Mon
Jul 6 2009 1:13pm

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 1 (of 81)

Illustration by Idiots’Books

DEDICATION:

For “the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.”

* * *

PART I

Suzanne Church almost never had to bother with the blue blazer these days. Back at the height of the dot-boom, she’d put on her business journalist drag—blazer, blue sailcloth shirt, khaki trousers, loafers—just about every day, putting in her obligatory appearances at splashy press-conferences for high-flying IPOs and mergers. These days, it was mostly work at home or one day a week at the San Jose Mercury News’s office, in comfortable light sweaters with loose necks and loose cotton pants that she could wear straight to yoga after shutting her computer’s lid.

Blue blazer today, and she wasn’t the only one. There was Reedy from the NYT’s Silicon Valley office, and Tribbey from the WSJ, and that despicable rat-toothed jumped-up gossip columnist from one of the UK tech-rags, and many others besides. Old home week, blue blazers fresh from the dry-cleaning bags that had guarded them since the last time the NASDAQ broke 5,000.

The man of the hour was Landon Kettlewell—the kind of outlandish prep-school name that always seemed a little made up to her—the new CEO and front for the majority owners of Kodak/Duracell. The despicable Brit had already started calling them Kodacell. Buying the company was pure Kettlewell: shrewd, weird, and ethical in a twisted way.

“Why the hell have you done this, Landon?” Kettlewell asked himself into his tie-mic. Ties and suits for the new Kodacell execs in the room, like surfers playing dress-up. “Why buy two dinosaurs and stick ’em together? Will they mate and give birth to a new generation of less-endangered dinosaurs?”

He shook his head and walked to a different part of the stage, thumbing a PowerPoint remote that advanced his slide on the jumbotron to a picture of a couple of unhappy cartoon brontos staring desolately at an empty nest. “Probably not. But there is a good case for what we’ve just done, and with your indulgence, I’m going to lay it out for you now.”

“Let’s hope he sticks to the cartoons,” Rat-Toothed hissed beside her. His breath smelled like he’d been gargling turds. He had a not-so-secret crush on her and liked to demonstrate his alpha-maleness by making half-witticisms into her ear. “They’re about his speed.”

She twisted in her seat and pointedly hunched over her computer’s screen, to which she’d taped a thin sheet of polarized plastic that made it opaque to anyone shoulder-surfing her. Being a halfway attractive woman in Silicon Valley was more of a pain in the ass than she’d expected, back when she’d been covering rustbelt shenanigans in Detroit, back when there was an auto industry in Detroit.

The worst part was that the Brit’s reportage was just spleen-filled editorializing on the lack of ethics in the valley’s board-rooms (a favorite subject of hers, which no doubt accounted for his fellow-feeling), and it was also the crux of Kettlewell’s schtick. The spectacle of an exec who talked ethics enraged Rat-Toothed more than the vilest baby-killers. He was the kind of revolutionary who liked his firing squads arranged in a circle.

“I’m not that dumb, folks,” Kettlewell said, provoking a stagey laugh from Mr Rat-Tooth. “Here’s the thing: the market had valued these companies at less than their cash on hand. They have twenty billion in the bank and a 16 billion dollar market-cap. We just made four billion dollars, just by buying up the stock and taking control of the company. We could shut the doors, stick the money in our pockets, and retire.”

Suzanne took notes. She knew all this, but Kettlewell gave good sound-bite, and talked slow in deference to the kind of reporter who preferred a notebook to a recorder. “But we’re not gonna do that.” He hunkered down on his haunches at the edge of the stage, letting his tie dangle, staring spacily at the journalists and analysts. “Kodacell is bigger than that.” He’d read his email that morning then, and seen Rat-Toothed’s new moniker. “Kodacell has goodwill. It has infrastructure. Administrators. Physical plant. Supplier relationships. Distribution and logistics. These companies have a lot of useful plumbing and a lot of priceless reputation.

“What we don’t have is a product. There aren’t enough buyers for batteries or film—or any of the other stuff we make—to occupy or support all that infrastructure. These companies slept through the dot-boom and the dot-bust, trundling along as though none of it mattered. There are parts of these businesses that haven’t changed since the fifties.

“We’re not the only ones. Technology has challenged and killed businesses from every sector. Hell, IBM doesn’t make computers anymore! The very idea of a travel agent is inconceivably weird today! And the record labels, oy, the poor, crazy, suicidal, stupid record labels. Don’t get me started.

“Capitalism is eating itself. The market works, and when it works, it commodifies or obsoletes everything. That’s not to say that there’s no money out there to be had, but the money won’t come from a single, monolithic product line. The days of companies with names like ‘General Electric’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.

“We will brute-force the problem-space of capitalism in the twenty first century. Our business plan is simple: we will hire the smartest people we can find and put them in small teams. They will go into the field with funding and communications infrastructure—all that stuff we have left over from the era of batteries and film—behind them, capitalized to find a place to live and work, and a job to do. A business to start. Our company isn’t a project that we pull together on, it’s a network of like-minded, cooperating autonomous teams, all of which are empowered to do whatever they want, provided that it returns something to our coffers. We will explore and exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities, and seek constantly to refine our tactics to mine those opportunities, and the krill will strain through our mighty maw and fill our hungry belly. This company isn’t a company anymore: this company is a network, an approach, a sensibility.”

