The OVER YOUR DEAD BODY outline contest!

April 12th, 2016

Not these outlines: my-book-report-blank-form

THESE outlines: chalk body outline

The fifth book in the John Cleaver series is almost upon us! It’s dark and its sad and it will make you mad at me, and it’s my favorite book in the series. So I’m going to celebrate by giving away a prize:

The entire series so far, in trade paperback, signed and personalized. That’s all five books, with cheerful little messages written in the fronts, and then shipped right to your door. Logistics demand that the books be in English, but I’ll ship them pretty much anywhere in the world.

What do you have to do to earn this awesome prize? It’s simple:
1) Make a chalk or tape outline of a body in the most awkward/ridiculous/publicly conspicuous place you can think of.
2) Take a picture of your outline, along with any people or props you deem appropriate. Don’t be disgusting or illegal or otherwise obnoxious; this is supposed to be fun, not awful. Photoshop and other camera tricks are allowed
3) Post your photo online and tag me: I’m on Facebook (The Dan Wells), Twitter (@TheDanWells), Tumblr (@thedanwells), and Instagram (AuthorDanWells). Use the hashtags #OYDB and #JohnCleaver5. You can submit your picture to all four platforms, or just one; as long as you tag it, you’re good to go.

Post as many photos as you want, anytime from now until May 6, 2016. I’ll choose my favorite one and announce the winner on May 9. I’m most likely to pick one that makes me laugh or say “ooh, neat,” so be creative.

Good luck, and have fun!

I’m selling ebooks on USB

March 25th, 2016

So I’m doing a lot of conventions these days, as you may have noticed. I work booths and sell books and it’s kind of awesome, and I love it, but I’m increasingly bothered that I don’t have a convenient way to sell ebooks in person. Some people only read ebook, or prefer ebook, and some of my books are ebook only–they literally don’t exist in physical form. I have a Partials novella, a John Cleaver novella, and a bunch of short stories and such that I sell through my website, and I want to be able to offer them to people in the real world. So I think I’ve come up with a solution.


Those are USB bracelets, containing the mobi, ePub, and PDF files for my John Cleaver novella NEXT OF KIN. I got them through USB Memory Direct, which has a ton of different styles; I chose the bracelets because they seem easier to keep track of, plus they work as extra advertising if people see them on somebody’s wrist. People seem to like them, and I’m really excited about the idea.

I’m still not certain as to what’s the best way to use these. Selling a single ebook per USB is working okay for now, but it might not be the best way. Maybe I need to put, for example, the entire John Cleaver series on one USB and sell the whole library at once. Maybe I need to put all my short fiction on it, instead of just one. I think the idea is sound, I’m just still curious to see what’s the best way to actually use it.

I had some at Silicon valley ComicCon, and I have some more this weekend at FanX in Salt Lake City, so if you want one please come find me! And if you’d like me to try some other book or collection of books on USB, let me know! I’m excited to try more cool things.

Let’s talk about the I Am Not A Serial Killer Movie

March 14th, 2016

imageI’ve seen it! And it’s awesome.

The I Am Not a Serial Killer movie debuted last night–the world premiere–in the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas. Let’s take a minute to bask in its greatness, and to answer the question that’s burning up every social media outlet I have: how can YOU see the movie?

First, a review. Keep in mind that I am maybe somewhat kind of slightly biased, so it’s hard for me to be objective, but I’m confident calling it the greatest movie that has ever been made by human hands. Let’s hit some key points one by one:

-John is great. He’s fantastic. Max Records does such an amazing job bringing him to life, with that same blend of likeable and creepy that people love so much in the book. This despite the fact that:

-There is no voiceover. I know a lot of people wondered about that. So much of the book takes place inside his mind, with his direct narration, and the movie replaces most of that with simply a very emotive actor. You don’t get words, but you get his face, and it works wonderfully.

