-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
The thing about cyberpunk as a genre is that it isn't really about technology. It's about the consequences of technology. Beautifully illustrated in the first real cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer:
"The street finds its own use for things."
The problem with my writing is that while I can come up with some neat ideas, the consequences of those ideas always end up being the most banal, obvious, pathetic things to ever squirm, half-alive, out of someone's imagination.
I can come up with some really good lines, but no cohesive plot, characters that wouldn't know motivation if it shot them in the ass with a riot shotgun. And lately I haven't even been able to do that. I'll decide to practice, just re-write a scene from a movie or a book, take some already done idea and not even spin it, just re-write it in my own words... and I get nothing.
I grow frustrated with my continued lack of progress on the only dream I've ever had. What's a writer that doesn't write?
Not a fucking writer.
Started this last week. Been staring at it since, making no progress. I don't expect to, so...
Since I'm in the mood for sharing.
This was supposed to turn into a short short about hunting chupacabra. I intended on doing actual research into the so-called mythos, but then, amazingly, I stopped caring. I am the awesome like that.
This needs to be much tighter, but I don't think it's awful.
It's easy to forget how the body is just this machine. How ligaments and muscles are just pistons and levers covered in wet meat pulsing to the subconscious rhythm of the heart. Your blood just another lubricant coating an engine. How everything in you is just part of a well-engineered construct, wrapped up around itself and painstakingly designed to operate within certain specified tolerances. How it's easy to seduce yourself into thinking you're special, protected, and that as that as long as you want something enough, you'll be able to get it. If you just work hard enough. Put in enough hours. Suck enough dick or turn enough palms green. If you fuck over everyone else and make your play.
Easy to hide behind this television facade and forget sometimes it's just going to always to be out of reach. Sometimes that thing is just for the engine to keep running, the pistons to keep firing.
The early prototypes of you, maybe they'd wish this against the odds of big cats or bears or dinosaurs or just each other with some poor bastards thigh bone raised over their head. And they'd wish and they'd become just another statistic.
Maybe they'd wish against some accident, running and getting their foot stuck in a sinkhole, twisting and coming down all wrong. Didn't really matter too much at that point if they'd been running to or from something, the end result was pretty well researched by a dedicated team of everyone who'd gone before.
These days, it's maybe a bit better. You take a header off a curb and break your arm, you aren't going to get sacrificed by the rest of the pack because you'll just slow them down with winter coming on and food becoming scarce. These days you just go to the hospital. You eat too much fat and your heart clogs up, so they pull part o fit out and replace it (irony dripping like grease off a double with extra everything) with part of a pig.
But there are still predators out there, making sure to remind you of what you are. Wrapped in your six hundred dollar suit and wraparound shades, carefully closeted behind your expensive haircut and manicured nails. Leather shoes that wouldn't last an hour running from something with more teeth than your Egyptian sheets' thread-count.
Monsters simply providing the public service of reminding you of your vulnerability, your mortality.
How when it comes down to it at the end of the day you're nothing but an uncured sack full of water and Happy Meals for something bigger than you.
Harder to miss with it splayed open and spread out in front of you, a road map to the subway system everyone carries around inside them.
And here's something from last week that I was mildly entertained by until it turned into Yet Another Heaven/Hell War Thing.
Working on something at the moment that will definitely not fall into that strange little trap (for some reason, my brain enjoys sliding down that particular slope; which is idiotic considering how little thought I actually ever give to religion. I assume it's actually some form of pre-fantasy fantasy literary fetish).
There are a few other bits of flashback and some raw, gross dialogue here as well.
After talking to Hinder about plot and character last night, it made me want to work on system more. One of the problems is that it's gone through so many iterations of what it was supposed to be, I really have no idea what it is any more. Another problem is that I still haven't come up with a good way of organizing files with regards to where in the story they take place.
I just found the following while digging through all these messy-ass directories. It isn't dated, but it feels like early 2004.
