Written by Carlton Mellick III
In an alternate reality where '80s fads never went out of style,
struggling comic book creator Wesley Allen Scott enters the
virtual world of Cybernetrix, based on the classic film
Tron...and his life will never be
Cybernetrix is not set in the Tron universe,
but it was inspired by it so I've decided to include a side-bar
analysis of the similarities. The novel is part of a literary
genre that some have recently dubbed "bizarro fiction", stories
with weirdness as their central theme.
I'm not going to do a complete story summary since it is a
fairly new novel (published 2008), but I'll tell you the setup.
Buy it for yourself and read it if you're a Tron fan
and don't mind some adult content.
The story seems to be set around the time it was written
(2007-08), on an alternate Earth where '80s fads never went out
of style. Atari has produced a virtual reality video game
that was supposed to be based on the classic
Tron movie, but Disney would not
license the property to them due to adult content, so Atari
instead licensed the low-budget b-movie rip-off of
Tron called Cybernetrix.
Cybernetrix was almost exactly like
Tron except with mature content (and
bad special effects). Now the video game has become the most
popular game on the planet.
Struggling comic book creator Wesley Allan Scott is forced to
take a regular job at a large company called WinCorp. There he
meets Don, a Cybernetrix addict who finally convinces
him to play the game. When he does, he places the small helmet
and electrodes on his head and activates the game console and
finds his consciousness uploaded to the world of Cybernetrix. He
meets Don and some other co-workers there. He also finds himself
attracted to Xiva23, a non-user artificial personality known as
a bot. Becoming addicted to the game himself, he begins an
affair with the strange Xiva and eventually finds himself
questioning his own sanity as he keeps seeing glimpses of the
Cybernetrix world appearing in the real world. What is going on?
In the Author's Note at the beginning of the book, Mellick
recommends watching Tron before
reading this novel, as he intended it as a parody of the cult
classic Disney film.
It may be a coincidence but the main character's name of Wesley
Allan Scott may be a play on
DC Comics characters. The actor who
portrayed the DC superhero called the Flash on the 1990-91 CBS TV series
The Flash, was John Wesley Shipp. The
Flash's civilian identity was Barry Allen. The last
name of Scott may be borrowed from DC's original Green Lantern,
On page 9, Wes...erm, excuse me, Wesley...has a
glow-in-the-dark Devo poster on his bedroom ceiling. Devo is a punk
rock band formed in 1973 which still occasionally re-forms for
Page 9 also mentions Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. The
Sandman was a 1989-1996 DC comic book (published for the last
third of its life under the Vertigo imprint) written by Neil Gaiman.
Pages 15-17 mention several '80s-themed brand names:
Wesley drank 3
40s of King
Cobra the night
King Cobra is a brand of malt
liquor sold by Anheuser-Busch.
"40s" refers to a 40-ounce
- Wesley has a
Supercuts is a chain of hair
salons started in 1975. They are
known for having styles of cuts
that the hairdressers are
trained to provide at all
locations, leading some to call
the chain the McDonald's of hair
- Wesley had
figures as a
M.A.S.K. was a toy line,
animated series, and DC comic
book about a quasi-military
strike force fighting for good
against the evil machinations of
M.A.S.K.=Mobile Armored Strike
V.E.N.O.M.=Vicious Evil Network
- As a child,
Wesley had one
or more Andre
the Giant themed
the Giant (1946-1993) was a
professional wrestler, best
known for his bouts in the
Dark Horse Comics is the largest
independent comics publisher in
the U.S. Owner and publisher
Mike Richardson started as the
owner of several comic book
stores in the Portland area
before starting Dark Horse
Comics publishing in the
Portland suburb of Milwaukie.
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a
fantasy role-playing game
created in 1974 and currently
produced by Wizards of the
Cube is a well-known mechanical
puzzle invented in 1974 by
Hungarian Erno Rubik and
marketed by Ideal Toys since
Babies are a gummy candy
manufactured in the U.K. and
is a video game company
originally founded in 1972.
There is no Atari game unit
officially called Atari 64, but
since one of the conceits of
this novel is that many '80s
fads never died, it must be that
Atari remained a dominant force
in the video game market and
continued to produce new and
updated game consoles.
is a character in the
Masters of the Universe
franchise created by toymaker
Mattel in 1982. It has spawned
toys, animated series, a movie,
and comic books.
