Jul 24 2009 9:00am

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 9 (of 81)

Illustration by Idiots’Books

Tjan met her at Logan and took her bag. “I’m surprised you had the time to meet me,” she said. The months had been good to him, slimming down his pot-belly and putting a twinkle in his eye.

“I’ve got a good organization,” he said, as they motored away toward Rhode Island, through strip-mall suburbs and past boarded-up chain restaurants. Everywhere there were signs of industry: workshops in old storefronts, roadside stands selling disposable music players, digital whoopee cushions, and so forth. “I barely have to put in an appearance.”

Tjan yawned hugely and constantly. “Jet-lag,” he apologized. “Got back from Russia a couple days ago.”

“Did you see your kids?” she said. “How’s business there?”

“I saw my kids,” he said, and grinned. “They’re amazing, you know that? Good kids, unbelievably smart. Real little operators. The older one, Anushka, is running a baby-sitting service—not baby-sitting herself, you see, but recruiting other kids to do the sitting for her while she skims a management fee and runs the quality control.”

“She’s your daughter all right,” she said. “So tell me everything about the Westinghouse projects.”

She’d been following them, of course, lots of different little startups, each with its own blogs and such. But Tjan was quite fearless about taking her through their profits and losses and taking notes on it all kept her busy until she reached her hotel. Tjan dropped her off and promised to pick her up the next morning for a VIP tour of the best of his teams, and she went to check in.

She was in the middle of receiving her key when someone grabbed her shoulder and squeezed it. “Suzanne bloody Church! What are you doing here, love?”

The smell of his breath was like a dead thing, left to fester. She turned around slowly, not wanting to believe that of all the hotels in rural Rhode Island, she ended up checking into the same one as Rat-Toothed Freddy.

“Hey, Freddy,” she said. Seeing him gave her an atavistic urge to stab him repeatedly in the throat with the hotel stick-pen. He was unshaven, his gawky Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, and he swallowed and smiled wetly. “Nice to see you.”

“Fantastic to see you, too! I’m here covering a shareholder meeting for Westinghouse, is that what you’re here for, too?”

“No,” she said. She knew the meeting was on that week, but hadn’t planned on attending it. She was done with press conferences, preferring on-the-ground reporting. “Well, nice to see you.”

“Oh, do stay for a drink,” he said, grinning more widely, exposing those grey teeth in a shark’s smile. “Come on—they have a free cocktail hour in this place. I’ll have to report you to the journalist’s union if you turn down a free drink.”

“I don’t think ‘bloggers’ have to worry about the journalist’s union,” she said, making sarcastic finger-quotes in case he didn’t get the message. He still didn’t. He laughed instead.

“Oh, love, I’m sure they’ll still have you even if you have lapsed away from the one true faith.”

“Good night, Freddy,” was all she could manage to get out without actually hissing through her teeth.

“OK, good night,” he said, moving in to give her a hug. As he loomed toward her, she snapped.

“Freeze, mister. You are not my friend. I do not want to touch you. You have poor personal hygiene and your breath smells like an overflowing camp-toilet. You write vicious personal attacks on me and on the people I care about. You are unfair, meanspirited, and you write badly. The only day I wouldn’t piss on you, Freddy, is the day you were on fire. Now get the fuck out of my way before I kick your tiny little testicles up through the roof of your reeking mouth.”

She said it quietly, but the desk-clerks behind her overheard it anyway and giggled. Freddy’s smile only wobbled, but then returned, broader than ever.

“Well said,” he said and gave her a single golf-clap. “Sleep well, Suzanne.”

She boiled all the way to her room and when she came over hungry, she ordered in room service, not wanting to take the chance that Rat-Toothed Freddy would still be in the lobby.

<<< Back to Part 8

Continue to Part 10>>>

* * *

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.

1. pKp
Right effin' on.

