Sunday, February 2, 2020

"Buzz Kill"

David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental protection specialist, while living in cities as varied as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska. He is the author of three previous critically acclaimed novels, Rapture, Vamped, and Happy Doomsday.

Sosnowski applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Buzz Kill, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The only problem: Rupert Jr. wasn’t online to be cheered by the good news of the proletariat. He’d been hoping to find misery to cheer him out of his own. … But instead of feeling better by comparison, what he found was this: average Americans trying to make other average Americans jealous. While that’s frequently what people got in their news feeds even without manipulation, what Rupert Jr. got was as relentlessly upbeat as a motivational speaker in an ice cream truck playing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” This amplification was achieved by stripping out the political rants, fake news, proselytizing, and click bait that clogged most news feeds, leaving behind a highly curated glimpse into the lives of others as they portrayed themselves online. The results, unsurprisingly, skewed toward the full spectrum of bragging, including but not limited to: the humble brag; the brag brag; the proxy brag (“Look at my kids, my parents, my lovely spouse...”); the brag with parsley (“Look at my breakfast, lunch, dinner...”); the anthropomorphic brag (“Look at how much my dog, cat, pony, goldfish, et al. loves me...”); the geo-tag brag (“Will you look at that view...”); and the holier-than-bragging brag (“Click here to donate to a cause you never heard of, you heartless bastard...”). All in all, it was too much vicarious self-adulation for a celebrity-by-proxy to handle, suggesting not only that money couldn’t buy happiness but perhaps it bought the very depression he’d been grappling with.
The above passage portrays the lead up to a triggering event that propels several plotlines in Buzz Kill: the online suicide of a celebrity’s son that goes viral. While a bit more overtly satirical than most of the novel, the passage was nevertheless inspired by the real-world abuses of certain social media companies that shall remain nameless (and faceless) that have conducted social engineering experiments on their unsuspecting users by manipulating news feed content. The purpose of these experiments was to determine if altering a user’s mood would change their responses to paid-for content in the form of clicks, likes, and ultimate purchases.

My goal in satirizing this behavior was to counterpoint the self-serving, happy-happy Kumbaya propaganda these companies tend to roll out whenever they’ve been caught once again doing real harm in the real world by facilitating everything from cyber bullying to election fraud to genocide. That being said, I didn’t want to let the users off the hook for their complicity in reality distortion made possible by these media, hence the taxonomy of bragging that takes place so often in cyberspace. Ultimately, my message is the same as Mary Shelley’s when she wrote Frankenstein over two hundred years ago to warn us about how technology can seduce us into ignoring its downside, often at our peril. The difference is that while Shelley used horror to deliver that message, I’ve opted for the more tongue-in-cheek vehicle of satire.
Visit David Sosnowski's website.

My Book, The Movie: Happy Doomsday.

The Page 69 Test: Happy Doomsday.

Writers Read: David Sosnowski.

--Marshal Zeringue