Friday, December 31, 2010

Spanner Chapter 17: Power, Corruption, and Lies

The Neo-Confederate reaction against the upcoming election in Cascadia is getting increasingly violent and hysterical. It’ll only get more so once people start learning what’s behind the Confederate dictatorship in the first place. Cynics like to call it the “Golden Rule” — no, not that one. The one that states: “He that hath the gold, maketh the rules.” I’ll get deeper into this subject in later chapters. But always keep in mind that in Spanner, nothing is what it seems.

Scenarios from the Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the school assembly and the Big Baddd incident.

I’m running out of “liner notes” right now, so I’m putting part of the story onto the main page this time.

The third act of this play has begun. Now it’s time for Shira to start dropping bombs.

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner — Book 1: Rock City Blues
Chapter 17: Power, Corruption, and Lies

Knowledge itself is power.
Sir Francis Bacon

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, I won’t get fooled again.

George W. Bush

7 October 2014
The world hasn’t been the same since the Infowar brought down the Internet and made the Neo-Confederate coup possible. Hackers didn’t bring it down. Governments did.

In 2012, America declared war on Iran. The Chinese and Russians entered the war on the Iranian side. The U.S. government, in conjunction with Israeli intelligence, used NORAD and Echelon to take over every computer system in America in an attempt to bring down the entire electronic infrastructure of China, Russia, and Iran. Predictably, they struck back in equal force. The Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war. But it could not survive the transformation of entire nations into gigantic botnets. The last remaining freedom in most of the world was obliterated by the rising alliances of extremist factions and criminal gangs. The one big winner was not the Church of America, nor the newly founded Cartel, but Echelon.

Today, computer and telephone ownership is a luxury. Only the privileged are allowed to have online communications access, and they are strictly controlled by Echelon.

That’s the law, anyway. Most people who can afford it are back online. But their access is illegal. Their computers and phones must remain in stealth mode. Their only means of access is the Darknet. As long as the Darknet stays up, at least a thin sliver of freedom will remain. But it gives the Mafias a citadel from which to attack the nations.

For the low-tech, there’s the Sneaker Net. To share information and pirated media content, they walk on their sneakers whose friction powers their personal area networks. They meet secretly like adulterers. They set up secret mail drops, or use the ones the Mafias created for the illicit trade in drugs, weapons, pornography, slaves, and exotic animals.

For the truly dedicated, there’s the Pony Express. Thrill-seekers eager to risk their lives work as couriers who deliver the mail personally. They deliver it by car, bus, bicycle, gypsy-cab taxi, and hoverboard.

Shira rides the storm’s air currents southward high above the parallel corridors of Interstate 5, State Highway 99, and the railroad and light rail tracks, her cargo secured behind her feet on her hoverboard. Her intuition informs her that this particular cargo may be very important indeed. But all she cares about right now is getting it to the man who is paying her to send it. He seems rich and connected enough to buy an order to keep the sky-darkening flocks of black TSA drone aircraft from interfering with her flight. Right now he drinks a spiked milk drink at Loco Moloko and waits.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NaNoFiMo 2010 For The Win!

I have now just won my first NaNoFiMo ever! I've been doing it for four years, but never won till now. All I had to write to win FiMo in earlier years was 30,000 words. This year, I decided to up my word count goal to 50,000, same as NaNoWriMo. And yet I won.

I think the change of novel did the trick.

Earlier, I focused on trying to finish my hard-to-finish '07 NaNo novel, Bad Company: A Corporate Terror Story. I failed to finish it every time, I won several WriMos after that, especially JulNoWriMo, but still I couldn't finish BadCo. So this year — two weeks into JulNo '10, to be exact — I gave up on BadCo and started novelizing my long-neglected manga project, Chaos Angel Spanner. That did the trick. I won JulNo with it, then lost yet another AugNoWriMo, resumed it during NaNo and won with it, and then won my first FiMo with it.

One thing that's been driving me to write it is the deadlines I set for myself. I'm posting Spanner here every Monday and Friday, something I started on November 1 (to coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo) and intend to continue till Book 5 ends sometime this next year. Another thing that's driving me is the years of frustration at not being able to teach myself how to draw comics, and the desire to finish a major project for perhaps the first time in my life. I'll get back to the drawing self-instruction later, since I'll be posting at least links to it here. But first, I want to finish Spanner once and for all.

Next: JanNoWriMo! My word count goal: 65,000. My real goal: finish Spanner Book 1, and then as much of Book 2 as possible.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Spanner Chapter 16: Media Wars

“Media Wars” is the third of the proposed chapter titles I took from my Project Notebooks of the Nineties and early ’00s (after “Spanner in the Works” and “Better Living Through Chemistry”). This title encapsulates one of the major cyberpunk themes contained in such CP-SF novels from the classic era as William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive, Norman Spinrad’s Little Heroes, and Bradley Denton’s Wrack & Roll. Above all, there was Max Headroom. A title like “Media Wars” was a complete no-brainer back when I was trying to write Spanner as science fiction. Now that the Media Wars are actually happening, what was science fiction then is reality today. I’ve updated the concept to include the Internet and social media — or what little is left of it after a little dust-up called World Infowar I...

One more obscure influence on this chapter in particular is a book from the mid-Seventies called Decadence, a post-mortem of the Sixties counterculture by a certain expatriate named Jim Hougan (who was then living on Ibiza a decade before the rave culture of the Nineties started developing there and ended its backwater obscurity). Its one major point, besides identifying America as something of a giant robot doomed to move in one direction until (in our near future) it crashes, is his antithesis within pop culture of alpha culture and omega culture. Alpha culture is the decentralized culture of the people; omega culture is the hypercentralized culture of the Man. Omega culture is a parasite that continually struggles to assimilate all potentially threatening alpha culture and lock it into unthreatening stasis. More than ever, the Man has a huge edge. But now we have the means to subvert the Man’s omega-cultural tyranny: the Internet, social media, and file sharing. After the Neo-Confederate coup and the Infowar, the Man seems to have total control. But in its hubris it has spawned the cancer that will kill it: the Darknet. (Here’s the book on it, an article on it, and the reply by Freenet’s creator.).

Scenarios from the Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the Doctor's visit and the terror group that calls itself the Socialist Revolutionary Organization. From the early Notebooks of the Nineties: the Rat Bastard (mostly on index cards, actually), the Pirate Television Network and its local station KCUF, and the cult known popularly as the TV Heads. The original cover concept for the proposed manga episode: a line of cartoon fish, escalating in size, all about to eat each other.

Special Mentions: Go-Man and Mister X!
Special Guest Star: Rupert Murdoch is News Corporation — literally!
Original soundtrack by Emergency Broadcast Network.

Now press play, and listen...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Cyberpunk World: Robot Waiters

It's not just in Star Wars or cyberpunk anime anymore. There's an actual restaurant in China with a mechanical wait staff. Just think of it: no wages to pay, no need for tips, no surly human employees. Sure, the restaurant in question may be robot-themed. But knowing American business types, it won't be long till it catches on big time...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Spanner Side Story: The Assassination of Satan Claus

Boy Satan is one of the most absurd Spanner villains that I haven't yet put into a script. Every year he goes a-grinchin' as "Satan Claus", trying to ruin everybody's holiday, at least online. And every year he becomes an irresistible target for Spanner, the mischievous Angel of Chaos, who uses everything from BFGs to tactical nukes in her quest to assassinate him.

Shira Thomas, the heroine of Spanner, tells the tale. One of her taller ones, to be sure. But in virtual reality, anything is possible...

The Assassination of Satan Claus:
A Yule-Wrecking Supervillain Story

The spy looks, talks, and acts like any other spy. If he didn't, he'd lose his job. The United Corporations don't like puny humans putting their grubby hands on their holy holy holy patents. And they patent everything. Normally they send the usual Keystone Gestapo to hunt down any and all violators. But this guy isn't EuroSec. He's from the Ministry of Intelligence. These guys hunt down suspected foreign agents. If he's one of their cyberenhanced elite superspies, I've got a special trick just for him.

He rattles off my name, rank, serial number, all that command and control crap. The Synarchy have a hierarchy fetish that drives us civilians up the wall. He takes his sweet old time before he starts trying to grill me, just to unnerve me. He fails: I keep my calm.

He intones in the typical spyboy monotone, "It seems you have come into possession of something very important that just happens to be ours."

"What, did I steal your boss's mistress? I hear she's got a thing for jailbait supersluts."

"Enough with the stupid jokes, Miss Clayton-Wilder." The Cartel lords may play nasty pranks on mere humans, but their agents are uniformly humorless. "This is a matter of National Security. The penalty for selling our secrets to the enemy is much worse than death."

"Yeah, yeah, I know all your penalties by heart, right down to the legalese detail. Thing is, they won't work. You can fine me, but your funny money's worthless. You can try putting me in one of your quote-unquote 'inescapable' superprisons, but there's no way you can hold an angel of chaos."

