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Countdown to the Dark Future: Ed Bolme

Each day this year, we have celebrated the impending arrival of the real year 2020 with a fact about the Cyberpunk universe. We call it Countdown to the Dark Future.

Cyberpunk 2020. Actual 2020. Get it?

What started off as something of a lark has grown into a beautiful thing, with fans of our original tabletop game of the Dark Future remembering nuggets of lore from sourcebooks they haven’t looked at in years and new fans coming to us from the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 video game learning the background of the world they’re already beginning to love. And we’ve loved every day along the way.

To finish off Countdown to the Dark Future, for the last nine days we are posting the memories and thoughts of fans, historians, critics, and the creators of Cyberpunk, past and present. Sometimes, being writers, they gave us more words than we could comfortably fit in the Countdown format. In those cases, we’ll be posting their full essay here.

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Open some of the best sourcebooks for Cyberpunk and there’s a good chance you’ll find Edward (Ed) Bolme’s name there. Night CityHome of the BraveAlice Through the Mirrorshades (a Cyberpunk/Paranoia crossover). Cybergeneration.

Edward has won a number of Origin awards (including for Sixguns and Sorcery for Castle Falkenstein) and written several novels set in Eberron and The Forgotten Realms and other settings.

Among Cyberpunk fans, Edward is best known for being the voice of the one and only Rache Bartmoss… the rogue Netrunning demigod who broke the NET forever. In today’s essay, Edward shares his thoughts on the subject as only he could. Buckle up, kids. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

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Writing Rache

Rache Bartmoss.

Rache Bartmoss is, as far as I can tell, an insane little gremlin that sits in a forgotten corner of my brain giggling at the walls and picking his toenails. Occasionally he leaps to his feet, banging his head against the ceiling, and shouts some random psychotic drivel,
then sullenly sits back down.

Rache Bartmoss is where pain and shame and rage should go to die, but instead they churn and ferment like some malevolent kombucha of doom.

Rache Bartmoss is also, by sheer coincidence, the first pair of words in every paragraph of this missive thus far, and presumably of several other paragraphs to follow.

Rache Bartmoss—see?—appeared in brief pull quotes in the original edition of Cyberpunk. He had been conceived, a twinkle in Pondsmith’s eye, but he was a ghost, an echo, until The Mike asked Yours Truly to write Rache Bartmoss’ Guide to the Net. He wanted a cyberpsychotic Hunter S. Thompson. Of course, I had never read Hunter S. Thompson, nor seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I needed the cash. And a cursory search of the nascent Intertoobs gave me enough of an idea to start.

So I unleashed my heretofore unknown muse to blow its brains out all over my computer keyboard.

And with that rather disturbing image of blood, brains, violence, and archaic user interfaces, Rache Bartmoss was born, which is to say he was spurted out like a zit into your roleplaying experiences, never to leave.

I handed over the intro to the Guide to Mike for review, just to ensure I was going in the right direction. Mike’s response? “Ragged edge of brilliance.” Not even a complete sentence. For a moment, I thought he meant I was almost, but not quite where he wanted me. But no, he meant that I was pushing beyond what he’d hoped for. So I cut loose.

(Side note: Rache Bartmoss’ Guide to the Net eventually launched, and we were all anticipating an Origins Award for it. But that year the Origins Awards were not held. Meh.)

The disconcerting aspect of writing Rache Bartmoss was how easy it was for me to write in his voice, especially at two o’clock in the morning. It was like a rusty spigot of doom: fairly easy to switch on, but occasionally difficult to switch off. Very quickly I became
indispensable as the voice of Bartmoss. I think it was Derek Quintanar who asked me to write the intro for Rache Bartmoss’ Brainware Blowout, saying, “Well, we could put the whole staff on it for half the day, or we can contract you and get something ten times better in an hour.”

(The Wizards of the Coast staff likewise fell short in some of their flavor text for the NetRunner CCG. Rache Bartmoss would never use the word wiggly. Unless he was taunting you for using the word yourself… right before squeezing your medulla oblongata in a Belgian waffle iron.)

Thankfully, RTal was happy to send me that work, because, as Dave Ackerman once said, “I think that writing Rache is somehow deeply therapeutic for you.”

Rache also jumped into Cybergeneration, which is a horribly underappreciated game. Then CGen and CP2020 both faded from the public eye.

I miss Rache. I really do. I wanted to do a Night City novel with Rache as a main character, or possibly as the narrator, but it never happened.

My understanding is that Rache is no longer A Thing™ in CP Red, let alone CP2077. That is sad, but inevitable. Hopefully one of his RABIDs is still around—at Gen Con 2019, one of the RPG events ended up with a liberated RABID flying off into the night in control of a fully armed AV4, and hopefully it continues flying that thing right into CP Red canon.

Rache Bartmoss, we’d salute you, but I see that you’re already saluting us… with both hands.

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