Cheeseburger Gothic

What would Slim Jim do?

Posted April 20, 2016 into Books by John Birmingham

One of my favourite scenes in Cairo actually takes place in London, as Harry walks through the city to his meeting at MI6. He’s drinking a cup of coffee, not tea. He passes by and around people lost inside clunky Walkman analogues, and takes note of the early model consumer electronic goods on display outside a couple of shops. He ponders the weather and the cricket and the news of the day, as anyone might, but it was imagining what might happen in consumer technologies that was so enjoyable in that brief section. I had to put away that speculation for the most part when the narrative engine spun up and we moved into the kinetic phase of the story.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to when I return to writing long form novels in this universe is having a chance to slow down and work these things out on the page. Slim Jim Davidson will reappear in the next book and he’s been doing a lot more than building boutique hotels in Cairo. Slim Jim has a street hustler’s eye for the main chance. He grabbed it in Weapons of Choice and never let go. That’s how he comes to feature as a player in Paris. Intrigued by the future career of Elon Musk, he was an early investor in the private space industry. He launches satellites for profit.

He tried to hire Professor Ernst Bremer once, but the German found him an odious character and judged him unlikely to be worthy of trust.

Slim Jim is just one of many in the corporate realm who has profited massively from the Transition. I’m still working out exactly what it is he’s into. It is easy to move Karen Halabi from a job with Hewlett-Packard’s Combat Optics division, into their satellite business. But someone like Slim Jim, he’d be into everything. He couldn’t help himself. This makes him a great character to explore both the technological and social changes wrought by the Transition after the end of hostilities.

I have a few ideas about what sort of investments his hydra headed omniglobal mega corporation might have got itself into. But I am open to suggestions. If he was into TVs, which would be a huge business in the 1950s, what sort of TVs would they be? He might start off with black-and-white, but by 1955 I imagine he’d be well into colour models, and looking to go flatscreen. Perhaps circuitry would not be miniaturised to the point where he could do that yet, but he’d know it was coming and he’d be hiring the best minds he could to make sure he got there first.

So, a Pepsi challenge for both Paris and the longer books which follow.

What would Slim Jim do?

49 Responses to ‘What would Slim Jim do?’

insomniac mumbles...

Posted April 20, 2016
Many thanks for the Paris spoiler, but is he someone with access to the actual tech or does he just know what could exist? I guess I come at it with self-interest as from what you describe in the books it appears that there is a lot of non-technical information available ie historical texts etc, so that says to me, why wouldn't every patent application also be available, and we are talking tens of millions from 1950 to 2021, all right there to be taken up ahead of time, perhaps not with the finer detail, but enough to say let's make this thing, which is a bit more than remembering that you had a 40" flatscreen TV back up in the day.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 20, 2016
It's not a spoiler. I'm happy to tease roles for Slim Jim, Halabi, Kolhammer and Ivanov in Paris. But what they actually do, that's another matter.

insomniac asserts...

Posted April 21, 2016
Now I must offer one thousand apologies because I am an idiot. I have mixed up Rome with Paris.

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Dailygringo has opinions thus...

Posted April 20, 2016
Never letting go puts me in mind of Taibbi’s ‘vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity’ – Goldman Sachs. Slim would have a far better profile with his keen sense of PR (apologetic check to the granny he stiffed), but ‘too big to fail’ is an idea that would appeal to Slim.
Futuristic credit products, and the trendy technology that provides instantaneous access to them, is just Slim’s way of facilitating the American Dream. He might not have Apple Pay up and running, but the irony ofp thousands of American businesses having full faith in the credit of Slim Jim Savings and Loan would not be lost on him.

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Stephen puts forth...

Posted April 20, 2016
A look at the history of changing TVs from B&W to colour brings to mind that it's driven by what programming is available. I read somewhere that snooker got on TV because they needed some shows where colour was necessary, not just nice to have, to push colour TV.
So if he really wants to push colour TVs, I'm guessing somebody will be needing to make colour programs. There will be money to be made there somewhere, and I can't see him avoiding it.
I'm trying to decide if Pagers would ever be the status symbol they were for a while in our world, or would they skip straight to mobile phones?
There's a progression in tech - year one it sells for a premium, is OK and only professionals can justify the price, year three it is half the price but better (the bugs are gone) and all the big manufacturers make it, years 5-8 you're flooded with cheap, slightly lower quality versions in department stores, and by year ten you get given it free as promotional material. If tech is in fast forward mode, something that lasted for a decade or so for us might be outdated in two-three years for them - which means it might never get into the every family has one part of the cycle.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted April 21, 2016
I can't see Slim Jim backing Pot Black. Although, he doesn't have to because of all the content which arrived on the servers from 2021.I wonder whether that content would even work with the market of 1955 however. A show like Breaking Bad would probably be considered a threat to national security.