Congrats to Max Barry for getting that far. I honestly hope one day I'll manage to be that overpaid asshole with dreams of something more.
One glorious day.
It's funny how you can read something a dozen times and still manage to come across some new association.
The black kid with the dreads had earned his fifty. They'd found him crouching there like a gargoyle on the curb, his face somehow already as old as it would ever need to be, smoking Russian cigarettes from a red-and-white pack he kept tucked into the rolled-up sleeve of an old army shirt, three sizes too big. The van still had its wheels on and the tires were intact.
-- Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
<bda> How's that other magazine writing thing going?
<kitten> It isn't.
<kitten> Because I have no ideas.
<kitten> And nothing to write.
<bda> That's a problem.
<bda> It's a good opportunity. You should figure something out.
<kitten> So help.
<kitten> I dunno. Ideas.
<kitten> All I can ever think of when I think of this is that story from Gibson.
<kitten> Gernsback Continuum.
<bda> So do an homage to it.
<kitten> In what way?
<bda> Which is to say, rip it off completely, but preface the article by telling everyone you're doing so.
<kitten> Fuck that.
<kitten> r: you are very dexterous with words
<kitten> (23:43:41) rantingkitten: Too bad I never have any ideas.
<bda> Maybe the problem is people who really like your stuff are all idiots.
<kitten> Although that's possible.
<bda> The upshot of this is that you will be very very rich once they start selling your stuff at supermarkets.
<kitten> Fuck you.
Wrote this a while ago, on or around Oct 24th 2004. The title, as you can tell, is very creative.
Just something else I'll never do anything with.
Jan 23. 2005.
"Inspired" by a drunken walk home from the O'Donnell's in the snow.
My titles are almost as bad as George Lucas's... :-)
May 22, 2005.
Mm. More nonsensical poorly written tripe that doesn't go anywhere.
I r teh awsumz.
I don't say anything, just look in your eyes and try to gauge your shame.
I vaguely recall writing the following early last week, early one morning, so I could get some sleep.
No idea what's going on in it, so here it is with only a few minor tweaks from what was scrawled. Barely legible, it was bracketed by weekly meeting and automated Linux install notes in my work notepad.
A little more nutjob noir.
As a fan of Joss's work, and of Scott Westerfeld's, and of Phillip Pullman, and other men who write strong female characters, I kind of have to think a psytech would wonder that out of all those men writing kickass chicks, the only women writing kickass chicks that I've been able to really get behind are Karen Traviss (and not the Star Wars books that Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade have been fapping about), or Amy Hempel (whose pseudo-her has a steel filament running underneath all the flaws and worries).
Maybe it's because most female authors make me crazy in terms of their characterizations, so I've avoided them. It's something that used to bother me a lot, but now it's hard to bother. A lot of it just comes down to how my mind works, and the kind of prose and characterization it'll accept. Seeing how much I love Hempel's work (the content of which is typically outside my light cone), I feel like I tell myself it's just a statistical oddity more than anything else.
"So why do you create these strong female characters?"
"Because they're hot."
"No, but so why --"
"Why is this even a question?"
Just a little exercise from a couple weeks ago. Minor amount of editing. Lots of obvious thievery.
There is only the vaguest appreciation for death while it's happening. It's only later, after, that you can make any sense of it. Attempt to comprehend the enormity of loss as your short reLife is either ripped or trickles away from you. That you can consider the millennia filled with people who went through this same experience, in its myriad, fractal manifestations. So you'll be perhaps better prepared, the next time.
The field around me is full of crying soldiers who should know better by now. Not that I can see them, my eye sockets filled with flaking flesh and ash. The bugs on this world have what amounts to a laser grenade. One of their older, unadapted, pre-Contact weapons. No doubt it worked wonders on each other, incoherent light cauterizing any portion of their sight-bands. 75% of your body being covered in optics, all of which you consider crucial, makes for a lot of area lacking armor. The bug version of a land mine.
