Sunday, December 6, 2015

Our Cyberpunk World: 3D-Printing the Perfect Blonde (and Your Own Clones)

The article: 3-D printing of human body parts (Business Insider) Technology is overtaking cyberpunk science fiction yet again — and this time biopunk too. In this case, it's a process called bioprinting which uses 3D-printing techology to print living organs, whether to repair or transplant. As the speed 3D printing is advancing today, eventually we'll be able to print entire human bodies. I can see four uses for this:
  1. Cloning your replacement body: As a matter of fact, this is how the replacement clones used in the clone-resurrection process are generated. Not vat-grown anymore as in classic cyberpunk, but 3D-printed like the anti-plasma bomb being printed in the background of Shira's opening videoblog post.
  2. Organ replacement: what bioprinting is used for today, but naturally more advanced. Eventually the technology will get good and cheap enough that people will be able to replace organs at will, like replacement parts for machines.
  3. Designer deformations: What if you're bored with your baseline human appearance? What if you want the latest fashionable deformations? There's pretty much no limit to how much the idle rich can pervert bioprinting technology. Some of them, of course, will make themselves superhuman or outright transhuman. The likes of Neuromancer's Lo-Teks won't be quite so low-tech anymore.
  4. Printing the perfect blonde: Forget eugenics. Why wait on genetic engineering, gene doping, and old-fashioned breeding when you can design your human physical ideal in a CAD program and then print it? You can design in pretty much anything you want, including amazing superpowers, without having to rely on the hereditary luck of the draw. You can create bodies more beautiful than anything Nature can design, as living artworks.
Naturally, since in the cyberpunk universe (i.e. Spanner) technology requires the money that the rich are stealing from the poor and hoarding for themselves, like all medical technologies bioprinting will of course be a luxury for the rich, intended to turn them into a transhuman master race eventually able to overthrow even the American Empire's superhuman oligarchs known as the Liberators. For the natural-born newtype superhumans of Team Spanner, this means they have to race against yet another ticking clock and try to convince humanity to save themselves before the Tech Lords make their species obsolete.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#Spanner R5 #amediting Update: "Enter the Monkeywrench" Final Chapter Lineup, Part 1

As of today, all the chapters in Enter the Monkeywrench Part 1 now have their final titles:
Interlude 0: The Monkeywrench Cometh
0. First Blast of the Trumpet
1. On the 13th Floor
2. Red Skies in Morning
3. Angel of Chaos
4. Your Mission, if You Choose to Accept It
5. Herald of the Coming Race
6. The Man with the Plan
7. The Pattern Emerges
8. Storming the Temple
9. The Fuses Have Been Lit
These chapters are the ones that will be in the Part 1 ebook. Now that I'm planning on an initial five-part serial release for Enter the Monkeywrench, I'm ending not just the book but every section with a cliffhanger, partly in homage to the old movie serials I loved as a kid and the serial novels that ran in the science-fiction magazines during the same era.

Interestingly enough, I also have the final chapter lineup for Part 5:
Interlude 4: City on the Edge of a Dream
37. The Empty City
38. Meet the New God
39. The Secret Meeting
40. Into the Underworld
Interlude 5: You Have Lost the Game
41. Stalking the Rotten Apple
42. Prepare for Ascension
43. True Sacrifices
44. Spanner in the Works
Interlude 6: The Virus Has Been Spread
Finally, I have the final Interlude lineup for the complete book:
0. The Monkeywrench Cometh (formerly 6)
1. The Top Five
2. The X Factor
3. The Coming of the New Flesh
4. City on the Edge of a Dream (formerly 9)
5. You Have Lost the Game (formerly 8)
6. The Virus Has Been Spread (formerly 1 "Rocket Ready")
Out of Book 1, I currently have the Intro and Chapters 0-4 and 7 complete. I'm currently working on Chapter 9; I'm writing most of it from scratch. After that, I'll give Chapter 8 the few edits it needs and a new ending that's a cliffhanger in itself. I should be able to finish them both tonight. Soon I'll have something I can at least release to beta readers. It's coming, sooner or later...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

#Spanner R5 #amediting update: 9 (But Really 12) Chapters for the Serial Novel's Part 1; or, Some Rough Plotting

I've finally settled on the number of chapters in Enter the Monkeywrench part 1 (9, not counting the 3 chapters numbered "0") and their final order. Now complete: the Intro and Chapters 0 and 1.