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Dirk reckons...

Posted April 20, 2016
"Make what the people need"

The western European wirtschaftswunder was fueled in the 50s and 60s on a couple of things
1. Mechanization of agriculture (combine harvesters were rare her before the Marshall plan, as was fertilizer) allowing more people to seek employment out of growing crops and milking cows and buy feeding them from own soil (autarky) with wholesome cheap food stocks. Think green housing also and renewable energy.

2. Rebuilding the industrial base that was bombed esp. in Germany and the Benelux for building: factories, small low mileage cars, bicycles, building and DIY stuff and implementing mass-production techniques (most german tanks were hand-built in the 40's for ex.)
3. Building a service sector with at its core banking (easy flow of capital) and later on leisure (holidays, camping, cheap sun-holidays in Spain, music, movies etc.)
4. the start of consumer electronics, kicking of with transistor radios, 8 tracks, tv and the first rudimentary video-games (pong) and household appliances (hoovers, coffeemakers, ovens, washing-machines, fridges/freezers etc.)
5. A government sponsored healthcare, pension, insurance and schooling system
6. A roll out of (a car based) infrastructure and repairs to the railways, with a start in commercial aviation. Also sanitation, electricity and running water.
7. Diversification as a trend in business, so make under one umbrella more kinds of products and or services. Wiki keiretsu for that.
8. Weariness of war and the first steps to making a European Union (EC coal and steel), NATO, WEU
9. The discovery of natural gas and oil

You could enhance the growth even more with a few political things that came later here:

a. a single currency
b. free travel (schengen)
c. unfied import and export levies
d. a unified European taxsystem
e. an integrated European wide banking system (IBAN was introduced here only in the 00-s)
f. standardization of items: one type of electrical socket and 1 type of voltage (220V) for example
g. standardization in communications (no more PAL/NTSC/SECAM but like nowadays 1 type of broadcast format; Ditto for phones (GSM), radios (FM/DAB) etc.) and logistics (ISO containers/ STANAG).
h. have building codes upgraded to include future upgrades of housing. For example by installing infrastructure ducts in streets so you can roll out cable or fiber in future for a fraction of the cost. Make roofing on houses face southward to implement solar paneling first for heating water and in the future for electricity (you know it's coming). Also make city-planning future proof in avoiding ghetto's and by adding more parks and recreation area's to it.
i. embed the colonies and a few others into the European union but impose strict oversight. It depends on what status some countries have in this timeline, but for example Israel, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Lybia spring to mind. Also India, Korea, south Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand should be invited

So onto your question: what is Jim's Spiel?
Have him build a consortium of many aspects. Entertainment, consumer electronics, shipping/logistics, energy, communications, retail. The concept of a one stop shop so to say. Command the whole production-chain.

But he will not be the only big fish in the sea. Ingvar Kamprad, Frits Phillips, Sam Walton, Albert Heijn and Howard Hughes for example will try to do something similar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship for more on that.

ntwinter reckons...

Posted April 20, 2016
Whole production chain... like it. Brings to mind where I see Amazon heading.Switch that back to the 50's... massive warehouses on another scale, drone delivery, streaming TV, energy (gas/elec) purchasing. You may even be able to buy your favourite AoT book there too :)

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 21, 2016
Sweet baby cheeses, there's a whole book just in this comment.

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21, 2016
Give me a cameo and i'll rip up the invoice :D

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insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 20, 2016
I came back to write this precise word. Think blockbuster drugs like the statins or proton pump inhibitors. Antidepressants. Billions right there.

Dirk swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 20, 2016
what about "the pill" the kind that girls have ...
or the blue variant :)

she_jedi asserts...

Posted April 25, 2016
This is a good one, contraception was a huge catalyst for women's lib and making inroads into working life etc. You had a great female mercenary working under Viv, but she's still screwed if she accidentally falls pregnant.

