Illustration by Idiots’Books
PHOTO: A Drunken Perry Gibbons Gets a How’s Your Father From Ride-Bride Hilda Hammersen
MADISON, WI: Say you managed to inspire some kind of “movement” of techno-utopians who built a network of amusement park rides that guide their visitors through an illustrated history of the last dotcom bubble.
Say that your merry band of unwashed polyamorous info-hippies was overtaken by jackbooted thugs from one of the dinosauric media empires of yesteryear, whose legal machinations resulted in nationwide raids, beatings, gassings, and the total shutdown of your “movement.”
What would you do? Sue? Call a press-conference? Bail your loyal followers out of the slam?
Get laid, get shitfaced, and let a bunch of students spitball bullshit ideas for fighting back?
If you picked the latter, you’re in good company. Last night, Perry Gibbons, soi-disant “founder” of the rideafarian religious cult, was spotted out for drinks and cuddles with a group of twentysomething students in the backwater town of Madison, WI, a place better known for its cheddar than its activism.
While Gibbons regaled the impressionable post-adolescents with tales of his derring-do, he avidly noted their strategic suggestions for solving his legal, paramilitary, and technical problems.
One suggestion that drew Gibbons’s attention and admiration was to approach venture capitalists and beg them for the capital to sue Disney and then use the settlements from the suits to pay back the VCs.
This mind-croggling Ponzi scheme is the closest thing to a business model we’ve yet heard of from the chip-addled techno-hippies of the New Work and its post-boom incarnation.
One can only imagine how our Ms Church will cover this in her fan-blog: breathless admiration for Mr Gibbons’s cunning in soliciting yet more “way out of the box” thinking from the Junior Guevaras of the Great Midwest, no doubt.
Perhaps Gibbons can be afforded a little sympathy, though. His latest encounter with Florida law left him with a broken arm and it may be that the pain medication is primarily responsible for Gibbons’s fancy thinking. If that’s the case, we can only hope that his young, blond Scandie nursie will carefully minister him back to health (while his comrades rot in gaol around the country).
This organization needs to die before it gets someone killed.
Lester interrupted Suzanne’s phone-call to break in and announce that he’d run Rat-Toothed Freddy to ground: the reporter had caught the first flight from Madison to Chicago and then gone west to San Jose. The TSA had flagged him as a person-of-interest and were watching his movements, and a little digging on its website could cause it to disclose Freddy’s every airborne movement.
Suzanne relayed this to Perry.
“Don’t you go there,” she said. “He’s gunning for the San Francisco crew, and he’s hoping for a confrontation or a denunciation so that he can print it. He gets idees fixes that he worries at like a terrier, going for more bile.”
“Is he a psycho? What the hell is his beef with me?”
“I think that he thinks that technology hasn’t lived up to its promise and that we should all be demanding better of our tech. So for him, that means that anyone who actually likes technology is the enemy, the worst villain, undermining the case for bringing tech up to its true potential.”
“Fuck, that is so twisted.”
“And given the kind of vile crap he writes, the only readers he has are nut-cases who get off on seeing people who are actually creating stuff flayed alive for their failures. They egg him on—ever see one of his letters columns? If he changed to actual reportage, telling the balanced stories of what was going on in the world, they’d jump ship for some other hate-monger. He’s a lightning-rod for assholes—he’s the king of the trolls.”
Perry looked away. “What do I do?”
“You could try to starve him. If you don’t show your head, he can’t report on you, except by making stuff up — and made-up stuff gets boring, even for the kinds of losers who read his stuff.”
“But I’ve got work to do.”
“Yeah, yeah you do. Maybe you’ve just got to take your lumps. Every complex ecosystem has parasites after all. Maybe you just call up San Francisco and brief them on what to expect from this guy and take it from there.”
Once they were off the line, Lester came up behind her and hugged her at the waist, squeezing the little love-handles there, reminding her of how long it had been since she’d made it to yoga.
“You think that’ll work?”
“Maybe. I’ve been talking to the New Journalism Review about writing a piece on moral responsibility and paid journalism, and if I can bang it out this aft, I bet they’ll publish it tomorrow.”
“What’s that going to do?”
