Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 16 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

The next time Perry turned up at Logan, it was colder than the inside of an icebox and shitting down grey snow with the consistency of frozen custard.

“Great weather for an opening,” he said, once he’d climbed through the roof of Tjan’s car and gotten snow all over the leather upholstery. “Sorry about the car.”

“Don’t sweat it, the kids are murder on leather. I should trade this thing in on something that’s less of a deathtrap anyway.”

Tjan was balder than he’d been in September, and skinnier. He had a three-day beard that further hollowed out his normally round cheeks. The Lada sports-car fishtailed a little as they navigated the tunnels back toward Cambridge, the roads slick and icy.

“We scored an excellent location,” Tjan said. “I told you that, but check this out.” They were right in the middle of a built-up area of Boston, something that felt like a banking district, with impressive towers. It took Perry a minute to figure out what Tjan was pointing at.

“That’s the site?” There was a mall on the corner, with a boarded up derelict Sheraton overtopping it, rising high into the sky. “But it’s right in the middle of town!”

“Boston’s not Florida,” Tjan said. “Lots of people here don’t have cars. There were some dead malls out in Worcester and the like, but I got this place for nothing. The owners haven’t paid taxes in the ten years since the hotel folded, and the only shops that were left open were a couple of Azerbaijani import-export guys, selling junky stuff from India.

“We gutted the whole second floor and turned the ground-floor food-court into a flea-market. There’s an old tunnel connecting this to the T and I managed to get it re-opened, so I expect we’ll get some walk-in.”

Perry marveled. Tjan had a suit’s knack for pulling off the ambitious. Perry had never tried to even rent an apartment in a big city, figuring that any place where land was at a premium was a place where people willing to spend more than him could be found. Give him a ghost-mall that was off the GPS grid anytime.

“Have you managed to fill the flea market?” It had taken Perry a long time to fill his, and still he had a couple of dogs—a tarot reader and a bong stall, a guy selling high-pressure spray-paint cans and a discount porn stall that sold naked shovelware by the petabyte.

“Yeah, I got proteges up and down New England. A lot of them settled here after the crash. One place is as good as another, and the housing was wicked-cheap once the economy disappeared. They upped stakes and came to Boston as soon as I put the word out. I think everyone’s waiting for the next big thing.”

“You think?”

“Perry, New Work is the most important thing that ever happened to some of those people. It was the high-point of their lives. It was the only time they ever felt useful.”

Perry shook his head. “Don’t you think that’s sad?”

Tjan negotiated a tricky tunnel interchange and got the car pointed to Cambridge. “No, Perry, I don’t think it’s sad. Jesus Christ, you can’t believe that. Why do you think I’m helping you? You and me and all the rest of them, we did something important. The world changed. It’s continuing to change. Have you stopped to think that one in five American workers picked up and moved somewhere else to do New Work projects? That’s one of the largest American resettlements since the dustbowl. The average New Work collective shipped more inventions per year than Edison Labs at its peak. In a hundred years, when they remember the centuries that were America’s, they’ll count this one among them, because of what we made.

“So no, Perry, I don’t think it’s sad.”

“I’m sorry. Sorry, OK? I didn’t mean it that way. But it’s tragic, isn’t it, that the dream ended? That they’re all living out there in the boonies, thinking of their glory days?”

“Yes, that is sad. But that’s why I agreed to do the ride—not to freeze the old projects in amber, but to create a new project that we can all participate in again. These people uprooted their lives to follow us, it’s the least we can do to give them something back for that.”

Perry stewed on that the rest of the way to Tjan’s, staring at the sleet, hand resting against the icy window-glass.

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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.


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