Misprints News #53 – Charging by the Pixel

Chapter 1 has been finally wrapped up this week. I shared a chunk of it with one of my writing groups and they seem to think it’s going well for the first draft. This book only has about eight chapters total so I should be finished with the initial draft in about that many weeks, less if I can get the time to do more than one chapter.

Our local library has been in the middle of moving to a new building the last few months so I haven’t yet contacted them about getting Redbriar on the shelves over there. They just opened the new fancy building this week so I took sister down to check it out. Previously our library was a small metal garage type building with extremely limited space that the town had clearly outgrown. It’s good to see that the city invested in a new space along with a new town hall.

I posted a link to this article the other day on twitter but here it is again, Books in the Microsoft Store are going away. Now, that’s not the end of the world for most folks as Amazon and B&N have cornered that market pretty well and it should be stable for a good long while. I never bought ebooks from the Microsoft store, not sure I know anyone who did. The problem here isn’t that the store is shutting down and refunding those purchases, it’s that you purchased and downloaded a digital item that you can no longer access. My old Kindle broke last year so I haven’t been able to simply upload an epub file for a book manually to the device. That’s an even bigger issue later.

So what happens if something hardcore goes down and Amazon loses it’s spot as the High Warlord of ebooks? I just went to my list of kidnle purchases and the options for the most part are to have the file sent to an amazon device or app (The kindle is broken but the app on my phone works just fine). There is also an option to download the file and manually transfer it, however the file is an amazon .AZW not a universally readable epub file or similar. It makes sense, as you’re renting the file from them if enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and they can’t have you outright sharing ebook files with just anybody. The authors also don’t want you to send your buddies an email blast containing the single ebook file you bought for 99 cents. But if the hardware goes offline, and the books can’t be read, what then?

I can go on Spotify right now and make a playlist of music I don’t own, but rather rent, from the streaming service via a monthly payment. It works on my phone in the car, on my computer, laptop, whatever has a connection to the internet or data plan. But what happens when there is an outage? (And I haven’t set the playlist do be downloaded to my phone?) What about when somebody runs their truck into the power pole outside the neighborhood after their breakfast beer and knock out the internet for six or seven hours until they can rewire the thing? You quickly realize you don’t own the music, or books, or movies you have been paying to access. You’re renting them. Luckily I have vinyl LP’s of F&TM and cassette tapes from MBR so the music partition is covered. But what about books? If you don’t have them in a universal format or physical copy you don’t really own them. This type of situation is played out in Blackp00l where all software is “always online” and subscription based, because it’s the future and you can’t stop it. 🙂

Now, after saying all of that I do plan to have the next book placed on Kindle Unlimited. That means it won’t be available anywhere but Amazon and for the Kindle. This is more of a test to see if more people will read it if it’s cheap vs reading it for $4. In a perfect world there would be a Bandcamp option for books. Pay a set price and get the files for the device you use. But I’m afraid books and music are two different beasts. I haven’t seen too many authors with “merch” to supplement sales the way bands can. Who would buy a Blackp00l t-shirt? Or a deck of playing cards with Redbriar’s book cover on the back? Not enough to cover the costs of producing them, that’s for sure. (And if you do make bank on book merch please let me know what to invest in before attempting shows this summer.)

I guess the point to this is that while it’s great to pay for access to online media, it’s also important to get the physical copy of something as well.

Misprints News #52 – WordPress hates ASCII

I’ve been messing around this week with some of the art and style concepts for the story. After figuring out the MBR code and having to use a BBS message board to get all the clues, I went to a few other current ones to check them out.

Now, I’m not old enough to have had a computer like these back in the day, our first PC was a Packard Bell and that wasn’t until I was in 5th grade so my first jump into online stuff was on self contained AOL chat rooms. I had heard of the concept of the BBS systems since then but never had a reason to connect to one or mess with them.

However, while working on some of the research for the book I came across a problem with the internet. Given it’s the future and literally anything that lights up is connected to the public internet it’s hard to communicate discrete communications. Hardware is simply your monitor and input devices like a keyboard or touch type interface. Using illegal software requires you to own some kind of hardware for it to run on, which folks in the future mostly don’t have. I don’t have a C64 in the closet, just the same as these folks won’t have a dusty old dell laptop in the garage. So I thought a private network type of situation would be in order, offline – to a point.