Humans (or anyway, those of us currently inhabiting vessels derived from human stock), though, with comparatively tiny optical surface area makes us inherently less vulnerable to such a peculiar weapon. Our helmet visors do well enough blocking the majority of the effect, and the lasers are nowhere near powerful enough to make our armor even tingle in retaliation. So all in all, the cornea bombs are pretty ineffective against us, unless you happen to have taken a couple rounds to the face, shattering your visor but miraculously not your brainpan.
While I was on my knees, screaming, eyes wafting away on the wind, one of the damn bugs came up behind and impaled me with one of those long spikes they favor for close-in combat. The ghostbeam managed to dig enough holes in my skull to compromise the neural mesh, screwing up my communications link and no doubt some as yet undiscovered autonomic functions. So I'm blind and mute, armor holding up like paper against the bug's blade.
So here I lay, modified blood already clotted the wounds, but enough major organs and their redundancies have been shredded that it doesn't matter. I lay here, listening to the screams of my fellow hitchhiking soldiers and the inhuman cries of our enemies, and I wait to die.
Of course command wouldn't want you to be able to pull your own plug. You'd have guys popping off as soon as they lose an arm or a leg, or had their lungs liquified while their exchangers are still happily oxygenating what passes for their blood. It's just pain, they tell us. Use it. Get over it. Take the fucking hill.
But laying here, I can feel the meanest part of my intelligence trying to cram itself into the entangled uplink wrapped around this body's enhanced spine. Desperately wanting to find itself back in the safety of our true home, the quantum womb we so rarely inhabit these days. Knowing full well that any respite will be brief but not caring; knowing the reBirth will be worse than this, this laying here and waiting to die.
An actual complete, finished story. Could no doubt do with another hour of editing, but I'm tired and have already celebrated its being typed up with several bottles of boozahol.
It was actually written out several weeks ago, but my handwriting is so atrocious that I couldn't get over the dread of deciphering it to type it up.
Working on Lathe for the first time in a while, and Sympathy for the Devil comes on. w t f, iTunes.
Led me a great remix/video, though:
In John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series, the method of faster-than-light travel used by starships doesn't move the vessel through space or time, but instead between dimensions. So every jump you make, you are a dimension further from the dimension you started out in. Everyone you meet who didn't make the same jump as you (which is to say, the vast majority of the universe) is subtly, imperceptibly, but absolutely altered. The delta between universes is so minute it is basically impossible you'd ever be able to tell the difference. There's math for you.
In one of Niven's old stories (it involved the Puppeteers, but I don't remember which book it was in), the whole of the Earth has been seeded with transporter pads on every street corner. Instead of elevators or stairs, or cars, they simply teleport to the closest pad to their destination.
There's a psychological disorder which causes the afflicted to be unable to recognize people as being people. They think everyone is a stranger, or an alien, or a robot. Their brain simply won't allow them to perceive people as being such.
I had an idea which combined all three of those, focusing on someone (or a group of people) who do not make jumps. Much like McCoy and transporters, they don't trust the damn things to put their molecules back together the right way after spewing them across the cosmos.
Who begin to notice the subtle, but perceptible, changes in the people who do use the jump technology. Who see how their universe is changing around them, and are unable to stop it. How people involved in the jump culture are blind to the changes in both the world and the people (jumpers and anchored alike) around them as they shift a couple dimensions out of their way to pick up coffee on the way to the office.
How someone they ask out on a date won't be the same person they actually go out with.
How every day, their co-workers are scientifically proven strangers.
I bet it'd make a pretty good short story.
I am deliberating between red and green apples when I feel the girl staring at me. The apples are hissing abuse at the oranges behind me, and I am attempting, with little success, to determine which color is less full of vitriol, thinking perhaps their personality may be linked to their flavor.