I switched the order of Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 2, we find out the violet-eyed girl (Leila in earlier revisions and later volumes) not only is scheduled to be sacrificed in order to turn a dead man into a god, but actually wants to be; and I realize, I need to evoke a feeling of dread. Chapter 3 is where we see the vision driving the COPCO Crime Prevention Division's precogs mad; in a new ending, we'll find out that the sacrificial priestess who intends to sacrifice the violet-eyed girl just happens to be the division president, and even the company CEO is afraid of her. I think this order works better.

Chapter 4: Shira, chief "troubleshooter" for the Wilder Foundation, gets her mission from the Foundation chairman (Thurston), meanwhile fending off African witch hunters as only a level-4 Charmer can.

Chapter 5: the series' major antagonists panic. Chapter 6 is the section "The Man with the Plan" from the old Chapter 1, expanded and revised; sure enough, a plan is involved, to deal with not only the "angel of chaos" killing the precogs but Shira too.

Chapter 7: Shira, Thurston, and the blond girl (Jennifer) have to explain a few things to the others. They hammer out some rough preliminary plans and do a few experiments. And they prevent an attack by the left-wing terrorists of the Socialist Revolutionary Organization — including Shira's "squib" half-sister Talia.

Chapter 8: The first phase of the villains' plan is set into motion.

Chapter 9: And Shira and company fend it off in what should be spectacular fashion. And Shira takes the mission. End of Part 1.

There's my own rough plan. I'll be deleting some scenes, writing some new ones, even importing one from Chapter 2 R4. After that, I'll smooth the continuity so everything leads to the cliffhanger ending.

Speaking of the cliffhanger, I added one new scene to the end. Will Becket, the vampire super soldier who sank his fangs into Osama bin Laden's neck (and the series' Char Aznable figure), makes his first ominous appearance in the story. And all he says is, "It has begun."

Monday, June 22, 2015

#Spanner R5 #amediting update: The New Plot of "Enter the Monkeywrench" Part 1, With Cliffhanger

The new opening section of Enter the Monkeywrench, originally the longer chapters 1-4 but now numbered 1-7, has a distinct plot with a cliffhanger ending. What Hugh Howey did with his now famous Silo Trilogy was revive the Golden Age science-fiction serial-novel tradition in ebook format. Such A.E. van Vogt novels as Slan and The World of Null-A actually read like Saturday-matinee movie serials in prose; Jommy Cross and Gilbert Gosseyn wouldn't be out of place alongside Commando Cody. I realized, I can do this too. Movie serials, and the short '70s TV revival of the format in the series Cliffhanger!, are actually a major influence on my writing. Of course, unlike the classic Republic and RKO serials, and much of Van Vogt's work, I go out of my way to avoid the plot contrivances that are a danger of the serial format, whether in movie serials or serial-format TV shows.

The final Enter the Monkeywrench Chapter 1 turned out to be entirely new material. I introduced a new character (a corrupted Edison Carter whom I named "Jack Campbell" after a certain SF magazine editor whose public decline is infamous) and killed him off. I introduced characters I'd previously saved for later. I established the stakes for the novel. In the previous chapters — the Intro, Interlude 0, and Chapter 0, in that order — I established the stakes for the entire Chaos Angel Spanner series.

I decided to split those four long long chapters I'd novelized out of comics issues and TV episodes into shorter chapters that focus on single characters or groups of characters. In the new Chapter 7 I'll combine the threads as they converge into a monster cliffhanger.

