Today, it’s been over a month since I self-published my first sci-fi novel, In A Greater Reality. It is set in 2028, mainly in Philadelphia, PA and Miami, FL. The book deals with the late stages in the invention of a groundbreaking technology, and how it affects the main characters. This technology is dubbed RETCON by the scientists. It is not an acronym, but simply “retcon” in capital letters. Even if you haven’t read In A Greater Reality, you likely already guessed that RETCON is a virtual reality world. I even made a promotional poster for my book, which is a faux advertisement made by the company that developed RETCON. The virtual world is managed by an array of photonic supercomputers (their processors use light signals instead of electrical signals).
In the book, the scientists developing RETCON are close to making it public. They just need to enhance some of the features and get rid of a few critical flaws. This is where the main characters come in. Some of them submit themselves to RETCON as beta testers. Others are brought into the project without their knowledge. Here are all of the important characters:
Frank Darren Polansky: The book’s protagonist. Frank is a sales clerk at a department store in Harleysville, PA. He has considerable skill at designing electronic devices, but hasn’t obtained a degree due to lack of money. Frank also has a younger sister, Courtney, whom he loves more than anyone else. One day, Frank meets a man who offers to help him and Courtney achieve their dreams. Frank is skeptical at first, though he later decides the risk is worth taking. He’s tired of being stuck in his small town getting paid minimum wage. Frank wants a chance at success and to meet his crush, Marjorie Howell.
Courtney Lillian Polansky: Frank’s younger sister. Like him, she ran out of money to finish her higher education. Courtney dreams of becoming a scientific researcher. At the moment, she is working as a reporter’s assistant. Frank loves Courtney so much that even if he never finds success, he hopes that she does. Although Courtney is a rather good-looking woman, she isn’t concerned about finding love yet. Courtney loves making friends, though…and this could lead to heartbreak later on.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Clarkson: Jackie is the oldest, closest friend of Frank and Courtney. She is rather quiet, but still likes to be among people. When Jackie was in school, she used to get picked on a lot. After Frank befriended her, no one teased Jackie anymore. In the years since, Jackie has fallen in love with Frank. When he and Courtney go missing, Jackie is the one who puts the most effort in finding them. She fears losing her chance to reveal her true feelings to Frank.
Dr. Kevin Sherman: Dr. Sherman is a celebrated physicist and electronics engineer. He currently teaches computer electronics at the University of Philadelphia. Dr. Sherman is one of the top scientists involved with RETCON. After an apparent chance encounter, Dr. Sherman recruits Frank and Courtney as beta testers. However, he decides not to tell them what they’ve really signed up for. Dr. Sherman is determined to make RETCON a success, even if he has to risk other people’s health to do so.
Marjorie Howell: Marjorie is the cousin of a fitness startup’s CEO. She works as the company’s PR manager. This, coupled with her good looks, have earned Marjorie a small degree of fame. Wanting some time to herself, Marjorie submits herself to the RETCON project. She brings along Shannon Larsen, her best friend. They decide to spend their summer in virtual Miami. There, Marjorie and Shannon meet Frank and Courtney. Marjorie starts a no-strings relationship with Frank, but ends up developing stronger feelings for him.
Shannon Larsen: Shannon is Marjorie’s best friend. She is rather adventurous and willing to try new experiences. When Shannon hears about RETCON, she readily accepts to become a beta tester. Inside, she is awed at how lifelike the world looks. Shannon thinks she wouldn’t know she was in a virtual world if no one had said so. Thrilled, Shannon takes the chance to do stuff she couldn’t do in the real world. She also meets Jeremy Killam, a fellow beta tester for whom she develops strong feelings.
Logan O’Neill: Logan is a close friend of Jackie’s. By extension, he’s also a good friend of Frank’s. Logan finds him a little hard to read, but still trusts him. When Frank goes missing, Logan isn’t too surprised. He guesses that Frank might have saved enough money to go start a new life elsewhere. Jackie refuses to believe that, knowing Frank would never abandon Courtney.