Suzanne’s fingers clattered over her keyboard. The Brit chuckled nastily. “Nice talk, considering he just made a hundred thousand people redundant,” he said. Suzanne tried to shut him out: yes, Kettlewell was firing a company’s worth of people, but he was also saving the company itself. The prospectus had a decent severance for all those departing workers, and the ones who’d taken advantage of the company stock-buying plan would find their pensions augmented by whatever this new scheme could rake in. If it worked.

“Mr Kettlewell?” Rat-Toothed had clambered to his hind legs.

“Yes, Freddy?” Freddy was Rat-Toothed’s given name, though Suzanne was hard pressed to ever retain it for more than a few minutes at a time. Kettlewell knew every business-journalist in the Valley by name, though. It was a CEO thing.

“Where will you recruit this new workforce from? And what kind of entrepreneurial things will they be doing to ‘exhaust the realm of commercial activities’?”

“Freddy, we don’t have to recruit anyone. They’re beating a path to our door. This is a nation of manic entrepreneurs, the kind of people who’ve been inventing businesses from video arcades to photomats for centuries.” Freddy scowled skeptically, his jumble of grey tombstone teeth protruding. “Come on, Freddy, you ever hear of the Grameen Bank?”

Freddy nodded slowly. “In India, right?”

“Bangladesh. Bankers travel from village to village on foot and by bus, finding small co-ops who need tiny amounts of credit to buy a cellphone or a goat or a loom in order to grow. The bankers make the loans and advise the entrepreneurs, and the payback rate is fifty times higher than the rate at a regular lending institution. They don’t even have a written lending agreement: entrepreneurs—real, hard-working entrepreneurs—you can trust on a handshake.”

“You’re going to help Americans who lost their jobs in your factories buy goats and cellphones?”

“We’re going to give them loans and coordination to start businesses that use information, materials science, commodified software and hardware designs, and creativity to wring a profit from the air around us. Here, catch!” He dug into his suit-jacket and flung a small object toward Freddy, who fumbled it. It fell onto Suzanne’s keyboard.

She picked it up. It looked like a keychain laser-pointer, or maybe a novelty light-saber.

“Switch it on, Suzanne, please, and shine it, oh, on that wall there.” Kettlewell pointed at the upholstered retractable wall that divided the hotel ballroom into two functional spaces.

Suzanne twisted the end and pointed it. A crisp rectangle of green laser-light lit up the wall.

“Now, watch this,” Kettlewell said.

NOW WATCH THIS

The words materialized in the middle of the rectangle on the distant wall.

“Testing one two three,” Kettlewell said.

TESTING ONE TWO THREE

“Donde esta el baño?”

WHERE IS THE BATHROOM

“What is it?” said Suzanne. Her hand wobbled a little and the distant letters danced.

WHAT IS IT

“This is a new artifact designed and executed by five previously out-of-work engineers in Athens, Georgia. They’ve mated a tiny Linux box with some speaker-independent continuous speech recognition software, a free software translation engine that can translate between any of twelve languages, and an extremely high-resolution LCD that blocks out words in the path of the laser-pointer.

“Turn this on, point it at a wall, and start talking. Everything said shows up on the wall, in the language of your choosing, regardless of what language the speaker was speaking.”

All the while, Kettlewell’s words were scrolling by in black block caps on that distant wall: crisp, laser-edged letters.

“This thing wasn’t invented. All the parts necessary to make this go were just lying around. It was assembled. A gal in a garage, her brother the marketing guy, her husband overseeing manufacturing in Belgrade. They needed a couple grand to get it all going, and they’ll need some life-support while they find their natural market.

“They got twenty grand from Kodacell this week. Half of it a loan, half of it equity. And we put them on the payroll, with benefits. They’re part freelancer, part employee, in a team with backing and advice from across the whole business.

“It was easy to do once. We’re going to do it ten thousand times this year. We’re sending out talent scouts, like the artists and representation people the record labels used to use, and they’re going to sign up a lot of these bands for us, and help them to cut records, to start businesses that push out to the edges of business.

“So, Freddy, to answer your question, no, we’re not giving them loans to buy cellphones and goats.”

Kettlewell beamed. Suzanne twisted the laser-pointer off and made ready to toss it back to the stage, but Kettlewell waved her off.

“Keep it,” he said. It was suddenly odd to hear him speak without the text crawl on that distant wall. She put the laser pointer in her pocket and reflected that it had the authentic feel of cool, disposable technology: the kind of thing on its way from a startup’s distant supplier to the schwag bags at high-end technology conferences to blister-packs of six hanging in the impulse aisle at Fry’s.

She tried to imagine the technology conferences she’d been to with the addition of the subtitling and translation and couldn’t do it. Not conferences. Something else. A kids’ toy? A tool for Starbucks-smashing anti-globalists, planning strategy before a WTO riot? She patted her pocket.

Freddy hissed and bubbled like a teakettle beside her, fuming. “What a cock,” he muttered. “Thinks he’s going to hire ten thousand teams to replace his workforce, doesn’t say a word about what that lot is meant to be doing now he’s shitcanned them all. Utter bullshit. Irrational exuberance gone berserk.”

