The Global Cartoon: Empire in the 21st Century

Today, the new corporations and sectors associated with technocapitalism are influencing how we view human existence, life and nature, and are well on their way to impose new realities.

–  Luis Suarez-Villa

What I’m about to portray is the sort of open nightmare of a neoliberalist future, a dystopic vision of the control machine of this corporatist socio-cultural complex extended to maximum overdrive, an open-ended structure for an unfinished history of the future. As I think through many of the current issues of my dystopic novel trilogy I’m working through the layers of this world building scenario, stretching the canvas and extrapolating based on certain known givens in our present society and technologies.

As food scarcity becomes more and more apparent in the years to come, and as a result health, nutrition, and global food production take on ominous priority within the socio-political spectrum we will begin seeing technology and capital merging in ways that may become irreversible. The use of bioengineered seeds may introduce anomalies that in the short term resolves the food crises but introduces unknown variables into the genetic heritage of life on earth as we’ve known it. With the promise of bioengineering and synthetic life forms corporate entities are transforming inorganic matter into living organisms, all the while patenting them as private property for marketability in some future economic system. These corporate entities operations will very likely lead to the creation of myriad living organisms, from viruses that can generate disease to microbes that produce fuels, to human organs for replacement, to new animal species and possibly humanoids, all created as corporate property. A new industry and a vast new market may thus be created for synthetic life, affecting most any aspect of human existence and of nature.

In the technocorporate City-States of this future corporate entities will hire or design workers based on form and function, creating the desired traits through genetic design or temporary clone bank retrieval systems. Since these corporate entities will own the blueprint for such cloned entities, which having already been extensively practiced on numerous animal and plant species by corporate entities seeking to profit from their use, there will be no conflict of an ethico or socio-cultural consideration.   These entities will be the private property of the corporations and can be dealt with as any other organic or inorganic commodity. Designer babies will be bred and grow up within corporate enclaves oblivious to the mores of twentieth-century culture of family, etc. They will work in the hives of the future as drones within a maximum system of efficiency and rationality. Some will function as bureaucrats, others as engineers, while still others in any of the major guilds based on a scientistic naturalism that endorses a soft version of a Theory-of-Everything.

Knowledge will be universal and distributed within a technology that is invasive to the whole of the population within these corporate enclaves. Nanotechnology, combined with advances in computing, telecommunications, intelligent software and biomimetics, will turn most of these Enclaves into pure surveillance societies, where most every personal activity is monitored and archived in corporate datatanks. The end of individual privacy coupled with greater social, political and economic control, will allow these powerful corporate entities to play a fundamental role as providers of technology, executors of surveillance, and controllers of public governance for their regions.

Experimentalism represents the ethos of this new technocapitalism. Experimentalism will be at the core of technocorporate states— experimentalism for the sake of profit and power above everything else.  To have any chance of success, experimentalism must have no bounds. It must encompass everything, anything, that corporate strategy deems worthy of pursuing— human existence, life, work, nature, the planet or even the cosmos— whenever they happen to be of use to corporate power. Corporate enclaves will no longer be bound by humanistic creeds or ethics, but will be based solely on a new Prometheanism, omnivorous and total. Research is driven by profit, not impersonal knowledge for its own sake. The bottom line will rule all forms of experimentalism. The world as an aesthetic playground, a laboratory of desire: global society, all of humanity, life and nature will become guinea pigs in this experimental laboratory of the future technocapitalist corporate apparatus.

The technocorporate state lives and dies by research, and by the appropriation of the results of research, systematization is a fundamental necessity. Corporate power and planning actively and strategically sets research agendas, and that it strives to control and manipulate the course and scope of research programs, along with their outcomes, and whatever results can be appropriated in order to extract value. Yet, the institutions that embody this experimentalist ethos will not only be deeply grounded in technological research, but must also exploit a vital intangible, creativity, whose qualitative character makes it practically impossible to program. It is this intangible factor that will make or break a City-State and its technocorporate agendas. Without innovation and creativity these new technocorporate states will die, therefore they are caught in the moment of rediscovering the need for wildness, for real humans who have creative potential, and who unlike their clone drones can actually think for themselves.