-The other actors are all great as well. Christopher Lloyd is every bit as sympathetic and terrifying as he needs to be–maybe even more so. Laura Fraser, as John’s mom, hits it out of the park: she walks this amazing line between being a shrew (which is how John sees her) and being a concerned mother who’s in way over her head (which is what she really is). Just like in the book, you’ll start off not liking her, and then by the end you’ll love her, and you’ll see that she’ll do anything for her son. And everyone else is so good, too–Margaret, Lauren, Kay, Neblin, Max, Brooke. They’re not huge roles but they’re vital roles, and even in their limited screen time you get a perfect sense of who they are, and how they relate to each other, and what they mean. I can’t even pick a favorite, though I can tell you you’re going to fall in love with Brooke.

-The story has changed in the adaptation. Obviously–that’s how adaptations are. But it works. There’s one sequence in particular, with a dance and a barber, that feels so perfectly a part of the story that I almost feel bad I didn’t write it first. Even more importantly:

-The ending is slightly different. When I read the final version of the script, and saw the new ending, I wrote Billy (the director) a massive, 12-page essay on why the ending didn’t work as written, and why he needed to go back to my version of it–or at least preserve some certain key timing elements. He stuck to his guns and kept his ending, and now that I’ve seen the movie I can assure that this ending totally sold me. It’s exactly the ending that the film version needed. I’m trying to be vague here, so let me assure without spoiling any specifics that the same things all still happen, they just happen in slightly different ways. If, by some beautiful miracle, we get to make more movies, they’ll all still track perfectly with the plot of this one. Which is a great segue into:

-Will there be more movies? If this one is successful and makes money, yes that possibility exists. Even if this movie is successful, I don’t see it as super likely, but I guess we’ll see. That’s way in the future for now, though, so keep it way on your mental back burner.

-What is the movie rated? This is a really common question. It hasn’t been rated yet, and won’t be until it gets a theater release (knock on wood), but I can assure you that the movie I saw is pure PG-13. No sex or nudity, very little language, and all of the violence happens off screen or way in the distance. There is gore, but nothing they don’t show every week on CSI.

-And now for the big question: when will it be in theaters? That all depends. We are an independent movie, which among other things means that we do not have a distributor capable of putting it into theaters. That’s why we’re here at SXSW–to show it off, build some buzz, and get a big studio with a big distributor interested in picking us up. If that happens, either here or at a future festival, then the movie could potentially be in theaters as early as next year. It would go to streaming services and DVD sometime after that. Yes, this means that you might have to wait a VERY long time to see it, and I’m sorry. Such is the glacial pace of filmmaking.

-What about smaller or limited screenings? As much as I’d love to show it around, I cannot guarantee that anything like this will happen. Yes, I know you’re willing to pay for it, and yes, I know that we could absolutely fill a theater in, say, my hometown of Salt Lake City. Those things are true but don’t matter, as harsh as that sounds. Up until we have a distributor, the movie needs to stay exclusive to festivals, because that exclusivity is what’s going to attract more festivals to show it, and festivals are pretty much the only way we’ll ever get picked up by a studio. Sorry. It breaks my heart, too. Like I said, though: you’ll get to see it eventually, just not soon.

-What about fans outside of the US and UK? When do my beloved readers in Germany and Argentina and Mexico and everywhere else get to see it? The answer is more or less the same: as soon as a distributor picks it up, and decides to subtitle or dub it for your market. I don’t have control over any of that, as much as I wish I did. Once it hits streaming and DVD–which is essentially guaranteed, even if we never get a theater release–you’ll have access to the English version, but a translation might be harder to come by.

-What can you do to help? Unless you’re a Hollywood executive, not much. Talk about the book and share it with others. Buy copies for all your friends–that creates more buzz, and the sales raise the profile for the money people who’ll be making the final decision. None of that is likely to have a huge effect, but I guess you never know. And I’m not going to complain :)

So: there you have it. It’s done, and I love it, and now we get to walk on eggshells for a while hoping somebody rich loves it just as much. I’ve tried to anticipate most of the important things you probably have questions about, but if you still have questions feel free to ask them below, and I’ll pop back in over the next few days to answer them.

