Marc and Jesse’s Itinerary Firmed Up!


(Note bigger pictures from now on because, duh, nobody but me reads on a computer anymore, and previous pix were tiny on a phone.)

Yeah, so, the development of “Strength in Numbers” still isn’t at the usual speed of Mach Brad, but I’ve settled on Tokyo and Buenos Aires as my adventure/pursuit destinations for Marc and Jesse and Chip and Walt. (And Ryan, who, being a top escort, is of course always flying around the world, and whose travels therefore excite no undue attention from data sniffers…)

I picked Tokyo, because so much shit has gone down there around Bitcoin, and of course they’re following the trail laid down by Bitcoin founder “Satoshi” – who’s probably not even Japanese, but still. The Divine Right of Novelists means that if a person conceals himself that thoroughly, I can make up a plausible version of him based on the record. Hey, if Newsweek (which, if you’ve never heard of it, used to be a news magazine, before it started putting up cover stories like “HEAVEN IS REAL!”) can publish a generally discredited story about some hapless dude who probably wasn’t the real Satoshi, I the humble fictionalizer certainly have license to do a better job at concocting a more likely suspect.

And I picked Buenos Aires, Argentina, because its currency and economy have such a calamitous history of hyperinflation, that it makes it a place where a “cryptocurrency” like Bitcoin could easily replace the semi-defunct local currency.

Also? Tokyo and Buenos Aires are really cool cities, and they will be really bitchin’ setting for some chase scenes.

It’s a basic rule of fiction that you can’t have a “static pursuit.” In other words, however realistic it might be to have, say, a dude in a control center solving a puzzle by racing a drone around the world, or tapping satellites, or hacking computers – in other world, the way most cybershit gets done – it makes for boring fiction. This, alas, is why really, really stupid Hollywood movies by really, really technically illiterate groups of people, resort to that old chestnut:

“I can’t hack in, so we’re going to have to invade the building and of course I’ve got the Gandalfian ability to wave my laptop at security features and disable them all, then I’ll run through a forest of identical looking blade servers till I magically plop myself down in front of the right one with a laptop that has a DOWNLOADING X% status bar that, unlike every fucking download status bar in the world, is actually correct. Meanwhile you’ll fend off the guards with your Kung Fu Fighting, but of course like the bomb that always gets defused with one second to go, my arrival at 100% download status will happen just in time for us to make our escape because the back door is never covered by the swarms of dudes coming through the front door.”

Sigh. No, we’ll be having none of that.

Which of course is why it’s taking me a while to figure shit out for the plot. I need to build a fucking clock here – the crypto puzzles they have to solve have to be easy enough to understand that even I, Algebra Failer, can explain them, but not so easy that they’re implausible creations from a Crypto Master like “Satoshi” & Co.

My solution, for my own benefit and that of my readers, is to make them more “Grail Questy,” in that they won’t just be tests of raw mathematical ability (of which I have none). The solvers will need ingenuity, creative thinking, and an immersion in the Humanities to solve the puzzles, and not just pure technocratic power.

Then there’s that action driver – the clues have to be located in cool places Our Heroes (and Villains) can dash about stylishly, the way James Bond ended up chasing someone through Carnival, or got chased down a ski slope. And these clues (or most of them) have to be physical objects. (Enigma-like machines, a PROM chip hidden on a laptop, something geocached in a Buddhist temple or something, that’s all I got so far…)

I’ve ordered the Lonely Planet guides for BA and Tokyo, having discovered as I prep for my Berlin trip next year that…wow! Their books are great! “Lonely Planet: It’s Not Just For Dirty Hippies Anymore(TM)!” Hey, don’t knock it as a research tool: it was a DK travel guide that gave me the idea for Nick and Kyle’s one minute funicular ride in Switzerland :0.

So yeah. I’m fucked, financially, by the amount of time it’s taking. Thank the FSM for editing work! Maybe I should mad-dash out a book for $$$, after taking a profitless month to work on my “Adam Vance” passion project. Something I could write while the well is slowly filling on this one, something…simpler. Not necessarily research-free, but not as complex…just let this one bake in the EZ Bake Oven till it’s ready. (Hey! Where’s my Genius Grant! I also write novels few people read, what’s the holdup?)

I started to reread Neal Stephenson’s doorstopper novel Cryptonomicon, the Gold Standard of cyberthrillers. And I found myself stymied a few pages in, by an imaginary and fairly technical conversation involving Alan Turing. Was I smarter ten years ago, before I spent so much time on the Internet? Did I have more patience? I am really trying to rein in my mad-dashing tendencies (“no time to read all that, no time!”), but it sure is more lucrative than the slow road.

I read The Code Book as my intro to crypto, which was wonderful – lots of simple examples for a layman like me. But now for some reason, I’ve just cracked the Mother Of All Doorstoppers, David Kahn’s The Codebreakers. Wish me luck! Not that I intend to read it word for word, cover to cover, but…I need more ideas. I guess I was partly provoked by reading an interview with Nic Pizzolatto, the Only Writer in the Writer’s Room of True Detective. As part of his prep, he read the entire 1,300 page textbook, Practical Homicide Investigation. Now that’s Method Writing! (Of course, maybe he should have spent more time last season on plotting than researching…see, that’s the quandary…)

3 Comments on Marc and Jesse’s Itinerary Firmed Up!

  1. ditto! (JR)

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