Fri
Oct 30 2009 8:00am

Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 51 (of 81)

 

Illustration by Idiots’Books

Death found out about the Disney-in-a-Box printers seconds after they were announced. He’d been tuning his feed-watchers to give him news about the Disney Parks for nearly a decade, and this little PR item on the Disney Parks newswire rang all the cherries on his filters, flagging the item red and rocketing it to the top of his news playlist, making all the icons in the sides of his screen bounce with delight.

The announcement made him want to throw up. They were totally ripping off the rides, and he knew for a fact that most of the three-d meshes of the old yesterland rides and even the contemporary ones were fan-made, so those’d be ripped off, too.

And the worst part was, he could feel himself getting excited. This was just the kind of thing that would have given him major fanboy drool as recently as a month ago.

He just stared angrily at his screen. Being angry made the painkillers wear off, so the madder he got the more he hurt. He could nail the rocker-switch and dose himself with more of whatever the painkiller plugged into his IV was today, but since Perry and Lester and their girlfriends (had that other one been Suzanne Church? It sure looked like her) had told him he could use his laptop again, he’d stayed off the juice as much as possible. The computer could make him forget he hurt.

He looked at the clock. It was 4AM. The blinds on the ward were shut most of the time, and he kept to his own schedule, napping and then surfing, then nodding off and then surfing some more. The hospital staff just left his food on the table beside him if he was asleep when it arrived, though they woke him for his sponge baths and to stick fresh needles in his arms, which were filled with bruisey collapsed veins.

There was no one he could tell about this. Sure, there were chat-rooms with 24/7 chatter from Disney freaks, but he didn’t much want to chat with them. Some of his friends would still be up and tweaking, but Christ, who wanted to IM with a speed freak at four in the morning? His typing was down to less than 30 wpm, and he couldn’t keep it up for long. What he really wanted was to talk to someone about this.

He really wanted to talk to Perry about this. He should send him an email, but he had the inkling of an idea and he didn’t want to put it in writing, because it was a deliciously naughty idea.

It was dumb to even think about phoning him, he barely knew him, and no one liked to get calls at four am. Besides—he’d checked—Perry’s number was unlisted.

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: What’s your phone number?

Perry, I know that it’s presumptuous, but I’d really like to talk to you v2v about something important that I’d prefer not to put in writing. I don’t have any right to impose on you, especially not after you’ve already done me the kindness of coming to see me in the hospital, but I hope you’ll send me your number anyway. Alternatively, please call me on my enum—1800DEATHWAITS-GGFSAH.

Your admirer,

Death Waits

It was five minutes later when his laptop rang. It was unnaturally loud on the ward, and he heard his roommates stir when the tone played. He didn’t have a headset—Christ, he was an idiot. Wait, there was one, dangling from the TV. No mic, but at least he could pair it with his laptop for sound. He stabbed at the mute button and reached for the headset and slipped it on. Then he held the computer close to his face and whispered “Hello?” into its little mic. His voice was a croak, his ruined mouth distorting the word. Why had he decided to call this guy? He was such an idiot.

“This is Perry Gibbons. Is that Death Waits?”

“Yes, sorry, I don’t have a mic. Can you hear me OK?”

“If I turn the volume all the way up I can.”

There was an awkward silence. Death tried to think of how to begin.

“What’s on your mind, Death?”

“I didn’t expect you to be awake at this hour.”

“I had a rough night,” Perry said. It occurred to Death that he was talking to one of his heros, a man who had come to visit him in the hospital that day. He grew even more tongue-tied.

“What happened?”

“Nothing important,” Perry said and swallowed, and Death suddenly understood that Perry had had a rough night because of him, because of what he’d told Perry. It made him want to cry.

“I’m sorry,” Death said.

“What’s on your mind, Death?” Perry said again.

Death told him what he’d found, about the Disney printers. He read Perry the URLs so he could look them up.

“OK, that’s interesting,” Perry said. Death could tell he didn’t really think it was that interesting.

“I haven’t told you my idea yet.” He groped for the words. His mouth had gone dry. “OK, so Disney’s going to ship these things to tons of people’s houses, they’ll sell them cheap at the parks and mail them as freebies to Magic Kingdom Club gold-card holders. So in a week or two, there’s going to be just, you know, tons of these across the country.”

“Right.”

“So here’s my idea: what if you could get them to build non-Disney stuff? What if you could send them plans for stuff from the rides? What if you could just download your friends’ designs? What if this was opened wide.”

Perry chuckled on the other end of the line, then laughed, full-throated and full of merriment. “I like the way you think, kid,” he said, once he’d caught his breath.

And then this amazing thing happened. Perry Gibbons brainstormed with him about the kinds of designs they could push out to these things. It was like some kind of awesome dream come true. Perry was treating him like a peer, loving his ideas, keying off of them.

Then a dismal thought struck him. “Wait though, wait. They’re using their own goop for the printers. Every design we print makes them richer.”

Perry laughed again, really merry. “Oh, that kind of thing never works. They’ve been trying to tie feedstock to printers since the inkjet days. We go through that like wet kleenex.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Who the fuck knows? It shouldn’t be. I don’t care about illegal anymore. Legal gets you lawyers. Come on, dude—what’s the point of being all into some anti-authoritarian subculture if you spend all your time sucking up to the authorities?”

Death laughed, which actually hurt quite a bit. It was the first laugh he’d had since he’d ended up in the hospital, maybe the first one since he’d been fired from Disney World, and as much as it hurt, it felt good, too, like a band being loosened from around his broken ribs.

His roommates stirred and one of them must have pushed the nurse call button, because shortly thereafter, the formidable Ukrainian nurse came in and savagely told him off for disturbing the ward at five in the morning. Perry heard and said his goodbyes, like they were old pals who’d chatted too long, and Death Waits rang off and fell into a light doze, grinning like a maniac.

<<< Back to Part 50

Continue to Part 52>>>

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 is now available in print from Tor Books. You can read all previous installments of Makers on Tor.com on our index page.

9 comments
drharris
2. drharris
Ok, this is a good turning point for me... I've been almost bored at the last 15 sections (dry law drama?), but this shows some real promise. Here's hoping they follow this rabbit trail.
Rikka Cordin
3. Rikka
Death is too cute. which is probably a sentence I never thought I'd type.
Chris Hayes
4. CrazyHaze
Just more and more genius the more I read.
Michael Roberts
5. Michael
Hee hee - this is getting surprising. I like the mutant cow picture, too - a little foreshadowing that doesn't quite hit the spoiler level.
drharris
6. MishnayicHacker
I'm curious about whether there is a drop in readership for this serialised version now that the whole thing is up on Cory's site. For myself, I'm weighing the pros and cons.
drharris
7. CaffeinatedGuy
I bought and devoured it the other day.

But at the very least, I'm still tuning in to read the comments, even if not the whole section.
drharris
8. Joey Maloney
@3 - I'll assume you've never read Neil Gaiman's Sandman.
Ethan Glasser-Camp
9. glasserc
He could nail the rocker-switch and dose himself with more of whatever the painkiller plugged into his IV was today, but since Perry and Lester and their girlfriends...

The wording "more of whatever the painkiller plugged into his IV was today" strikes me as a little problematic -- certainly a challenge to parse, although probably not strictly speaking ungrammatical. I'd change this to "dose himself with more of whatever was plugged into his IV today" or something like that.

Ethan

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