As an author, sometimes you come up with this really killer idea that you know people are going to love. And sometimes (which is most of the time), you later find out that your really killer idea has either already been done, or — for scifi writers — kind of "came true" before you could get the story to the public. And when that happens, it sucks.
The story below was intended for our upcoming short story collection FIRE IS ORANGE. I finished it months ago and thought I was oh-so-clever. It is about a disturbed person finding creative ways to utilize a next-gen Google Glass. Then one day I was listening to NPR, and what did I hear? That's right, a story about people who had hacked the current gen of Google Glass to create the same possibilities I listed in the story.
Boom: just like that, a forward-thinking story becomes dated and obsolete. The longer I wait to release this story, the more tired and cliché it will sound.
FIRE IS ORANGE won't be out for many moons, so, ARealGirl and I decided to put it out now, for free, on this here site.
A Girl With Excellent Taste in Music
by Scott Sigler
It all depends on the music … and she picked the right music.
Not the stuff from when he was old and the King of the World, but from when he was all fresh faced, with that hair, with all the girls in the country going crazy for him. Beatlemania? Yes, I’ve seen those videos, and it was impressive. So much happiness, so much intensity and passion, for the boys and for their music, and for what all of it represented, but people forget the Beatles weren’t the first to generate that kind of hormone-driven insanity. Sinatra. Girls used to line up outside his hotels and wouldn’t leave. They’d see him and scream and faint, go crazy, just lost in life and song and him.
So she picked Ol’ Blue Eyes, but not his well-known standards that have been played into Cliché Land. She didn’t pick “That’s Life” or “Send in the Clowns,” stuff from when even a living god like Frank was feeling the years, getting ground down by time’s slow, poisonous, always lethal bite. No, she picked “I’ll Never Smile Again.” I think that was his first number-one, with that Tommy somebody orchestra.
People will tell you all about love at first sight. I don’t know about that, because it hasn’t happened to me, but what I do know? I know love at first hear.
You can tell so much about a girl by her music. Every night I see girls at those glowing Internet jukeboxes, picking songs by Pink or Beyoncé or Britney Spears or whatever worthless piece of hipster shit is popular. Some of the girls have better taste, maybe Stevie Nicks or Aretha, or some go country because maybe that’s in style now that you can listen to Taylor Swift and people don’t automatically think you’re a backwoods hick. I don’t know much about music trends. What I do know is this: I watch the jukebox so I can pick the girls who pick the good stuff.
I watch for girls who choose music that actually feels like love. There are a few more artists on that list, but you know what? None of them are as good as Frank. I’ve been in this bar every night for a week. She’s the only one who picked Frank.
I have to meet her.
Her ass isn’t big enough, but the hair color is right. Her sweater is blue. She knows I like blue. The good ones always seem to know. It’s not my favorite shade, but it’s pretty close. It’s the closest of all the girls at this bar, anyway.
I just got these contact lenses. They’re only available to beta testers. I know a guy at Google. He got me the first-gen Google Glass. I blogged the fuck out of that product, let me tell you, not because it was amazing (and it was kind of amazing, in a “Soon we’ll be living The Jetsons” kind of way), but because everyone likes to get their metaphorical cock sucked. Google likes getting blown just as much as the next guy. Or girl, for that matter. I blogged about it because I could see where the tech was going, and I knew that sooner or later, it would help me achieve my goals.
I have a lot of goals. I have a project plan. I have Gantt charts. You have to be organized about these things.
All that blogging, all that ass kissing, it got me the second-gen Google Glass, then the third. Finally, just a few months ago, it got me what I had wanted probably even before engineers started to draw it up.
She’s talking to a man. He’s making her laugh. He’s too old for her. She knows it. He knows it, too, but I can tell he’s hoping that maybe the stars will align for him on this one night, that maybe this is a last chance to have something beautiful before a little more of his hair falls out, before his belly gets a little bigger, before his clothes go a little more out of style. One look at his hopeful face tells me that he knows the day is coming when the only way he can get a girl that young is to buy her. And even then, he’s not the kind of guy who has enough money to get a girl this nice. In the world’s oldest profession, you get what you pay for.
I’m not being mean; I speak from experience. I’ve paid girls before. I didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t get a lot of girl. But the girls I hired were nice enough. We had our quiet moments together. Some guys, I bet, they say the mean things like in the pornos, but not me. I treat women with respect. With kindness. I give them what they need, and they give me what I need. That’s all the world requires, really — the golden rule, applied to everything.
Do unto others.
I watch and I wait, trying to time her movements. A picture of the back of her head won’t do me any good, now will it? I imagine she’s talking to me. She laughs, she turns, she faces the bar, looks at me out of the corner of her eye while she whips up a contrived smile, she laughs, she turns …
She’s repetitive. She probably doesn’t even know it. Most people don’t.