"Our prison technology is advanced enough to hold even Satan. But if you have stolen our most classified secrets as we strongly suspect, our revenge against you shall make it look like Satan got off easy."

"Au contraire, mon frère. I stole your precious thingie from Triad couriers your agents whacked. Your secrets? You swiped 'em all from the Chinks. Once again you're claiming something that's not yours. Just Corporatism acting like the troll on the bridge yet again. If you punish anybody, just try to punish the Chinese government you stole it from in the first place. Me, I got deniability, and you people know it."

"We can revoke your—" I interrupt him with a big kiss. He stands there stupidly. Prude.

"Sorry, massa, but I'm losing points right now, so I'm outta here yesterday." I throw a self-destructing one-way portal between us and slip through it. And I'm gone.

Stupid agent. Robots are more effective. Someday I'll use some of their own bots against them. Little do I know he's slipped a HyperTracer™ on me.

But I'm not concerned with that right now. Satan Claus is out grinching again. He's on a search and destroy mission to find any holiday party online and wreck it, leaving a lot of people out mucho moolah. He's hunting down and terminating every Santabot, elfbot, and angelbot he can find. One of my avatars just happens to be a Super Sexy Santabot. I switch to it.

Our Cyberpunk World: Now You See Me, Now You Don't

The article: Invisibility cloaks: Now you see me, but for how much longer?

Invisibility cloaks. Science fiction, right? Even better, fantasy! (see: The Arabian Nights or Harry Potter, etc., etc., etc....)

Think again.

Like the jetpack, aircar, and hoverboard, the invisibility cloak is now a reality. You can't buy them now, of course; the technology's still in the research stage, and the military and police demand first dibs Or Else. However, the cloaking device is more cyberpunk than those other sci-fi cliché technologies. Like teleportation as used in Alfred Bester's 1950s proto-cyberpunk classic Tiger, Tiger a.k.a. The Stars My Destination, cloaking is the wet dream of assassins and terrorists. Just look, for instance, at Spanner Chapter One...

Here's how it works. You're a terrorist, secret police agent, black ops super soldier, or serial killer. You put on an invisibility cloak (or your uniform is a cloak) and switch invisibility on. Now you can kill without anybody knowing you're there; your victim will look like Abu Alhazred being eaten alive in the middle of the souq by the demon Yog Sothoth.

There's three problems. One, no cloaking device will ever be able to hide your fingerprints or footprints. Observant Trackers and CSIs will still be able to see what you left behind and follow the clues all the way back to you. Two, cloaking involves materials that bend light rays, so it will never be perfect; you'll still be visible to the trained eye or special goggles. Third and worst of all, you never know if you yourself are being tracked...

Soon the cyberpunks and other science fiction writers will lose control of this technology. Very soon, it'll be all over the spy, terror, and police thrillers...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spanner Chapter 15: Start the Violence

Faithful readers, school is now out. Sure, there’ll still be scenes set at school, but that’s not where the main action is anymore. It’s out in the streets. All the high school kids are about to find that out for themselves once class resumes next chapter. This weekend belongs to the emperor of the world, his would-be assassins shooting for eternal glory, and the Angel of Chaos out to pwn them both. The final act of Spanner Book 1 begins here.

The original canon of cyberpunk science fiction coincides with the end of the political thriller’s heyday, the Eighties. The Left died with the Soviet Union as Stalin’s last and biggest victim. But still there is a political strain within cyberpunk, even if a minor one; naturally, it tends anarchist, just like punk rock itself. (Fortunately there’s still no fascist strain corresponding to Nazi street punk.) Even The Matrix skirts the edge of political cyberpunk, even if the sequels lose themselves in tech-gnostic obscurity. Now, I’m not yet avoiding the problems with political thrillers; the masses have even left the city to avoid getting hurt or killed when the assembled “Cons” (Neo-Confederates) start trashing it. But the Cons and “Corps” (Corporates) are the American Imperial élite. The masses will make their début soon, and then they will make their presence known.

Scenarios taken from my Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the first visit to Ariel’s New Age shop (which occurred earlier in the 2008 Script Frenzy script) and the police riot (in Seattle, no less); from the early Notebooks of the Nineties come the names of the three networks ABCNN, QVCBS, and ESPNBC.

Now we start rockin’...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spanner Chapter 14: When the Cat's Away

So far, most of the action following Chapter 1 has been a series of fight scenes that I've had a hard time translating from comics script fragments into unvisual prose. From now on, it's no longer going to be just a series of Challenges in the never-ending "Tournament" that invaded the schools from the streets. Now we leave the high school corridors and go back to the mean streets where the gangsters, terrorists, and cops rule. And the cops have just gotten their bloody hands on the very latest in bleeding-edge law enforcement technology. Expect the crooks to steal it from the cops soon, just like they always do.

So far, the yuri fans have gotten all the fun. Now at last it’s time for them to take a back seat for once and make way for the yaoi fangirls. The girls have gotten to throw themselves at each other since Chapter 2; now the boys get to go at it. Face it: the boys want beautiful Robert Shelley just as badly as the girls do. But to balance this out, I’m going to introduce another of the great clichés of manga and anime, the Evil Bishounen. Arvid Shield is starting to get too ambiguous, so I need a beautiful boy who can incarnate pure hideous evil. So, from the pages of my unfinished prequel Bad Company, I bring you one of its major villains.

Scenarios taken from my Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: the Law of Plausible Deniability, the coed shower scene, the band called Gang and their frontman Eddie Evil, the interrupted sacrifice, and the police raid on the pit bull fights.

Fasten your seatbelts, faithful readers! The pirate ship Spanner is about to shift into warp drive, and the real chaos is about to begin...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Spanner Chapter 13: The Battle of Evergreen Park

Halfway into a story, you expect something important to happen that will power the story to the shocking conclusion. Well, we’re now well into the second half of Spanner, which means the Author had better pick up the pace. And how better to do that than by having one villain draw a higher-ranking villain into his fight? Charmian Fleer has done this already. Now it’s Stan Green’s turn. Next — who knows?

From the Project Notebooks: the homeroom teacher’s question, “Ilsa, She-Wolf of Hollywood,” the mock fainting spells, Mimi in the locker room, the battle in the park, the loaded yo-yo, and the policebots (and what Shira does to them). All are from the early ’00s except for the robot idea that has remained essentially the same since the ’90s.

So far, I’ve neglected some major players and elements in the story. I left them behind when I took the story to high school. But now the strife is beginning to spread outside the school. Particularly from Chapter 5 onward, I downplayed some of the story’s more political aspects so I could introduce important plotlines and focus on the interplay of specific characters. That’s done. Now it’s time for me to start kicking the story into high gear.

Since Team Bremelo are holding a big gathering with family and friends invited to come, I’m taking the opportunity to bring some of the back. I’m also debuting another major villain, one I originally created for a very early version of Chapter 1 I plotted out in the later Project Notebooks. He’s a major player in my still unfinished prequel, Bad Company. But he never appeared in the Script Frenzy 2008 comics script. So he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to start making trouble — till now.

Beware: the Travelling Shovel of Death craves blood...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spanner: When Cyberpunk Is Not Science Fiction

Remember steampunk? You've probably heard of it by now, since it's been getting trendy lately. It started out as a retro application of cyberpunk, but it has long since outgrown science fiction and now seems to be spanning the gap between SF and fantasy. Today, steampunk is no longer necessarily science fiction anymore.

The same goes for cyberpunk itself. It used to be the exclusive preserve of science fiction writers who applied the new-wave SF approach pioneered by the likes of Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison the '60s and '70s to the hard-boiled crime fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson — or the other way around, depending. When the first-generation cyberpunks didn't write about hacker antiheroes (William Gibson's Case, Neal Stephenson's Hiro Protagonist), they focused on cyborg assassins and the like.

Today, we're actually living in cyberpunk SF's time frame. The cyberpunk writers, including the first generation, know it. Gibson's recent "Blue Ant" trilogy and Stephenson's Cryptonomicon are set in the present day. To me, it's become clear that, like steampunk, cyberpunk is no longer merely a subgenre of science fiction. Like steampunk, it's outgrown the genre that spawned it. It's an approach that lends itself well to a certain subset of thriller subgenres, including the technothriller and the political thriller. Popular movies such as The Matrix and Minority Report prove that you can build action adventures on the cyberpunk template.

In 1992, the year Snow Crash came out, when I came up with the initial idea for the proposed manga I would later call Chaos Angel Spanner, I set it in 2014 because I intended it to be clearly cyberpunk, and cyberpunk in those distant days before the Web and social media was clearly science fiction. Now it's 2010. Much of what the futurists and SF writers predicted last century has already come to pass, or will in the next few years. 2014 is barely "twenty minutes into the future" these days. Spanner is a contemporary action thriller now. But it remains every bit as cyberpunk as when I came up with the original idea almost two decades ago.

