The Big Idea: Malon Edwards
Death isn’t always the end. In author Malon Edward’s world, death is the precursor to becoming something more than you previously were. Follow along in his Big Idea to see how growing up in Chicago inspired his newest book, If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes and Other Stories.
(Trigger warning: suicide)
One of the core ideas in my collection If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes and Other Stories is Electric Resurrection, a process where mechanical engineers construct a body with synthetic skin and hair, and roboticists build and insert a digital brain to hold the memories and personality of a dead person. I originally conceived Electric Resurrection to show how rich white kids in the North Shore Chicago suburbs were privileged, conceited and unaware. But as I developed my alt-history world, where the Sovereign State of Chicago is a quiet yet powerful city-state, I realized Electric Resurrection wouldn’t be an exclusive procedure. Just a privileged one.
But I didn’t want white people to have all the privilege. Black people moved on up too.
I was born on the South Side of Chicago in Jeffrey Manor. Also known as The Manor. White people didn’t live on my block. Or the next block over. Or the next block to the next block over.
It was (and still is) an enclave of Black people.
I was about six years old when I first saw a white person.
My mom and I were walking into Sears through a revolving door at River Oaks, a shopping mall in Calumet City, a south suburb easily reached from The Manor straight down Torrence Avenue. The white woman was coming out of Sears. I froze. She wasn’t scary looking. She was just white.
Six years later, my family moved on up and moved to South Holland, Illinois, then a mostly white suburb next to Cal City. As more Black families moved in, white flight ensued.
When it comes to white and Black people, Chicago is the most segregated city in America. And it’s been that way since Ol’ Heck was a pup, as my mom would say.
Of course, Chicago has other issues than race. One being money.
There has been a longstanding perception that Chicago receives more government resources than any other city or region in Illinois, especially when compared to rural areas downstate. Stupidly enough, everywhere in Illinois, with the exception of Chicago, is considered “downstate”. Even those rich white North Shore suburbs upstate, among the wealthiest areas in America.
Regardless of who lives geographically downstate or upstate, those who don’t live in Chicago want the money and social resources, real and perceived, that the state of Illinois gives Chicago.
Which brings us back to Electric Resurrection. And the Sovereign State of Chicago. And the State of Illinois.
In my alt-history, the State of Illinois wants the city-state of Chicago to share its abundant wealth and the natural resources it has deep in the earth, including copper and uranium. It isn’t as if the State of Illinois is poor. They’re just greedy. Chicago, which is The Manor extended beyond the South Side to a corridor of south and southwest suburbs, refuses. As it should.
The Sovereign State of Chicago has established itself as a place of intellect and scientific prowess and is the only place in America with a legal black market, which is immensely profitable. The center of that South Side corridor is an enormous campus of learning and industry. Which makes it even more profitable.
The State of Illinois is jealous, even though it has rich white high school students in the North Shore suburbs, including the Illinois governor’s daughter, who think the coolest thing in the world is to die by suicide and come back in a whole new on-trend body. They lay out in explicit detail in their suicide notes how their brains and bodies should be rebuilt and customized through Electric Resurrection. Opulence with the goal of advancing the transhuman concept.
Some of the rich Black people are a bit more logical with Electric Resurrection. Many use it to assuage their grief and bring back lost loved ones or make money in nefarious ways. Those who aren’t rich use it in whatever way they can for their own personal advancement.
But both the State of Illinois and the Sovereign State of Chicago use Electric Resurrection as a tactic of attrition and a means to win the war.
And so, they all die. They all undergo Electric Resurrection. And they all fight on.
Over and over again.