Headshot of the Week

Scott Kline Photography has selected Moby Dx author, Dan Seligson, to help promote Scott’s new Headshot Day initiative. So here is Dan’s official photo as Headshot of the Week. I had a great time working with Scott and I strongly endorse his work.


Scott R Kline Photography Headshot Day

Scott R Kline Photography Headshot Day

Patricia Kline
HeadShot Day signups
Scott R. Kline Photography
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Posted in Moby Dx, Publishing, Review

New Delhi Lit Blogger Sakshi Nanda reviews Moby Dx

Sakshi Nanda writes the blog Between Write and Wrong. On June 9, she posted the first review of the complete Moby Dx.

Book Review – Moby Dx by Dan Seligson

Dan Seligson’s ‘Moby Dx’ is a novel of the Silicon Valley – ‘a place where mooning doesn’t mean teenage pranks or moping, but going to the moon, and maybe further, and not metaphorically.’ It is a place where ‘cakes are delivered by drones … thirty is the new fifty, and singularity is always around the corner’. There is crazy wealth and shadow missions, invention nearly commoditized and start-ups vying to be acquired. And there is genius, of course. Which brings in hubris. A narcissism promoting autonomy in the name of freedom: ‘think what you choose, operate as you choose, spend as you choose’, for there is no rationale for losing. None at all! It is this world that forms the canvas to Dan’s ‘Moby Dx’.

The story begins in different countries with different characters living their lives and times, their loves and losses, their science and brilliance. Continuing as unaware of what their tomorrows hold as we readers vis-à-vis the plot. A mix of circumstances and coincidences bring Max, Lakshmi (the narrator) and Vladik together to work in the field of molecular biology diagnostics and kick-start their company ‘Moby Dx LCC’ towards the millions that this research is worth. (Moby is a bonding of molecular and biology and Dx is an observed correlation between something and patient health.) Apart from a plot thick with sub-stories and characters, the book is generously full of American scientific history, explanation of scientific terms which need be understood to enjoy the novel, methodology of filing patents, share-holding, selling research, corporate intrigue and so on.

I do not exaggerate when I say it is quite like sitting with Jeffrey Archer and Robin Cook at the same table, with Dan doing the talking, that is!

Also, ‘Moby Dx’ is a big book. It crosses 700 pages by quite a margin (and thus the length of this review gets excused!). I gasped too, as I did when I first held Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’, similar in volume, with both books very interestingly intertwined. But Dan Seligson has tried to keep readers interested and involved (even ones like me who turned traitor to all things science and technology and embraced drowning in the world of world Literatures) – through a story vouched as fiction but so real it refuses to be received thus, its style of narration, the unique characterization of Max and the creatively drawn parallels to Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’.

The Story, its Narration and the Narrator

The scenes in ‘Moby Dx’ change like the scenes in a movie. Not as fast, but certainly as varied. At one moment you are swimming with the fish in Macau like a leisurely traveller and in the next sitting in a lab coat, poring over molecular data; from chasing sex in Shanghai and similar pursuits in the Valley, to suicidal protests against failed dreams; from romance in Paris to adding insult-to-injury in billionaire boardrooms. Skilfully enough, the style of narration changes in mood depending on the scene. This helps in keeping the readers involved.

Dan did not intend the plot to be pacey for most part of the book. He could not have, not with the narrator’s informative inputs on science and start-ups. It is how he connects the dots of various sub-plots/sub-stories, spread all over the globe but brought into one place, which keeps the story-line alive and running. It is in the last few chapters that the novel spirals forward, switching from third gear to fifth, as if ‘diving’ fast towards a closure. Masterfully done, and sans any confusion.

