Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spanner: Shira Is 10!

#999 #webcomic Today Spanner main character Shira turns 10!

Back around 1995 or so, when I was in my longest period of artist's block ever and I compulsively wrote story notes for 5 full years (and then went on for another 7 or 8, only with drawings), I read a book by American ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes (his site here) in which he revealed to Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi that he was born on September 9, 1949 — the number 9 has special significance to the ninja — I realized right then that Shira Thomas would have to be born exactly 50 years later. Spanner begins right before Shira's 15th birthday. So today is a major day in the Spanner mythos. And Shira's birthday party will have to be a significant event in Black Science as well (toward novel's end, in fact).

But since Spanner is supposed to be a manga, this is a reminder that I need to start drawing again. I've been procrastinating this for over 2 years.

For those who don't know about Spanner (and that's most of you, no doubt): it's the manga I've had in the works since 1992; I haven't started drawing it due to the extreme difficulty I've had simply learning how to draw comics. I wrote the script for the first issue during Script Frenzy '08. My original idea for it was something like "teenage prankster brings down future fascist American dictatorship" and was heavily influenced by Norman Spinrad's Agent of Chaos and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (Shira largely resembles Stephenson's character YT, though I came up with Shira back in 1986). But three things have changed since 1992:
  1. What can now be called classical cyberpunk became as cliché as neo-noir.
  2. I started writing my prequel novels Bad Company and Black Science, which introduced the "Orwell meets Lovecraft" idea of corporations and other overly large organizations as hostile alien lifeforms, giving a sinister new meaning to the word "corporatism".
  3. Just this year, I got heavily into the whole social media thing starting with Twitter. Plus, it looks like I'm finally (much belatedly) getting a cellphone this year.
That mutated the premise of Spanner itself. Now the "future fascist United State [singular] of America" has become the ultra-corporatist "United Corporations of EuroAmerica", a.k.a. the "Corporate Empire" (itself an extrapolation from a much overused cyberpunk convention), in which corporations are "citizens" (technically, owners) and people are just another exploitable (and disposable) "natural resource". In fact, humans are considered inferior to robots because robots are reliable and humans, those temperamental and overly intelligent simians, are not.

The Corporate Empire, needless to say, has a massive Internet censorship operation to keep the world focused on how to do Corporation business at the expense of those annoying humans. The human resistance has its answer ready: the Darknet, that network of covert networks hidden from the infamous ECHELON spy (and now censorship) network with which the Corporate Empire controls the Internet and keeps it closed. Shira and her hacker friends exploit the Darknet and attack ECHELON, the central megacomputer GOD, and the rest of the Corporate network through it. (Once again, a further extrapolation of something that's been in cyberpunk since at least Neuromancer.)

About the character: Shira is, for one thing, a prankster. In fact, more mystical minds in Spanner call her an "angel of chaos". As the technocratic dictatorship of the Corporate Empire is based on a rigid order, she can't even exist within the system without inadvertently damaging it just by being herself. She is multiracial (part Apache, Japanese, and Afro-Brazilian as well as Irish and German), so she's fairly low in the racial caste system; however, she has many white friends and relatives who defy the race hierarchy out of love for her. There are also many liberal whites (and Japanese too) who reject their high station because they are liberal — something, of course, all but banned under the militantly "conservative" Corporate dictatorship. I could write more about Shira, but that would require a full character profile. Let's just end this by saying that one of the crucial turning points in Spanner is when she is revealed to be the person behind the famous outlaw hacker, graffiti tagger, and political revolutionary called Spanner.

It's Shira's 10th birthday today, of course. And the events surrounding this day, whatever they are (I haven't figured them out yet), will make it into my novel Black Science.

I'll have to draw at least one sketch of Shira today, hopefully to post here at 9:09 p.m. Pacific time tonight. And I'll have to write a new short story starring Shira/Spanner soon.

Back to Spanner’s World...

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