By Judy Shields
Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) 7/31/2019 – “In the book, it’s the sort of class that has been absolved of the burden of work, they are collectively called the absolved, a nice way of spinning, ‘you don’t have to work anymore, you have been absolved of the burden of work.’ I was trying to think of a title for the book and had gone through like 100 of them and then one day it just hit me, you already have the title in there, the people are called the absolved. The title for the book.” Author Matthew Binder told The Hollywood Times during a phone interview.
It’s 2036. Henri is a wealthy physician, husband, father and serial philanderer. He is also one of the relatively few people to still have a job, Automation and other technological advances have led to unemployment so severe that many people are no longer expected to work. They are now known as “The Absolved.” Meanwhile, it’s election season, and a candidate from a radical fringe party called the Luddites is calling for an end to the “Divine Right of Machines.”
A timely mediation on the questionable economics and social side effects of the rise in automation and A.I., The Absolved follows Henri – who buys the rhetoric about the liberation of not having to work, just as long as it doesn’t apply to him – as he is displaced from his job, and subsequently framed for an anti-technology terrorist act by two Luddite sympathizers he’s befriended at a local bar. The prospect of Henri’s salvation comes at the cost of foregoing his guiding principles in life. This new vision for the world, after all, just might prove better than the technological advancements that, paradoxically, have left humanity out in the cold.
From partisan politics to data privacy, “curated” content to self-driving cars, farm-to-table to big box retail, Universal Basic Income to progressive tax policy, The Absolved spares not one and nothing in its irreverent, incisive examination of contemporary culture – and disturbing, often laugh-out-loud funny vision of what our world might look like in the not-so-distant future.
The Absolved is already being buzzed about by a diverse cast of bold-faced names, with its early blurbs from critically acclaimed novelist David Burr Gerrard (“a funny, fast-paced novel with its finger on this country’s dying pulse”), late night celebrity talk show host Seth Meyers (“a darkly funny look at the future we’re most likely stuck with”), constitutional law scholar and polemicist-extraordinaire Alan Dershowitz (“this book will keep you up at night wondering what our future holds.”), Columbia University professor John Cunningham, widely regarded as one of the most important academics in A.I. today (“a journey that feels as poignant and honest in today’s world as it does in Binder’s techno-dystopia”), and more.
“The impetus for writing The Absolved stemmed from a conversation I had with my brother, who’s an oncologist like the book’s narrator,” shares Binder. “We were discussing artificial intelligence and automation and the implications of a future where there simply aren’t very many jobs available. My brother said, “people will just have to work harder to make sure they make themselves indispensable in the economy, the way I have.” I then pointed out to him that in 20 years A.I. will be making much better medical decisions than him. A couple of weeks later, I quit my job and moved to Budapest to write the damn thing.”
Whether you’re a cable news junkie, fan of Michel Houellebecq, subscriber to the journal Science, or just someone who enjoys the occasional episode of Black Mirror, The Absolved is a not-to-be missed novel that announces Matthew Binder as a provocative and prescient voice in American fiction.
Interview with Matthew Binder:
The Hollywood Times (THT): I heard you went out of the country on a vacation, where did you go?
Matthew Binder (MB) I did, I went to El Salvador for eight days for a little solo surf trip. I lived in San Diego for really long time and now I live in New York, so I don’t get to surf very often. Couple times a year I try to go to California to surf or go on a proper surf spot.
THT: When starting your book, I had to put it down, not sure why, maybe the realization that this A.I. and not having a job hit home, pick it back up and could not put it down at that. Let’s talk about that.
MB: The impetus behind writing this was a conversation I had with my brother. We were talking about A.I., and automation, displacing people in the workforce and my brother, who is a cancer doctor said something along the lines of: ‘in the future, people will just have to work a little bit harder to cultivate a skill set that makes them indispensable in the economy, the way that I have.’ I’m like, dude, in 20 years A.I. will be making better medical decisions than you ever could. Even your job is potentially on the chopping block. That was the impetus of writing the book. Not to stick it to my brother!