Intrigue comes in various flavours and at moot points. For instance, Chapter Two is 10 lines long, three out of which sees the narrator, Lakshmi, say – ‘At first I did it for love, then I did it for a friend, and then for money. I wasn’t doing anything at all when it ended in darkness and blood’. We have no idea what she is talking about, but this is a significant pointer to what is to follow. The mystery is set rolling. And then, in the most unexpected of places you read ‘More about fraud later’ or ‘Can you see where this is going? … patent claims on that structure will ultimately be denied’. There is a constant hint about what is to come, even if it is to come about many chapters later. Suspense is kept breathing throughout!

The narrator plays an interesting role. Lakshmi (half-Indian if I may add), promises to tell us the truth, because otherwise, ‘you’d question the veracity of other elements of this tale, and possibly reject it, reject even me as fiction’. At various points in the book, she addresses us ‘Patient Readers’ directly, as if drawing us away from the main story, for a chat. Such interjections, so reminiscent of Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’, are in a language/tone often in complete contrast to the rest of her narrative voice. Playfully she will read our mind – ‘Disbelieving Reader, I am not making this place up. It’s a real place’ or ‘Dear Reader, are you bored yet? … You thought a start-up was exciting, full of zest and thrill. Alas, not all of it. Before the miracles and shagging, it’s all just slogging’ making us smile in the middle of lots of corporate talk. Even go sassy saying – ‘Dear Reader? Still Awake? It you’re going to be CEO, you have to love these details, or at least be willing to master them. Otherwise, find another job. Find another book if you must. This is the way the sausage is made. Live with it’.

Dan, through Lakshmi, even manages to put in a ‘Generous Reader, think about donating your kidneys on your way out’ somewhere along the narration. Quite like a ‘Sutradhar’ in an Indian play, by some stretch of imagination – the story-teller who address the audience directly and only partially manages to successfully stay an objective teller of the story.

For me, this narrative technique, combined with the story and its style of narration went a long way in keeping this big book gripping and well-connected into an organic whole.

Max – a unique character

Moby Dx’ is full of a plethora of characters, each with his/her unique history, typical characteristics and individual aims. Most, like Jay, Vladik, Arianna and Lakshmi are non-conformists marrying science to life and looking to make a future. But when it comes to the ‘means’ being used to reach an ‘end’, Max stands in direct contrast to those who surround him, always ‘more focused than ever on his needs’.

I did not fall in love with Max, and know, Dear Reader, I do fall in love with characters in books. He just drove me crazy!

Max is like a patch-work quilt seamlessly made of myriad traits sown together – some nice, mostly monomaniacal. Perhaps, Dan’s idea was to create that one Mercurial Man representative of various facets of Silicon Valley put together, including the ‘repressor gene for fashion’? A character created such that he floors with his ‘fevered intellect’, puts-off with his egoism, amazes with his resilience, tires with his sexcapades, exasperates with his temper and shocks with his self-interest. All this, even as a sense of search-for-self surrounds him most of the time, like an Icarus, frustrated by the extent of his own dreams, or lack of genius surrounding him. And for a man who ‘hated the structure, the processes, the rules … didn’t want to have to convince a board, a team…he wanted to be the decider’, you either think daredevil or you think an autocrat. He abandoned those who failed, took credit away from those who did not. But here comes the interesting bit – you just can’t get enough of him!

Like Arianna says for him – ‘He sweeps you along in his what? His wake? He sweeps you along and you become a willing participant without knowing it’, even as he plots ‘to pwn’ his own friends. No surprise then that Jay and Vladik seem to have been created as clear foils to Max.

Max, or should we call him a modern day Ahab?

What may be seen as problems

… or questions in other readers’ minds too!

1.It’s a whale-of-a-book. Even as the narrator addresses us Dear Readers off and on, apologizing for the pages-upon-pages of history of modern biology, will the book hold interest for those who find science and start-ups not-so-intriguing? I enjoyed that, but will everyone, especially in parts where the plot becomes background and a class room feel comes to the fore?
2.The line of suspense around D2 was dispelled too flatly. I thought that was a great thread in the making.
3. ‘Froodenstein’ seemed mysterious but did not live up to the no-Slabs no-notes secrecy surrounding it. Maybe Part II?

