Ron Seybold's Viral Times

A story to inject hearts with insight, hope and health

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Readying for a Health Camp Break-In

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By Dayton Winstead

Austin, November 29, 2021

While the rains fall, we fall back in retreat from disease.

I type those words into my ScribePad and wipe sweat off my brow. I’m sweltering in my apartment while my Condo Cooler is forced to idle. I’m not supposed to be home now, a journalist writing in his private journal while the sun sets on a Texas hot with climate and viruses. Government clocks cycle our energy to restrain the temperature. But in these times, nothing we’ve tried controls the viruses.

They fall on us from the skies in rainstorms and leap between us in casual touch. These times have caused love to fail. A half-century ago people had sex–dad would say make love in one of his editorials–with no fears if they used simple precaution. Even when I grew up, sexual disease needed blood to cross between bodies. But HIVE-5 is more aggressive than its viral ancestors. It enters the body while you battle the New Flu, a disease with an airborne range of 10 feet that’s soared into a 19-month pandemic. Nobody gets close now without designer masks, antiviral clothes, viro-screen gel. In the ultimate of social distancing, the lucky ones can suit up and go virtual for sex. Secure Sex, they call it, now breeding faster than mosquitos in a holding pond.

I write to disinfect myself from my mission tomorrow and so I leave behind this record.

First the Flu, then HIV, and at the last, AIDS Ultra. Can love survive the terrors of touch? Nobody has an answer yet, although the new Simulation Suits mimic touch to make sex safe again. General Connectrics owns the field of haptics, gamingtouch technology grown up to serve sex.

Real sex now means death, not joy or peace or rest, or even work. Germs work to kill off sex with an AIDS any man or woman can catch. Small bugs bust up large towns and break down long lives. Have sex and die, or don’t and feel your heart grow cold.

I can’t push that kind of writing past my editor Roni at Viral Times, my latest media outlet. I skip work tonight to write this testimony. Tomorrow I have to risk everything on a mission I can’t dodge, to try to break into the Government Health Camp outside Waco. The camps pen up the infected. Healthland Security says the detentions ensure national security. I report these official lies because they need light to wither.

To crack into that Camp I’ll be on the move in tomorrow’s wan light, a dim path compared to the quartz lights of show business video stages. My celebrity stories at SatNews were easier. Entertainment people liked to talk to me about themselves, their projects. Then my wife Melissa swept into my life and challenged my charm. “Do more good,” she said. A fat lot of good her legal doings have brought our dreams. She started fighting for the rights of the sick. The feds fought back by locking her up in the Health Camp where she went yesterday to depose Ultra victims.

I wipe sweat off my forehead and onto the table. We missed that wetness, the smell of us, the one night we played with prototype Suits. They record sex, too, but I don’t have the stomach yet to replay that episode into a Suit. I won’t need the replay if I can get her out, somehow.

SimSuits surfaced when HIV hit the rich. You can use them now if you know the right people. The right people are fucking each other now in SimSuits, safe from disease and stimulating each other across their bodies. Outside the suits, people are dying. Inside, freedom, and maybe addiction.

People cocoon indoors, order basic needs, receive their work online and deliver it. A few, the lucky, open a package in a SafeFoyer at their front door from General Connectrics. The Suit connects them so they can touch each others’ bodies. You don’t risk being corralled into a Camp with Ultra if you can have sex in a Suit.

Melissa wants to stop the detentions, even empty the camps. She always wants something for somebody else. We could’ve had it easier, if she didn’t always want to do the hard thing. “Hard is what makes it good,” she told me. “If it were easy, everybody would do it.”

Ultra crams sex into the back alley of the Suits. After just nine months, they’re already leading a revival of the screw-anything ’70s. Low-cost SimSuits, in viral times, to hook up anonymously–well, there will be nothing to stop a leap into what preachers call the wanton wasteland.

The Evangelical Party rails against “hell-bearing acts of filth in a populace linking up in full rut.” But words can’t stop sex, not even with the fear of God.  What difference can sermons make? Not even, “God has a plan to wipe out this state of lust — to restore the blessed order of man and woman rejoicing in safe, married relations.”

I feel my head grow wet, but not with sweat.  The rain patters against my skylight, where a small crease admits drops. I duck out of the way and disinfect with viro-screen wipe, then spray down the table. I throw up a sealer blob against the skylight to patch the hole. The viruses can travel in the rain, drops of nature nobody can be sure are safe. I gotta rescue Melissa from the viruses raining through that death camp. I want to talk God into saving her.

