My Birthday Is This Week, And I Need Your Help To Do Something I’m Incapable of Doing.

I’m turning 51 this Friday, and I’ve begun having a trauma response to social media. I can’t tune in to Twitter for more than twenty minutes before the never-ending tide of bad news poisons me; I have to turn it off before the panic attack takes root.

I also have a book coming out on July 28th.

The book, it must be said, has not gotten a lot of attention – in part because I haven’t been able to give it attention. Normally I’d be out there making clever advertisements and holding contests and sending out newsletters with contests and writing blog entries.

But then I look at those headlines – the ones where the world is sick and “black lives matter” is an actual subject of debate and then the personal news where my mother’s smoldering multiple myeloma may be ticking back up again –

And I think, Really? You wanna promote a book now? How fucking shallow.

Then I go back to my hiding hole and swallow another bucket of Ativan.

But it’s a good book. I’m going to feel bad when it slides down the headlines and dies, simply because public and personal stress have robbed me of my ability to remind people that I have a book coming out.

So I’m going to make a very odd birthday request of you, should you feel obliged to humor me:

Could you help spread the word about my book?

My book Automatic Reload is a lot of things, but here’s a few that are relevant to me.

Automatic Reload Is About The Trauma Of Technology.
Every day, we’re discovering that computers can beat humans at things we thought were the very traits that made humans special. You wouldn’t think that a computer would make an excellent wine steward, for example. But it turns out if you feed a computer the rainfall in a region and some facts about the dirt the grapes are growing in, it’s actually better at picking the best wines than people who’ve studied wine all their lives.

So I thought: What happens when computers outclass us in combat? What happens when an automated targeting system can capture the target, aim the gun, and fire the bullet in under the time any human could possibly respond?

Combat would be like being in a car crash – near-instantaneous, and without control. And the people who wielded those weapons would start to get PTSD, because everything would come down to refining your targeting procedures so your guns don’t actually cap innocent dogs – or kids – who poked their head out during the firefight.

Our hero wields four prosthetic weapon platforms, one for each limb he removed. He now has to take mercenary jobs because without the prosthetics – which need constant maintenance and fine-tuning – he would be broke and limbless.

But he is slowly going insane trying to protect people from his own guns.

Automatic Reload Is About Competence Porn.
Technology in science-fiction stories never have mundane glitches. You never see Captain Picard shouting “SORRY, WHAT WAS THAT?!?” at a blank viewscreen as they try to establish a streaming videoconference with the Klingons; you never see Han Solo giving manual directions to a star system because fuck it, the hologram displayer’s got some problem, lemme just jot this down for you.

Automatic Reload is about what it’s like to be a programmer in the future, which is to say it’s about what it’s like to be a programmer now, which is to say a lot of guesswork and a lot of Googling, but with a lot more guns.

But here’s the thing: for all the complexity, our hero is very good at his job. He is, in fact, the best at what he does – which is to say, he reprograms his systems on the fly when the strategies on the ground change. I liken him to a cybernetic James Bond: he gets the mission done, no matter what the toll it takes on his psyche.

He is, in other words, a Big Damn Hero.

Automatic Reload Is About Love Between Two Mentally Ill People.
Did you know that drone pilots can get PTSD? It’s true. Turns out even if you put a camera between you and your target, forcing someone to shoot a missile at a group of humans – and worse, forcing them to watch the mangled bodies for a couple of hours afterwards to make sure none of their fellow terrorists show up later – can cause mental breakdowns.

Mat is having a lot of mental breakdowns. He quit the force, cut off his own working limbs because he wanted to feel safe, replaced them with weapons.

He is not well.

Yet when he meets a genetically engineered killing machine – who’s also devoutly Catholic, things are complicated – it turns out that she has regular panic attacks, and when you have a body that reacts instantaneously to your panic, she’s extremely worried about punching in her mother’s head by mistake.

Automatic Reload is a romance between two people who are severely fucked up, who in fact often trigger each other – both literally and metaphorically – but who learn to come to support and love one another.

These are not people who get along well with the outside world. But they understand each other, because they both understand what it’s like to be helpless when your brain decides to freak out on you.

