Several People Are Typing

A New York public relations firm uses Slack for all sorts of conversations, work-related and otherwise, and this short novel by Calvin Kasulke is a transcript of a few weeks on Slack when things get weird.

There’s normal Slack chatter about who’s handling what part of the damage control campaign for a dog food company trying to restore faith in the product after it poisoned some Pomeranians. And then there are the cascading work from home plans, one right after the other, as staff mention icy streets, medical crises, and so on, leaving just one person who’s not WFH.

Then there’s Gerald’s weird predicament of being unable to escape Slack. And where’s all the howling coming from.

This is a fun evening’s reading, especially if you’ve been immersed in office culture. So much of what happens in Several People Are Typing is familiar. I especially enjoyed the overlapping conversations, with some questions just getting lost in the shuffle when no one knew the answer or wanted to bother looking into it. And the Slackbot piping in to sort of help, but not really.

But that’s all just table setting for the story of the weird things going on in this office that people just aren’t noticing. Again, questions and comments getting lost in the shuffle, if they were ever visible at all. The fact that all this goes on under these people’s noses, with only a few characters even aware shows just how easy it is for workplaces to become so focused on the work, even when efforts are made to create “community.” Anything that’s unexpected or outside the company objectives just doesn’t get pursued by the group.

I think that this book mostly functions as a goofy little diversion, but there’s something more there about what we miss when our communications are disembodied. It’s easy to ignore or chat past what doesn’t interest us. Bodies matter. They matter in this book about disembodied communication, and they matter in life.

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5 Responses to Several People Are Typing

  1. >>I especially enjoyed the overlapping conversations, with some questions just getting lost in the shuffle when no one knew the answer or wanted to bother looking into it.

    I loved this too, both for how familiar it was as office culture and because it eventually turned out to be plot-relevant. I don’t know, I think I found this a slightly more weighty read than you did (though maybe I’m justifying it after the fact because I liked it so much and because I like office novels) in terms of getting at something real about embodiment and communication. I DUNNO, I liked it.

  2. Simon T says:

    I love the title! And having spent the whole pandemic on Teams, this sounds like one that I could either enjoy or would give me PTSD :D

  3. This sounds delightful! Like Simon, I love the title. I’m also always up for a novel in an interesting format and I’m used to using chat apps for work and with friends, so I think I’d really enjoy a story that captures how that often goes.

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