The bad guys in Back to the Future II (set tomorrow) dress like the California suburb version of cyberpunks, which implies that actual cyberpunks must be around somewhere. Like, teched out clothes and circuit-board makeup are being used by the real deal in the dark corners of the cities, and some coolfinder borrowed the style to put in the malls.
So, here’s your gritty cyberpunk BttF 2015 super-flash fan fic:
Relax. Enjoy your 3D movies. Don’t pay attention. Ignore the tremor in the voice that dries your clothes. Don’t think about the freaker who can hack your kid’s hoverboard. Don’t connect the rise in certain stocks with Cubs alleged win, or the fact that no one you know actually attended the World Series. Just keep thumbing away your money, bozo. You’ve given us the whorls on your skin. What else will you give us? What else can we take?
Hacking your biometrics is easier than even the fear-mongering propagandvertisements tells you. USA Today’s not the only one with drones. The eyes that keep you safe are everywhere, which means we’re everywhere. Hi-res photo plus 3D-printed skin equals us spending your cash wherever we go.
We know where you are. We know where everyone is. And we can tell you this — there’s someone in this town that doesn’t belong.
Three people. A man and two teens. We don’t know how they got here. And we don’t like not knowing things.
I mean, come on.
A buddy asked me to write something to go a long with this photo. So I did!
Alas, poor Porkins! I knew him, dear Lando; a fellow of infinite blasters, a most excellent pilot; he hath covered Gold Team’s six a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my Jedi senses it is! E’en the rancor snorts at it. Here hung that blast shield he wore I know not how oft. Where be your s-foils now? Your torpedoes? Your shields? Your flashes of covering fire that were wont to set the TIE fighters aflame?
I’m proud to announce that my story Proximity is in this month’s Apex Magazine. (link) It’s one of the pieces they make available online for free, so it’s out there for all the world. Many thanks to Sigrid Ellis et al. for working with me!
This story marks my first foray into the cyberpunk-nouveau thing I’ve been riffing on for a while. It’s been about a year since I first wrote it, and I’ve used the same setting for a couple of other pieces now. One was a 3d-printing chase story for J. M. McDermott’s March Flash Madness, (which was a blast and everyone should participate in next year so get ready), and will be available in the e-book collection of the same. The other is a novella which is currently out on the far shores of submission land. So if you dig Proximity, keep your eyes open!
In 1776, the mages and augurs who oversaw the sacred rites of Founding, Declaration, and Constitution put into place a number of long-term spells (often referred to as “curses” or “boons”, depending on their intent — and interpretation) to secure the binding. One of these was translated roughly as “E Pluribus Unum”. Subtleties of language between English, Latin, and the unknowable source text* has led contemporary thinkers to read this as “Out of many, one”, but this is not entirely the case.
The E Pluribus Unum spell (hereafter referred to as “the EPU”) states that the last name of every President will be used exactly twice. Adams, Roosevelt, Bush, for example.
Does the spell require this binary relationship? Or does it create it? A matter of great debate. It the opinion of some scholars that the Kennedy “assassination” was facilitated by the spell’s requirement — a second Johnson needed to take the office. Some even go so far as to posit that the EPU has reached into the psyche of populace and can be found reflected in popular culture. Archie Bunker’s plaint that “we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again” has been read as such**.
Of particular note is Grover Cleveland, an accomplished magus in his own right, who may have used a loophole in the text of the EPU to become elected on two non-consecutive occasions. In a telegram to British spiritualist and author Sir A. C. Doyle, he states that “no-where in the Codex is it explicitly stated that the Name in question must be held by two separate men”.
There will almost certainly be another Clinton in the Oval Office, but whether or not Hillary would satisfy the EPU is unclear. Does the spell require that the incumbent’s birth name be used twice, or would a married name suffice?
A topic as dry and arcane as this may seem trivial, but it would serve to keep in mind that once every last name has been used exactly twice, the nation will fall. If this is true, and we were to assume the continuation of four-year terms, we can count on a minimum of another century or so***, but after that, what?
*The use of three languages is key to spellcraft. There needs be a living language (English in this case), a dead one (Latin), and a third, neither living nor dead. This is the secret language of magic, of course, and can only be understood by the initiated.
** Was J. Edgar meant to become President? Is that why his name appears in Ghostbusters as a vengeful, destructive force?
*** Though, William Henry Harrison’s brief tenure reminds us there must be some leeway. He served to fulfill the binary name requirement, certainly, but not for long.
Ken Liu has written a book both sprawling and subtle here. Go get lost in it.
Liu consistently presents his characters with impossible choices. Sometimes they are true to the tendencies we have seen throughout, and sometimes they surprise us by doing the opposite of the expected. Either way, we get to see the consequences — both societal and personal — of their decisions play out over decades.
And boy howdy are there lots of characters. Lots of POV characters, no less. We see this world changing through the eyes of children, of soldiers, of kings, of mothers, of gods.
The Iliad seems to be a major influence here. Now and then we see the gods fighting over their favorites, or appearing in human form to nudge events a certain way. We don’t see glowy magic twirling around evil mustachioed advisers as the dark gods they have bought their powers from come to collect. We see a bald guy in a cape talking to someone in the street.
Magic is present, but no more than (some might say) it is in the real world. You know that story your aunt tells about the time she saw a ghost? Or the long-dead great-uncle who you’ve been told could pull any card from a deck just by thinking of it? We’re talking that level of magic here. Again, no glowing.