I do more than pray for luck to extract Melissa. Milo Sensi down in the Times info-digger bullpens helped me snare the Camp’s GPS maps, then used his probability algorithms to trace her trail inside since she entered. I check the seals on my protective SafeCloak, then stretch to ready my muscles, both slow-twitch and fast, the strength of a high school gymnast and speed of a cyclist. All that strength and desperation might not be enough to rescue my lover. I can at least die trying to save our dreams.

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Written by Ron Seybold

April 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Novelist’s workbench: Viral Times revision, Chapter 6

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Welcome to the next installment in my novel Viral Times. I’m sharing the “behind the scenes” notes about revising in this Ultimate Version of my long-crafted book. The storytelling has been built and rebuilt over many years.

As I said last time, this revision process is guided by taking the storytelling that was in first person and shifting it to “close third,” the kind that lets a writer deliver the POV character’s feelings and sometimes internal dialogue. All to serve the Man vs. Self conflict. Jennifer Nation, the evangelistic neuro-scientist, is the story’s main antagonist, taking her role as the person who stands in the way of my hero Dayton’s wish — to live in a world safe from the viruses that make biological touch-sex deadly. He strives to find love again after losing his wife to the pandemic.

But in a way, Dayton is also does antagonist work in the story. He helps Angie (introduced in Chapter 3) to erase the threat of the new man-made virus Jennifer desires to build.

These pages were a pleasure to revise because I liked the tension that was already there. I do wonder about how seamless they appear, since the scenes happen in different locales but the same time-frame. They felt heavy with scene, but the sequel was in there, embedded and concise.

In our entry this time, we learn more about , who’s Jennifer, who earned a Nobel for her work in brain mapping — the evolution of fMRI brain scan sciences of our current day. She’s left her post at PharmAlliance (see the First Four chapters for details). Now she’s on a road trip to recover her faith.

Chapter 6
Pilgrim’s Progress

Jennifer
October 2021, Outer Banks, North Carolina

She missed her parents most on Sundays. It was the day they would picnic together, take photos and read aloud to each other. Sunday was also the only day of the week they prayed.  Ten years later they were both gone, taken by God’s plan on that fiery day. He left her prayers for their survival of that crash in the woods unanswered.

In return, Jennifer believed God owed her an answered prayer. She prayed for resources to keep building drugs, this time the kind no company could hijack: biological pharmaceuticals. God could find her an HP Gross-spectral Epigenome Navigator. They didn’t look down her bra at that final PharmAlliance exit search when she was starting her sabbatical, so she snuck out her code for the GEN interface. That was a sign. The security team was usually anything but chaste. In exchange for her parents, the Almighty would have to get her a heads-up display for a GEN. She brushed her hair and felt the inputs for her brain’s neuron backplane. God didn’t build any of that, but it was like divine intuition to gene combinations and RNA derivatives. She played the GEN like Paderewsky on a Steinway. An investor angel, yes. She had faith she could find one to deliver such an instrument again.

So she started her pilgrimage on a Sunday with a road trip to search out fresh promise. She filled her heart with hunger and her passenger seat with her assistant Frieda. Jennifer was surprised that the woman felt a calling to follow her. She didn’t know if an acolyte or a friend was sitting in the Cooper beside her. When they arrived in the morning sun of the vacation town of Duck, the Pentacostal Wave Evangelical church was starting to fill. It stood alongside the steady surf of the Outer Banks, a windswept wooden building no larger than a nave and only a dozen pews deep. But when Jennifer walked in, it felt as big as the eager pounding in her chest.

From the pulpit, Thurungian Brother Ignacio spoke the words that galvanized her desire. The man with sandy hair and a well-freckled tan shouted a sermon to inspire hope. He spelled out the challenges to fidelity, but he had few answers.

“Sex is everywhere, spread across anonymous networks.” He paused to stare upward and wave his hand. “In game shows hosted by fornicating film stars. In the promises of lust that drain all the way down to web ads for Dry-Day Senior Diapers and Retro Flush antiviral toilet cleansers.” He called out most pernicious sin, lurid pornography, a word now out of vogue in favor of “passion.” Men and women who taught lessons over these nets about how to go down on each other, techniques to practice while inside the virtual sex networks.
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Written by Ron Seybold

November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm

A novelist’s workbench: Viral Times work, exposed

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The object of the writing over the next three weeks is to show how the work of revision challenges me as I finish the final draft of Viral Times. This log will show how I’ve tried to respond. I believe it’s a novel about important topics. Public health and alternatives to quell viral pandemics, a part of our lives for generations to come. Plus, how it feels when the worst happens in any medical crisis — the damage to a heart from losing a soulmate to untimely death, through any disease. And how you might repair that damage to your life.