BLUESCREEN Early Access: Saif, and Collectible Cards

February 15th, 2016

Dudes and ladies: the book comes out tomorrow! Are you excited? I’m freaking out. I’m more excited about BLUESCREEN than about any book I’ve written since the very first, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

I have one last character preview for you, but I’m not going to tell you much about him other than his name: Saif Roshan.


Who is Saif? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? I’ll let you meet him as Marisa does: glimpsed in brief, from afar, as he gets into his car and drives away. He’s hot, but he’s also rich, and Marisa has a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to rich people–she’s been hurt too many times. Then she meets him again, though, and gets to know him a little better, and I’ve already said too much. Suffice it to say that my daughter fell in love with Saif, and printed out this picture and put it on her wall.

Speaking of printing out pictures, get a load of these:


We’ve turned these awesome character portraits into collectible cards, with pictures on the front and some quick stats on the back. Here’s the back of Marisa’s card, showing her Overworld call sign and one of her avatars:


Every event I go to, be it a signing or a convention or anything else, I’ll have a limited number of these signed and ready to give out. I will also leave them in random bookstores in the cities and airports I visit. It will be hard to collect them all–I’m making it hard on purpose–but it will be awesome.

And speaking of awesome:


We have Cherry Dog shirts! They’re the best (and my children are adorable). Right now they’re only available at live appearances, but I’m going to have them up on my website soon. And yes, I intend to ship them anywhere in the world.

Bluescreen Early Access: Overworld!

January 25th, 2016

In the world of Bluescreen, Overworld is one of the most popular sports: a virtual reality video game that combines elements of several different esports and MMOs. I like to describe it as a combination of League of Legends, Counterstrike, and City of Heroes, but unless you’ve played those games you have no idea what that means. Today I’m going to tell you, but first I let us feast our eyes upon this glorious image:

cherry dogs action

The art, as always, is by the inimitable Santo Ibarra.

I remember very clearly what got me interested in esports in the first place: I was reading an article about world travel, where it said that professional video game players were now officially eligible for athletic visas. This felt to me like a profound milestone–if virtual athletes are legally considered equal to physical athletes, that’s a strong sign that the electronic world is truly melding with the real world. I started looking into esports, and what they entailed and what their culture was like, and it fascinated me. I was living in Germany at the time, so as I learned more about League of Legends (one of the biggest esports in the world) I started to follow the European leagues and championships. (My favorite teams, if you’re curious, are Fnatic and the Lemondogs; I think the Lemondogs have broken up by now, but I named my book’s team the Cherry Dogs as an homage to my first esports fandom). I admit that my initial opinion of esports was low–it looked like video games with all the fun sucked out of it–but that’s because I didn’t understand it. I tend to play video games in a very loose, slipshod way, running around and doing whatever; kind of like a kid on a playground just kicking a ball all over the place. And that’s plenty fun if that’s what you want, but a whole bunch of kids all kicking a ball on a playground at the same time isn’t the same thing as a sport; if you organize them, designate which ones are goalies and forwards and defenders, and define the rules and a way to win, suddenly those random kids become a soccer team, and the unstructured play becomes a sport. Once I realized that esports were the same way, and that the restrictions were actually there to provide structure and focus, it got a lot more exciting, and I was hooked.

As I started to assemble my own fictional esport, I drew from the ones I liked the most. League of Legends (and other games like it, called MOBAs) have two teams of players making progress back and forth across a map, gaining and losing territory, with defensive turrets as both a hindrance and a marker of progress; it had combat, exploration, and teamwork, so I threw that in the blender. I also wanted something far more visceral, though, since virtual reality lets you get right down in the action, more like a first-person shooter game such as Halo. I used to play a ton of Counterstrike back in the day, so I borrowed some elements of that–teamwork, gear loadouts, variable maps, and some of the terminology all went in the blender as well. I was building a fun game, but it wasn’t there yet, and I realized that I was missing a key element: my own characters. What would Marisa love about a video game? I thought long and hard about it, and decided that a key feature for her would be customizability–there had to be a way to personalize your game, or your character, in order to really grab Marisa’s attention. That’s when I pulled in City of Heroes, my favorite (now defunct) MMO, in large part because of the options to customize your character and–more importantly–your costume. It was a superhero game, and the costume creator was amazing, and I would spend hours and days just building new characters, or building alternate costumes for existing characters, and have as much or more fun than I did actually playing the game. Now that I was designing my own game, with an unlimited imaginary budget, I made the costume creator INSANELY customizable, able to generate almost any look, shape, and design you want. Want to play a lithe forest warrior with magic arrows? Done. A giant rhino-warrior who can turn invisible and summon parrots? Done. A psychic chipmunk with seven hands and the ability to swallow enemies whole? Weird, but done. Maybe I went a little overboard, but I gave my imaginary game six classes, 72 powersets, more than 20,000 possible character builds, and an essentially infinite variety of costume options.