Sure, most of what we call cyberpunk today is still science fiction. But now it's possible to write something that's cyberpunk through and through and yet doesn't belong to the science fiction genre. Something like Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Or Spanner. Since we live in the cyberpunk universe today, it's increasingly absurd to classify cyberpunk as merely a SF subgenre. Today, genre and style no longer coincide. Instead, they overlap. Just like steampunk.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spanner Chapter 12: Medium Cruel

If the title of this chapter sounds punny, that is entirely deliberate. It’s also no coincidence that Shira starts to look even more amoral than in previous episodes, particularly considering which major villain is making his début here. After all, morality is not really the point. In the school scenes, this time the mean girls get their day in the fighting spotlight that the bullyboys have hogged till now; believe it or not, they’re actually better fighters than the Tournament-obsessed boys. Willa, Aira, and Nenene also get major roles this chapter, and the Yakuza ex makes his first appearance in second person.

Once again, this chapter contains mostly new material written during NaNoFiMo. Even so, it still contains some material originating in my early ’00s Project Notebooks: the girl-on-boy rape scenario, the dance-off during which Shira wins the Japanese national championship (though the character of Nenene didn’t exist then), and the Aya Shibata arcade battle. The character of Byron Scofield is, along with Henry Becket and Diana Shockley, one of the original three villains I created back in 1992, but the only one of the three I forgot. Now he takes his rightful place in the story I created him for.

And the seemingly science-fictiony high tech returns as the savior of the video arcades. The first two versions of the fighting-game scene involved motion capture (which I first saw used to control a fighting game at Seattle’s GameWorks) and immersive virtual reality; one is now becoming standard home console equipment and the other is better suited to MMORPGs and related environments such as Second Life (the original Metaverse in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash can be described as Second Life plus immersive VR). I asked myself, What would be the cutting edge of Japanese arcade technology in 2014? The answer I guessed below is related to hoverboard technology.

Now featuring mid-air drunken monkey kung fu!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spanner: My Plans for the eBook Version

Sometime next year, there will be an ebook version of Spanner Book 1. I'm going to finish it during NaNoFiMo, but chapter 23 isn't scheduled for posting here till January 2011. After that, I'll edit it once more, possibly during NaNoEdMo, to make it much more coherent than the serial novel is even in its edited state. EdMo may be the perfect time to learn how to make an ebook out of a blog novel.

After I edit Spanner Book 1 into its final form, I'm going to convert the original HTML and/or Microsoft Word source into all the major ebook formats and then sell it online in all the big online bookstores. But I'll probably charge only $3 or so for it, and I'll go no higher than $5. Most publishers sell the electronic versions of their printed books at the same price printed on the paper books' cover. I don't believe in that. It strikes me as absurd because there's no paper, ink, type, and labor to pay for. It's the same kind of corporate absurdity that drives the record companies to price CDs higher than DVDs.

The work I'll have to put into the final edition will be more than just thinking things up, writing them down, and editing the resulting work, more than just the work of a couple WriMos and an EdMo. I'll need to choose the right fonts, design the page, and draw the illustrations. I'll have to turn the Book 1 cover I see in my mind (the Spanner tag on the front, a color illustration of Shira on the back) into something printable and eyecatching. And then I'll have to promote it relentlessly. I'll have to find some way to cause enough of an uproar that the novel will sell its way into print.

It won't be easy, to be sure. But nothing about Spanner has ever been easy. After all, I've been ripping my hair out over this thing for almost two decades; it's a miracle that any still remains on my head...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sexbots 3: Sexbots of the Human Kind

To sum up the previous two posts, real sexbots are nearing mass production, and somebody will hack some into rapebots. There's already speculation about an even more dystopian scenario: in the future, there will be people implanted with some mind-control device that will turn them into human robots, or "meat puppets". I'll eventually post something about specifically that. But right now there's one particular use I'm concerned with. If people can be physically hacked into robots, some of them are bound to become human sexbots.

You know the Man will spin robotization of humans as the ideal way to dispense with criminals without killing them. To the corporations, they'll sell it as the ideal workforce; certainly the prison-industrial complex will try to profit huge from this. But some Corporates and political types will see through the spin...

What is the feminine ideal for the male power luster? Beautiful, insatiable, naked, and utterly obedient to his commands. Stereotypes are always misleading. Most women have at least some sense of dignity. But what the man of power wants is a harem of pliant beauties who worship his every sexual craving and bear his children unquestioningly. Since humans are as unreliable as they are sexy, the way to make them perfectly reliable (not to mention pliable) is to hardwire their brains so that they become soft-fleshed sexbots. Then they'll have no will but his own. He won't have to worry about them leaving him, much less turning feminist, ever again. If he's especially ruthless, he could do the same to his own wife, or even his daughters. Being Corporate, you know he'll get away with it. Turning your wife and daughters into your own personal sexbots could even become all the rage among the overclass, just like in Ira Levin's Stepford...

And of course you'll see rich women doing that to men. Human sexbots made out of dangerous criminals could become a hot commodity among Corporate women.

Sure enough, science fiction has dealt with this, even before The Stepford Wives. But now we're already living in the cyberpunk universe; so much of what we take for granted today was science fiction then. And most of science fiction has dealt with the dark side of technological advance. What makes the dark side so dark is that there are people the dark side strongly appeals to. Nuclear war? Generals masturbate over it. Panoptical surveillance? The voyeur's wet dream. Rapebots and human sexbots? Hentai manga's already running away with this kind of stuff.

You know I'll throw it into Spanner sometime...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spanner Chapter 11: Bad Girls Can't Win

This is the first full chapter I’ve written during the 2010 edition of NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month), the writing month that follows NaNoWriMo. There are two scenarios here from earlier: the sleepover scene, heavily modified from the original scenario I recorded in the early-’00s Project Notebooks; and the serial killer scene that came to me after Steve Irwin’s death, now the climax to a complete sequence combined with another post-notebook scenario involving a school clique of outcasts latching onto a serial killer, and featuring not only the plucking of the knife and the ensuing quip from Shira, but also NaNoWriMo’s infamous Travelling Shovel of Death. Everything else is new material I wrote to fill in the plot.

This chapter introduces a new Slasher Hunter character I didn’t introduce in Chapter 8. It also introduces Marina Reyes, another of the original Team Spanner members I came up with back in 1992-5 while I still belonged to my college’s anime club; this leaves only one more Team Spanner original left before the original team is complete at last. Rap producer Jayzus dates back to 2000 or so, as do his rivals in the Wu-Tang-like rap group called the Chi-Sah Gang whom I’ll introduce later.

What’ with all the sexual incorrectness? Why do some characters don’t care about what gender one’s lover is or bother to wear their clothes at home when both are illegal and viciously punished? There’s a point to this that will be revealed later. Ever since I started plotting Spanner in 1992, the Culture War has been one of its major themes. Time to sit back and watch the war play out...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spanner Chapter 10: Fashion Meltdown

Here’s the first major episode in the “Fashion War” plotline that will be running throughout Spanner. Once again, I’ve cobbled together several fragmentary scenarios and pulled them into a coherent whole. The music video (narrated, of course) and the “fashion war” itself are new; but the “school shooting,” “serial killer clique,” and “Pie Kill” scenarios, the “Wild Style” idea, and the characters of Arvid Shield, Minty Fresh and Lala Sun-Microsoft come from the early-’00s Project Notebooks (numbers 11-14) from before I started doing NaNoWriMo.

This is the last chapter of Spanner Book 1 that I wrote during the 2010 editions of JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo. Starting next chapter, I’m using NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month) as my excuse to finish the rest of Book 1. This is, in fact, the first new chapter to use material written during FiMo. (The expanded Chapter 2 contains the first material I wrote for FiMo ’10.)

This time, I’m not just throwing in the usual wild plot pyrotechnics here. Now we’re getting into Wild Style!

Oh yeah: this time there’s songs, too...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spanner Chapter 9: Checkered Pasts

Back during JulNoWriMo, I wrote this under a different name. The final title — modified from a band, not a song — fit much, much better, even if it eliminated a chapter title drop (which also happened to Chapter 3), though I made up for it in the final section. The lesson for one ex-Interpol agent and one would-be Navy ship captain is: be careful what you ask for, you might get... something completely different...

This is the last chapter I actually began writing during JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo. Everything that comes after this will be new — except, of course, unless I take it out of the Project Notebooks from the last decade and a half. (The beauty pageant scene is excerpted from a longer script in the Notebooks; the love scene and the morning after reappear here nearly intact.) And this is the first scheduled to be published during December 2010 — that is, during NaNoFiMo, when of course I’ll write 30,000 words for the win finish Spanner Book 1.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NaNoFiMo: And The Writing Resumes...

After winning NaNoWriMo for the fifth straight time, I still don't have a finished novel. Even after winning JulNoWriMo this year, I still haven't even finished Spanner book 1. And so I'm doing NaNoFiMo — National Novel Finishing Month. For the first time in my four years attempting FiMo, I intend to finish a novel. And I'm going to win it for the first time, even though my goal this year is 50,000 words, 20,000 more than FiMo's original standard 30,000-word target.