4.The ‘tying up’ of Moby Dx, the company, seemed too sudden compared to the effort that went into starting it. Perhaps, by now the focus was on the main characters, a looking inward?

The final word

… after a thought which refuses to part.

Does Dan Seligson manage to stand separate from his narrator, Lakshmi, or does his own background as one from Silicon Valley bear upon the narrator’s independent voice? Is it Dan talking when Lakshmi says to us in the first paragraph of the book – ‘Every bit of it is true. What I didn’t experience firsthand, I’ve learned from others who did. What they couldn’t tell me, I’ve imagined.’ Is this book, then, somewhere between fact and fiction?

Lakshmi (and the book) talks about competition and intrigue, scandal and Internet, dotcoms and genomics bubbles, and sequencing. ‘The folktale got taller and taller. Some readers inferred that much of medicine would be solved once human genome was finally sequenced. Even some scientists were fooled. Certainly the public was fooled’ seems like Dan’s comment on contemporary research in the field. The changing face of Gili Trawangan in Indonesia over the years of the novel, and the nostalgic pathos one senses in Max’s observations on dying coral, disappearing turtles and burgeoning real estate in the once-untouched island seems like Dan again, reflecting on the downside of ‘progress’. I could be imagining all this, but then, maybe not?

Finally, putting his ‘Moby Dx’, a Silicon Valley novel in a petridish metaphorically adjacent to Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’, Dan has managed to create a contemporary saga traversing many decades of modern biological research, the monomaniacs behind the genius discoveries and the genius discoverers like wet clay in the hands of monomaniacs. The molecular biology diagnostics (Moby Dx) is the white-whale being chased. By the end of the novel, when Max and others have found their closures, Moby must remind you of Melville’s whale, with a message – that ‘it can be as friendly as a baby beluga or malign as an angry beast, its power as the leviathan universally acknowledged’. In the end, at least this ‘would-be leviathan, was beached’.

As for the ones still swimming in the laboratories around Silicon Valley, only Dan Seligson can say!

On the street where Steve Jobs lived, pilgrims come from halfway around the world—and they’d come from further if they could—to take selfies in front of his slate-roofed former residence.

Title: Moby Dx
Author: Dan Seligson blogs about the book and other silicon valley novels at blog.mobydx.com, and tweets at twitter.com/mlvlvr.
Order the e-book or pre-order the print edition at gum.co/mobydx. Readers of this review can get a discount through August 1 by entering the coupon code ‘sakshi’ at the time of checkout
[This review was commissioned by Verbinden Communications, Bangalore. All views are my own.] 
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Posted in eBooks, Moby Dx, Review

On Reading Ulysses and Moby Dick at the Same Time

This is more than Yet Another Melville Reference. It’s comp lit! See his thoughts on Melville’s non-fiction within fiction.

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Posted in Moby Dx

Life imitates The Underwriting

A front page New York Times article on Friday May 9 with the title Off the Record in a Chat App? Don’t Be Sure confronts the same reality as Michelle Miller’s eSerial The Underwriting, except that the Times article is about Snapchat and Ms. Miller writes about Hook, a product of her imagination. I guess this issue is not one original to Miller, but it’s nice to see that she’s still ahead of reality as it develops.

Evan Spiegel, one of the founders of Snapchat, which has drawn considerable attention as investors and entrepreneurs size up the potential for new ways to exchange messages on a mobile phone. Credit Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Evan Spiegel, one of the founders of Snapchat, which has drawn considerable attention as investors and entrepreneurs size up the potential for new ways to exchange messages on a mobile phone. Credit Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

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Posted in eBooks, eSerials, Moby Dx, Review

The Underwriting: Episode #10

The UnderwritingMichelle Miller’s sexy thriller about the underwriting of Hook, has got me hooked.  Every Wednesday I set time aside to read the episode she posts that day, and it’s well worth the $10 I paid for the set of 12 of them. Right now, at Episode #10, the characters are scrambling to keep the IPO on the rails, while life seems intent in knocking it off.

