Please help us welcome author Matt Doyle to TNA on the tour for his latest release from NineStar Press, Addict. Matt’s talking world-building with us today, and there’s a great giveaway too, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
Addict is a cyberpunk tale about a Chinese-Canadian detective living in a corrupt near-future city. What made this fun to write was that the near future setting made it so easy to experiment with different concepts based around where our modern technology could end up. Knowing that I wanted a dingy L.A. Confidential meets Blade Runner feel for the book too meant that I could put plenty of focus on the potentially negative side of this technological growth too. Today, I want to talk about a technological concept that not only affects, but ties several of the characters together in one way or another: The Tech Shifting community.
Ever since my childhood, I have been a fan of a particular subgenre of horror. Of course, I’m talking about our fuzzy monster of legend, the werewolf. Now, fan may not be the best term to use here. In my teens, I was borderline obsessed with the creature. And by that I don’t just mean that collected a mass of werewolf films and stories, I don’t mean that I happened to play a couple of werewolf characters in White Wolf’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Vampire: The Masquerade RPGs. I actually went so far as to hunt down books like ‘The Werewolf Encyclopaedia’, a hefty tome that still sits on my bookshelf and covers not only the popular films and tales, but also goes into some of the old folklore and alleged historical encounters. I never really grew out of it either. Even now, I still revisit some of the classics like An American Werewolf In London, as well as devouring certain Urban Fantasy pieces.
This sounds like I’m going off on tangent, but you need to understand that I say all this because my long-standing love of shapeshifters is a big part of what led me to the Tech Shift concept. You see, I’ve wanted to try to work a shifter into my stories for a while, but I simply haven’t been able to come up with anything that didn’t make me think that I was mercilessly ripping off old favourites. With Addict, I was writing within a purely cyberpunk setting though, which meant that I had the opportunity to approach the ideal from a different angle. So, I started to ponder the idea of shapeshifting as a technological concept. It’s not like we don’t have a grounding for that. If we’re assuming that shapeshifting occurs due to the use of technology then we’re not looking at an inner battler between human and beast, we’re looking at something intrinsically consentual. That means that this is more a matter of either roleplaying or a deep-seated need.
Now, people roleplay for so many reasons. The most common reason that springs to mind is simply for fun. Whether because you like to play as a character, like you see with fursuiters and people who work in mascot costumes, or because you’re entertaining at a party or event, the underlying reason is that you want to have fun. Then there’s the escapism. For some, they tie this in with the once-in-a-while fun activities, for others that may include engaging in the often-misunderstood world of pet play within the BDSM community.
Building up from these reasons, I worked on the idea of using exo-skeletons made from a flexible metal. This was never meant to be a free-form transformation like you see with superheroes and supervillains like Mystique and Beast Boy, this was a set transformation, more like the traditional shapeshifters. Even limited transformations like that though, I still had the issue of understanding how the suits would work. If you use full body fursuits and mascot costumes as a base idea, then that gives the space to work within both an anthropomorphic and quadrupedal realm (if you’ve never seen a quadsuit in action, some of them are truly amazing), which is good, but they’re made from materials a lot lighter than metal. Even if I accepted that the flexible metallic material was lighter than most, it felt like there needed to be a way to ensure that movement synced up with the user and also helped keep the suits from slipping or falling apart. It was actually Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In the Shell that helped me resolve this. The images of androids with cables coming from their backs and skulls are quite striking, and re-watching the old anime adaptions sparked an idea for me.
Tech Shifters undergo a procedure that sees a series of rubber tipped plugs inserted in their bodies, running up their spin and up to the top of their head. This allows the suits to be physically locked onto the user. It also meant that I could use the concept of the suits being synced up with the user’s movements in a similar way to the pilot/Jaeger tech of Pacific Rim, but on a smaller small. Of course, that means that the suits come with a high cost. The plugs would be highly visible, and there’s the shock of the initial operation to consider. So, I needed to consider the types of people that use the Tech Shifter Gear and what purpose this would serve. From the standpoint of the time that the novel was set, military and law enforcement use was the most obvious. This ties in with the business-centric reliance on technology of the city and gives a logical reason for the technology existing. Even if this was the intended end game though, it still felt like non-combat employed people would not only be interested, but be likely guinea pigs for the materials.
That was when the Three F’s were born: Furries, Fetishists and Freaks. As I’ve stated above, neither the furry fandom or those who use pet play as a form of escapism are going to be likely to cause trouble. In fact, I explicitly state within the novel that neither grouping was ever a reason for the police to be concerned. This being set in a world designed to be a dingy near-future of corruption though, I needed a pseudo-antagonist group for the concept. The idea of the Freaks is that this grouping was made of people with ill intent. They were smart enough to hide their plans during the process, but unhinged enough to misuse the suits after the op. And so there came an outbreak of murders. Sure, that led to the positive outcome of more stringent psychological testing of those expressing a desire to Tech Shift, but it also left an understandable uncomfortable feeling for those that remember the vents, leading to some natural wariness around those with their plugs on display.
Having that background that explained the reason that people may be less than positive about Tech Shifting was important, because Cassie Tam is hired by a Tech Shifter called Lori Redwood. Being someone that was around during that initial dark period means that her client’s situation is one that she needs to grow accustomed to. What F Lori is and how her status as Tech Shifter is the glue that links several plot points together are things that I’ll let you discover yourselves, though.
About the Book
Series: The Cassie Tam Files, book 1
Author: Matt Doyle
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 8, 2017
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Sci-fi, futuristic, addiction, friends-to-lovers, private detective, lesbian
Buy Links: NineStar Press || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Kobo || Smashwords
Blurb: New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.
Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.
The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?
More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”
It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.
“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”
I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”
“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”
Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.
“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.
The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.
I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.
About the Author
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
Follow the Tour
5/8 – Queer Sci Fi
5/9 – Oh My Shelves
5/10 – Booklover Sue
5/11 – The Novel Approach
5/12 – love bytes reviews