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Peter in the bleachers has opinions thus...

Posted April 20, 2016
Mining. Not just coal, iron ore and other base metals but the rare earths required for all the tech that is slowly being developed. All of the mining locations would be in the fleet files. On top of that he would add refineries and manufacturing industries in a vertically integrated supply chain. I'm pretty sure he would be involved in the odd coup or two in Africa/South America to ensure access to the products he needs.

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Blake ducks in to say...

Posted April 20, 2016
The problem with the Musk slim Jim comparison is that Musk is an optimist whose projects have largely touched on making money off making the world a better place. Where Slim Jim is an opportunist who is out to make big bucks.
He might on the side do things that look good, (on the advice of his lawyer publicist( I'm behind on the AoT so not sure if she's still alive). But it's only for public perception.
He will undoubtedly be interested in space, but it will be to leverage off the military contracts to instate GPS and global comms before the others do.
But he will be playing catch up to the big old defence contractors that just inherited a pile of IP.
Tv Programming was mentioned above, but more than that. media. buy Murdoch's empire before he can, leverage public opinion.
Dirk touched on it above and I forget if it was mentioned in WOC. For the long game, buy up resource rich lands and mining grants.
I recall it being mentioned in WOC that he was being monitored and unofficially sanctioned by (I forget the terminology).
But at some point someone is going to want to bring a whole pile of antitrust law down on his head.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted April 21, 2016
"He will undoubtedly be interested in space, but it will be to leverage off the military contracts"
It's like you're looking over my shoulder as I write this thing.

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DrewfromOz mumbles...

Posted April 20, 2016
Satellite TV Porn.
Slim would most probably would find a young Russ Meyer and show him some inspiration from his later work, crossed with a bit of Max Hardcore.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien would have you know...

Posted April 21, 2016
1) Vaping - you indicated there's a move to ban tobacco and vapor cigarettes is a lucrative alternative.
2) Auction-style buying (a la Ebay) instead of your average department store or ordering via Sears catalogs.
3) With better media coverage of sports - sales of sports paraphernalia. Jerseys/shirts, shoes, etc. A glance at sports events for 1955 on wikipedia lists the Cleveland Browns winning the SuperBowl, Newcastle beats Man City in the FA Cup, Syracuse Nationals win NBA, even national teams - France beat Wales in the Five Nations' Cup.
Also Adidas and Puma were both based out of Bavaria. No joy if the Soviets rule there, so Slim Jim should fill the void with ease.
4) Online dating. Big bucks right there. And the times are-a-changing.

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McKinneyTexas would have you know...

Posted April 21, 2016
He'd buy a ton of real estate in and around Napa/Sonoma CA, Houston TX and Manhattan.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted April 21, 2016
And now he has. Thx.

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Rhino mutters...

Posted April 21, 2016
One word, son; plastics.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21, 2016
"Who controls the media controls the masses". I think someone said that or it could just be something i said that was unwittingly clever. Slim Jim would be all over newspapers and television stations to control the news and more importantly the advertising. Slim Jim doesn't just want to be rich, he wants to be famous and powerful and beyond the reach of the law. He could then use the media to build any enterprise he wants and destroy his opponents, both commercial and political. Eventually he will marry a Texan super model... oops reality just crossed over for a second.

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22, 2016
hmm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanne_Herring ?

jason asserts...

Posted April 22, 2016
I was thinking more Rupert Murdoch media baron who recently married Jerry Hall.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted April 21, 2016
Incubator company? Seems to be a good place to be these days investing in and taking a massive slice if they get up. Everybody would have access to the future info but no cash to get up their ideas on the new and wonderful. Money making as well as being seen to 'help society'. You also have your finger in every pie that way. (i'm also a bit behind on AOT, cut my teeth more on Disappearance series, but making up for it). I've also been thinking of changing my handle to FormerlyKnownAsSimon seeing 'Simon' is a pretty generic name! Can i do this?

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Dave W mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2016
FormerlyKnownAs...did you know something that the rest of us didn't?

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted April 22, 2016
i swear guvnor i didn't touch it! My brother in law accuses me of topping off Bowie as well. We had a Bowie marathon when they visited and three days later the Bowie news broke.

insomniac mutters...