Most of the time the Cherry Dogs use game avatars that look nothing like themselves (well, except Sahara, who’s always in character as the online brand she’s created for herself), but every now and then they put on their “team uniforms” and play like you see them in the image above. You can also see their call signs, which are like the usernames or gamertags they use to identify themselves.

We’re so close to the book launch now, folks. SO CLOSE. What amazing new preview will I give you next week? Tune in and see….

Bluescreen Early Access: Jaya!

January 18th, 2016

As I created more characters and put together the group of friends at the core of this series, I knew that I needed all five girls to be different from each other, and in meaningful ways. Marisa is our prototypical hacker; Sahara is the fashion-focused queen bee; Fang is the obsessive gamer and Anja is the wild card. All of them are breaking some kind of stereotype, and that’s on purpose, but it left me with no girl characters who acted (if you’ll permit me the term) “girly.” So I created Jaya Tagore:

jaya page

A word like “girly” has a lot of baggage, and the entire concept comes under fire a lot these days. Part of the purpose of this book, in fact, is to show teen girls doing active, awesome things instead of just wearing pretty dresses and pining over boys. The issue over girly-ness comes to a head, in my mind, with LEGO. You probably remember the massive brouhaha that arose when LEGO came out with their Friends line a few years ago: “Why,” people asked, “can’t girls just play with the normal LEGO spaceships and pirates and whatnot? Why do they have to have their own line of play sets that build stupid pet shops and hair salons instead of awesome tanks and robots?” And They kind of have a point, or at least they would if LEGO were somehow restricting girls to ONLY play with the pet shops and hair salons. Demanding that either gender conform to some kind of clich├ęd pigeonhole would, indeed, be wrong.

But here’s the thing: that’s not what LEGO was doing. They weren’t restricting either gender from doing anything, they were just adding a new option to their range. My daughter looked at the Friends toys and said “Finally they’re making LEGOs for me!” Her preferences are the opposite of everyone who was complaining: she thinks tanks and robots are stupid, and pet shops are hair salons are awesome. She thinks cute little LEGO girls riding cute little LEGO horses are the greatest thing our civilization has ever produced. These “girly” LEGOs are every bit as creative and challenging and constructive as the other sets, and yet people were attacking them because of their theme. They were well-meaning people–let’s be clear about that–but without intending to do so they were attacking my daughter along with the LEGOs. They were saying that because she (eagerly) conforms to the “girly” stereotype, she was somehow being a girl incorrectly. And I don’t for one second believe that to be true.

The problem with cute LEGOs, or pretty dresses, or pining over boys, or anything else we consider “girly,” lies not with the choice but with the word “girly.” Loving pet shops and hair salons is every bit as valid as loving tanks and robots; we only fail when we limit those choices by demanding–or even assuming–that only one gender will like them, or is allowed to like them. And I, without meaning to, had fallen into the same trap, and in my effort to make my characters seem cool to one of my daughters I had completely excluded the likes and preferences of my other daughter. If I was really going to show the full spectrum of what a girl could be, I needed one who loved pretty dresses and cute puppies and fancy flowers and so on.