With the Intro, the new Interlude 0 ("The Monkeywrench Cometh", the actual introduction of the character Spanner to the series, reworked from Interlude 14 R2 and Interlude 6 R4), and new Chapter 0 ("First Blast of the Trumpet", a reworking of my original R5 Chapter 0 idea) at the beginning and the new Chapter 7 with its cliffhanger at the end, I could release this part as an ebook in itself, possibly even for free, with the four sequels that make up the rest of the novel priced at one dollar (or pound, or euro) apiece.

In fact, this is how I'm rewriting each part of Enter the Monkeywrench, leading up to the biggest cliffhanger of all, the one at the end of the novel, which has remained substantially the same through all the versions of Chapter (now Book) 1 since 2010.

Come to think of it, I may still be doing that comics/TV serial-novelization thing after all...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

#Spanner R5 #amediting update: Final Plot Reorganization: The Path Is Now Straight

I had something of a dry period. I added and subtracted some things, but I never finished a chapter except for the Intro. Suddenly I realized that the flashback-heavy structure of Chapter 1 R4 was not suited to a full novel. So I've made one final reorganization of the plot so that all its events occur in order, making the plot both less confusing and more relentless. Those "fixed patterns" Jennifer sees in the beginning? They will relentlessly converge until they collide in the final chapters.

I'm also shortening the chapters. Each chapter will follow one plot thread or series of related threads at a time, another way of uncomplicating the plot. It won't seem so indigestible. By shortening the chapters, I should be able to shorten the book as well, even though there will be more chapters.

As a bonus, I decided to throw in a terrorist faction I hadn't thought of using for at least a decade and a half and which previously existed only in a series of index cards and a few scattered entries in a mid-90s Project Notebook. That faction is one of many that Brinkman sends after our heroines in the new Chapter 1.

I'm doing all this because I intend Enter the Monkeywrench to be the introduction to the Chaos Angel Spanner series. I want it to go down easy. Once I've seduced my readers into this strange world, then I can get as complicated as I want, starting with the dual timelines of Book 2 (Rock City Blues). Besides, Enter the Monkeywrench takes place on a single day; the other volumes stretch over weeks or even months.

Next comes the actual throwing around of scenes. Now that the Intro and Enter the Monkeywrench Chapters 0 and 1 are all but perfect, I've already started.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Mid-Book Part 2: Later Additions Force Early Revisions

This seems to happen to me a lot: something I add to a later chapter requires that I retcon earlier chapters to fit the newly changed continuity. In this case, newly revised events in the final two flashback chapters (13 and 15) have just put events taking place in earlier chapters later in the timeline (Chapters 2-4) out of continuity. Specifically, the scenes involving two new villains added to Chapters 2 and 3 are now out of order, and one thread in Chapter 3 now takes place in the present rather than the past (earlier the day of the story i.e. as part of the flashback arc).

There's a bigger reason for this. The flashback chapters include a thread involving the COPCO agents starting in Chapter 7 and another which starts each flashback chapter, and both have tight plots. In its current state, the main thread is just a mess of expository dialogue interrupted by a few major events. The way the sideplots turned out made me realize that I need to give the flashback arc the tight plot it currently lacks. The mess is a carryover from Chapter 1 R4, in which the flashback arc was just a series of quick flashback scenes, each dedicated to a single reveal. But when I expanded Chapter 1 into an entire book, this no longer worked. Hence, the new plot.

It's the events of this new "earlier today" plot that are making me rewrite scenes in the earlier chapters. This is all for the better because it'll make for a stronger plot.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Halfway Through the Final Draft, With Ebook

Remember that plot spreadsheet I said I'd make?
Well, I made it, but it ended up taking too long for me to map the plot threads and character arcs with it, so I deleted it. However, thanks to Sigil, I am now building up the ebook chapter by chapter. With 10 chapters (counting the Intro) out of 21 (including Interlude 1) now complete, I'm halfway through the final draft at last. And it took me like forever?