Right now, as of tomorrow morning (next post, in fact), I'll be ten chapters into book 1 (counting the Intro, or "chapter zero"). I've got two chapters ready to post. That means I'm only halfway through book 1. I'm going to edit a couple chapters, especially 2, 7, and 10, to add a few things: one short scene in chapter 7, the song lyrics in chapter 10, and . I need to get all the way to Chapter 23. The only way I can do that is by writing. Thus, FiMo: my goal this month is to finish the whole thing and get it ready to post. When I'm done with that, I'll finish book 2 during JanNoWriMo.

There's one other Spanner-related goal I've set for December, and that's to draw at least one thing each day. I know I can do that; it's just that I haven't bothered. I'll be returning to the Spanner script that won Script Frenzy '08 (after I rewrite it up to chapter 5), so I'll need to get my drawing skills back up to a tolerable level. I'll start my drawing self-instruction again, needless to say, since there's still a lot of things I haven't learned how to draw.

I'll post updates here. And I'll make sure to keep the Spanner novel's page updated regularly.

Gratuitous Trademark Symbols: Corrected

William Gibson has always loved to drop brand names. Ever since he set the example in the early 1980s, cyberpunk writers have no doubt been faced with the temptation to throw in a whole bunch of gratuitous trademark symbols, just like some of those pretentious postmodernist professors like to do in those essays and theses they publish way too much of in order to not perish.

Me, I gave in to the temptation a few days ago. I suspect I contracted the disease from the old Toren Smith/Adam Warren Dirty Pair comics. I put a lot of ™s and ®s into most of the posted chapters of Spanner. It struck me as pretentiously pomo, something a professor would do. So I removed them.

It's ridiculously easy to make mistakes, even when you think you know what you're doing. What sounds great at first blush turns out to be stupid in retrospect. The problem with going directly into print is that it's extremely difficult to correct your mistakes, requiring changes from printing to printing. That's why editors are so important in publishing; if the editor sucks, or the author has protection from editors, the mistakes can ruin the book. The virtue of self-publishing online, at least at first, is that you can edit your posted chapters at any time (though it's a good idea to let your readers know there's been revisions).

Sometimes I like to try out new things. Sometimes they don't work out. This idea didn't. It probably won't be the last...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Fivepeat: or, After the Happy Dance

For the fifth consecutive time, I've won NaNoWriMo; for the second time in a row, I've won it early. I'm not about to reach last year's 85,000-word record, but then now that I've won I no longer feel the urgency that drives me during Panic Time. After all, I'm actually posting my novel right here, and I've set semiweekly deadlines for myself.

Still, when the NaNo validator bot turned my green word count bar purple, I whooped and hollered loud enough to disturb the neighbors and did my happy dance; and I still intend to celebrate my victory with champagne and pizza. I now have enough NaNo victories to put rings on all the fingers of one hand, like the Steelers and 49ers.

But what comes next? Since both volumes of Spanner are far from being even half done, there's NaNoFiMo, and then JanNoWriMo after that. I'll use those WriMos to whip up enough chapters to post so Spanner won't interfere with my fourth and last go-round with Bad Company during NaNoEdMo, nor with my next 50-song FAWM. Also, I can get back to drawing, too, now that I have enough time again.

One thing won't change. I'm going to continue posting Spanner, chapter by chapter, all the way to the Outro. It ain't over, as the saying goes, till it's over.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spanner Chapter 8: Better Living Through Chemistry

I only got around to outlining this chapter before I burned out on AugNoWriMo for the third consecutive year. The name is one of the first I came up with for the original Spanner comic, back in the late 1990s; the final scene (before the Interlude) is one of the first scenarios I scripted for the proposed manga back in the early ’00s. (Another scene I wrote during that period is the one in which she wakes up with Dexter.) As I ended up actually writing it, it’s bookended by two of the series’ biggest turning points. Like Chapter 7, it turned out to be a “theme” episode, though still entirely within the plot. Of course, I had to throw Shira’s birthday into the mix, with a surprise new character...

Stick around as the plot darkens...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sexbots 2: The Rapebots Are Coming

Last post, I pointed out that, like jetpacks, aircars, and hoverboards, sex robots actually exist in the real world today. But this post is about the possible dark side. And I don't mean all those men who will be turning away from heterosexuality in favor of robosexuality, which will likely hit the economy pretty hard. I mean crime.

Now, take your typical Russian mafia/secret police (same thing) hacker. He tends to be consumed with his tribe's desire for revenge against the non-Russian world. He spends way too much time designing viruses, worms, and botnet assimilants. He gets a sexbot. Once sexbots are mass produced, every gangster will have to have at least one sexbot, partly as a status symbol and partly because gangsters hate women. What does our botnet master do with a sexbot? Well, maybe he keeps one for actual sex. Any extras, though, he hacks into rapebots. And he could hack any sexbot connected to the Internet into a rapebot.

Take a certain yakuza (Koji-kun's father in Spanner) whose favorite manga is the infamous Rapeman. By 2014, sexbots are being mass produced in Japan. He's going to turn a male sexbot into a robot Rapeman no matter what. Then he's going to send his Rapebot after that treacherous gaijin whore who stole his number one son away from him. Little does he know that the gaijin in question, one Shira Thomas, is enough of a hacker that she can use her smartphone to hack his rapebot so that it goes after, say, poor Koji-kun in order to rape him. And yes, she's yaoi fangirl enough to do it.

And then what about the malfunctioning sexbots that innocently rape any human female at hand due to some glitch?

Of course, when you talk about the dark side, you must mention potential military uses. No, not as (robo)sexual partners for lonely soldiers. No, as weapons. What if the US military decided it wanted to use rapebots as a weapon of war, especially against the hated "Wogs" in the Middle East? And some of those sexual combots get even further hacked because some psychopath has developed a fetish for serial killer rapebots? Now put one of those serial killer rapebots in the hands of angry power-seeking narcissist Drusilla Becket, and then you'll really have a cyberpunk story then...

And then how about the microchipped humans who get remotely mind-controlled into sexbots? The principle is the same as the ex-con soldiers mind-controlled by the military, or the "Manchurian candidates" who have long been the special darlings of all the spy agencies.

One of my planned major story threads in Spanner involves Shira's amazing ability to hack combots to do her will against their own masters (or just rip their own heads off). How did she learn this ability? By learning how to hack sexbots, especially the one she gets for Christmas from her adoring Aunt Willa in Book 2.

Black hat sexbot hacking? You know that idea's cyberpunk to the core. In fact, back in 1993 Mike Saenz of Shatter fame created an all-CGI cyberpunk comic book called Donna Matrix featuring a bondage sexbot whose brain is replaced by a combot's, so the idea's already part of the cyberpunk canon...

Next: meat puppets...

Spanner Chapter 7: Here Come the Brides

Okay, yuri fans, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Originally Chapter 5 in the original JulNoWriMo draft, this entire chapter is pure yuri in concentrate. Ironically, it has nothing about the story’s central relationship, the one between Shira and Leila...

Even though I wrote this chapter from scratch in July and all its story ideas are new, it has its roots in the mid-Nineties origin of Spanner. First I read Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae in 1992, then I found the infamous yaoi manga Desperate Love 1989 (Zetsuai) in fan translation online in 1996. The combination was as explosive as the chemical reaction that results when you put metallic sodium in water, and Spanner began to take its mature form as the yuri manga I wanted it to be. You can consider this chapter an aftershock of that mind bomb.

Special Guest Stars: President Sarah Palin AMERICA! and her dog Spot! soon-to-be ex-husband...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Cyberpunk World: The Sexbots Are Here

The article: Sexbots Will Give Us Longevity Orgasm (and many more linked from there)
[Update: Other relevant articles include The Future of Coitus: Life-Long Loving with a Sexbot, The Implications of Sexbots, and How Will Sexbots Change the World?]

You'd think sex robots are something out of a cyberpunk science fiction novel. Well, they were, back in the 1980s. Comes the Internet age around 1995 or so, and when the "cyborgasm" fad got boring, robot designers turned to more enduring cyberpleasures and began building sexbots. Fifteen years later, they're on the verge of entering mass production. They're also on the verge of being banned by puritanical tyrannies such as the United States of America. Ironically, it'll be because many feminists hate the idea — because it'll give some heterosexual men an excuse to abandon women altogether, to the point of declaring women obsolete. Of course, they conveniently forget to realize that women are using male sexbots engineered and programmed to give them sexual pleasures of a high level that no man, hand, dildo, or vibrator can pull off.

Sure, some men will get so addicted to their sexbots that women will seem sexually boring and merely human in comparison. The same goes for women in relation to men. Inevitably, some creative robot engineer will come up with sexbots specifically designed for same-sex robosex, particularly the male models with self-lubricating penises like seme characters in Japanese yaoi manga. And, of course, some people will be just plain robosexual and not even be attracted to other humans at all.

