My friend Joe Hutsko contacted me a few weeks back with the intriguing offer to serialize his novel, The Deal, on Boing Boing. I jumped at the chance.
I read The Deal when it first came out in 1999 and loved the thrilling story about a Apple-like company's undertaking to create an iPhone-like device. It seems fitting to offer the first chapter of The Deal on the weekend before iPhone 2.0 is to be released.
We'll post a new chapter of The Deal every Friday.
Here's Joe's new introduction to the 2008 edition:
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." –Alan Kay
I had the good luck to provide hands-on technical support and assistance to Alan Kay and his team during my time at Apple, from 1984 to 1988, when I worked as a technology advisor to then-Chairman and -CEO John Sculley.
Alan certainly invented the future: In the early '70s he created the computer language Smalltalk at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which is recognized as the inspiration and technical basis for the Macintosh and other windowing-based operating systems.
In 1979, 24-year-old Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was given an exclusive tour of PARC, which sparked the epiphany to create a Graphic User Interface (GUI) for the masses. The rest, as we all know, is history. (More on Alan: www.smalltalk.org/alankay.html.)
Alan's quote matters deeply to me because I invented my own version of the future when I began the earliest draft of this novel in 1988. After many rewrites, submissions, rejections, long hibernations, more rewrites, resubmissions, and publishing deals gone awry, I finally decided just to give the novel away as the e-book Undo on Project Gutenberg. With the giveaway I wrote a lengthy explanation of the long, strange trip of the novel's life (and my own). That was that, and I let go of the idea of ever seeing the novel published as a traditional book — until, that is, Lisa Napoli, my longtime friend and former fellow Cyber-Times contributor to the New York Times, gave a copy of the manuscript to our ahead-of-his-time editor, Rob Fixmer. My pitch was to serialize a newly revised and updated version of the novel in the CyberTimes section of the New York Times website.
Rob said yes, and we struck a deal that would see a new chapter a week on the site, with a button to buy the eventual print edition from Amazon.com. This was around 1997, and, unfortunately, book publishers didn't at the time see much value in this new and unfamiliar thing known as the web. After many rejections, my agent said it was time to give up trying to get a book deal and move on. I followed his advice — for a couple of months, anyway.
On a whim, I contacted an editor named Claire Eddy at Forge (an imprint of the huge sci-fi house Tor), gave her my pitch on the potential big-win that the New York Times serial would offer, and sent her the manuscript. A few days later she called to say she wanted the book. Yet even this wonderful coup, of the first-ever New York Times web serialization of a novel and link to buy the hardback, was not without still another unhappy ending. On the night the serial was to go live I hosted a champagne celebration party at a dear friend's home in San Francisco, everyone's eyes on the WebTV, waiting for the serial to begin.
It never happened.
The decision to pull the serial was made by an editor who'd temporarily been granted the reins of CyberTimes after Rob Fixmer had recently moved to the print edition of the paper. It was said deputy editor's opinion that fiction didn't belong on the technology section of the site. With the serialization shutdown the publisher changed the novel's huge first printing and cancelled a major promotional plan that (would have) included a full-page ad in USA Today and author tour.
(A story about the saga of The Deal can be read at www.joeygadget.com/about.)
As reviews began to appear another terrible twist occurred, when a mix-up with the publication date didn't see the actual book in stores until four to six weeks later.
All the same, it was wonderful to finally see the novel in print, and also as one of the first commercial e-books from Peanut Press, and also as an audiobook and, a year later, as a mass-market paperback.
So why re-release The Deal now?
Two reasons. First, the novel never got the chance it deserved to reach a wide audience. And second, readers may find it interesting that Alan's words ring true in several ways throughout the novel — most notably in the finale, when the novel's protagonist, Peter Jones, unveils a device that not only bears more than a little resemblance to the iPhone but also closely mirrors Mr. Jobs's own words and actions when he unveiled the iPhone on stage at the Moscone Center on January 9, 2007.
Keep in mind, I wrote the final draft of my story nearly a decade before Jobs took to the stage.
Do I claim to have invented the iPhone? Of course not. But I did conceive of an all-in-one communication device that stows in the pocket. No, some of the technologies and features I envisioned have not come to bear, but then again, the new iPhone's openness to third-party applications could easily make those imaginings a reality.
Life imitates art?
That's for you to decide.
As for me, I'm happy to have regained the rights to this novel to see it serialized on the site BoingBoing.net (thanks to my one-time Wired editor and friend, Mark Frauenfelder), and as a trade paperback, for those who prefer their books in printed form.
Special thanks to all of my friends, my family, and the many smart and interesting people I've had the pleasure to know and work with over the years.