And that’s Jaya: she giggles, she gushes over boys, and she loves pretty things. She’s also an adult (21 years old, where most of the other girls are 17), a college graduate, and a tech support specialist for Johara, one of the largest telecom companies in the world. She lives in Mumbai, knows the other girls only through the Internet, and speaks about a dozen languages (Marisa sometimes jokes that Jaya speaks English better than she does). She also struggles with depression and other mood disorders, and has two implants designed to monitor her neural state and dispense medication as necessary. She’s mature and sophisticated and frilly and froofy and intelligent and “girly” all at once, and she’s awesome.

Now you’ve met all five Cherry Dogs! Next week, let’s take a moment to meet them all in their Overworld avatars….

Bluescreen Early Access: Omar!

January 11th, 2016

We’ve talked about the Marisa Carneseca, and we’ve talked about her Overworld team, and we’ve talked about her friends, but what about her enemies? She’s made plenty on her own, poking her nose in the parts of the Internet where it doesn’t belong, but her greatest nemesis is one she inherited from her father–an old, bitter feud that’s carried on to a second generation that doesn’t even understand it. The Carneseca family hates the Maldonado family, and vice versa, and Marisa is trapped in a gray area with the youngest Maldonado, Omar.

omar page

Image, as always, by Santo Ibarra.

Omar is one year older than Marisa, and their lives are wildly different: Marisa is the poor, tech-obsessed, daughter of struggling restaurant owners, while Omar is the rich, business-minded son of a powerful crime boss. But one central mystery ties them together: when they children, still too young to understand what was going on, they were in a car accident. Marisa lost her arm, and Omar lost his mother, and if anybody knows what happened or why they were there in the first place, they’re not telling. Ever since that day Marisa and Omar have been raised to hate each other, and forbidden to talk to each other, but when Omar starts dating Anja he and Marisa finally start to get to know each other, and they don’t understand what the big deal is. But a lifetime of distrust is hard to overcome, and Omar just feels untrustworthy….

Omar’s entire family has been groomed to help in their father’s “business.” His oldest brother is a cop, ensuring that the police don’t get too close to the Maldonado’s illegal activities; his other brother runs the family’s Internet presence, too damaged by the car accident to feel comfortable in public. Their sister is practically royalty, spoiled rotten and used as a social figurehead, wining and dining the Maldonado’s various business associates. Omar, recently graduated from high school, is using his natural gifts for charm and cunning to act as his father’s front man, the silver-tongued devil who talks fast and makes deals and helps keep the business itself running smoothly.

Omar is roguishly handsome and effortlessly charming, but you don’t grow up in a motherless crime family without a little emotional baggage. Marisa and her friends trust him for now, but how long will it last?

Bluescreen Early Access: Fang!

January 6th, 2016

It’s 2016, and distance is becoming less important–we communicate through phones and the Internet more than we do in person, and more of our social lives become digital every day. By 2050, in the world of Bluescreen, distance is practically meaningless. You don’t even have to pull out a phone anymore: just think it, and your djinni can connect you to anyone, anywhere in the world. Marisa has friends right there in LA, like Sahara and Anja and Bao, but she also has close friends on the other side of the planet, and even though they’ve never met in person they’re virtually inseparable. Say hello to Wong Fang, from Beijing.

fang page 2

Fang is younger than the other girls by a couple of years, but she is by far the most obsessed with Overworld, and she and Marisa have been on the team together longer than anybody else. Fang is…well, maybe I need to explain a little bit about Overworld. It’s a virtual reality game, which is basically just a mashup of my favorite video games all blended together and turned into a sport. Imagine League of Legends crossed with City of Heroes crossed with Counter Strike–you move across a map fighting minions and killing towers and trying to blow up the enemy’s base, but you’re down inside of the action, running and jumping and everything, plus you get to customize your powers and appearance down to a ridiculous degree of control. That’s actually how Marisa and Fang met–Fang was looking to start a team, and Marisa had just gotten famous for some of her costume designs, and they started talking. Just like a sport, each player has a position: soccer has Forwards and Defenders and such, and Overworld has things like General and Sniper. Fang is the Jungler, which basically means that she sneaks around in the sewers underneath the map killing monster and hunting other players. Why is it called a Jungler if they play in the sewers, especially considering that most maps don’t even have jungles or sewers in them? The kids in 2050 have no idea–those are old, old terms from back when their grandparents were playing games, and they’ve just stuck around in common usage.

