In RADIO, the god Marduk finds himself trapped within the body of an opium addicted jazz guitarist. Sharing a mind is difficult enough but having to fight both the previous owner’s will and the physiological call for the drug makes Marduk’s situation even more dire.

While often thought of as a Victorian drug, Opium use was still prevalent, if waning, in 1920’s Paris. Montmartre was the main location of most of the Parisian dens. While booze and cocaine were much more fashionable, opium dens supplied the drug, imported from France’s former Southeast Asian colonies, to customers looking to chase the dragon or le Brune Fée (brown fairy) as the french would say.

Opium is a drug that grew ever more dangerous as its method of use grew more refined over the ages. The sap from the opium poppy (known to the Babylonians as the joy plant) was first eaten as a pain-reliever and mood booster over six thousand years ago. This practice was wide spread. From Roman gladiators dulling fear to Alexander the Great’s armies medicating themselves, opium eating survived for thousands of years. Then, as tobacco was introduced to China in the 14th century, opium began to be added and smoked. This process evolved. Opium sap was cooked down into a paste and smoked over an open flame. The vaporized narcotics entered the system in new more potent ways, and both its effects and addictiveness increased. Today we see it in its most refined forms such as heroin and other opioids. Its ability to help and hurt have been driven to their max.

Opium has always been a mythic drug and there are many, many assumptions and exaggerations attributed to it. Let’s dispel two of its most persistent.

First, opium is often linked to and depicted as causing hallucinations. Opium is non-hallucinatory but does effect perception. High quality opium, known as chandu, causes the user to experience hyper-sensitized senses and acute focus. Poor quality opium, called dross, contains high amounts of morphine and causes the drowsy, dead to the world, effect so often shown in depictions of opium dens. Opium is also notorious for causing incredibly vivid and wild dreams, which may be the origin of the hallucination myth.

The second myth that often surrounds opium is actually a combination involving addiction and withdrawal. Namely that opium is relatively easy to become addicted to but also relatively easy to withdraw from. Nothing could be further from the truth and that is part of what makes this drug so insidious.

Unlike heroin where addiction is rapid, most opium smokers need to have a daily habit for more than a week before addiction takes place. This often lulls users into a false sense of security. Occasional smoking is very unlikely to lead to addiction but what counts as occasional? Once a month? Once per week? Per day? When the definition of occasional becomes too often, addiction can set in.

Ease of withdrawal is also often reversed when comparing heroin and opium. While heroin withdrawal is an awful, long, terrible experience, somehow, opium withdrawal is much worse.

I’ll leave the details of such a withdrawal for you to read in RADIO or for a much more in depth account, I highly recommend Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction by Steven Martin. What started out as research turned to addiction and resulted in this modern, accurate account of what the cycle of opium addiction is actually like. This book helped my research immensely and I couldn’t recommend it more.

It’s been a couple weeks since RADIO got its first SPFBO6 review from Travis over at The Fantasy Inn and I want to revisit it here now that I’m finally done squee-ing.

I’m thrilled with the success RADIO has had in the competition thus far. Fist came the recognition of my wife’s spectacular cover design in the SPFBO6 Cover Contest and now I have this excellent review to celebrate. It’s great to know that RADIO has more than just good looks!

What makes me most excited about the review is that the reviewer found the story to be unique and that its uniqueness worked. On the surface, this might not sound like much but we’re talking about a fantasy writing competition. In a genre filled with voracious readers who want their dragons, paladins, wizards, and magic, it can be risky to try something outside the mold. It seems I’ve pulled it off and that is truly rewarding.

To see the full review, click here and I definitely encourage you to do so. To see where all the books in the competition stand currently, go here.

Finally, to give you a small sample of what The Fantasy Inn had to say, and to sum up my happiness, I’ll leave you with the final paragraph from the review.

“RADIO by J. Rushing is a book that will pull you in with the spectacular worldbuilding and keep you invested with the wonderful character arcs. Overall, it was a damn fun read. I’ve never read another book where an ancient opium-addicted god gets a guitar solo in a jazz club while an immortal demon mind controls the crowd… and somehow I suspect I never will again.

This book is also a contender for one of the Fantasy Inn’s SPFBO semifinalists.” 

Travis – The Fantasy Inn

Can’t ask for better than that.

In this new blog series, I’ll be exploring the ways in which the world of RADIO diverges from our own reality. So much is familiar but remember, the devil is in the details and oh, what devils they can be.

In this first installment, we’ll focus on the fundamental principal that makes everything in RADIO possible.

Consciousness

In RADIO, consciousness is not something that humans possess. It isn’t housed or generated within us. Instead it comes to us as a signal from somewhere out in the æther. Where? Not even Marduk knows.

Humans “tune in” to their own consciousness much like a radio tunes in to a station. Like a radio, the mind allows us to interface with these signals. Without a radio the song won’t play and without a mind, life’s gone too. Not every human interacts with these signals in the same manner. For a select few, their manipulation of consciousness brings with it great power.

Mono-Reveivers

The vast majority of human beings are Mono-Receivers or Monos as those in the Mentium call them. They can only tune in to their own consciousness. They go about their daily lives oblivious to the thoughts of others or the control forced on them by the “gods.” The monos think they run the world, and this is, of course, by design.

Multi-Receivers

Much more rare are Multi-Receivers or Multis. These are the Great Mindinis and Madames Esmereldas of the world. Now, your run of the mill fortune tellers, mediums, and mystics are the flimflam artists you expect them to be, however, some within their ranks are true mind readers. They possess the ability to tune in to not only their own consciousness but those of others as well. What they do with what they learn can make them friend or foe but either way, they can get into your head.

Broadcasters

The “gods”, though they are, indeed, human, refer to themselves as Broadcasters. This minuscule fraction of the population not only can read minds, they can broadcast images, commands, and more into the heads of those nearby. This power to control someone else’s consciousness is what has helped them build their religions, empires, and ultimately the Mentium itself. It’s how they’ve managed to dominate the world for millennia. While their mental reach was once limited to an area no larger than a kilometer, it now spans the continent thanks to the power of Marduk’s radio. Nothing will be the same for anyone.

Spectres

Finally we come to the Spectres. They are the most powerful and most rare of all humans. Little is known about them because Spectres do not exist. They don’t exist because the Mentium does not allow them to exist. The gods cannot stand to be prey.

Want to know more? Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll discover just who the Mentium are, how they’ve come to dominate the globe, and what godhood means in the world of RADIO.