This means that creativity cannot be generated or reproduced internally by the technocorporate power, through its control of the corporate domain. “The socially mediated nature of creativity imposes major dilemmas on technocapitalist corporate power, mainly because of its curtailed control over its most vital resource, and because of its need to influence the external societal forces that reproduce creativity”.(1 ibid.)

New asymmetrical forms of warfare will continue as these disparate City-States vie for the remaining resources of the planet. The new tools of warfare will involve genomics and genetic engineering, synthetic bioengineering, nanotechnology, biomimetics, intelligent software and advances in computing and communications, to produce diverse war machines, animal-like war robots, cyberwarfare, and possibly genetically engineered humanoid soldiers that can more effectively kill and be expendable.

Because of legalistic hijutsu corporate entities by the mid 21st Century rule the judicial systems through Council Drones, and with its major battles over the domain of  intellectual property rights won they’ve built a legal system that encompasses every creative activity within their respective corporate domains. The all-encompassing character of technocapitalism and of its corporate apparatus extrapolates this and other pathologies to the world, imposing new realities that influence vital aspects of social existence such as our governance, how we view social justice, and how we deal with life and nature.

Yet, outside the closed structure of these technocorporate enclaves lies the world of old humanity still vigorously hanging on, getting by, struggling in the ghettoes, slumlands, and tent cities beyond the perimeters of these gated paradises of the elite. How do these humans of the old civilization live? How do they survive? What do they think? What do they believe? One need go no further than to study and wander the broken worlds of Neza-Chalco-Itza (Mexico City), Orangi Town (Karachi), Dharavi(Mumbai), Khayelitsha (Cape Town), Kibera (Nairobi) as well as Bogota, Colombia; Baghdad, Iraq, Venezuela, and Ghana. One could spend years living in these realms, visiting and speaking with the people who live in these places. Currently, there are 200,000 of these communities across the world, according to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, most of them in and around cities, and that number is growing exponentially. This will only get worse. These are the throwaway people, the people of a forgotten humanity. We, too, will become a part of that in the future that is coming at us in accelerating disquiet. Are you prepared? How will humans overcome their plight in such indifference? How can they reestablish relations to each other and form new intensive forces to counter the machine worlds of the technocorporate enclaves? How do children grow up in such worlds? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? And, most of all what allows them to laugh or cry, to be human? What would be the vectors of ‘meaning’ in such a meaningless world?

In my mind I see a young girl, a clone that has through no fault of her own been ejected from the enclave into this seething mass of humanity that lives in the squalor of an extended encampment of tenements and dwellings surrounding the protected valley of Torquz a City-State above what used to be Old San Francisco. I also see a young boy who is troubled and struggling to make sense of his family and world, who has a gift, a secret creative spark that others fear and the technocoporate elites want to manipulate to their own advantage. The two children happen on each other by chance or design? What happens from there is the story of narrative struggle as they are caught between total control and utter chaos, navigating through its harsh ‘aesthetic playground’ or micropolitical ‘symphony of becomings’. (thanks, Edmund!). Both of these children have defects, the one cannot speak (the girl) the other is partially crippled. Yet, they have a fondness for music and movement, and discover in the slumreg music of the barrios and its technokinetic dance rhythms: a speedrift aural sculpture that rides the riversong planes of intensity where bodies flow into the slipstream of the real. The technocorporate system is watching all this, they understand that it is this spontaneous creativity that is at the heart of their power. They seek in these two children the force of creativity they can use at the center of their own technological control system. This tension between the needs of the collective corporate entities that rule these City-States and the individual creativity and wildness of real humans that roam the periphery of civilization is at the center of the three projected books.

Obviously this is an exaggerated scenario, and I admit is a part of an ongoing battle within my own fictional modeling of a dystopic novel I’m writing about the near future. Hopefully will not be this bleak, but I figure we should push things to the limit and see where they take us. It doesn’t look pretty does it. And, as with all things, it will probably be a lot worse than any sci-fi writer could even imagine. Let’s hope our imaginations fail us and that we turn away from such dark worlds.

1. Luis Suarez-Villa (2013-01-28). Globalization and Technocapitalism (Kindle Locations 90-94). Ashgate. Kindle Edition.

21 thoughts on “The Global Cartoon: Empire in the 21st Century

  1. nice, maybe also kind of morlochish underclass of loose packs of those left-behind, rendered useless, and who over the generations have lost many of the social skills like empathy that come with having a place in the social order and so now have very primitive brains/drive and are devolving?

