New genre: Inadvertent Steampunk

I get pretty viciously dry eyes from my contacts, or my allergies, or maybe a combination of the two, or possibly some sort of gypsy curse. It is very hard to keep track them all. I am considering getting an organizing system. A rolohex, if you will.

Please don’t.

Regardless, the end result is that I’m sitting at my computer typing on my mechanical keyboard while wearing my riding goggles and everything is coming out steampunk.

Regards,
-Valve-Baron Firestache

These Pretzels…

I use Spotify’s discover feature a lot. A week ago I took its suggestion and listened to a lo-fi techno band. So it started only giving me lo-fi techno bands. I checked them out, decided they weren’t my thing and moved on. Now it is giving me suggestions based on me listening to those suggestions. I am trapped in a never-ending spiral of lo-fi techno. Somebody send electrolytes – this Molly is making me thirsty.

This Molly…is making me THIRSTY.

THIS Molly is MAKING ME thirsty?

THIS MOLLY IS MAKING ME THIRSTY!

Help me understand fandom

I don’t really understand fandom.

I don’t mean that in any sort of insulting way to fans of anything. I love my fans (as surreal as it is to think that I have any), I have just never had that gene in my own personal life. I have favorite writers, bands, games, TV shows, etc. — but I know nothing about them, the people that make them and the process they use. I know very little beyond the fact that I enjoy these things. It never occurs to me get more involved.

I don’t know the names of the writers, or the directors, or even most of the actors in my favorite movies. I don’t know which band worked with which producer, or anything about the success of their singles and chart positions. I don’t know who writes my favorite TV show (does Supernatural even have writers these days, or is it all just improv between instances of Sam and Dean slamming each other against identical motel room walls?) I don’t know what other projects my favorite authors have, beyond their books. For example: I love Murakami. Read every single one of his fiction novels. Read absolutely none of his essays, interviews, or experimental screenplays. I have no idea if he’s doing a reading in my town, or if he collaborated on some anthology. I just never had it in me to delve deeper than the surface, and in an odd way, I was always a bit envious of the people that do it.

I have many friends who will sit there and reel off six pages of facts about what went on behind the scenes of their favorite action movie. The anecdotes, the commentary, the on-set spats and original drafts. And all I can contribute to the conversation is “I liked the part where the guy’s balls exploded.” It must be nice to be a fan, but I just fundamentally don’t get how people go about it.

And yet it is vital to my job and everything else that I want to do with my creative life that I understand fans, what they want and how to cultivate more of them.

Admittedly, pretending like this is a problem I have to worry about right now is, at best, naively optimistic. We’re at the early stages here. This site does maybe 30k uniques a month, and that’s when I’m updating it. But I am supposed to head off next year for promotion of my first big book series, so with any luck, that number will grow. If you’re reading this, consider yourself an early adopter. You’re a beta tester for Brockway Industries, and I could use your advice: As a fan, what do you want see more of in an author? What makes you stay, makes you get involved or spread the word? I’m very grateful and appreciative every day that you’re here, but I just don’t know what I can do for you, beyond try to write stupid books about phallus-obsessed ghetto kings and math angels. And I’m already doing that. And you won’t ever stop me. So what else do you want to see?

State of Brockway

State of Decay is one of my favorite games in recent memory. It is quite possibly the best zombie apocalypse game ever made, which is saying something these days, since every genre from point-and-click adventure to Puzzle Bobble are now set in the post-zombie-apocalypse. I have kind of a history with the team, Undead Labs. They saw this article that I wrote about brilliant games we all want, but will likely never have, and they wanted to invite me to an event in Seattle to check out an early build of their game, just to see if they came close. I was interested, but could not attend. Then they released the game, and offered me a free copy, but I had sold my Xbox and could not accept their offer. I apparently hate sweet, free stuff with a passion bordering on mania.