Posted April 22, 2016
How much do you charge? Asking for a friend.

Peter in the bleachers mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2016
I hate to ask but perhaps a Bieber marathon?

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 25, 2016
Or perhaps start taking an interest in politics?

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DarrenBloomfield swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 21, 2016
When is some bugger going to introduce Twitter? I've said it before - I'd totally follow Stalin (@progromsarefun) and Beria (@gogulagorgohome) on the Twitterz.

More broadly - I really want to see the exploration of the intertwining of the social with the technological, and how they will feedback on each other. Like the above re the contraceptive pill as just one example.

While the key focus of yours will always be be propelling the story forward - politico-military implications, I think some of the background colour might be the socio-economic/cultural impacts.
Women in particular will see the future and want to leap frog to it. Britain largely missed the chance to make this leap faster post-war: female labour participation fell back to something much closer to pre-war levels than it ought have, this could change. 1950s women will want equal rights, equal pay - heck, even the biggest sleeper issue that held women back in my view - lack of no-fault divorce saw them chained to/dependent upon complete fucktards for at least two generations too long. Remember, women in the civil services (at least in UK, Australia) had to resign when they married!! They'll want that gone. They have role models that have come back, but tey really don't need them, they just need to know what is possible.
I'm sorry the above is off topic - but to try and bring it back - Maybe a sleaze like Jim can see how to exploit this - he can become a rapacious robber baron, cloaked in the (self-generated) disguise as a champion of women's rights??



John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 21, 2016
No, it's not off topic. It's right on message. I use these comments to help frame the later books. And this is a good one.

Marccarno has opinions thus...

Posted April 23, 2016
I think (female equality/'truly' egalitarian society implied by the up timers in AoT) isn't an easy play by any stretch of the imagination, as it requires societal catch up as opposed to manufacturing/technology introduction and as JB inferred often in all the books (most recently Cairo) women in particular resent up timer female emancipation, seeing it as a threat - which aligns to the more conservative culture of the times. As such I don't see anything that takes cultural change being of interest to Slim Jim although I totally get that this could be woven as a longer-running narrative thread.
For me Jim may well look at 'renewables' hybrid cars (just to tank the auto industry as he's always been inclined to give the establishment the finger) could go well in California and have potential, also 'clean' power - relatively easy to build and a good target for power-hungry post war Europe....as well as all those tasty South American 'tinpot Dictatorship' countries that could well be happy dealing with Slim Jim Enterprises and give him enormous power and influence in those countries - something that would appeal (being treated like a South American aristocrat) and simultaneously (because he can and he likes the up timers) doing a sideline in assisting the effective stomping on those escaped Nazis living it up in Argentina.....?

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted April 25, 2016
I can see the generation of women who were late teens or adults at the time of the Transition resenting the up time women with all their equality and liberation, because they don't know any better (honestly, my BFF's mother in law recently said that women don't belong on the front lines in the military because they need showers, and therefore they can't deploy for weeks at a time in the bush. My BFF's fiance is in special forces at Campbell barracks here in Perth and he was horrified - he's very much in the "as long as they can do the job they belong there" camp. He likes to point out that a large proportion of the male population can't do the job either, so why assume 100% of women can't?).

However, I can see the next generation, the ones who were in primary school or not even born at the time of the Transition (and you touched on this beautifully in Cairo), adapting to a post transition world without batting an eyelid. And it's THAT generation that's going to be demanding equal rights, contraception, equal representation. And I think Slim Jim will surround himself with ambitious, ruthless young women to run his companies and sit on his boards. Firstly, because he would be aware of the studies that show that having women on boards and in senior management is directly linked to positive company performance and profits, but also because this is the generation that will be butting their heads against the boys' club of the 1950s and 60s, and Slim will hoover up all the best female talent available because all the contemporary misogynists in charge of companies and governments will ignore them. And then he'll use them to wipe the floor with the old school companies, inherited IP or no inherited IP. I don't see Jim as an ideologue, he's a ruthless pragmatist, and he'll use anything at his disposal that will get results. I can see large swathes of his companies being managed entirely by women.

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Stephen Portelli would have you know...

