Apr 242014

A thriller about nanomachines, neurobiology, Gulf War Syndrome, and a Silicon Valley messiah.

Winner of the Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award


An anthology of the winners of the inaugural Hofstadter Prize for Machine-Written Narrative, with a preface by the editor and an introduction by the Hofstadter Prize Committee.


In Freemerica, where Orwell's 1984 is fused with Ronald Reagan's 1984, a young monk tries to save the world from disintegration.


A novel, first published as an Ebook via Gluejar, about a Silicon Valley tech genius/messiah and the quasi-religious cult of transhumanist computer designers and brain hackers who follow him.


John's upcoming novel.


Painfully Yours, and still free!

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Oct 162016
chronosI’m running a promotion today to widely publicize that my little illustrated novella, The Pains is available as a free ebook. That is to say, I’m spending good money to make it known that this book is free. Never mind the words that I wrote for this book; the illustrations alone (by my friend Cheeseburger Brown) are worth paying for. They’re super-creepy and totally awesome.
You can help me, a lot, by
1. Downloading a free copy from Amazon,
2. Publicizing this book on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, grafitti, stopping random strangers in the grocery store and telling them about it, etc. Pretty Please help me publicize this, RIGHT NOW.
Here’s that link again:
The idea behind free ebook giveaways has two parts: (1) if enough people download it, the book moves onto “best seller” lists in its category. This generates lots of notice. If it becomes a “best seller” even as free book, its position atop lists will help increase sales of my other books. I’m aiming for the #1 spot on Amazon’s  “Dark Fantasy” list. (2) The Pains contains advertising for my other books and incentives to join my email list. That’s what I’m really after — new subscribers to my mail list.
The Pains, which came out in late 2008, is dedicated to my brother Paul and  and my sister Maureen.  Paul died of ALS in April of that year, and Maureen died in September, of brain cancer.
The Pains is a little fable set in a universe that is a mashup of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ronald Reagan’s 1984. The story is basically the story of Job (from the Bible, in case that wasn’t obvious). In my book there is a character — Norman Lux, a young monk, an earnest, decent young man — upon whom the universe, for whatever reason, decides to visit unending torment. He bears up with great courage and decency even as he struggles to understand why he must suffer. There’s more to the story than that, but that aspect of the Story of Job is very present in The Pains.
It’s a short book, but it took me a long, long time to write it. Nearly 3 years, for a book that is only 100 pages long.
I wrote draft after draft, but they all sucked. And then, over a few weeks in October 2008, I wrote the version that exists today and of which I’m quite proud.
Only months later did I realize that I was was writing The Pains as a way to come to terms, in my own heart, what was happening to Paul and Maureen. And the reason it took so long to write is that no matter what  torment I invented to inflict upon my poor character Norman Lux, the universe, or whatever, seemed to come up with a way to inflict something worse on Maureen or Paul.
After Maureen died in late September, The Pains seemed to write itself. I struggled with it for 3 years and then wrote it in 3 weeks.
You might not like the book. Who knows, you might hate it. I like it, but maybe it sucks. But it would mean a lot to me if you would download a copy and help me promote it.

The Pains, Yours Free

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Oct 132016
Illustration by Cheeseburger Brown

Illustration by Cheeseburger Brown

My little illustrated dystopian phantasmagoria The Pains is now available on Amazon, Apple and all the other usual suspects as a free ebook download.


This book has been around since late 2008 and has never really found much of an audience. But I’m still really proud of it. It’s kind of a re-imagining of the Story of Job set in a universe that’s part Orwell’s 1984 and part Ronald Reagan’s 1984 and part some whacky who knows what. And there’s a heavy dose of chaos theory.

It’s the least prominent of the three books in my Mind over Matter trilogy — kind of the Holy Ghost of Mind over Matter, if you will — but I think it’s a great book and I’m really proud of it, so I hope you’ll download it and read it and like it and post a review.

