Jul 22 2009 9:00am

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 8 (of 81)

Illustration by Idiots’Books

Lester stayed long enough to see the first prototype printer-printers running, then he lit out with a duffel bag jammed into the back of his modded Smart car. “Where are you going?” Suzanne said as Perry looked on gloomily. “I’ll come and visit you. I want to follow your story.” Truth be told, she was sorry to see him go, very sorry. He was such a rock, such an anchor for Perry’s new crazy pirate energy and for the madness around them. He hadn’t given much notice (not to her—Perry didn’t seem that surprised).

“I can’t really talk about it,” he said. “Nondisclosure.”

“So it’s a new job,” she said. “You’re going to work for Tjan?” Tjan’s Westinghouse operation was fully rocking. He had fifty teams up the eastern seaboard, ten in the midwest and was rumored to have twice as many in Eastern Europe.

He grinned. “Oh, Suzanne, don’t try to journalist me.” He reached out and hugged her in a cloud of her father’s cologne. “You’re fantastic, you know that? No, I’m not going to a job. It’s a thing that’s an amazing opportunity, you know?”

She didn’t, but then he was gone and boy did she miss him.

Perry and she went out for dinner in Miami the next night with a PhD candidate from Pepperdine’s B-school, eating at the same deco patio that she’d dined at with Tjan. Perry wore a white shirt open to reveal his tangle of wiry chest hair and the waitress couldn’t keep her eyes off of him. He had a permanent squint now, and a scar that made his eyebrow into a series of small hills.

“I was just in Greensboro, Miss,” the PhD candidate said. He was in his mid-twenties, young and slick, his only nod to academe a small goatee. “I used to spend summers there with my grandpa.” He talked fast, flecks of spittle in the corners of his mouth, eyes wide, fork stabbing blindly at the bits of crab-cake on his plate. “There wasn’t anything left there, just a couple gas-stations and a 7-Eleven, shit, they’d even closed the Wal-Mart. But now, but now, it’s alive again, it’s buzzing and hopping. Every empty storefront is full of people playing and tinkering, just a little bit of money in their pockets from a bank or a company or a fund. They’re doing the dumbest things, mind you: tooled-leather laptop cases, switchblade knives with thumb drives in the handles, singing and dancing lawn-Santas that yodel like hillbillies.”

“I’d buy a tooled-leather laptop case,” Perry said, swilling a sweaty bottle of beer. He waggled his funny eyebrow and rubbed his fuzzy scalp.

“The rate of employment is something like ninety-five percent, which it hasn’t been in like a hundred years. If you’re not inventing stuff, you’re keeping the books for someone who is, or making sandwiches for them, or driving delivery vehicles around. It’s like a tiny, distributed gold rush.”

“Or like the New Deal,” Suzanne said. That was how she’d come to invite him down, after she’d read his paper coining the term New Work to describe what Perry was up to, comparing it to Roosevelt’s public-investment plan that spent America free of the Depression.

“Yeah, exactly, exactly! I’ve got research that shows that one in five Americans is employed in the New Work industry. Twenty percent!”

Perry’s lazy eye opened a little wider. “No way,” he said.

“Way,” the PhD candidate said. He finished his caipirinha and shook the crushed ice at a passing waiter, who nodded and ambled to the bar to get him a fresh one. “You should get on the road and write about some of these guys,” he said to Suzanne. “They need some ink, some phosphors. They’re pulling up stakes and moving to the small towns their parents came from, or to abandoned suburbs, and just doing it. Bravest fucking thing you’ve seen in your life.”

The PhD candidate stayed out the week, and went home with a suitcase full of the parts necessary to build a 3D printer that could print out all of the parts necessary to build a 3D printer.

Lester emailed her from wherever it was he’d gone, and told her about the lovely time he was having. It made her miss him sharply. Perry was hardly ever around for her now, buried in his work, buried with the kids from the shantytown and with Francis. She looked over her last month’s blogs and realized that she’d been turning in variations on the same theme for all that time. She knew it was time to pack a duffel bag of her own and go see the bravest fucking thing she’d seen in her life.

“Bye, Perry,” she said, stopping by his workbench. He looked up at her and saw the bag and his funny eyebrow wobbled.

“Leaving for good?” he said. He sounded unexpectedly bitter.

“No!” she said. “No! Just a couple weeks. Going to get the rest of the story. But I’ll be back, count on it.”

He grunted and slumped. He was looking a lot older now, and beaten down. His hair, growing out, was half grey, and he’d gotten gaunt, his cheekbones and forehead springing out of his face. On impulse, she gave him a hug like the ones she’d shared with Lester. He returned it woodenly at first, then with genuine warmth. “I will be back, you know,” she said. “You’ve got plenty to do here, anyway.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Course I do.”

She kissed him firmly on the cheek and stepped out the door and into her car and drove to Miami International.

