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Start-ups in fiction - Input Junkie
February 25th, 2013
07:41 am

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Start-ups in fiction
I recently saw a suggestion that fiction about start-ups tends to be much better than Sturgeon's Law would imply, but I'm not sure whether it's just easier to notice the good stuff.

Suggestions for fiction-- good, bad, or indifferent-- about start-ups?

My impression is that romances are frequently about women who own small businesses, but usually don't cover the start-up phase. I don't read a lot of romances, though, so I could have missed start-up stories.

I've also got something in the back of mind mind that there are some start-up stories in urban fantasy/paranormal romance about people figuring out how to make a living from their magical powers, but nothing specific is coming to mind.

Some start-up stories:

Heinlein's _The Rolling Stones_
Bujold's _A Civil Campaign_ is (among other things) a start-up story, and
excellent.

> The social network.
> Ghostbusters
> Moby dick **I'm not sure why this was included**
> Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
> Primer
> Tono bungay
> Jurassic park
>

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From:nojay
Date:February 25th, 2013 01:18 pm (UTC)
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"All the Colors of Darkness" by Lloyd Biggle Jr., about getting the first teleportation systems up and running. After that it segues into [MAJOR SPOILER] but it's a good story, very much of its time (published in 1963).
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From:metahacker
Date:February 25th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Fight Club?
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From:kalimac
Date:February 25th, 2013 02:07 pm (UTC)
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Does it have to be SF? The purest novel about a start-up I've ever read was a contemporary novel titled "Silicon Valley", by one Michael Rogers, that came out as long ago as 1982. It was about ... a Silicon Valley start-up, one modeled pretty obviously on Apple. The one thing I remember most clearly about this novel was the ways the author managed to mangle the local geography.
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 25th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
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It doesn't have to be sf.

I get the impression you think "Silicon Valley" wasn't an especially good novel.
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From:kalimac
Date:February 25th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
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It wasn't particularly good, though not outstandingly awful, either. What makes it of interest is being a pioneering effort in novelizing a major socio-economic trend of our time. 1982 was still early - before the Mac, even.
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From:whswhs
Date:February 25th, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
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The Fountainhead goes from the hero's being expelled from architecture school, through his setting up his own architecture practice, having it shut down for lack of clients, and then having it restart and grow.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:February 25th, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
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has a start-up subplot; Dagny leaves Taggart Transcontinental and starts her own John Galt Line. Offstage, Wyatt started hs own shale oil company after inventiin g the process to do it, Rearden had started his, etc.
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From:ponderoid
Date:February 25th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)

Ideal building for a startup

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Arrgh, I can't remember which book I saw it in now, maybe David's Sling by Marc Steigler? It included a description of an industrial park neighborhood which was designed literally from the ground up for startup companies to rent space. It talked about the ideal building layout, embedded in a hill so customers come in the upper level front door to the reception area, and product is shipped out the lower level back door.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 25th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
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A href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R.">R.U.R. by Karel Capek</a>, about the world's first robot factory, although the actual start-up is narrated rather than portrayed. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a series of short stories held together by the frame story of Susan Calvin, Chief Robo-psychologist, reminiscing on her career from the time she was a young student.

R.U.R. and I, Robot together could be regarded as engendering the start-up of the real robotics industry, as well as describing the start-up of the fictional one, and starting up a whole literary tradition of robots.

The urban fantasy/paranormal romance you're thinking of: might it be something from one of the Borderlands series? I seem to recall something like that, but it's been a long time.
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 25th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
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Definitely not Borderlands-- I have an allergy to the series. For whatever reason, elves on magic-powered motorcycles seemed like trying too hard to be cool.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 25th, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
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LOL, so true. They were cooler back in the '80's. About the only Elves I still like are Tolkien's, Dunsany's and Wendy Pini's - the whole "Elves In The Modern World" trope kinda gets on my nerves.
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From:celandine13
Date:February 25th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
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The whaling ship/startup parallel is a pretty robust metaphor.

Escape into the unknown;
Risking your neck for a chance at profit;
Appeals to debtors, reckless young men, outsiders;
Everyone's paid in equity;
While you're on the ship, the captain/CEO has absolute power, and is frequently nuts;
Tight quarters, all personal conflicts magnified, friendships more profound;
Some people get addicted to the sea and go again and again

As someone with exactly zero exposure or cultural background in business, once I started messing around with startups, the nearest peg I had to hang the experience on was Moby Dick.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:February 25th, 2013 05:07 pm (UTC)
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The Passion Flower Hotel.

My god, this is still in print and was a movie and a series. Per Google, it looks like some serious(!) versions were made. Guys, this was about as serious as Cold Comfort Farm!

Even this review takes it a little too seriously. http://trashcity.org/BLITZ/BLIT0413.HTM
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From:beamjockey
Date:February 25th, 2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Larry Niven's novel Destiny's Road has a sequence where a group of ragged refugees start a successful restaurant in an abandoned building. Lovingly described, but I recall finding it implausible.

One does not often find much "business-procedural" stuff in a Niven novel.
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From:carbonel
Date:February 28th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC)
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And is one of the most tedious novels I ever finished.
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From:kgbooklog
Date:February 25th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
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Erikson's Malazon series has a group of characters buy an abandoned temple and turn it into a tavern, and later another character sets himself up as a blacksmith, but these are both minor side-plots.

Pratchett's Moving Pictures, maybe?

Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series has a couple characters create a start-up about halfway through the series.

Lawrence Watt-Evans has several novels start with the protagonist wondering how to turn his skills into a career and ending up self-employed, but they don't much resemble start-ups.

Can't seem to think of any where the start-up is the primary focus of the story.
From:henrytroup
Date:February 25th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
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Try Nevil Shute's Slide Rule, although it's non-fiction. If I'd read his account on 1920's and 38's aircraft industry before the dot com boom happened, I would have appeared to be prescient!
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From:whswhs
Date:February 26th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
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Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series isn't quite about a start-up, but it's close cousin: In the second novel, Kylara Vatta's family's estate on her home planet is attacked by space pirates, killing a large number of them and wiping out their assets, and Kylara has to start rebuilding with a single run down starship, much the way her ancestors did. Moon's primary focus is on the military conflict, but she does follow the economic struggles fairly closely. And the military plot is a start-up plot in its own way, with Kylara pulling together her own space fleet.
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From:houseboatonstyx
Date:February 26th, 2013 01:59 am (UTC)
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One of The Wiz series, I think. At least in the sequel, he's running his small company and still having early-stage problems.
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From:sodyera
Date:February 26th, 2013 03:03 pm (UTC)
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For fear of sounding like a hopeless self-promoter, "The Family Forge" by Ariel Cinii would be considered a "start-up" from the POV OF your definition and other comments. The main characters are two brothers who sign up to work on a flying steamship in order to see the world, they wind up learning the ship's culture (every large org. like a hospital or a company has one) in tight quarters and wind up in a scheme to acquire the McGuffin of a cutting-edge technology called "radio".
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From:darius
Date:February 26th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
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Lest Darkness Fall, though it's more like starting up overseas imitators, I suppose.
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From:agrumer
Date:February 27th, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
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Do you mean specifically fiction about small businesses designed to grow quickly and explore business models for a new idea, or are you using “start-up” as a synonym for new business?
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 28th, 2013 10:27 am (UTC)
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Any new business. I don't think there was anything especially innovative about the Pequod.
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From:agrumer
Date:March 1st, 2013 06:03 am (UTC)
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Okay. You know “startup” has a specific meaning, right?

Also, how is it nobody’s mentioned Cryptonomicon?
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