But why so short ? :(
Cory Doctorow
2. doctorow
The scene-breaks were put in, basically, where the scenes ended. Pablo and the Tor folks broke up the book according to where I put in the breaks, before we contemplated making a serial out of it. As a result, many are short, some are long, depending on the moment-to-moment pacing of the novel.
Cory Doctorow
3. doctorow
The next five installments are 660 words, 2800 words (!), 1080 words, 3800 words (!!!) and 3200 words. So lots of variation!
Marcus W
4. toryx
Great short piece. Looking forward to the 3000+ ones!
5. Antipaganda
I assume that the reason you couldn't even up the breaks and put an equal number of words in each piece is that the contracts have already been signed for the artwork, the website publishing rights, etc?

I almost wrote "See, this is why you should stick to releasing books on your website all in one go", but of course that would just mean we'd have to wait longer to get any of it, as opposed to getting at least some of it now.

Mind you, your comment does imply that the full text is already written, waiting on at least two hard drive, and could theoretically be posted in full right now!

You do realise that this means that the only way to resolve this little dilemma is with ninjas. Copyleft ninjas. I think I remember something about ninjas being perfectly allowable as content delivery devices in the GPL...
6. Allen Shull
Oooh, I can't see this going well. When Suzanne attacks Freddy, she does so with all this pent-up emotion, and so she mixes the right kind of complaints (his journalistic evils) with precisely the wrong kind (his hygene). By mixing in a bit of an argumentum ad hominem, she's weakened herself, just like she refused to do a few sections ago.

She knows it. Worse, he knows it.

Really looking forward to seeing where this goes.
7. pKp
Thanks for the answer, Cory. But now I feel like a big jerk for not saying how much this rocks. So there it is : this book rocks, and you putting it online this way rocks even harder. Can't wait for the next parts.

Also, @6 : Here is my nightmare scenario - Freddy is wearing some kind of video-wire and Suzanne ends up all over the Internet trashing him, therefore allowing him to play the victim. Major Whuffie loss for the good guys.

Also also, WHAT is Lester up to ?
Bill Siegel
8. ubxs113
Thanks for the updates Cory.

I was wondering if you're going to expand any part of this. I thought the jump from Perry getting shot through Lester leaving was a little light on details compared to the other sections so far and I was really curious about the printers that make more printers and how those might work.

Regardless, I'm really enjoying your story and can't wait for more!
Roland of Gilead
9. pKp
@8 : You might wanna check out Printcrime, by the same Mr. Doctorow. It's a (very) short story about 3d printers.
10. ricklynnx
Cory, I am loving this and I am impatient for each installment and it does truly rock and I'm going to buy multiple copies when it comes out. @6 and @7: this really IS going to be a huge mess. Suzanne is really going to regret not going through the motions with a little shoulder hug, pat-pat, and just keeping her thoughts to herself. No way that's going to turn out well, and @7: what IS Lester up to indeed? (Maybe it's a fat-farm...) I was surprised when she turned up at Tjan's. I thought it was going to be all these random people like in Greensboro that the PhD candidate was talking about. Did I miss something?
Roland of Gilead
11. pKp
Well, she IS going to see those people. I guess that, while she was at it, she wanted to see what Tjan was about (and to see Tjan himself, obviously).

As for Lester, I have a hunch his "amazing opportunity" is indeed something along the lines of a (possibly new and exciting) way to lose these extra pounds. Maybe now we'll have some romance (although if it's really that, Suzanne will probably be a little freaked thinking he did it for her).
Jon Dowland
12. jmtd
The first few parts lasted me a full commute home. The last few haven't been more than a stop on the train line. Still, I'm enjoying it, I just have to do so less predictable-routinely :)
13. Steve Schaper iowa
It is interesting. Some things may need updating. I wonder how the use of capital is going to effect the small businesses. That seems to me to be the chief problem in making microcapitalism work.

BTW, it was not the New Deal which got America out of the Depression. FDR's New Deal made the Depression worse and last years longer than it would have otherwise. And the New Deal is nothing like this capitalist-financed version of microcapitalism.
14. Frank P.
So ... Suzanne holds to her journalistic integrity (Not even accepting a free lunch!) despite her current career as a celeb blogger. Yet she still manages to disparage the relative social and class status of such freelancers, when compared to the quickly tanking profession of putting researched words on paper? The same noble profession she cut anchor from on a whim when it became apparent that despite some artful deckchair maneuvering and joyful band playing, the ship's captain was handing everyone buckets and asking how well they could doggiepaddle?

