Sunday, September 20, 2009

Space Snark remarks....

... with a very deep bow to George Orwell... that Big Brother is watching your tweets. (Or could be.)

This is purely speculation. That's what I do. I write fiction, Romance, alien romance, in outer space, with sex, thickly larded with political satire.

For the grammarians, imagine if I'd omitted the Oxford (or Harvard) comma!

Social networking is an amazing and baffling phenomenon, as Jacqueline and I have mentioned. It could also be pretty scary. I'm sure the cyber punk writers are all over it. I don't write or read cyber punk, but I'm pondering it... or would be, if I weren't writing a different series set in 1995.

It would be very interesting to update "1984". No, I'm not thinking of calling it "2012". I'm thinking of calling it "Mating Net Revisited"! For one thing, I hate to be wrong, and would not like to date myself before the book is out.

A work of fiction called "2012" would be too close to "1984" for my comfort.

Think of the parallels.  The tapping of phone lines. Eavesdropping on private conversations. Cameras everywhere. Tracking chips in everyday objects you carry with you everywhere. The torture of civilians who are alleged to be enemies of the state using the threat of hungry rats. The Ministry of Truth in charge of propaganda and equivocation,  the Ministry of Peace as the war making arm, Big Brother on big screen tv... TVs you cannot turn off, TVs that are two-way so the broadcaster can see you, too. Woe betide a latter day Winston if he were to put his feet up on the table in front of the goggle box, assuming that showing the soles of your shoes (or feet) would be an insult in an imaginary 2012 world. I'm allowing my imagination to run riot, of course. Absurdity is one of the tools of the humorist

I'm interested in the nitty-gritty of tyranny. I write fiction about an alien royal family who are self-styled gods. They have a few things in common with our mythical genies and demons in that they are superb equivocators. If there is a loophole in a promise, they know all about it. If you make a wish, be careful how you word it because they'll make it come true in a way you never expected.

My god-Princes have a few extra senses, and some abilities that we'd call paranormal, but basically, they are rich, good-looking frauds. At some point, especially if I tell the rest of god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos's story, I ought to delve into the mechanics of tyranny, and how a very clever person with a few exceptional abilities could pass himself off as a god... and maintain the illusion.

Do you need to be at war for a successful tyranny? War is a great pretext for suspending constitutions and other protections of civil liberties. I cannot think of a better way to look benign while worsening the condition of one's subjects. The trick would be to make sure the war never ends. (My god-Princes are good at not signing peace treaties.)

In "1984", three great powers were continually at war, although sides changed, and it was always two powers against one. Three is probably a good number. That's why I introduced the Volnoths in addition to my Tigron Empire, and my coalition of Democrats and Republicans as the Saurian alliance.

The other obvious pre-requisite for successful tyranny would be something like the two-way tv. Social networking would do as a way of spying, especially micro-blogging. Micro-blogging can be addictive, spontaneous, thoughtless.  For example: "I need to go to the bathroom...Bye."

No, I haven't seen that as a status update, but if I (in the persona of my tyrant emperor Djohn-Kronos) lingered long enough, and followed people likely to post that (maybe starting with #crapnamesforpubs as a likely thread since pub-goers tend to drink a lot), or if Djohn-Kronos made use of the search function for a word like #bathroom, I'll bet he could.

I'd give my god-Emperor his own page on the micro-blogging site. He'd have his minions search for every micro-blogger who mentioned a few key words in their potted bios, such as "politic". He'd follow them. They'd be flattered, no doubt. Would they follow Djohn-Kronos back out of courtesy? It wouldn't matter. Moreover, everything posted by Djohn-Kronos's followers and those he followed would end up on "his" page to use as he saw fit....because citizens voluntarily put it there.

I wonder what Djohn-Kronos would do if he discovered that one of the interesting people he'd been following had blocked him? Gosh. Would it be an unwritten crime to "block" your emperor? A Thought-Crime, perhaps?

Covert spying is all very well, but the point in "1984" was that it wasn't covert. It was a tool of intimidation and repression. The people of Winston's world knew that everything they said or did was watched, and would be punished harshly if Big Brother didn't like it. So, they were afraid to speak out of line.

My Djohn-Kronos's empire hasn't gone that far. It may not, for the same reason that most magicians never reveal how they do their tricks.


  1. It occurs to me... but I really hate to mess with history!

    At the end of Knight's Fork, I dumped Thor-Quentin on Earth in 1995

    Do you think I should make him Prime Minister of England? Or President of the United States? Or of Russia?

    Maybe it would be more interesting to make him emperor of Australia?

  2. Anonymous5:06 AM EDT

    No, make him the pastor of a mega-church.

    If I were a dictator, I'd study religions through the ages to find a really effective way of controlling people. Religion can motivate people to commit suicide in a way that will take as many people as possible with them. If you brainwash folks enough, you can get them to give you power beyond your wildest dreams.

    To my mind, Thor-Quentin would gain real power if he could convince [insert religion with significant number of followers here] that he is the messiah. Perhaps a combination of political ambition combined with hints of godliness - I think he should never be the one to say outright that he's a god, it should be followers who decide he's holy - would be an option.

  3. You are probably absolutely right. It would be highly logical for someone from a family of self-styled gods to do as you suggest.

    I shalln't, though. I do political satire.