Jul 21 2009 9:00am

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 7 (of 81)

Illustration by Idiots’Books

“They need the tools to make any other tools,” is what Perry said when he returned from the hospital, the side of his head still swaddled in bandages that draped over his injured eye. They’d shaved his head at his insistence, saying that he wasn’t going to try to keep his hair clean with all the bandages. It made him look younger, and his fine skull-bones stood out through his thin scalp when he finally came home. Before he’d looked like a outdoorsman engineer: now he looked like a radical, a pirate.

“They need the tools that will let them build anything else, for free, and use it or sell it.” He gestured at the rapid prototyping machines they had, the 3D printer and scanner setups. “I mean something like that, but I want it to be capable of printing out the parts necessary to assemble another one. Machines that can reproduce themselves.”

Francis shifted in his seat. “What are they supposed to do with those?”

“Everything,” Perry said, his eye glinting. “Make your kitchen fixtures. Make your shoes and hat. Make your kids’ toys—if it’s in the stores, it should be a downloadable too. Make toolchests and tools. Make it and build it and sell it. Make other printers and sell them. Make machines that make the goop we feed into the printers. Teach a man to fish, Francis, teach a man to fucking fish. No top-down ‘solutions’ driven by ‘market research’”—his finger-quotes oozed sarcasm—“the thing that we need to do is make these people the authors of their own destiny.”

They put up the sign that night: AUTHOR OF YOUR OWN DESTINY, hung over the workshop door. Suzanne trailed after Perry transcribing the rants that spilled out of his mouth as he explained it to Lester and Francis, and then to Kettlewell when he called, and then to the pretty young black lady from the TV who by now had figured out that there was a real story in her backyard, then to an NPR man on the phone, and then to a CNN crew who drove in from Miami and filmed the shantytown and the workshop like Japanese tourists at Disney World, never having ventured into the skanky, failed strip-mall suburbs just outside of town.

Francis had a protege who had a real dab touch with the 3-D printers. The manufacturer, Lester’s former employer, had been out of business for two years by then, so all the service on the machines had to be done on the premises. Francis’s protege—the one who claimed his mother had pushed his father under a bus, his name was Jason—watched Lester work on recalcitrant machines silently for a couple days, then started to hand him the tool he needed next without having to be asked. Then he diagnosed a problem that had stumped Lester all morning. Then he suggested an improvement to the feedstock pump that increased the mean time between failures by a couple hours.

“No, man, no, not like that,” Jason said to one of the small gang of boys he was bossing. “Gently, or you’ll snap it off.” The boy snapped it off and Jason pulled another replacement part out of a tub and said, “See, like this,” and snapped it on. The small gang of boys regarded him with something like awe.

“How come no girls?” Suzanne said as she interviewed him while he took a smoke-break. Perry had banned cigarettes from all indoor workshops, nominally to keep flames away from the various industrial chemicals and such, but really just to encourage the shantytowners to give up the habit that they couldn’t afford anyway. He’d also leaned on the shantytowners who’d opened up small shops in their houses to keep cigs out of the town, without a lot of success.

“Girls aren’t interested in this stuff, lady.”

“You think?” There was a time when she would have objected, but it was better to let these guys say it out loud, hear themselves say it.

“No. Maybe where you come from, OK? Don’t know. But here girls are different. They do good in school but when they have babies they’re done. I mean, hey, it’s not like I don’t want girls in the team, they’d be great. I love girls. They fuckin’ work, you know. No bullshit, no screwing around. But I know every girl in this place and none of ’em are even interested, OK?”

Suzanne cocked one eyebrow just a little and Jason shifted uncomfortably. He scratched his bare midriff and shuffled. “I do, all of them. Why would they? One girl, a roomful of boys, it’d be gross. They’d act like jerks. There’s no way we’d get anything done.”

Suzanne lifted her eyebrow one hair higher. He squirmed harder.

“So all right, that’s not their fault. But I got enough work, all right? Too much to do without spending time on that. It’s not like any girls have asked to join up. I’m not keeping them out.”

Suzanne jotted a couple of notes, keeping perfectly mum.

“Well, I’d like to have them in the workshop, OK? Maybe I should ask some of them if they’d come. Shit, if I can teach these apes, I can teach a girl. They’re smart. Girls’d made this place a little better to work in. Lots of them trying to support their families, so they need the money, too.”

There was a girl there by the afternoon. The next day, there were two more. They seemed like quick studies, despite their youth and their lip-gloss. Suzanne approved.