But no matter how that work succeeds, there are lessons for me, and for my workshop writers, about how to break the ice of revisions.

So here goes: My work on Chapter 5, Love’s Hurts. The first four chapters’ story are available in the sidebar link, a revision that benefits from my editor Jill Dearman’s pen on a wooly 350 pages of a book. That entire earlier draft was in five first-person points of view. A real challenge, Jill said.

You gave yourself a very tricky challenge by putting all your protagonists in first person. Early on Jennifer’s voice and Dayton’s don’t sound so different. You could still change back to 3d person if you want. But if you are committed to all 1st person, your job is to make everyone’s voice as distinct as say Crawford’s or Zeke’s. Or their point of view as incredibly vivid and unmistakable as Angie’s. Dayton and Jennifer –because they both take themselves so seriously!—are sometimes hard to tell apart voice-wise.

I revised Love’s Hurts back into third person this morning — and I found myself crying while I slid back into the moments of Delta’s finale. I’ve never been at a bedside while someone I loved died, so this is all imagining my own loved one’s final days to come somewhere in the future, or the memory of tending to her after illness.

But the important thing is that I was crying, so it felt real enough to me. And maybe it might to someone else, too. I also did the revision after reading a chapter of Donna’s Johnson’s “Holy Ghost Girl” — so the prayer aspect of Delta’s healing rose up. I can see how Donna’s book is going to seep into this final version of mine.

Chapter 5
Love’s Hurts

Angie Consoli
Assateague Island, Spring 2021

She couldn’t recall a time she slept so much. When she opened her eyes, the mornings were already lit up. That dog — what a name, Sherlock — once he heard her stir in the deep-down comforter, he’d pad over from the doorway where he slept. He’d put his snout on the edge of the rough oaken sleigh bed and wag his tail. Angie knew dogs that barked at people in the morning. Sherlock was as quiet as Delta, who would bring Angie herbal teas and massage her meridians. Then she’d shuffle back to the kitchen, or hum to herself on the porch at her workbench, reclaiming whatever junk the surf threw up onto what she called her beach.

The sounds from her house felt different to Angie, noises distinct from Philly or the Hamptons, the places where the music never stopped and somebody was always wheedling or snorting or uncapping a moan in closed room. Angie was starting to think of those sounds as the soundtrack of a former life. In the mornings she drifted in and out of sleep while the sound of the waves boomed loudest, the hours when Delta said the sea was at high tide.

     Delta was none of the things that Aurora or Tiffany or Alexandra had been on Angie’s sex video sets: no swagger or panache, no buffed skin or enhanced parts or perfect painted smiles. Delta had looks to drive away anyone but devoted nieces, parents or siblings. No one would ever start a family with a woman so coarse. But something made Angie drink in the sight of her caretaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

October 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Viral Times Prologue: Heat in the Night

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Dayton Winstead
Austin, November 29, 2020

While the rains fall, we fall back in retreat from disease.

I type those words into my ScribePad and wipe sweat off my brow. I’m sweltering in my apartment while my Condo Cooler is forced to idle. I’m not supposed to be home now, a journalist writing in his private journal while the sun sets on a Texas hot with climate and viruses. Government clocks cycle our energy to restrain the temperature. But in these times, nothing we’ve tried controls the viruses.

They fall on us from the skies in rainstorms and leap between us in casual touch. These times have caused love to fail. A half-century ago people had sex–dad would say make love in one of his editorials–with no fears if they used simple precaution. Even when I grew up, sexual disease needed blood to cross between bodies. But HIV-5 is more aggressive than its viral ancestors. It enters the body while you battle the Blue Flu, a disease with an airborne range of 10 feet that’s soared into a 19-month pandemic. Nobody gets close now without the Hugo Boss masks, antiviral clothes, the viro-screen gel. In the ultimate of social distancing, the lucky ones can suit up and go virtual for sex. Secure Sex, they call it, breeding faster than mosquitoes in a holding pond.

I write to disinfect myself from my mission tomorrow and leave behind this record.

First the Flu, then HIV, and at the last, AIDS Ultra. Can love survive the terrors of touch? Nobody has an answer yet, although the new Simulation Suits mimic touch to make sex safe again. General Connectrics owns the field of haptics, game touch technology grown up to serve sex. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ron Seybold

October 16, 2009 at 6:56 pm