Mickey Morph

Back to the launch memory now, from Callie Arnold's viewpoint at the podium. Spreading from José Thomas like ripples from a stone, the realization that programmable matter is finally here rustles and mutters to the edges of the room. It surges again, higher, as the table under the remaining tray morphs into a muscular young male form (Serena's niece's fellow dance student) and begins to distribute to the left side of the room as the female form takes the right.

All over the room, donkey picts come on over people's heads as they dial their bosses in to ride their greyware, seeing what they see, and - importantly in this case - feeling what they feel.

Cut to Halwaz's viewpoint, present day, interviewing Vaclav Semyon, CEO of Disney-Fox at the time of the Gu launch.

"I knew straight away this was epoch-making," he is saying in his trademark style. "Tangible magic! When Sally van der Plotz called me I dropped everything and greyghosted her."

"Why was that, sir?"

"Because I knew Sally was a sensible woman."

"So you trusted her judgement?"

"So I trusted that if she was taking the career risk of interrupting me it was for something that was worth seeing. I was an old-style CEO, command and control, and people didn't just call me for no reason. If Sally said I had to see it she had better be darn sure. And she was."

"Do you have the memory still, sir?"

"I do."

This time Halwaz stays present in the memory, achieving her famous layered effect: You are getting Halwaz's reaction to Semyon's memory of greyghosting van der Plotz. Right in front of her/him/her/you, one of the younger executives tries to pinch the female figure on the rump, but the Gu springs back immediately into shape and she doesn't appear to feel anything. "How are they doing that?" mutters Semyon, as if to himself. In response, van der Plotz runs a simplefish over the technical information given so far and squirts him a highload. It's a strong simplefish; it gets the gist immediately.

"Holographic control from inside. That's brilliant," says Semyon. He's smiling, and Halwaz finds his mood of happy wonder infectious. "No propagation lag, total control. Central control. I like it. We got to get us some of that."

"Yes, sir," subvocalizes Sally.

"And so, of course, we did," says Semyon, present-day. The scene shifts back to his office, his viewpoint, Halwaz on an uncomfortable-looking stiffstuff chair in front of his large (also stiff) desk. "No more cramming park employees into stuffy suits with oversized heads. Toonotopia became one of our most popular attractions. Still is."

"You were an early adopter of Gu for entertainment purposes," says Halwaz. "Even before the game console makers. What was it like, being a part of that?"

"Well, Susan, it was magical," you say. "It was a child's dream come true - things coming to life, talking to you, interacting with you, and not just in virtuality, not just in an overlay that you can see but not touch - right there under your fingers and in front of your naked eyes. They say seeing is believing, but let me tell you, touching - touching is really believing."

"You're often credited with the idea for the Mobile Disneys, Mr Semyon. Is that true?"

"Well, as to who had the actual idea - I don't think that was me. But I championed it, certainly. I remembered when the circus, one of the last of the old touring circuses, came to town when I was a child. I remember watching Dumbo, too. The circus train, the elephant parade... And when someone said "mobile Disney" - well, it just brought all that right back. It had to be done. And I made sure it was done. Twenty-six of them now, can you believe that? On every continent. And all they need is a big field where you can get power and water, and suddenly, there's a theme park."

Dissolve into footage of a mobile Disney setting up in the Ukraine. The long train arrives, and the Gu superstructure of each car morphs into dinosaurs, elephants, clowns, acrobats, and an assortment of Disney characters and forms a parade, leaving empty flatcars behind. A crowd of children and adults cheers the parade as it progresses down the street and into a large open space outside the town.

The dinosaurs and elephants begin morphing into rides, buildings and attractions. Already in place outside the field is a large billboard, in Ukrainian, announcing that the Disney will be there for a month and giving prices, a ticket sales net address, and the schedule of attractions: "Mondays, Frontierland; Tuesdays, Creature Country; Wednesdays, Adventureland; Thursdays, Retrofuturia; Fridays, World Park; Saturdays, Toonotopia; Sundays, Fantasyland."

"It hasn't harmed the popularity of the fixed-location parks, either - just the opposite, there have been two new fixed parks built since Mobile Disney started."

"And, of course, it's triggered a wave of imitators," Halwaz puts in.

Semyon laughs. "Yes, but is a converted movie multiplex at the local mall really going to compete with the magic of Disney? Don't get me wrong, we watched - I'm sure my successor still watches - the microparks with great interest. Most of our best hires started out as micropark designers. They come up with great innovative concepts, really novel stuff, pushing the frontiers of the medium. But the Disney rides are the classics, you know? There's life in the old mouse yet."

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1 Response to Mickey Morph

  1. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    OK, I’ll admit it, this is influenced by Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I find Cory’s politics annoyingly overstated and so one-eyed they’re almost half-eyed, his egotism grating, and his books amusing but ultimately unsatisfying. (I much prefer his friend Charles Stross’s stuff, as I’ve hinted before, and the less Stross is like Doctorow the better I like him.) But he has a fertile, mad and iconoclastic imagination, and I can’t help enjoying that. The world would be the poorer without him.I’m making something a bit more foregrounded here that is in the background throughout the novel – although the technology of Gu is what Halwaz’s doco is about, there is this other disruptive technology that is just assumed because it’s been around for ages. It’s like making a documentary about the Internet, and of course everyone carries mobile phones (and you see them in shot sometimes). I’m talking about “greyware”, direct mental interfacing. Now, this is pretty obviously an elite technology, while Gu is a more widely accessible one, which is part of the point. Callie Arnold is probably going to say something about it eventually (it’s in the short story which is serving as my draft, and I don’t see any reason to cut it out yet). The memory recordings, the “highloads” direct into your memory through the hippocampus, “greyghosting” someone so that you experience what they experience, the dex (digital experience) itself… it’s all greyware. I originally thought all this out for another novel which I’ve parked while I figure out whether it’s interesting (the novel, not the greyware technology), hence it got into Gu just as background “everyone in the setting knows this” stuff.Now, in Cory Doctorow’s future ad-hoc committees have taken over running the Disney theme parks and, of course, fighting about it. In my version of the future, Disney is still the corporate behemoth we know and, um, have mixed feelings about, but now that all you need to make a theme park is a big load of Gu, somewhere to put it and a design, guess what a lot of creative people are suddenly doing? And with the gaming industry matured, and movies so last millenium, guess what’s drawing the kids down to the mall?Because even when most of what you own is Gu, kids are still going to go down to the mall. I mean, come on.

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