There exists (and thrives) a particularly nasty sort of fungal growth in the jungles of South America named cordyceps. It has the evolutionary habit of infecting ants, and taking over their brains, forcing them to climb to the tallest grass stalks so that the fungus can sprout and spread. When such ants are found by their peers near the colony, they are scooped up by a fast runner and taken as far as possible before the fungus bursts forth from their brains, spreading spores to the unsuspecting. There are as many types of cordyceps as there are insects in those Amazonian forests. They remind me of a cross between zombie infections and the xenomorph aliens exploding out of people’s chest cavities in the movies of the same name. Although I very much love both aspects of this fungus as plot elements, only the zombification, or mind-control element is relevant to my story. Relevance which I assure you exists, and that I will reveal shortly.
I wrote a book and published it, not so long ago. The title of that book is “Red Nexus”. I wrote it right around the same time that I also wrote “The Calumnist Malefesto and Other Improbable Yarns”. What most people don’t know is that there is a whole genesis that comes before and during those two books. Most know that I wrote them while I was living in Japan. I could not have written them, though, without having first put together a manuscript called “Being Human”. It began while I was still in Canada. To recap that book in a sentence, it is this atheist’s answer to the best way to exist, in turn the fruit of a string of epiphanies that altered my perception of life and all that surrounds us. I shaped it and molded it into the form of a love letter to my then unborn son. Everything that came after that was an offshoot of that unpublished book, strangely enough. Those who’ve had the pleasure of reading the Malefesto have said so as well: there seems to be a running thread throughout, and with reason. “Being Human”, in a sense, is a fully-formed philosophy, and the written version of the reasons for why I continue to live, and love to do so. Everyone possesses a philosophy of life (whether they think of it or not), but when it is written down, it takes on a whole new meaning, I think. In this case, it is my purpose, rationalized to a fine, serrated edge. Like a cutting blade when applied to various stories leaves an unmistakable mark
“Being Human” was my phase one. “The Calumnist Malefesto”, phase two, and “Red Nexus” is number three. Every story I write is a kind of morality tale that entertains, based on my views and my way of thinking. To a certain degree, I believe that is how all authors with something to say do it, without having gone to the extraneous step of putting down their own life philosophy on virtual paper. I am writing all this under the influence of Comic Convention burnout fever, so maybe it sounds just a tad strange. I know it does, even to me.
Cordyceps, they control your mind. Yes, I was getting back to that. When I write, I don’t feel as if I’m choosing my words. Some people get writer’s block. I don’t, because the words seem to choose me, and I let them out in one giant flow of consciousness. This said, I don’t think there is a supreme being out there who gives our lives meaning and chooses those words for me. There is only us, making decisions which will affect the lives of everyone else. For me, though, I feel as if the words choose me, instead of me choosing them. I might have to pause once in a while for them to find me again, but they always do. It truly does feel as if there were strings attached, I am merely a marionette, and I translate things I knew to be there already, like some sort of ghost writer. My one regret is that I cannot type as fast as I want to, and have to hold all those words back like a rising tide attempting to rush through a straw. Perhaps time and practice will make me a better, more efficient translator of the stories that hang, suspended in the ether above me. Although, perhaps I have been allowed to stay too close to the colony, since I’ve begun to infect everyone with my writings. Only time will tell.
Benoit Chartier is a Canadian writer who resided in Japan for a year and a half, becoming enamored with the country, its people, its geography and traditions. He now resides in Gatineau, Qc with his wife and son. He is the OIW director of communications and author of “The Calumnist Malefesto and Other Improbable Yarns”, a collection of short stories, as well as “Red Nexus”, his new cyberpunk novel. He is presently working on a fantasy novel involving Japanese mythology, a sequel to “Red Nexus”, a book tentatively called “Road Trip” which will take two dead men across the Canada of the afterworld, and is in the planning stages of re-writing “Memories from a Blasted Earth”, a dystopian sci-fi novel. He self-medicates with green tea.