Did you know that a beloved childhood movie is also the genesis of an irritating story trope? It’s crazy enough to be true – watch this video to understand how we get from Vin Diesel making you cry like a baby to Tony Stark making you sigh angrily in frustration.
As mentioned in the previous essay, Mesh celebrates the history of hacking, not just breaking into computers. It’s important to remember that legitimate hacking is an integral part of geek culture. Hacking also builds curiosity, discovery, and tenaciousness; necessary skills for any techno-minded individual hoping to make their way in this world. We covered some major hacking history up until the end of the 1980s, now let’s discuss what happened from the 1990s until now.
The Empire Strikes Back
From 1990 forward, it was clear that government looked at hacking, not just a harmless prank, but as a serious threat. Operation Sundevil was a multi-agency federal operation aimed at hackers. In the UK, Parliament passed the Computer Misuse Act 1990, criminalizing unauthorized access to computer systems. Continue reading
One of the things I celebrate in Mesh is hacking – the real, original version of hacking – along with the current version celebrated within cyberpunk. What I find interesting today is how, most kids have no idea what the history of hacking really is. Let’s spend a few moments talking briefly about that history, and then you’ll have a better sense of how Mesh fits into that history.
Before we start diving into the details, let’s do some housekeeping: This essay is by no means an exhaustive list of computer hacking incidents, nor is it meant to masquerade as an InfoSec white paper. I haven’t found too many places where old-school hacking is connected to modern cybersecurity, so I decided to write something up for myself and other interested readers.
The Olden Days
To begin with, did you know that hacking dates back to 1903? It’s true! Magician and inventor Nevil Maskelyne pranked John Ambrose Fleming’s demonstration of Guglielmo Marconi’s ‘secure wireless telegraphy technology.’ Maskelyne figured out how it worked and then he took over, sending insulting Morse code messages through the auditorium’s projector.
This tradition of science-based pranks continued, notably in the 1930s when Ken Wadleigh, who later in life became a dean at MIT, and 4 others welded a streetcar to metal rails by first distracting the motorman and then setting off thermite bombs to weld the wheels in place.
From OpenCulture: “In 1945, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí began collaborating on an animated film. 58 years later, with Dalí long gone and Disney gone longer still, it came out. The delayed arrival of Destino had to do with money trouble at the Walt Disney Studios not long after the project began, and it seems that few laid eyes on its unfinished materials again until Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney came across them in 1999. Completed, it premiered at the 2003 New York Film Festival and received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film. Now, fifteen years later, we know for sure that Destino has found a place in the culture, because someone has mashed it up with Pink Floyd.”
I’m pleased to say that ‘The Conquered’ was submitted to Clarkesworld for rejection consideration this morning. This comes after beta testing it among the readers of /r/sciencefiction and finding a general acceptance that it was ‘pretty good.’ Fingers crossed that this story is accepted; here’s a synopsis:
Three explorers land on an unknown world. The local population is both primitive and wise. They know who the spacemen are, so aren’t they allowed to travel to the stars themselves? The answer comes in the form of an angry alien, willing to kill everyone on the planet if it means keeping peace. Soon, the explorers will know why these humans are called ‘The Conquered.’
As always, if ‘The Conquered’ doesn’t get accepted elsewhere, I’ll self-publish to Amazon and elsewhere. Meanwhile, here’s hoping! 😀
Ideas make room for ideas. A new idea or approach or style that gains currency can open up interest in that area for others to exploit. Think of how Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett brought a new self-conscious, post-heroic comedy to sci-fi and fantasy, or how Ringworld influenced the space opera. Think of the impact on the canon in their different ways of Neuromancer, of Tolkien’s Ring trilogy, of Jules Verne. ‘We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne,’ said Ray Bradbury. ‘His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.’ The greats open up spaces that let others in to explore further. That’s not copying; that’s inspiration.
Seriously, relax. To the best of your ability: Be original, be bold, be authentic. Be you.
A quick bunch of notes from the past week. Personal drama kept me from updating the blog, but I was also head-down on Mesh for reasons I’ll explain:
Mesh feedback arrives in the form of a contest elimination
I entered the book in a couple of competitions on Coverfly.com Although Mesh didn’t make it to the final round, it was a semifinalist and that’s pretty awesome. I took the given feedback and updated the draft again. That led to …
New Beta readers pore over the tenth draft of Mesh
Eight teenage/nerdy people are reading this version of Mesh for the first time. I’m excited to see what they think. Meanwhile …
The journey continues
I’ll end this post by sharing this animated short ‘My Body,’ which is a powerful reminder that all of us often fight against seeing the worst in ourselves.
Pleased to say that I’ve finished a draft of a new short about human explorers making contact with a primitive society, only to find more than they bargained for. Inspired by my undying love for old school scifi (Bradbury, the Twilight Zone, etc) I’ve been thinking for years about this premise. Finally, I had some idea about how to tell the story and got to work while waiting for feedback on Mesh. Ruined civilization, space men, and aliens … I think you’re going to like ‘The Conquered.’
That’s not just a clever title – the Apprehension Machine is the musical instrument behind every scary soundtrack you’ve heard in the past couple decades. Watch this video, and watch low-tech sounds create high anxiety.
It reminds of that line in the original Johnny Mnemonic short story: ‘ If they think you’re crude, go technical; if they
think you’re technical, go crude.’ The apprehension machine may be crude, but it gets the job done.
My name is Jackson. I am a private person who lives, eats, and breathes sci-fi. When I'm not talking about my writing projects, I talk about stuff related to the science fiction genre and community.