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?

XYZ is for every Gen-Xer who ever struggled with a device, and for everyone else who loves emojis … said no one ever.

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Author Bio –

William Knight is British born writer and technologist currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s chased a portfolio career which began in acting, progressed to music, flirted with handbag manufacturing and was eventually wired into technology in the late nineties.

“I had my first feature published in Computing magazine back in 2003 and subsequently wrote about the many successes and failings of high-tech for the Guardian, Financial Times and the BBC among many others publications. I now work as an IT consultant, and write blistering content for technology firms :-)” says William

The Donated (formerly Generation), his debut novel and a Sci-tech Thriller, started in 2001 and was ten years in development. XYZ, “A mid-life crisis with a comic vein”, took far less time. “But I think it’s funnier and better. Yay. Jazz hands!”

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The Death of Shame

Have you ever suffered from that spine-creeping human condition known as shame? You know, when your friend tells you your dress has been tucked in your knickers all night, or you send a porno-pic to your vicar by accident, or in my case, when my mother asked me if I still had diarrhea in front of two girls I rather fancied. These are terrible human tragedies. Every single one takes the strength of a four weetabix breakfast and the courage of an All Black to get over.

And yet potentially shameful events are only getting more common and more intense. Our shaming possibilities has been opened up by technology like a tin of tomatoes is opened by a saw.

Think about it. Thirty years ago it wasn’t possible to come home drunk and insult your entire address book or flame a thousand people who happened to read the same newspaper. No. In black and white times, if you came home drunk you might have made a phone call to your mates, but you’d have been hard pushed to write a letter — even a postcard — and send it off without writer’s remorse kicking in — you’d have had to have stayed drunk all weekend and staggered determinedly to the post box on Monday morning.

Not so anymore. OMG. Oh no. Today, shame stalks every late-home semi-drunk or bad-day moaner like rain clouds over a British fete. It lies in wait, whispering, notifying, tempting. It sends Facebook messages, and tweets, it brings opinions to your phone and stupid comments to your laptop.

And Shame does this to goad a response. It taunts and provokes, it wants you to overreact.

“I love this”

“You f**wit.”

“Interesting opinion here.”

“Only if your brain is made of sh*t.”

But Shame wants you to go further. It wants you to make your shameful response and send your overreactions and bigotted views out to the world, to your family and friends, to your followers and neighbourhood watch group. Shame wants the world to know all the deepest, worst thoughts you have ever held, those thoughts that only pop up on your worst days and most drunken nights. It wants to make them public, and for your spine to tingle with embarrassment while you collapse in a crimson heap. It wants your shame to go viral.

Making a mistake on such a shameful level was always possible, in the pre-internet good old days — we all get runny-sphincter from time to time and we all hide dreadful thoughts that we don’t want made public — but you couldn’t make a global arse of yourself in anything like the same way as is possible now. Now it is simply too easy to externalise your wretched humanity.

But ultimately Shame defeats itself if it thinks the internet is a road to universal embarrassment. To cope with Shame’s shenanigans, desensitise ourselves to others awful thoughts and then we see nothing wrong in joining the circus with our own narrow views. The boundary of acceptable behaviour has shifted and Shame has been banished.

Slowly, inevitably we are all becoming unacceptable. We are shameless and we are blameless.

But when we are all unacceptable, there will be nowhere left to be accepted. We will be lost, lonely and afraid, with only our technology and angry feeds to keep us company. What a price for freedom. Let’s bring back shame.

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