November is on the way, which means it is almost time for National Novel Writing Month.
Last year my one month novel was a cyberpunk story, Corpfall. After reading Neuromancer, by William Gibson, and playing a lot of Netrunner, I couldn’t escape the urge to write a cyberpunk novel of my own.
This year, I decided to write a sequel to one of my four novels. In the end, I chose to write a sequel to Corpfall. Now comes the fun part, thinking about what the plot will be.
Corpfall is about Special Agents Carlos Fuller and Ashleigh Anderson. They work for a future North American government known as the North American Business Authority, NAB, that replaced the United States, Canada, and most of Mexico, after the ‘corp wars’.
Ashleigh, or Ash, is known as a ‘Billion Dollar Baby’, trained as part of an expensive program to create perfect government agents through early training and expensive cybernetics. Fuller is a hacker hired into the Business Authority when his former gang was shut down.
By the end of the novel, we are introduced to the other ‘babies’ that followed after Ash, the other members of Fuller’s gang, and the threat of artificial intelligence manipulating NAB for its own ends.
Now I have to ask myself, what more can I build in the toybox I created?
One of the aspects I fleshed out a little before writing the first novel was the history of the world. Cyberpunk as a genre usually leans on a few key ideas: Unrestricted capitalism that allows anything to be sold, Megacorporations that are willing to do anything to continue expanding, and small people who are trying to stay afloat in a world that is collapsing around them.
When I started writing Corpfall, my idea was to write some sort of ‘post-cyberpunk’. Considering I’m not a cyberpunk aficionado, this has likely already happened, and the word doesn’t mean what I thought at the time. In the end, what I wanted was a world that is moving out of the ultra-capitalism stage, and into a stage of returned government control. My question was, ‘what if we mixed stereotypical socialism, and cyberpunk?’
In my timeline, legislation called the Taylor Act allowed corporations that owned enough concentrated land to govern that land like an incorporated town. In the end, corporations gained so much power and control that several of them moved from covert corporate spying to outright violence. The governments of the world took action after an orbital station was destroyed and a the Megacorporation JIL was thought to be involved. Protesters wanted the company ripped apart and held responsible, but the UN was powerless to do much of anything. Shortly after, direct fighting between Megacorps and world governments began, with the mercenary armies of the megacorps winning out.
In the period after, nicknamed ‘the Free Market’, corps fought against each other, and the world governments faded into powerless figureheads. This is the period that is normal ‘cyberpunk’. The average person suffered, but technology took leaps and bounds as no one was able to restrict scientific research that might make the megacorps a profit.
After the Free Market period, came the New Nations. These new governments partnered with corporations, offering to govern the market, but also let them invest in the government as partners. Enough smaller corporations joined that all but the strongest megacorps were forced to consider. As these ‘Business Authorities’ gained traction, their first act was to dismantle the ‘monopoly’ organizations that caused the corp wars, like JIL. Others, like Mailer-Bronson, were simply crippled.
The three well known new governments are NAB, SAB, and WEB (OEB). They are the North American Business Authority that controls the North American business, South American Business Authority that is its sister, and West Europe Business Securities. Russia, Eastern Europe, and most of Asia, resisted the new nation movement. This is also why corpfall doesn’t have the same heavy Asian vibe that most cyberpunk does. While Asian corporations likely had strong sway during the corp wars, the New Nations idea makes me imagine that North America maintains its usual mix of cultures, instead of the ‘future where Chinese is mixed into everything’ that I see in a lot of fiction.
Before November starts, I want to investigate a few parts of the setting that I didn’t look at before.
1) The Billion Dollar Babies: Ashleigh and her ‘siblings’ were my ‘Razor girls’. Hopped up on cybernetics, powerful, but full of issues. I touched on their history, and more babies being made, but their use as agents is still a little vague. Ash is the main character of Corpfall, so I won’t be able to avoid telling her story as the plot continues.
2) The megacorps: JIL, Mailer-Bronson, I don’t have a lot of Megacorps defined but they are important to the plot. Their movements and actions are a background force in cyberpunk stories. They don’t have to be primary actors, but I have to be careful not to make them complete background noise. So knowing a few of them could be helpful.
3) AI and Technology: In Corpfall, an AI is one of the central big bads. To tell the truth, the whole story was born from a short story that I wrote that mirrored the final scenes of Neuromancer. I wanted to see if I could capture that same feeling. Now I need to stop imitating, and figure out the reality of AI in the Corpfall setting. When did they start existing, how many are there, and how powerful are they?
I can’t wait for November this year. I love National Novel Writing Month, and this year I plan to split this novel into two ‘books’, and maybe write another 25,000 words on top of that. I’m pumped, and hope that cyberpunk can motivate me the same way it did last year.