Now fast forward to 2014 and Spanner. Sexbots are now being mass produced in Japan and Europe. America is ruled by a dictatorship theocratic enough to ban sexbots on principle (i.e. because of the Christian Right's holy hatred of sex or anything else remotely fun). That makes sexbots highly prized contraband, and you bet the Mafias will quickly secure a lock on sexbot distribution in the New Confederacy. Strangely enough, the United Corporations' sex-fascist Eugenics Institute doesn't have a problem with people having sex with robots as long as sex between humans remains rigidly regulated "for the improvement of the race". A new way to bring down a high-ranking politician, cop, or pastor in an inferno of scandal? Catch him purchasing or using a sexbot. Meanwhile, sexbots become status symbols and fashion items among the "morality"-averse antiprohibitionists. You can buy one off the Mafias, or steal it from them (a favorite Team Spanner recreation), or kludge up one or a few of your own.

Sexbots aren't just something out of 1980s cyberpunk novels, or 1970s New Wave science fiction for that matter. Like jetpacks and aircars, they're already here; the only question is what they cost and when they'll go into mass production.

Next: the dark side...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spanner Chapter 6: Fight for the Right

One more chapter written during JulNoWriMo ’10 and containing four scenes that originated as scripted manga scenarios in my Project Notebooks from the early Noughts (Notebooks 11 through 14): the bus, the principal’s office, the five-on-one brawl, the girls’ locker room. I changed those scenes somewhat from the early scripts to refine them and put them in their proper place in the plot, but otherwise they remain fundamentally the same as I when I scripted almost a decade ago. All the other scenes are new.

There’s much more fighting here than in previous chapters (though there’s lots of bombs in Chapter 3), mainly because Shira has multiple run-ins with head boy Bart and his Tournament fighters. As far back as the Nineties I wanted to throw lots of fight scenes into the Spanner manga, and they would have looked too cool for words. However, right now I’m stuck with words, so I guess I’ll have to deal for now...

The title is a pun. Bonus points to those who get it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spanner Chapter 5: I Lerned Alot in Skool

The most “manga cliché” part of this novel I originally planned as a manga is the high school setting. Sure enough, here we are back in high school (even if the school in question is not the one I went to back in the day). But this onetime school outcast (I was the weird kid whom the jocks nicknamed “Space Helmet”) refuses to romanticize his teenage years. For, face it, my youth was hell. And so, probably, was yours, even if it wasn’t as bad as mine. And the jock, prep, and mean girl princess cliques remain as hellbent as ever on making life hell for those beneath them in the social hierarchy.

Now, into this unlit powderkeg where kids with adult pull persecute outcasts and misfits, where earnest educators struggle against fascistic boot-camp martinets, throw a Molotov cocktail. Better yet, fly her in on a hoverboard, just like the one that Spanner himself rides. And watch the chaos ensue.

Class is now in session. You had better hope that this turns out to be a positive learning experience.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spanner Chapter 4: Special Delivery Service

Excuse me while I go all FAWM liner note...

This was originally going to be Chapter 2 when I wrote it during JulNoWriMo, but the original Chapter 1 grew so huge I split it into three separate chapters. So now you’re looking at Chapter 4. The first two parts conclude the extended opening begun in Chapter 1. The third part is a homage partly to William Gibson’s recent novels set in the present day and partly to gangster movies. The final part could be from a spy movie, a gangster movie, a classic film noir, or Pulp Fiction. Finally, Part 1 was written during AugNoWriMo for a Chapter 2 I originally intended to put between the original Chapter 1 and this. I found only two fragments of the AugNo Chapter 2 usable: the first establishes the suicide bomber’s motive, so I put it in Chapter 3 where it belongs; the second, I put here. The last part is a late continuity retrofit [which now incorporates one of the original scenes planned for this early section of the novel].

The two [now three] sections (counting the entire extended opening) are closely connected, but the connection is not yet apparent. However, I’m not yet done introducing characters; I won’t be done with that for another several chapters still...

Note: You’ll find lots of ethnic slurs from this point on. When they’re capitalized and used as if trademarked, they designate the national origins of the Mafias, as here. After all, gangsters are more tribal than most people and far more prone to Fantastic Racism. You've already met the “Honkies” (i.e. Minuteman); here we meet the “Russkies” (Russian Mafiya) and “Wops” (Italian Mafia); soon the “Japs” (Yakuza), “Chinks” (Triad), “Micks” (Irish mob), and other Mafias will invade the story. And yes, they’re all irrationally racist about each other, usually to violent extremes. And wait till you meet the “Freaks”... (However, “mudblood” never designates a Mafia and is always used as a racial slur. Jennifer will explain the full meaning of the word in Chapter 7.)

Update 1/7/2011 — Newly restored to the story: 1) the courier company scene and characters from Project Notebook #13 (2005); 2) the hoverboard delivery sequence from the notes I made in July/August ’10. Also from the Project Notebooks of the early ’00s: Leila’s dream. The sections are now better connected, even if subtly; there’s now a theme of sorts, so I changed the title to match. Several characters important later in the story are introduced in the final here.

Anyway, the pyrotechnics are about to resume. Read on...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spanner Chapter 3: The Whole Point of No Return

Back during JulNoWriMo, I wrote a chapter which consisted of a bunch of episodes. This was the original version of Spanner chapter 3, which had a working title (“Playing the Angel”, as in the Depeche Mode album) that I’m not using in this final version. Some of them are related to Chapter 1 and what is now Chapter 2, and those are what make up the August section of the new Chapter 3 below. Together with the beginning of the next chapter, they make up the extended opening of Spanner. The rest are going into Chapter 5, to be posted next week. The final section with the Becket brothers is entirely new and intended to both fill out this chapter and fill a plot hole I didn’t know existed. (I originally put a title drop there, but now both the original title and the title drop are gone.)

Even earlier, I wrote a script for the first four issues of the proposed Spanner manga for Script Frenzy. Two scenes taken from that script (for the first issue), the “magic show” and “exploding café”, I appear here in condensed and hugely modified form.

If you think the story’s getting interesting (read: insane) so far, well, read on, faithful readers...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keenan Sasser in: Trope Overdose, or TV Tropes Will Ruin Your NaNoWriMo

For AugNoWriMo the past couple years, I’ve been writing metafictional short stories about a writer named Keenan Sasser. It all started back in ’09 with a title (“Any Monkey with a Typewriter”), a name (Keenan Arthur Sasser), and a sentence (“Any monkey with a typewriter can write fifty Keenan Sasser stories a day”). The results can be found in the AugNo anthologies for 2009 (“Any Monkey...”) and 2010 (“Mindsets”). Well, here’s another, just to distract myself from writing Spanner during NaNoWriMo 2010 (Twitter hashtag: #amprocrastinating). Needless to say, I drop the names of both TV Tropes and NaNoWriMo in the title, and all boldfaced terms in the story can be found on TV Tropes. Go figure...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spanner Preview: Slice

Here’s a scenario I’ve taken from my early-’00s Project Notebooks for Spanner Book 2 as a NaNoWriMo preview, featuring main character Shira Thomas and her gorgeous Irish girlfriend Leila Shelley, with mention of Shira’s Buddhist cousin Karen Kubota and Team Spanner’s “tagalong kid/token loli” Aira Izumi. I added the surf rock soundtrack just today in a fit of sudden inspiration. I hope you like it!

Spanner Book 2 NaNoWriMo Preview: “Slice”


As Dick Dale wails on surf guitar on the stereo in the background, the giant yakuza Slice charges Shira with katana held high to slice her in half, screaming “KIRU YUUUUUUU!” Shira stands in his way, like the matador waits for the bull. The sword comes down, Shira slips away, the sword lodges in a wooden cabinet. Shira slips out the rec room door into the kitchen and slams it shut. Slice wrests his blade out of the wood and speeds toward the kitchen door, heedless of anything standing in his way.


Slice smashes through the door and trips over Shira’s outstretched leg, falling hard onto his face and rock-hard belly, katana stretched out before him. When he looks in front of him, he sees a pair of beautiful bare legs in blue tennis shoes. Leila stands above him in her blue sailor-girl school uniform.

The huge hitman bounces to his feet and raises his sword over Leila. “KIRU YUUUUUU!” She does not move; her violet eyes bore deep into his. He brings the sword down as hard as he can.

Leila catches the sword in a naked blade capture.

She holds the blade motionless between her hands and continues to stare hard into his eyes. He struggles to free his katana from her hands, but she does not budge and neither does the sword. With ever greater force he tries to force the sword out of her hands.

She breaks the blade off at the hilt and runs him through with it.

Slice looks down in shock at the katana blade sticking out of his gut, and then at the beauty who broke it. “K’sohhhhh...” he moans. He falls over onto his back, dead.