The thing about Fang is that she’s kind of two people–online, playing Overworld, she’s a stone-cold killer and a boisterous, irreverent jokester. She eats, sleeps, and breathes Overworld, and a passable coder, and she loves getting involved in the schemes and trouble the other girls drag her into. Offline, though, she’s quiet and shy. She doesn’t know how to talk to people face-to-face, and prefers to live as much of her life as possible in a virtual reality instead of a real one.

As a writer, it was both fun and challenging to write a character who never appears in person–fun because it was different, and because I got to find cool new ways to keep her relevant to the story even though she’s all the way on the other side of the world. The challenge came from the fact that keeping her relevant was way, way too easy–distance really is meaningless, like I said, and if Marisa was ever in trouble for any reason her friend Fang was right there for her, always, anywhere. Writing a world in which communication is so constant, and everything is always connected, really kept me on my toes and helped me see the future–and the present–in a new light.

Who should we talk about next week? So far everyone’s been friends, so how about someone they don’t really trust? How about the other half of the big, mysterious feud at the center of Marisa’s life: Omar Maldonado.

Bluescreen Early Access: Bao!

December 28th, 2015

bao page 2
The world of Bluescreen is full of variety: rich and poor, old and young, honest and criminal, cybernetic and aggressively technophobic. Today’s preview is wildly different from the others we’ve met, and a bundle of contradictions all on his own: say hello to Bao Behar.

That awesome image is, once again, from the artistic wizardry of Santo Ibarra.

Bao met Marisa several years ago, when they wound up in detention together at school; Marisa had been caught trying to hack the school computer, and Bao had been caught straight up stealing from the front office. They realized that they each had a skillset the other lacked, and from that initial rule-breaking team-up they forged a strong friendship that has become, if Marisa’s being honest, maybe even a little stronger than her friendship with Sahara. Despite their closeness, though, his life is significantly darker than hers, and in many ways he lives in a world completely different than hers. Marisa’s family, after all, has the restaurant, and with it a more or less steady middle class income. Bao’s family has nothing, and lives on the meager scraps he’s able to steal in his double life as a digital pickpocket.

Bao was born in the bustling city of Novosibirsk, where his Chinese mother had married his wealthy Russian father. Mr. Behar was not a very good man, however, and when Bao was barely three years old he and his mother found themselves out on the street, forced to survive as best they could. Bao learned how to break in to back doors and windows, how to lie and steal and misdirect, and how to stay invisible in a world of constant surveillance. After several years of scrimping and saving he and his mother were able to flee to LA, where she met and married a loving Chinese man with two twin girls of his own–Jin and Jun, just a few years younger than Bao. Life was good for a year at most, when suddenly Bao’s new stepfather was injured in a factory accident, losing not only his health but his job as well. Once again Bao was forced back into his old schemes, stealing food and money where he could, but LA was a very different place, and his methods had to adapt: virtually nobody in LA uses cash anymore, or even physical credit cards, so picking pockets was not option. Instead, Bao’s come up with a way to hang out in public, high-traffic areas and skim micropayments from tourists; you use your djinni to buy a hot dog or a magazine or anything else in his vicinity, and a couple of extra cents will find their way into one of his many fake accounts. It’s hard, and slow, and dangerous, but in a city where nulis have already taken most of the jobs, it’s all he can do to keep his family going.

One of the things that’s makes Bao such an excellent thief and infiltrator is that he doesn’t have a djinni–and not just because of the cost. Almost everyone in the city has a djinni, from the rich to the homeless, because they’re simply so easy to obtain and install. Bao is different. Bao doesn’t have a djinni because he doesn’t want one, and that makes him one of the strangest people in LA.

