It is 2018. In an America similar to ours, a journalist breaks the story of the contamination of a water treatment plant.
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Fi tries to focus on the rom-com she’s chosen to lighten the mood. It’s an old movie from before the Xavier Hemorragic Flu, a time when people still rode the subway and regarded strangers with curiosity.She pauses the movie. The heroine and her latest conquest are about to kiss, frozen in a blur of bright motion. She sits back on the couch and pulls the blanket to her chin. After a few minutes, the screensaver flips on and photos dissolve, pictures of Fi in Amsterdam, the Eiffel Tower, a beach in southern France. Fi used to shoot mostly landscapes. Now she sorely wishes she’d shot more of herself in these wondrous places, to prove Americans once flew in planes and landed on these shores, packed in alien train stations and steeped in foreign chit-chat. She watches the screensaver, unblinking. They say it will take decades for the EU and Asia to lift the travel bans on the United States. The next time she rides the London Eye, she might be well into retirement.Bored of Fi’s inaction, the television flickers to black. She takes a breath and pulls out her phone.Everyone else in her timezone seems to be nestled into bed, run-ning REM cycles and warming percale sheets. She finishes scrolling her feeds with just a few flicks, returns to the top and refreshes. More please. More from those halfway across the globe, from people she has no chance of meeting in person. More from those waking up to start their days, more from those west of here, settling in to dinner.On the next refresh, Fi’s feed jumps with a series of updates from one account, Xatriot. Blurry photos and capitalized captions: ARREST-ED. CAUGHT. DREAM OVER, DEED DONE THO. Splashes of red and blue, a bearded white man scowling in handcuffs. Fi tries to make sense of these updates. She followed Xatriot for their activism over the years. Nothing too incendiary, just links to articles and pictures from ral-lies before the cities really locked down. Background static for the world’s saddest ballad.
SUSPENSIONASH HUANG READSUSPENSION.COM2
It’s not often that a line cast results in any sort of story, but Fi’s bones are lit. There’s something here.I write for CurrentUp, Fi types out. Private msg me, let’s talk.Fi hits send and refreshes again. Nothing new comes up. Anyone who is awake has shared Xatriot’s updates.A notification. Xatriot has sent her a message.Will you guarantee anonymity? I have a record alredy. Of course, Fi writes back.U dont write on one of those shit lifestile colums do uFi sighs. I can publish across the site.Pics r of Morris Mathers we brke intu Pittsbgh’s h2O facility and dumped 122 lb of Xavietrin into watr supply. I’m Jameson Chadury. You can look me up this is legit. Was keeping guard, Mory caught, plan was alwas for me to post and run if he got caught. Fuck.Who are you with? Is anyone going to take responsibility for this? Do you have more photos?Yah sendingA few more grainy pictures of Mathers, some with empty sacks draped over railing.You’re going to brk news for us. we dont trust the big news plac-es, Leme copy pasteWe’d like to tell you all the long sad story of how the greatest world power fell from grace. We’d like to tell you how the United States of America murdered its own population to fill the bank accounts of a few greedy pigs.Fi sighs again, but she continues reading. It costs Simmons Corp six cents to make a single dose of Xavi-etrin. If medication were sold at cost, an XHF patient could keep their disease in check for a rate of $21.36 a year. It was heralded as a miracle, but of course, that would not last.Today a dose of Xavietrin costs $142.00, raising the annual cost
It is 2018.
American cities are under strict quarantine and nearly 30% of the population is infected with Xavier Hemorrhagic Flu (XHF). The international community has closed its borders to the United States, people disappear after suspicious Tweets and reality TV continues to dominate the air.
Fi Ocampo is a writer for an independent news site. She breaks the story of two men caught contaminating Pittsburgh’s water supply with medicine meant to halt XHF’s brain-deteriorating symptoms. The Internet erupts in debate. Some condemn the men as terrorists, others praise them as martyrs for the XHF cause.
Fi’s investigation of the two men leads her to a small commune in rural Pennsylvania, where she has an unexpected reunion and must win over the residents. As they learn to trust her, she discovers the truth about the contamination, as well as what the XHF-positive are keeping secret from the rest of the population.