“Well, it’ll distract him from Perry, maybe. It might get his employer to take a hard look at what he’s writing—I mean that piece is just lies, mischaracterizations, and editorial masquerading as reportage.” She put her lid down and paced around the condo, looking at the leaves floating in the pool. “It’ll give me some satisfaction.”
Lester gave her a hug, and it smelled of the old days and the old Lester, the giant, barrel-chested pre-fatkins Lester. It took her back to a simpler time, when they’d had to worry about commercial competition, not police raids.
She hugged him back. He was all hard muscle and zero body-fat underneath his tight shirt. She’d never dated anyone that fit, not even back in high-school. It was a little disorienting, and it made her feel especially old and saggy sometimes, though he never seemed to notice.
Speaking of which, she felt his erection pressing against her midriff, and tried to hide her grin. “Gimme a couple hours, all right?”
She dialed the NJR editor’s number as she slid into her chair and pulled up a text-editor. She knew what she planned on writing, but it would help to be able to share an outline with the NJR if she was going to get this out in good time. Working with editors was a pain after years of writing for the blog, but sometimes you wanted someone else’s imprimatur on your work.
Five hours later, the copy was filed. She rocked back in her chair and stretched her arms high over her head, listening to the crackle of her spine. She’d been half-frozen by the air conditioning, so she’d turned it off and opened a window, and now the condo was hot and muggy. She stripped down to her underwear and headed for the shower, but before she could make it, she was intercepted by Lester.
He fell on her like a dog on dinner, and hours slipped by as they made the apartment even muggier. Lester’s athleticism in the sack was flattering, but sometimes boundless to the point of irritation. She was rescued from it this time by the doorbell.
Lester put on a bathrobe and answered the door, and she heard the sounds of the family Kettlewell spilling in, the kids’ little footfalls pounding up and down the corridors. Hurriedly, Suzanne threw on a robe and ducked across the corridor into the bathroom, but not before catching sight of Eva and Landon. Eva’s expression was grimly satisfied; Landon looked stricken. Fuck it, anyway. She’d never given him any reason to hope, and he had no business hoping.
Halfway through her shower, she heard someone moving around in the bathroom, and thinking it was Lester, she stuck her head around the curtain, only to find Ada on the pot, little jeans around her ankles. “I hadda make,” Ada said, with a shrug.
Christ. What was she doing back here, anyway? She’d missed it all so much from Petersburg. But she hadn’t really bargained for this. It was only a matter of time until Tjan showed up too, surely they’d be wanting a council of war after Freddy’s opening salvo.
She waited for the little girl to flush (ouch! hot water!) and got dressed as discreetly as possible.
By the time she got to the balcony where the council of war was under way, the two little girls, Lyenitchka and Ada, had gotten Pascal up on the sofa and were playing dress up with him, hot-gluing Barbie heads to his cheeks and arms and chubby knees, like vacantly staring warts.
“Do you like him?”
“I think he looks wonderful, girls. Is that glue OK for him, though?”
Ada nodded vigorously. “I’ve been gluing things to my brother with that stuff forever. Dad says it’s OK so long as I don’t put it in his eyes.”
“Your dad’s a smart man.”
“He’s in love with you,” Lyenitchka said, and giggled. Ada slugged her in the arm.
“That’s supposed to be a secret, stupid,” Ada said.
Flustered, Suzanne ducked out onto the patio and shut the door behind her. Eva and Tjan and Kettlewell all turned to look at her.
“Suzanne!” Tjan said. “Nice article.”
“Is it up already?”
“Yeah, just a couple minutes ago.” Tjan held up his phone. “I’ve got a watch-list for anything to do with Freddy that gets a lot of link-love in a short period. Your piece rang the cherries.”
She took the phone from him and looked at the list of links that had been found to the NJR piece. Three of the diggdots had picked up the story, since they loved to report on anything that made fun of Freddy—he was a frequent savager of their readers’ cherished beliefs, after all—and thence it had wormed its way all around the net. In the time she’d needed to take a shower, her story had been read by about three million people. She felt a twinge of regret for not publishing it on her blog — that would have been some serious advertising coin.
“Well, there you have it.”
“What do you suppose he’ll come back with?” Kettlewell said, then looked uncomfortably at Eva. She pretended not to notice, and continued to stare at the grimy Hollywood palms, swimming pools and freeways.
“Something nasty and full of lies, no doubt.”
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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.