A djinni is not just a computer or a phone, it’s also your wallet and your keys and your ID. When you go to a store it reads your djinni, figures out who you are, and offers you deals and helps you pay. When you go to school it reads your djinni, checks your schedule, makes sure you’re always in the right place, and forwards and manages your homework for you. Public transportation reads djinni IDs to know when to stop and who’s getting on; your own home reads djinni IDs to unlock and open your door for you, and if your djinni isn’t working you might be locked out until a technician arrives. Djinni’s make the world function, and trying to get by without one makes virtually everything in that world harder. But…if you can somehow manage to get by, having no djinni is the greatest thing a thief could ever ask for. The world treats you like a ghost, but sometimes you want to be a ghost. If a building doesn’t recognize you as a person, you’re free to move through it with impunity; if a security system is designed to make sure the wrong djinnis stay out of the wrong places, having no djinni at all is like a free pass. Sure, a human security guard watching the door could stop a djinni-less person with no problem, but if everyone has a djinni anyway why bother with a guard? Bao uses this loophole to come and go as he pleases, and when Marisa’s hacks require a personal touch he’s always there to help.

Bao is a bundle of contradictions: a hi-tech luddite, a digital pickpocket, and a living ghost. He has a horrible past but a cheerful demeanor. And he never trusts anybody…but he trusts Marisa with his life.

Tune in next week for another member of the Cherry Dogs: the greatest assassin Overworld has ever seen, Wong Fang.

Bluescreen Early Access: Anja!

December 21st, 2015

You’ve already met Marisa and Sahara; now it’s time to meet the third girl in the trio. Ladies and gentlemen: Anja Litz.

anja page

Anja grew up in Germany, the daughter of Jochen Litz, a top-ranking executive for Abendroth, one of the largest drone and nuli companies in the world–and in the year 2050, a megacorp that successful is more powerful than most nations. While Marisa and her family are barely scraping by, Anja is unbelievably wealthy, and now that they’ve been transferred to LA, her father hates it when she hangs out with her hooligan friends from Mirador. Unfortunately for him, Anja loves pissing him off almost as much as she loves Marisa and Sahara.

Anja is the wild card in the group. No, that’s not going far enough: Anja is the wild card in any group. She’s the one who’s always running off to try new things, or push new boundaries, or break new rules just because they’re there and need to be broken. She believes in change for change’s sake, which makes her fantastically curious and adventurous, but also sometimes drives her to do things she doesn’t even want to do–either because someone told her not to, or because she thinks it’s time to break out of some perceived rut (even if that rut is as simple as “I haven’t done anything stupid in a while, let’s shake things up”). She was the kind of kid who’d destroy her favorite toy just because she didn’t want to get too attached to anything, and now that she’s 17 she’s teetering on the line between “fun to hang around with” and “dangerously self-destructive.” In my head I think of her as a cross between Starbuck, Tony Stark, and Boo from Monsters Inc.

While Marisa specializes in hacking software, Anja is the expert in hacking hardware. If you ever need someone to modify your nuli, overclock your tablet, or jailbreak your djinni, Anja’s the one to call. She loves getting inside of some new piece of tech and tearing it apart, figuring out how it works, or how to make it better, or how to make it do something it was never intended to do. She can mess with your autocar or rewire the computer that runs your house–and heaven help you if you leave your cybernetics on their factory settings.

This obsession with hardware even extends to her fashion sense: take a close look at the picture above (by the inimitable Santo Ibarra) and you’ll see a variety of cables coming out of her hair. Almost everything a djinni does is wireless, but for some applications–like virtual reality–you’re transferring so much data so fast that you need a cable, so most djinnis come with a plug-in port at the base of your skull, called a headjack. Anja has a special djinni called a Huckleberry (that’s a nickname; it’s actually an HKL, for Hong Kong Limited) which is hugely modular and modifiable, and comes with a huge range of data ports. She likes to keep all of her cables plugged in all the time, and braids them into her hair as a way of melding body and machine.

Anja’s constant drive to try new things and to hell with the consequences frequently gets the group in trouble, especially when she shows up at a party with a new digital drug called Bluescreen…but then I guess I’d better stop talking before I spoil anything :)

Join me next week when we meet another of Marisa’s friends: a street thief name Bao Behar. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!