Also, with these old message boards, all the art is made up of text characters. Those big block squares in the first image are a character in the format used on the old computers, typing them out in the right way could turn your text into a fancy image. This ANSI artwork is really cool and I think would be a good fit for the super future culture I’ve created as opposed to the hyper clean leather suit look of modern retrofuturism.

A quick google will find you a list of BBS boards to check out. If you want them to display correctly and you don’t have a working dustbox of an amiga or commodore you should download SyncTERM for your system.

So because I haven’t sat down to remake the logo by hand in text yet, I ran the logo through some filters, this one was a game boy (DMG) filter that gave some cool results to use as a base for the ANSI model later. I even wanted to do some basic ASCII art like you see in text files but that wouldn’t show up here so that idea got scrapped as well.

It really was a fun filter. Anyway, I think next weeks newsletter will go over games or something. Because this thing has an early-mid 90’s I think yall know what kind of games will be making an appearance in a world where being online means being out in public:

Misprints News #51 : Beep Bop Boop.

This week has seen a pretty good start to the first chapter as I’m about halfway done with it. Still not sold on one of the characters names yet so I’m messing around with that. I had a chance to get out of the house last weekend and see a movie/get dinner for our 13th anniversary so that was nice.

You might have noticed an ad on Facebook for Redbriar as I’ve started running a two week campaign there just to test out sales there. Folks say you do better with Amazon ads so when the Facebook one is done I’ll give that a shot. Since I’m using Ingram I can’t tell how many sell until the following month so it’s hard to tell how effective the ads are until after they’ve run.

But yeah, as I said in last weeks email this one would be about music. Electronic music has been around for a considerably long time now. I think the theremin starts things off pretty well, then things jumped to plugging analog instruments into amplified sources and recording devices which lead to electric guitars etc. Then we had an explosion of modular synthesizers that modified and distorted live sound. Today things are super digital, programs have replaced ring modulators and crazy expensive analog equipment. So what does that leave the future? Are folks still going to have homebrew euro rack modules in their studios or sets? Will physical electronics be so far advanced that soldering them in place requires industrial precision?

Now, I have full faith in the electric guitar/keyboard/drums being around in 2080-whatever. For this story I will have them set up with some common sense things like built in wireless to the amp/computer system. But the aspect of analog synths and analog modules will still be around for sure. Our future fellas will probably be used to hearing what we would consider techno-country or techno-60’s-folk music. Hip-hop and pop will have melted together decades ago. Even grunge/rock/metal will have some aspect of a digital sound to it by then just because of the medium required to produce it. It has to go through software to be recorded and distributed. I’m sure in Austin they’ll still have some hardcore scene left over where you have to play your own drums and guitar and it all must be live. 🙂

But for the sake of common sense our guys will be listening to music from their computers/phones from an online source via headphones or speakers just like folks have used since forever. Headphones and speakers aren’t going anywhere. CD’s will probably the cool retro thing to use by then, I’m sure of it and they’ll have micro LED’s laminated in the plastic so to looks crazy when you play them in your clear modded 90’s CD players.

Speaking of music I spent the last two days solving the crypto riddle on the new MBR album. I’ve never messed with converting data strings from one format to the other or pulling data from images and sound files before but it was super cool. Yes, I know I can’t listen to Florence 24/7 sometimes I have to change it up every few hours. ;D Oh and the playlist for this novella is over in the sidebar of the site, you should check out everyone on there.

See yall next week!

Misprints News #50 – Future Hobbies.

While working on the characters for a story you can’t just give a list of attributes like you would in, say, a DnD character sheet where each person is just a string of eye color, hair color, race, class, alignment, etc. But what does the brown eyed, green haired, half dwarf, chaotic neutral bard do on the weekends when he isn’t out killing kobolds? What do his other half-dwarf friends like to listen to at the local pub? What stuff is popular for the characters at the given point in time that will also have an affect on their personality?

There is more to made up characters than a laundry list of titles and personality traits. When you grew up you were subjected to different sports, music, and fads just like anyone else in history. For my story, being set in the future, I have to come up with not just new governments and politics but hobbies and pop culture as well. Similar to world building in a high fantasy setting, but just not as intricate, creating a culture involves making up hobbies for your characters to be into.

Hobby 1 – Cars

There have always been folks interested in modifying cars so this one was an easy thing to choose. However being it’s in the future the cars don’t run on gas as per government regulations. Farms and businesses can apply for a license to run gas powered machinery for remote locations as well as vintage car owners given they don’t daily drive the thing. So with electric cars you can’t have turbo builds and custom gear tuning etc. Or can you? Remember that electric motors can be swapped out for faster ones, bigger batteries, and something I made up where an analog shifting controller is installed in a vintage ex-gas car to mimic the act of manual transmission in a gearless vehicle. For fun.