THT: Let’s talk about moving to Budapest
MB: I was living in Albuquerque and working for a solar company over there and been there for a couple of years and I just had another book come and wanted to write another one. I was watching an Anthony Bourdain episode on parts unknown on Budapest and the next day while sitting in a meeting, I Googled the cost of living index across the world. It indexes what does a dozen eggs cost, what does a pair of blue jeans cost, what does a one bedroom apartment cost to rent and Budapest was insanely cheap and by the end of day, I tendered my resignation and bought a one way ticket and left a couple of weeks later.
THT: Is that were you wrote The Absolved?
MB: Yes, I wrote it from June through December in 2016 while in Budapest, the heavy part of it.
THT: What are your ambition for your writing career?
MB: I never really had any ambition to be a writer, I guess in my 20s I was playing in bands a lot and at 27-28 I got my first like grown up job. I decided to start writing fiction and wrote a couple of novels that did not get published, I sent them out and they universally sort of missed the mark, they probably weren’t that good, I guess. I would like to figure out how to make a living at writing. I have done some freelance work for writing treatments for commercials and now trying to work on a couple of screenplays. I don’t love doing my day job, but I understand that it is necessary. Every time I write something I always fear that I am totally washed up and there will be no more ideas coming. I would like to be able to write more!
THT: Do you have writers that inspire you?
MB: Yes, of course, I would say my favorite contemporary writer is a French writer named Michel Houellebecq. He writes these sort of provocative, social criticism that are a little bit conservative in nature in some ways and I think he sort of sympathizes with a lot of sentiments that are not popular among the cultural elite that write and read about literature. He upsets those type of people. I think the first writer that made me want to write was a polish writer names Jersey Kaminski. When I started reading his work, I had that Ah Ha moment, I didn’t realize there were books like this in the world. I was more of an outdoorsman type of guy, not academic. It wasn’t until later that I started being a veracious reader.
THT: Do you write part-time?
MB: I kind of go at it like a job, almost. When I wrote The Absolved, I quit my job and kept very strict working hours. I wrote from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., then I would take a break and go for a run or wonder around the city for a while. Then in the afternoon I would come back and edit what I written that morning and I never worked from an outline and never really knew where I was going with anything. I would spend a lot of the evening just making notes trying to figure out what’s next. I think just having a little something in mind, helps me get going. In the evenings try to figure out where to start in the morning. When I go back to New York, I did a lot of editing to The Absolved that I could do night and work my day job and do a full reset from 8 p.m until midnight.
THT: Are you still working on any screening plays?
MB: I dedicate my weekends to that. I do two or three hours a day on the weekends. During the week, I’m not as good at it.
THT: What was the hardest thing about writing your book?
MB: I think hardest part had been the ending. I ended it at one point short of like a cliff hanger. But my friend, who is my go to reader and helps me with what’s working and what’s not working, his name is D. Foy, he is a novelist as well, he was like ‘Dude you can’t leave it like that,’. Deep down you always know when these aren’t working and when things are working, and I kind of knew that wasn’t the place to end it, but I didn’t have confidence that I could write a grander or boulder ending. Once he told me I couldn’t end it there, I was okay and it just came to me. I wrote the last 50 pages over a course of 2 or 3 weeks. I think that was the part I was most apprehensive about writing, because it sort of goes off in a different direction. The whole book is a little bit absurd but more far-fetched than absurd.
THT: Where did the character from your book come from?
MB: The main character Henry, the emphasis was my brother, my brother is nothing like Henry in real life and the name of the bar in the book is Anodyne at there is an actual bar in Albuquerque that I would go drink. The female bartender sort of served as the inspiration of the bartender in the book. On a physicality level and super imposed the story of her onto the woman bartender in the book and she is probably nothing like that in real life. The only other character that had some sort of real-like inspiration was Serena. My Dad’s medical school friend was this guy that quit doing medicine shortly afterwards and became a wealthy real estate developer, an insane lust for money and power and so that was sort of the genesis of the Serena character, this old friend of my Dads didn’t really know much about him.