So That’s Automatic Reload. What Can You Do To Help?
Well, if you haven’t preordered the book, and this is of interest to you, that’d be a start. Preorders are important. (And if you preorder the book, you’ll get exclusive access to the only new story I’ve written in the Flex universe in the last five years – a story about Aliyah’s sixteenth birthday. Paul frets, Valentine swears a lot, it’s just like old times.)

Automatic Reload is available at:

If you have preordered, or don’t have the money, or you don’t think this book is for you but still might want to help me out, you can do me a number of other birthday favors:

You can share the excerpt of the first three chapters of the book, freely available at

You can share this post on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or wherever you kids are posting these days.

If you’re a book reviewer, you can ask me for a copy and I’ll get one to you. (Writing reviews is tech.)

If you have a podcast or a book blog, you can ask me on as a guest by emailing me at with the subject “PR Request.” I will cheerfully be on any show to help promote this book.

You can ask someone to sign up for my newsletter, which will have a free raffle for copies of my books shortly.

You can link to my upcoming event with the Cuyahoga Public Library and stalwart Cleveland bookstore Mac’s Backs.

You can share any of the other very nice reviews Automatic Reload has gotten:

Publisher’s Weekly gave Automatic Reload both a starred review and a “recommended of the week,” saying “In tackling Silvia’s panic disorder and Mat’s PTSD, as well as their respective feelings of dysphoria, Steinmetz imbues this rip-roaring tale with a surprising amount of sensitivity and heart. This thoroughly satisfying story works as both thriller and romance.”

Booklist said “Mat, a movie buff, relates his tale with a Ready Player One-
level of pop culture references, naming his limbs after famous duos, such as Thelma and Louise. Like those two, Mat and Silvia make a welcome, unconventional pair of protagonists in this outlaw action adventure.”

Reading Reality gave it a five-star review where they said, “Although Silvia’s problems do not begin with her physical transformation. One of the strongest – and sweetest – elements of this story is the way that Mat and Silvia come to love each other for who they are, and that they both acknowledge that they both have a lot of mental issues that they compensate for in their own ways. Their mental illnesses are never swept under the rug, and love doesn’t cure them. But they make each other a bit stronger in their broken places in ways that are lovely to see, especially when they’re done well. As they certainly are in this case.”

If you’re a fan of my Flex series, you can mention that hey, there’s a new ‘Mancer story coming out, you just have to buy this other book to get it.

And that’s… pretty much it. Please only do this if the book seems interesting to you in some way; I’m not trying to guilt anyone into a purchase. (Plus, I question how many genuine sales that posts like “My friend Ferrett wrote a book” generate, as opposed to “It looks like Ferrett wrote a really cool book here.”)

But if you can help me, it’d be a nice candle on my cake. I’d also thank you. And that’s about all I’m capable of doing right now.


Polyamory During The Pandemic: It’s Getting Rougher

If I’m smart, whenever I’m visiting a sweetie, the last thing I say to them before the kiss goodbye is this:

“Can we schedule our next meeting?”

Because most of my poly partners live out of town. I don’t get to see them that often – every few months, if I’m lucky. And after we part, there’s that sharp ache of missing them fresh, their scent still on my clothing, their marks still on my skin –

I need to know when I’ll be seeing them again. That becomes a lighthouse in that personalized loneliness, that odd vacant headspace where I have my wife and my friends and my dog but not someone who is vital to me.

And when I feel that gap, I think: September. September is a long way off. But that’s when I will next be in their arms.

Except right now, July is a long way off. My next book is due to release on July 28th, and that date might as well be Futurama for all I can tell. September? God, that’s an unknown country, the summer is like hiking the Oregon Trail without a wagon, best not to make too many plans.

And the casualty of all that uncertainty?

Seeing my partners.

Right now, I have a wife who is both a heart patient and technically a senior citizen (when did 61 not seem particularly old?), so getting COVID has a high chance of killing her – we can’t risk it. We are those old fogeys still wearing masks everywhere and wiping handed to us by outsiders with Clorox wipes, even though everyone’s mostly stopped that the way we were all really into Pokemon Go for a couple of months and then let it go.

I can’t risk bringing COVID home.

So when will I see my partners?

The sane answer right now is “After they develop and release a COVID-19 vaccine,” which at best will be next February, and might actually be “never.”

Right now, my poly looks like “Possibly purely emotional connections, forever.”

And that. Is. Painful.