It is not the sort of stare I often convince myself people are directing at me, the sort that causes me to duck into alcoves or behind trees, arguably accruing more attention than otherwise. Though convincing at an animal level, I understand it is the universal paranoia we are all subjected to simply as a side-effect of existing.
No, this is the kind of gaze that causes other people nearby to pause, to look and see what is worth being so intent about. As it's just me, glaring at the apples, their attention wanes quickly.
The girl looks somewhat disheveled, her clothes washed but rumpled, her boots polished but the toes recently and heavily scuffed. Her attitude is intense, and the large raven on her shoulder adds somewhat to this intensity. Her eyes are narrowed, shadowed by furrowed brow, and it is doubtful I could make out their color at this distance even if I weren't observing her solely with my peripheral vision.
The raven ignores me completely, entranced by an array of berries. The berries, oblivious, are humming to themselves tunelessly.
I reach out and take a green apple; perhaps this decisive act will break her concentration, and she will blink, shake her head slightly, and go away. It does not. I replace the apple and take a red one. This seems to have no effect either, but then, after a moment, in stops and starts, she shuffles over to me. She steadies herself against the bins of fruit; though she appears uninjured, staying upright seems to be an ordeal.
The great bird ruffles its feathers and flaps off her shoulder. It perches near its berries, peering down at them from one side of its head, then the other. They continue their incessant humming.
The girl leans down in front of me, obscuring the now silent apples. Slightly more intelligent than their neighbors, the cursed things seem to have realized something is up.
The girl's hair is short; though grown out, it was expensively cut. Her eyes are startling green, and her shirt is loose enough I can see down it. A necklace hangs between her breasts, but I cannot make out its shape.
"I met an angel here once," she confides. My eyes meet hers, and she seems to take my understandable confusion for questioning. I have suffered sentient furniture, allayed the slow jealousy of suspicious statues, and parlayed with what may have been the shadows of demons, but angels?
"He saved me, with a word, and it tasted like strawberries."
And then she falls to her knees and begins quietly sobbing.
The raven leaves its amateur choir and returns to her shoulder. Finally deigning to notice me, its expression, for all its immobility, is withering.
The shadows whispering assurances hard experience has taught me to distrust, I take another step into this accursed houses basement. The concrete and wood mutter to themselves, ignoring me; I can understand the gestalt of their constant discourse, though. In great detail, they recite the litany of horrors enacted in this place.
There are six rooms below, each darker than the last. Each full of a greater level of terrors. When the victims would be moved from one room to another, deeper in the basement, the door behind me would be left open. If it were day, the sunlight would shine down, blinding the prey. And then they would be moved back, away from the light, into deepening gloom.
When moved at night, the walls and ceiling remind, there is a flood light set against the far wall upstairs. While not as good as real sunlight, the effect is often the same.
I take another step down, slowly, the vile patina filling my mouth and ears. Behind me, the girl's bird hisses: "Fool. Hardy."
Two more words the girl will never use.
Perhaps once this was just a house; just beams and nails and heavy oak. Terrified blood has soaked into the wood, into the concrete and stained the paint, and now like any other rabid animal, the house is quite mad.
Atrocities occurred here, and in the creaking of the stairs as I descend another step, in the wind against the shingles, in the very air settling throughout the dead spaces within the damned walls, the house is more than willing to share them.
I wish, in my very core, that some dark power brought this place to its current insanity. That some demon slipped through, investing itself into the foundation and mortar. I can feel the intent that shaped it, though, and it is man. A man, singular, unique in his perversion; the ghosts of his actions are enough to arrest my progress. The pressure increases with every step down, making it harder to breath.
The bird lands on my shoulder. Its claws dig into my flesh, bringing me back to myself. The cacophony of the house quiets, becoming again a muttering background.
The bird's mistress is not down here. We both know it. It can sense her absence, and I can feel the pregnant emptiness. But we both must see.
