The Movies That Influenced The Memory Hunter

I wrote this new book, The Memory Hunter. It’s an absurdist cyberpunk book, a retro thing, and to make it absurd, I borrowed heavily from every imaginable trope in the cyberpunk genre. (You should go buy it.)

But to be honest, I haven’t read much cyberpunk. I mean, I love Snow Crash, and I’ve read a fair amount of Philip K. Dick’s work, which is sort of “granddaddy-of-cyberpunk” and predated the big 80s/90s movement headed by Gibson and others. What really moved me during the writing of this book was film. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, which was a time rich with high-concept science fiction blockbusters, the pre-CGI era of big-budget films about our inevitable near-future, which of course never happened.  But I loved that stuff, the action stars of the day, in a sound stage in Burbank done up to look like the surface of Mars.  I’d rent those movies from Blockbuster, and watch the VHS over and over in late-night marathons with my college buddies.

And I dreamed of a cyberpunk future, because I lived in what I thought was the start of it.  I used the Internet before there was a web, telnetting into BBSes and FTPing text zines like Phrack, reading all of the tales of hacking and connecting to faraway mainframes. I lusted after X Terminal workstations, and saw the GUI unix computers as the next step.  Soon, these graphical displays would become 3D, turn into headsets, and we’d all jack into this total immersion virtual reality.  The game Doom came out, and I knew it would happen soon. And then it didn’t.  The Web came out, and became commercial and dumb, and here we are, looking at stupid articles about 5 Ways To Lose Weight For The Holidays By Eating Blue Foods.

That’s why I wrote this book, so the dream would not be dead; it would be in an alternate reality.  And that reality is based on my memories of these old VHS classics.  Here’s my list.  I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, so when you go buy my book the plot won’t be spoiled.

  • Blade Runner – The gold standard of noir-inspired cyberpunk. I honestly didn’t get into this PKD-based classic until much later. When I bought my first not-family-shared VCR right after college, this was one of the first VHS videos I purchased. I’ve read endless books on the making of it (Future Noir is the best one) and you can get wrapped up in the “Deckard is a replicant” thing.In this book, I borrowed a lot of the imagery of this movie, the futuristic yet beaten-up city, the constant rain, the neon lights and Japanese-inspired architecture.
    One of the tropes that Blade Runner used that I remember from the 80s was this idea that the Japanese were taking over the world, that they were flooding us with technology and buying up all of our real estate and would eventually run the planet.  It’s something prevalent in many 80s movies like Gung Ho, and almost every 80s comedy had a geeky Japanese guy who could barely speak English for humorous effect.  (Caddyshack, Revenge of the Nerds, etc.)There’s also a lot of plot borrowed from this movie, but in an indirect way.  Most noir movies follow a very similar Chandler-esque three-act plot, and use tropes like the fallen protagonist with a troubled past, the female love interest, the big switcharoo, and so on.Oh, and spinnercars.  You’ve gotta love a good hovercar.
  • Total Recall – “GET YOUR ASS TO MARS!”  Man, I loved this movie when it came out. I didn’t see it in theaters, but a friend had a copy recorded off of HBO, and after watching it once, I rented it and watched it constantly.  I popped in the DVD recently and wrote about it, and it didn’t hold up at all.  The technology was all wrong, the miniature models looked really bad, and the acting was super-corny.  But, I love all of that. I remember every little line that Ahnold said, the way the secondary characters acted. And you’ve got the PKD mojo again, with the script being (loosely) based on a story of his.I borrowed heavily from this movie.  The concept of memory implants is there, along with the idea of mining colonies on other planets worked by indentured servants who end up getting screwed up by their mega-corporate overlords.  I also stole the common PKD trope of robot-controlled cabs, and the evil Big Boss.  I also wanted to use some of the outdated technology in this movie, like video phones, CRT monitors, and dot matrix printers.
  • Johnny Mnemonic– This movie is so bad it’s good, even though it flopped so badly, it was the beginning of the end of the cyberpunk genre.  There were some capable actors that did poorly, some stunt-casting that didn’t work out (Henry Rollins, Ice T) and a bleak look at 2021 that’s now incredibly dated.The big trope I swiped from this movie was the visual look of The Net, the idea of putting on a headset and swiping your arms in the air to move around blocks of “data” or whatever, or travel down an Information Superhighway of vector graphics and neon grids.  I also borrowed the concept of memory couriering, carrying around data in an implant for later retrieval. And my book has IDES, a degenerative disease that slowly rots away implants, something similar to nerve attenuation syndrome in this movie.
  • Sneakers – I lovethis movie.  It’s probably one of my favorite films of all time, and I remember seeing it at least a half-dozen times in the theater. It’s not a cyberpunk movie, but it’s a good thriller with enough high-tech stuff in it that it really hit hard when I saw it back in 1992.I borrowed a lot of plot-based tropes from this. There’s once again the fallen hero scraping by in a bad job.  (“It’s a living” / “Not much of one”)  There’s the weirdo expert in the field.  The “calling the CIA and tracing the trace” bit, or at least the pacing and tension of that scene, is something I use in act three (and don’t want to spoil – go read the book.)  I also used a big switcheroo like they did.  And the concept of “who is the enemy, really?” is one I loved to use.
  • Honorable mentions – here are a few that either don’t have to do with cyberpunk or that weren’t something I watched back in the day, but that also inspired my plot:
    • The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep – I’m not a noir guy.  But after reading about Blade Runner, I knew I had to get back to the source, so I read and watched The Big Sleep, and then to figure out what Chandler ripped off, I read and watched The Maltese Falcon. My plot outline is so similar to Sleep, I probably shouldn’t publicly admit it. But almost any noir is.  I borrowed a lot of tropes here: detective in a crappy office, fallen from his old job; wise-ass secretary (but in my case, it’s an intelligent AI program); the case that’s too good to be true; the employer that turns on you; the damsel in distress; getting captured and beat up at the end of Act 2; it’s all there.  I prefer Chandler’s work because it’s a little more fuzzy around the edges and has some complexity.  (And don’t worry, this is the last genre book like this I’m writing, unless someone shows up with a huge check for the sequel.)
    • UHF – this Weird Al vehicle is a parody itself, but the evil boss is something I cribbed a bit.
    • RoboCop – A lot of people are going to see this one, and it’s a minor influence in the Prometheus story plot, which is totally different from what I’m doing.  Its near future is also a little more near than mine.  But the overarching OCP and a lot of the little sayings and slogans (“I’d buy that for a dollar!”) got their stink all over my novel.

