There is no better gift than a good book

Books contain the distilled wisdom of humanity's greatest thinkers. Books challenge us to expand our horizons and reevaluate our most deeply held assumptions. Books invite us to explore distant galaxies, face our fears, find meaning in our lives, unlock our imaginations, and slip inside someone else's skin.

When you give someone a book, you're offering them an entire world.

Complement with three pieces of advice for building a writing careerhow to make an author's day, and a brief anatomy of story.


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Season Finale of Cumulus is Live on Bound

Two years ago, I received a cold email from a guy named Matt Hannus. Matt was a voracious reader and veteran of the gaming industry. He was starting a company called Bound to develop a new format for reading fiction on the internet. He asked whether I'd be open to seeing one of my novels adapted.

Matt's project fascinated me. On the internet, we overwhelming read nonfiction: blog posts, news articles, essays, etc. But we buy and read many more novels than nonfiction books. Why is there such a dramatic gap in our reading habits? Everyone has a pet explanation, but I was curious to see whether Bound could create a format that could empower internet fiction. So we arranged for them to adapt my science fiction thriller, Cumulus.

Cumulus explores a near future San Francisco Bay Area ravaged by economic inequality and persistent surveillance. Popular Science calls it, "An intriguing, fast-paced thriller that looks closely at the most pressing issues facing the nation: a growing wealth gap, corrupt governments and an ever-increasing surveillance apparatus that threatens the country's very character. Cumulus holds up a mirror to ourselves, and shows just how scary the world could be right around the corner."

Matt and his team spent two years working nonstop on their app and Bound officially launched this past summer. Cumulus was a part of their launch slate alongside series from science fiction legend Neal Stephenson, award-winning game writer Matt Entin, former Pixar and Telltale Games creative Stephan Bugaj, and linguist Nick Farmer, creator of the Belter conlang for SyFy's The Expanse. Bound breaks up long stories into short serialized episodes, almost like a TV show, and pairs them with art and extras that enrich the reading experience.

Bound's adaptation of Cumulus deepens the world of the story with extensive sourcebook material and brings it to life with captivating art. Bound readers have many things at their fingertips that no other format offers: never-before-seen biographical details of the protagonists, investigative reports on the future history of economic inequality, press coverage that illuminates how Cumulus became the dominant tech monopoly, interludes that give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of secondary characters, and transcripts of clandestine conversations. If you loved the book, this is a perfect complement.

Bound has been releasing episodes of Cumulus over the past few months and today marks the official season finale. I've had a blast following the series and I'd love to hear what you think.

You can download the iOS Bound app for free right here and check it out.


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The At-Home Gene Editing Revolution Starts Now

In the new Scout Incoming Transmission, I talk to bestselling author Daniel Suarez about the future of synthetic biology. Read the interview right here.

We discuss the scientific, economic, and political implications of CRISPR and how science fiction can illuminate the social impacts of tech. Daniel shares details on how he goes about rigorously researching his novels to make them "science fiction for scientists." And he explains how he maps out different scenarios for the near future, exploring the second and third order effects of innovation. I recently featured Daniel's latest technothriller, Change Agent, in my reading recommendation newsletter.

If you want to make sense of how biotech will change the world, you'll find his ideas provocative, compelling, and counterintuitive.

You can find more Incoming Transmissions from visionary authors like Malka Older, Cory Doctorow, Alexander Weinstein, and Kim Stanley Robinson here.


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Three pieces of advice for building a writing career

Want to build a writing career? Do these three things.

WRITE. Many people say they want to be writers, but rarely actually write, finish, or publish anything. Don’t fall into that silly trap. If you want to be a writer, write. Write stories, articles, books, whatever you want. Fight through the fear of what other people might think. Write, finish, and publish your work to the world. There’s no other way to learn.

READ. Can you imagine someone saying they want to be a rockstar but that they “don’t have time to listen to music”? You’d be amazed how many “aspiring writers” don’t read. Reading is a superpower. It gives you access to the best ideas of humanity’s greatest thinkers. Read whatever you want, follow your enthusiasm.

MAKE YOUR OWN WAY. There are mountains and mountains of writing advice out there that cover the creative process and the business side. You can easily paralyze yourself by trying to internalize all of it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned writing and meeting other writers, it’s that there is no one path to building a writing career. So don’t waste your time trying to replicate others’ success. The only jobs you want are the ones you have to make up.