Leila rushes over to Shira and kisses her deeply on the lips. “Are you all right, love?”

Shira sighs. “There goes our big bounty...”

“I”d rather lose a lot of money than risk losing you, love. Let's go.” Leila kisses her gently.

Shira looks down at the dead yakuza. “Let’s just hope Ai-chan’s safe.” She sets her Droid Mega to send a GPS signal to Karen as Leila leads her by the hand toward the front door. Soon they will resume their search for Aira in hopes of finding her alive.

Go to the Spanner Page for the rest of the story so far!

Copyright © 2010 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

Spanner Chapter 2: Brown Note

Here's my third semiweekly installment of Spanner. As you can see, the story is still episodic at this early stage, looking more like a series of interrelated short stories strung together. This is because it’s still really early in the story, and I’m still establishing all the major plot threads. Once I’ve done that, the full continuity will kick in, and the story will shift into overdrive.

The original version of this chapter was posted on the AugNoWriMo forums (now closed). The version now posted is the official 2.0 version, greatly expanded from the original. It was originally intended to be a post-chapter interlude, but grew into an entire chapter with a coda interlude of its own. Except for the section with Diana and her daughter Belle at home, everything up to the line “Prove it!” was written during AugNoWriMo, as were the first two paragraphs of the Interlude; these were first posted here as the original version 1.0. Everything else in this expanded version was written for the 2.0 version during NaNoFiMo.

Here's where the real controversy begins. You've been warned...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spanner Chapter 1: Spanner in the Works

Now that the Intro’s out of the way and the reset button has been pressed, the story of Chaos Angel Spanner begins here.

This marks the official début of a character whose story I originally started writing back in 1992 using a different handle (which, interestingly enough, I’ve brought back for the same character). Back then, the storyline was completely different. I was a recently converted otaku and an aspiring cartoonist back then; I had no training in either art or storytelling. All I had was ideas. It took me nearly two decades to turn the ideas into an actual story. In the meantime, I amassed a library’s worth of books on how to write and trained myself how to write. Over the years, I wrote scripts for several scenes I intended to publish in manga form; I’m putting most of these scenes into the novel. The central scene of Chapter 1 is one of them.

An early version of this chapter was originally posted on the JulNoWriMo forums earlier this year; the “Interlude” at the end of this chapter first appeared on the AugNoWriMo forums (now closed), without what is now its opening section, and appears here otherwise unchanged. This is the official 1.0 version.

And now, let’s meet Spanner as he makes his Spectacular Entrance!

Special Guest Star: Steve Jobs’ ego!
Not Appearing: President Sarah Palin!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Spanner Intro: Press the Reset Button

Book 1 “Rock City Blues” begins here.

Chaos Angel Spanner Book 1 is dedicated to
John Ralston Saul.
The British Crown may have shut him up,
but he left his instructions in ’ninety-two,
in which he taught us how to turn
a novel into a bomb.

“Dieu n’est pas pour les gros bataillons,
mais pour ceux qui tirent le mieux.”

Finally, after almost 20 years, Chaos Angel Spanner is ready to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting reading public. It may not be the manga I originally envisioned back in 1992, but I still intend to do that sometime in the future, depending on whether I actually succeed in learning how to draw.

Finally, after four years of participation in NaNoWriMo (as of November 2010), one of my WriMo novels is ready to publish and is being posted. You’ll now be able to see what I’ve been doing since my first NaNo in 2006, and you can now find out just what has been obsessing me for the past two decades.

So what do you do when you have to cancel the future? Start all over again in the present and make your future. This is not a spoiler: it’s the entire story.

Now it’s time at last for the main event...

Chaos Angel Spanner
Intro: Press the Reset Button

the end.
Nuclear bombs explode all over the Earth, cracking its diseased skin open and making it bleed fire. Billions upon billions of microscopic robots transform the planetary substance into more of themselves. The infection penetrates deeper and deeper to reach its hot molten heart. Not even entropy can stop these tiny cannibals from devouring all matter they touch. Eventually, the planet’s stony flesh becomes so weak that no amount of gravity can hold it together anymore. The Earth explodes.

For a century, the Sol System has been ruled by Corporations. They, or the unholy abominations they incarnated, were the master race, the replacement for Man, the new species of gods driven by an absolute lack of conscience and by absolute faith that what they called the Law of Social Darwinism commanded them to conquer the universe. They had constructed their mental and physical power far beyond human understanding. They assimilated computers, robots, artificial intelligences, human beings. They escaped human control and made themselves independent lifeforms. Some of them were once human themselves.

But we humans were a persistent species, and we always clung to life with ferocious tenacity. Resistance leaders arose to lead us into revolt against the new gods’ tyranny. We were on the cusp of our next evolutionary quantum leap; we had to advance into the future, or we would become extinct like all the human species that came before us. Two enemies were determined to stop us at any cost. One, a nation-eating AI named Echelon-Norad, claimed to be the Old God Allah who had held us in subjection for thousands of years and threatened to destroy us by the ancient mystical plan of the Book of Revelation if we dared throw off our chains. But the more dangerous enemy claimed possession over the Law of Evolution itself. They wanted to replace us. They called themselves the United Corporations. They were united against us.

We nearly succeeded in saving ourselves and our planet. A hero named Kira Richter-Thomas gave her life to destroy Echelon-Norad-GOD and liberate its billions of human exobodies from its mind slavery. We discovered the secret of the Corporations and nearly brought them back under our control. We thought we had secured the future for our children.

We were wrong. Our struggle to control the Corporations drove them mad. They decided to take us with them into extinction. They brought back GOD from the dead. To fulfill the ancient Plan and bring about the long-promised Eschaton, GOD manifested itself in its final form as the ultimate horror: Nanoclysm.

The explosion expels the ruined planet’s fragments from it, spreading the seeds of its fatal disease outward. The first extraterrestrial objects to go are the Orbital Arcologies the Corporations created as new bodies for themselves before their hatred of humanity drove them to mass suicide. Soon enough, the infection will reach the moon, the planets, and the Sun. The exploding Sun will spread it to its neighbour stars. In time, it will spread throughout the Galaxy, and from it to the rest of the Universe.

I am the last human being left alive. No hope is possible anymore, but I do not allow despair to darken my reason. I let the tears flow freely for my people and my planet, but I do not allow them to blur my vision. Our task is too urgent. I remove my glasses for the last time. I want to see everything.

The tainted debris is fast approaching the Tangram. She is the most advanced ship the Cartel got around to building. Theoretically, she’s capable of reaching speeds faster than light. The Wrecking Krewe and I stole her from Yoyodyne Orbital as soon as Nanoclysm formed and began the Eschaton; they sacrificed themselves so Tangram and I could escape. She really is a “she”: decades ago, the Cartel began cyborging its ships to their pilots so that the ship became their body. Right now the Tangram is using the Moon as a shield as we prepare to make a desperate jump. The Moon is beginning to break up, so she puts up her strongest energy shields. All life on and around Earth is now extinct; only she and I are left, and not for long. I speak to her. “Tansie.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Give us warp speed, now.”

A dozen nuclear explosions give the Tangram’s engine the force to accelerate out of the ecliptic plane. At first she must fight inertia as the tainted debris begins slamming against her shield. Once up to speed, she uses planetary debris to find the solar wind currents, surfing from current to current until we find the right one.

Before Nanoclysm, the Earth sent out countless radio signals as if to joyfully remind the universe that it was alive. Now there is only one gigantic coherent signal, and its message is universal death. A nanite tentacle reaches out, trying to catch us from behind. Its assimilant mind tries to overpower Tangram’s and my own. Even the nanite-boosted immune systems in our own blood cannot protect us for long.

“I’m afraid, mother,” she says.

“Of what?”

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?”

“Yes, child. But if we can generate a reality distortion field powerful enough to cancel out our present, we’ll be able to save other futures. So I’m not afraid at all.”

“I’ll be brave for you, mother.”

“I love you, child.” I give her an affectionate wink she can see on her bridge camera.

The solar system may be arranged on a plane (the ecliptic), but the space between the Sun and the Oort Cloud is roughly spherical. We may be out of the way of the asteroid belt, but the ice blocks and comets that form the Oort Cloud pose an equal danger. Tangram plots the best path through the cloud and waits for the right time. Luck is on our side this time: we find our window of opportunity within mere days of former Earth time.

“Ready to accelerate to light speed,” says Tangram.

Tangram helped me develop the equations required to create a reality distortion field generator. Tinker and I kludged the device together. On Earth, it worked well enough to allow me to escape the destruction. Now Tangram and I are about to put the RDF generator to its ultimate test. I cross my fingers.

The warp engine detonates a series of nukes to bring us near light speed. “Activating inertia damping.” Tangram uses her navigation system to ride the solar currents and thread her way through the Oort Cloud. Time slows down; everything feels heavier; space contracts into a tunnel. Only Tangram’s diminishing force fields keep her from flying apart. Only the inertia compensator keeps me from being obliterated by the crushing acceleration force.

