Paintwork: cyberpunk++ stories of killer augmented reality mechas and QR code graffiti writers

By Cory Doctorow

Tim Maughan's self-published short story collection Paintwork collects three of his stories, including the British Science Fiction Award-nominated story "Havana Augmented."

In an era of "post-cyberpunk" science fiction, Maughan is firmly cyberpunk -- or maybe "cyberpunk++," a genre that captures all the grit and glory of technology with a higher degree of plausibility and respect for real computers and networks than the genre had in its glory days.

"Paintwork," the first story, is a noirish, Gibsonian story of a graffiti writer in an econopocalypse-scoured Bristol, whose specialty is elaborate augmented reality animations that he inserts into the public consciousness by overwriting the QR codes on advertisements. "Paparazzi" is a story of gaming celebrity and global economics, with a wry and funny take on gold-farming that went to a place no other writer has ventured. The final novella, "Havana Augmented," is justly famed as Maughan's best work today: a political games/AR thriller set in Havana, where a bootleg augmented reality mecha combat game becomes part of the Communist Party's plan to liberalize the country's economy, and the young rebel gamers who are caught up in the plot.

Maughan has a keen eye for the fictional possibilities of technology, a good hand with the what if/ten seconds in the future mode of storytelling, and he's quite adept at filling his work with hyper-cool eyeball kicks. These stories are fun and thought-provoking, a great combination.

Paintwork

Published 6:21 am Fri, Nov 25, 2011

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

7 Responses to “Paintwork: cyberpunk++ stories of killer augmented reality mechas and QR code graffiti writers”

  1. EzE says:

    Read the sample, fun stuff! I’m sat in a rainy south Bristol right now and the billboard described is just down the road. Freaky :)

  2. phuzz says:

    Bristol represent :)

  3. digi_owl says:

    Thing is that a potential appeal of the Cyberpunk genre was the out there view on computing.

  4. andygates says:

    All that delicious Banksy is a good influence. :)

  5. technogeekagain says:

    That reminds me: NPR recently pointed out that there have been some malicious QR codes — crooks have taken to sticking their own QRs over others, which take you to a website that asks security-compromising questions or asks you to install a malware app or whatever.

    As always: Never install anything unless you know EXACTLY where you’re installing it from, why, and what it might do.

  6. Simon Barron says:

    @tecnogeekagain- If qr code Marketers utilise QR Code Generator Software Leaders http://www.Megascanz.com then if the malicious code that is generated will be shown and the user will get a warning before they can process the code and progress to the malicious site.

  7. danygoel says:

    TxTImpact has Mobile QR codes or 2D code are codes in the same way as ordinary barcodes are, but their matrix structure can hold more information. The codes are also mobile in the sense that you can use the camera on your mobile device to scan and decode them. You can
    convert a web address (URL), a phone number, an email address or plain text into a mobile code. After scanning it with your camera phone, you will have instant access to the encoded information straight on the display of your mobile device.
    (http://www.txtimpact.com/Blog/category/Mobile-QR-Code.aspx)

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