The Big Idea: Mia V. Moss
Futuristic stories often take their cues from the present, and this is certainly the case in Mia V. Moss’s new novel, Mai Tais For the Lost. Set in an alarmingly realistic future Earth, Moss’s story is part mystery, part sci-fi, and all underwater.
MIA V. MOSS:
What if the world’s wealthiest individuals, gazing from the decks of their megayachts with cocktails in hand, watched the California coast burn from a safe distance and thought: how can I escape being consumed by the flame without sacrificing my #yachtlife vibes?
This is the question that spawned Mai Tais For the Lost, a noir murder mystery set on a future Earth where the wealthy have primarily opted for two paths: Mars or the ocean. The surface of the planet is largely uninhabitable, but people try their best anyway. Fire tornadoes, acidic monsoons, haboobs that last for days, are all part of a normal weather cycle where the names of the seasons have largely been replaced by skull and crossbones emojis.
Why would anyone try to live in such misery? Because they don’t have a lot of choice. As we in our present day continue to face climate catastrophe, as climate refugees—a term in use since 1985—grow in number year after year, we are also forced to watch the spectacle of billionaires making up currencies and inventing new pastimes for themselves like ‘space tourism.’ These people who hoard the majority of the world’s wealth have demonstrated time and again that when it comes to choosing between helping solve humanity’s problems and profiting from those same problems, they will chose profits every time.
In my mind I saw these billionaires standing on the decks of their megayachts, contemplating the fate of their fellow humans, and I saw them come to a decision: they could no longer live safely on the planet’s surface, so why not take the party underwater? In the undersea habitats they funded, they could sculpt whole nation-states of their own design, with their own currency and state-run media.
And if any member of their new workforce got out of line or started demanding things like ‘human rights’ or ‘fair wages?’ They could be deported straight up to the boiling hell-surface to any number of coastal shanty towns clinging to the edge of the sea. For the wealthy, it is a win/win scenario! Full governmental control and a captive workforce terrorized always by the looming threat of exile.
The concept first came to me some years ago when I saw an artist’s rendering of hyper-futuristic haute couture diving masks. I envisioned custom diving suits tailored to make the wearer look like fabulous glittering mermaids and the galas they might wear them to. I thought: this is exactly where the rich will be partying twenty years from now while the rest of us wander the wastelands on the surface, retweeting our indignation at their good time.
From there, things quickly got out of hand. I imagined a history where the Electric Blue Moon yacht was deliberately sunk next to its owner’s new habitat city of the same name. Alcohols were distilled at a lower ABV so the populace could keep up with an endless string of happy hours in this new paradise. Yacht rock remixed with disco became the prevailing vibe, and everywhere you looked, the descendants of those first self-serving billionaires were relentless on their quest to find shinier, more hedonistic ways to obliterate any sense of responsibility to the planet.
In these decadent confines, I set out to tell a story of a person born into one world and raised in the other. Someone who wants to believe they’re better than everyone else on the privileged side and smarter than everyone on the working class side, but ultimately knows that they have failed on both counts. Marrow has developed no way to grapple with the truth of her reality, and so she tamps down on her own inner world and spends her time prying into everyone else’s.
It seemed like the perfect setup for a detective story, and so, with the help of some high-fashion party animals and an android mermaid burlesque dancer, the Nightingale Electric Detective Agency was born.