HH Com 286 (285)

Unlike most twentysomethings, Payne Cass has got it all figured out. Getting up early sucks: she awakens after noon. Commuting takes too long: she telecommutes via the 3D global zeitgeist that's replaced the Internet. Gender discrimination still exists: she uses her
custom-designed Armani-suited Ken doll avatar. Steady office jobs are for losers: she spends her nights as a hired hacker gun for some megacorp. Then, after a dinner break, she switches sides to the next-highest bidder; in the morning, she cashes the massive checks from the companies she two-times and goes to bed.

It's a good life. Better when you've internalized a few things, and Payne has. She's one of the best in the world; there's no chance that one of the megacorps will discover her double-crosses. She's utterly emotionally detached; she merely lusts after (not loves) her
roommate/fucktoy Bailey Thirty. Finally, of course, she's invincible.

Then, late one night, Bailey winds up crucified. Shortly after, Payne realizes: Level of emotional detachment? Highly overestimated. What's more, that cross was meant for her. Now she's got to find a way to restore Bailey from backup. She's got to set a deadman's
switch on Securipcor, the megacorp who found out, before they make her into a dead man. And if she doesn't want another set of assassins panting after her, she's got to keep up her productivity… lest another megacorp find out her dirty little secret.

Because in this world, a bad performance review can be deadly.

This works. I like the zippy, in your face style. The hacker motif is probably old hat to dedicated genre readers but as we all know, I'm not that.


skybluepinkrose said...

I like the energy, too, but I don't get "restore Bailey from backup" or "set a deadman's switch." Is this (a) techie for "resurrect," and if so, how does she do that, and (b) make the company believe they indeed got the right guy? But then keeping up her productivity immediately signals they haven't.

Kat said...

I'm a heavy sf reader, and I'd like this. Reminds me of some of the old cyberpunk stuff, only with actual people I cared about. I hope you got asked for pages, 'cause I'd like to see 'em.

Anonymous said...

I love the feel of these "assumes the persona over the internet, then wakes up and realizes the world is real" books. Very few of them come up with anything interesting, the crucifiction got my attention. And it's nice to see that she doesn't turn into Neo. Good job. Good luck.

Kit Whitfield said...

Small point, but 'fucktoy' sounds pretty cold and aggressive to me - the kind of thing a misogynist man would call women behind their backs. Fuck buddy? Bed pal? Something a little friendlier would be less alienating - and probably more accurate, as, according to your plot, she actually does like him.

Sounds like an exciting plot.

December Quinn said...

Love it. Sounds exciting and accessible even to Luddites like me.

I'm totally not accusing anyone of copying in any way, but the MC reminds me of the way Scarpetta's niece Lucy should have turned out in Patricia Cornwell's books, instead of the irritating mess she actually is.

Anonymous said...

I liked it a lot I have just a little bit of a nitpicking about this part:

...replaced the Internet. Gender discrimination still exists:...

I think you are telling too much as opposed to showing. I think "replaced the Internet" and "commuting sux" are not needed and I would like you to 'show' me that discrimination still exists, something along the lines:

Commuting is for the brain the size of a pea, stuck in the middle management type. She telecommutes using her custom designed Armani suited Ken doll avatar set to laugh like a horse and tell a joke picked at random out of six pre-programmed possibilities every time her boss tells her in confidence that the triple PHd CEO of the company got to where she is by sleeping with the entire board of directors.

Divine Bird said...

I would read this in a heartbeat. I hope your pages are awesome and that you get published so I CAN read it. :D It makes me think of Neal Stephenson's work, which is a good thing.

Dave said...

It's amazing to read a hook in cyberpunk. I don't think most publishers would be brave enough to stick this on a book flap or back cover. But here, it works.
I think the language is a little fat and loose, but it works. And it establshed Payne Cass really fast and sticks with her and her dilema.

Sunny said...

Thanks for all the positive comments, everyone! A little Q&A:

skybluepinkrose: "restore from..." is (as you surmised) resurrection. A deadman's switch is a technique used by spies and paranoids, among others; basically, if you *don't* check in every so often, something will happen. Think, "If I die, my photos of you and George Clooney will be automatically e-mailed to the Washington Post!" In Payne's case, she needs to figure out how to do that with the Big Nasty Corporation so as to have something to hold over their heads.

kat: thanks so much! That's exactly the tone for which I'm trying. I love Gibson's cinematic writing style, and his thoughts on technology, but his books tend to leave me emotionally detached, and some of his characters simply annoy me with their one-dimensionality. Ditto in spades for many other cyberpunk authors. I write what I'd like to read, so this is definitely tech with a heaping side of angst.

anon #1: thanks again! Definitely no Neo. The first was good, but it's all downhill from there.

kit: you're absolutely right. In Payne's case, though, denial is not just a river in Egypt, and emotional unavailability is elevated to an art form. A large part of the revelation is that she *isn't* quite so unfeeling as she'd like to be. Thanks for the plot kudos!

december: once more, thanks! I don't think I've ever read Patricia Cornwell, but non-irritating non-messness is something that I strive for--too many female protogs fall to pieces far too quickly.

anon #2: thanks for the kudos and feedback! I made the stylistic choices I did because those items are worldbuilding; really, both are incidental to the current plot. I could have shown-not-told, but I think it would've lost the snap. This project is an exercise in minimalism for me, as normally I'm a wordy comma-clause type. Rest assured, the pages are more visual.

divine: you're making me blush! First, I have to finish the damn thing. It's a ways from being done, but at least I have a plot--which is normally my weak point. I'm going to save this page of comments and refer back whenever I have a "every word I write sucks!" moment, though.

