Where do you get your ideas?
I’d never heard of utility fogs until I read Transmetropolitan, a comic which remains, to this day, one of my favorites. I count Spider Jerusalem among one my influences, because he makes me want to write every time I read him. (Props to Warren Ellis for mashing Hunter Thompson into the future like a bug on a windshield.) Issue 7 of Transmetropolitan is called “Boyfriend is a Virus” and deals with a person uploading their mind into a foglet. It was astounding. It stuck in my brain.
So I wrote out a two- or three-page treatment of what life would be like if someone had a utility fog. Titled it, “The Life of a Man Who Has a Personal Foglet,” and put it in a drawer, thinking that one day I could make a proper fiction out of it. It sat there for a long time while I tried different scenarios involving foglet-equipped citizens, but I finally took the original out of storage and decided to pick out something resembling a narrative from it.
The finished story differs very little from the initial free-writing exercise. The major change is in the structure, adding the “Min” and “Max” dichotomy where there was originally just a list of different ways in which one could control a foglet. I’d decided on that format mostly because I’d been playing Bioshock, and I liked the “Duke and Dimwit” educational videos. I sent it out under the title “MiniMax” and the story was quickly picked up by John Bowker at Orthogonal SF, who said:
Apologies for the long wait but I’m happy to be writing to let you know we’d very much like to purchase your story for the first issue of Orthogonal, “The War at Home.” It’s a terrific piece; “Goofus and Gallant” fused with post-“Transmetropolitan” lifestyle computing is an inspired idea and the world-building is exceedingly cool.
The one place it’s not quite working for me right now is the title. “MiniMax” doesn’t quite capture the funk of the story, but if you’d be interested in trying some alternatives we’re hoping to have Issue #1 out in the world before the end of the year. We’d love to have you be a part of it!
So he’d picked up very quickly on the Transmetropolitan and “Goofus and Gallant” mashup, and he was a lot of help picking out a final title for the piece. (I’d almost convinced him to call it “A Citizen’s Guide to Soul-Smithing.”) Utility fogs are really fun technology to write, and I don’t think we see enough of them in science fiction today. The combat programs of “A Citizen’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven” owe something to the neurachem technology in Richard K. Morgan’s (highly recommended) Takeshi Kovacs series, as well.
Number of rejections: 2
Review of the story on DF Lewis Reviews
Review of the story on Quick Sip Reviews