<<< Back to Part 6

Continue to Part 8 >>>

* * *

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.

boris legradic
1. borsic
A day late and sooo short :( - but I guess I can overlook that if I win something in the anniversary giveaway (hint, hint)!
Craig Moynes
2. retinaburn
Reminds me of Corys piece Printcrime http://craphound.com/?p=573
Which is a good thing mind you. Making is step 1, making makers is step 2.
Pablo Defendini
3. pablodefendini
Yeah, the length of each Makers segment varies drastically (blame me, I did the splitting *ducks*), and I'm afraid we're staring down the barrel of some short segments this week.
boris legradic
4. borsic
Oh noes! Well, I guess I can't complain too much about free fiction (although I think I just did), so I'll just have to suffer through it. And then I am on holiday (without internet, shudder), so I can look forward to reading a whole bunch of posts in two weeks time, yay!
Lesley Mitchell
5. dkscully
Really, really enjoying this.

Have recommended it to a bunch of friends already.
Andrew J
6. Waitingforthenextpost
I agree. Despite getting to reed it for free, I already know that one of my purchases later this year will be this book.

But wow that was a short fix.
Kevin D. Clarke
7. Kevin D. Clarke
Tomorrow is another installment. Tomorrow ... oh Bliss!
Kevin D. Clarke
8. WBC
First one of these I've seen on the day it was posted. Yesterday I had to search the site to find #6 which supposedly was posted Friday. I got to read #5 on Friday, and so on.

Anyone know what's up with this? I'd blame it on proxy-cache, but why would I be able to find part 6 with a search, but not have it appear as a link from the end of part 5??
Kevin D. Clarke
9. kibrika
These are addictive. At the first few I thought "I'l keep a tab open, so I can read one when I have the time". Not even noticing the change I've gone into "Oh, come on, come on, come on! I can't wait for the next one!" They're great!
Kevin D. Clarke
10. nxt
Soo short... and seriously addictive. That "the world should really work like this" feeling.

The way Jason learned how to operate the printers and taught that all the other kids, reminds me of a real story of children doing the same in India, learning how to use a computer. It's cool that this really works!
Melissa Cooper-Martin
11. Melissima
I love Suzanne for letting Jason convince himself. Lol
Kevin D. Clarke
12. cnawan|ametsus
Oooh, far shorter than the last few. I won't visit so often in future.

I roleplayed last night and I was thinking how well our GM paced the adventure-it's much the same for an author I guess, and for the editor chopping up these segments.
I don't know about you, but I became way less engaged with the story this time.

It's still a good book, I may well buy it and will recommend it to friends. I think I'll come back and read some more-just not for every segment...
Chris Pitchford
13. databoy
I have to acknowledge that events have touched the main characters of the story (although I suspect that Suzanne and Lester are the leads), and it makes for a gripping read (apparently what I look for, but not necessarily for everyone)! I've been criticizing Makers for its Post-modern approach to characters and plot....

I don't think that serialization is helping the segmented story (and I know that the work was completed prior to the editorial chopping), because there are threads that are hanging loose -- most recently, who called in the police? But before that, the fire in the shantytown -- who started that? And others: Tjan's family in St. Petersburg? the SJ Merc cuts?

I'm not complaining for the sake of complaining -- just as the author is offering the work for comment, I feel like I should add a comment on the off chance it will be read.

As for offering a story about a bookseller, my favorite bookstore is The Tattered Cover of Denver, Colorado, which I first visited in 1973 when a family friend worked there. It has moved several times, and grown beyond it's humble roots, but it is still my favorite. It recently left it's high-rent home for new digs at a converted theater in a part of town that has really benefitted from the change. It turned the orchestra pit and boxes into reading rooms!
Kevin D. Clarke
14. Frank P.
I don't think it's complaining to comment about the relative lack of scope these last few chapters have had. If anything, people are hungry for more and understandably left as wanting as Dickensonian orphans when there's nothing but a spoonful of gruel in the bowl.

If what Databoy claims is true, and this IS the carefully considered, trimed and refined, and ultimately approved-way-in-advance-of-the-deadline content, well ... what are we to make of that? Do we use this trend to interpolate the content for the duration of the serial? Or do we simply accept that, as a serial, a certain level of detail will be sacrificed to preserve the episodic feel.

An anisotropic writing method; mip-mapped renderings that provide the illusion of content through the use of preprocessed miniatures. From a distance and in sum they don't appear much different from a fully detailed model. Broken into smaller fragments and magnified over a shorter time scale, the illusion is revealed as a collection of jagged edges and blurred textures ... more fine than a summation, but less satisfying than a completely rendered target.

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