If you like your fantasy realistic (no oxymoron intended), heavy on the politics, and well-fleshed out, give this book a shot.
Let’s sum up.
We destroy civilizations from the sky, using terrifying technology only we control.
…and it proves ineffective.
Governor Tarkin: [refering to Leia] She lied. She lied to us.
Darth Vader: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.
We use killer robots.
Our militarized police kill civilians without trial or repercussion.
But we’re the good guys. Right?
I went and Kickstarted a project, “Fantasy Coins, LLC”, which makes coins for gaming. They’re really great, and you should go check ’em out. My use for such things is sadly lacking these days, so they’re just a conversation piece sitting around, waiting for an adventuring party to come by and earn them as a quest reward.
Many of the coins have text on them in runes and whatnot. Naturally, the desire to cryptoquip these bad boys was too much. Yes, sometimes when you get a bunch of word-obsessed nerds sitting around a table, they’re going to pull out loupes and translate some replacement ciphers. Especially if one of them know the old Norse runes by heart. (Not me.)
Unless noted, all of these are Irish proverbs which can be found on this site. The English is used on the coins, just with funky lettering.
First, the dwarven coins, which use old Norse runes.
- Gold Front (face): A fool and his money are soon parted.
- Gold Back (anvil): Nothing without effort.
- Silver Front (helmet): What is seldom is wonderful.
- Note: This is repeated in full twice, then only “what is seldom is”.
- Note: This forum post lists it as being in the original Gaelic, but it doesn’t appear to be,
- Silver Back (shield): There is no hearth like our hearth.
- Note: Perhaps meant to be “your”? But I couldn’t see a “y”.
- Copper Front (door): May the wind be always at your back.
- Copper Back (axe): May the road rise to meet you
- Note: This is a traditional Irish blessing
Next, the elven coins. (The knotwork-style art on the obverses of these are a personal favorite, by the way.) Per the Kickstarter page: “the “Elven” writing is of our own creation which was influenced by calligraphic Arabic, Thai, and Japanese Kanji; arranged in English”.
- Gold Front (pen): Things are not as they seem.
- Gold Back (owl): Health is better than wealth.
- Silver Front (sky): A good word never broke a tooth.
- Silver Back (tree): Let none put faith in the first sown fruit.
- from the Poetic Edda.
- Copper Front (bow): A good start is half the work.
- Copper Back (stag): It is best to search while the trail is new.
- Kickstarter Backer Coin Back: Fantasy Coin Kickstarter Backer
And now the stumper: the Fire element coins.
The runes seem to be the same used on the dwarven coins, but they don’t work in English. To add to the fun, the fronts and backs of all of these have the exact same text, which makes cryptoquipping pretty tough. Hmmm…..
If I’m reading the spacing right, there is at least one word which starts with the same two letters. Unless it’s “eels”, I’m guessing this might not be in English.
The kickstarter page says “The writings are taken from ancient Celtic runes and a Sanskrit flare (sic) has been added to defy translation“. I don’t think any of the symbols are from Sanskrit, so maybe the text is?
If you find the answer to this one, do let me know. And definitely check out the site: you’ll never have to use a Canadian dollar as a prop again!
Yes, I want to write a Max Headroom reboot set 20 minutes in our future.
Citizen-journalist Jemison Carter has a reputation for finding trouble. Armed with a Google Glass, a smartphone, and a passion for revealing hidden truths, she streams her vidcast to fans the world over with help from her social-media-handler/hacker Ted Jones.
When Carter comes close to discovering a secret that massive video-hosting service WatchYou wants to keep hidden — Clickverts, a subliminal SMO tool which kills a small percentage of users — she only barely escapes being murdered by the company’s thugs. Desperate to find Carter, Jones feeds the reporter’s full social profile into an experimental mobile app to try and recreate her recent history. Carter’s tweets, posts, location tags, videos, comments, purchasing history, ad clicks, eye movements, scrolling patterns, etc. combine to form a virtual version of herself.
This garrulous, jumpy digital Carter comes alive in unsuspected ways. Within moments of resolving on Jones’s touchscreen, it lets itself loose on the local wi-fi, then the entire data provider network, then every satellite signal and cable connection on the planet. This newborn entity Max Headroom shows up in the cat video you’re watching on Facebook, in the Facetime call with your mom, in the targeted pop-up ads on your favorite news site,in a combination of peppermints on Candy Crush.
Carter goes global with the secret of Clickverts and causes a shake-up in the top echelon of WatchYou’s corporate structure, but nothing changes in the society at large. We still walk around staring at screens, seeing what the boost algorithms allow us to see and clicking where the casual-game behavioral psychologists want us to, but Carter, Jones, and their screen-jumping ally Max Headroom keep posting their version of the truth. B-B-B-Big Time!
Here’s another first for me: I just received the text which will go on the back cover. So, people sit in a room and talk about good ways to describe my book? Um… rad.
It’s 1984. Fairies have broken into the human world. And they’ve discovered computers.
Punk hacker Robin Levesque’s job is to protect humans in the Annwn Simulation from goblins, piskies, and other fey beasties. Nothing she can’t handle with a Commodore 64 and a few lines of code.
When her brother is kidnapped by a headbanger who trades in blackmarket boons, Robin descends into a world more dangerous than any she’s ever known. The police are no help, and her bosses at the Eldritch Equipment Corporation refuse even to investigate. Then Robin herself is accused of magical crimes…