Anyway, that’s a good starting list. Hope you get a chance to check out the book – I need to go fall down a rabbit hole of old movies.

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My new book, The Memory Hunter, is now out!

I’m happy to announce that my new book, The Memory Hunter, is now available!

This book is a bit of a departure for me.  I wanted to try writing a plotted novel with a conventional structure. The book is a retro cyberpunk book.  I know cyberpunk is supposed to be dead, but I had some fun getting around this. I wrote a book that appears to be penned in about 1981, with all of the usual futuristic predictions of that era’s great science fiction, which of course never happened.  So it’s chock full of flying cars, robots, intelligent computers, memory implants, and huge Japanese corporations that rule a world that has rebuilt after a nuclear war with the still-existing Soviet Union.  It’s a dark comedy, full of my usual brand of absurdism, but it’s also a solid noir thriller.

I’ve got a page with a description and all of the details here. Go grab your copy here:

A preview is available on the Kindle and on Smashwords.  I also sent out a slightly longer preview of the first chapters to my mailing list.  Didn’t get it?  Maybe you should subscribe.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with this, especially John Sheppard and Joseph Hirsch, who beta-read and edited for me.  I hope you enjoy this!  And if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t worry.  I’m already 30,000 words into another absurd and bizarre book that gets back to my usual brand of writing.

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More book stuff

Okay, so more details on The Memory Hunter:

  • See the last post about it.
  • The release date is 9/1/14
  • It is 320 pages.
  • The cover is amazing.  I said I wasn’t going to reveal it until the Facebook page got 100 likes, so go like it.
  • There is a preview of it, which consists of the first five chapters.  It’s absolutely free, but you have to be on my mailing list to get it, so you should join it.  I only mail out once a month at most, so it’s not a high-volume thing, and you find out first about my new books and stories, and get free stuff.
  • The book has a web site: http://rumored.com/thememoryhunter/ It is a work in progress, but it has the book description on it, and will be updated once the book goes live.
  • I’m waiting on a physical proof, which shows up tomorrow.  The interior layout is all done, the cover is done, the kindle version is done, and the Smashwords version will be done momentarily.  I pretty much just need to push a couple of buttons and the book will be live.

Very tired right now.  I haven’t slept well in weeks, worrying about getting this book done, trying to find places to tell more people about it.  There was an earthquake last night, which caused no damage, except to my sleep.  I’ve been burning all of my time with final edits and photoshop madness and submitting files and filling out forms.  And now it’s all about googling places that review books, and pondering ads, and trying to reach out to new people, and basically everything but writing.  It’s all part of the process, but I want to get back to actually creating.  Soon.

Anyway, get ready.  The next update will probably be that the book is out.  I will be leaking more things over at Facebook.  And please, sign up for the damn list.  Tell everyone you know.  This book is going to be huge, and you’ll want to check it out.

