As many of you know, November is the month that many people around the world put away the procrastination and pick up the pen, or more likely keyboard, to expand a late night idea into a novel. The challenge is to write fifty thousand words in the month, and there is an online community to support you in your goal. There you can sign up for an account, publicly keep track of the amount of words you write, and have others’ success or adulation inspire you to greater heights. Even computers want to be part of the fun.
I have never been much of a joiner, so I have never signed up and I am not absolutely sure how much of what I have written was done in various Novembers. This month I told myself that even if it sounded inviting I would not get involved. I have not written a longer work in a while but I am snowed under with editing and prep work for three other novels (those of you following the saga on facebook have heard about this). Thus, I convinced myself, I would work on other material, mark the many hundreds of pages of student essays, and in other ways distract myself from the project which leads to so much keyboard punching throughout the world.
I kept that promise, kind of. Another world, one recognizably ours, although in a dystopic and easily foreseeable future, kept intervening. I find myself writing stories set in a world where genetic code is modifiable through cheap and dubious online kits, where the poor, as always, struggle to maintain themselves while the gated communities house the rich whose virtual reality technology allows them to visit even the most dangerous slums. Laying in their beds, the rich stalk the dismal streets looking for ever more exciting carnage, a child splayed under the wheels of a truck, the bodies of Ebola victims, and holographic projectors allow them to be both present and invulnerable.
They appear as ghostlike beings, who drift along the hundred terabit trunklines, since they cannot substantiate far from a data source. If they pay enough for the protocols, and their VR gear is comprehensive, then their substantiation is stronger, and even modifiable, and they can hear and smell. Their point of view is what their avatar sees, so in almost every way they can go where they wish. Hackers flood to the thickest of the avatars, however, striving to get past firewalls and into the code stream. They wreak havoc with the imagery, but also hack along the line, getting to the source, which is the reclining meat body which controls so much of the wealth of the society. Since the avatars are the plaything of the rich, they are protected from these attacks by laws they have forced into place, and it is even illegal to touch them, since that would ruin the fantasy for the user.
In this world, young people want to hack, old people want to use the system to their advantage, and groups set up events where code reality is mixed with what they call real. Anything is possible if you have a high data line and money and willingness to take risks.
I have written three stories so far in what I have come to call the Code World series. “The Technology Infection” is about an event, and two irresponsible teens who attend in the flesh to watch, and it turns out, to participate in the mayhem. “Having a Baby” is the tale of an old woman immigrant from Vietnam who, grieving the loss of her family, has found an illegal and possibly immoral solution to her inability to procreate. “Moving with Meat” features Jailee, who wants to crack into the hacker community, but at thirteen years old she is an unlikely candidate unless she has something to offer.
Let me know if you are interested in reading them and I’ll keep you abreast of the progress.