David Louis Edelman
'Infoquake' mass market paperback cover

Draft 3: October 10, 2001

This was part of the first rewrite of the novel after September 11, 2001. As I’ve documented elsewhere, that day made me change my perspective on the story and start over again.


Natch was impatient.

He took one look at the bio/logic generation floating in front of him — NiteFocus 47.3 — and gave a snort of disgust. Unsatisfactory! The holographic blueprint showed all kinds of elementary coding errors: connexion strands dangling and unfinished, color-coded blocks of logic in the wrong place, haphazard or just plain sloppy work with the generating bars. [1]

Natch could feel his blood start to boil and took a step back. The virtual diagram hovered before him like a mockery of all the projects he had left unfinished, all the goals he had left unattained. Then, taking a deep breath, he picked up a pair of bio/logic generating bars and leapt back into the coding with a vengeance. As soon as the bars entered the bubble of MindSpace surrounding the generation, they transformed from plain metal bars into precise instruments of logical programming. Natch spun NiteFocus 47.3 around like a top, caught it with one hand, and began madly tugging connexion strands into their proper slots. This generation would be perfect if it killed him.

Half an hour later, Natch backed up with a sigh and tossed the generating bars onto his workbench. NiteFocus 47.3 wasn’t perfect, but at least he could be satisfied that it wouldn’t shame the reputation of the Natch Personal Generative Fiefcorp.

Besides, there would always be NiteFocus 47.4.

“So is that one ready for launch?” said Jara hesitantly from her workbench in Lundun, some six thousand kilometers away.

“Not yet,” Natch told his trusted number one apprentice brusquely. “It still needs a few finishing touches before we launch.”

“I’ll take a look at it,” Jara replied with an audible sigh that spoke volumes. It said: You are being too much of a perfectionist, Natch. It said: I’ve been an apprentice here at your fiefcorp for three years, and I know what it means when you get impatient like this. It said: What new schemes are you hatching that you’re not telling me about?

Natch absorbed the silent apprehension for a moment, then abruptly rose from his workbench and headed for the door. “I need to get some air,” he announced. “I’m prived for the next few hours, Jara. We’ll convene the whole fiefcorp together at the Code Surina MEL [2] tonight and put NiteFocus and a few of these others to bed. Checksum?”

“Checksum matches, Natch.” Just please don’t go off the deep end on me, Natch. I’ve got too much riding on this business. “I’ll send a newt to alert the staff.”

“No, don’t bother,” said Natch, already out the door of his pad and headed for the building exit. “I’ll do it.” He summoned a newt with a thought, and dispatched it to alert the staff of the Natch Personal Generative Fiefcorp that there would be a six p.m. meeting. The newt received its instructions and blinked away into the SubAether to perform them. And then Natch prived himself, cutting Jara off from the conversation without further ado.

Maybe Jara was right. Maybe he was being too much of a perfectionist. NiteFocus represented the smallest fraction of the business to come. But if they couldn’t get simple bio/logic generations like NiteFocus 47.3 and EyeMorph 66a and Déjà vu Interpreter 21 right, how would they be prepared for what lay ahead? There was a tidal wave gathering strength offshore, a tidal wave that would make all their previous work look like mere ripples in the Data Sea. Jara did not see it yet. Few did. But soon enough, they would all be baptized in the fury and froth of a new order, and one could either be its prophet or its convert.

Natch intended to be its prophet.


Trees relaxed him. He didn’t know why; he had never studied them in detail or really even spent a lot of time among them. But when Natch needed to relax, he always did the same thing: he took the Tubeway line that ran from Shenandoah across the former Chicago Territory and the Plains into the redwood forests north of Cisco. It was about a four-hour ride round-trip.

Perhaps he admired the redwoods: so tranquil, so self-reflective and inward-looking, as if somewhere in the last two thousand years they had reached a level of peace.

But the tube station lay almost two miles away, and Natch was late. Distressingly late.

He zipped by businesspeople, bureaucrats, hangers-on and multied tourists loitering in the public squares with the more leisurely Hustle or Stride. Natch was using Zip 443, advertised on the Matrix [3] as “a more sprightly version of the standard Run, for the stylish businessperson on the go.” Odors of chai and nitro wafted up from the booths of the vendors. Advertisements for shoes blared from viewscreens arching on every corner. Natch nearly barreled into one of the tourists, but she was able to cut her multi projection just in time and wink back into existence a scant three meters away. “Watch where you’re going!” the woman yelled irritably. He ignored her.