Complement with how to make an author's daythere is no better gift than a good book, and how to build a fanbase.


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‘Null States’ Maps Out the Geopolitics of Tomorrow

My review of Malka Older's new science fiction thriller that brings the future of democracy to vivid, divisive life ran in The Chicago Review of Books. Read the review right here.

Older's series hits the center of my Venn diagram of weird obsessions: imagining the future, gorging on international street food, seeking out crazy adventures, and making sense of geopolitics. She's one of the smartest people thinking about how technology is changing our political institutions and her novels yield deep insights in addition to pulse-pounding entertainment.

For a peek inside her brain, see my in-depth interviews with her here and here. We discuss how our systems of governance are changing and the underlying trends that are shaping the future.

Check out the review and then read her books, you won't be disappointed.

Dystopia is a State of Mind

In the new Scout Incoming Transmission, I ask Cory Doctorow which questions will define the future. Read the interview right here.

He points out our most pernicious assumptions and how we need to update our world views and institutions to accommodate technological change.

We discuss his new novel Walkaway (featured in the latest edition of my reading recommendation newsletter), his activism with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and where he finds strength in his darkest moments.

I found his book and the interview moving and provocative. Give it a read and let me know what you think. I promise it's worth your time.

You can find more Incoming Transmissions from authors like Malka Older, Alexander Weinstein, and Kim Stanley Robinson here.

BANDWIDTH coming May 2018

I just signed a three book deal with Amazon Publishing and my new novel, Bandwidth, will come out May 2018.

Bandwidth is a near future thriller that explores the geopolitics of climate change and how algorithms shape our lives. Imagine Mr. Robot meets House of Cards, with techno utopian activists hacking the global feed to influence the psychology of world leaders.

I'm super excited to work with Adrienne Procaccini, Colleen Lindsay, and the whole Amazon Publishing team to bring the story to life. Speaking of teams, I'm also extremely happy to be partnering with DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim for literary representation. He's a (possibly evil) genius.

(Hot tip: If you come across a possibly evil genius, recruit them.)

To pay it forward, I'm donating 15% of the Bandwidth advance to support Michelle Welsch's incredible work improving education in Nepal. Whether or not our science fiction stories imagine better worlds, we can all do our part to help build one.

More details to come. Join my reading recommendations newsletter for updates.

For now, I’m off to start working on book two.

Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction

My first-ever piece for Harvard Business Review explores how science fiction can help us overcome false assumptions. Science fiction reveals how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be. Science fiction isn't useful because it's predictive. It's useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. This is a topic very close to my heart and I hope you enjoy the essay:

I'd love to hear what you think. Let me know what science fiction stories have changed the way you see the world.

How technology is changing what it means to be human

In the latest Scout Incoming Transmission, I interviewed award-winning writer Alexander Weinstein about how tech influences our lives. Weinstein has so much to say on the underlying trends that shape our future and the most important philosophical and ethical challenges we face. I recommended his stellar debut short story collection, Children of the New World, in a previous edition of my reading recommendation newsletter, "Akin to a literary Black Mirror, each story powerfully illustrates how technology impacts our lives and forces us to confront what it means to be human. In dissecting the future, Weinstein reveals hidden truths about the present."

In the interview, Weinstein shares how he identifies and analyzes the ways technology is changing our lives, what makes the best speculative short stories so powerful, and what we can do to prepare ourselves for a world of accelerating change. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Fun fact: Reading Children of the New World is one of the things that inspired me to write my very first short story, True Blue, which debuted at #1 in its Amazon category last month.

Bound adapts Cumulus into a digital serial with art and extras

I'm excited to finally share a project that's been in the works for almost two years. Matt Hannus reached out to me back in September 2015 after reading the Uncommon Series. Matt is a veteran game developer and told me that he was launching a new company leveraging the flexibility of digital media to tell stories in new ways on mobile. He was hoping to rope me in to develop a story for the platform.

His vision resonated with me. When we read on the internet or on our phones, we read mostly nonfiction: blog posts, news articles, personal essays, etc. But in the world of books, fiction vastly outsells nonfiction: we read many more mysteries, science fiction stories, and romance novels than we do nonfiction books. Why is that? Why do we read nonfiction on the internet and fiction in books? There are as many answers as there are armchair media pundits, but it seems to me that there might be an untapped opportunities for storytelling on the internet.