And then, our stalwart paragon of journalistic ethos utters the most mind-bogglingly self-destructive five words that dissolve any claim to objective impartiality: "..the people I care about."

She might as well have just accepted the free coffee.
Jeff Closs
15. SupRspi
I'm liking this. I got hooked with Little Brother, and now this! I think the Mad Dr. Doctorow is somehow going to achieve world domination via freely web-published sci-fi.

I'm sure of it actually.

And I'm loving this story, I just wish I could forget about it until part 81 is posted so I could really fill a day reading.

@5 I'm pretty sure I read that ninja delivery clause in the GPL too. I'm pretty sure there's a CC clause that covers ninjas as well. Probably CC-N (All right's reserved, except those looted by ninjas)
16. ernestpipe
digging it, cory. i take quick to the serialized format. here's another that has me wanting more: The Compact (first five chaps)
17. kerobaros
Bravo, Mr. Doctorow, indeed.

I read the originals on Salon all those years ago; lots of bits seem familiar (and still fantastic) but lots of bits are all new, and even better.

I do have a sneaking suspicion where Lester is off to, though.
18. Pulse
She wasn't saying anything bad about Bloggers, she was responding to a comment made by Ratty about "bloggers".

Anyone else think he was wearing a wire and moved in for a hug just to get a response?

Great story, can't wait for the rest!
19. FrF
It's interesting how relentlessly the physical appearance of "Makers'" personnel is cataloged. In the case of Perry I see an interesting subtext. Maybe his, as they say, "rapid aging" implies that the constant pressure to stay on one's toes and generate new ideas isn't just exciting but also tends to take its toll.
Bill Siegel
20. ubxs113
@ 9. pKp

Thanks for the link, pretty good little story.
21. Frank P.
@18: Depending on how you interpret his meaning when he says:

"I’ll have to report you to the journalist’s union if you turn down a free drink.”

1) Ratty is mocking Suzanne's claims to a ethical high ground as member of a supposed "journalist's union" despite the fact she failed in or gave up the supposedly more enlightened path and chose to become a blogger instead


2) Ratty is mocking her belief in a moral standard that doesn't actually exist in the "Journalist's Union" true ethics -- by refusing a free drink, she is actually going against the union's code (eg. Suzanne's disgust in Ch 1 at the graft journalists commonly accepted in the dot-com era)

In her response:

“I don’t think ‘bloggers’ have to worry about the journalist’s union,” she said, making sarcastic finger-quotes in case he didn’t get the message.

You can interpret it as either:

1) She is refuting the accusation that she is a mere 'blogger' by implying she, unlike a lowly blogger such as Ratty, actually has to worry about Journalist's Union.

2) She is sarcastically wielding the implied title of 'blogger' as proof against rebuke from such a "Journalist's Union" and is therefore free to refuse his offer, reinforcing the point that bloggers aren't equals to journalists

3) She is instead turning on the focus on his own lowly status of 'blogger,' and as such has no need to worry himself regarding the machinations of a superior union of journalists

He still didn’t. He laughed instead. “Oh, love, I’m sure they’ll still have you even if you have lapsed away from the one true faith.”

This would seem to indicate she means response #3, while Ratty takes her to mean #2. In any case, there is still the overt impression made by her statement that bloggers, whether she is one or not, are still inherently morally inferior to journalists.
22. paintedfoot
@10 Yes, perhaps she could have been a bit more diplomatic, but women should not have to let men they despise touch them just for the sake of social niceties. Blecch. She could have given a BM fave "I've had my creepy hug for the day, thanks." :)
23. Arkwolf
@21 Frank P
Actually I think she means it as a reference to earlier in the novel where it was mentioned by one of the characters (Kettlewell I think) that Freddy referred to her and her "blog" using quotes. He mentions the quotes. Also my impression of Freddy is that he is a print journalist who gets his column posted to the web. Her statement is meant to remind him that he doesn't consider her a real journalist because she is "just" a blogger. I think at this point she considers herself every bit a real journalist. I then get the impression that Freddy is either just clueless that she took his column so personally or that he indeed is just trying to push her buttons by pretending that they are colleagues when he really doesn't respect her. Just MHO.

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