This story appeared in the anthology Shine, released 30 March 2010, and edited by Jetse de Vries. It was written specifically in response to de Vries’ call for near-future, optimistic SF. An excerpt of Sarging Rasmussen is available here, as well as other stories in the anthology; if you like what you see, information on the many ways to get a copy can be found here.
I have been interviewed by Charles Tan in relation to this story. There’s lot’s of background on this story there, so check it out. However, I will list off some of the texts and media that influenced the story, at the end of this post.
Special thanks go to Charles La Shure and Mike Hartman for comments and feedback on the story, and to Jetse de Vries for helping me edit it into shape, as well as putting together the Shine anthology.
“Gord Sellar offers up a great title… 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.” — Nick Mamatas (@ Sci-Fi Wire)
“… fuses pick-up artistrywith, of all things, environmental treaty negotiations – to amusing and surprisingly compelling effect. Both are notable for the efficiency of their world-building.” — Sumit-Paul Choudhry (@ NewScientist/CultureLab blog)
“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 Tan (@ Bibliophile Stalker)
“Like [Alastair] Reynolds’ story, Sarging Rasmussen by Gord Sellar lifted my spirits through humour rather than lecturing, featuring a bunch of sleaze bags who use the language and persuasion techniques of the pickup artist scene (google it if you want to lose all faith in the male gender) to affect a positive result in political ecological negotiations. The idea of re-purposing social technology (which is what the vile PUA ‘rules’ is) for good is a brilliantly original idea that Sellar pursues with enormous wit and energy to produce something genuinely new and interesting.” — Patrick Hudson (@ The Zone)
“… uses the argot and philosophy of the pick-up artist movement to sneakily suggest that politics and activism aren’t perhaps as different as the two camps tend to think…” — Paul Raven (@ Futurismic)
“I absolutely loved [it]… a very smart story that, I suspect, may please more the male readers… It is very well written, humourous and full of excellent sarcasm…” Yagiz (@ Speculative Fiction Book Review)
Incidentally, one thing that surprises me so far is that nobody has pointed out that the UN HQ is in New York City in our world, not in The Hague. The main reason was that I wanted to write a story set in Europe, but peopled by folks not exclusively European. There was, somewhere in the earliest drafts or notes that led to the story, a reason for a move of the HQ — some combination of more funding available in Europe than in the recently re-crashed American economy, the American political climate, and a spate of terrorist attacks (foreign and domestic, but especially domestic) on New York — but none of those explanations ended up in the final draft of the story.
Nobody seems to mind! Maybe the impression is given that the meeting that has gathered so many of the characters is a temporary one, that my globe-trotting characters aren’t living there but just passing through for the Nth time, or something else. I’m not sure. It’s an interesting example, either way, of how much what one can get away with, without explanation.
A few of the books and media sources helpful in writing this story include:
- How I Met Your Mother (TV series), a sitcom in which the character Barney Stinson was my first brush with the Pickup Artist trend.
- The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, by Neil Strauss, which made me realize that there was a lot in common between Pickup Artist view of the world (and mode of self-presentation) and the cyberpunk aesthetic.
- Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, which I was “reading” (by MP3) at the time when I encountered Strauss’s book — and realized they had so much in common.
- The Pickup Artist (TV series), a reality TV show featuring one of the leading figures in the Pickup Artist society (or “Seduction Community” as they call themselves), a very, er, distinctive (read that however you like) chap who calls himself “Mystery.”