Click here for Stona's author page.
Two warring printers’ guilds struggle to survive in a world where natural disaster has become commonplace. Caught up in a risky raid on rival printer Sevenheads’ bank, the Printer’s Devil and the Patchwork Girl struggle to escape the city as the black wind starts to blow…
Picking up where Clockwork Orange and On The Beach left off, Printer’s Devil deals with the fate of the remnants of humanity in an extreme post-apocalyptic landscape. A fable in the spirit of Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Printer’s Devil is a meditation on power and its abuses – one that echoes with disturbing parallels to the present.
Praise for Printer's Devil
'A wonderfully dark, dystopian tale set in a world where excessive consumerism has led to an environmental apocalypse.'
Doug Johnstone, Independent on Sunday
'Cormac McCarthy set a new benchmark in dystopian fiction with his remarkable The Road, but this powerful and profound novel makes a good stab at matching it... Fitch’s future world is wonderfully and completely imagined, from the landscape to the mindset to the language, in a narrative which address big issues like consumerism and abuse of power, but does so with incredible subtlety and always with a very human dilemma at its core. Compulsively readable but also incredibly thought-provoking, thrilling but also highly perceptive, this is everything a modern novel should be.'
The List. See full review here.
'Fitch has created a bleak and disturbing tale. Part paranoid Philip K Dick, part Clockwork Orange. Right from the opening torture scene you are knocked sideways and never really given the chance to recover. Ian's work becomes more dangerous and the people he is working with more unhinged. Any sensible chap would jack it all in but Ian is in love with Melina, a beautiful woman with the mind of a child, and he is saving enough money to flee the city with her, but as the authorities, the rival guild and the black wind draw ever closer he may have to make a run for it sooner than he thought. The key to any book like this is to create a fictional world complete with its own rules, regulations, traditions and slang without asking the reader to do too much work. Over-fill the story with an invented language, syntax or philosophy and only the hardcore enthusiast will follow you all the way. Fitch balances things nicely and certainly marks himself out as a writer to watch.'
Scott Pack, The Friday Project. For the full article, please click here.
'Ironic dualities enrich a well-told story. Fitch’s home territory is the evolving conscience; his mission is to explore how the internal compass reacts to extraordinary external pressures. Because he’s sophisticated enough to avoid preaching a particular code, Fitch spurs readers to examine their own motivations and self-discipline. Printer’s Devil simultaneously presents a realistically dire future and suggests that doom can be averted if our societies make the right decisions.' Todd Mercer, ForeWord Magazine
'Printers’ Devil is set in a bleak dystopian future in which an environmental catastrophe has left the earth ravaged and humans struggling to survive. In a nameless city plagued by deadly storms, two rival printers’ guilds are at war, while a young apprentice dreams of a better life. It’s a remarkable piece of work, one which deals with issues like religion, consumerism and environmentalism, but never heavy-handedly. “It’s really about the emptiness of consumerism,” says Fitch. “Just now is a golden age for cultural debris, but what comes after this? Where does society go from here? Do we have to descend into chaos, or can we more gracefully get rid of that element of society and move on?”'
Read the full article on Stona Fitch's work in the HI-Arts web magazine here.
About Stona Fitch
Of Scottish-Cherokee ancestry, Stona Fitch lives with his family in Concord, Massachusetts, where he leads the renegade Concord Free Press, the world’s first generosity-based publisher. His original, powerful and disturbing novels have been published in the UK, France, Germany, and the US, and have attracted an international following. His novel Senseless (published in the UK by Two Ravens Press) has been praised by J. M. Coetzee, Russell Banks, and others for anticipating violent anti-globalization protests, online hostage-taking, and other political developments; it is now an independent feature film. Printer’s Devil (2009) and Give + Take (2010) are also published by Two Ravens Press.
An extract from Printer's Devil
I pause for a second at the door, watching Melina texting at a tiny desk in a cluttered attic room. I have printed dozens of issues of the Sliver and spent countless nights in Mrs. Boyle’s provo settles across the city. But I am still learning to decipher Melina. Our time together is always brief. Mrs. Boyle keeps us both busy and rarely leaves us alone. Despite this, Melina and I have made love on blankets, shattered parquet floors, ancient furniture. Desire always finds a way.
Melina doesn’t look up when I walk in. She’s focused on her work, turning Mrs. Boyle’s scrawled words into this week’s issue.
Originally, Mrs. Boyle called her opposition newspaper the Silver Star, a hopeful reference to a day when the atmosphere might thin enough to let us see a star again. But Melina transposed the letters and the Sliver was born. Mrs. Boyle liked it better, penned the tagline – A Sliver of Hope in a Hopeless Time.
Melina might be texting something about the Alliance and its abuses, how innocents were tagged for simply questioning regulations. It might be about how thousands of scientists and researchers couldn’t seem to shrink the coryalis. There were suspicions that the Alliance controlled the black wind, directed it to undesirable sectors. Or the article might be about the rich bankers and Alliance cronies – l’armée grise – all living in comfort and safety while others struggled. Or it might be about the barbaric elitism of special privileges, how the shelters should be open to everyone. Oxygen is theft. Air is for all.
