant shifted his bulk from between the arms of the chair. They stood there for an awkward moment, the black behemoth and the Korean doll.

“I should be going,” she said.

“I’ll be awaiting your call.”

Another moment of silence passed. Lois felt that the doctor’s intense gaze was burrowing into her soul.

“Good-bye,” she said, taking a step backward.

He nodded gracelessly and she turned away walking quickly through the door of his small rented lab. Just before she was off down the hall she heard him say, “You take care, Gooseberry.”

 

Copyright © 2013 by Walter Mosley

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    To jacob from adraine

    What the Fuc !!!!!!!!! You used us bitc no more nooksx

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2013

    Kiley

    Its alright ... .............

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