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    • lol

      What about a real collective subject of resistance based on the proletariat, women, the Palestinian people, African Americans, etc. And just as Foucault showed how specific forms of domination arise within specific historical trajectories, we can provide a model of resistance to those forms of domination that can occur without resorting to any form of identity politics that subjects us to their encodings. Just because these people are now trapped doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. A dystopian novel is anything if not critical, and as it throws people into the worst case scenario it should also push those thus thrown into resistance and some renewed sense of meaning and purpose. If equality is the touchstone of a democratic resistance, this means that there is no avant-garde, no necessary divisions between those who think and those who act. If we are to carry the lessons of the past revolutions and resistances with us, then, we must conceive and practice struggle not with democracy as an end in some mythical future, but democratically in its very unfolding of our becoming human now. It’s not about revenge and resentment, it’s about justice and a shared sense of space.

      As for devolution: I see all the neoliberalists within their gated paradises as the one’s that are devolving, losing their abilities and their truly creative powers of invention. That’s why they must seek out such powers among the remaining conclaves of humans. It is the anarchist in me that is centering in on creativity and spontaneity as the key to our future, not these pure and efficient rationalist smart cities filled with clones and enhanced humans who have conformed so much to the control dogmas they constructed that they have themselves forgotten that essential component of being human: the creative impulse.

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      • heh, it’s the social worker in me that is actually studying the development/devolution of the neurocultures of poverty and the associated/escalating personality-disorders, how about a feral underclass and a number of monkish cells of lightkeepers amidst the dark ages/edges?

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  2. Yea, I was already thinking of a resurgence in shamanism and knowledge keepers, or carriers of the old narrative devices of stories, histories, etc. Maybe not monkish in the old religious sense, but in the neopaganish sense of carriers of the sacred/profane knowledges. Obviously in such harsh worlds of survival there is a need to study these present slum worlds. There are many ways of confronting the pressure of poverty and waste. How do we build a just society in the midst of such oppression that is already on our planet in such places? It’s by continuing our resistance, by creating spaces of non-oppression even in the midst of this waste and poverty that allows us to remain human and aware of our heritage, by practicing both self-sufficient and egalitarian actions continually as the core of our value systems. Of remaining fierce in the face of oppression. Of continuing to teach our children our ways by practicing them moment by moment.

    Of course for a sci-fi novel it needs to be entertaining and have the obvious elements of danger and lighteness, humor and tears. I don’t want to make it into some dark moral vision that paints everything in simplistic terms. Somehow have to find that balance of novelty and pragmatic realism of people truly working through these issues not in some philosophical, theoretical way, but through action and decisions. Oh, sure there will be moments and scenes of give and take, of a sort of Socratic dialectic of question and answer interspersed here and there. All the usual conflicts among groups of people trying to collaborate in the midst of such direct democracies. I think conflict is a part of being creative and inventive, if we all thought the same way we’d be like the clone drones I’ll portray, who are controlled through nanotechnology and implants that conform to very specific rules of rationalized algorithmic guidelines. It’s such transhuman visions of our future we must expose as voids and dead end paths. And, even that, could turn differently as I’ll try to show through the young clone girl who freed of the restraints of this neoliberal technology of control begins to finally think for herself for the first time… not sure of the actual mechanisms of that or the neuroscience, but all these ideas of plasticity seem to convey the sense that the brain is continuously forming new connections and links that allow it to replace older functions. Much more to learn in this area…

    But, hey, its a first stab … I’m sure people will point out the problems in the science… sci-fi fans are always quick to critique such things… so I’ll have to research these segements as I come to them in the book. Most of it is scoped out, but its in the details, always the details … 🙂

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    • certainly not trying to box in your vision just never very satisfied with a kind of going-native Romantic vision like in Avatar or even the Matrix.
      plasticity is overrated (unless you’ve suffered brain-damage) but certainly unexpected mutations and related environmental impacts/effects are pretty fertile grounds and there is always hacking.