While many of the characters in her book are nauseatingly superficial and vain, by design, she tries to give them depth by putting them in circumstances that challenge their assumptions. Conflicts of interest run deep when hundreds of millions are at stake.  The good guy, the East Palo Alto software engineer who’s both worked hard and been lucky, well, … we don’t do spoilers here at The Silicon Valley Novel.

Of all the narrow-minded people in the book, thus far my least favorite is Charlie. He’s a caricature of self-righteousness in the NGO world, if I remember correctly, and mean-spirited to boot.  Nice job Michelle!

Go #gethooked.

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Posted in eBooks, eSerials, Moby Dx, Review

Get Moby Dx in print for $ZERO

Now that the complete Moby Dx is out, I’d like your help in eliminating all the typos, mispellings, and punctuation errors that my editors, I,  and other early readers haven’t caught.

Buy the book, send me at least 20 legit copy edits from Release 9 by August 1, 2014 and I’ll send you a soft-bound print edition. Write a review of at least 400 words, post it on Amazon by November 1, 2014 and I’ll sign the book for you. Sorry, overseas readers will have to negotiate shipping with me.

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Posted in eBooks, eSerials, Moby Dx, Review

The Complete Moby Dx now available

Since the formal release of Volume 3 on April 10, I’ve been furiously focused on accelerating the schedule for the final 3 volumes. Yesterday, 05/07/2014, I put up the complete Moby Dx: A Novel of Silicon Valley as a 792 page pdf. It’s beautiful. In the Graphics section of this blog, I’ll put up images I created for the individual volumes. Here’s a screenshot of the 1st page of Chapter 1. There were some subtle changes to the layout that made for a much more professional look, I think.

1st page of chapter 1

1st page of chapter 1

After some crowd-sourced final proofing, I’ll put up epub and maybe mobi formats, too. Look for another post on how to participate and get a free copy of the softbound edition.

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Posted in eBooks, eSerials, Moby Dx

HBO Silicon Valley Episode #2

The episode doesn’t bomb, but in the spirit of not dumping on my peers, I’ll restrict myself to providing a plot summary.

After a pathetically bad launch party, depicted with depressing verisimilitude, Richard, the 10x coder behind Pied Piper, fails in his first meeting with Peter Gregory aka Thiel. 10x is valley-speak for a coder who produces 10 times as much code as the average guy. Erlich advises Richard to be an asshole. Gavin’s, aka Sergey’s, assistant quits Hooli to join PP, bringing some business expertise, or at least knowledge of discounted cash flows, to the team. Team members jockey for stock and promote themselves, although Richard’s sub-1x coding best friend BigHead dumps on himself, and sets himself up to be fired. Before it’s done Gavin offers him $600k salary to stay at Hooli. That’s a big number. Seems high to me, and I’ve heard about ridiculous salaries for Engineering Directors. If it’s real, now you know where your advertising dollars are going. You are a hell of a product! Anyway, Richard learns to be more of an asshole. Gavin launches a project to reverse engineer Pied Piper based on a demo Richard had given the brogrammers.

Posted in Moby Dx

HBO Silicon Valley Episode #1

Finally, a show about us! Well, not exactly. It’s us if you’re under 30, or maybe under 34, and as Lakshmi Stein says in the Prologue, 30 is the new 50.

So, the first episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley introduces Richard, Big Head, Erlich as a Seth Rogen who can code, Gavin as Sergey Brin, Peter Gregory as Peter Thiel, and as my friend Michelle Miller of The Underwriting would say, one perfect 7. Richard lives in Erlich’s house, mirroring Zuckerberg’s house in 2004 as imagined in The Social Network.

