just finished up my latest short novel, In Constant Contact (originally called The Imaginary So-Called Friend).
It belongs to the series of World Weary Avengers stories, which began, naturally enough, with World Weary Avengers, and continued with Ledman Pickup. These are stories of the genre ‘geek fiction’, and are largely based on my experiences working in the field of cutting edge high-tech gadgets. I’d worked on the Newton hand held computer at Apple, then on the Java programming language at Sun, then at some startups, including Beatnik and Danger, where I worked on the Sidekick cellphone. I currently work at Jawbone.com, makers of very cool bluetooth devices. It’s been quite an education for me. I came from the very low tech world of bookselling, where I worked for nearly two decades, before the age of computerized inventories or even personal computers. We used to keep track of stock by typing up index cards and sticking them in the books, where as cashiers we would take them out for re-stocking or re-ordering. Somewhere along the line I taught myself computer programming, then in my mid-thirties I went to college and got an engineering degree. Since then it’s been Silicon Valley and cubicles for me.
In Constant Contact began as a spin-off of my satirical sci-fi story, Renegade Robot, where the main character (Wyatt Lorenzo) possessed a sort of rubbery wristband, like the kind that companies hand out for team building – with slogans upon them like One Team One Fight. Anyway, this particular wristband was special. It contained a wireless connection to a remote server wherein resided a specialized person or program (one couldn’t be sure) – it was a “professional friend”! This was personalized Facebook in the extreme. The “professional friend” was always on call and could communicate instantly whenever it was needed. I decided to take this idea and make a story out of such a product’s development and testing – hence, In Constant Contact.
Naturally, the product would be invented by the folks at World Weary Avengers, who had already invented a mind control device and a personality recording and playback device, among other unseemly inventions. Kandhi Clarke reprised her role as head of QA, enlisting this time a cranky QA engineer named Fred, and a quiet genius by the name of Wen Li. Together, they launch a beta project which nearly ends up in a public relations disaster.
I started writing the book last October, but was interrupted by a medical emergency which resulted in two surgeries and a difficult recovery. During that period, I completely lost my momentum. Also, I started working at Jawbone, which, astonishingly, was in the middle of producing a magical wristband (http://up.jawbone.com). Now, their high-tech wristband is nothing like the one in the novel (theirs is intended to be used for tracking your diet, exercise and sleep patterns, and looks like it’s going to be great when it comes out this fall), but still, the parallel was kind of staggering. I was suddenly working for World Weary Avengers itself!
A couple of events in the past week returned me to the novel, which was about 2/3 written already. I had come to a major turning point in the plot, and was stuck, but these two coincident events served to show me the way, and I went back and finished up a decent rough draft.
The first event was a public relations nightmare incurred by a company which has office space is the same building as ours. The second was an encounter with a certain techie person who made me realize exactly who Fred should be modeled on. My new motto is going to be “fiction even stranger than truth”. It fits In Constant Contact which I’ve put out there for public consumption – free, of course, as always.