Natch could have used multi himself to get to the redwood forests instead of the tube. There was really no need to travel across the continent at all when you could step into a multi booth [4] and instantly create a virtual projection of yourself anywhere in the known system. Anyone who really needed to be somewhere in the meat could use the nearby TeleCo station, which dispassionately engorged and spat out people from all over the system day in and day out.

But Natch was reminded of something the legendary Sheldon Surina once said:

Progress brings the introduction of new choices, not the elimination of old choices.

Natch liked the tube. He liked watching the redwoods whip by at top speed from behind a protective bubble of glass. He liked being able to get away from the pressures of the fiefcorp and the generating every once in a while. And so he stubbornly continued exercising his choice to use the antiquated tube system for his redwood trips instead of multi or tele. And so when he rounded that last corner and saw the silver-plated arch that was the logo for TubeCo, he involuntarily smiled with relief.

Then he heard the unmistakable tone of warning. Bong! Translation: This tube will be departing in precisely five seconds.

No time for a normal Zip to an empty seat. Natch calculated the distance to the tube car and realized that he would end up a scant three meters short when the exterior doors closed. Wait for the next tube? No, HeadSched 109 informed him that the next tube would not get him back in time for tonight’s meeting. Natch did a quick calculation. Yes, he could still make the tube — with half a second to spare — by switching to any of a number of alternate generations. Mad Dash would get him inside the car before departure, as would Pell-Mell, Super Sprint, and Speed.

And then there was Jump 225.

Bong! Four seconds to departure.

Natch had been itching to try the Jump 220-series ever since he first saw it listed in Primo’s guide to bio/logics. Jumps 214 and 218 had served him well on a number of occasions — Natch fondly remembered a game of baseball where he had given Jump 218.38d a thorough trial [5] — and he expected nothing but the best from the new series. Jump gave you both a burst of pure, adolescent joy in the ascent through the air, and a feeling of adult satisfaction at the smoothly engineered landing. He Jumped without further hesitation.

Bong! Three seconds remaining to departure.

True to form, Natch erupted into the air with an extra push from the flexion of his toes at the last instant. He propelled right-foot-forward in a graceful arc toward the seat that he had reserved on the SubAether Tube Seat Reservation Network. There was just a touch, just the barest glimmer, of antigrav present in the Jump, a slight suspension of natural law to remind him that he was not performing this feat unassisted.

Bong! Two seconds to departure.

Natch took a few nanoseconds to examine the craftsmanship of the Jump 225 generation. Very elegant, very subtle. The code was grounded in one of the classic moves of primeval natural law: the jump, a movement that humanity had worked out through a hundred thousand years of constant iteration. Yet it contained the indelible signature of a generated product, a motion enhanced by technology. The curl of the toes at mid-leap, the slight pleasing whistle where no whistle would otherwise exist, the burst of antigrav to propel you those extra few centimeters.

Bong! One second to departure.

And yet — the impact left room for improvement. Natch may have been too much of a perfectionist in his own work, but you didn’t need to be a monomaniac to detect the slight popping of the left kneecap on touching down. How… disappointing. Overall, it wasn’t a bad generation. But when Natch got time, he would take it apart in MindSpace with the bio/logic generating bars and make it better.

Natch took his seat just as the tube doors closed. There was an almost undetectable whir as the car left the station and headed west.


  1. The biggest change you can see right away in draft #3 is that Natch is no longer a bland everyman; he’s become something of a driven, misunderstood loner. This change was the result of a lot of thinking about the nature of progress and the part that capitalism plays in that progress — and I think this change single-handedly gave the novel its focus. [Back]
  2. In the early drafts, creeds were known as codes. When I decided to abandon the terminology of generating and shift to just plain programming, the term code now had a dual meaning. I shifted to the more suitable term creed. [Back]
  3. Originally, the business portion of the Data Sea where bio/logic programs were sold was called the Matrix. I abandoned the whole concept, for reasons that should be obvious. [Back]
  4. The first system I conceived for making multi work involved stepping into “multi booths” instead of stepping on red tiles. Eventually I decided that the entire idea of a “booth” seemed too anachronistic. [Back]
  5. I believe this mention of baseball was the inspiration for the MultiReal baseball scene that ended up at the end of the final version of Infoquake. [Back]