Karen, the sweet Buddhist cousin, is now one of the flyers surfing the raging storm over New York on her hoverboard and laying Spanner tags. Amanda, the pretty TV reporter, now has a plot thread of her own, complete with character arc. Two of the characters I created around the time I came up with the final series name (in 1999) or the five-volume series plan (2000), the Treece brothers I based loosely on the Bogard brothers of the Fatal Fury videogame series (while I was in the middle of watching the anime at Cliff's Comic World, in fact; Adam = Andy roughly, and Kevin = Terry) finally got a reason to exist as independent characters in their own right — as hoverboard racers, Kevin laying his own Spanner tags from LA to Pittsburgh and leaving the "Climinal Team" flyers to take over from him in New York.

And yes, they are indeed calling themselves "Climinal Team", after a certain selectable team in what Shira calls simply "an old shmup" (specifically Armed Police Batrider; and yes, it's misspelled that way in the game), to signify in typically facetious Shira fashion that they're technically the villains in an America built on the supremacy of heroes. (Note: Batrider's excuse plot just happens to be set in Manhattan, in 2014, just as the dénouement of Enter the Monkeywrench was before I moved the timeline forward to 2018 last year i.e. in 2014.)

Getting halfway through the final draft is an achievement in itself. But that still leaves the other half of the book incomplete. I can't stop until the draft is finished and ready for my beta readers. There's also the matter of the Enter the Monkeywrench cover and the Chaos Angel Spanner series logo, both of which I'm continuing to procrastinate so far. So back to the edit it is. And the distraction I was hoping to avoid, namely NaPoWriMo, which my capricious muse won't let me avoid anyway. Oh well...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: In Which I Give Up on the Olden Ways and Start a Plot Spreadsheet

I have just discovered, long after I should have, just how extremely difficult it is to plot a novel as complicated as Spanner Book 1 without a spreadsheet. Until now I've had this stubborn notion, dating way, way back to the Apple II days of VisiCalc, that spreadsheets are for business calculating stuff no different from the paper ledgers that inspired the original spreadsheets. So for the last 3 years or so I was trying to wrestle this unwieldy plot into shape without a spreadsheet until I finally gave up.

This is the kind of thing that makes me feel old.

Anyway, I have started a spreadsheet for Spanner Book 1. Already my mind has started making the connections that evaded me when I was still trying to do everything in the HTML files. My writing may have improved by leaps and bounds because of all that editing, but plotting has been a lot more difficult. The spreadsheet is already making a difference.

And so I'm going to take a break from the rewriting for a while, though here and there I'll still slip in a few new scenes (one set at the end of "act 2" even contains a huge cliffhanger), until I've entered all the chapters and scenes into the new spreadsheet.

Some things just have to be done. It's a wonder I avoided doing it for so long.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: The Sinister Plot Is Complete, Now to Give the Characters Their Arcs

I thought I'd have trouble plotting all those messy or barely even written chapters of the new Spanner Book 1. To my surprise it turned out to be easier than I thought. Even so, I knew I had to finish the plot before I could start rewriting, or I'd remain stuck indefinitely. And now I have.

I started with the seven "flashback" chapters that take place earlier in the day. Some of them I kludged up out of really short chapters which I extracted out of Chapter 1 R4. I expanded everything and added real flashback scenes and a second plot thread. I did something similar to the 13 "present time" chapters that alternate with them. I made sure the plot coheres, the continuity has as few errors as possible, and there's some conflict and suspense in every chapter.

Finally, I organized the mess that was Interlude 0 and worked out the events of the next-to-last chapter, the big flashback chapter. Plotting these also turned out to be shockingly easy. Book 1's plot is now fully worked out so that I have a complete outline to work from.

But that was just the easy part. The real work now begins. Next come the all-important character arcs, especially those of main character Shira and apparent protagonist Rico. After that, I'm going to rewrite much or most of what I've written so far, and write what I haven't yet written. Once that's done, I'll need to do a full read-through and a second pass of editing to make sure I eliminate all the typos and continuity errors that slipped through. And I want to get it all finished and ready for the beta readers this month. And so it's on to the next step...

P.S. Incidentally, as Win Scott Eckert tells us, on this day in 1795 a certain meteor fell down near the hamlet of Wold Newton in Yorkshire, England, irradiating a very special group of people, some of whose descendants include various Spanner characters whom you'll recognize by the telltale names Becket (=Noel-Moriarty), Wilder (as in Clayton-Wilder), and Holmes...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spanner R5 #amediting Update: Why Does the Future Keep Catching Up With Me?

