This is it. It’s time to talk spoilers for my book. This post isn’t going to spoil anything of substance, but the comments area will be a free-fire zone. If you’ve been waiting to complain about spoiler-y plot stuff, now is the timeYou can also say nice stuff. That’s okay too..
The book is allegedly available in both paperback and kindle formats, although Amazon seems to be rather confused about who can buy what. For the record: We have it set so that the book should be available in all formats in all regions, but Amazon is randomly telling people “This product is not available in your region”. Some people have gotten around the problem by going to the front page of their regional Amazon domain like amazon.co.uk or amazon.in. From there you can search by title, which should take you to a version you can buy
For being one of the foremost international mega-conglomerates, Amazon is apparently really terrible at international business. Region locking is for dinosaur corporations.
A Tense Discussion
A lot of people asked why I wrote this in present tense. There are a couple of reasons. The first is that I read a lot of Neal Stephenson back in the day, and he often uses present tense. It really rubbed off on me, and I came to think of PTFor the purposes of this discussion, PT is “present tense”. as the voice of cyberpunk. I originally tried to write Free Radical in PT, but I gave up because I kept slipping back into standard tense and it was making a mess of things.
Then I wrote the Autoblography. PT came really naturally in that work. That whole project was centered on getting the reader into my headspace. I didn’t want the writer to stand with me in 2011 and chuckle at the naïveté of the past, I wanted to trap them in the shoes of a child in the world of 1977. This did sometimes lead to odd bits where my narration would suddenly begin predicting the future, like this paragraph:
John is a vigorous autodidact. I’m confident that he never attended any education beyond high school, but he has a voracious reading appetite. His house is packed with books. Not fiction, but a broad selection of textbooks that reflect his interests. Science, philosophy, religion, and a double helping of history. His free education is so effective that it will be years before I even realize I am being educated.
Still, I’m really happy with how it worked, and this helped me to get a firm grip on the style so I don’t slip back into past tense.
Also, if you’re writing in PT then things like flashbacks are much easier to handle. In standard tense, you’re talking about the past. Then when you need to fill in some backstory, you switch to writing about the past of the past. There’s no change in tense, which means you have to go out of your way to make it clear when you’re done looking back. If you’re writing in PT, then this shift becomes clear based on what tense is being used. I don’t need an extra sentence to segue the reader back to the immediate action. Since I like to do a lot of small “Oh by the way” type digressions in my stories to fill in bits of worldbuilding, PT is really convenient.
I get that a lot of people associate PT with fanfiction. I guess the practice is common in that subculture. That’s unfortunate, but we can’t let good tools go unused because many people use them poorly. (If we did, we’d have to throw away every programming language ever invented.) Maybe some people will skip my book because the present tense sounds too childish to them. On the other hand, maybe my book can contribute to legitimizing the practice.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I tend to write using the voices of celebrities. I find it makes it easier for me to stick to a particular tone and keep track of character details if I can associate it with a familiar voice in my head. These voices are writing tools and I don’t intend them to be canonical or authoritative. Or at least, they’re not any more valid than whatever faces or voices the reader might choose.
When I released the Witch Watch, I shared the voices I used for the characters. Yes, I realize this sort of information is kinda self-indulgent on my part. I’m not telling you how to imagine these characters “properly”. There’s nothing inherently authorial about this information. This is just for the curious, and just for fun:
I’m willing to bet that most people will read the description saying he’s a balding black man and drop him into the body of Laurence Fishburne. That’s fine. It makes a lot of sense. Although I had the face of Jamie Foxx in mind when I wrote the character. I’d just watched Baby Driver and I loved his performance as the imposing villain Bats. I know he usually plays the witty handsome good guy, but he can be really unnerving and mysterious if he wants to. Max isn’t the stone cold man of mystery people usually take him for, but the Bats persona seemed to match the mask he wears.
When I wrote Jen’s character, I thought of Mary Elizabeth Winstead‘s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane. In that movie, she had a lot of very guarded conversations with John Goodman’s character. She had to mask her emotions to navigate the dangerous conversations, and that emotional mask really matched Jen’s default personality. Also, the colored hair reminded me of Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
For the curious: Her name comes from an accidental misunderstanding in the book that results in a quasi-pun. She’s trying to explain to the protagonist that she’s a recent model of robot. She says she’s a “gen five model”, in the same way someone might call the PlayStation or Sega Saturn a gen five console. Max understands this as “Jen Five”. I noticed that this sounded a bit like “Johnny Five” from the 80s comedy Short Circuit. That was a little worrisome.
I could have changed her accidental surname to “Six”, but then maybe people would have associated her name with Nicky Sixx or Electric Six. For whatever reason, six is a “cool” number. I wanted the name to sound a bit detached, like a product name. I wanted her name to feel like “iPhone 5” or “Honda Civic 5”, not like an awesome rockstar badass superhero. I could have used Seven as a surname, except I also wanted to keep the number low because robots are supposed to be new-ish to this world.
Eventually I decided I was overthinking this. Nobody remembers Short Circuit. Right?
Silly Shamus. The internet never forgets. It was the first thing people pointed out when they read her name.
I thought of Simone Missick in Netflix’s Luke cage, where she played officer Misty Knight. She’s not a central character for most of the show, but when she does show up she often feels like the only adult in the room. That fit Clare’s character as the most normal person we meet.
For Dr. Kvenst, I used Colombian actress Cristina Umaña. Specifically, I had in mind her performance as Judi Moncada in the Netflix series Narcos. I’m not really impressed with most Netflix originals, but I’m a big fan of Narcos. This means that, in my head, Kasarainians speak with a Colombian accent.
Kasaran is a global superpower. As far as the reader knows, they’re THE global superpower. My worry was that they would be seen as the USA with a new paintjob, so I was careful to make them as distinct as possible. As Max’s train of thought reveals in the book:
They apparently have German roads, French marriages, American entertainment, British colonialism baggage, Japanese technology, and Russian climateAnd in my head, Colombian accents.. I know the desire to map fictional worlds to our own is strong, but hopefully this is enough to break reader’s expectations of real-world equivalency.
For the ruthless casino mogul Felix Royale, I had in mind John Waters. Waters is a director and not an actor, but that’s the great thing about writing. In your mind’s eye, anyone can be a brilliant actor. I just loved the idea of the slight and unimposing Waters as this profoundly dangerous gangster / businessman.
The obvious problem is that Waters is the wrong color. Felix is a native, which means he ought to be dark skinned. Like I said in my first post on the book, I went back and forth on how I wanted the skin colors to work. I came up with my mental image for Felix before I locked down how the races were going to work and which characters would belong to which culture.
This means that for most readers, their mental image of Felix will be more accurate (to the text) than mine. Writing is funny.
As I said above, the comments are an open thread for discussing the book. For the purposes of this discussion, if you ask something like, “Why don’t the Eagles take Frodo to Mordor?” I’m going to assume you’re discussing this point with other readers. Unless you address me personally, I’m not going to jump in and attempt to fix perceived plot holes with extra-textual post-release patches. I’m a big believer in the idea that the text is the text and everything outside the text is fanfic, even if it was written by me. If something isn’t explained well enough then making up shit later doesn’t fix that.
Still, if you have a question about the world or how it was constructed, you’re welcome to ask. Just make it clear that you’re looking for an answer and not just complaining about something that bugged you.
Thanks to everyone who took an interest in the book. I really hope you enjoyed it.
 You can also say nice stuff. That’s okay too.
 For the purposes of this discussion, PT is “present tense”.
 And in my head, Colombian accents.
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