Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mainframes’

MENSA and Me – How, from now on, I’m only talkin’ to geniuses

July 19th, 2010 1 comment
The local MENSA group was nice enough to invite me to speak to their book club about Shimmer. This was a very nice thing for them to do, not least of which because it meant that, for weeks, I kept telling friends and family, “Sorry, but from now on, I’m only talking to geniuses.” That’s the kind of thing I find hysterical, even if my friends and family don’t. I was horrified when I met the group, though, because one of the first people I talked to was a former mainframe programmer from IBM. He’d worked there for many decades. I wanted to turn and run, sure he’d tear the book apart, exposing me as a hack writer fraud who’d made everything up. He didn’t. He enjoyed the book. He had many interesting questions and comments. Late in the conversation, though, he said he had one more question. “There’s just one part of the plot that I couldn’t quite follow.” And from there he proceeded to point out the one truly impossible aspect of the lie at the heart of Shimmer. I was fully aware of the point. But no one else had ever raised a question about it. Shimmer is fiction, and is fiction filled with exaggerations and untruths. There was no Frederick Fadowsky. There is no Core Communications. But fictional or not, the book had to be true to the world it created. A part of that, is that the company and the people who ran it all needed to seem possible. The schemes, the lying, the notion of a company built on a secret lie, these things are all clearly possible. We have real world examples, big and small, to which most anyone can compare the world in Shimmer. Yet there’s an aspect to the fraud that is simply impossible. I’m torn on whether to point it out here. I won’t today. Maybe soon.
Categories: About Shimmer, Posts Tags: ,

Calculating the Fraud – Blue Boxes, Spreadsheets and Shimmer

July 10th, 2010 Comments off
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.

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:

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. What matters is that I got a feel for the exponential growth of the lie, and thus the problem, that Robbie had created.

Categories: About Shimmer, Posts Tags: ,