Finally, to Miss Snark: thank you so much for doing this. I will not be so dumb as to call you nice, but is goddess among agents acceptable?

Transient Me said...

Sounds great - but be careful to avoid treading too far into Neuromancer territory, William Gibson's cult classic set in cyberspace.

From Amazon.com's synopsis:

Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way--and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance--and a cure--for a price....

Anonymous said...

Energy is all it has. An emotionally detached character won't carry a novel. What else you got?

Hypergraphia said...

This was a good hook, but I thought the last paragraph was a little choppy and hard to follow. I also think you could leave 'fucktoy' out of the hook. Maybe a "roommate w/benefits?"

Virginia Miss said...

I don't read sci fic, but this style and attitude appealed to me, and I think I followed the hook, although the deadman's switch bit did make me stumble at first.

Kudos on hooking Miss Snark with sf!

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I thought the last paragraph was a little choppy and hard to follow.

I agree. The hook was great up to that point and then you lost me because I couldn't figure out exactly what was going on.

FWIW, fucktoy didn't bother me because it fit the character's self image, which is of someone who's impenetrable. Then the murder jolts her out of the shell she's created for herself, which takes care of the "emotionally detached" issue.

Anonymous said...

Really liked this, would def delve in if I'd picked it up in a bookstore. I'm looking forward to seeing your pages!

Anonymous said...

Decent hook, decent writing.

Plot and milieu seem somewhat dated to me... I mean, Neuromancer came out 20 years ago. That may not be the case with the book, but nothing in the hook seemed terribly 'new' or 'fresh' to a dedicated sci-fi reader.

I'd pick this up, but the first page or two would really kick ass to grab me.

I guess I'll get to find out :)

Kudos for hooking MS anyway.

j h woodyatt said...

I read a lot of SF, and I've got a lot of old first edition cyberpunk classics in the home library down in the basement, bought when they were new.

There is nothing in this hook I haven't already seen done to death. If there is anything in this story that builds anything new where the masters of cyberpunk paved over twenty years ago with asphalt that's growing weeds in it now, then I don't see it in the hook.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I knew what you meant by 'deadman's switch'. I'm a tad surprised that a number of people didn't.

I didn't read the old cyberpunk, so maybe it has all been done before... but does that matter if the readers with the credit cards at the ready think this is new stuff? This is in the realm of the Parrish Plessis novels, which are going well here in Australia.

I think it has potential.

dana p said...

The author said:

A large part of the revelation is that she *isn't* quite so unfeeling as she'd like to be.

Yep, I got that, and it's exactly what hooked me.

There is a sentence I had trouble with: "One night, Bailey winds up crucified." Is "winds up" really the phrase you're looking for? It sounds so... incidental. Trivializing. Like, "One night, Bailey winds up with mismatched socks." Or, "One night, Bailey winds up with a rash." Maybe it's just me, but dang, it sounded odd.

I love the part about restoring Bailey from backup -- talk about setting high stakes! (Until I read through these 300+ crapometer entries, I had no idea I had such a *thing* for people coming back from the dead. What's that all about?)

Good luck, author -- I look forward to reading your pages.

Sunny said...

A couple more replies, now that I'm safely arrived at my holiday destination (and now that no one will ever see this again!).

dave: thanks! I wasn't sure if the language would work, but figured it was best to find out now.

transient: the people-in-cyberspace thing has been done to death (as other commenters noted), and not just by Gibson. As I think Miss Snark once said, it's not the idea--it's what you do with it. The idea is also very similar to "Echelon", by Josh Conviser, but it was conceived before I ever touched his novel. Thanks!

anon #3: while I appreciate the feedback, I've got to disagree with you. Emotionally detached protogs have been done by much better authors than me--for an example that will resonate with lots of people, try Ian Fleming.

hypergraphia, anon #4: it is a bit choppy, and I'm still deciding whether I like that as a stylistic choice (as the pages will be done in a rather choppy style) or whether I was too tired when I wrote it. Either way, good to be thinking about it and deciding consciously. And thanks for the praise on content!

virginia, anon #5, anon #7: thanks for the votes of confidence!

anon #6, j h: you're right. As mentioned earlier, cyberpunk itself has been done to death. If plot were all I had in my little Writer's Arsenal, I'd be more fucked than Bailey Thirty. However, my bet is on tone and characters. Traditionally, cyberpunk has leaned more towards the sci-fi side, which means that the style tends (note I said TENDS, not IS ALWAYS) to lean towards data dumps and plot over characters. Since I'm more of a character over plot writer, I'm hoping to give it a fresh spin. Thriller writers do it all the time--why not cyberpunk writers?

Finally, dana: good point. It is a bit casual. I have problems with excessive flipness in my writing; thank you for pointing that out. As for people coming back from the dead... dunno. You're not alone, though! Thanks for the encouragement, too!