Wars: The Next
has never been a
Star Wars: The Next
Generation TV series as
described here. This is
Mellick's play on the Star
Trek: The Next Generation
TV series which ran from
1987-1994. Mellick may be saying
that in the alternate history of
Trek did not make the
comeback it did in our own past;
it had been supplanted by
has a rare, mint condition Taldo
Fett action figure from
Star Wars: The Next
Generation. Taldo is not a
character who has appeared in
any of the Star Wars
franchise's real world
incarnations. There are, of
course, the characters of Boba
Fett and Jango Fett within the
Star Wars universe.
Punch board game
Hawaiian Punch is a fruit punch
marketed since 1950 (and before
that as an ice cream topping
syrup). There actually was a
board game manufactured in 1978
Headroom is a character depicted
as an artificial intelligence
living in a computer network who would randomly project
himself on TV or computer
screens around the world to add
ironic or amusing commentary in
the dystopian future TV series
Max Headroom of
1987-1988. Since Wesley still
has a poster of the character,
perhaps the franchise has
continued to thrive to current
Diamond's was a chain of
department stores from
1947-1984, when it was sold to
Dillard's. In the novel, the
chain may have survived to
a clothing company which, from
1952-1993, teamed with the
Lacoste shirt company to produce
the famous Izod Lacoste polo
shirts with the Lacoste logo of
a crocodile (not an alligator as
stated) on the left breast.
Since the end of the companies'
partnership in 1993, Izod shirts
no longer feature the crocodile.
Again, in the '80s-centric world
of Cybernetrix, Izod
Lacoste may continue to make the
popular polo shirt with the
a diet cola made by the
Sausage McMuffin is one of
several McMuffin breakfast
sandwiches offered by the
McDonald's fast-food chain.
may be a reference to custom
made docking stations for the
iPod in the form of '80s style
boom boxes. Or it may be that in
the '80s-centric world of the
Apple actually makes boom
boxes using iPod digital music
Boys was a hip-hop band from the
1980s. In our world, they recorded 7 albums
from 1984-1991. Here in the
novel, it is mentioned they have
12 or 13 releases, so they must
have remained together through
the '90s and possibly into the
2000s. In our world, the
Fat Boys announced a reunion in
2008 and released another album.
14, 16-17 and 166-167 mention
DeLorean automobiles. The
DeLorean Motor Company was
founded in 1975 by John DeLorean
and went bankrupt in 1982. It
only ever produced one model of
vehicle, the DMC-12 sports car
made famous in the Back to
the Future trilogy of
In the alternate history of
DMC continues to be operational and is, in fact, the top
manufacturer of automobiles. One
of its models is the new
DeLorean Falcon, described as
looking like a cross between the
original DMC-12 and the
Millennium Falcon from the
Star Wars films. Here
also, other manufacturers have
mimicked the gull-wing doors in
the DeLorean style.
Better Off Dead is a
1985 teen comedy that is pretty
much as described on page 16 of
Collins is best known as a
singer-songwriter. His music,
both solo and with the band
Genesis, was extremely popular
in '80s and he continues to make
music today. The fact that the
douchebag character of Chuck is
said to be a huge fan may be
Mellick's statement of how he
views Collins as an
Saturday Night Live is,
of course, the venerable late
night comedy sketch show that
has run on the NBC television
network since 1975
and still going strong.
is a U.S. auto brand. They do
not make a Dodge DT model and in
this novel the DT is described
as being a small two-door sports
car with sliding doors to go
against the gull-wing openings
established by DeLorean and
mimicked by other auto
Page 12 mentions what the residents of Portland refer to as the
roll-on building because of the dome on top. Page 179
indicates it is located on Salmon Street, but this appears to be a
residential road on Google Maps. There is a
building with this nickname, but it is in Seattle, WA rather than
Portland, OR. This building's real name is the Second & Seneca
Building. Another nickname for it is R2-D2, for the blue dome.
Also on page 12, Wesley goes down to Pioneer Square to watch the
break-dancers. Pioneer Square is a reference to Pioneer Courthouse
Square in downtown Portland. The reference to break-dancing in the
book is another '80s pop culture reference (though breaking still
does have its practitioners in our world).