Suzanne had a perverse impulse to turn the wand back on and splash Freddy’s bilious words across the ceiling, and the thought made her giggle. She suppressed it and kept on piling up notes, thinking about the structure of the story she’d file that day.

Kettlewell pulled out some charts and another surfer in a suit came forward to talk money, walking them through the financials. She’d read them already and decided that they were a pretty credible bit of fiction, so she let her mind wander.

She was a hundred miles away when the ballroom doors burst open and the unionized laborers of the former Kodak and the former Duracell poured in on them, tossing literature into the air so that it snowed angry leaflets. They had a big drum and a bugle, and they shook tambourines. The hotel rent-a-cops occasionally darted forward and grabbed a protestor by the arm, but her colleagues would immediately swarm them and pry her loose and drag her back into the body of the demonstration. Freddy grinned and shouted something at Kettlewell, but it was lost in the din. The journalists took a lot of pictures.

Suzanne closed her computer’s lid and snatched a leaflet out of the air. WHAT ABOUT US? it began, and talked about the workers who’d been at Kodak and Duracell for twenty, thirty, even forty years, who had been conspicuously absent from Kettlewell’s stated plans to date.

She twisted the laser-pointer to life and pointed it back at the wall. Leaning in very close, she said, “What are your plans for your existing workforce, Mr Kettlewell?”

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR YOUR EXISTING WORKFORCE MR KETTLEWELL

She repeated the question several times, refreshing the text so that it scrolled like a stock ticker across that upholstered wall, an illuminated focus that gradually drew all the attention in the room. The protestors saw it and began to laugh, then they read it aloud in ragged unison, until it became a chant: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS—thump of the big drum—FOR YOUR EXISTING WORKFORCE thump MR thump KETTLEWELL?

Suzanne felt her cheeks warm. Kettlewell was looking at her with something like a smile. She liked him, but that was a personal thing and this was a truth thing. She was a little embarrassed that she had let him finish his spiel without calling him on that obvious question. She felt tricked, somehow. Well, she was making up for it now.

On the stage, the surfer-boys in suits were confabbing, holding their thumbs over their tie-mics. Finally, Kettlewell stepped up and held up his own laser-pointer, painting another rectangle of light beside Suzanne’s.

“I’m glad you asked that, Suzanne,” he said, his voice barely audible.

I’M GLAD YOU ASKED THAT SUZANNE

The journalists chuckled. Even the chanters laughed a little. They quieted down.

“I’ll tell you, there’s a downside to living in this age of wonders: we are moving too fast and outstripping the ability of our institutions to keep pace with the changes in the world.”

Freddy leaned over her shoulder, blowing shit-breath in her ear. “Translation: you’re ass-fucked, the lot of you.”

TRANSLATION YOUR ASS FUCKED THE LOT OF YOU

Suzanne yelped as the words appeared on the wall and reflexively swung the pointer around, painting them on the ceiling, the opposite wall, and then, finally, in miniature, on her computer’s lid. She twisted the pointer off.

Freddy had the decency to look slightly embarrassed and he slunk away to the very end of the row of seats, scooting from chair to chair on his narrow butt. On stage, Kettlewell was pretending very hard that he hadn’t seen the profanity, and that he couldn’t hear the jeering from the protestors now, even though it had grown so loud that he could no longer be heard over it. He kept on talking, and the words scrolled over the far wall.

THERE IS NO WORLD IN WHICH KODAK AND DURACELL GO ON MAKING FILM AND BATTERIES

THE COMPANIES HAVE MONEY IN THE BANK BUT IT HEMORRHAGES OUT THE DOOR EVERY DAY

WE ARE MAKING THINGS THAT NO ONE WANTS TO BUY

THIS PLAN INCLUDES A GENEROUS SEVERANCE FOR THOSE STAFFERS WORKING IN THE PARTS OF THE BUSINESS THAT WILL CLOSE DOWN

— Suzanne admired the twisted, long-way-around way of saying, “the people we’re firing.” Pure CEO passive voice. She couldn’t type notes and read off the wall at the same time. She whipped out her little snapshot and monkeyed with it until it was in video mode and then started shooting the ticker.

BUT IF WE ARE TO MAKE GOOD ON THAT SEVERANCE WE NEED TO BE IN BUSINESS

WE NEED TO BE BRINGING IN A PROFIT SO THAT WE CAN MEET OUR OBLIGATIONS TO ALL OUR STAKEHOLDERS SHAREHOLDERS AND WORKFORCE ALIKE

WE CAN’T PAY A PENNY IN SEVERANCE IF WE’RE BANKRUPT

WE ARE HIRING 50000 NEW EMPLOYEES THIS YEAR AND THERE’S NOTHING THAT SAYS THAT THOSE NEW PEOPLE CAN’T COME FROM WITHIN

CURRENT EMPLOYEES WILL BE GIVEN CONSIDERATION BY OUR SCOUTS

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS A DEEPLY AMERICAN PRACTICE AND OUR WORKERS ARE AS CAPABLE OF ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTION AS ANYONE

I AM CONFIDENT WE WILL FIND MANY OF OUR NEW HIRES FROM WITHIN OUR EXISTING WORKFORCE

I SAY THIS TO OUR EMPLOYEES IF YOU HAVE EVER DREAMED OF STRIKING OUT ON YOUR OWN EXECUTING ON SOME AMAZING IDEA AND NEVER FOUND THE MEANS TO DO IT NOW IS THE TIME AND WE ARE THE PEOPLE TO HELP

Suzanne couldn’t help but admire the pluck it took to keep speaking into the pointer, despite the howls and bangs.