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Scrivener Tips, Redux

I am in the midst of production work for my next book, and this is the time I always learn new things about Scrivener.  Here are some random bits of info.  If this makes no sense to you, don’t worry; I’m mostly documenting this so that a year from now, I’ll google it again and find it here.  BTW all of this is in the latest version on the Mac.

Using a Code character style in Kindle output

Need to have a monospace font code style that shows up in your final Kindle output?

  1. Surround your text with the HTML <code> tag.  Like this
  2. Select the text, and select Format > Formatting > Preserve Formatting.  Your text gets surrounded by a little blue dotted outline.
  3. When you compile your book, under Compilation Options, select HTML Settings,  and under HTML, select Treat “Preserve Formatting” blocks as raw HTML.

Making first paragraphs in a chapter or section not indented

  1. When compiling, under Compilation Options, select Formatting.
  2. This gets a little squirrely, because it depends on how you break up your documents/scrivs/folders.  For this project, I had a scriv per chapter, and within them, I had blank lines for sections (where you’d normally have * * * or something in a print book.)  In that situation, select the Section Type of Level 1+ with just one document (the bottom item).
  3. Click Options.
  4. Select Remove first paragraph indents and the relevant option.  I used After empty lines and centered text, but yours might be something else.
  5. You might have to do this for different Section Type levels, depending on your structure.

My About the Author chapter is showing up as Chapter 32 in the Kindle TOC

  1. Make sure your scriv for the chapter has a properly-cased and human-readable title, like “About the Author” and not “WTF FFUUUCKCK FIX ME”.
  2. Under Compilation Options, go to Title Adjustments.
  3. There is a thing labeled Do not add title prefix or suffix to documents:.  It has a little gear next to it.  It’s not very OSX-ish and super easy to miss. Click the gear.
  4. Select the documents you want to not name “Chapter x”
  5. Click outside of this pop-up to close it, like on the dialog underneath it.  (It has no close button. I told you it was a junky piece of UI.)

I imported a Scrivener-generated Word doc into Pages and when I try to have different head/foot/page numbers in a section, it freaks the fuck out and I think my computer is possessed by Satan

Scrivener probably put a page break instead of a section break between a couple of chapters, and now the Pages “use previous section” heading/footing setting behaves wrong. Change the page breaks to section breaks.

Also, if you don’t use section breaks between chapters and your chapters start on even pages of your book, stop doing that.

The spell check isn’t catching things

That’s because it sucks.  You might want to check your spelling and grammar in another program.

Hope these help someone, or at least help me in six months when I do this again.

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Updates on the next book

Okay. It’s about time to give you some more updates on the next book, because the release is imminent. The book is being edited right now, then it gets designed, goes through production, and all of that pain-in-the-ass stuff.  And then you buy it. Right?

Okay, so here are the latest updates. I’m putting them in a bulleted list, so hang on:

  • The title of the book is The Memory Hunter.
  • I have been posting daily updates on its facebook page, giving little hints about the book. You should go like this page, and tell everyone about it. I have only been giving out more hints as the page gets more likes.  So, go: https://www.facebook.com/thememoryhunter
  • I have also promised that the first people who will find out about the book will be the subscribers to my newsletter.  Also, I will be sending the first few chapters to my newsletter subscribers. That means you really need to subscribe to my list.  I only send mail a few times a year, and I almost always give out free stuff when I do, so do it.
  • This book is not some bizarro stream-of-consciousness plotless thing about how I shit my pants at the county fair during a riot. It is not like my other books. It is a plotted novel. It is extremely plotted.  It is so plotted, Michael Bay would say “god damn, that is plotted.” You could seriously write a Syd Field book on plot based on this thing.
  • That’s not to say it’s not like my other books. I think if you read the first ten of my books, you will find a lot of similarity and there’s the same kind of humor and twisted stuff within this.
  • In fact, there are a lot of connections between this book and my other books. There are recurring characters, places, concepts, and items from all of my books, even the nonfiction ones. I have seriously Frank Zappa-ed the fuck out of this.
  • I’ve also named a bunch of minor characters after some of my best supporters. I’ve given some of you warning about this, but expect to be called out on facebook about this, or maybe I’ll leave them a surprise until the book is published.
  • This book will not be enrolled in KDP Select, which means it will not be in Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Lending Library, and there will not be a KDP free giveaway. Fuck Jeff Bezos and all of his attempts to lock ebook authors into a monopoly.
  • It’ll be on the Kindle, and of course in print.
  • This book will be available on most of the Smashwords-enabled platforms, which includes the Nook, Kobo, Apple/iTunes, Scribd, Oyster, FlipKart, and some others I’m forgetting, as well as the Smashwords store itself.
  • It is just over 80,000 words, so a full-sized book. I haven’t finished the layout yet, but I estimate it to be about 300 pages in print.
  • I will post more about the description and synopsis of the book later, but the tease so far is that it’s absurdist cyberpunk. It takes place in Seattle in 2007.
  • The cover is amazing. The picture above is a tiny clip from it. You have to see the whole thing.
  • If you review books on Amazon, Goodreads, or a blog, I absolutely need to talk to you now.

