Today I’d like to welcome Alex Hughes, author of the absolutely awesome Clean (reviewed here).This fascinating combination of urban fantasy, science fiction and near-future dystopia was one of the best books that I have read this year. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!
A Discussion of the Tech Wars
by Alex Hughes
The Mindspace Investigations series (Clean, Payoff, Sharp, Marked) is set about sixty years after a devastating event called the Tech Wars. A madman and his followers circulate computer viruses that shut down the entirety of the world, from smart houses to smart cars, leaving huge casualties in their wake. Then, because of peoples’ brain implants and biotechnology, the viruses end up going bloodborne in one of the worst plagues the world has ever seen. Then, it gets worse. And yet worse.
In the end the Telepaths’ Guild steps in to save the world—but what they do to end the war changes forever how the normals see them. The Guild earned their freedom and their right to choose their own destiny—at the price of fear that hasn’t died out even sixty years later.
People often ask me why I leave so much of the Tech Wars backstory unsaid. Partially, I do this because my readers on the mystery side care far more about cases and pacing than they do about backstory. Partially, I enjoy holding secrets and parceling them out in small doses—it keeps both me and the reader interested over a long series. But mostly, I have this idea in my head that one day, when I’m good enough, I’ll write the Tech Wars as a separate series. To do that well, I’ll need plenty of empty space to fill with individual characters’ choices; the major players will need the room to tell me how they, personally, will change the world.
While I like structure, my best work often happens in these empty spaces, in the things left undecided. So I’m guarding that space, quietly, in consideration for a future series—guarding the magic that will let me write it well.
Today, though, I’ll open the box just a little more to talk about the personal side of the Tech Wars, where the idea comes from and what I have to say on the topic. (Warning: opinions ahead!)
The Tech Wars reflect a concern I and a lot of others have with technology becoming so much a part of our lives so quickly. I grew up with a green-and-black-screen computer, and later with the early Internet. I follow science, and I love the information and history available online, things I would never have been able to get twenty years ago without trips around the world and a lot of patience. I delight when new gadgets come out to make our lives easier. I am by no means a Luddite. But when the whole world is in your pocket, along with constant interruptions by social media and the latest trends, there is no silence.
With the advent of social media, the Internet—and all the people and ideas it involves—becomes a daily part of our lives, one click away. We are drowning in a sea of information all the time, and because the information is set in sound bites, even ‘scientific’ and ‘serious’ information is often sensationalistic and overly simplified to fit in the form. My attention span, at least, has shrunk significantly, as my brain becomes less and less comfortable with down time. I fight for that down time and that silence with a true passion, but it’s hard to get and hard to keep—there are constant distractions and deep thought doesn’t seem to be the currency of our generation. I have to be counter-cultural, and I have to turn off the world, to get my true work done.
I imagine a world one step ahead of ours, in which you are jacked into the sea of information directly through an implant in your head. The world is ‘enhanced’ so there is no more silence, no more direct experience without analysis and subtext. Every part of your life is run by a computer in direct communication with your preferences and likes. The polarization of politics is just the beginning; when you’re only shown information that agrees with your ‘preferences,’ confirmation bias takes over your life. Your way is the only way. You are always right. And, whatever fast food commercials say, that’s actually a dangerous thing. You begin to miss important clues that the world is about to change.
And then the wars begin, and the world falls apart. You’re forced to rely on neighbors—people you may never have met—and poorer folks unable to afford the implants. You’re forced to deal with reality without the filter, for the first time in your life. What kind of world change would that create?
I’m still figuring that out. But I can say, that kind of world-change would stick with you. People would remember, even two generations later, even after sixty years. And that’s the legacy of the Tech Wars in Adam’s world. A legacy of quiet fear and remembrance.
Alex Hughes is the author of the Mindspace Investigations series from Roc. She is a Semi-Finalist of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, a Finalist in the 2013 Silver Falchion Awards, and a graduate of the pro-level Odyssey Writing Workshop. Over the years, she has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area, including Decatur during her time at Agnes Scott College.
On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly. Find out more about Alex at her website or follow her on Twitter.
Alex is giving away one paperback copy of Clean to one lucky winner (US/Canada). To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.