When David Louis Edelman started writing the Jump 225 trilogy, he thought the thrilling science of bio/logics, which lets you hack your body, was hundreds of years in the future... but now he thinks it's coming in our lifetimes.
The first book of the Jump 225 trilogy, Infoquake, will be the io9 book club selection for April — so now's your chance to start reading it. The final book of the trilogy, Geosynchron, just came out recently, and it wraps up a lot of the trilogy's questions about the role of high tech in society, and the role of business people in social change.
Edelman will be answering your questions on Infoquake soon, but for now he's answering our Geosynchron questions. And there are fairly minor spoilers in here.
A lot of the fun in the first two books was seeing how much of a capricious bastard your entrepreneur protagonist Natch can be. Was it harder to write for this new, more Zen version of Natch? Or was it more satisfying in a way?
Well, don't forget that Natch's conversion from selfish bastard to selfless bastard has been part of the plan all along. So as I was writing about some of his more dastardly deeds in Infoquake, I knew that I would be writing their counterparts in Geosynchron. For instance, at the beginning of the trilogy Natch pins his fake terror attack on the Pharisees, these weird religious fanatics who have walled themselves off halfway around the world. I won't spoil the end of the trilogy, but let's just say that part of it involves Natch getting friendly with the Pharisee Richard Taylor and asking a huge favor of him.
That said — yeah, it is generally more fun to write the bastard characters. It's more fun to watch them too, as anyone who saw The Dark Knight can attest. But it's too easy to write about crazy people and bastards and psychopaths. Anybody can write a character who's been wronged by society and wants to tear it down. Nihilism is boring. Much more challenging and rewarding to write about a character who's been beaten down by the world and yet is still willing to sacrifice everything to save it. As you know, I finished the first draft of the trilogy right before 9/11, and when I started the rewrite it was very important to me to write about redemption, to write something uplifting. That's what I hope I've accomplished with Geosynchron.
More than the first two books, Geosynchron seems to portray business people as almost superpowered. Natch uses his business acumen to take down drug kingpins, while Jara uses targeted marketing to thwart cultists. Were you consciously trying to show how businesspeople can be like superheroes?
I didn't have any conscious motivation to show businesspeople as superheroes per se. It's really just a side effect of your typical Aristotelian dramatic structure. Natch and Jara are shown throughout the books as businesspeople through and through; that's where their talents and their interests lie. The dramatic tension of the first two books came from seeing those two characters use (and sometimes twist) the rules of the business world to their advantage. You can't just go off in the third book and have them resolve their problems with kung-fu.
Don't forget also that my original intended audience was the high-tech dot-com crowd. I really wanted to make sure that business was the centerpiece of the books, not just businesspeople. I didn't want to just take a businessperson and throw him in the middle of a conventional action thriller. I wanted business and politics to be what these books are about. Sure, it's a little silly to think that a businessperson can solve the world's problems with creative marketing. But is it any sillier than having a teenaged boy save the world from an evil wizard? Not really.
How has the science of bio/logics changed in your mind since you wrote the first book? Has your understanding of its workings changed radically, or just slightly since Infoquake?
They've changed somewhat because some of this stuff is actually starting to happen. I came up with the basic ideas for this world around ten years ago, and solidified the technology around 2003. Since then technology has moved so fast that we might even live to see some of these inventions I had pegged for hundreds of years in the future.
The other thing that happened is that I had to sit down and figure out the basics of how MultiReal technology works. So much rides on this program that I had to have some of the details straight in my mind, even if I didn't actually put them in the books. I ended up having a few long conversations with a friend of mine who has a Ph.D. in physics, hashing out the details of how something like this might work. It forced me to take some of the things about bio/logic programming that I had left vague in the earlier books and solidify them.
One thing that jumped out at me a lot more in Geosynchron than in the first two books is the extent to which a posthuman world starts to look like virtual reality, because everybody's enhancements are constantly interacting. Even without SeeNaRee and telepresence and other things like that. Do you think a shared bio/logic world would necessarily become more like a virtual world?
Absolutely. Part of the subtext going on in the trilogy is that you're witnessing the gradual virtualization of humanity. Once we can overcome the Tyranny of Distance, the Tyranny of Biology, the Tyranny of Cause and Effect, and the Tyranny of Time as the Surinas intended, our lives retreat into the world of pure mind. Suddenly we don't have to worry about the constraints of the physical world anymore, so we're free to concentrate on the interplay of logic and ideas. And that is essentially a virtual world.
It's a concept that the Wachowski brothers were reaching for in The Matrix — in the original movie, at least — a world where imagination is the only limit. Of course, what the Wachowskis failed to realize is that living in the Matrix could very well be a good thing, if you're in control of it. Cypher had the right idea. Those people in Zion really should have been fighting to get back into the Matrix, to take command from the inside. I mean, why not live in a world where you can fly and dodge bullets and do all the things Neo can do? Much better ultimately than sitting around a cave eating slop.
Without giving too much away, a lot of the conundrums in Geosynchron have to do with the availability of a "reset button," thanks to MultiReal. Is this a kind of wish-fulfillment too? Do you think people secretly wish that a lot of technological advances could be rolled back, if they turned out to have unintended consequences?
Oh, sure. I'd happily give up the Internet to live in Kurt Vonnegut's world, where he could quit his job in PR, support his family and live a comfortable life on Cape Cod just by writing novels and selling short stories to the Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. Part of the problem with technological progress is that it's a one-way street. We can't forget the atom bomb or the birth-control pill or the spy satellite.
And the really frustrating thing, as the Islander Quell discovers during the course of Geosynchron, is that not only can you not roll back technologies you don't like, but you can't ignore them either. The Islanders have been running this centuries-long experiment where they've tried to set up an alternate society that holds back technologies they fear or don't approve of. It's ultimately unsustainable, but I can understand where they're coming from. I sometimes have this temptation to just pick up and move to some theoretical hick town in the middle of Kansas, where you can still gather the news at your leisure from the morning paper and where you don't need to maintain this constant hum of online activity. I'd love to just live out in an old house and write my novels and just tune out the whole dance of accelerating IT for a few years. But anyone who thinks they can flee from this new world or roll it back is fooling themselves. It catches up with you eventually.
Book cover art by Stephan Martiniere.