The Big Idea: David Louis Edelman
David Louis Edelman has been making a name for himself in science fiction over the last couple of years with his Jump 225 trilogy of books, the first of which Infoquake, racked up some nice reviews and helped propel Edelman into nominations for two different kinds of John W. Campbell award (one for Best Novel, and the other for Best New Writer), which is a one-two punch that not many other writers can claim. Edelman and his trilogy are back with MultiReal, and to explain the Big Idea of the book and series, Edelman’s got a set-up that… well, I’ll just let you read it for yourself.
(Holds up tarp to protect himself, cowers)
Okay, David: Take it away —
DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN:
Could Adolf Hitler ever have been the good guy?
The man was a warped, murderous bastard who ordered the slaughter of millions of people, started an unnecessary war of conquest, and permanently 86’d the dreams of an entire generation or three. But seriously – let’s say you hop in a time machine, track the dude down as a teenager, and put him through a serious reeducation program. And maybe give him a heavy dose of Prozac. Or better yet, hand him a Macintosh. Could he be redeemed?
Because a non-insane Adolf Hitler would be a great guy to have on your side. He had the raw charisma to motivate tens of millions of people to get off their asses. He had the cunning to convince Neville Chamberlain that he wanted peace with Europe, and then the strategic genius to turn around and conquer it months later. He had the tenacity to never give up, even when the odds were stacked against him. If only Hitler didn’t have that whole “stinking, festering, maggot-ridden evil” thing going on – and if only he had some competent advisors who weren’t also stinking, festering, etc. — he might have accomplished some amazing things.
That was one of the Big Ideas behind my novels Infoquake and MultiReal. Create a character with Hitler-like strategic genius, with Gates-like business savvy, with Clinton-like personal magnetism, with Machiavelli-like disregard for ethics. Stick him on the fence between the ultimate selfishness and the ultimate selflessness, give him a technology that could revolutionize the world or destroy it, and see what he does.
My character, Natch, is a business entrepreneur in a far-future society where software runs the human body. To be concise, he’s a manipulative bastard. To be a little less concise, he’s a very manipulative bastard. The first time you meet Natch, he’s busy creating a complicated terror hoax that will scare millions of people, just so he can take advantage of the panic to leap to the top of the Primo’s bio/logic investment guide. (Imagine if someone started mailing suspicious envelopes filled with Sweet n’ Low to major media outlets during the anthrax scare of 2001, and you’ll get the idea.)
Natch is still a relatively young man; he hasn’t had the opportunity to do Hitler-sized damage yet. You can sense that he’s not beyond redemption; he’s just pointed in the wrong direction.
During the course of Infoquake, he manages to connive his way into co-owning a new technology called MultiReal. And MultiReal, as you discover in the book MultiReal, is a potentially epoch-changing technology. It’s like the Internet to the Internetth. Simply put, MultiReal allows you to hop through potential realities and choose the one that suits you. Hit a baseball, and choose the reality where you hit a home run every time. Shoot a gun, and choose the reality where you hit the target every time. Confront an enemy, and choose the reality where that enemy inexplicably decides to commit suicide…
(Before you start protesting about how ludicrous that sounds, let me say that MultiReal is a lot more complicated than that – complicated enough that it takes most of two novels to set up. And if you’ll excuse a little chest-thumping, let me point out that Publishers Weekly said “MultiReal is firmly established as one of the most fascinating singularity technologies in years,” and Norman Spinrad said in Asimov’s that “Edelman seems to have convincing and convincingly detailed knowledge of the physiology and biochemistry of the human nervous system down to the molecular level.” The latter of which makes me cackle with glee, because it’s so not true.)
You can probably see where I’m going with this MultiReal stuff. It’s all a question of choice. How do you make the right choices? What happens when you’ve got two equally good choices – or two equally bad ones? Can you take responsibility for your choices? How important are your choices? Could even Adolf Hitler have led a life of charity, industry, and philanthropy if he had made better choices?
So during the course of Infoquake, MultiReal, and the still-in-progress Geosynchron, Natch must ask himself these questions. But he’s not alone; the entire world around him is facing difficult choices as well. Society is ideologically split between governmentalists who favor a strong central legislature and libertarians who prefer a patchwork of smaller, subscription-based authorities. Most of the world has adapted to the bio/logic technologies that have radically changed society, but there’s a vocal minority of conscientious objectors who feel they’re being shoved under the rug. Humanity has begun expanding to Luna, Mars, and a dozen orbital colonies, but the mass of Earth-bound people are having a difficult time accepting the needs of these new pioneers.
When you reach a fork in the road, how do you decide which path to take? Or could MultiReal be the key to allowing humanity to take both roads…?
I had my own choices in mind when I started writing Infoquake and MultiReal back in late 2000. I was in the middle of a fairly acrimonious divorce. I had just quit my contract job programming U.S. Army websites that nobody in the U.S. Army knew or cared about. I had changed my hair style, moved outside the DC Beltway, gotten a new pair of glasses, and sold a house. I was in a mood to take a poke at everything I thought I knew or valued with a really sharp stick to see if it held up.
And so I decided to put it all on the line for my characters. During the course of the Jump 225 trilogy, you’re going to see a man who was once one of the world’s most despicable human beings put in the ultimate hot seat. You’re going to see Natch faced with possibly the most momentous and far-reaching decision any human being has ever had to face since the dawn of history.
What’s he gonna do? The answers lie just ahead…