Posted April 21, 2016
Control global communication? Internet, news, etc. Kick start the net, provide the sat links & the tech platforms and make the punters pay. Hardware can be copied by any back street jobbing shop, but being the only tech service provider requires a huge start up wallet and a massive barrier to entry for competitors.
The diversification and spinoffs would be massive.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2016
1) Fast food - April 15, 1955 the McDonald's Corporation is formed in Illinois. Slim Jim can do burgers or some healthy variety. 'Course we gotta watch out for the copyright issues on Slim Jim beef jerky ;-)

2)Depending on how much information came down from 2021, would people be interested in what happens to them and their progeny in that particular future? Ancestor research is a big business in our time. Would "descendant research" be of interest/profit? Would 21 year old Betty Sue Thompson want to know who she marries, how many kids they have, etc, etc?

Macwin asserts...

Posted April 22, 2016
Touching on the ancestry aspect I have always imagined something like an 'Office of future history' where peeps would trawl through every line of information from the future and put all the future 'influential' kids into a Charles Xavier type X-men type university.

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted April 22, 2016
He'd assemble a fkn team of FKRS like these and FK UP ALL who fkn stand in his fkn way!.
FK YEAH!
https://www.funker530.com/the-most-infantry-mission-brief-that-ever-happened/

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted April 22, 2016
Finance. For a piece of the action every time. Venture capitalist to the max. His very own Shark Tank, say a committee of like minded sharks with his being the veto and final say. Then he would truly be in everything, he'd bring them to him, feed the punters some uptime direction and maybe tech and funding. It would all be about having his team of venture capitalists beholden to him and him alone. Then he's into the lot - media, banking, agribusiness, mining, software, hardware, even harderware like Krupps/Northrop/Grumman/etc., pharmaceuticals, entertainment, publishing, you name it.

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Don Bagert asserts...

Posted April 23, 2016
I'm assuming that Slim Jim is a sports fan and so can work with Maria O'Brien to be out front in this future multitrillion-dollar industry. Mark McCormack started IMG in 1960 with one client: Arnold Palmer. Maria and Slim Jim can work with him to speed up the expansion of the sports management industry. Or, realizing that Major League Baseball is going to stand fast against free agency, to start a new baseball league with an early expansion to the west coast, more recruitment of black and Latino ballplayers (Baseball Commissioner Judge Landis, a who was blocking integration of the sport, would have probably live beyond 1944 in the post-Transition world), as well as having better dealing with an earlier-emerging Players' Union with a long Marvin Miller as its head. And that's just baseball - there's so much fertile ground in the sports industry post-WW2.

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sjg has opinions thus...

Posted April 23, 2016
He would be involved with companies that provide materials to the nuclear industry, and the moment Maria O'Brien turned her back, he would get himself into trouble making shady deals with characters from countries subject to sanctions

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Gutz mutters...

Posted April 24, 2016
Sharks with Frikken Lazsers!

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JG puts forth...

Posted April 24, 2016
I think Slim Jim would use advances in technology for gathering data not only about consumer behaviour, but also to blackmail highflyers. He'd use tracking devices and hack into people's TVs so as to observe their private lives. I think he'd be able to blackmail Bremmer and others.
Televisions could be used for Slim Jim's propoganda campaigns (via insidious means) and personal agendas, along with intelligence gathering. He'd be right into making the most of Big Brother, before downtimers knew the full capabilities of uptimer technologies.
Joanna

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dweeze ducks in to say...

Posted April 24, 2016
What about lower down the food chain? Recipes for crank, meth, ice, ice baby etc would be available. How much of the war displaced populace would be ripe for the plundering from someone with a lust for cash and power? Maybe slip some extra addictive goodness into the McFatFood chains...

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 25, 2016
This is a fantastic point; Jim could get control of the black markets in opiates before the cartels do. He could practically colonise Afghanistan under the guise of developing poppy farms for legit pharmaceutical purposes, then launder the heroin money via his legit businesses.

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted April 26, 2016
Corn syrup, in fact, grow a shit load of corn and using uptime technology take over significant segments of the global food market.
Be the man who took steps towards solving hunger, especially in the post-war environment.

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Steve reckons...

Posted April 28, 2016
Don't get too far ahead of yourself on the electronics. There is no way they'll have flatscreens that soon. Classic TVs very more sophisticated at the end than you may think. The electronics (expect for the screen itself) were already fully digitalized. They were a far cry from their analog predecessors.

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