Throughout her inquiries, Fi must come to terms with her experiences around cultural and racial assimilation, her own visibility and her responsibilities in determining the fate of her country.
Suspension follows a non-linear narrative structure. It centers around Fi's search for the truth behind the water supply contamination. Through flashbacks, we get a history of Fi's career, a picture of the old blood between the commune residents and a look into how the present universe formed. This method of interweaving flashbacks and main plot allows conflict to build at an organic and unified pace, despite the different timing of characters' experiences.
Millennial readers are buying more books than any other generation, and Suspension broaches many topics relevant to a liberal-leaning 18–35 crowd.
Suspension’s characters struggle with issues unique to our 20s, such as finding one’s voice, taking responsibility as an individual, what it takes to succeed in a professional setting versus in school, the often complicated relationship young people have with parents and family legacy, and the costs and expectations of romantic relationships. Suspension also has a modern, more familiar take on media and technology, such as how we experience news through timelines and shares rather than televisions or newspapers.
Especially after the recent US elections and recent world events, many millennials feel unmoored, strangers living in a strange land. As a near future dystopia, Suspension is an exploration of what life might be like, as well as how we might navigate that landscape.
Ash Huang is a designer and author living in San Francisco. As a writer, her pieces have been featured in Fast Company, Offscreen Magazine and Lean Out, a feminist anthology about the tech industry. Her first novel, The Firesteel, won First Place for Literary Fiction in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-book Awards. As a successful designer in Silicon Valley, she’s done work for companies like Pinterest, Twitter and Dropbox. She has spoken at conferences across the country and has been interviewed on several podcasts about her design and writing.
I’m active on quite a few networks, with good reach. Most notably:
- Twitter: 8,640+ followers
- Medium: 4,000 followers (see background article on why I wrote Suspension)
- Instagram: 1,000+ followers
Through my writing on Fast Company, my design education and my work on The Firesteel, I have experience working with editors and effectively incorporating critique. For Suspension, I have already hired and incorporated feedback from three sensitivity readers.
I have experience marketing a book. How I marketed The Firesteel:
- Ran a Kickstarter and created all the necessary collateral, including a book trailer, bookmarks and phone backgrounds. Collected $8,220 and sold 150+ preorders.
- Engaged with book bloggers to get reviews
- Goodreads giveaways
- Amazon free days and half-off days
- Promoted on Fussy Librarian newsletter and Facebook groups
- Experimented with Facebook and Twitter ads
- Engaging with local SF bookstores to get The Firesteel there on consignment (now at Green Apple Books in SF)
- Entered a Writer’s Digest competition and won first in Literary Fiction
- Sold the book twice at one of the most prestigious craft fairs in SF, West Coast Craft
Did several talks, podcasts and interviews about the process (see feature on Lumi’s blog and the Design Details podcast)
Other statistics on The Firesteel:
- 605 readers requested it in the last Goodreads giveaway
- 453 people have added it on their to-read list on Goodreads
- 200 downloads on the last Amazon free weekend
- "Station Eleven"
Like Station Eleven, Suspension also takes place during and after an epidemic. Both pay homage to the beauty of technology and the sparkling things that were lost.
- "Area X: Southern Reach Trilogy"
For those who enjoyed Area X’s eerie, clinical, otherworldly feel and diverse characters, Suspension is a good fit.
Readers explored an unfamiliar but believable world in Wool, literally descending into its depths. Suspension unfolds in a similar way.
- "American Gods"
Both books are surreal explorations of the deeds that haunt us and how we come to grips with our darknesses.
- "The Walking Dead" and "Lost" (tv show)
While the universe of Suspension remains a bit more civilized, The Walking Dead, Lost and Suspension feature deep, character driven stories on the backdrop of a catastrophic events.
- "World War Z"
Though not in first person, Suspension also creates color around its universe by featuring accounts of several people, including a PhD candidate, a journalist, a pediatrician, and a high school drop-out.
- "The Handmaid’s Tale"
Suspension and The Handmaid’s Tale are both chilling accounts of the few events it might take to lose the human progress we’ve collectively achieved.