“C’mon, I’m gonna grab some bagels before the protestors get to them,” Freddy said, plucking at her arm—apparently, this was his version of a charming pickup line. She shook him off authoritatively, with a whip-crack of her elbow.

Freddy stood there for a minute and then moved off. She waited to see if Kettlewell would say anything more, but he twisted the pointer off, shrugged, and waved at the hooting protestors and the analysts and the journalists and walked off-stage with the rest of the surfers in suits.

She got some comments from a few of the protestors, some details. Worked for Kodak or Duracell all their lives. Gave everything to the company. Took voluntary pay-cuts under the old management five times in ten years to keep the business afloat, now facing layoffs as a big fat thank-you-suckers. So many kids. Such and such a mortgage.

She knew these stories from Detroit: she’d filed enough copy with varying renditions of it to last a lifetime. Silicon Valley was supposed to be different. Growth and entrepreneurship—a failed company was just a stepping-stone to a successful one, can’t win them all, dust yourself off and get back to the garage and start inventing. There’s a whole world waiting out there!

Mother of three. Dad whose bright daughter’s university fund was raided to make ends meet during the “temporary” austerity measures. This one has a Down’s Syndrome kid and that one worked through three back surgeries to help meet production deadlines.

Half an hour before she’d been full of that old Silicon Valley optimism, the sense that there was a better world a-borning around her. Now she was back in that old rustbelt funk, with the feeling that she was witness not to a beginning, but to a perpetual ending, a cycle of destruction that would tear down everything solid and reliable in the world.

She packed up her laptop and stepped out into the parking lot. Across the freeway, she could make out the bones of the Great America fun-park roller-coasters whipping around and around in the warm California sun.

These little tech-hamlets down the 101 were deceptively utopian. All the homeless people were miles north on the streets of San Francisco, where pedestrian marks for panhandling could be had, where the crack was sold on corners instead of out of the trunks of fresh-faced, friendly coke-dealers’ cars. Down here it was giant malls, purpose-built dot-com buildings, and the occasional fun-park. Palo Alto was a university-town theme-park, provided you steered clear of the wrong side of the tracks, the East Palo Alto slums that were practically shanties.

Christ, she was getting melancholy. She didn’t want to go into the office—not today. Not when she was in this kind of mood. She would go home and put her blazer back in the closet and change into yoga togs and write her column and have some good coffee.

She nailed up the copy in an hour and emailed it to her editor and poured herself a glass of Napa red (the local vintages in Michigan likewise left something to be desired) and settled onto her porch, overlooking the big reservoir off 280 near Mountain View.

The house had been worth a small fortune at the start of the dot-boom, but now, in the resurgent property boom, it was worth a large fortune and then some. She could conceivably sell this badly built little shack with its leaky hot-tub for enough money to retire on, if she wanted to live out the rest of her days in Sri Lanka or Nebraska.

“You’ve got no business feeling poorly, young lady,” she said to herself. “You are as well set-up as you could have dreamed, and you are right in the thick of the weirdest and best time the world has yet seen. And Landon Kettlewell knows your name.”

She finished the wine and opened her computer. It was dark enough now with the sun set behind the hills that she could read the screen. The Web was full of interesting things, her email full of challenging notes from her readers, and her editor had already signed off on her column.

She was getting ready to shut the lid and head for bed, so she pulled her mail once more.

From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Subject: Embedded journalist?

Thanks for keeping me honest today, Suzanne. It’s the hardest question we’re facing today: what happens when all the things you’re good at are no good to anyone anymore? I hope we’re going to answer that with the new model.

You do good work, madam. I’d be honored if you’d consider joining one of our little teams for a couple months and chronicling what they do. I feel like we’re making history here and we need someone to chronicle it.

I don’t know if you can square this with the Merc, and I suppose that we should be doing this through my PR people and your editor, but there comes a time about this time every night when I’m just too goddamned hyper to bother with all that stuff and I want to just DO SOMETHING instead of ask someone else to start a process to investigate the possibility of someday possibly maybe doing something.

Will you do something with us, if we can make it work? 100 percent access, no oversight? Say you will. Please.

Your pal,

Kettlebelly

She stared at her screen. It was like a work of art; just look at that return address, “ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ”—for kodacell.com to be live and accepting mail, it had to have been registered the day before. She had a vision of Kettlewell checking his email at midnight before his big press-conference, catching Freddy’s column, and registering kodacell.com on the spot, then waking up some sysadmin to get a mail server answering at skunkworks.kodacell.com. Last she’d heard, Lockheed-Martin was threatening to sue anyone who used their trademarked term “Skunk Works” to describe a generic R&D department. That meant that Kettlewell had moved so fast that he hadn’t even run this project by legal. She was willing to bet that he’d already ordered new business-cards with the address on them.

