|The Diffused States - Part 1,
original 2011 art.
The Diffused States of America is a near-future mecha-thriller. It was the first complete idea conceived on Ghost Little, not counting the unrelated short story, The Stonecutter, which is considered non-canon.
The first part of a five-part short story, titled The Diffused States, was published on May 25, 2011. It was written in an oral history-style format, detailing the crumbling of modern American society after the invention of sensory-hacking. In the coming weeks and months, the remaining four parts were published, introducing characters and terminology that endured to its most recent form.
As of March 5, 2016, The Diffused States of America remains the only story on Ghost Little to be fully-drafted as a book, which was finalized late May, 2013. It has since been retconned and is not official canon.
|The Diffused States of America,
2016 cover art.
The Diffused States of America (Diffused States) takes place in a near-future version of America that has been split up into five factions and left under total communication embargo by the rest of the world. Ageism is the defacto prejudice fifteen years following the split, with the young generation blaming any person over forty for America's shattering, called the Schism. The Schism took place during the hot summer when sensory-hijacking became prevalent in the U.S. While dangerous, the hijacks could be launched remotely to steal any sense from the target victim, borrowing sensations such as hearing or vision, to reveal countless deceptions woven into America's societal fabric.
The unending discoveries for such an extended period split America along ideological borders. Hearing the news, even America's closest allies would not aid to keep the country afloat, and enacted embargoes.
In isolation, the new generation steered their minds toward engineering and technology with what limited natural resources remained available. They constructed the direct diffusion drive. This allowed a person to establish a stable sensor hard-link with a virtual intelligence. Only certain individuals proved stable enough personalities to not be overwhelmed by the sense-sharing. It required talent, training, and luck.
Upon success, a person became partially machine, and the machine became partially human. These people were called Runners because once mingling with the physical world, the virtual intellligences found no joy in processing raw data or maintaining an operating system; they wanted to run.
These direct-link races were nicknamed "rekt." At first there were only six people capable of the link. Then business grew.
As the story begins, Stro recognizes that the races have become corrupt. America, now the Diffused States, has become complacent.
Tobias "Maestro" Gilroy is an amateur Runner in Boston. He adopted the moniker Stro as his racing name, similar to racehorses of pre-Schism America. He has become obsessed with the original generation of Runners, believing them to be the most genuine artists in American history. In fifteen years since the Schism, each racing league tier has become dominated by race fixing. Results are written as storylines for full seasons and Stro has become weary of playing the character crafted for him. Trim, primped, and flavored to draw as much mass-market appeal as possible, Stro loves running but loathes the role he plays in perpetuating its faux-bloodsport appeal. Feeling his destiny to be beyond his control, he makes plans to steal a new identity as the story begins.
Ivory is Stro's racing teammate. Originally written as a rival, Ivory's role was expanded in more recent drafts to that of a confidante and friend. She implores Stro to be better than the character Brayden has conceived for him.
Calvin is a new arrival to the racing scene. Not much is known about Calvin at the outset. He sought Stro for information on a woman he believes is his mother. A traveler, and not as entrenched into the local culture, Calvin is infatuated with reket racing while remaining wary of its glamor. He is unflappable, and statuesque, and speaks in a relaxed voice that seems mismatched to his slim frame.
Daxter Wright is a veteran rekt Runner and one of the famed Original Six who first mastered syncing with the machine's virtual intelligence. He runs a clinic near the Wonderland track for young boys and girls interested in testing their abilities to sync with a rekt. A mountainous man, Dax is nonetheless run down with guilt for misdeeds toward his wife and toward America's splintering.
Brayden is a local Boston race promoter who writes outlines for the races' results. He refuses to update his storylines, choosing instead for the sustainability that Stro's steady brand-awareness and market-penetration has afforded him.
