Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Virtual Tour & #Giveaway for The End of Ordinary by Edward Ashton

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Book Tour, presented by Goddess Fish Promotions, for The End of Ordinary by Edward Ashton.  Please leave a comment or question for Edward to let him know you stopped by.  You may enter his tour wide giveaway, where one (1) randomly chosen commenter will be awarded a 14 Ounce Nalgene—filled with candy corn! & 1 VeryFit Smart Band (US only), by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.  You may follow all of the stops on fhe tour by clicking on the banner above.  The more stops you visit, the better your odds of winning.  Good Luck! 

We’ve Got Issues: Humanity’s Drive Toward Reinvention
By Edward Ashton

For as long as humans have been writing things down, we seem to have been plagued by a persistent sense that something about us isn’t quite right. As an example, consider this, from Book XII of The Iliad:

“Hector laid hold of a stone that lay just outside the gates and was thick at one end but pointed at the other; two of the best men in a town, as men now are, could hardly raise it from the ground and put it on to a wagon, but Hector lifted it quite easily by himself,”

In Homer’s telling, and that of many of his contemporaries as well, the men of the past were giants, stronger and wiser and better in every way than those of today. We are a fallen, bedraggled species, sorely in need of aid from the gods if we’re to accomplish anything.

You see some of the same attitudes today, in both pop culture and science fiction. Check your Facebook feed, or the ads that show up on late night TV, and you’ll see an endless stream of ways to improve your skin, your libido, or your memory. Or, for a more entertaining take, check out my books (or those of folks like Greg Bear and David Brin) for some ideas about how genetic manipulation and mechanical augmentation might make us better in the future than we are today.

All of this raises an interesting question: why do we feel this need to fix ourselves? I find it hard to believe that dolphins spend a lot of their time ruminating about how their flukes could be improved, and chimpanzees and bonobos certainly seem to be pretty pleased with themselves. As a species, we’ve managed to overrun every corner of this planet, to an extent never before seen. Why the persistent inferiority complex?
For one possible answer to this question, we need to go back a ways—about ten thousand years, to be precise. This is the point where humanity first made what can be seen, from a certain perspective, as a very serious mistake: we invented agriculture.

“Wait,” I can almost hear you saying. “Isn’t agriculture a good thing? Isn’t that the reason there are so many of us around these days?”

Well, yes. That’s true. In the absence of agriculture, the total carrying capacity of this planet for an omnivorous apex predator like ourselves is probably no more than a hundred million or so, even if we managed to cover all six habitable continents as we have today. However, what is good for the species is not necessarily good for the individuals of that species.

Jared Diamond makes this case in great detail here (http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html), but the gist is this: our hunter-gatherer ancestors moved around all day, and ate wide variety of foods, including many different fruits and vegetables, lots of meat, and little to no grain. Their farming descendants, in contrast, ate limited diets, heavy on starches and low on protein, were subject to frequent famines, performed a great deal of stoop labor, and lived in close contact with livestock, which spawned frequent species-hopping plagues. Early farmers were eight to ten inches shorter on average than their forebears, and lived significantly shorter and more unpleasant lives. Modern medicine and sanitation have given us longer lifespans than our ancient ancestors had, and at least in the developed world, comparable body size—but only in the past hundred years. That’s an awfully long time to recover from one bad left turn.

This line of argument raises another interesting question, of course: if hunter-gatherers were so much bigger, stronger and healthier than early agriculturalists, how did the farmers wind up winning out? There are two fairly unpleasant answers here. First, an agricultural lifestyle permits the subjugation of women, and their conversion from the relatively equal status they enjoy with men in most modern hunter-gatherer societies to the role of perpetually pregnant field-hand factories. Second, in conflicts over land and resources, a hundred starving farmers will defeat a dozen healthy hunters every time.

The upshot of all this is that our drive toward self-improvement may actually have a rational basis. On some deep level, we all may carry around a vague suspicion that at some point, something important was stolen from us. Is it so strange to think that we might want it back?

The End of Ordinary
By Edward Ashton

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 298 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062690326

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | IndieBound | BAM 

About the book: 

Drew Bergen is an Engineer. He builds living things, one gene at a time. He's also kind of a doofus. Six years after the Stupid War -- a bloody, inconclusive clash between the Engineered and the UnAltered -- that's a dangerous combination. Hannah is Drew's greatest project, modified in utero to be just a bit better at running than most humans. She’s also his daughter. Her plan for high school is simple: lay low and run fast. Unfortunately for Hannah, her cross-country team has other plans.

Jordan is just an ordinary Homo-Sap. But don’t let that fool you -- he’s also one of the richest kids at Briarwood, and even though there isn’t a single part of him that’s been engineered, someone has it out for him.

Drew thinks he’s working to develop a spiffy new strain of corn, but Hannah and her classmates disagree. They think he's cooking up the end of the world. When one of Drew's team members disappears, he begins to suspect that they might be right. Soon they're all in far over their heads, with corporate goons and government operatives hunting them, and millions of lives in the balance.


“Seriously?” Micah said. “This is the lair?”

“I told you,” Marta said. “It’s not a lair. It’s a juice bar.”

We were on the second floor, at the end of what seemed at the time like miles of corridors and columns and arches and lots and lots of locked doors. The door in front of us, though, was unlocked, and slightly ajar.

“You’re sure he’s here?” Micah asked. “I mean, shouldn’t he be in a darkened study or something?”

Marta pressed her fingers to her eyes.

“Right. With his henchmen. Should he be smoking a cigar?”

“Do you have a cat?”

They both turned to look at me.

“A cat?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s better than a cigar. He should be sitting in a big, leather easy chair, petting a cat.”

“No,” Marta said. “We do not have a cat. We also don’t have any leather easy chairs, as far as I know. Dad’s probably sitting at the bar, reading some crappy sci-fi novel on his tablet and drinking a smoothie.”

Micah shook his head.

“That’s not gonna work for me.”

Marta turned to look at him.

“Not gonna work for you?”

“Right,” Micah said. “I can’t beat a guy up while he’s drinking a smoothie.”

“No beating,” I said. “I thought we were clear on that.”

“Right. Right.”

“Look,” Marta said. “We’re just…”


We all turned to look at the door.

“Yes, Daddy?”

“Would you like to introduce me to your friends?”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.

You can find him online at edwardashton.com.
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