Fast forward two years. Matt and his team raised investment, transformed their vision into a product, and just this month shared that product with the world. Bound is a new mobile app that combines serialized prose, art and audio with community features from the best storytellers in "geek genres" like science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. The app is available for free in the iOS App Store and you can download it right here.

Bound launched with exclusive content based on the new novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, and Purgatorio, a sci-fi adventure series by award-winning author John Shirley, based on the Midnight Star: Renegade mobile game universe developed by Industrial Toys and best-selling author John Scalzi. Bound has also announced agreements with acclaimed creators Gunslinger Studios, former Pixar and Telltale Games creative Stephan Bugaj, award-winning game writer Matt Entin, and writer and linguist Nick Farmer (Nick and Stephan both happen to be friends of mine).

So I'm honored and excited to announce that Bound just released the first three episodes of their adaptation of my science fiction thriller Cumulus (new episodes will come out weekly). Cumulus takes place in a world that we seem to be barreling into. Tech consolidation, ambient AI, crumbling public institutions, escalating economic inequality, persistent surveillance, these are all things that have migrated from science fiction into reality. Bound's platform will bring that world to life, enriching the narrative with original art and extras. If you've read Cumulus, you'll get a kick out of the redacted emails from Graham's Agency operations, scandalous news articles documenting Huian's rise, and even Lilly's Lancer profile. It's been a delight seeing how deep their sourcebook goes, and I can't wait for fans to access it. If you haven't yet read Cumulus... what are you waiting for?! 🤓

We all read books, watch movies, and play games. Bound is leveraging the malleability of digital media to build something new and unique, an example of what the future of storytelling might look like. Check it out and let me know what you think.

True Blue

Wow, thanks for being the best readers ever. My very first short story just debuted at #1 in its category on Kindle. Writing it changed my life, and I hope that reading it changes yours.

True Blue is a parable about persecution and self-discovery set in a world where the color of your eyes might just get you killed. In this parallel universe, everybody knows that people with blue eyes are lazy, violent, and stupid. Blues are absent from the halls of power, the few celebrated exceptions proving the rule. Crime dramas feature blue homicidal maniacs. Parents protect their children from the corrupting influence of blue peers. Blue travelers take secondary screening at every airport for granted. Born a blue, Kamran Tir has survived by living a lie. But his secret is about to come out.

Get your copy right now. It's a short story, so you'll be able to read it in 20 minutes or so. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can read it on any device via the free Kindle app. I'm looking forward to hearing your impressions.

Now, for some backstory on True Blue. A few months ago, I received an email from my friend David Cohen, "I've had an idea for a book for a while. Given what's going on in America, I thought I'd send it to you because I sure as hell am never going to write it." David went on to present a thought experiment: what if discrimination targeted eye color instead of skin color or any other trait?

I'll let you in on a little secret. If you start writing books, your friends will start sending you ideas. Strangers too. You'll get very good at letting people down easy. After all, you have your own dreams to bring to life.

But David's premise stuck with me, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious and rearing its head at opportunity moments. It would visit me as I took the dog on a walk or did the dishes. It made me think of my opa whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis and my oma who risked her life every day to fight in the Dutch Resistance. Every time the idea resurfaced, it took on weight and texture, building up creative momentum until I had no choice but to write it.

Speculative fiction has a secret superpower. Imaginative stories invite us to experience plausible realities unlike our own. In doing so, they empower us to confront the myriad hidden assumptions we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. We cannot explore new worlds and return unchanged.

True Blue is a story about the absurdity of discrimination, the importance of being true to yourself, and our irrepressible capacity for overcoming injustice. It's a story about standing up instead of standing by. It's a story about finding the courage to stop caring what other people think.

These are truths we need to keep in mind now more than ever. Oh, and next time someone sends me an idea, I promise to pay attention.

I may have written True Blue, but only you can give it wings. Stories live and die by word-of-mouth. Any success my books have achieved is thanks to you. Here are three things you can do right now to help:

  1. Buy a copy today. Early sales make an outsized impact on a story's success. They catapult it up the Amazon rankings, contribute to it getting featured as a hot new release, and attract attention from press and booksellers. This matters. A lot.
  2. Leave a review. Early positive reviews give stories a critical boost in Amazon's algorithms (Goodreads too!), exposing it to new readers who depend on your good judgement. It only takes a few minutes and makes a huge difference. Oh, and I read every single review so I can't wait to see what you have to say.
  3. Share it with your friends. We discover our next favorite story thanks to someone we trust recommending it to us. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. Whisper about it in the shadows and shout about it from the rooftops. If you have an audience of your own, I'm happy to answer any questions and send you a press kit. If you're short on time, here's a copy/paste-worthy example for social media: "This is worth your time. A mind-bending short story about social justice and standing up instead of standing by."