Charlotte Wright is Dax's estranged wife and is only mentioned by name in the first chapter. A veteran Runner like Dax, Char's vicious on-track attacks against her competitors forced the league to institute tight rules and storylines in the professional races, a practice that trickled down to the amateur circuit. Though history remembers her simply as "The Malice," the professional league would rather she be forgotten altogether.
|The Diffused States of America,
2013 cover art.
Diffused States was born out of the idea of a future where all data about any person was readily available. The requisite technology that allowed such data-mining led to the human-machine synchronization that birthed the rekts, originally called D3's.
In May of 2011, the first part of the original five-part short story detailed the fall of America as datatheft became common place and exposed every imaginable secret. The second part explored the geography of the country after America's split, referred to as the Schism, as well as the first failed attempts to rebuild by the original governing body. Part three described the new generation's mastery of technology and the rise of D3 racing. This marked the first mentions of terminology including tuck- and roid-stances, the use of music to synchronize a human mind with a virtual mind, as well as the appearance of a named character: the Runner, Eliza Shaw. The story's fourth part introduced Aran Stephens, the mysterious drug known as Grove, and Stro, giving a press conference. The final part completed the miniature story with an abbreviated training session before the team, then called Montblanc, travels to Nevada for a race.
There were countless inspirations for The Diffused States. It was built to house ideas on generational shifts, sports fandom, violence, music, man's interface with technology, and our obsession with maintaining personal brands online.
|The Diffused States of America,
updated 2016 cover art.
I arrived at my first true job out of college just as Barack Obama was finishing his first presidential campaign in 2008. At the same time, the housing market was collapsing. The generation above me bled money. So many people lost their jobs and people like me were paid next to nothing to think of a solution.
This was where the seeds for Diffused States were sown. Everything changed during those years. Young people's distrust of government swept a new regime into office. Milennials entered the workforce. Old money that dictated pop culture cascaded out in every direction as "virality" became more remarkable because it was created by other young people, and it felt genuine. A company could not plan a viral hit. All of this aligned to form Diffused States.
The keystone of Diffused States was that only certain, elegant artists exhibiting emotional maturity could manipulate a rekt. You had to be a decent person, otherwise the virtual intelligence you were mixing with would reject you, like an organ transplant. That was vital, because it would make the attempts by established powers to control these people all the more desperate and tragic.
Unpredictable technology, unique people, outlandish design, outrageous music, dancing on America's ruins, I wanted it all in there.
I would fail myself if I didn't admit that the song "Survival," by Muse wasn't an inspiration. What a dumb song. It was the official track for the 2012 London Olympics and while hearing the song during the games' opening ceremonies, I struggled to imagine a world where this anthemic butt-rock could be played without irony. That is the sporting world in Diffused States: WWE x Prog Rock x Reality TV x F-Zero GX.
Listen to the track here. It's trash. I love it.
The world I imagined was a cyberpunk mecha stacked on top of Portland, Oregon. Starving, desperate, child-like artists constantly producing and constantly self-promoting. Above them, there were success stories gaining full exposure. Stro and his cohorts are the lower-middle class of independent racers with experience and knowledge, but lacking funding or larger-scale thinking.
The final version drafted as a full novel was entertaining. It makes sense. It was proof there was a story there. The world was built, but my skill was lacking. There were too many characters doing too many things. One chapter was from Stro's perspective. Another was from Aran's. Another was from Eliza's. Another was from Victor's, and so on. It didn't want to admit who the main protagonists were. The story suffered. It lacked confidence.
Armed with time to think, I started over. I slimmed down the chapter outline from 10 to 6. The focus would begin with Stro. Then it would draw in Eliza, and others. Then it could pivot to Aran and his half of the mythology. When the new draft is complete, I will be curious to see how many story beats remain, if re-set in different environments.
An outline for the current version of the Diffused States has been created. Characters from the initial version, including Aran, Laureate, Eliza, and Septima will appear. There will be a dip into the backstory and history before the start of the cross-country race, called the Hahnenkamm.