There was a guy she knew, an editor at a mag who’d assigned himself a plum article that he’d run on his own cover. He’d gotten a book-deal out of it. A half-million dollar book-deal. If Kettlewell was right, then the exclusive book on the inside of the first year at Kodacell could easily make that advance. And the props would be mad, as the kids said.

Kettlebelly! It was such a stupid frat-boy nickname, but it made her smile. He wasn’t taking himself seriously, or maybe he was, but he wasn’t being a pompous ass about it. He was serious about changing the world and frivolous about everything else. She’d have a hard time being an objective reporter if she said yes to this.

She couldn’t possibly decide at this hour. She needed a night’s sleep and she had to talk this over with the Merc. If she had a boyfriend, she’d have to talk it over with him, but that wasn’t a problem in her life these days.

She spread on some expensive duty-free French wrinkle-cream and brushed her teeth and put on her nightie and double-checked the door locks and did all the normal things she did of an evening. Then she folded back her sheets, plumped her pillows and stared at them.

She turned on her heel and stalked back to her computer and thumped the spacebar until the thing woke from sleep.

From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Subject: Re: Embedded journalist?

Kettlebelly: that is one dumb nickname. I couldn’t possibly associate myself with a grown man who calls himself Kettlebelly.

So stop calling yourself Kettlebelly, immediately. If you can do that, we’ve got a deal.

Suzanne

There had come a day when her readers acquired email and the paper ran her address with her byline, and her readers had begun to write her and write her and write her. Some were amazing, informative, thoughtful notes. Some were the vilest, most bilious trolling. In order to deal with these notes, she had taught herself to pause, breathe, and re-read any email message before clicking send.

The reflex kicked in now and she re-read her note to Kettlebelly—Kettlewell!—and felt a crimp in her guts. Then she hit send.

She needed to pee, and apparently had done for some time, without realizing it. She was on the toilet when she heard the ping of new incoming mail.

From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Subject: Re: Embedded journalist?

I will never call myself Kettlebelly again.

Your pal,

Kettledrum.

Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit. She did a little two-step at her bed’s edge. Tomorrow she’d go see her editor about this, but it just felt right, and exciting, like she was on the brink of an event that would change her life forever.

It took her three hours of mindless Web-surfing, including a truly dreary Hot-Or-Not clicktrance and an hour’s worth of fiddling with tweets from the press-conference, before she was able to lull herself to sleep. As she nodded off, she thought that Kettlewell’s insomnia was as contagious as his excitement.

Continue to Part 2


As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.

 

Doctorow’s Makers will be released in print by Tor Books in October. You can read all previous installments of Makers on Tor.com on our index page.

49 comments
Ross Newberry
1. Ross Newberry
We will explore and exhaust the realm of commercial opportunities, and seek constantly to refine our tactics to mine those opportunities, and the krill will strain through our might maw and fill our hungry belly.


Missed a y in mighty. Good start!
Ross Newberry
3. Allen Shull
Maybe I missed something, but in this--
Suzanne yelped as the words appeared on the wall and reflexively swung the pointer around, painting them on the ceiling, the opposite wall, and then, finally, in miniature, on her computer’s lid. She twisted the pointer off.

Freddy had the decency to look slightly embarrassed and he slunk away to the very end of the row of seats, scooting from chair to chair on his narrow butt. On stage, Kettlewell was pretending very hard that he hadn’t seen the profanity, and that he couldn’t hear the jeering from the protestors now, even though it had grown so loud that he could no longer be heard over it. He kept on talking, and the words scrolled over the far wall.

THERE IS NO WORLD IN WHICH KODAK AND DURACELL GO ON MAKING FILM AND BATTERIES

--there seems to be a turning-off of the pointer, and then a display from a pointer. Shouldn't there be an explicit either turning-back-on or replacement-pointer?
Pablo Defendini
4. pablodefendini
Finally, Kettlewell stepped up and held up his own laser-pointer, painting another rectangle of light beside Suzanne’s.


Kettlebelly's got his own pointer. Blister pack at Fry's and all that.
David Goldfarb
5. David_Goldfarb
Is Lockheed-Martin really threatening to sue people who use the phrase "Skunk Works"? That takes some nerve, considering that they nicked the phrase from Al Capp.
Ross Newberry
6. Nerdler
What the hell is this shit?

Did some prep-school's special-ed class have a special internet day?
Ross Newberry
7. FrF
"Rat-Toothed hissed beside her. His breath smelled like he’d been gargling turds He was the kind of revolutionary who liked his firing squads arranged in a circle. Rat-Toothed had clambered to his hind legs Freddy hissed and bubbled like a teakettle beside her, fuming."

Now, wait. I wonder what Cory wants to tell us about Freddy...Is it that he's unsympathetic?

If I were an editor I'd suggest to take another look at this rather spiteful caricature.
Ross Newberry
8. Zita Rosen
Hope this is the right place: I wanted to suggest an ode to Moe's Books in Berkeley. Fabulous new and used bookstore that is firmly committed to the community they work with. I have shopped there since I was 3 and continue to stumble across gems. They carry the new stuff even if it is obscure, the old stuff for affordable prices, and they buy back books too! Hope you have been there, hope you loved it!
ZR
Ross Newberry
9. Chris Spurgeon
Perhaps this will go against the crowd that comments after these excerpts, but I really like Amazon.