A thousand thanks, you're the best readers any writer could hope for. Your grassroots support has helped my books hit #1 in their categories, raise thousands of dollars for charity, and earn praise from major publications like Businessweek, Popular Science, io9, TechCrunch, Ars Technica and the Verge. I hope you enjoy True Blue and I can't wait to hear what you think.

Local TV interview about the power of science fiction

I was interviewed on local TV in Boulder about my books, the power of science fiction, and the social impacts of technology. It's cheesy in the best possible way: Anchorman + '80s scifi. It was particularly fun because the Uncommon Series is set in Boulder, so we were on Mara and James' stomping grounds.

You can watch the full interview right here:

It's hard to believe Cumulus came out a year ago

Y'all are the folks whose enthusiasm got it reviewed in Businessweek, Ars Technica, Popular Science, io9, GeekDad, etc., sent it to #1 in its Amazon categories, and helped the story raise more than $10k for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chapter 510.

That's pretty darn unusual for a self published novel with no fancy publicist or marketing team. Your word-of-mouth recommendations and grassroots reviews are what put wind in its sails. Sometimes the small things make a big difference.

Thanks a million.

Kim Stanley Robinson interview

I interviewed Kim Stanley Robinson about his prescient, moving new novel, New York 2140. You can read the interview and excerpt right here.

Stan is one of my favorite authors and his books have influenced me since I first discovered his Three Californias trilogy as a teenager. In this interview, we talk about his sources of inspiration, creative process, how he imagines possible futures, the importance of science fiction, and what climate change and sea level rise mean for us and the planet.

This is the second edition of the Incoming Transmission series that explores the social implications of technology through books that illuminate the present by examining the future.

If you enjoy the interview, you'll probably get a kick out of my reading recommendations.

Speaking at GamesBeat Summit

Next week I'll be speaking at GamesBeat Summit in Berkeley. They even wrote up a nice story about it here. This is what we'll cover:

The pace of innovation is accelerating. Technological revolutions that once took millennia to play out now take decades, years, months. At the same time, science fiction has rocketed from nerdy niche to mainstream blockbuster, capturing a popular imagination faced with the hard truth that change is the only constant. Science fiction stories inspire technologists, entrepreneurs, and scientists to build a future shaped by narrative. Are we living in science fiction? Is science fiction actually the most "realistic" tool we have to make sense of the modern world? Venture capital investor Tim Chang and author Eliot Peper discuss how science fiction and real world tech influence each other, and what that means for the rest of us.

Tim is a good friend as well as an investor at Mayfield Fund. He spends his time betting on entrepreneurs and helping them build the future. Every few months, we get together and gab about what's coming and his unique perspective has had a big influence on my writing. I'll also be on a separate panel with science fiction author Austin Grossman and Thwacke cofounder Sebastian Alvarado. There are some other stellar folks coming, including Gary Whitta (first writer on Rogue One), John Underkoffler (science adviser on Minority Report and CEO at Oblong Industries), Tim Sweeney (CEO at Epic Games), and many, many other highly accomplished folks.

More details here. If you're around, it should be a good time. The event organizers tell me that if you use the code "Deantak" you'll get 35% off.

How to make an author's day

Want to make your favorite author's day? Review their work wherever you buy or discover books. You'd be amazed at the impact.

Amazon's algorithms favor books based on quality, quantity, and velocity of reviews. Goodreads points readers to new works based on ratings. Blog and social media posts weave our favorite narratives into the larger cultural conversation.

At the end of the day, we all rely on each other to recommend the stories we love. That's how we discover our next obsession!

Complement with three pieces of advice for building a writing careerthere is no better gift than a good book, and a brief anatomy of story.


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Speaking at the Conference on World Affairs

I'm excited to visit CU Boulder next week (April 10-14, 2017) to speak at the Conference on World Affairs. CWA is an annual week-long event covering an astounding variety of political, business, and scientific fields.