Between bits about Bit Soup, modern alphabetish soup featuring only 0s and 1s, NipAlert, an app that tells you when a girl with erect nipples is nearby, and someone calling Thiel/Gregory a fascist at TEDx (for dissing college), some brogrammers at Gavin’s googlesque Hooli realize that Richard’s own app, Pied Piper, is wrapped around a breakthrough in compression. Within a few hours, Richard, who earlier in the day was bemoaning his prospects for finding $1100/month for rent, finds himself with multiple offers valuing his website at $10M. In a doctor’s office where he seeks understanding and relief for the understandable anxiety attack that has him vomiting into the nearest trash can, the doctor pitches him an app that promises to inform the user whether he—not many shes around in this show, yet—is having a heart attack or an anxiety attack.

Everyone in this Silicon Valley tells you that they’re making the world a better place through [put your techno mumbo jumbo here], echoing a line from mid-90s Intel, when we used to say that our mission was making the world safe for microprocessors.

In the final scene, Richard and his stoned, lonely cohort, in a scene reminiscent of Knocked Up—alas, there is no Katherine Heigl yet—tries to find words to lead them, but all he can summon are the branded tag lines of the brands that rule our lives.

All of which is to say, the show is funny, has more than a hint of verisimilitude, and should draw a big local audience. Can’t say whether they’ve knocked it out of the park. But I’ll be watching and reviewing it. Come along for the ride.

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Posted in Review, TV

#gethooked by The Underwriting and by Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller has me hooked on her serial novel, The Underwriting, about the financing of a social media IPO underway right now, like NOW! Ms. Miller comes from financial services, and has the millennial genes to understand and deliver the snarky remarks, the nuances of fashion, the ambitions, the preening, the disappointments, and the ephemeral victories that are the bread and butter of her generation, or as she hinted over coffee yesterday, this Bubble 2.0.


Launched March 5, 2014 and released Wednesdays in 12 episodes, Ms. Miller’s project is a book in itself, if someone got around to writing it. She’s raised money to finance it and runs the project like a business. She’s got a team that stretches from LA to Bangalore. She’s had herself arrested for publicity. She hangs out at Starbucks distributing leaflets. She’s been in Elle. She’s made a couple of videos (see her site). She’s got audio. She’s got free, binge, single issue, and subscription purchase options. She’s written it for the little screen, and I can’t wait to see it. Someone produce it, please!

The fictional Hook is a Tinderesque dating app NOT born out of its author’s own needs, but rather out of a calculating observation about human behavior. Josh, the CEO, is at least 1 sigma smarter than the rest of the characters. He’s decided to take the company public, and is using the company’s high profile to drive a hard bargain with a weakened underwriter in need of a home run. All the caricatures—jock finance guys, nerdy Indian girls in need of a makeover, Ivy League 7’s, the underclass from EPA, sleek ABCs (that’s American Born Chinese), wealth managers who have only your best interest at heart, the executives to whom we are all muppets, and so on—are in place, and that would be a fatal flaw, even with Ms. Miller’s shrewd eye for detail, but if she hadn’t constructed the tale as a platform to … well, only Episodes 1-6 have been released, so I’m not sure exactly where she’s going, but I can see the outlines. I’m guessing that several smart plans are going to explode as Lady Luck works her black magic on the unaware. Of course, if these characters had been through Bubble 1.0, they’d be plenty aware. Then there’s the college athlete run amok, a primer on using regressive taxation to build the next aristocracy, the debate about ecstasy and drugs in general, gender discrimination in the workplace, bad sex, what women learn from their vibrators, and SF and NYC compared and contrasted—see also wrote a fictional manifesto on that subject.

Pay your $10 to get the subscription. Follow the conversation using #gethooked, or follow Michelle Miller @ammiller1012


Posted in Moby Dx
This is the official blog of mobydx.com. It's where you'll find breaking stories about the book, reviews written or posted elsewhere, discussions of books in its genres, issues with eBooks, and invited posts by other authors.