I particularly love the feature that, when I'm on a book's page...reminds me if I've already purchased it. I'm actually absent minded enough to forget I've bought some obscure technical book a couple of years before. It's saved me hundreds of dollars.
Ross Newberry
10. John David Stone
A small liberal-arts college in a small town in the Midwest supports a small bookstore, the Pioneer Bookshop (http://www.pioneerbookshop.com/). In the selection of titles offered, you can see the taste and judgement of the manager, Harley McIlrath, and of the readers that Harley talks with. It's unprepossessing, but it has some surprises, and if you stop in every so often you'll soon meet everyone on the staff. I like it because of its human scale.
Ross Newberry
11. Glenn Archer
For one of my favourite bookstore recommendations, I would nominate Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario. One of the few bookstores I'll go to beside Bakka.

They have a decent enough selection of scifi/fantasy but also Canadiana, poetry, big section on green technology/living/architecture/gardening. Very friendly staff and anything to help them keep surviving from the Chapters megastores would be highly appreciated!

Main site: http://www.wordsworthbooks.com
Blog site: http://howtofurnisharoom.blogspot.com/
Ross Newberry
12. ben Peterson
can you really "obsolete" something? don't you "obsolesce" ??
Ross Newberry
13. jesteram
Leon's in San Luis Obispo was my favorite, until it closed last year after four decades in business. Before the last books were boxed and removed, the owner told me about how buyers used to stop by on coastal book-buying trips. Such stops grew less frequent as buyers learned they could easily find volumes they were looking for online and no longer drove up and down California to stop at independent shops along the way.

I hit the library more often now to find what I'm looking for.
Ross Newberry
14. sarah says...
ah, the thrill of a premise! some part of me is restless, suspicious that what capitalism does best is consolidate not distribute, but i'm along for the ride anyway. it's fun to dream.

and ok! a beloved bookstore: camus bookstore and infoshop in victoria, bc. modelled on the lovely anarchist infoshops, they don't just have good books they have space and shared gear too, for community publishing and projects. so many local groups and events go through there that it is kind of an oral knowledge repository as well as a literary one.
Ross Newberry
15. Bearpaw
This novel sounds oddly familiar so far. Did this start off as a short story somewhere, or is my deja-vu kicking in again?
David Shanahan
16. dshan
"...and that despicable rat-toothed jumped-up gossip columnist from one of the UK tech-rags...", etc.

It's cold, but that's the best way to serve it.

Damned if I'm not now following more serialized novels online than I can keep up with. Mr Dickens would have loved the internet!

@15, Bearpaw - Yes it did, see the Tor announcement for details.
Irene Gallo
17. Irene
On beloved bookstores:

Sadly Port Jefferson Station's The Novel Exchange is gone, but it was my gateway into SF and a career in books. It was the perfect bike ride away -- not too far, not too close. In 7th grade and knowing nothing about Sf, I picked up Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream because on the title. I may never had read it, still, but my brother laughed and said it was "too mature" for me. Of course I ran out and bought a dozen Ellison books (always looking for the Dillon covers whenever possible) and, as luck would have it, Ellison was speaking at my other brother's school, ICon3 at Stony Brook University. (Egads...I just looked it up, they are up to Icon29.)

So, cheers to used bookstores with books cheap enough for kids to by on a whim! (And cheers to having good brothers to spite!)
Ross Newberry
18. tamouse
Liegh's books in downtown Sunnyvale, Caliornia is a fun book store, friendly to dogs :)
Ross Newberry
19. Castellan
Fantastic! I'm delighted by the future-tickle I get when reading new Cory, and this one tickle-kicked me hard upside the head: I want to fly back to California now to pick up a blisterpack of translaser pointers... and to work for a company like http://Skunkworks.Kodacell.com.

On the factual contribution front, I'd like to point out that the big reservoir off Hwy 280 near Mountain View is probably Upper and Lower Crystal Springs reservoirs, a lot nearer San Mateo than Mountain View. Hwy 92 cuts west between the two quiet lakes as it turns towards Half Moon Bay. Four lanes of 280 arc northward, up along the San Andreas fault, empty except for the morning rush into the city. Its a lovely drive through the baked yellow straw hills dotted with garry oak, dark and dry.
Ross Newberry
20. kentkb
Two good book stores on 24th street San Francisco:
Green Apple Books
- www.greenapplebooks.com

San Francisco Mystery Books
- www.sanfranciscowritersworkshop.com

As in the story,yes it is time to Re-Make America.
Ross Newberry
21. windmill
Isn't Green Apple Books on Clement?
Ross Newberry
22. MikeD
Really excited about this and I'm so glad you're serializing it!
Hannah X
23. h4nn4h
I think it's really cool that you're doing this but I had to give up. Just can't concentrate on reading fiction on a computer screen like this. It's probably a question of habit but if it doesn't at least look like a real book (like those nice ebooks we got for free when this site launched) it just doesn't work for me. Pity, but I'll just wait until the book comes out.
Blue Tyson
24. BlueTyson
Likes Suzanne better than Andrea now then? :)
Jessica Melusine
25. jessicamelusine
Bookstores:
Atomic Books,Baltimore, Maryland (want weird?you got it!)
W.K. Friedly's, Toledo, Ohio (paperbacks, lots of sci-fi)
Quimby's Queer Store, Chicago, IL (books, zines, lots of fun)
Flyrabbit, Allston, MA (books and medical oddities)
Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Grolier Poetry Bookstore, Boston MA
Pandemonium Books, Boston MA (science fiction and how!)
Seven Stars, Cambridge MA (occult bookshop)
Between Books, Claymont, DE
Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room, Ann Arbor, MI

