In Pursuit of Atmosphere
An early blog review of Circuits of the Wind noted the way that Stutz’s normally lyrical writing style occasionally shifts and that “words and sentences at times feel like a quickly entered, non-spell checked pouring out of thoughts.” When asked about whether or not this shift was a conscious stylistic choice, meant to reflect the way that people type and write in online forums, Stutz confirmed that he had often shifted his writing style in order to cultivate an Internet-esque atmosphere.
“The net changes the dynamics of speech, thought, and writing,” Stutz said. “It's all deliberate and careful and I agree with Joseph Conrad that a work that ‘aspires to the condition of art must carry its justification on every line.’ So no matter how quickly any of it may have appeared to have been blurted out, certainly every space and letter of the book was closely considered in its contribution to the whole.”
Indeed, for Stutz, a big key to success was never being afraid to vary his style or depart from more conventional prose forms.
”Too much work today reads the same and too many people are afraid of being different or ‘difficult,’" Stutz said. “I don't want to try to appease anyone: I can't. From the beginning, before I even wrote a word of it, I knew the idea was to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And yes, so help me God.”
Indie Groundbreaking Book: Circuits of the Wind
A Look Back at the Internet Revolution That Defined a Generation
“To know the legend of a world that has been lost, first you must go back. To even catch a meagre glimpse at any cost, first you must go back. You have to take the bow of history, pull it back, project yourself onto an orbic stage with phantom cast; then you will be back.”
The opening sentences of Circuits of the Wind, Michael Stutz sprawling, three-volume coming-of-age novel, are at once mystifying and disorienting. Stutz, a master of atmosphere throughout every moment of his 2,000 page epic, builds a mood of darkness and discovery, of tension and atmosphere, and of historical sweep without giving anything away about the nature of the story to come. It’s a cold and risky opening, but one that ultimately pays off for a book whose ambition in decidedly two-pronged: on the surface, Circuits of the Wind is a fully-realized coming-of-age tale, charting the development of a tech-obsessed youth named Raymond “Ray” Valentine as his Internet life overwhelms his physical one. On the other side of the coin, the book is a rich and informative look back at the technological revolution of the ‘80s and ‘90s, moving from Ray’s childhood fascination with the telephone, to his exploration of the echoing emptiness of the early 'Net, to the full-blown revolution of social media that has taken over many lives in the past decade.
Stutz is, of course, the perfect person to tell this story: throughout his career, his enthrallment with all things technology has mirrored that of his protagonist, spanning everything from work for IBM, Microsoft and Linux.com to writing for Wired magazine. As he puts it, he spent the early days of the Internet working for “just about anyone who was publishing online and cutting checks.” He was there to see the web’s first blogs take shape, had front-row seats to the beginning of Google, and played a big role in the open-source revolution that has led to the now-ubiquitous Internet presence of sites like Wikipedia. In other words, he’s an Internet historian, and the perfect tour guide to take the less enlightened among us on a lyrical journey through his world.
That deep-seated knowledge and passion makes Circuits of the Wind a thoroughly unique adventure, since it essentially represents historical and biographical genre tropes in the disguise of a novel. But that’s not to say that the narrative feels like a hollow vehicle for Stutz to get his points and experiences across. On the contrary, Stutz makes a very deliberate point of giving Ray plentiful psychological depth, palpable relate-ability, and exceedingly human feeling, and the result is a book whose two primary characters—Ray and the Internet itself—develop concurrently in a beautiful and engrossing way.
“There was a point where I knew that I had to write a book that was going to cover the history of how my generation lived and grew up on the net. We were the first to do that. This is a huge idea, and those people who were doing it back when the net was this underground thing I've come to think of as the net generation,” Stutz explained. “But to show it as closely and completely as I knew had to be done meant that you'd really have to get in the mind of someone growing up right along with it: it would have to be as much a biography as it would a history, braided inseparably, and when I saw that, the whole thing came right out.”
Ultimately, Stutz’s flowing and poetic prose coalesces around one major theme: that of the alienation in the information age, of how of all these networking capabilities and social media platforms that are supposed to bring us closer together actually end up dividing us further from our “real lives.” That theme has been a hot topic in the past decade: in 2010, the David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin film The Social Network was praised as a generation-defining moment of cinema, and in Circuits of the Wind, Stutz offers a deep, probing, often haunting examination of the same phenomenon.
“We’re all caught inside the divide. Over the space of ten or fifteen years we’ve built a whole new world, a gigantic civilization, and it's not physical at all,” Stutz explained. “It’s ‘meta-physical,’ and we're constantly connected both there and in this ‘real world.’ And we might be exchanging these symbols all over the planet, in crowds of thousands, but these lonely crowds are all doing it individually alone. And meanwhile, there really is a world out there.”
Circuits of the Wind is available both in unabridged Kindle format (free for Amazon Prime members and only $5.99 for basic users) and in physical, paperback form (for $12.95 apiece). Those interested in learning more about the book or about Stutz himself can visit the official website at circuitsofthewind.com.
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for Independent Publisher, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at email@example.com.