Creation Myth for “Deus Ex Parasitus”

Where do you get your ideas?

The earliest piece of “Deus Ex Parasitus” I came up with was the octopus camouflage suit. I love the Metal Gear Solid video games, and in one of them there’s a character named “Decoy Octopus” who is able to disguise himself as almost any other person. I thought having a full-body invisibility suit made out of living octopus skin (the octopus’s gills sunk deep down the host’s esophagus, drawing air from their lungs) would be awesome. The setting (high-tech corporate espionage and back-alley labs) will seem familiar if you’ve read William Gibson’s Burning Chrome stories, especially “New Rose Hotel.”

I believe that something similar to the injection ticks are in a Bruce Sterling short story, but I can’t remember which one. Check his collection Ascendencies, it’s probably in there. The third element of the story is the idea of stealing a rich person’s memories. Mugging a well-dressed man in a bad part of town, cutting out the parts of his brain that are chemically encoded with the desirable dreams that the rest of us can never achieve. Brain worms became the way to get those chemicals out of his head and into our hands.

With those three pieces, a cyberpunk world built around parasites fell into place, with unlimited possibilities.

I like the name “Benjamin Dexter” because “Benjamin” means “son of my right hand,” and “Dexter” means “right-handed.” No other meaning beyond that.

Using wasp stingers is an actual part of the Kama Sutra. But I made a mistake later on in the story: ticks are not insects, they are arachnids.

This story currently holds the record as my most-rejected story. The first place I sent it was Asimov’s, and it received a form rejection. But then Sheila Williams sent a follow up e-mail almost immediately after:


Dear Josh,

I just want to add that your story had one of the best opening lines I’ve read this year, and a great opening paragraph. Even though the story isn’t right for me, I’m sure it will sell to a different editor.

After that encouragement, I sent it out over and over, getting it onto a lot of shortlists but never quite to the top. Feedback was generally positive:

It’s been a while since I read a good cyberpunk-style near-future corporate espionage thriller (not since I stopped playing Shadowrun back in the mid-nineties, probably). This is an inventive, fast-paced piece drenched in strange biotech, hidden loyalties and stylish violence. I loved it. Great descriptions (the ticks!) and entertaining action.

Thanks for the read — this was sharp and very stylishly done.

I’m going to pass on this one, but I wanted to let you know that it was close and that I enjoyed your writing.


The first submission went out on September 15, 2010. The acceptance came in on November 22, 2016. It was frustrating, but I’m glad this story finally made it.

Rejections: 31