David Louis Edelman
'Infoquake' mass market paperback cover

Draft 1: 1997 or 1998

This is the very first draft of the first chapter of Infoquake. The Word document properties lists an old employer in the Company field, suggesting that I wrote this draft on an IBM ThinkPad laptop I was using in 1997 and early 1998. Today I look on this first draft as indisputably awful. The writing is amateurish and I was throwing terms and concepts out there without any idea where they were going. And yet… it eventually led me to the finished product.


Natch almost missed his Tube home.

There were, of course, several alternate methods of transportation from the Universal Generative Plant [1] downtown to his high-tower home — some of them, like the Teleport, even cost less in both time and Union Credits. But Natch liked to follow the New Universal Maxim of Humanity as much as the next person.

The New Universal Maxim of Humanity (best phrased by its original enunciator, the estimable Dr. Sheldon Surina): Leisure is a full-time job.

And so Natch, like any ordinary workaday citizen of the Union, felt it his obligation to the creed of Leisure to seek out the most pleasurable means to any end and strive to make it his own. To study it and revel in its indulgence, to note the ways in which its wrinkles can be smoothed out and further refined of imperfections and impurities. It was no secret that one of Natch’s personal pleasures was the sight of the redwoods lining the Tube’s pathway from Siliconia to suburbia — so somber, so tranquil, so self-reflective and mindless of the passing of ages — and ergo it was a National Good [2] for him to Tube to and from the Universal Generative Plant rather than Teleport like most folks.

But Natch was late. Distressingly late.

He had fallen too deeply into concentration on his latest project at UGP (a better automated newt [3] for eliminating unwanted itch) and ignored the warnings programmed into his personal alarm, trying to craft one last bit of nerve anti-stimulant into his matrix before finally tossing the Generative Pump onto the table [4] (using Toss 1215.9A) and zipping down the vertical slide to the Tubeway.

In his frenzy, Natch let an elbow stray, almost enough to strike a passing businessman who was deeply engaged in a Hustle routine. The man made a moue and tilted his head — the act of a man setting a Personal Reminder to reprogram his Hustle routine later to deal with this contingency.

“Whistle while you work!” Natch hummed to himself [5] as he zipped by businesspeople, utility men, hangers-on, most loitering through the public square of the UGP building in the more leisurely Hustle or Stride. Natch was using Zip 443, advertised on the Matrix as “a more spritely version of the standard Run, for the stylish citizen on the go.” Odors wafted by from the booths of the food vendors. Visual entertainment played on the viewscreens arching around the square, broadcasting personally programmable patterns of yellow and purple. Natch nearly collided with a meandering honeybee, avoiding contact at the last minute by a flare of Mini-Teleport from his Personal BugShield, transporting the insect instantaneously to an empty space a scant meter behind him.

The Tubeway was just ahead. Natch could see the silver-plated arch of the platform right around the corner.

But then he heard the unmistakable tone of warning. Bong! Translation: This Tube will be departing in precisely 5 seconds.

No time for a normal Zip to an empty seat. He would find himself a scant three meters short when the Tube closed off its exterior doors and activated its protective Mini-Teleport field. Natch did a quick calculation. Yes, he could still make the Tube — with a second and a half to spare — by switching to a number of alternate programs. Mad Dash would place him well inside the car before its departure, as would Pell-Mell, Super Sprint, and Speed.

And then there was Jump 225.7 [6].

Bong! Four seconds to departure.

Natch had been itching to try one of the Jump 225-series ever since his Matrix Agent announced its arrival on the public trades. Jumps 223 and 224 had served him well on a number of occasions — Natch fondly remembered a game of basketball where he had given Jump 223.19 a thorough trial — and he expected nothing but the best from the new series. Pure, adolescent joy in the launch and ascent through the air; consummate skill in the engineering of the descent to prevent discomfort on landing. He launched the Jump almost without hesitation.

Bong! Three seconds remaining to departure.

And true to form, Natch erupted into the air with the extra push provided by a muscular flexion of the toes at the last instant. He propelled through the air, right foot forward, in a graceful arc towards an empty seat that had now been reserved for him through the Sub-Ether Tube Seat Reservation Network. There was just a touch, just the barest hint, of anti-grav in the Jump, a slight suspension of archaic natural law to elicit the tiniest glimmer of happiness — valuable currency in the New Union of Citizens, happiness piled up and stored in small denominations until it adds up to a great and lasting mental Goodness, a societal Contentness and Well-Being that all predictions agreed would be eternal.

Bong! Two seconds to departure.

Natch took a few nanoseconds to appreciate the artistry of the Jump 225.7 programmers. What elegance! What subtlety! The program was grounded in one of the classic moves of archaic natural law — the jump, a move which had been ground into the human form over countless generations of repetition — and yet it presented a unique signature that marked it as truly a Generated product. The curl of the toes at mid-leap, the slight pleasing whistle where no whistle would naturally exist, the aforementioned burst of anti-grav to propel you that extra few centimeters. This Jump simply had to be the work of The Patel Brothers, the Union’s preeminent Personal Programmers — and Natch’s biggest competition in the Generative business.

Bong! One second to departure.

And yet… the impact left room for improvement. Natch prided himself on being a perceptive critic of modern programming, but there was no subtlety of detection necessary to feel the slight popping of the left kneecap on touching down. How… disappointing. And yet it left room for the exercise of Dr. Sheldon Surina’s Second Universal Maxim of Humanity:

Pleasure can always be increased.

And its corollary:

Pleasure should always be increased.

Natch took his seat. The Tube took off on a winding path south through the redwoods towards home.


  1. I had no idea what a Universal Generative Plant was when I wrote this — just threw it out there on the spur of the moment, like many of the terms in this draft. Some of the ideas bore out greater scrutiny and deserved elaboration, but many others (like the Universal Generative Plant) were just abandoned. [Back]
  2. The original idea I had in my head about Natch’s world was a sort of Brave New World-style utopia, where all of the citizens work together in a kind of socialist paradise. This, too, was to change drastically. [Back]
  3. The newt was a concept that was all over the early drafts of the novel. Characters were constantly “setting a newt” or “sending off a newt.” The idea was to have a very organic technology that didn’t feel like technology. Thus data agents were called “newts,” programs were called “generations,” etc. I decided to largely cull this term from the book later on, though I did resurrect the concept for Chapter 23. [Back]
  4. As you can see, I had no idea how any of this technology functioned back in this first draft. “Generative pump”? Ugh. [Back]
  5. What kind of protagonist is Natch in this first draft? An everyman, just an ordinary, pleasant fellow. A far cry from what he becomes in the final draft. I feel like gouging my eyeballs out with a sharp object every time I think that I actually wrote down the words “Whistle while you work!” [Back]
  6. The following Jump sequence is what inspired me to keep writing the book. This whole sequence stayed in my head for several years, and became the thematic backbone of the entire series. Eventually this scene migrated to chapter 7 and became a dream sequence of Natch’s. [Back]