Priscilla Moore: Priscilla is Courtney’s best friend. She attends Philadelphia University, but is home for the summer. Priscilla helps Logan, Jackie, and the Polansky family search for Frank and Courtney. She really misses the latter. Priscilla is also Frank’s ex-girlfriend from a few years back. Courtney thought they’d make a lovely couple, but they didn’t last long. Priscilla still likes Frank, but only as a friend.
Dr. Prudence Ellsworth: Dr. Ellsworth is one of the top scientists working in the RETCON project. She is in charge of the supercomputer warehouse that powers virtual Miami. Dr. Sherman manages to get Frank and Courtney in there without Dr. Ellsworth’s knowledge. He wants to speed up RETCON’s graduation to public release status.
Jeremy Killam: Jeremy is one of the beta testers in RETCON Miami. He is from the state of Ohio. Jeremy was able to become a beta tester thanks to his uncle, a server technician at RETCON. After they first meet, Jeremy and Shannon take a liking to each other. They can’t help spending more time together, seeing all that RETCON has to offer. Jeremy is also drawn to Shannon because he thinks she’s gorgeous, and because she enjoys videogames.
Dr. Derrick Watkins: Dr. Watkins is one of the most famous and skilled electronic engineers of his time. He collaborated with Dr. Sherman in developing photonic computers. This significant technology development earned Dr. Watkins the Turing Award. He continues making contributions to the field of technology, the latest of which is RETCON. Dr. Watkins has spent several years working on that project, along with other prominent scientists.
Calvin Palmer: Calvin is an acquaintance of Frank’s. They both work at the same department store. Unlike Frank, Calvin is pretty content living in Harleysville. He likes the quiet life. After Frank and Courtney go missing, their friends go to Calvin to see if he knows anything.
Winston Polansky: Winston is Frank’s and Courtney’s father, as well as Natasha’s husband. Another of their wedding anniversaries takes place during the events of the book. He has moved through a variety of jobs, but never found much success. Winston now works as a security guard.
Natasha Polansky: Natasha is Frank’s and Courtney’s mother, and Winston’s wife. She works as a freelance press photographer. It is through this job that Natasha and Winston get to celebrate their latest wedding anniversary in Philadelphia. Natasha’s boss gifts them with a reservation at an exclusive restaurant. Courtney is almost as thrilled about it as her mom.
Gerard Howell: Gerard is Marjorie’s uncle. He is the CEO of Top Condition, a fitness venture. After Marjorie graduated from college, Gerard offered her the job of PR specialist. Marjorie’s charisma and talent for customer service help draw people’s interest in her and Top Condition.
Colin Humphries: Colin is a close friend of Marjorie’s and Shannon’s. He has feelings for the former, but she is too focused on her career to settle down. Colin doesn’t mind that, though. He’s not in a hurry to make Marjorie his girlfriend.
Landon Howell: Landon is Marjorie’s father. He and his family live in Philadelphia. Landon works for an aerospace engineering company. This has made the Howells one of the wealthiest middle class families in their city.
Deanna Howell: Deanna is Marjorie’s daughter and Landon’s wife. She works as a civil engineer. Deanna is the one who primarily keeps her family’s house up to date, structurally and technologically.
Damon Clarkson: Jackie’s father and the husband of Vivian. He plays a small role, mostly showing his indignation with Dr. Sherman’s kidnapping of Frank and Courtney Polansky.
Vivian Clarkson: Jackie’s mother, and Damon’s wife. She also plays a very small role. Vivian also condemns Dr. Sherman’s actions.
Nolan: Nolan is a computer-generated simulation of a human being. As an A.I., he oversees virtual Miami. The scientists in charge of RETCON created intelligences such as Nolan as a sort of checks and balances. Nolan is meant to approve any changes that a RETCON scientist wishes to make within the virtual world. If Nolan thinks the changes could be harmful, he’ll prevent them. Dr. Sherman was still able to smuggle beta testers inside RETCON because intelligences like Nolan weren’t programmed to prevent such occurrences.