Wesley's new job is at WinCorp, a computer software company.
Although there are several small businesses using that name in the U.S.,
none appear to be the same company described here in Portland.
WinCorp may be Mellick's play on what would be the Microsoft
Corporation, headquartered in Redmond, WA in our world.
Page 13 tells us that Wesley's self-publishing comic book company
was called Bouncing Lobster Comics. On page 19, we learn he had
produced a DIY (do it yourself) comic called Neo Tokyo Crimewave.
Page 20 suggests that the only comic books that were currently
selling well were Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-offs.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a 1992 movie and cult-favorite
1997-2003 TV series which did spawn a number of ongoing and
mini-series comic books from Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing.
In the real world, the Buffyverse titles sell well but are hardly
the top sellers.
On page 23, Don tells Wesley that 20/20 recently ran a
piece on the Cybernetrix game.
20/20 is a
television newsmagazine that has run on the ABC network in the U.S.
On page 24, Don gives a description of the Cybernetrix game and
movie on which it is based (there was no Cybernetrix movie in the
"It takes place in this glowing
neon world," Don said. "Have you ever seen Tron?"
"Well, the world is like the world in Tron. Actually,
it's exactly like the world in Tron. Actually, the game was supposed
to be called Tron World, but it's not a child-friendly game so
Disney wouldn't let Atari call it that. So they called it
Cybernetrix. Have you ever seen the movie Cybernetrix?"
"Not many people have. It was a B-movie rip-off version
of Tron, made around the same time. It was horrible. It was pretty
much exactly like Tron but the effects were really substandard. The
only reason anyone watched it was for the T and A. The good
characters in Cybernetrix were green rather than blue, and the evil
characters were purple rather than red. Instead of the Master
Control Program, there was the Overlord Program. Instead of the
lightcycles, there were lazerbikes. They even spelled laser with a
Z. It was a terrible movie. The game is amazing though. Amazing!"
|The back cover of
the book gives the reader a glimpse
of a lazerbike.
||Light Cycles from
On page 26, Wesley gets lunch at Taco de Carlos. This was a fast
food chain spin-off from
Carl's Jr. started in 1972. The chain was
sold off in the early '80s and most of the restaurants became Del
Also on page 26, Wesley sees a picture, in Don's cubicle, of the
19th incarnation of The Doctor on Dr. Who, played by Adrian
Edmondson. Although Dr. Who is a real British
television series, the character has only gone through 13
incarnations thus far. The higher number of The Doctor's
incarnation is probably intended to indcate that the
original TV series was not cancelled in 1989 as it was in
our world (later returning in 2005), hence more incarnations
of the The Doctor were needed over the years.
Adrian Edmondson is a real British actor (pictured at right); he has yet to play The
Doctor. (Photo from
On page 27, Don mentions the Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 video game
system was released in 1977 and was the most popular game system
through the 1980s.
On page 33, Wesley watches Electric Boogaloo 5 on AMC.
is the American Movie Classics cable channel. "Electric Boogaloo 5"
is probably an ironic reference to the 1985 film Breakin' 2:
Electric Boogaloo, the sequel to Breakin'. The term
"electric boogaloo" has since become a mostly derogatory term for an
unwanted or poorly made sequel (although "electric boogaloo" is also
the name of a funk dance style developed in the 1970s).
Page 36 mentions that the Cybernetrix armor is as light as
a company that makes mostly lightweight
plastic containers for the home kitchen.
On page 43, the denizens and users in Cybernetrix are seen to be
drinking a glowing blue fluid called electric tea by Wesley (known
as juice by Cybernetrons). This is similar to the glowing blue
fluid/water drank by denizens of the Electronic World in
Page 43 also introduces Omega, who seems to be the Cybernetrix
equivalent of Sark. Oddly, there does not seem to be an equivalent
On page 48, Wesley reflects that he had more fun in the Cybernetrix
world than he'd had since he'd visited Disneyland when he was 8
years old. This is presumably a reference to the one-and-only
Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, CA, opened in 1955, though in
the alternate history of the novel there may be multiple
Page 48 tells us that while their consciousnesses are uploaded to
the Cybernetrix world, the physical bodies of the players are in
what doctors have termed "yellow sleep", a kind of sleeping in which
an REM state is never reached. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and
indicates when a person has reached the dream state of sleep.