In that moment of weightlessness, before gravity becomes jealous of every other element of physics in play and reasserts itself, Cordwell feels as if he is riding the crest of a great wave. His feet are encased in froth, and the world is nothing but curves and beautiful chaos; the wave will never break, never scatter itself to its unknowable constituent parts across the back of some geometrically precise beach. He is protected by eternity, even as his body, a wave of a very different sort slamming it hard into filthy concrete, breaks its own back on the cynical beach of a birthing world.
For slow ages he stares across the street at the hollowed out core of the bombed office building. Firefighters linger outside the gutted structure after the flames have been extinguished, their carapace-like armor covered in grime and smoke. Somewhere, in the unheard back of his mind, he remembers what it is to blink.
Networked citizens, pausing every few meters to listen to their internal voices, mark his location but do not touch him; even without a remote medical opinion, it is obvious to their untrained eyes that his twisted frame requires a lack of movement more than anything else. Eyes jacked open, a retina scan finds only little resistance in the tears streaming uncontrollably from his locked sockets. No family is registered in his public profile, no specific practice to contact, no company or corporate allegiance to inform. He is left alone, save for volunteers on their rounds, who periodically clean his eyes.
It’s only hours later, after the first responders are succeeded by the spinning wheels of government who have fought their way through a running riot, that he is triaged to a hospital on the far side of the city. There, he’ll wait for another six hours before a doctor can see him and tag him as a typical shock case. It will be another two hours before a nurse, having passed some critical point of exhaustion and entered a realm of pure clinical observation, will notice the thin dried slice of blood on the side of his head, just behind his right temple.
He cannot remember, now, why he was at the building housing the clinic. He feels certain that given the threat level, the activist chatter, he would have avoided any publicly accessible high-technology firms dealing with biological manipulation.
Simply as a matter a course, with the same city-dweller sense which tells him which blocks to avoid after night falls, or which chemically altered idiot it is safe to curse back at. Something, then, must have been important enough for him to risk it; nothing in his day planner suggests a trip to a Genify franchise, or any other business in the block; nor do any of his patchy recollections of that day offer any hints.
It was only after a month of painful recovery, of fighting for the return of language, that he could ask after the piece of glass they removed from his brain. He wants it, that sliver of safety glass which short-circuited his mind and showed him, forever and never, a vision of Euclidean perfection and quantum chaos so beautiful, and so maddening that he cannot properly recall it.
Just another piece of detritus, another reminder of yet another awful day, they’ve thrown it away.
More months of physical therapy follow, the difficult process of teaching the new muscles and tendons how to walk. The new segments of spinal material are quick learners, but they are overeager, and it seems frustration outweighs progress by a heavy margin.
When he finally leaves the clinic for the last time, he leans heavily on a cane he hardly needs but has come to rely on. It seems a stable force in a world where you can be walking down the sidewalk one second, only to find yourself a stringless puppet shattered on the opposite side of the street the next.
He is still astounded, edging up onto a year later, how both his mind and body had been effortlessly disabled, and while the recovery was not trivial, its relative ease is nothing less than amazing. He will sometimes walk past the place on the sidewalk where he stared mindlessly into the infinite, and try to recall that feeling of disconnect; he never manages it, however, and so walks slowly away, his cane clicking sharply on the rebuilt pavement, its gritty finish already sliding inexorably into the entropy of blackening chewing gum and dubious stains.
On a deeply mammalian level, is it comforting to enforce the structure of the city.
The feeling is entirely instinctual; it’s rare enough these days that conscious thought is necessary. The Mind deals with the strategies, leaving her to manage whatever the moments tactical situation might require. Just now she had made entrance through a thin plaster wall, kicking a stud to weaken it before shouldering her way through into the target apartment.
The occupants basically remain in their original form-factors, though the meatbag who pulled the machete required some creative restructuring before it would release the weapon. Though the part of her mind which is mostly in control is uninterested, the details of the mission are available to her. A nest of activists, their propaganda ‘ware and bomb gear littering the apartment. Amateurs.