As you’ll see if you check out the Amazon page, there are 25 or so legit reviews, so you can get a pretty good sense of what the book is about and whether it’s worth your time.

Moreover, my novel Biodigital, which some fans consider my best work, is available as a free download to those who sign up for my email list:


This book is about as timely as a book can be, given recent developments in genetic engineering. Why not sign up for my list and get your own free copy?

Obviously I’m giving away my books for free in an attempt to make them known to a bigger audience. Any suggestions for other things I can do towards this end are most welcome.

Art, Ethics and Synthetic Biology

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Jul 152016

Recently I was invited to give a talk at the SynbioBeta Activate! Edinburgh synthetic biology conference. This post is based on my remarks there. I began my talk with a short account of a survivor of the Clydebank Blitz in the early days of World War Two. My intention was to get the audience members’ minds out of the laboratory for a moment to perhaps give them a little logical distance from which to hear my words.

On the nights of March 13th & 14th 1941, Luftwaffe bombers attacked the munitions factories and shipyards of Clydeside, Scotland. There were 260 bombers on the first night. Waves of high-explosive bombs, incendiary bombs and land-mines were dropped over a nine-hour period. On March 14th, while rescue work continued, 200 bombers returned; that raid lasted over seven and a half hours.[1]

About six miles away from Clydebank, in the village of Renton, a 16 year old Scottish lass named Margaret Mary McFall sat in an Anderson bomb shelter comforting her four younger brothers and sisters.

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Some recent notices as I prepare for my trip to SynbioBeta in Scotland next month

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Jun 262016

Here’s a few recent things about me, me, me.

Interviewed by John Biggs at the TechCrunch “Disrupt” even in Brooklyn a few months ago.  Preview of my talk at SynbioBeta conference in Scotland, July 7. Interviewed again by TechCrunch’s John Biggs in a podcast.

Stay tuned for some less me-focused posts coming up soon!

Synthetic biology legend George Church & I talk about science and civilization

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Nov 032015
George Church & I in the bucket of Tisbury 651

George & I in the bucket of Tisbury 651

(About the picture: I’m a volunteer firefighter in Tisbury, MA, assigned to an aerial platform truck. When George visited Martha’s Vineyard to give a talk at the local library I got permission to take him up in the bucket. He wore my lieutenant’s safety gear.)

In March of 2015, George Church (whose accomplishments in biology (and visions of the future) are too numerous and significant to for me to recap here, so just go read about ’em here or here or here) & I sat down to talk for about an hour an a half on topics ranging from the Stuxnet cyberwarfare weapon to civilization (and its foes) to surgery on Mars. I edited the discussion into four segments of 17 or 18 minutes each, conveniently gathered here for your edification, amusement, and enlightenment. As a special bonus, at the end of this blog I’ve included the new Foreword to my novels that George was generous enough to write, just in time for the SynbioBeta Conference taking place in San Francisco this week, where I’l be hawking my wares, as is my wont.


Part two:

Part three:

And the thrilling conclusion:

Your promised bonus! George Church’s foreword to the novels of John Sundman:

As a child, like many children, I wanted to be a fireman, construction worker or paperback-writer when I grew up. John Sundman is all that and much more. He lived for four years with subsistence farmers in Senegal and wrote world-class technical manuals for Sun Microsystems. He modestly claims to have done the latter without understanding the underlying ware (a refreshing alternative to manuals lacking knowledge of any human language). Like Clemens, Rowling, Clark Kent, and other greats, Sundman uses pseudonyms (changing his middle names) to protect his secret identity.   He is a master of machines —computing, biological and political —and his books include details that will convince an expert, and yet enchant a distant outsider with a compelling page-turner plot. Not just plot and mechanisms, but unforgettable personalities that haunt us long after the pages stop.