Page 58 mentions that Amy has platinum blond Eurythmics hair in
the real world. The Eurythmics were a U.K. musical duo comprised of
singer Annie Lennox and musician David Stewart. Annie Lennox was
known for her platinum blond hair in the '80s.
If you pay attention throughout her appearances in the novel, you'll
notice that Amy's dialog is almost always followed by "Amy cried",
as in "You picked up Lazerbike Fight pretty
fast!" Amy cried.
On page 59, Steve discusses the Cybernetrix gladiator games
of Discs of Death, Voltro Jai Alai and Hover Tanks. These are
similar to the Tron games of Deadly Discs; the
electronic jai alai game; and Space Paranoids. The hover
tanks in Cybernetrix are later revealed to be similar to
the Recognizers of Tron, but shaped like an M.
On page 73, platform 069DD is described as an area of the adult
section of Cybernetrix. 69 is the common English term for the sexual
position which allows two persons to give simultaneous oral sex. DD
refers to a large cup size in a bra.
Page 87 tells us that Cybernetrons (bots) are not designed with
genitals. However, Wesley's bot lover Xiva23 does have a thin crease
between her legs that somewhat resembles a vagina.
Page 102 mentions Don using a Commodore Notebook. Commodore was a
brand of personal computers that was extremely popular in the 1980s.
The company declared bankruptcy in 1994, never having produced a
notebook computer. Obviously in the world of this novel, Commodore
survived and thrived to current times.
On page 103, Wesley and Don speculate on a Dungeons and Dragons
or Star Wars version of Cybernetrix. This is not
all that different from the MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online
Role Playing Game) that currently exist such as
Galaxies (now closed) and
Dungeons and Dragons
On page 104, Wesley buys Squeeze-it and Fruit Wrinkles. These are
both sugary foods of the '80s which are no longer produced.
Squeeze-it was a fruity/sugary water beverage in a rubbery/plastic
bottle. Fruit Wrinkles were a sort of dried fruit/sugary snack, like
a chunk of fruit roll-up.
On page 111, Wesley eats at
Wienerschnitzel. This is a fast food
chain in the U.S. southwest specializing in hot dogs.
Also on page 111, Wesley goes to the movies to see Ghostbusters
7. In the real world, there have been only 2 Ghostbusters
movies, both released in the 1980s, with a third in perpetual
discussion. A remake of Ghostbusters with a mostly female
cast was released in July 2016.
Page 140 mentions the types of animals to be seen in the Cybernetrix
zoo: squawking holo-brids, sea-squirms, tigerhawks, snakebabies, and
Page 142 reveals that, like the Electronic World of Tron,
Cybernetrix has I/O towers for communicating with the real world.
The lazerbike chase on page 149 is similar to a scene from
Tron's Light Cycle battle, including some of the dialog!
On page 161, Wesley is described as wearing
British Knights shoes.
British Knights is a shoe company founded in 1980.
On page 163, Wesley is in the Pearl District of Portland. This is a
real district in Portland.
As the novel nears its close, several Portland street names are
dropped as Wesley investigates the war zone the U.S. has become from
the Cybernetron invasion. 23rd Avenue, Burnside, and 11th Avenue are
all within proximity of each other in Portland. Xiva23's new
apartment is described as being on 11th around the corner from the
library; this is a fairly true-to-life description of the area and
probably refers to Multnomah County Library.
On page 166, Wesley writes down an address on Pound Puppy notebook
paper. Presumably, this is a reference to Pound Puppies, a toy and
animated series line in the '80s.
Xiva23's (formerly Shelly's) apartment, is filled with '80s clothing
jammers, scrunch socks, stonewashed jeans,
Guess shirts and
On page 178, Xiva23 tells Wesley that the user forces have been
driven "across the river". This probably means the Willamette River
since they are in the Pearl District near the Willamette (the other
Portland river being the Columbia).
Also on page 178, it is revealed that Omega has commanded that the
AIs shall not be known by the user term "bots" but as netrons.