A mild compulsion races through her, requiring her to scour the apartment for information which might lead to another cell, preferably a hub. She finds nothing useful, which she feels, in her way, as unsurprising. These were rank nobodies, expendable human delivery vehicles for viral ideas or demolitions. They would have received their orders through an anonymous network, with no way to backtrack the origin or even confirm that it came from anyone whose ideologies matched their own. Save, the Mind assumes, that they all wanted to blow up the same groups of people.
The presence of the Mind recedes for a moment, gathering itself. It is only a small subset of the entity she serves: In the vast labyrinthine intelligence of the city, her
Mind is a fragment, a shard. It is dedicated to riding and commanding her. In its own way, it is as sleek and perfected to its task as she herself is, and knowing this, instinctually, makes her feel the same way as a good kill does.
A tinge of disgust mars her pleasure, however; something deep and dark that likes to believe it still remains a self.
She doesn’t like when her consciousness struggles to the fore, having its thoughts and ideas. Forming its opinions. It is an unnecessary thing, a liability when all that is needed is action in its most purified form. The Mind nudges it down for her with only the slightest of pressures, and insofar as she is able, she feels grateful towards it.
Perhaps like an extraordinarily well-trained attack dog, thankful towards its master that it was given someone’s bones to rend and in doing so, is rewarded.
Lightning flashes through the hole in the dome. Creeper vines cover most of the ancient crystal, diffusing the crisp white tear into a mottled static. The heavy upper atmosphere gives the lightning a good five or six second lifespan. Its tendrils flash and dig through dense cloud.
Dim light filters through the creepers, the second moon something half-seen through clouds, hovering over the hole itself. That particular damage to the
City had been caused by some form of bombardment; its origin, reasoning, lost
to time and media corruption. Chunks of the dome litter the City, along with
hundreds of years of other debris.
Carter ducks and rolls as the ground around him is lit, moving as quickly away from the exposed position as possible. Lots of folk might tend to freeze, let anyone trailing them get a scope on them, even in the sudden glare and burn. He'd done it. Didn't see why anyone else couldn't.
No shots rang out, but he honestly hadn't expected any too. His quarry was known to be more hands on. More personal.
The breather mask covering his face obscured his vision; sound already tends to slow, distort. His thermal and microwave rigs have both already been destroyed or discarded during the long hunt. Against the android's senses, Carter is at a definite disadvantage.
Given the choice, he might give up. Crawl back down into the tunnels under the City, tell his employer he lost the android at the edge of the dome. It got out into the World, and while Carter is known to play it fast and loose, he followed some rules. No one went outside.
Given the choice.
Something that felt older and angrier, something cold and reptilian, something deeper and stronger than even the most basic of survival instincts, had taken Carter in its grip. Had sharpened him. The android had thrown Davis into a vantree; Carter had been half a mile away, but Davis' screams had carried, warbling and horrible in the heavy air.
Until the tree's slow mind noticed its gift, and Davis was silent.
They'd split up at Carter's suggestion, figuring the skinjob would be focused on escape. Instead it had doubled back, rallied against its hunters. Carter's fault Davis was slowly melting away in the trunk of some damn plauge-twisted tree.
So revenge kept him up here, trying to track the runner. Oxy tank low, resources minimal. He tried not to think about the damage to his leg. The suit's drugs were taking care of most of the pain, and the armor had stiffened and frozen into a kind of brace. He could get along. Wouldn't give himself much in the way of odds if he did manage to catch up to the bastard again, though.
After Davis went down, Carter had lost his cool. He'd tried to tank the
skinjob; it must have thought Davis had been the only tracker. Carter had a
piece of the dome thrown into him for his trouble. He's almost got out of the
way, but not quite. He'd been limping since, and through the drugs, he was
starting to feel bones grating together, somewhere deep in his leg. Somewhere
close to an artery, the way his luck was going.
Good word to describe this job from the start.