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      • hmm… wasn’t even thinking of avatar or matrix… both are too idealist in presumption and intent… I was actually thinking of real life scenarios all around us in the actual slums I mention above… in some of the novels, sociological and ethnographical literature I’m reading there is a great resurgence in creativity as well as pragmatic resistance in these places…

        as for the hacking, the young clone girl is already posthuman in the sense that her body is made of cybernetic organisms: nanobots of one form are another… I was thinking of how we ourselves are hosts to bacteria, microbes, viruses, etc. How would synthetic bodies be tied together? In ways we have as yet to understand fully…

        And the interaction of her with the young boy involves a sort of hacking, or transference of aspects both ways of his humanity to her, and of her posthumaness to him and of all that entails in a realistic pragmatic way.

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      • and, of course that brings up the question of what I mean by ‘clone’… do I mean some human copy, a copy of a copy? Or do I mean a copy of the model, a virtual copy that is of the patterns of the human original incarnated into a synth, a synthetic physical manifestation? And, what would that really entail, obviously not the original, but a mutation from the original that is being molded by the neoliberal elite I envision as even more inhuman, who have created a sort of hive mind mentality connected to their AI systems.

        I’ve left out more than I should in my descriptions… so much in the details!

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    • Yes, yes… this is part of the solution. People helping themselves to discover that spark of creativity within their own worlds, then expanding out in project after project to encompass the earth. Too bad that it is violence that always seems to get such things going… hard lessons, but does this not show that even in the midst of darkness and violence there are possibilities unforeseen by our overlords? Whatever we do to resist it has to come out of such worlds as this… and, from people such as this who have seen what death entails and have discovered another way!

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  3. J: “Sounds way cool — does anyone still say that?”
    K: “Did anyone ever say that?”

    Okay, so that’s an excerpt of my conversation with my daughter, who’s slightly beyond the YA demographic, a dual neuroscience-English major presently reading House of Leaves, an avid Supernatural viewer/commentator, and a very good fiction writer. We both like what you’ve got going on here idea-wise, Noir. She’s enthusiastic about your let-it-rip extreme style, e.g. the “speedrift aural culture” sentence. I was momentarily intrigued by the concept of “projected books” as being a futuristic content delivery vehicle in the world you’ve sketched out here — I must have been undergoing immersion already.

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    • Great! bow >x< thanks for the vote of confidence… haha! Yea, I see it as a young adult series, who knows where it will lead, but for the first one it will open up with the young girl and her story… don't want to spill the beans, yet 🙂

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    • ‘that balance of novelty and pragmatic realism’

      As simple as that is, that’s what I thought needed some remark, and it’s hard to know whether just ‘nice’ (by itself as a whole comment: ‘Nice.’ would do, or ‘cool’, which never seems to go out of style. But I think it’s life itself that has to have this balance of novelty and pragmatic realism.

      John–I don’t quite get your conversation with K. Of course people said that, but ‘way’ was maybe bigger in the 90s. Are you just saying it became ‘out’ very quickly? I mean, aside from that your both saying the ‘project here is cool’, etc. It’s still said some. A few years ago Sayeau was still using it a good bit on AWP. When the Village Voice was still a real paper (talk about entropy, it really oughtn’t exist at all, it’s that embarassing; I don’t even think they put it in the street boxes for free anymore), they used it all the time, especially for ‘way nasty art’ or some such.)

      Noir–you say ‘the near future’, and I remember when people were talking about that becoming more popular, also 90s, mid-90s. The first I was really struck by was the Oliver Stone/Bruce Wagner miniseries ‘Wild Palms’, which was known to have as one of its major motifs the Church of Scientology, there called ‘the Church of Synthiotics’. I still think it’s a masterpiece, and have never forgotten it during the years when its ‘near future’ was maturing. It bothered me so much when it was on network TV in 1993–it’s ‘near future’ is 2007–I couldn’t watch whole episodes (I know, dreadfully delicate sensitivity, but people can live with it till they can stop it). I’ve just been writing very small posts about Lawrence Wright’s brilliant new document about Scientology, which I just finished Sunday, but he doesn’t mention that or the New Age pop spin-offs, like EST, founded by Werner Erhart, who was himself a Scientologist, and perhaps their harassment made him go into offshore Caymanism, who knows. Wright did mention celebs who stayed a few weeks or months, unlike Tom Cruise and John Travolta (decades), and one was Oliver Stone. But I woudn’t be talking about that here if it weren’t for the ‘near-future’ matter. I think those are the most effective, even though they’re rarely literally accurate in their prophesies. I thought about ‘2007’ all during the years after ‘Wild Palms’ was shown, and then bought it in some vhs sale and studied it closely. Much of it is not outmoded. One of the 2-hour nights was called ‘Rising Sons’, and that happened to be one of the years when David Miscavige’s (head of church) sudden physical bludgeonings of people, including his top colleagues, are first reported by Wright to have begun. He’d always been violent (his family attested to this when he was just starting out as a ‘rising son’. They’d all been beaten, parents and sister, and even DM admitted it at the time; the later ones are all denied by the church, and yet the testimony by victims is extensive.) So sometimes the ‘future years’ can already be in evidence at the time of writing the futuristic script/novel.