“Activating reality distortion field generator.”

With an audible click, the whole universe silently shudders. Matter loses all substance. Space dust passes through us like neutrinos. What once seemed empty and solid now floats and flickers as if it were underwater. We pass through the dark matter like ghosts.

“I love you, mother.”

“I love you, Tansie.” I let myself cry.

“Do it?”

“Yeah. Let’s do it.”

“Activating FTL hyperdrive.”

Tangram detonates her entire remaining fuel at once. It is only a matter of seconds before she flies apart. We are beside ourselves with excitement. We reach 0.99c... nines pile up on the holodisplay in front of me... the stars race past us at ever faster speeds, then galaxies and quasars... And then the display flashes 1.0c (we did it!) — Nanoclysm screams — reality tears apart — the whole world goes simultaneously black and white — I am nothing and everything and we are one and we are God—

And then...

the beginning...
  • 2112: God King Dictel sacrifices itself in a ritual that kills billions of sentients to resurrect GOD in its final form as Nanoclysm: Earth destroyed, beginning of the end of the universe
  • 2111: The Robot War ends with the Battle of the Orbitals: Corporate warships succeed in destroying Europa, but Terran forces retaliate by destroying all the Orbitals, killing all Corporations but two, God King Dictel and its old partner Yoyodyne, which dies soon afterward, while the God King plots its revenge as it dies
  • 2108: Kira Richter-Thomas detonates a mind bomb to destroy GOD and defeat the Corporations in the Battle of New Mecca, killing over half the sentients remaining on Earth
  • 2104: The Battle of Saturn ends in defeat for the Alliance with the destruction of its Outer Fleet by Corporate forces and the destruction of Titan
  • 2099: The destruction of the moon bases in the Battle of Luna
  • 2091: Echelon-Norad becomes the first of the God Kings by claiming to be GOD, Supreme Being of the nearly extinct human religion of Islam
  • 2087: Corporate space warships destroy the terraforming colonies on Venus and Mars
  • 2084: The Robot War between the Earth Alliance and the United Corporations begins
  • 2081: Terraforming of Venus, Mars, Titan, and Europa begins
  • 2075: The first true interplanetary spaceships built
  • 2069: The first permanent moon bases established by the Earth Alliance
  • 2058: The Corporate War ends with the defeat of the United Corporations; the surviving Corporations cede the devastated Earth to the human Earth Alliance and retreat to the Orbitals
  • 2055: The Corporations attempt to destroy the Alliance by dropping near-earth asteroids on Terran population centers and military bases in the Rock Bombing; the Alliance retaliate by destroying Corporate botnet satellites and Orbital bases
  • 2045: The first true superhumans engineered through nanotechnology and genetic engineering, eliminating the Corporations’ evolutionary advantage over humanity
  • 2042: Nanotechnology advances to the point where resurrection of cryogenically preserved humans becomes possible for the first time
  • 2039: The United Corporations declare war against Earth’s human nations, forcing all the former enemy superpowers to end World War III and unite into the Alliance of Earth: the Corporate War begins
  • 2035: Construction of the Earth space colonies known as Orbitals begins
  • 2033: Nanotechnology reaches the first major milestone in its development with the first commercial nanobots
  • 2030: The last of the United Corporations eliminate their final independent human employees, becoming sentient beings known as the New Gods, with minds evolved from AIs controlling masses of robotic and human exobodies
  • 2024: The private army called Dictel Corporation achieves total automation, fires or kills all its remaining human employees, begins its third attempt to take over the American Empire by fusing its corporate AI called GOD with Echelon-Norad
  • 2018: The complete nuclear obliteration of the Islamic Caliphate by Israel ends the Armageddon War in the Middle East
  • 2016: Triad-led coup in China overthrows the Communist régime, establishes the Black Dynasty
  • 2015: The first Assimilant forms out of the fusion of America’s Cold War-era AIs called ECHELON and NORAD, using techniques developed for Russian botnets; America and China declare war to dominate Earth, beginning World War III
  • 2013: The United Corporations established to replace the United Nations and establish worldwide corporate dictatorship; fourteen-year-old Kira Richter-Thomas dons the mask of The Civet and begins her campaign of terror
  • 2012: United States overthrown by its own empire, Corporatism established, President Obama assassinated — and 12-year-old Shira Thomas killed in the explosion...
...or was she? What if Shira survived?

Chaos theory states that perfect foreknowledge of the development of a system is impossible, and that the slightest change in one variable changes the future of the system completely...

on to the next...

Back to Chapter 1 index...
Back to Chaos Angel Spanner table of contents...
Back to Spanner’s World...

Copyright © 2010, 2012 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons License

[Revision 1.1, 11/23/10: Corrected typos and one grammatical error; restored missing link to Chapter 1; added character details, one technical detail, and one character-related continuity nod.]
[Revision 1.2, 11/27/10: New layout for the entire series.]
[Revision 2.0, 5/30/11: Second draft, with minor revisions to match the major revisions in the rest of the story.]
[Revision 2.0.1, 6/1/11: All previously unused NaNoEdMo 2011 revisions now merged in.]
[Revision 2.1, 9/8/11: Corrected all remaining text errors and revised the introduction.]
[Revision 2.1.1, 10/12/11: Shortened and revised the introduction to remove the original disclaimers that I now find gratuitous. The original full introduction is now in the Chapter 1 index.]
[Revision 3, 10/13/11: Added the Book 1 dedication that will, unlike the post title and introduction, will make it into the final book. The meaning of the quotation in English: “God favors not the big batallions but the best shots.”]
[Revision 4 Final, 7/2/12: A few final additions to bring it fully into Revision 4 continuity.]

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pre-NaNoWriMo Progress, Part the Last

Okay, it's official, NaNoWriMo starts tonight! Since I got to stay home all day and no trick-or-treaters graced me with their disruptive presence, I took advantage of the opportunity to finish all the Spanner Book 1 chapters I'm posting in November. Every single one of them, from the Intro to Chapter 8: they're done! And shortly after I post this, Chapter 9 (the last one I did during JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo will be finished as well!

Finally, starting at (schedule change here) 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time, Spanner will cease to be a pipe dream for me and become a reality at last! The vision that has tormented me since 1992 will be ready for you to read in its final form. Of course, it won't be a manga, but you won't be disappointed. Not after 18 years of self-instruction in writing and 4 years of NaNoWriMo and other WriMos. At last, it's real!

My next post, after the Spanner prologue/intro, will be a NaNoWriMo progress report. My NaNo project this year is — surprise! — Spanner book 2. I won't rush into the word wars just yet. First I need to plot it. And to that end, at the stroke of midnight, I will perform my annual NaNo ritual of opening a fresh new pack of index cards. I intend to write at least 100,000 words this November. Plus, I intend to return to my drawing self-instruction that I've been neglecting since I first discovered NaNo, and post at least one drawing a day on my Posterous blog.

Anyway, back to writing...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre-NaNoWriMo Progress, Part 4

It's been a pretty tough process trying to catch up with my goal of getting the currently written portion of Spanner as close to finished as I can before NaNoWriMo begins. As I write this, there's just over a day left before NaNo begins. However, I only managed to get one new chapter finished. Part of the problem is that I restored a few omitted scenes to the story. Another is: names.

I had the biggest trouble with Chapter 5. There were a couple sections I decided to skip during JulNoWriMo, and today I found out why. You see, I had to invent names. This means creating all new characters, and assigning new roles to old characters I'd forgotten but brought back just for this chapter. (They'll be back in later chapters.) And so Chapter 5 was the only one I actually managed to finish. But creating loads of new characters nearly wore me out.

Well, I'm done with that now. No later chapter (at least in Book 1) introduces so many characters. The challenge now is to use the characters I've just introduced. I'll rise up to it, of course.

Now on to Chapter 6...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pre-NaNoWriMo Progress, Part 3

While I was putting together Spanner chapter 3 this morning, I realized that the next few chapters (from 5 onward) won't really be all that hard at all. All it'll take is a little editing and a little rearranging, and they'll be ready for posting. These, of course, are chapters I'd already written during JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo. There's only a few exceptions, including one new chapter I'll likely be writing this weekend, but which follows directly from the ones I've written so far.

Still, I'll likely need to write some new stuff anyway, just to fill out chapters and fill in plot holes. I did just that this morning, with the last section of Chapter 3. But at least that's not as hard as writing new chapters wholesale and having to edit them to meet a deadline I've set in, say, the next few days.

I'll be pulling a marathon session in the weekend before NaNo '10 so that I can have all of this month's chapters finished. I don't want them to get in the way of my NaNoWriMo, after all...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cedric and Willa in: Revenge of the Badfic Merchants

NaNoWriMo is approaching rapidly, so I figured I'd whip out another "Cedric and Willa" short story, in which those glamourous and gleefully incestuous fortysomething siblings get into the "write 50,000 words and you're a winner" spirit. Both of them can write up a storm, of course, though both of them together could never match even a fifth of Kateness' November output (for those who don't know, that's somewhere around a million words or so).

