The Sleep Consultant

This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid on 1st February 2019. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.

Robin Sloan is responsible for two of my all-time favorite books; Sourdough and Annabel Scheme. I reviewed the first here last year and the second, a novella about the multi-dimensional search for a PI who is in at least one San Francisco basically mashes every single button for stories I love. Plus it taught me to love falafels.

Robin, because he’s Robin, is trying something new this year. Year of the Meteor is his workspace for 2019. One part standing blog, one part print experiments. The photo above is the first print experiment for the year, a short story called The Sleep Consultant. Available for a short period of time, mailed internationally. Fiction as artifact and artifact as fiction. Like i say, Robin’s work mashes pretty much all my buttons.

This is no exception and follows a character checking into a hotel somewhere on the border between JG Ballard and Kameron Hurley. Her job is simple; she’s a sleep consultant. Her job is incredibly complicated; she’s a sleep consultant. And as she sleeps and the quietly broken world around her shifts, Robin digs down into the one thing she knows. That she is asleep in a hotel room. Tactility as certainty, when all else fails. And all else is.

I’m pleasantly haunted by this story and the multiple cards in its deck. Read one way it’s a soft apocalypse, a coup or perhaps war breaking out while she sleeps. Read another it’s the sort of cyberpunk Gibson would be writing if he started now. Read a third it’s a metaphysical piece about how we’re never the same when we wake up, something Borden and Dangier from The Prestige know all too well. Or perhaps it’s a dimensional travel story. Or political intrigue. Or all of the above. It’s all there, all present in the shifting reality of REM state and the temporary anynonymity space that every hotel room is located in. You get to pick what happens. The Sleep Consultant’s job is complete regardless.

It cost me under 2 dollars by the way. A complex, weird piece of fiction, mailed internationally, for under 2 dollars. Pay attention to the Year of the Meteor. I will be.