Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 57 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

Sammy loved his morning meetings. They all came to his office, all the different park execs, creatives, and emissaries from the old partner companies that had spun off to make movies and merch and educational materials. They all came each day to talk to him about the next day’s Disney-in-a-Box build. They all came to beg him to think about adding in something from their franchises and cantons to the next installment.

There were over a million DiaBs in the field now, and they weren’t even trying to keep up with orders anymore. Sammy loved looking at the online auction sites to see what the boxes were going for—he knew that some of his people had siphoned off a carload or two of the things to e-tail out the back door. He loved that. Nothing was a better barometer of your success than having made something other people cared enough about to steal.

He loved his morning meetings, and he conducted them with the flair of a benevolent emperor. He’d gotten a bigger office—technically it was a board-room for DiaB strategy, but Sammy was the DiaB strategy. He’d outfitted it with fan-photos of their DiaB shrines in their homes, with kids watching enthralled as the day’s model was assembled before their eyes. The hypnotic fascination in their eyes was unmistakable. Disney was the focus of their daily lives, and all they wanted was more, more, more. He could push out five models a day, ten, and they’d go nuts for them.

But he wouldn’t. He was too cunning. One model a day was all. Leave them wanting more. Never breathe a hint of what the next day’s model would be—oh, how he loved to watch the blogs and the chatter as the models self-assembled, the heated, time-bound fights over what the day’s model was going to be.

“Good morning, Ron,” he said. Wiener had been lobbying to get a Main Street build into the models for weeks now, and Sammy was taking great pleasure in denying it to him without shutting down all hope. Getting Ron Wiener to grovel before him every morning was better than a cup of coffee.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said, and you’re right,” Wiener said. He always started the meeting by telling Sammy how right he was to reject his last idea. “The flag-pole and marching-band scene would have too many pieces. House cats would knock it over. We need something more unitary, more visually striking. So here’s what I’ve been thinking: what about the fire-engine?”

Sammy raised an indulgent eyebrow.

“Kids love fire trucks. All the colors are in the printer’s gamut—I checked. We could create a Mickey-and-Friends fire-crew to position around it, a little barn for it.”

“The only thing I liked about firet rucks when I was a kid was that the word started with ‘f’ and ended with ‘uck’—” Sammy smiled when he said it, and waited for Wiener to fake hilarity, too. The others in the room—other park execs, some of their licensing partners, a few advertisers—laughed too. Officially, this was a “brainstorming session,” but everyone knew that it was all about getting the nod from Sammy.

Wiener laughed dutifully and slunk away. More supplicants came forward.

“How about this?” She was very cute—dressed in smart, dark clothes that were more Lower East Side than Orlando. She smelled good, too—one of the new colognes that hinted at free monomers, like hot plastic or a new-bought tire. Cat-slanted green eyes completed the package.

“What you got there?” She was from an ad agency, someone Disney Parks had done business with at some point. Agencies had been sending their people to these meetings too, trying to get a co-branding coup for one of their clients.

“It’s a series of three, telling a little story. Beginning, middle and end. The first one is a family sitting down to breakfast, and you can see, it’s the same old crap, boring microwave omelets and breakfast puddings. Mom’s bored, dad’s more bored, and sis and brother here are secretly dumping theirs onto mom’s and dad’s plates. All this stuff is run using the same printers, so it looks very realistic.”

It did indeed. Sammy hadn’t thought about it, but he supposed it was only natural that the omelets were printed—how else could General Mills get that uniformity? He should talk to some of the people in food services about getting some of that tech to work at the parks.

“So in part two, they’re setting up the kitchen around this mystery box—one part Easy-Bake lightbulb oven, one part Tardis. You know what that is?”

Sammy grinned. “Why yes, I believe I do.” Their eyes met in a fierce look of mutual recognition. “It’s a breakfast printer, isn’t it?” The other supplicants in the room sucked in a collective breath. Some chuckled nervously.

“It’s about moving the apparatus to the edge. Bridging the last mile. Why not? This one will do waffles, breakfast cereals, bagels and baked goods, small cakes. New designs every day—something for mom and dad, something for the kids, something for the sullen teens. We’re already doing this at the regional plants and distributorships, on much larger scales. But getting our stuff into consumers’ homes, getting them subscribed to our food—”

Sammy held up a hand. “I see,” he said. “And our people are already primed for home-printing experiences. They’re right in your sweet spot.”

“Part three, Junior and little sis are going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but these things are shaped like them, with their portraits on each sugar-lump. Mom and dad are eating tres sophistique croissants and delicate cakes. Look at Rover here, with his own cat-shaped dog-biscuit. See how happy they all are?”

Sammy nodded. “Shouldn’t this all be under nondisclosure?” he said.

“Probably, but what are you gonna do? You guys are pretty good at keeping secrets, and if you decide to shaft us by selling out to one of our competitors, we’re probably dead, anyway. I’ll be able to ship out half a million units in the first week, then we can ramp production if need be—lots of little parts-and-assembly subcontractors will take the work if we offer.”

Sammy liked the way she talked. Like someone who didn’t need to spend a lot of time screwing around, planning, like someone who could just make it happen.

“You’re launching when?”

“Three days after you start running this campaign,” she said, without batting an eyelash.

“My name’s Sammy,” he said. “How’s Thursday?”

“Launch on Sunday?” She shook her head. “It’s tricky, Sunday launches. Gotta pay everyone scale-and-a-half.” She gave him a wink. “What the hell, it’s not my money.” She stuck out her hand. She was wearing a couple of nice chunky obsidian rings in abstract curvy shapes, looking a little porny in their suggestion of breasts and thighs. He shook her hand and it was warm and dry and strong.

“Well, that’s this week taken care of,” Sammy said, and pointedly cleared the white-board surface running the length of the table. The others groaned and got up and filed out. The woman stayed behind.

“Dinah,” she said. She handed him a card and he noted the agency. Dallas-based, not New York, but he could tell she was a transplant.

“You got any breakfast plans?” It was hardly gone 9AM—Sammy liked to get these meetings started early. “I normally get something sent in, but your little prototypes there…”

She laughed. It was a pretty laugh. She was a couple years older than him, and she wore it well. “Do I have breakfast plans? Sammy my boy, I’m nothing but breakfast plans! I have a launch on Sunday, remember?”

“Heh. Oh yeah.”

“I’m on the next flight to DFW,” she said. “I’ve got a cab waiting to take me to the airport.”

“I wonder if you and I need to talk over some details,” Sammy said.

“Only if you want to do it in the taxi.”

“I was thinking we could do it on the plane,” he said.

“You’re going to buy a ticket?”

“On my plane,” he said. They’d given him use of one of the company jets when he started really ramping production on the DiaBs.

“Oh yes, I think that can be arranged,” she said. “It’s Sammy, right?”

“Right,” he said. They left the building and had an altogether lovely flight to Dallas. Very productive.

<<< Back to Part 56

Continue to Part 58>>>

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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