Whatever the article, its meaning will be lost on Melina. She sees only letters and words, punctuation and spaces. Melina knows order but not meaning. Mrs. Boyle’s words mean no more than a scrap of paper she might find blowing down the street. Among all the damage that the black wind did to her, this is the saving grace, the sliver of hope. She is open to all messages.
I put Mrs. Boyle’s article on the board in front of Melina and she squints at the scrawled words, scrawled with such anger that the pen has torn the paper.
When she comes to the end of a page, Melina turns and looks up, giving me a crooked smile.
I kiss her on the forehead, just once, not wanting to go further and set off Mrs. Boyle’s legendary temper. I watch Melina work on the final page, fingers hovering over the metal keys, eyes rarely straying from the blue screen. She can set type like no one I have ever seen before, texting the copy, building the columns, setting initial capitals, and checking line endings. Creating order on the page helps her sort the disorder in her mind. Melina once described her thoughts as a room full of children, all screaming for attention. A dream she had of walking through a field was as real as seeing me sitting on the dusty couch.
The question from my guild brothers sticks with me – why love someone who is damaged? If I thought they might understand it, I would explain that character resides in defects and scars. We are all damaged, senses annealed, thoughts gone cold – this is how we survive. Melina’s damage is simply more visible.
Melina finishes and presses a key. The final page comes out of the back of the screen and rolls onto the desk. She folds the keyboard and screen together and puts them in the metal case, then slides the case into her backpack. She moves with the focus and concentration of someone who knows that the machine she handles is important, dangerous even.
When I see Melina at work, it’s hard not to think that she could be cured by the right words in a precise order, delivered at the right time. In my dreams I make the patchwork girl whole again, cure her body and mind. For a moment I understand why Mrs. Boyle keeps going on – tagged, reviled and chased from one settle to the next. Why fight unless there is hope?
Everyone in the city hopes that the black wind will fade and the coryalis will close like a tired eye. Until then, we rely on our delusions – faith to protect us, suspicion to keep us safe, love to lead us on.
Melina walks toward me, her dragging leg marking slack lines along the dusty floor. I am ashamed of the wave of disappointment that passes through me when I see Melina’s damage. It’s wrong to expect her to be any different.
She sits on the couch next to me and pushes her finger deep into my mouth, touching one tooth and then another, counting. Then she touches her own front teeth.
‘This one’s loose,’ she insists. ‘They told me at the shelter it might fall out next week if I eat hard bread.’ The tooth fell out more than a decade ago. Her mind dwells on the time of her parents’ martyrdom.
She shifts closer to me and looks to the corners of the room. ‘There are rats here, you know that? We have to keep the barrels closed up tight.’ She jerks suddenly to the right and almost falls, but I catch her, feel the warmth of her arm beneath a worn grey sweater.
‘I know that,’ I say. ‘I’ve seen them.’
‘Mrs. Boyle told me about a rat that played the flute, a story that made the people laugh, about everyone following like rats. Do you think people are like that, all following along?’
She stands and holds my hands gently in hers, eyes staring intently into mine, as if we are about to begin an elaborate dance from an earlier time.
‘A quadrille,’ she says, divining my thought. The damage left her eye opaque, but her mind is open, aware and receiving. ‘I read about it once. Ladies danced to golden violins…’ She drops my hands and laughs, forgetting about the dance. ‘A message!’ She picks up the page she has just finished and frowns at it, hands it to me. ‘It’s in Latin. I speak it, you know.’
‘Ian taught me. Terra voluptatis. The pleasure lands. He’s going to take me there someday with cash and oxygen and…’
I kiss her on the forehead. ‘I’m Ian.’
She frowns, throws her arms around my neck. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in the shelter? It’s a red day.’
‘Yellow, just yellow.’
‘Yellow, yellow, chokes a fellow.’ She tilts her head from side to side, then stops and blinks. ‘That last page, where is it?’
I hold up the metal roll, embossed with thousands of letters.
She turns serious and clear. ‘You need to print it, Ian. They’re waiting. Then come back up after everyone’s gone.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’m going to sleep for a little bit. I’m tired and my eyes hurt…’ She stretches out on the couch. Giving my hand one last touch, she curls into a ball and closes her eyes.
I pull a red blanket up to her waist and kiss her on the cheek, then make my way through the cluttered room.
‘Don’t turn the light off,’ she whispers. ‘Tell everyone I love them very much. All of them. Even the serious ones.’
Melina looks so much like her mother at that moment that I can picture Vanessa Lamartine, arms crossed as she stands in front of the locked shelter. I know her only from Mrs. Boyle’s prop films. I see the Lamartines in their long leather jackets, the black wind curling invisibly around them, Melina at their feet. I close the door softly, leaving Melina to shuffle through her unsorted thoughts and memories, stringing them like beads only to untie them again.
We are grateful to the Scottish Arts Council for a grant towards the publication of Printer's Devil.