In the Spanner comics script I did for Script Frenzy in 2008, I opened issue 2 with a Dalek-like security robot summarily executing a one-shot character. Then in Chapter 4 R3, I gave Corporate patriarch Dr. Lars Thorwald, chairman of Biotron, a more advanced production version of a prototype robot that uses an iPod as its head and brain.

And now this:

The article: <a href="">5-foot-tall 'Robocops' start patrolling Silicon Valley</a> ( The subject: a security robot now policing the streets of San Francisco — and it looks exactly like the one from the Script Frenzy 2008 version of Spanner #2.

Why does the future keep catching up with me?

One thing about speculative fiction is that an author must keep second-guessing the future. My second guesses involve "friendly fascism", the technology of oppression, the cyberpunk truism that the street makes its own uses for things, and the level of tolerance that masses of ordinary people have for tyranny before their desire to live forces them to revolt (and the eagerness of elites to push that tolerance to its limits). Not superheroes, not psychics, not vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters; those belong to my critique of superhero mythology.

My problem is that I've been delaying Spanner's publication for so long that history has started overtaking my speculation. This problem has become so bad that I actually moved the years in which the series takes place from 2014-16 to 2018-20, simply because 2014 had already arrived and thus was no longer speculative. I picked the 2014 date all the way back in 1994, when I aged Shira down from her original 25 down to the Standard Anime Protagonist Age of 15; now I've aged her back up to 19 while keeping her birthdate of September 9, 1999.

Some events that occurred in the middle of writing and editing Spanner:
  1. the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-3, coupled with a "USA PATRIOT" Act that almost convinced me that the "future fascism" I'd been setting the series in since 1992 (if not 1989) had already arrived;
  2. the death of Steve Jobs in 2011;
  3. the "Arab Spring" revolutions and Occupy Wall Street movement, both also in 2011, and both of which failed; and
  4. the anti-police-state protests going on as I write this.
On the technology front, progress in aircar, jetpack, hoverboard, and sexbot technology is such that all of them will be in commercial release by 2018. Despite the failure of Google Glass, augmented reality will become common and normal just as tablet computers, which were a pie-in-the-sky technology, have become today. Another new technology I borrowed toward the end of the plotting phase (late 2000s) was the smartphone; later, in the leadup to the NSA surveillance scandal, I gave my hackers and rebels generic smartphones without tracking devices; and now the PiPhone (made from one of those tiny Raspberry Pi computers) has convinced me that, under a Chinese-style phone company/ISP monopoly with massive supercomputers dedicated just to censorship, hackers must kludge up their own smartphones and use secure meshnets for calling without the monopoly's interference.

Even the particular manifestations of the reactionary politics I would later call "the Conservative Revolution" have largely come to pass. Apparently I didn't get dystopian enough to expect the British "panopticon" surveillance policy, the growth of Soviet-style "vote for the ruling-party candidate Or Else" elections in the US, or the return of the Gilded Age capitalist predators who tried in the 1890s to destroy American freedom and are trying yet again. I did throw in a tyrannical megacomputer, but that's almost a cliché of 1960s and '70s science fiction that — surprise! — turns out to have become a reality as well, along with The Terminator's Skynet. It also took me years to realize that the "Conservative Revolution" is really just the ultimate manifestation of the American Civil War that, despite the near universal assumption that it lasted only four years in the 1860s, really started in the seventeenth century (or even the thirteenth, the century of mother country England's Magna Carta) and has never ended.

Yeah, I know, science fiction has a reputation for making predictions that turn out to be not just wrong but impossible. I throw in some impossible things myself, usually to either critique the superhero mythology or pay homage to classic SF. But too much of the SFnal speculation I've put into Spanner since 1992 has already come to pass, and I'm certain a lot more of it will by the time the story begins in 2018.

Now to edit that second-issue opening back into the third chapter of the new Book 2...