Time passed, the game released on Steam, and I bought a copy. I just kind of figured the offer wasn’t a standing one. Between it and the first DLC, Breakdown, I put about fifty hours into the game. I’ve had nothing but glowing things to say about them, even though I always paid them for the privilege. I even wrote a piece about the game on Cracked. Again, with nothing on the line for me – I was just honestly really impressed by their efforts. Then, last week when their latest DLC, Lifeline, released, I took my first kickback. They gave me a free copy of the game. Because in a way, I was in it:

brockwaygame

As a little nod to my seeming steadfast refusal to stop throwing my money at them, the folks at Undead labs named one of the survivors after me. This may even beat the time Even Skjervold named a bull after me (and apparently ate it. Th…thanks?) I would love to tell you where to find the Brockway survivor in State of Decay: Lifeline, but so far every rescue I’ve attempted has ended with everybody being mauled to death in the streets while a disappointed man yells at me over the radio. But if you find me, do me a favor and use my preferred loadout: No guns, no melee weapons. Just firebombs and morphine. Your favored conveyance is the dark green muscle car. It is mandatory that you take every sweet-ass jump you see, even though the consequences will almost certainly kill you.

Oh, and tell me “hi” for me.

Drugs in the Zeitgeist Sounds Like A Good Name For Your Post-Industrial Band

Stay with me for a second, I’m going to recap my book, but this isn’t about promotion.

I wrote Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, a weird little cyberpunk novel about a society whose primary form of entertainment is custom drug cocktails. They have Feeds in all of their homes, like we have cable connections. The Feeds are tiny 3D printers, and the user subscribes to blocks of chemicals as we would channels, which they use to build the drugs they want. The main character, Red, is a beta tester — somebody that tests out the early versions of new corporate concoctions to work the bugs out before release. There’s a lot I’m leaving out in that description, but I would like to introduce you to the plot synopsis of Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty now:

Any high school student with a chemjet and an internet connection could download recipes and print small-batch drugs. The creative types liked to fuck with the recipes, try them out on their friends. People swallowed paper all the time without knowing what they were chewing. Half the residents of the NAT ward weren’t addicts; they were beta testers.

Again, there’s a lot I’m leaving out of the description of that book. But wow, look at the similarities! Now, we all have a negative bias towards stuff like this on the internet, but I want to make it clear I’m not calling plagiarism or anything. Daryl Gregory never heard of me or my strange little book before he got his publishing deal. This is kind of how science fiction works: You look at emerging tech, and the direction our society is headed in, and you extrapolate out something cool, strange, or ridiculous from that. Then you tell a story in that space.

Daryl and I both just happened to look at the emergence of 3D printers; at the new smart pharmaceuticals and the increasing acceptance of their role in our culture; at tech fetishism and early adoption, and we both arrived at 3D printed smart drugs with seemingly impossible effects, and the shift from “addict” to “beta tester.” On the one hand, I think that’s pretty damn cool. On the other hand, I think that’s pretty damn concerning. If multiple authors are starting to extrapolate out this kind of future from our present, there might be something to it, and neither of our worlds were all that pleasant.

I’m not saying we’ll have a god drug, like in Afterparty, or uh…stairwell-dwelling phallus kings like in my ridiculous abomination, but there’s clearly something in the zeitgeist with 3D printing, smart drugs, and home users. While having your own custom drug-machine sounds great, there are some very worrying implications to wide-spread smart drugs. For example, check out this story about the implications of a proposed ‘anti-love drug.’ One of which was “curing” homosexuals…

My memory’s a little faulty, and there was a lot going on, but I do believe I saw an advert for “No-Gay” in the background of an issue of Transmetropolitan. I guess I just start to worry when we, as a species, start striving for a world that Warren Ellis wrote.

Fashion Tips!

Fashion Tip #1: Wear clothes, at least around machinery.

Fashion Tip #2: Or don’t!

Fashion Tip #3: Actually, wear whatever the fuck you want, and if people give you shit, flip them the bird and then stick your middle finger down their throat until they puke on themselves. Who’s the “walking faux pas” now, pukeshirt?

Fashion Tip #4: Get a good pair of boots and a reversible belt.

