From time to time folks ask me questions about the Our Cyber World series. Just as often, I wonder whether folks have questions about how I’ve structured this series, among other details. Here’s my effort to address some of these queries. Note that as I provide answers, I will do so with minimal to no spoilers.
Question 1: Is this series just about hackers and cyber warfare?
The series covers a number of topics. Rather than focus on a specific aspect of the cyber world we live in, each story explores one aspect of that world. With each telling, a different protagonist and set of characters lead the way. Often characters from other stories in the series make cameo appearances, or even take on significant supporting roles. Where most series may portray a specific character living within a narrow set of “mission parameters,” we see Our Cyber World happens in a more threaded, multi viewpoint approach.
Question 2: Do I need to read the books in order?
As the previous Q&A might suggest, the multi-threaded, multi-viewpoint nature of Our Cyber World enables a reader to jump in and start exploring with any of the books. You might find a reference here or there to a previous story, but these are never essential to understanding the current story. I would encourage you to browse through the book summaries, see which one strikes your fancy, and go with it.
Question 3: OK, but would you recommend a specific order?
Oh, well, since you put it that way, it might make most sense to start with book 1, DEAD BEEF. After that, however, you can pretty much go in any direction. For example you can go to book 2, Pink Ballerina or read its prequel, Active Shooter. Decisive Moment is pretty close to a stand-alone story, sharing only some of the characters and a couple of faint references to the other books. Soon to come out Beisbol Libre will build on the series starter, and more than any of the other books, I’d recommend reading it after DEAD BEEF.
Question 3: Is there a common theme or idea that runs through all these stories?
Boy, that’s a toughie. I didn’t set out to make any particular point with these stories, in the process of spinning fun yarns a few themes and ideas have popped up on their own. Technology and the role it plays in our lives keeps coming up. I try to stay away from the overdone “technology is ruining our lives” construct, but the topic of how humans misuse technology does come up often. At one point a piece of technology shows more of a conscience than the humans that designed it. Ouch. Above all, though, you will find these stories relaying the frailties of the human condition, exploring how we make decisions, in particular when doing so out of self-interest rather than under the guidance of some moral code or compass.
Question 4: Which character appears in all the stories?
Well, that’s a tricky question I can’t answer without a spoiler. I’ll answer it this way: no one human character appears in all of these stories. Sorry, that’s as far as I can elaborate.
Question 5: Does Our Cyber World have any connection to your other series, Tracking Jane?
Hmm. Another tricky question. For those of you paying close attention, you may find your answer in Rover, episode 2 of the Tracking Jane series, and if not, by the end of Tahoe-1, episode 3. But the answer should become clear if you compare Beisbol Libre (book 5 of Our Cyber World) vs. Brownie (episode 4 of Tracking Jane).
Question 6: Who is your favorite character?
Come on. That’s like asking who’s your favorite child. You probably have one, but you’ll never admit it out loud. Or you shouldn’t, anyway. I will say that I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve come to admire a couple of the female characters that inhabit Our Cyber World. In many ways, they act more admirably and selflessly than their Y-chromosome-equipped counterparts. In many cases the guys couldn’t make it without them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I certainly didn’t plan the stories to show that. It happened more or less like it often happens in real life. Interesting, huh?
Question 7: What plans for future releases do you have for this series?
As I mentioned already, Beisbol Libre will come out soon (by the end of December, 2014). Beyond that, I am drafting a couple of ideas. In development, Ghost Writer features Vivian Matisse (from Decisive Moment) in the lead as a memoir writer for Cynthia Spencer. In addition, a prequel going back to Martin Spencer’s earlier days and featuring his love interest at the time as the protagonist/hacker, tentatively titled Feral, is also in the works.
Bonus question: How did you come up with precisely seven questions?
While I’m rather sure there are fewer or more than seven questions about this series, blog experts everywhere swear that sticking a number in the title of a blog post hooks more people. If this Q&A goes viral, then I’ll have an answer to my question: “Is this advice bunk, yet another mystical gimmick, or does it really work?” In the meantime, seven is a cool number.
Update question: Do you have a diagram that shows how all these stories interrelate?
Why, yes, I do! Check it out here…