Bluescreen Early Access: Marisa!

Bluescreen CoverI am so excited about this.

Seriously, SO EXCITED.

I have a new book coming out in February–not just a new book, but a new series. It’s another YA science fiction series, like Partials, but this time instead of a post apocalyptic dystopia we’re diving into a cyberpunk world full of digital drugs, professional gamers, and computers planted in people’s heads. The series is called Mirador, and the first book is called Bluescreen, and it’s launching on February 16 from Balzer & Bray. And I am more excited about it than I’ve been about a book in a very long time.

Cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres, and I’ve always wanted to write in it. In very general terms, cyberpunk is near-future science fiction that focuses on things like the Internet, virtual reality, and human augmentation–cybernetic implants, mind-altering computer programs, and that kind of stuff. The roots of the genre lie in books like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and the Budayeen books by George Alec Effinger, as well as anime and manga like Ghost in the Shell and Bubblegum Crisis. More recently we’ve seen a lot of American TV shows delving into cyberpunk themes, like 2013’s canceled-too-soon Almost Human, about lifelike androids trying to fit into human society. The TV show Person of Interest is kind of a proto-cyberpunk story about the early beginnings of a cyberpunk world, and the birth of a self-aware Artificial Intelligence. These stories use flashy technology and gritty crime stories and thrilling adventure to talk about some very basic, personal, thought-provoking questions: what does it mean to be alive–does an AI or a clone count? What does it mean to be human–does someone rebuilt with bionic technology lose touch with their humanity? What value does the real world hold, if a virtual reality can be made to seem infinitely better? When machines are doing all our work, and computers are making all our decisions, what purpose do humans have left?

The Mirador series takes place in the year 2050, in a sprawling Los Angeles that’s become larger than some states. Cars drive themselves in an endless web of activity, and above them the sky is filled with nulis–private and commercial drones that carry out a million little tasks that keep society running. China and India have surpassed the US as economic superpowers, and Mexico is strong enough that the border is essentially open, and in fact many people head south across it to look for work. Almost everyone has a device called a djinni implanted in their brain, which fills the role of a computer, a phone, a TV, a GPS, a game console, a wallet, and even a key ring; when you come home your house reads your djinni, recognizes you, and opens the door, and when you go out in the city the stores that you pass do the same, checking your djinni ID against a database and sending you real-time sales offers customized to your purchase history. Everyone is connected 24/7, and life is even more online in 2050 than it is now, and distance has in many ways become meaningless–maybe you live in Buenos Aires, and your best friend lives in Lagos, and you both go to a virtual school in Tokyo. Or maybe you’ve lost your job to a nuli, and you can’t afford to move, and you end up selling designer Russian drugs behind the bodegas in East LA. In some ways it’s a paradise, and in some ways it’s a hell.

Our main character is a 17-year-old girl named Marisa Carneseca, the second child of a large Mexican family in an LA neighborhood called Mirador. She’s a computer geek and kind of a gray-hat hacker–she doesn’t go out and destroy other people’s systems, but she’s not really saving the world, either; she’s just having fun, joyriding around in her digital world the same way her grandparents used to cruise around their city in cars, showing off and testing her limits and exploring the shadows. Her great obsession is a videogame called Overworld, a virtual reality MOBA-style game that’s become one of the most popular sports worldwide. Marisa plays on a team called the Cherry Dogs, and her four teammates–Sahara, Anja, Jaya, and Fang–are also her best friends. One of the things I love about Marisa is how connected she is: so many YA characters are on their own, with parents who are missing or dead, and only a handful of friends. Marisa has nosy parents, pushy siblings, and a whole world full of people who can use their djinnis to reach her anytime and anywhere–and because her phone is literally inside her skull, she can’t just tell her parents she didn’t have it with her when they called. She’s cheerful and frustrated and angry and loving and incredibly fun to write about. You want to see another picture of her? Of course you do:

Marisa Carneseca

That image is by Santo Ibarra, an artist based in LA that I met through DeviantArt. We spent a month or two this year talking about the characters, sharing early drafts of the book, and figuring out exactly how each character would look. Then Santo created a portrait for eight of the characters in the book–all five of the girls on the team, plus three boys they hang out with–along with a couple of other illustrations you’ll get to see later. I’ll be showing you one of these each week until the book is released, so buckle up! It’s going to be awesome.

One final note before I end this week’s preview. You’ll notice in that picture that one of Marisa’s arms is metal; this is not a sleeve or armor, it’s her actual arm, or rather it’s her prosthetic arm replacing the one she lost as a child. You see, when Marisa was two years old she was in a car accident–which is super weird, because nobody’s ever in car accidents anymore. There are a lot of questions about this accident, actually: the car belonged to Don Francisco Maldonado, the crime boss who runs Mirador, and who hates Marisa’s father more than anyone in the world, so…why was Marisa in it? And why had Maldonado’s wife disabled the autopilot, attempting to drive herself? The mysteries behind that accident, and the bitter family feud that lies at the heart of it, are tied into more aspects of Marisa’s life than she realizes….

I love this series. I love these characters. I especially love Mexico–I used to live there, and it was wonderful to be able to put that into a book. And, of course, I love the story of Bluescreen, which I haven’t even talked about yet. Come back next Monday for another Early Access preview, and I’ll spill some more details.

3 Responses to “Bluescreen Early Access: Marisa!”

  1. Peter B. says:

    This sounds awesome! Does the word “nuli” come from Bernoulli by any chance?

  2. Ritch says:

    Finally, a series of yours that interests me based on the premise alone (no offense to John or Kira). I like the artwork. Perhaps those could have been included in the internal pages.

  3. Devon Munn says:

    This book already looks good

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