Power Tool

In Kemble Scott's new novel, sex with a certain guy can cure everything.

He’s hot. He’s at home in San Francisco’s steamiest sexual
landscapes. In some ways, Bill Soileau has it made. But the weird bug
with which he becomes infected while working in faraway Armenia turns
out to be a man-made supervirus that is capable, or so Bill is told, of
curing every illness in the world. The catch — or is it? —
is that for healing to happen, the virus must be transferred via sex.
Bill’s the only carrier.

So, soon enough, everyone wants a piece of him.

Kemble Scott considers his new novel, The Sower
— whose title alludes to the Bible’s Parable of the Sower,
because Bill broadcasts seed — Sex and the City
crossed with The Da Vinci Code. Politics, religion, science, and
the passions of a plugged-in, paranoid society merge in a fantasy set
not in the future but in an alternative but recognizable version of the
present day.

Once word spreads about Bill’s remarkable ability, “he becomes the
most wanted man on the planet,” explains Scott, an Emmy Award-winning
former TV newswriter and producer whose 2007 debut novel, SoMa,
was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. And suddenly, “the idea of sex as
something ‘good’ turns out to be very threatening to many powerful
people and institutions.”

He chose to set part of the story in Armenia because “Armenia is the
ultimate story of misplaced values” — where, in 1915, “the
Turks decided their ‘values’ were more important than the lives of
millions.” In seeking “to bring attention to a holocaust some have
tried to erase from the history books,” Scott also wanted to remind
readers that “different types of genocides are actually happening
today.”

In this imagined world as in our real one, fierce ideological
battles rage over the very idea of human beings being poised to
determine, on a massive scale, who lives and who dies.

“What would a thriller be without the hero being chased around the
world by henchmen working for the Vatican? In today’s genre fiction,
Rome has become what SPECTRE was to James Bond,” Scott joshes, “so I
poke some fun at that. But the scene everyone seems to be talking about
is one where an unnamed Republican, right-wing, Texas-drawl-speakin’
president of the United States seeks the love that dare not speak Dick
Cheney’s name. Is the character supposed to be George W.?” After
conferring with an imaginary lawyer, Scott ventures: “Uh, no
comment.”

If this alternative present is uncannily familiar — with a
swine-flu outbreak mentioned in the novel’s first chapter, and a
reference elsewhere to Susan Boyle — that’s because The
Sower
is published online, at Scribd.com.

“Digital publishing is fast. You can reach the one billion people
connected to the Internet in an instant,” marvels the veteran newsman,
who will be at A Great Good Place for Books (6120 La Salle Ave.,
Oakland) on September 3.

And although what happens in this novel is literally a matter of
life and death, “I don’t want to mislead people into thinking it’s a
sermon,” Scott explains. “In the end, I hope it leaves readers thinking
about so-called American ‘values.'” Maybe that’s enough to make them
laugh and cry. 7 p.m., free. GreatGoodPlace.indiebound.com

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