Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Future Narratives: As Seen By Corey Doctorow and Luc Besson

luc bessonImagine a near future where the government is tracking our every movement through the devices we use. The latest news about the NSA doesn't make any of this sound all that far-fetched, but Corey Doctorow takes it to a whole new level in his book Little Brother. He describes the Department of Homeland Security as a thoughtless force that's driven by a large pocketbook, media rhetoric and a rock solid chain of command. Though not extremely clever, the DHS manages to become a menace through brute force and perseverance. The surveillance state monitors our purchases, our mobility via our toll, bus and train passes, and begins to consider dissent as akin to supporting terror, with teenage angst as a quality seen in potential Al Qaeda recruits. The surveillance culture even trickles down to the school systems that monitor the location of students via the RFID chips in their library books, or by spying on them through their school sponsored laptops.

What a world Doctorow has created. Although I don't remember a mention of the year, it is apparent that he is writing only five years into the future. Ten tops. He has extrapolated a trend that we are seeing in society today and envisioning how it will grow and branch and infect the society, finding its way to interesting locales such as Turkish coffee houses, high school social studies classes, and anarchist bookstores.

As a writer, I can see Doctorow painting a picture that is competent in tech, yes, but not overly so. His mentions of programs such as TOR, RFID and GIMP can be read about and understood on any tech news feed or Youtube tutorial. My point is: don't let the tech world scare you out of writing about tech. You want to reach a wide audience, so your explanations should be for the layman. No need to get too complicated. In fact, there's even a part in the story where Doctorow says to consult the Wikipedia (another great source for writing about tech) article about such-and-such (talking directly to the reader) if you'd like to know more.

Moving on, in my writing I'd like to extrapolate a lot of these trends out even further into the future. Some of this I do in my book Sumire, by the way. Imagine a world without any physical privacy, a world that is beginning to invade on our mind's privacy too. Imagine that place tells you to either accept the rules or get out. Allow yourself to be followed, recorded, detained, and investigated without warrant and you'll be setup with a cube to live in (which made me think of Bruce Willis' apartment in The Fifth Element by Luc Besson), a healthy ration of food three times a day, reasonable health care, and even an internet connection. But if you say no? Then it's out into the wild, into the forest to live like before electricity -- axes, bows and arrows, tents, and so on.

That world could exist one day, but it very well may not, as well. Only time will tell. But for my novel, I chose to add a third layer -- a lawless city center insulated by the lawful yet privacy-free Outskirts. The city center (or Soup) is a place where those people with the most wits and the best cybernetic add-ons can thrive. Or die. Like Doctorow, I try to inject the themes that I read about on futurism blogs and in the tech news, but am I tech savvy? Hell no. I know what Python is, yes, but I couldn't program if my life depended on it. I know what a bitcoin is, but my e-wallet is empty.

But none of that will stop me from writing my story.

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1 comment:

  1. Anyone else read Doctorow's Little Brother or care to share their thoughts on what a surveilled world might look like?


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