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!

Not What You Remember

The grocery stores have had their Easter candy on display for a few weeks now. Every year I check the candy section for the Sweetarts shaped like little chickens, ducks, and bunnies. Most places won’t carry them, but when found I grab a bag. At some point in the last 6-7 years or so they changed the shape of the candies. They used to be larger, thinner and the animals had more detail. Now they are smaller, thicker, and come in extra colors. It’s all just colored sugar, the shape and stuff isn’t important, but every year I get a bag just to see if they went back to the “real” size.

Rarely do things attempt to go back to the way they were. Trix cereal at some point moved to fruit shaped cereal, then back to the ball shape, and have recently gone to the fruit shaped again claiming they’ve gone “back” to an original shape. It still tastes like gas station bathroom air freshener so I haven’t bought any in years.

McDonald’s at some point in the early 2000’s while I was in college, made a push for all their chicken nuggets to be made of 100% white meat. This got rid of the best nuggets, the flavorful dark meat nuggets that were randomly mixed in each little cardboard box. It was a fun thing to find more than three or so and you couldn’t really tell until you bit into one if you were lucky that day. Don’t worry, they’ll never give us the dark meat nuggets back and disappoint the dry meat fans because in some office on an old dusty Dell computer is an excel sheet claiming that Americans don’t like dark meat chicken.

I’ve not seen a “throwback” version of anything really take off. Pepsi and Dr Pepper both offer cane sugar variants but we didn’t rush to buy them exclusively again. You won’t see M&M’s go swapping the blue for tan again. This also seems to be true for other stuff as well. We all claim to want Toyota and Honda to bring back the manual transmission rwd hatchbacks from the olden days. But if they did, we wouldn’t buy them. You can’t cram three kids and a dog into one, and I doubt that modern teens can afford a new car these days, even a small one. Nostalgic adults will just buy the old cars they really want and pay to have them repaired properly anyway.

Videogames have dealt with this issue pretty well though. You can play your old 8 and 16 but games on an emulator easily. The old hardware has all but started to break down over the years and if you really want to open one up and try to swap chips and resistors by all means go for it, it’s fun. Nintendo will remaster the games and put them on their subscription service for the switch or remake them for the 3DS if they were extra popular. How many times will we pay full retail or Skyrim and Diablo III? Depends on what new format we don’t have it on lol.

If you want vintage looking games Steam has a mountain of indie side scrollers and point & clicks that look 8-16 bit with real chiptune soundtracks. The best part of those games is they are not only affordable and made by small companies but the controls and graphics are modern. You won’t end up with eye strain after an hour, and when you hit the left arrow key your character has a 99% chance of actually following through with the action in a time you expect. The sprites don’t glitch and fade as you move making you second guess your jumps. It’s the elements of the old stuff you played as a kid but without the disappointment of them not being as great as you remember.

It’s included on amazon prime video if yall have it.

The other day I watched a documentary about an arcade in New York’s Chinatown. They spent a huge chunk of the film showing us how great the place was for this one group of guys who would spend their after school hours there. As you’d expect, the place closed down after the recession and the guys were rightfully upset about it. Their childhood shut down. Cut to a few years later and someone reopens it as a modern style ticket arcade for kids. When the old gaming crew went back to see how they redid the place they were disappointed that it wasn’t the arcade it once was. If you get a chance you should watch it.

I know this post has a bunch of silly gifs and stuff in it, mostly little things I couldn’t really fit into one of the Friday posts or have enough of an idea for an entire post on its own. Wrapping up some logo work and I’ll be jumping back into writing better things tonight.

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.