Gone, but not forgotten
The Stars Our Destination-Chicago, IL
A small science fiction bookstore in a pink house in Stratford, Ontario--closed in 1995. I never forgot it.
William S. Higgins
26. higgins
David Goldfarb writes:

Is Lockheed-Martin really threatening to sue people who use the phrase "Skunk Works"? That takes some nerve, considering that they nicked the phrase from Al Capp.

Big Barnsmell's establishment, in Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner, was the Skonk Works. I am sure Lockmart's attorneys would explain that this is completely different.
Marcus W
27. toryx
Good start to the novel. I especially liked the description of San Jose and that location right across the freeway from Great America. It's been eleven years since I last lived out there, but I could picture it perfectly.

Jesteram @ 13:

I was seriously bummed to hear that Leon's closed myself. I used to spend a lot of time browsing the shelves there.
Ross Newberry
28. EzzaBee
I loved the start to this. Looks to me like I'll be reading my first serialized novel now! One minor nitpick, if I may: Both Rat-Toothed and Kettlewell are described as despicable in paragraph 2 and 3.
Looking forward to future installments!
Ross Newberry
29. WLWEsq
I'd like to nominate the Griffon Bookstore in South Bend, Indiana. In the 1980s it was *the* place in northern Indiana to acquire Dungeons & Dragons books and paraphernalia (not to mention every other game under the sun). It boasted a huge selection of Penguin Classics, along with great used books.

Today the Griffon is still going strong in the same location it's been in since the 1980s. Right in the middle of the downtown. The square footage is downright microscopic compared to the latest Barnes & Noble, but the staff knows their stuff, they love books, and they have always marched to their own drummer. Even today I believe they have avoided creating a site on the Web, preferring instead to let their customers do the advertising for them.
Keith Woeltje
30. KFW
I'll second WLWEsq's nomination. When we'd take trips to South Bend to visit my mom's family when I was a boy, a trip to Griffon's was always the highlight of my trip. While everyone else ran errands, I browsed there for hours. I bought D&D stuff and Heinlein books there. Glad to hear that it's still there.
Matthew Smith
31. djfoobarmatt
Cory asked us to put names of favourite bookstores on these blog posts. In Brisbane, Australia, the best bookstore is Pulp Fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Crime in the Adelaide Arcade. I know Borders is more convenient if you're not walking up to Central Station but the staff at Pulp are true believers and happy to talk books if it's a quiet day (and they don't have too many mail orders to process).

As for this serialised thing? I can't handle fiction on screen, I'll get a hold of the book when it comes out. If it was an mp3 on the other hand...
Ross Newberry
32. George Forrester
Well, I volunteer in a charity bookshop that customers regularly tell us is their favourite.

It's the British Heart Foundation bookshop (also sells CDs, DVDs and all media) at the top of Whiteladies Road in Bristol, and before I worked there I put a review of it on Qype, here's the link -

http://www.qype.co.uk/place/366832-British-Heart-Foundation-Bristol

The other day a guy came in and said "This is the best bookshop I've been in in ten years". We frequently get such comments.

One reason may be that we don't charge high prices for anything. Also that we get a wide variety of interesting books donated. But I think the main reason is that the shop has such a friendly and cheerful atmosphere, and the staff enjoy working there - for nothing, except the manager and assistant manager!

I bought a new copy of Little Brother in another bookshop. Three days later a copy came in to the British Heart Foundation bookshop, and we put it on the shelf for £2.50. It sold almost immediately.
Ross Newberry
33. Brendonio
I'm interested in this, but I wonder if I'll remember to come back and read each of the (81!?) installments. I wish there were an rss feed for just this story - even if it just had a header and made you click through to the tor page ...
Tamara Allen
34. tamaralynn
#33 - Brendonio - Put www.tor.com in an RSS reader and it will give you all the blog posts. Cory's story posts are part of the blog, and will show up, along with all the other blog posts. That should remind you.
Ross Newberry
35. cantbebotheredbynames
Facebook sharing link is invalid. It should be http://www.tor.com/index.php%3Foption%3Dcom_content%26view%3Dblog%26id%3D35734&t=Cory+Doctorow%E2%80%99s+Makers%2C+Part+1+%28of+81%29
Ross Newberry
36. wordymusic
Dammit, the book isn't come out for a month or several yet, is it. Damn effective free sample marketing.

Also, I love the style. It feels a little scattered, though- as if the author is having too many brilliant ideas at the same time. Also, I know many people who would read this and be like "...what?" mostly re: the tech and socioeconomic theory. Which makes me like it even more.
Ross Newberry
37. GabrielG
Berkeley's lost so many good bookstores, recently, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Cody's books on 4th street. Gone now, but they had the best edited tables I've ever seen.