THT: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MB: Oh man, no plans that I have made in my life worked out. Wherever lives takes me. I hope that I am writing and can somehow make my writing less of a hobby and more of a career and focus more on it. The trip to El Salvador, which I go to South American once a year to go surf, and every time I am down there, I think if I can figure out a way to make a life down here, like some a screen play, I could live down there and surf and write for a year at a time.
Matthew talked about a screenplay he wrote about a blue collar, middle American truck driver in the near future that loses his job to self-driving trucks in the new economy. Sounds like a great story for a movie.
The book was a very interesting read to say the least. There are hard lessons to learn in Matthew Binder’s new book The Absolved. The future, it may be something for us not to look forward to. Try and hang on to your job! Teenagers might want to read this book to help them think about their future that they will be living in. What a great graduation present for the teenager in your life. I will be giving my copy to my 16 year grandson. So pick up a copy now.
About the Author:
Matthew Binder is the author of two novels, High in the Streets [Roundfire Books, 2016] and The Absolved [Black Spot Books, Dec. 4, 2018], and a primary member of the recording project Bang Bank Jet Away. In the spring of 2016, he lived in Albuquerque, NM. After watching an Anthony Bourdain travel show on Budapest, he decided to quit his job and move. In Budapest, Matthew supported himself by acting in English-language commercials, and in between acting gigs wrote the manuscript for The Absolved. In 2017, he got caught at a German customs checkpoint having overstayed his tourist visa and was sent back to America. He then moved to New York City, where he acquired a day job in the solar industry and spent his nights revising the manuscript. In January of 2018, Matthew won $50 with the first lottery ticket he ever purchased. The very next day he was load off when the Trump Administration implemented tariffs on Chinese solar panels. He hopes to one day own a dog.
Matthew Binder can be found online on Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and at www.matthewbinder.net
The Absolved is available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Black Spot Books, and wherever books are sold.
THE ABSOLVED — the sophomore cyberpunk dystopian novel from author Matthew Binder was released December 4, 2018 with one of today’s most exciting new small press publishers, Black Spot Books. It’s a recommended read for tech, AI/automation, dystopian fiction fans.
THE ABSOLVED is already being buzzed about by a diverse cast of bold-faced names, with early blurbs from critically acclaimed novelist David Burr Gerrard (“a funny, fast-paced novel with its finger on this country’s dying pulse“), late night celebrity talk show host Seth Meyers (“a darkly funny look at the future we’re most likely stuck with“), constitutional law scholar and polemicist-extraordinaire Alan Dershowitz (“this book will keep you up at night wondering what our future holds”), Columbia University professor John Cunningham, widely regarded as one of the most important academics in A.I. today (“a journey that feels as poignant and honest in today’s world as it does in Binder’s techno-dystopia“), and more.
From partisan politics to data privacy, “curated” content to self-driving cars, farm-to-table to big box retail, Universal Basic Income to progressive tax policy, THE ABSOLVED spares no one and nothing in its irreverent and incisive examination of contemporary culture — and disturbing, often laugh-out-loud funny vision of what our world might look like in the not-so-distant future.
Set in 2036, THE ABSOLVED follows Henri — a wealthy physician, husband, father, and serial philanderer who is also one of the relatively few people to still have a job. Automation and other technological advances have led to unemployment so severe that many people are no longer expected to work and are now known as “The Absolved.”
Meanwhile, it’s election season, and a candidate from a radical fringe party called the Luddites is calling for an end to the “Divine Rights of Machines.” After Henri is displaced from his job, two Luddite sympathizers—whom Henri has befriended at his local bar—frame him for an anti-technology terrorist act. The prospect of Henri’s salvation comes at the cost of foregoing his guiding principles in life. This new vision for the world, after all, just might prove better than the technological advancements that, paradoxically, have left humanity out in the cold.
Get a copy for your book collection or as a Christmas gift for the reader in your family.