Guristas, Tumbleweeds and Syndicates

Back to Professor Scott, who is now dressed as Terry Pratchett's Rincewind.

"Guristas, yes, a beautiful portmanteau word," he says, having evidently watched the previous scene. "And let's observe the terms that are used for different kinds of travelers. There are the guristas, who don't interact much with the locals, who want to be able to experience without really experiencing, without immersion, without displacement from their own culture. That's one. And then there are the tumbleweeds, the new nomads; occasionally high-end, but often very low-end travellers, equipped with varying quantities of Gu, from about enough for a bicycle which turns into a tent at night right up to a mobile mansion. Sometimes alone, but often in company; often welcome, but sometimes unwelcome; sometimes staying, but usually moving on; with no permanent address. Tumbleweeds.

"And the third kind are the old-fashioned travelers, who for whatever reason want to be present in person, but who own a home that they can go back to. They're usually wealthy, often spend a lot of money in a place, and interestingly enough, I have yet to come across a special term for them in common usage. The 'unmarked term' is very significant, always, because it's the norm that everything else is measured against. The closest thing I've found is the description of how they travel - by syndicates, pooling Gu to make an aircraft. So they're occasionally called 'syndicate travelers', but it's not anything like as common as the other two terms. I would venture that the good reception you got in Caracas, Susan, was a consequence of being a syndicate traveler."

Cut to Jill Kwan. Halwaz is sitting comfortably in a spacious lounge, about the size of the inside of a bus, interviewing her. Outside the broad windows is a ground-level view of Uruguayan pampa. During the conversation, a small flock of rheas wanders past outside, pecking at the ground. Kwan wears a gold alpaca suit with aplomb and assured energy, and looks only about five years older than in Arnold's 15-year-old memory.

"So," you say, as Halwaz, "as well as being one of the key people to develop Gu, you were one of the first of the tumbleweeds."

"That's right, Susan. I started doing this pretty much as soon as it became possible - possible to someone with a lot of money and access to top-of-the-line Gu, that is. About ten years ago, in other words."

"And now it's becoming quite a phenomenon."

"Yes - early days, of course, but I think nomadic lives are coming back on the table as a viable choice again, after thousands of years in which the trend was away from them."

"Your own parents were - kind of pre-nomads, weren't they?"

She laughs. "Pre-nomads, I like that. Yes, they worked internationally; I went to five different high schools on three different continents, and loved every minute of it. Well, not every minute, obviously, but I did enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing the variety of life. I think I always wanted to be a nomad."

"Do you have a plan, or do you just wander as the mood takes you?"

"Betwixt and between. The advantage of being involved with the development of Gu is that I can arrange to be in a major city when there's an upgrade release scheduled, to take delivery. And I do have a general idea where I'm going: down the eastern side of the Americas, up the western side, eventually over the Bering Strait and down through coastal Asia - I love seafood. I suppose eventually I'll go up through the Middle East and into Europe, and then it'll be time to think about Africa. But it's taken me ten years to get this far, and I'm in no particular hurry. Every place is interesting, and if it isn't, then the next one probably will be."

"What do you do in the places you pass through?"

"Well, I believe, along with a number of other tumbleweeds, that we shouldn't just be weeds, taking nourishment from the communities we pass through and then moving on. We have a great network, by the way; as with so many things, the more information you share the more everyone benefits, so we know the best and worst places to stop, where the food's good, where people are welcoming and where they are suspicious, and of course where they're in need. You see a lot of need in these communities, particularly medical, and a number of us have trained as lay medics at netschool - enough so that we can deal with the most common things and call in a proper doctor if we think one's needed. And we always pass on our old Gu to where we think it'll do the most good. I upgrade all the time, so I'm always passing on penultimate-generation Gu. The economic stimulus helps, too, and the better-organized communities are realizing it and gearing themselves to encourage us to visit. There are towns on the main routes that practically make their living out of tumbleweeds now."

"How does a community do that?"

"They offer facilities - food and water, mainly, power charge points. Good food, clean water and reasonably-priced power - usually from a Gu windmill or hydro generator, we show them how to make those if they don't have one already. I'm a dawdler, so by the time I get to a place they usually do. Add a friendly reception, and they're in business. Everything else we need is on the Net, and we can get satellite coverage everywhere these days."

"In fact, you distribute satellite receivers as you go, don't you?"

"Yes, it's one of the things we do. My goodness, Susan, I have so much money, and the way I live costs almost nothing by comparison. Even though I buy clothes as well." She gestures to her suit. "Callie and I talk about this a lot - we still get together socially as well as for business, and while I'm still on the same continent our timezones work pretty well together. We feel we have a moral responsibility to use our wealth for the common good. The natural way of things, with money as with network connections, is that whoever has the most finds it easiest to get more. It would be easy enough to cruise along accumulating it and die richer than Croesus, but completely unfulfilled. At least this way we feel like we're doing something worthwhile."

"This is your legacy?"

"If you like. I've never had children, and I'm not likely to now. But I feel like even if I haven't helped raise the next generation I can at least do what I can to leave them a better world."

"Do you think Gu has made a better world?"

"Taken by and large and all in all, yes. Callie gets the guilts about it, but I think what we did was for the best. We're not yet in the promised postscarcity economy, but we're well on the way - and of course that brings its own problems. Of course it does. Anything with humans involved is bound to have a downside, you figure that out fairly quickly in this life. But... yes. I'm glad we created Gu. I am."

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This entry was posted in Allan Scott, guristas, Jill Kwan, nomads, syndicate travellers, tumbleweeds. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Guristas, Tumbleweeds and Syndicates

  1. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    I’m at one of those “I don’t know if this is total crap” points that writers (or people who make anything) periodically reach. And in fact, we never know if our writing is total crap, because we have no perspective. It may or may not be. The only thing to do is to write on gamely and then come back later and edit like a Grim Reaper. And, of course, to seek feedback from your audience.Hello, audience?[crickets chirping]Anyway. The nomad idea is a totally obvious one to me. Given that you can have this stuff that becomes anything you happen to need, and given that it can move around under its own power, and given that you have plenty of it, there will naturally be people who decide that they don’t actually need to live in one spot any more. After all, they’ve always considered a house as primarily a place to sleep, wash, sometimes eat, and store their stuff. If you can do all that without having a permanent address, and it doesn’t interfere with your job because your job can be done from anywhere in the world with a net connection…I decided to do the two birds/one stone maneuver and have one of the original developers be such a nomad, so that I can move forward the characterization of the team as well as the exposition of the world. (Be warned: This novel doesn’t actually have a plot, as such, any more than a documentary film about a phenomenon (rather than a series of events) has a plot. It explores a space more than it tells a story. If you like plot-driven stories… well, move along. Nothing to see here.)Next post, I’m thinking, we’ll get some “second-generation” tumbleweeds, village youths who’ve decided to imitate the people they see passing through.

  2. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    Rincewind, of course, is the appropriate wizard to choose here because of his extensive travels.

  3. Sid says:

    As someone who is just now reading from the start, I’d have to say that this is *not* total crap, it’s very well written indeed.Hopefully others have told you that since the time you wrote this comment of course!

  4. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    Thanks, Sid, just one of those writer crisis things that happen.

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