Also, a vote for the now closed, actually closed for a long while, Shakespeare & Co. on New York's upper westside. I miss going to really good bookstores...
Dave Bush
38. davebush
How come Cory didn't register kodacell.com before releasing the story? (Or choose another domain?)
Geoffrey Campey
39. geosta
Really enjoyable start, looking forward to reading this. I've never read any of Doctorow's work, but after reading this, I think I'll have to search some out. My initial feeling is post-cyberpunk Gibson - which I like very much.

As for bookstores, my original source of all things reading was Rice's Bookstore, on Hunter Street in Newcastle, Australia. I can't tell you how many hours I spent staring at the shelves of cheap, multiple-hand books looking for a new favourite book. Well worth a stop if you're ever down that way.
Ross Newberry
40. Cat Laine
Huh, Kettledrum describes a process that we're trying to do at my non-profit, AIDG. Except we're giving loans to small businesses in Haiti and Guatemala working on renewable energy, sanitation and water technologies. Generating leads and finding entrepreneurs is one of the big challenges. Hadn't thought of emulating how the music biz people do it. Very interesting (stroking chin).

Cat Laine
Deputy Director
AIDG
Ross Newberry
41. tgrignon
Very engaging, Cory, your characterizations really grab.

Did I miss a clue somewhere about the setting though? It sounds like the present (give or take) and yet a Linux engine with a speech recognition database for 12 languages is beyond keychain size and our technology today. Even iPod size would be pushing it. Unless it's wireless. The translation of rat tooth's 'you're' to 'your' was a nice touch of authenticity!

Looking forward to reading the next one and possibly seeing you at WorldCon in a handful of days.

Keep up the good work.
Ross Newberry
42. BrantP
I'd like to throw up a second for Moe's Books in Berkeley (or more likely a "fiftieth" or "sixtieth" :)

And a shout out to a new favorite, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA; definitely a choice place to spend an afternoon finding the next pick!
Harold Johnson
43. Herald
Good stuff. Been aware of Cory Doctorow for a few years but I haven't read any of his longer works. Today at my local Barnes & Noble in the Rocket City (Huntsville, AL) I sat and enjoyed reading an interview about the author in the latest issue of Writer's Digest; this evening I find myself firing up Tor.com to check out Makers. Think I may be heading back to Tor.com more often to read more Makers. Thanks, Writer's Digest, Barnes & Noble, Cory D. and (last, but not least) Tor Books!
Stefan Raets
44. Stefan
I'm just starting out on this. The first chapter grabbed me - I'm in. Very cool!

Bookstore: Mysterious Galaxy in my home town San Diego, one of the most welcoming SF&F stores I've ever visited, and extremely knowledgeable staff. Not a bad place for a signing event, Cory :)
Nicholas Alcock
45. NullNix
Well, I'm just starting out on this and I'm afraid I'm probably going to skip the rest of it. My first thought when I ran into Kettlewell's first chunk of dialog was "he reads just like every other Doctorow protagonist, doesn't he?". When you can predict 90% of what he's going to say from the first sentence, it's not a good sign. Even his word choice is completely predictable, because it's the same as Cory's with a bit more bombast.

Cory tells a good story. Unfortunately he's told it before. It would be nice to read a different one from him, rather than the same one over and over again with the names changed. (_Little Brother_ was rather different, which made it better: even being black-and-white helps. Everyone needs a little guilty revenge fantasy now and then.)

(Also, it's a cataclysmically stupid business plan Kettlewell's got there. Take Kodak and Duracell, industrial manufacturing enterprises notable for *physical* plant, and turn them into... a venture capitalist firm? What would they do that a VC or IBM's consulting arm couldn't do better? How would any of their existing infrastructure help? How would any of their staff be suitable? Maybe this gets dealt with later in the story, but as far as I can see any room full of actual finance journalists would have been restraining titters throughout that speech, or possibly restraining appalled gasps or lawsuit threats depending on how much Kodak or Duracell stock they owned.)
Ross Newberry
46. Bill Seitz
I tend to agree with NullNix as to whether anyone would let a model like this happen.

Even allowing that to be possible, though, why buy *2* dinosaurs? I'm sure they have different vendors and sales channels, so you could argue that it brings more breadth into the keiretsu, but what are the limits to that thinking? Should they have added a car company to the mix? An accounting firm?
Ross Newberry
47. LindaY
My first thought upon reading the nickname "Kettlebelly" was to think of the old man/boss in Heinlien's "Friday". Is it coincidence?

I also vote for Moe's in Berkeley and Cody's (RIP). Another favortite is Other Change of Hobbit in Berkeley. The workers there can point in several reading directions, have new and used books, and a store cat. It was my favorite place to spend a lunch break in.
Ross Newberry
48. autodidact
I heartily recommend Anthology Book Company in Loveland, Colorado. They're a lovely small-town new-and-used store with a small but knowledgeable staff and a great little coffee shop in there to boot.
Ross Newberry
49. Markd0419
Thanks Cory. And Tor. This caught my imagination immediately so I will continue reading the rest.

Bookstores along with alot other mom and pop stores are slowly disappearing in and around the Metro Detroit area but John K. King used book store still seems to going strong but my favorite place for books is still my local library. I don't really remember a time I didn't have a library card and it is one of the first places I check out when moving to a new area.

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