Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 53 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

Sammy was at his desk looking over the production prototype for the Disney-in-a-Box (R) units that Imagineering had dropped off that morning when his phone rang. Not his desk phone—his cellular phone, with the call-return number blocked.

“Hello?” he said. Not many people had this number—he didn’t like getting interrupted by the phone. People who needed to talk to him could talk to his secretary first.

“Hi, Sammy. Have I caught you at a bad time?” He could hear the sneer in the voice and then he could see the face that went with the sneer: Freddy. Shit. He’d given the reporter his number back when they were arranging their disastrous face-to-face.

“It’s not a good time, Freddy,” he said. “If you call my secretary—”

“I just need a moment of your time, sir. For a quote. For a story about the ride response to your printers—your Disney-in-a-Box Circle-R, Tee-Em, Circle-C.”

Sammy felt his guts tense up. Of course those ride assholes would have known about the printers. That’s what press-releases were for. Somewhere on their message-boards he was sure that there was some discussion of them. He hadn’t had time to look for it, though, and he didn’t want to use the Disney Parks competitive intel people on this stuff, because after the Death Waits debacle (debacle on debacle, ack, he could be such a fuck-up) he didn’t want to have any train of intel-gathering on the group pointing back to him.

“I’m not familiar with any response,” Sammy said. “I’m afraid I can’t comment—”

“Oh, it’ll only take a moment to explain it,” Freddy said and then launched into a high-speed explanation before Sammy could object. They were delivering their own 3D models for the printers, and had even gotten hold of one of the test units Disney had passed out last week. They claimed to have reverse-engineered the goop that it ran on, so that anyone’s goop could print to it.

“So, what I’m looking for is a quote from Disney on this. Do you condone this? Did you anticipate it? What if someone prints an AK-47 with it?”

“No one’s going to print a working AK-47 with this,” Sammy said. “It’s too brittle. AK-47 manufacturing is already sadly in great profusion across our inner cities, anyway. As to the rest of it—” He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. “As to the rest of it, that would be something you’d have to speak to one of my legal colleagues about. Would you like me to put you through to them?”

Freddy laughed. “Oh come on, Sammy. A little something on background, no attribution? You going to sue them? Have them beaten up?”

Sammy felt his face go white. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about—”

“Word has it that the Death Waits kid came up with this. He used to be your protege, no? And I hear that Kettlewell and Tjan have been kicked out of the organization—no one around to call the lawyers out on their behalf. Seems like a golden opportunity to strike.”

Sammy seethed. He’d been concentrating on making new stuff, great stuff. Competitive stuff, to be sure, but in the end, the reason for making the Disney-in-a-Box devices had been to make them, make them as cool as he could imagine. To plus them and re-plus them, in the old slang of Walt Disney, making the thing because the thing could be made and the world would be a more fun place once it was.

Now here was this troll egging him on to go to war again with those ride shit-heads, to spend his energies destroying instead of creating. The worst part? It was all his fault. He’d brought his own destruction: the reporter, Death Waits, even the lawsuit. All the result of his bad planning and dumb decisions. God, he was a total fuck-up.

Disney-in-a-Box sat on his desk, humming faintly—not humming like a fridge hums, but actually humming in a baritone hum, humming a medley of magic-users’ songs from Disney movies, like a living thing. Every once in a while it would clear its throat and mutter and even snore a little. There would be happy rustles and whispered conversations from within the guts of the thing. It was plussed all the way to hell and back. It had been easy, as more and more Imagineers had come up with cool features to add to the firmware, contributing them to the versioning system, and he’d been able to choose from among them and pick the best of the lot, making a device that rivaled Walt’s 1955 Disneyland itself for originality, excitement, and cool.

“I’ll just say you declined to comment, then?”


“You write whatever you need to write, Freddy,” he said. A hatch opened a tiny bit on the top of the cube and a pair of eyes peered out, then it slammed shut and there was a round of convincing giggles and scurrying from within the box. This could be huge, if Sammy didn’t fuck it up by worrying too much about what someone else was up to.

“Oh, and one other thing: it looks like the Death Waits kid is going to be discharged from the hospital this week.”

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Continue to Part 54 >>>

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


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