I wait for the right moment, then I blink out a rapid pattern, bap-bap, pause, bap-bap, and Iris captures the image before me.
An image of her.
I blink out another pattern, call up the picture. When you want to look at pictures (or video, these lenses are killer), Iris has a way of blurring out real life. Your eyes are wide open, but you can’t see two inches in front of you. All you see is the image or video playing on the contact lens.
A three-quarters profile shot. Not bad. The only way it could be better is if she were looking right at me, and I’m not ready for her to look right at me. Not yet.
The way the image captured her, with the half-lidded eyes, a limp flop of hair across her left temple and down her cheek, I can tell she’s drunk. I like to think that’s because she knows she’s going to meet me later, but maybe that’s silly. I know I’m a hopeless romantic. In the movies, they act like being a romantic is a great thing, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, you just hurt inside, and you can’t figure out what to do about it. Sometimes, I get all twisted up, and it’s harder to think. That’s why I plan so carefully — when the chance comes with a proper girl, I don’t want to blow it. I have to get it right. How else is Nicholas Sparks going to write another book about me?
More eye-blink patterns. I look up and to the left, calling up a browser window. I preprogrammed this routine to save time: doing so was on my Gantt chart, and you have to be organized about these things.
Plan the work, work the plan.
A few more blink patterns, and the picture is sent off to Google Search by Image.
The Iris screen clears, and I’m again seeing what’s in front of me. Baldy just tried to buy her another drink. She shakes her head. Done for the night? Done here, anyway.
She is very pretty. I don’t kid myself that she’s a virgin or anything. People lose their virginity so early these days. Earlier than I lost mine, probably. But just because she’s had sex doesn’t mean she’s a slut or a whore, not at all — maybe she had a boyfriend she loved very much. Maybe even more than one boyfriend. Life is short and it’s so full of pain, of twisting, of hatred and confusion and wondering if you’re doing the right thing and waiting for the time when it all makes sense. With all of that in a person’s head, what’s wrong with a little love?
My vision fuzzes for a split-second: Iris, letting me know I have a hit.
It’s really kind of fun and cool. I’m like a spy or something. I’m just sitting here — no one pays attention to me (no one ever does, not until I work the plan) — and I’m getting all this lovely info.
The image search returns four probables. All the pictures are of blonde girls, a little chubby in the face but not too much, all the right color hair, all the right color eyes. It’s shocking, really — the faces are so close that these girls could easily pass for sisters. Maybe they are, who knows?
But for all the power of this image search, for all the spooky ability to look at one picture of a face and go out to all pictures anywhere on the Internet and find other pictures of other faces just like it, it still can’t quite beat the human eye. Could I look through several billion photos and find ones that look like her? Not in a hundred lifetimes. Can I look at four pictures that are similar and instantly see which ones are of her and which ones aren’t?
That I can do.
I pick picture number four, a little square one. It’s her, no doubt. More lipstick, more eye shadow. She planned for this picture. She got ready for it.
The results come back instantly: it’s from a Facebook profile.
Not in a relationship.
I feel my heart rate pick up. Is this what it feels like to fall in love?
So many pictures of her: with friends; at bars; at a beach in a bikini when she was a few years younger and more than a few pounds lighter (Spring Break, Cozumel the tagline reads); pictures of her with a handsome boy; pictures of an old Dachshund. My routine sorts the pictures by date: it’s like watching a still-life movie of her.
I call up another pre-programmed routine that takes the name “Karin Carlington” and does a local search.
Through the fuzzed-out real-life view, I see Baldy leaning in. I blink away the Iris interface.
This is the moment. This is when I see if she’s fallen for his old man lines, if she’s not repulsed by his old man smell, if she’s going to leave the bar with him. It’s always the moment of the night that makes me clench up the most, because if she likes him, if she’s accepted his overtures, then I have to wait to meet her some other time.
Or wait for another girl to pick the right music.
I hold my breath, waiting, watching; he leans closer still … and she leans away from him.
I’m careful not to stand and cheer. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, really, but it’s not her fault — nor is it mine — that his choices in life led him to being alone in a bar at 1:30 am on a Tuesday night, hitting on a girl who could be his daughter. That’s not my fault. If she had gone with him, even if she’d kissed him a little, I would have known she’s not my type.
But she didn’t.
She smiles and laughs, trying to take away the sting, trying to let him down easy, leave him with his pride intact. Nice women try to do that, but they don’t really get it — it’s impossible to do. A guy puts in that much work, puts himself out there, and you don’t accept him? All the laughter and charm and class in the world won’t help.
He puts on the friendly face. Oh, that’s cool. I was just happy to talk to you for a bit. Maybe next time?
