Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Novel (part 1)

I've been toying with the idea of working on some sort of long-term literary project. I'm not sure however, about the form the project will take. I wrote a screenplay many years ago, so I feel comfortable with the format and technical complications of writing a movie. I've never tried a novel, so perhaps this might be the way to start. I could re-shape it to fit the screenplay format later, providing I write the novel with that possibility in mind. The screenplay I wrote took 10 months to write, so honestly I don't expect a final draft form until December 2009. I will periodically report on my progress in this blog. Feel free to email me (don't add comments here please) at to offer criticiisms, suggestions, or death threats.

So what is this story going to be about? I'll start with the overall themes first.

In the future, one man can declare war on the world and win. And, I am not talking about Peter Seller's, "The Mouse That Roared". The story is set in the year 3200, with four "nation-states" ruthlessly competing against each other in a universe far away from our own.

Government soveriegnty is threatened when military leverage is diminished by steady technological advances among the populace.

Weapons of mass destruction are simply not practical. Old scorched-earth tactics were useful in traditional warfare, but not now - scarcity of natural resources demand acts of careful preservation. The weapon of choice in the future then, is "systems disruption". By creating their own leverage from blazingly fast tech improvements and by taking advantage of vulnerable systems, a small group of revolutionaries can identify "points of failure", i.e. power grids, fuel pipelines, even gaps in diplomacy within a nation-state, and strike them intelligently and inexpensively, thereby producing a series of cascading failures and damage much greater than the cost of the attack itself. Want an example? In the summer of 2004, Guerrillas attacked a southern section of the Iraqi oil pipeline infrastructure, which cost an estimated $2,000 to launch. The effects of this attack were over $50 million in lost oil exports. Your rate of return; 250,000 times over cost.

Revolutionaries who operate in a decentralized, voluntarist, plugged-in mode, drawing on enthusiasm, experimentation, and the exchange of ideas can flout the nation-state’s monopoly on legitimate force; and can prevent the nation-state from delivering even elementary security or minimal services. A nation-state’s instinctive acts of self-preservation—centralizing security even further, launching preventive wars—will prove not just useless, but counterproductive.

The government's solution to a "systems disruption" attack is a post-bureaucratic government that secures legitimacy through the active pursuit of opportunity for its citizens but declines to specify the goals for which that opportunity is used. Like decentralized, security networks and flexible infrastructure such as two-way electrical grids where end-users can store, produce, and sell back electricity, improving redundancy and diversity. The theory is that the more flexibility nations build into their infrastructure, the less likely it is that terror attacks (or other disasters) can cause cascading, catastrophic failure. Not counter-terror strategies of untrammeled surveillance at home and “pre-emptive” war to shape other civilizations.

Revolutionaires can successfully wage strategic war on nation-states. But if they want the things revolutionaries have always wanted—regional autonomy, a greater share of the economic pie, dominion over ethnic or sectarian rivals, an end to foreign occupation, social revolution, national control—it’s much harder.

These are the ideas I am going to attempt to get across. Hopefully the novel won't be as pretentious as these ideas sound to me today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Q: Where can men over the age of 50 find younger women who are interested in them? A: Try a bookstore under fiction.