How to keep things in perspective

Phrasing 1: I have so much work to do, there’s hardly any time to do what I want. I wonder if I’m sacrificing my life for my work, and if that’s worth it in the long run.

Phrasing 2 – Be Specific: The work I have to do is editing articles about interesting things for accuracy, and punching up the jokes wherever possible. The things I want to do are riding my motorcycle, because it’s nice outside and it won’t always be, so I have to take advantage of that.

Phrasing 3 – Think of Harder Problems Than Your Own: There are people in the world making tough decisions about the health and well-being of their children.

Phrasing 4 – Compare Problems: Right now somebody is wrestling a crocodile for their own baby. While I don’t want to get paid handsomely to read interesting things and write dick jokes because it’s sunny out and I would rather race about on my ten-thousand dollar freedom machine.

Solution: I will shut up and do my work. Maybe I will open a window, as a special treat.

Parallel Thinking is a Bitch

I have a long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness list of story ideas that I keep in a plain text file. I jot down the premises as I have them, and whenever my brain wanders back to fill out the details, I take those down, too. When I have enough content put down under one of those ideas — when it becomes clear this is something my mind doesn’t plan on letting go — I get serious, and I start thinking of how I would write it. Here is one of those ideas, presented exactly as I wrote it down in one feverish five minute burst. Now, you can see how short this is: This idea was obviously in its infancy. I didn’t get far enough into it to plan how I would write it or anything, but I was thinking it would work well as a weekly TV show. I don’t watch much modern broadcast TV. I don’t have cable, or even an antenna. I watch a hell of a lot of Netflix, but I’m pretty oblivious as to what kind of thing is actually on the air these days. Still, it seemed like weekly hour-long drama would be a good fit. Here’s the premise:

Based around the Nautilus, the program that compiles news information about the past and predicts events. Largely based on ‘tone’ – positive and negative words in stories. predicted loosely Bin Laden’s location (200kilometers) and the arab spring. got as specific as pinpointing that tunisia was the lynchpin in the revolts, specifically after the coptic(?) church bombing. What if you could feed it everything – movies, books, twitter feeds and facebook profiles, news stories, sure, but all personal media. What if it was more powerful, and used for the immediate future. There would be a team based around this program, trying to prevent some much larger, terrible future one event at a time. A complex web of attitude and predictions – sometimes stomping out dangerous media, sometimes augmenting good media, spreading books or burning down sets, as well as taking out key figures and negotiating peace treaties. They would be torn, questioning, the thing would be like a god. They would treat it with some degree of faith and doubt, like paladins, crusaders of AI.

Kind of a modern day spin on Minority Report, but revolving around extrapolating data from the zeitgeist itself to predict not only crimes, but media events that would shape the public’s consciousness and alter the overall path of the future. Could have been neat

…and here is the Wikipedia synopsis for Person of Interest, a CBS show that apparently fucking everybody and their grandmothers (this is CBS, after all) has been watching for years.

Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills gained in the military and the CIA. Through a backdoor built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.

So I damn near accidentally wrote a CBS drama. I expect my hypothetical royalty checks in the Potential Mailbox any day now.

I’m Apparently Going to Unnotice Your Ass

 

TOR GETS ‘UNNOTICED’ BY ROBERT BROCKWAY

In a second deal coming out of Tor this week, Paul Stevens bought Robert Brockway’s The Unnoticeables, at auction, in a three-book, six-figure deal. Brockway, who is a senior editor and columnist for Cracked.com, was represented by Sam Morgan at Jabberwocky Literary. The other two books acquired will be sequels to The Unnoticeables, and are currently untitled. Tor said the books are “hilarious urban fantasy novels” set in a world that pulls from New York’s punk scene in the 1970s as well as the modern-day Los Angeles entertainment industry. The Unnoticeables is tentatively scheduled for July 2015.

That’s right – THREE god damn books coming your way. I am going to literally crush you with an avalanche of my books*.

*Provided you are very small, and do not struggle too much.