It’s awards season, the time of year that strikes fear into the heart of every writer while simultaneously stoking the flames of what-ifs.
The only thing I have that’s award-eligible this year, is my debut science fiction novel Implanted, that was published by Angry Robot this August in trade paperback and ebook. An audiobook version came out at the end of October from High Bridge Audio. I’m immensely proud of it, between its mash-up of cyberpunk and solarpunk elements, the homage to espionage and romance, and a deep-dive into communication theory.
After all, when you’re writing about the future, you can never have too many ideas in my opinion. And mine tend to come to me snarled together, interwoven and inseparable, or in great big chains like dominoes falling into place, one right after another.
It’s gotten some great reviews, between the ambitious world and a turbo-charged second half, but I’d love for it to find even more readers. In case you’re still on the fence about the book, here’s a look at some of the themes I explore in Implanted:
This is a story about the coming climate apocalypse.
So many different potential futures stretch out before us. But as recent reports suggest, it’s increasingly likely we’ll have to pay the piper for all the damage we’ve wrought to Mother Nature, and god help us when that debt comes due. In the world of Implanted, the worst has already happened. After too many years of storm-leveled towns, receding coastlines, drought, flood, pollution, and devastating fighting over food and resources as governments try (and fail) to provide for their people, domed cities have become humanity’s only option to escape the ravages of a world pushed to the brink after so many years of abuse.
What would make such a disruptive population shift into a constrained environment successful? Think about it. If you had to bundle up your life, abandon your home, and take refuge in a domed city, what would bring you solace?
This is (also) a story about hyperconnectivity.
For the citizens of New Worth, it’s neural implants that make day-to-day life more bearable along with the network that provides them with an unending array of information, entertainment, and ways to connect with other users. After all, when you lose everything, what’s one more piece of your humanity?
Roughly two generations later, when the book starts, the tech has matured with the city. While everyone in New Worth is granted equal protection from the hostile environment outside, their lives inside the dome are dictated by status, credit balances, and career potential. Those with the right credentials have every advantage as they literally rise through the ranks, living out their lives on the city’s luxurious upper levels. Everyone else remains landlocked below – choked off from light, constrained by space, and constantly inundated by others tied to the same fate. The one bright spot on the horizon is Emergence – the day when the dome finally comes down, and they can return to the land.
After all this time, implants are still most people’s go-to choice to cope with living under glass. But taming the network’s growth has become virtually impossible – too much of the city’s infrastructure relies on it – which in turn has made data security increasingly difficult.
So… this is also a story about information security.
The government and business sectors have been sinking so much money and manpower into chasing down bugs and backdoors and staying on top of new advances, they’ve had to come up with a new way of doing things. Getting back to basics, with a twist, of course. Physical instead of digital delivery of information, the twist being the DNA-encoded blood cells as the new format.
Enter Aventine Security, a clandestine organization that specializes in shuttling information too sensitive for the network across the city. What makes their elite couriers so special isn’t the state-of-the-art training or gear they’ve been provided with, but a special property of their blood that allows them to carry encoded information that makes it undetectable, unhackable, and untraceable. And people are willing to pay top dollar for their services…and their discretion.
And perhaps most importantly, Implanted is a female-centered cyberpunk story.
Which in my mind at least we need more of. Men’s visions of our technological future dominate the field, too often filled with oversexualized women with problematic characterization (dentata’s anyone?). The list of women publishing cyberpunk is short though memorable (frex. Pat Cadigan, Laura Mixon, Madeline Ashby, KC Alexander), and I humbly add Implanted to that list, where I tried to cram together as many things I love as I could, including high-tech gadgets, light espionage, romance, and hard questions about the future, while centering the female experience.
And I very much hope you’ll join me on the adventure…