      You keep talking about Mike Davis, I guess with emphasis on ‘Planet of Slums’, which I haven’t read. I tend to remember strange things that are predicted for awhile, just like I watched to see if 2007 was going to seem like ‘the Corrupt Fathers of the Church of Synthiotics’ run by Angie Dickinson and Robert Loggia in the miniseries. It took place in Los Angeles, where Scientology has long had its major center, even though there are others, Clearwater, etc., and I went there in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, as well as most preceding years of the 00’s. I didn’t think such a thing had happened especially there, but when I read the Wright book last week, it did seem that the Hollywood Blvd. tourist area is especially saturated with Scientologists even if you’re not talking to one (they don’t seem like much of anything in New York.) I also found out that they own much more real estate in that central Hollywood area than even was obvious. This includes the Psychiatry: An Industry of Death Museum, which I’ve passed, but not known till now is Scientology’s, although I should have, since anti-psychology and -psychiatry is one of their cornerstones, as exemplified by Cruise talking about Brooke Shields’s use of ADP’s some years ago. Okay, I mentioned Davis’s weird predictions in ‘Ecology of Fear’ and i think there’s an earlier one ‘City of Quartz’, also about Los Angeles. He talks about these divisions into ‘ecotones’, and I believed it all when i was reading it, but that’s been over 10 years or more, and I remember ‘Ecology of Fear’ more. The encroaching wolf communities may take place in some areas, he says even in the Hollywood Hills (well, there are signs for rattlesnakes right in Griffith Park), but this talk of the ‘unpublicized tornadoes’ of Los Angeles that I mentioned on another comment was not convincing even to me (before various leftist bloggers started saying that his research sounded more authoritative than it actually was), but also the matter of the ‘absolutely-eminent’ earthquakes courtesy of the San Andreas Fault in Downtown LA and Beverly Hills have just not happened. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem to matter much to me if centrism is ideological or not, how about the ridiculous exaggerations of fact of both left and right? Therefore, how am I not to conclude that Mike Davis is not writing a kind of non-fiction science fiction? At least some of the time.

      I don’t know much about sci-fi, so when I heard that ‘near-future’ had become more the trend (someone said this to me about 1996), it was immediately more interesting. Films like ‘Strange Days’, with Ralph Fiennes, didn’t make it, though, that one’s dead.

      Just to say I also like the energy you’ve got going in all these discussions here, whether or not I’m going to be as interested in the novel (I might or might not be.) There was NYTimes reporting of miniscule corporate tax today that comes to mind with your talk of corporate exploitation (I thought that was what most bloggers said had already happened, at least Marxist ones). I didn’t know this worked this way, though. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/business/the-trouble-with-taxing-corporations.html

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      • By the ‘beatings’, I meant the ones Miscavige is first reported by victims to have done were around 1993, excepting the family telling someone ‘don’t touch him if he has an asthma attack or he’ll beat you’, not 2007, which the series is predicting. What the series had was open fisticuffs by men in suits in 2007, it seemed shocking for even the future back then, although it apparently was going on in a number of offices, not just Scientology; a 2001, summer, Rolling Stone article talks about a culture of beating people up in the offices of Death Row Records, Suge Knight and the rest. I was still shocked, even then, I guess just naivete. I thought it was mostly non-physical backstabbing. But I’ve still never heard of it in the big corporations, although such violence probably does exist in those offices too (harder to imagine in Goldman Sachs, isn’t it? even if they’re loathsome.)