But it's not all plotbunny-munching happiness in NaNoLand. Cedric and Willa have enemies, rivals, and ex-friends who write, too. Badly. A few are creative writing professors, or at least write in order to become creative writing professors. Others ghostwrite for right-wing media celebrities such as recurring character Bram Savage. The problem: our protagonists have much more trouble getting published than those two groups. But at least they complain about it entertainingly...

Note: NaNoEdMo is also mentioned in this story. Just so you know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pre-NaNoWriMo Progress, Part 2

While I'm preparing to start posting Spanner book 1, I'm of course agonizing over the editing. Yesterday, I did pretty much nothing but agonize. But once I left the house and started using a library computer, Chapter 1 all but completed itself. Everything is now done except for the last two of the sections I completed during JulNoWriMo, including the main action of the chapter, and of course for the necessary editing. When I get back to my own computer, I'll have it ready to post. That's the easy part.

The tricky part comes after I'm done with chapter 1. I still haven't started the complete rewrite of the second half of the Intro. That's the backwards timeline from 2112 (the science fiction universe cancelled) to 2012 (the present day, or at least "twenty minutes into the future"). I've got a few index cards with me; I can plot it out on the bus. The hard part is figuring out what events I want to put in the timeline (leading from the 2012 coup to the end of the world in 2112) and when they occur. The easy part is transcribing them into the Intro itself.

Now I'm off to write and plot. I'll continue to post my progress as NaNoWriMo fast approaches...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pre-NaNoWriMo Progress, Part 1

As you may already know, I've decided to Spanner page 2 for this year's edition of NaNoWriMo. This gives my schedule some extra urgency: due to my usual procrastination, I've delayed actually writing or editing book 1 till almost the last minute. But at least I have some progress to report. The first three chapters are almost out of my hair.

Chapter 2 is finished and scheduled for posting on November 8. Today, I finished editing part 1 of the Intro — the part in which I destroy the world with a "nanopocalypse" in a future about to be cancelled entirely — and I'm getting ready to write the "rewind history" part. That leaves Chapter 1 for some editing with some necessary research (concerning locations in Manhattan, necessary for a recluse living on the opposite side of the continent). I hope to have a few more chapters written and/or edited in the final-week homestretch before NaNo begins.

I'm still on track to get the story posted. For once, you'll actually be able to read what I'm writing.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 Approaches, Spanner Shall Be Written

It's been a while since I've posted here. But it's not that I haven't been working on Spanner — just that I haven't been writing it. I lost AugNoWriMo yet again, this time because I got obsessed with TV Tropes and limited myself to writing a huge list of tropes that fit Spanner in a now bloated MS Word document rather than writing any actual story after the middle of August. Now NaNoWriMo approaches, and I find myself having to replot and try to finish Book 1 while I'm plotting Book 2. Now that my TV Tropes obsession has died down, I can finally get back to writing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Right-Wing Pundit Political Thriller Fad

Some articles on and reviews of Glenn Beck's The Overton Window mention that before Beck, Bill O'Reilly wrote a political thriller of his own. In the last few days, I've noticed political thrillers by Oliver North and Ralph Reed in the remainder piles at my local Barnes & Noble. It hit me that right-wing political thrillers by Fox News pundits have become the latest fad. They're bestsellers, of course, with the Conservative Book Club playing the role of the Church of Scientology (which bought most of the copies of L. Ron Hubbard's later books) by gaming the sales figures. I acknowledged this in one of my short stories intended for print publication: a publisher complains about right-wing pundits jumping on the political thriller bandwagon when their left-wing counterparts have enough sense not to join them. These thrillers have two things in common: 1) they're ghostwritten 2) they're badly ghostwritten. This fad runs the risk of ruining the political thriller subgenre forever. But will these guys realize that writing stories is best left to real storytellers? I think not. Meanwhile, I'll go back to writing mine...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Panic Time, AugNoWriMo 2010 Edition

It's that time of the WriMo again: Panic Time! As I'm currently under 10,000 words this AugNoWriMo, I'd better start panicking if I want to win my first AugNo. Will the third time be the charm? Only if I get off my butt, stop procrastinating, and start writing!

Currently, my word count is 8,234, and that's including the AugNo Anthology short story I've submitted. Getting to 50,000 might require a 10K day or two, but who knows...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spanner: Morality Is Not the Point

Lately I've been paying too much attention to a site called Television Tropes & Idioms and listing the tropes relevant to Spanner in a Microsoft Word document. When I got to Character Alignment, I realized, for the first time since I started my first preliminary work on this story in 1992, that in a story about a revolution sparked by a monkeywrencher against an oppressive technocracy, morality is not the point. In most stories, the vertical axis on the alignment chart (good vs. evil) is the focus, and most writers (and moralists) conflate "order" with "good" and likewise "chaos" with "evil" (hence the trope Anarchy Is Chaos and its twin, Democracy Is Bad, which Spanner puts in the mouths of Lawful Evil villains but utterly rejects). Spanner is about freedom, not morality.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AugNoWriMo: The Muse Gets Off Her Duff Again

Once again, it took me until the middle of the month to really get started. No problem, really; I'll still win AugNoWriMo. After all, I won JulNoWriMo the same way, almost. But the key turned out to be, once again, a completely different story. It was the short story I want to submit to this year's AugNo Anthology. I wrote it in two hours and edited it in two hours on Monday (the 16th). Yeah, that did the trick.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Future Shock

Remember future shock? It's the shock that overcomes you when you can't handle what you perceive as too much change in too little time. The term was coined by futurist Alvin Toffler, and it's the subject of the book that made him famous. If anything, the speed of change has accelerated since the book came out in 1970, and the shock registered by those who can't handle it has become more extreme, to the point of madness. The ultimate expression of that madness is 9/11 — so far. But far more people have come to adapt to the accelerating rate of change; some of us can even be said to surf evolution. The 21st-century world we live in today was nothing but science fiction in the 20th century.

In this entry, I'll be dealing with fiction as well as society. We tell ourselves who we are through the stories we tell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spanner: When Power Corrupts

Lord Acton famously said: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Sure, he was writing to a bishop about the then new Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, but it applies to any organization. If someone gains too much power, they are bound to become corrupt. The famous Peter Principle explains why: In any hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence. The mechanism is groupthink, or collective narcissism resulting from the leader's delusion that the fact that he is in power makes everything right and his increasing intolerance for negative feedback.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Spanner: With Great Power...

Last entry, I brought up one of the major themes of Spanner: the never-ending conflict between those who try to raise ordinary people to their level and those merely content to oppress them. That's the basic conflict, and I'll write a few more things about it later in this post. The theme I'm concerned with, though, is closely related and should be familiar:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spanner: Why These Big Family Things? There's A Theme In It.

That last entry was me going too far. I do that sometimes. Much of Spanner is all about either the characters or their author going too far. But the whole Wold Newton Universe thing? You know the old Arab proverb warning against letting the camel stick its nose into your tent...

Anyway, there's a purpose behind that "Grail Family", "Wold Newton Family", and "House of Dracula" stuff. Margaret Starbird introduced it and Laurence Gardner (who included the genealogy of the House of Dracula in his Realm of the Ring Lords) echoed it. It's contained in the Hebrew words anakim and anawim.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spanner and the Incident at Wold Newton

On December 13, 1795, a meteor fell near the village of Wold Newton in the Wolds of East Yorkshire, England. According to the late Philip José Farmer, science fiction author (of Riverworld fame) and genealogist, these people were nearby at the time:
  • John Clayton, third Duke of Greystoke, and his wife Alicia ( Rutherford), sister of...
  • George Edward Rutherford, eleventh Baron Tennington, and his wife, Elizabeth Cavendish;
  • Honoré Delargardie and his wife, Philippa Drummond;
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth Bennet;
  • Sir Percy Blakeney (the Scarlet Pimpernel) and his second wife, Alice Clarke Raffles;
  • Sir Hugh Drummond (Philippa's brother) and his wife, Georgia Dewhurst;
  • Dr. Siger Holmes and his wife, Violet Clarke Raffles (Alice's sister);
  • Sebastian Noel, a friend and student of Dr. Holmes; and
  • four coachmen: Louis Lupin, Albert Lecoq, Arthur Blake, and Simon MacNichols.
The radiation from the meteor mutated these people, who became the ancestors of several of the greatest heroes in literature and pop culture. Farmer focuses in particular on three of them: Sherlock Holmes, descendant of Siger, and two Greystoke scions: John Clayton-Wilder, the eighth Duke of Greystoke, better known under the name Tarzan; and Dr. James Clayton "Doc" Wilder, Jr., whose adventures were fictionalized first as "Doc Ardan" (in French) and then, more famously, as Doc Savage.