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XYZ by William Knight - Book Tour

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From a former Guardian and BBC writer, and author of The Donated, comes a hilarious story of mid-life crisis, family, technology, and coping with the modern workplace.

Jack Cooper is a depressed, analogue throwback; a cynical, alcoholic Gen-Xer whose glory days are behind him. He's unemployed, his marriage has broken down, he's addicted to internet hook-ups, and is deeply ashamed of his son Geronimo, who lives life dressed as a bear.

When Jack's daughter engineers a job for him at totally-lit tech firm Sweet, he's confronted by a Millennial and Zoomer culture he can't relate to. He loathes every detail - every IM, gif and emoji - apart from Freya, twenty years his junior and addicted to broadcasting her life on social media.

Can Jack evolve to fit in at Sweet, or will he remain a dinosaur stuck in the 1980s? And will he halt his slide into loneliness and repair his family relationships?  

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ExcerptJack’s son turns to the fur side
Oscar turns up one day with a cartoon furry bear head, paws for gloves, and a stubby tail pinned to the back of his jeans. The oversized eyes on the head remind me of that rolling eyes emoji. It’s got round, brown ears and a white streak asymmetrically arranged down one side of the face. He puts the head on and parades around the kitchen striking bear poses.


“You’re a bit old for this, Oscar.” I look up from the pasta dinner or whatever it is.

“You got your best moany-old-man hat on today then, Dad?”

I’m used to this sort of comment, and I let it go.

“Put the paws on. I think all of us are non-human in part,” he says.

I come back to this part of the memory over and over. Should I have taken an interest? Complimented the bear on its anthropomorphic quality, perhaps. Maybe tried the gloves on and conducted a few bear-inspired swipes or dance moves. Fuck, I don’t know. What should I have done?

All I know is what I did say: “Can you get these fucking things off the table and sit down and eat your dinner like a bloody adult.” I pick up one of the paws and throw it towards the kitchen bin.

After that, he started showing up regularly in full fur. He wanted to be called Geronimo, his new ‘fursona’, and he called me old-fleshie. It would have been funny if he’d been four, but he was a grown twenty-one-year-old. It just snowballed until he was more in the suit than out, gave up uni and started selling fur costumes on the internet. 

Author Info
William Knight has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times and the BBC, among many other publishers. He is a journalist and technologist currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand.

A graduate engineer, he's chased a varying career starting in acting, progressing to music, enjoyed a brief flirtation with handbag design, and was eventually wired into technology in 1989.

By 2003 his non-fiction was being regularly published in Computing newspaper in the UK, and he has since written about the many successes and failings of high-technology

The Donated (formerly, Generation), his first novel, was conceived from a New Scientist article in 2001 and was ten years in development. Subsequent novels, XYZ, Foretold, The Fractured, will be available, he says, "Sometime in the future. Hopefully not as long as ten years."  

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