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      • I’m suggesting that the use of “way” as modifier of “cool” seems to be passe in the young adult sector. Some expressions seem to hang on for decades, like “dude,” whereas I’m not so sure about “vibe.” I suppose if one writes futuristic fiction for a YA audience one attempts to introduce idioms that would be cool in that future world but that aren’t in use at all now. I think about the intricate patois in Clockwork Orange, reflecting Burgess’s persistent linguistic interests. Even though none of that lingo every really caught on, it enhanced the futurity of the fiction as well as the literary cleverness. Cyberpunks do it too; though I’m not immersed in the genre I get the sense that some of the futuristic slang cuts across authors. It can get tedious and kitschy, as when American writers use phonetic spellings for regional dialects and so on.

        Of Mike Davis’s works I’ve read only Planet of Slums, which I thought excellent and well-researched. Since it was written just before the global real estate crash I would expect the worldwide urban collapses to be even more dire and pervasive now. I’ve not read any of his L.A. documentation.

        In the context of your trilogy, Noir, it’s clear that there’s a lot of creativity going on in the future, including bioengineered foods, intense AI, cloning, and artificial life forms. These forms of creativity controlled by the corporate owners, used to enforce a paranoiac surveillance state and to replace human workers with more malleable and exploitable sources of labor. So too the corporate interests restrict supply of all this sci-tech creativity to those who can afford them. Of course this is already the case, with hunger being largely an artifact of capitalist distribution and pricing rather than absolute shortage. So it’s an acceleration of corporate control/exploitation of human creativity. I’m curious about the two heroes of the trilogy, who manifest a creativity that “the technocoporate elites want to manipulate to their own advantage,” which presumably they do all the time with other creative types, wherever they can be found. Do the heroes find some sort of inner moral fortitude to resist the urge to sell out, or do they exercise some less obviously marketable sort of creativity that surprisingly turns out to benefit exclusively the poor masses and not the elite? I suppose I’ll have to wait and see.

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      • Yep, Davis writes sociological fiction that interpolates factual dispersals within socialist narrative structures. There are so many paths technology could take we are like mythographers of an engineering vision that seems to be moving faster than my fingers on this keyboard. As I write about the actual settings for my world, the City-states themselves, the caste systems in which these clones will effectively live out the philosophy of the Same, the eternal return of the Same I try to imagine such an engineered, planned society where creatures or biogenetically created specifically for specific functions within the megapolises of the 22nd Century.

        I’m working on an essay post about the Clone angle…. thinking through the political, social, philosophical, technical, and even religious and atheological implications…. even the idea of a Unisex society of Elites that have given up reproductive sex for polymorphism, cloned beings of H++ enchanced for pleasure, knowledge, and intelligence, etc. Neutered bodies without sex organs… ambiguous, transgendered hybrids ruling the world. With this whole sub-caste system of clones… in the midst of this are one group of clones, the e-topes, empathic and metamorphic creatures who are mind shapers, or thought shapers.

        I want the novel to be immersive, to make the details so alive and the language fit the world in inventiveness that keeps the reader energized through scene after scene. I see it in the form of a fractal pattern that weaves patterns over and over in embellishments of baroque splendor and tension. To achieve that richness of detail and yet to splice the inaction in this closed totalitarian society within the gated City-States against the wildness that real humans have become… I want it to be speculative, but also to give a sense that this is the way it might actually happen if we take the wrong path forward… dystopias float between future promise and the gulags of present doom. I want to give that form that still keeps the future open to hope, yet has its real feet in the iron prison of present necessity.

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  4. John, thanks. I may have just missed ‘way’ until the 90s. ‘Vibe’ definitely 60s, but you also heard ‘vibes’ as in ‘good vibes’ then than now. Maybe just ‘vibe’ is relatively recent. One of the oddest was the way ‘grass’ was the cool word in the days when I smoked marijuana. Now ‘pot’ is still okay, and ‘weed’ is used, but someone told me that nobody said ‘grass’ anymore. I know one person who does, but he’s my age. ‘Way’ as in ‘way cool’ I never heard or read till sometime in the mid-90s, and it does seem to have nearly disappeared, which may be why K. said that. Short shelf life for that one.

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    • The idea of writing futuristic fiction for young adults immediately triggers self-consciousness about the possible anachronicity of my own coolness cred in use of language. When occasionally I watch a contemporary TV sitcom I’m made aware of my ignorance of contemporary cultural references and new popular idioms. I’m not sure I ever said “way cool” without the irony quotes, even in the 90s when it was.

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