I’ve reacted to that poorly – initially the pandemic was a flood of pictures sent out, all sorts of “Hi I’m here where are you how are you doing let’s remember our faces.” But as the reality has ground its way into my skin like a lit cigarette, I’ve stopped doing that – seeing their faces on my phone just reminds me how I can’t see their faces for probably another year minimum, no kisses, no hugs, no sitting on the lawn socially distanced because they’d have to drive here from Chicago or Michigan or New York to do just that, and long-distance poly is really fucking hard right now.

I’ve been withdrawing. Missing them so keenly that just talking to them has become low-level painful – kind of the way that smelling food when you’re starving can be worse than no food, because that memory, no matter how faint, makes you ravenous for a thing you cannot have.

That’s not where I want to be, of course. So I’m talking to my therapist about ways to ameliorate the lack of physical closeness when a lot of cybersex just reminds me that there’s no actual sex in the near future, and it saddens me. Video chats help a bit, but they’re also exhausting for an introvert. Maybe new rituals can help.

But right now, each month of the pandemic has been learning a whole new way of life, and that’s exhausting. The monstrous thing is that my partners have become the biggest symbol of how not normal things are, the signal that we may never return to anything like we had before, and it’s not fair but then again they are the biggest portion of my life that I cannot touch right now.

I miss you. I love you. I need you.

But the world is keeping us apart right now.

And it’s unfair. It’s so, so fucking unfair.

I Now Remember Her As Rebecca. I Wish I Didn’t.

She was five years old, and dying of cancer, and knew she was unlikely to make it to her sixth birthday. And if you think about how most kids long to be older, routinely savoring all that envisioned power that comes from being six or seven or eight, imagine what it’s like for a little girl who really wanted to be six but had been told by the doctors that wasn’t going to happen.

But if she made it to six – if – she wanted a big-girl name. We’d always called her Becca. Little Becca, stealer of coffee, our adorable fussbudget, did not want to be called Becca if she made it to six.

If she made it to six, she wanted a grown-up name.

She wanted to be called Rebecca.

And she made it to six. She ate cake the night before she died, officially hit her birthday the next morning at 7:30 as she laid insensate in her deathbed, and passed away on her sixth birthday as her parents, and many loved ones – including me – clung on to her body as if touching her skin could somehow ease her passing from life.

She’d made it.

She was now, and would be forevermore, Rebecca.

And this past Sunday was a gruesome anniversary: It had been six years since Rebecca’s death. As of yesterday, Rebecca had been dead for longer than she’d been alive. And we visited the grave, and her family put a cup of coffee on the headstone, and we all discussed what it would have been like had she lived.

It wasn’t a comfortable conversation, because, well, the world. Rebecca was black. And Jewish. And a girl. And she was a stubborn, outspoken, downright sarcastic cuss – one that probably would be getting her into more trouble at school simply because of the color of her skin. We wondered how she’d be now, and the answer would be “almost certainly at the protests.”

But as we were driving home, I realized something:

I thought of Becca as Rebecca now. A name I’d almost never called her when she was living – only in, literally, the last eight hours of her life.

She had been Becca. My Becca. The only five-year-old I knew who spoke fluent sarcasm. The Becca who loved hearing me spin increasingly ludicrous lies to her until she finally broke and said, “Yeah, right.” The Becca who, when she’d been told that she’d have to go to Philadelphia for brain cancer treatments, had lit up and said, “Will Uncle Ferrett come with me?”

But she wasn’t Becca. She was Rebecca – which is good, she wanted it, she earned it. But in thinking of her natively as Rebecca, I realized on some level she had transmuted from a loving, living girl into an icon – a symbol of grief.

I want her to be more alive in my memory than she is. But she’s now a tattoo emblazoned on my left shoulder. She’s the default image on my cell phone. She’s not there to create new memories, and so over six years of her nonexistence my memories of her memories have begun to supplant the actual memories.

In an ideal world, she would have been around long enough that I could remember Rebecca as a regular presence at the Meyer household, someone who’d come sit out on the porch with me for a couple of minutes before getting bored to go off and hang out with her friends. That would be a person.

But I never got to know Rebecca. Rebecca is now an extrapolation. An icon. A source of sorrow.

I miss Becca.

But every year that passes, it becomes harder to reach that little girl who is now forever lost.