Calculating the Fraud – Blue Boxes, Spreadsheets and Shimmer
July 10th, 2010
People ask how much research I had to do to write Shimmer. For better or worse, I did virtually none. My flippant response is always that I hate research. Which is true. The thought of doing any amount of research for something I write makes me panic, as if I’m back in a college English class, frantically trying to finish a research paper on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the day before it is due. The better answer is that it was never my intent to write a book that was an accurate portrayal of some technology or business. I could care less about accuracy. What I wanted was to create a world that was true to itself. The technology (the mainframes and blue boxes) and the business (including the financial fraud underlying it) had to work within the context of the book, the characters, the world that they inhabited. I found this spreadsheet from back when I was mid-way into the first draft of the book. I vaguely remember putting it together. I’d written myself into a lie — a company based on a growing fraud that was nearing an end. But I needed to sort out some details on how the fraud would work. Here’s the spreadsheet:
(Here’s a PDF of the file.)I like this line, which is in the notes:
"Exponential increase: Because Global Relay [later changed to Core Communications] is allowing the client to pass so much more information, it has an exponentially larger commitment. Basically, if the Blue Box increases the rate by 40, then GR has to buy 40 mainframes."I can only sort of follow what I did on the spreadsheet, by the way. The details of the fraud continued to change as I wrote. What matters is that I used it to get a feel for the exponential growth of the lie, and thus the problem, that Robbie had created.