<<< Back to Part 7

Continue to Part 9 >>>

* * *

As part of the ongoing project of crafting’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 on our index page.

luke fable
1. luke fable
Great chapter Cory. Thanks for getting it out so early in the day too!
luke fable
2. pKp
Man, this is even better than Little Brother. Keep kickin' ass !
luke fable
3. McFry
What the hell is with these ultra-short chapters, man?? Does this book REALLY need to be broken into 81 pieces? This is just a tease. Please go back to the 13-15 pages we're used to with this! The book is great, i just wish i could read it in more than 2-3 page chunks at a time!
luke fable
4. AncrewC
Hey McFry, chill out. Beggars can't be choosers, and we're getting this for free.

Thanks, Cory! this is great stuff!
luke fable
5. Frank P.
With all due respect, AncrewC, we had been teased into believing the chapter length in 1-6 would be the norm. If this is a case of "stretching" the content to fit the 81-issue promise, then I can understand why people would be upset.

It's like you're at a party, and at first the liquor is flowing like water. Then, around 10pm they start watering down the drinks. Sure, it's still free booze, but at some point you have to wonder where it's headed.

Do you want to end up drinking zimas till 2am?
luke fable
6. paintedfoot
Agreed. The previously parts had loads of forward momentum; each pushed us to the next phase of the story. Delivered in these small chunks, we're getting halting steps which interfere with the storytelling.
luke fable
7. paintedfoot
Agreed. The previously parts had loads of forward momentum; each pushed us to the next phase of the story. Delivered in these small chunks, we're getting halting steps which interfere with the storytelling.
Arcadia Barrile
8. UndeadJaxxy
Yes, it is slightly jarring to suddenly be cut back. I think I need a nicotine--er, a Makers-- patch.
luke fable
9. GabrielG
My advice, read it on a really small screen, it makes it last longer. :-) I can't wait for the next one, really nice job.
luke fable
10. danny5
I have no idea how you do it, but your stories seem have this quality to them that just inspires.
luke fable
11. jaredforshey
Really enjoying this so far!
luke fable
12. Mike C.
If you want it in longer chunks, let it build up. Just be lazy about coming here, then read 2-3 chunks at a time.

Or, ya know, wait 'till it comes out this fall & buy it.

I'm curious: will this be coming out in a CC-licensed electronic form like Eastern Standard Tribe, Little Brother, etc? 'Cause I can see re-reading this, and it'd be awesome to have a copy with me always in Stanza. Paper is good, and I want that too, but it gets heavy to carry a dozen books everywhere. Yeah, I could just cut & paste the text, but there is no license information here, so I don't know if that's OK.
luke fable
13. Jon hehfdhfcvhh
Where is part 9!?!??
luke fable
14. Frank P.
I don't think anyone's disparaging the overall quality of the work. On the whole, it's as good as anything else Cory's written to date. The problem is that the 'gimmick' of the serial release is undermined by this sinking feeling that the last few chapters were thinned, towards nefarious purposes not in the reader's best interests.

Reading back on both 7 and 8, there is a LOT that is skimmed over or summarized. One has to consider the possibility if these free chapters (or whole swaths of chapters) are going to end up being mere placeholders for more "premium" content that will be featured in pulp and ink with the demand of paper and coin in exchange. Not that I'd ever accuse THE C.D. of pulling the bait & switch on us, but you never know what conditions are embedded in the sub-footer of the small print on this experiment.

The other, less nefarious but still inconvenient explanation is that this story is somehow being written in near real-time and these are just the results of busy patches in the author's calendar. Hitting a thrice-weekly deadline with primo braindrippings has got to be a tall order -- throw in edits and revisions, and I'd easily accept that it takes longer than the 2.33 days between releases (on average) to produce. Of course, this throws back to the whole 'Author's special uncut edition coming soon to a bookstore near you for a 15% premium' argument, which I loathe to explore but can't help but consider.

The thing that gives me the hardest time is how ... summarized these chapters feel. Do you mean to tell me that the Great and Powerful (and Compensated Wordsmith) Cory Doctorow couldn't put together more than two paragraphs to introduce the idea that girls might conceivably be (gasp!) interested in technology?

With absolutely no foreshadowing, introspection, or explanation, we're hit with the puzzle (why are there no girls in the workship?), the solution (get some girls into the worship!), and the conclusion (there are now girls in the workshop). And then we're given two MORE condensed pages to meet and greet with a new recruit, accept the departure of a major character we've known from the beginning of Chapter 2, the complete and utter transformation of yet another character, AND the turning point of the novel so far, wherein our stalwart adventuress sets a new course, second star on the left and straight on till dawn.

I think it took me more to summarize that then it did for him to tell it :P
Craig Moynes
15. retinaburn
It looks like there has been some updating of the original which was serialized in 2005. Only the first third of the story was published. I am loving the retelling and can't wait until we get to the new stuff. Not going to post a link, the last post I did seems to have gone missing.
Blue Tyson
16. BlueTyson
Yeah, wonder who liked Suzanne more than Andrea, now?
luke fable
17. Frank P.
Whenever I'm stuck for a name, I usually just go with a variation on Case. Works for Gibson.

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