Hobby 2 – Skates

Now, realistically it would be something like electric bikes or mopeds but I felt it would be a little too much like Akria to have guys on little fancy techno motorcycles driving through the city. I also felt that it was time to bring inline skates back into picture and give them fun light up wheels or some kind of cool new mechanic to roll on. Who knows, but instead of having them slip over to work on those little kids’ scooter things wasn’t going to be an option in my story. Techno rollerblades will be a thing in the story but probably not have an entire scene about them, it will be as simple as ordering a new set of bearings or wheels or something minor. No scenes from Hackers where they’re chased around town on heavy skates that can’t be quickly removed.

Hobby 3 – Rfid Card Games

This could be done now but it would be too expensive and the cards would be too easy to clone and ruin the rarity of them. However, in the future they’ll have better systems for encryption and such that can make something like this work better and be affordable for people to collect and play. One of the key things in this time is how online loot boxes aren’t allowed, to get around this companies offer physical cards with the data on them for use in the game. Maybe it’s also a plot to keep paper companies in business. Who knows. Luckily its fiction and I can just make up some way for this to work.

That’s it for this week, I figured it would be cool to share some world building bits as I get other things finalized with the first chapter. You’ll notice music wasn’t talked about in the hobbies etc for this post, it will have it’s own in next weeks edition. Feel free to leave comments or questions if I didn’t explain something well enough.

Misprints News #49 : Creating Future Subcultures

So technically the “cyberpunk” story has what can be considered an ending, good enough to start fleshing out the chapters anyway. The bulk of this weeks writing went into finalizing the two main characters and creating three of the “gangs” our fellas are gonna be dealing with throughout the book. Now, these aren’t the huge well organized crime rings like we have today where one group has various chapters and members all over the country. Think of these as sort of start-up gangs made up of less than a dozen or so folks. I guess that makes them clubs?

Anyway, it was fun to try and come up with the rules for each gang and what their product was going to be. I’ve established in previous weeks that our guys get caught up in writing code for digital drugs, and of course, you need someone to push those out to market and that’s where our mini gangs show up. Each one has a specialty, Gang A deals in euphorics, Gang B deals with hallucinogens, and Gang C slings uppers. Since the drugs are simply software for a physical medical device, the gangs use mobile kiosks and other “fronts” to upload your code. Each software package is good for X amount of uses, requiring you revisit or pay more to be given a new access token. This type of software can be auto-detected on the internet by police so you can’t simply email it or offer it online. That’s the basics of how they operate for this story.

Now, it was super hard to not make my gangs all West Side Story level cheesy with mobster nicknames and choreographed introductions. I did give them cheesy nicknames, but there is no dancing I promise. They go to clubs and bars where dancing occurs but singing is out of the question as is finger snapping and ballet style leaps into the air. Modern gangs sport matching colors or in the case of motorcycle gangs, they have a full on logo. I’ve given these guys similar setups with matching tattoos, matching facial hair, jewelry, etc. Things you’d expect a gang to use to define themselves. They have alliances and enemies, and fight over where they can and can’t sell their products. I’ve given each one a particular futuristic subculture to be a part of to make them easier to distinguish. An example is one of the gangs runs a club so they are by default part of a hardcore digital music subculture. Another is semi-primitive in that they grow their hair and beards long, raise pigs, chickens, ducks, and run a niche grocery shop.

So since this is all set in the far flung future, there are things I have to make adjustments for. Are jeans and athletic jackets going to look out of place by then? Is this a time where baseball caps finally go the way of the top hat? Do they even make spray paint anymore? How will they mark boundaries? Do they drive cars or motorcycles? I have a feeling everything would be electric by then and signs would be made up of LED strips as opposed to vintage stuff like neon. What if tags were some kind of large EL sticker you could literally slap up on a wall and it lit up? Since these are basically black market startups, perhaps they could all run a small office or over-branded bar as a base of operations. Nothing is as sketchy as a startup that’s description is nothing but buzzwords. Only one of the gangs at this point doesn’t have a base so I’m still working on a fun one for them and it’s not required for the first few chapters.

But yeah, this weekend and into next week I’ll be starting on the first chapter properly. Unlike with Redbriar I won’t be posting links to them as I go, but if you would like to beta read it feel free to hit me up in the next two months when I should have it ready for such a thing.