John’s “Mind Over Matter” trilogy began with his first novel, Acts of the Apostles, in 1999, (significantly reworked as Biodigital in 2014). His second was Cheap Complex Devices and his third, The Pains. These books get the reader amazingly quickly into a jarringly jamais vu/deja vu world — especially for aficionados of Orwell’s 1984 and Christian doctrine. While refreshing style changes occur among them, you can find a consistent “meta” component that adds to the puzzles in each one. We must now suffer the pain of waiting for his next books Creation Science and Meekman Rising.

Long before synthetic biologists were quoting the bongo physicist, Sundman’s 1999 novel Acts of the Apostles was about “The Feynman Nine” a programmable nanoscopic machine described as “a device for finding a DNA sequence and converting it into another sequence.” Sounds a lot like the CRISPR craze of genome editing. As Joe Davis, a ‘hybrid’ artist at Harvard and MIT, might remind us, the best conceptual art (including novels) prods us to visualize vital issues that are lurking at, or far beneath, the surface of our science and cutting edge engineering. My lab specializes in the subset of topics pejoratively classified as sci-fi/impossible, which, sometimes, turn out to be relatively easy. For this we need a constant stream of challenges and inspirations. A very rich source of such challenges lies at the interface between “bio” and “digital” – the realm of synthetic genomics, virus-resistant recoded organisms and Obama’s BRAIN initiative. It is precisely this biodigital interface that lies at the heart John Sundman’s novels. Read them and you may find yourself challenged as well.

George Church

Harvard & MIT, 2015

Unglue.it stuck in 1st gear, but we’re staying engaged

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May 092014

It’s been about 9 days since I released my  half-new novel Biodigital via Unglue.it’s “buy to unglue” program under which books are put Creative Commons and made available for free download after a sales target (or default date) has been reached. My books Acts of the Apostles, Cheap Complex Devices and The Pains have been under Creative Commons for some time; last week I made them available though Unglue.it’s new “Thanks for Ungluing” program as a way to try to collect a few $$ from souls of goodwill who contribute for books that are already freely available. JohnSundman.com was launched at the same time.

I think it’s safe to say that as of now, banking on revenue from Unglue.it does not seem to be a wise retirement strategy for me. I’ve taken in about $100 from all four books combined. A few people have tweeted or blogged it, including John Biggs at Techcrunch, but in general the reaction to the Unglue.it announcements from the world at large has been pretty muted.

However, the nice thing about ebooks and ebook platforms is that once you go to the trouble to put your book “out there”, you don’t have to do anything to keep them there. Acts of the Apostles, now nearly 15 years old, has found an audience. So has Cheap Complex Devices, though its audience is smaller. The Pains has not yet developed much of a following, though I remain confident that it someday will. And as for Biodigital, who knows? I hope that it will find readers, but right now it’s available exclusively on Unglue.it, which is a pretty obscure site. After a month or two I’ll make it more widely available. But in any event I’ll be increasingly focusing my attentions on Creation Science, and looking forward, not back.




Buenos Dias, Muchachos!

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Apr 302014

Today (thanks to the kind & abiding Gary Gray, who stepped in once again when I was foundering & dithering) we launch this-a-here website, just in time to accompany the release of my half-new novel Biodigital & the announcement of the “thanks for ungluing” facility on Unglue.it. The site is very much a work in progress, but hey, it exists, which is more than I can say of its prior ten years during which I made noises about bringing into existence but somehow never did. So Bismillah, what what, and away we go with Johnsundman.com.

The Unglue.it website exists as a way for writers to bring their books into the Creative Commons and still get (a chance for) some financial compensation; conversely it’s a way for appreciative readers to chip in  a few bucks to support writers who have made their works available for free. Although I haven’t advertised it too much lately, my books Acts of the Apostles, Cheap Complex Devices and The Pains are available under Creative Commons and have been for some while. Because I generally prefer to sell my books than to give them away for free, I usually link to Amazon (or similar) when calling attention their existence. In making them available on Unglue.it and promoting their free availability to the world, I’m making the bet that the reading public will reward me with voluntary contributions equal to or greater than what I could expect from not doing so. We’ll see.

Below the fold, an overview of Biodigital and a bit of its backstory.

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