This book is a huge change for me, and I am really proud of it. I hope you will like it.  I’ll tell you more when we get closer, but you absolutely need to sign up for the mailing list and go check out the facebook page for more news.

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The Cloud, the Book, the Pissing Contest

I’ve been bitching and moaning about how Adobe decided to move all of their software to the cloud, and make people pay per month forever to use their stuff.  I’ve also been bitching about how Apple decided to kill off Aperture, which happened about ten minutes after I imported and tagged 50,000 pictures, and would probably require me to spend six months of my life migrating to Lightroom.

Well, fuck it, I decided to give up and get a Creative Cloud membership, while Adobe is trying to court Aperture users and is quoting a lowball price.  I joined with the photographer’s membership, which is ten bucks a month, and includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and 2GB of cloud storage.  There’s some other junk that I don’t need or understand (Typekit?  Bridge?)  and there’s a ton of “try this!” links everywhere, to get you to upgrade to a full-blown membership.  But I don’t need Illustrator or InDesign this second, so I’m fine.

I have not used Photoshop in a long time.  I’ve been using Pixelmator for a while, to do book covers and whatnot.  (Here is my latest.)  And I make endless stupid things like the above drawing I re-captioned.  But I haven’t used Photoshop in forever.  It’s interesting to see how much it changed.

Back in 1991 when I returned to Bloomington after a year at IUSB commuter college hell, they had a shit-ton of new computer gear, because they’d recently tacked on a technology fee to tuition and were in a mad rush to spend it. The Fine Arts college had this cluster of brand spanking new top-of-the-line Macs, which I think were the IIfx at that time.  Each one had a gigantic color monitor, probably 20 inches, but about a yard thick, plus a second paperwhite portrait screen, along with a scanner and a Jazz drive, which used those insanely expensive removable hard drives that could hold something like 100 Megs, which was pure science fiction at the time. Anyway, they had Photoshop 1.0. I recently found a color printout me and my buddy Ray did when he visited once, an Ann Geddes overhead shot of nine babies in a nursery, but we’d horribly mangled them all: one beheaded, another eating that head, one with a swastika on its forehead, one spitting blood, etc.

That was my first exposure to Photoshop, and the new version makes the 1.0 version look more primitive than MS Paint. I am absolutely amazed by all of the retouching and healing tools, and how you can do stuff like move parts of an image and it will automatically fix the background.  The $10 a month is well-spent on getting more book covers done.  (And of course, photoshopping dicks into the mouths of various Facebook friends.)

Speaking of books, I am almost done with the next one.  I’m in the last sprint of edits, and I have a roughed-in cover, and I’m maybe a week from entering production drudgery.  This book is so amazingly different from anything I’m written, I’m not sure what people will think.  It’s absurdist, but it has an incredibly plotted story, like Michael Bay plotted.  I think it will really show readers that I have the ability to do more than just stories about taking a dump at the county fair.  But, I’m anxious to get it done, so I can get back to writing stories about taking a dump at the county fair.   Anyway, stay tuned.

I wanted to write something about Amazon Unlimited, and about the huge pissing contest between Amazon and Hachette.  But I really do not have the energy to care.  It’s billionaires fighting billionaires, and every move Amazon makes to make you think they are on your side or they’re saving you money is really one they’re making to increase their monopoly.  Amazon Unlimited is nothing but a race to the bottom, creating the equivalent of a thousand-channel cable TV plan that will cause readers to read five pages of everything and enjoy nothing.  And Hachette charges too much for ebooks, but Amazon is only bringing that to your attention because they want more of your money.

It’s all bullshit.  I’m still selling on Amazon, but eventually, their monopoly will squeeze out small authors, and I’m waiting for the day when they start charging KDP writers insane prices to list their books, or drop their royalties, or start an inane approval process for self-pubbed books “to increase quality to customers” (i.e. make it impossible for anyone they don’t like to publish weird stuff.)  It will happen.  But I’ll still be here.  If I have to photocopy my books at the local Kinko’s and sell them out of the trunk of my car, I will.  If I have to memorize them and go town to town reciting them like one of those poor fuckers with The Iliad, fine.  If I was here to make millions, I would have started selling penny stocks back in 1997.

OK, back to editing.  What’s up with you?

 

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