She agrees, says maybe. Which actually means never.
I read a blog once that said within one minute of a girl talking to you, she knows if she’s going to sleep with you. One minute. Seriously. It’s true. Sure, you can totally mess it up after she’s decided you’re the one — and guys usually do —— but girls know just that quickly. I wonder if it’s genetics. Pheromones, maybe.
One lousy minute and they either want to bed you, or they write you off. I’ve spent years on my Gantt chart. I plan the work, work the plan, and these fucking bitches get to decide things on a whim.
I once streamed this old movie with Gary Busey. I don’t remember much about it, other than that the characters drove cabs, but one thing he said stuck with me. He said, I don’t know why women are always so upset — they’ve got half the money and all the pussy.
They think they control everything. It’s a game to them. Playing with a man’s emotions, stringing him along, teasing him, a game. That’s why they dress the way they do, like whores, like dirty sluts, to tease guys.
Plan the work, work the plan.
She slides off her stool, stumbles a little bit. I see Baldy turn quickly to help her, but she doesn’t need it. I see him give her one last wanting glance — maybe he’s hoping she’s drunk enough to forget the rejection she just gave him.
Karin gives him one more patronizing smile—
A split-second fuzzy flash: Iris has results. A Karin Carlington is named on press releases for Doyene Pharmaceuticals. She’s a marketing director. Nice job. Probably pays well.
Well enough that she doesn’t need a roommate, perhaps?
I’m not the best programmer in the world, I know this, but I’m far from the worst. It’s not hard to write scripts that comb the Web, not once you have a name, a Facebook profile, an email … Oh look, her Twitter handle: @PartyTarty12. That handle was started five years ago. I bet she came up with that one in her sorority days. And oh look, her tweets have geotagging information. My program combs her Twitter stream looking for particular keywords, scanning some five thousand tweets (I don’t need to read them to know they are mostly about whoring and drinking and laughing at the guys she played and rejected, talking about those guys behind their backs.) Her online history is a sad tale of a life that peaked in college. Now she’s single, her twenties are ending, no kids, putting on weight, the looks that served her so well fading …
A hit: Hey @EpsilonSistren12 and @CandyCottonyGirl, home safe. Thanks girlz! Good times! LUV U. Brunch tomorrow?
And attached to that tweet, geotag. My script is already one step ahead of me, calling up Google Maps.
Her home is ten blocks away.
Close enough to walk?
Google Maps shows me the best route, both for a pedestrian and for a vehicle, like my van.
As she leaves the bar, I watch to see if she reaches into her purse to pull out keys. People do that if they drive. Even I do it. You can’t help it; it’s automatic.
She doesn’t reach into her purse.
My head is swimming. She’s the one, I know it, and she knows it too. She knew I was there — she had to know — knew I was watching and waiting. That’s what these teasing cunts do: they pretend to ignore you when they know that you’re there.
I wait for her to leave. I stand, careful to avoid any eye contact with Baldy. I don’t need him remembering my face.
It’s hard not to run for my van, but I keep cool. You can’t blame me for being stressed: I’m three days behind on my Gantt chart’s next milestone. There’s only so much float time built in before a project is in danger of not meeting the target date.
I know where she lives. I know she’s single. I don’t know if she has a roommate or not, but I really, really hope she lives alone.
In just a few minutes, I’ll know for sure.
Plan the work, work the plan.
First, the obvious: The wow-is-that-spooky direction we're heading in for inconspicuous, wearable devices, image recognition, deteriorating online privacy, and the tendence of some young people to seemingly broadcast their entire lives online.
Second, the disturbing: The mysoginistic attitudes of a portion of the online community. I've been shown a lot of that in the past few years. I didn't realize such abhorent behavior existed, and even if I did I thought it might be a handful of douchbags living in their mom's basement. What I didn't know was the prevalence of these attitudes, and how much violent rhetoric is thrown at women on line for having the audacity of Being A Woman Online. There are constant threats of rape, assault, even murder, coming from men who want women to shut up and go away; to know their place.
Some of this comes from people who are very socially awkward. They have had bad experiences with the opposite sex in the past, and dehumanize women in an effort to internally rationalize what happened. This deumanization is clear in the anonymous threats — online, anyone has the ability to reach out and threaten, with little chance of retribution. In this weird way, the Internet gives "power" to the powerless.
Third, the downright scary: I have friends who are constantly accosted for the heinous crime of Being A Woman Online (I mean, how dare they, ammirite?). One friend became such a target that a dickless wonder actually posted her home address online in a forum filled with hate against her. It didn't take that much to see the implied message: "shut up, you stupid bitch, or one of us is going to get you."
That's all he wrote:
And, frankly, that scares the crap out of me.
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