Welcome to the MAN MADE BOY blog tour! The son of Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, 16-year-old Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home after he unwittingly unleashes a sentient computer virus on the world. Together with the granddaughter(s) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Boy embarks on a journey across the country to L.A. But Boy can only hide from his demons for so long…
Wetware: Hacking the body
The main character of MAN MADE BOY is named Boy, and he’s the son of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein. Like his parents, he’s a stitched together patchwork of body parts brought to life by some mysterious, and at least in my book, magic process. He’s also a computer nerd who loves writing code. He refers to himself as a hacker, but he’s quick to clarify by saying he’s not one of those sleazy identity thieves or script kiddies. And as a hacker, he’s always trying to find better, cooler ways of doing things. One of the more drastic things he does is modify his own body so that he can interface directly with his computer. For example, he has big clunky patchwork hands that make typing very slow. So he adds USB ports to his wrists to bypass the keyboard and mouse. By doing this, he taps directly into his nervous system so that all he has to do is think about typing and it shows up on the screen. Pretty cool, right?
This is not a new idea, though. In fact, it’s based on a long held theory that your brain activity is mostly comprised of electrical impulses. If that is true, then conceivably, those impulses could be translated into computer code, creating a bridge between the digital and physical world. The idea of using emerging technology to join these two worlds, or to enhance the physical body in other ways, is generally referred to as bio or wetware hacking. A lot of it is built on wacky “what if” ideas, and you might have seen a dramatized version of some of them on television shows like Fringe. But make no mistake, there are real people out there doing real wetware hacking to themselves or others.
There are two basic types of wetware hacking: invasive and non-invasive. Let’s ease in with some non-invasive methods first.
Brainwave entrainment is the process by which the dominant brainwaves of a subject are induced to a desired frequency. Certain types of music and many natural sounds of nature randomly accomplish this task. A song can alter your mood. The sound of a babbling brook might relax you. Some of this is merely associative memory. But there is also a measurable response in how certain combinations of sound can alter brain function in the cortegofugal network of neurons. In other words, during a brain activity scan, we can see a difference, even if we don’t yet understand what it means. What if we were able to codify how sound translates to the brain. What if we could develop a combination of sounds so complex that it could alter not only your mood, but your thoughts and basic cognitive functions?
A group of neuroscientists in California and Seattle published a paper showing how they used bursts of light to change the behavior of neurons in mice. After undergoing prolonged stimulation, the mice would attack anything put in the cage with them, including other mice and even inanimate objects. Their behavior suggested that they had more or less gone berserk.
This is where things start to get more invasive. There are people who believe that by surgically implanting a small “natural” or rare-earth magnet in their finger, they can sense electromagnetic fields all around them, giving them a sort of sixth sense. Some tattoo parlors are even starting to offer the service. Of course, most people just do it at home, and things can get nasty if it gets infected. Whole sections of wetware hacking forums are dedicated to reducing or preventing the risk of infection.
And finally, the ultimate in wetware hacking, direct brain assault. The basil ganglia is the part of the brain that controls gross and fine motor control, including speech and facial expression, but not cognition. Researchers experimented on mice, inserting a wire with a blue light into the basil ganglia. When the light was switched on, the mice were unable to move. Obviously, it’s a crude first effort, but it seems more an issue of scalability than plausibility. Could it be that one day they could sick a wire into someone’s head and move them around like a puppet? What about a wireless implant?
I don’t want to give too much away, but in MAN MADE BOY, a certain rogue digital intelligence utilizes most of these methods in her efforts to interact with the “real” world. And the end result ain’t pretty.
MAN MADE BOY Synopsis
Sixteen-year-old Boy’s father is Frankenstein’s monster and his mother is the Bride. A hacker and tech geek, Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home. Now, the boy who’s never set foot outside embarks on a madcap road trip with the granddaughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that takes him deep into the heart of America. Along the way, Boy falls in love, comes to terms with his unusual family, and learns what it really means to be a monster—and a man.
About Jon Skovron