I'll be on a number of panels that revolve around trying to make sense of the future (very in line with my books and editorial work at Scout): Art Without Borders (9-10:20AM on 4/10), SciFi Influencing Society (2-3:15PM on 4/11), Bioengineering: Designer Babies and More (9-10:20AM on 4/12), Singularity: When the Real World Becomes Westworld (12:30-1:45PM on 4/13), and "Hacktivism" and Cyber Security (11-12:20PM on 4/14). Basically, Black Mirror in a conference format. 😱

It will be particularly cool to talk with the students, given that the protagonists of my first three novels are Boulder-loving CU dropouts who take their tech startup from garage to IPO and get caught up in an international conspiracy along the way. If you're in Boulder next week, let me know. I'd love to see you at one of the panels or grab a coffee/beer.

You'll notice the breadth of panel topics. Nobody could possibly be an expert in all of these things, least of all me, but I love learning about them. If you've read a particularly good article/essay/book on any of them, let me know. I'd love to channel your best ideas!

Huge thanks to Bob Baskerville for inviting me to participate and to Brad Feld for making the trip possible.

Joining Scout

I’m excited to share that I'm joining Scout as an editor and special adviser. Scout is a fantastic new publication that combines original speculative fiction and in-depth technology journalism to explore the social implications of innovation. I backed them on Kickstarter way back when and quickly befriended the founders, Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath. It’s been amazing to watch them grow and publish groundbreaking stories that have changed the way I see the world.

In addition to advising them on strategy, I’ll be contributing original fiction to Scout and launching a series called Incoming Transmission that explores the big ideas living inside important books that illuminate the present by examining the future.

As readers of this humble blog, you already have an inside view of exactly what we're hoping to achieve. In fact, the very first Incoming Transmission is an exclusive interview with Malka Older, author of the amazing debut political science fiction thriller Infomocracy which I recommended in my reading recommendations newsletter a few months back. If you check out Incoming Transmission, I’d love to hear what you think.

Oh, and by the way, becoming a Scout member is still invite-only. If it piques your fancy, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

Using storytelling to fight oppression

I'm giving a talk at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today about using storytelling to fight oppression. Like an ACLU for the digital world, EFF defends our civil rights online. Their work is more important now than ever.

In December, I donated more than $10k of proceeds from Cumulus to EFF and Chapter 510 to help head off some of the darkest aspects of the future the book portrays. As readers and champions of Cumulus, you are the people who made this possible and gave a science fiction adventure some real social impact. Thank you and kudos.

If you're wondering how you can make a difference, donating to EFF is a great start.

Neon Fever Dream audiobook comes out today

I'm excited to share that the audiobook of my latest novel, Neon Fever Dream, is now available. Narrated by the estimable Jennifer O'Donnell and produced at Brick Shop Audio in Brooklyn, I couldn't be more delighted with the results. Led by a diverse cast, Neon Fever Dream is a fast-paced, deeply-researched thriller about a dark secret hidden at Burning Man. It's earned praise from Popular Science, TechCrunch, NYT bestselling author DJ Molles, and Hugo/Nebula award winner David Brin. You can start listening right here.

The area of craft I'm currently focused on improving is character development, creating compelling casts that feel like real people. So I was moved when a reviewer wrote, "Neon Fever Dream gave me everything I wanted in a thriller—surprises, quick pacing, great characters, and a colorful setting—while opening my eyes to a larger world. I also deeply appreciated how Asha was more than the sum of her parts. She had incredible agency and bravery. If I had daughters, I’d want them to turn out exactly like her."

If you've read it, don't forget to let me know what you think and leave a review. It makes a big difference.

Central Station is a glimpse of the messy, diverse, heartbreaking, beautiful future

An interview with award-winning science fiction author Lavie Tidhar.

Reading Central Station by Lavie Tidhar feels like falling into someone else’s dream. Using a far future Tel Aviv as his canvas, Tidhar weaves an emotionally driven tale that interrogates the human impact of digital technology. The story is complicated, touching, and multifaceted. It left me with a not unpleasant sense of melancholy, as if I were leaving behind close friends who I wouldn’t be seeing for a long time.

Fans of science fiction and fantasy will relish the many hidden references to genre tropes and classics. Tidhar won the British Science Fiction Award, World Fantasy Award, and Central Station has been praised by heavy hitters like Alastair Reynolds, Ken Liu, and NPR. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new book.

Science fiction is a reflection of the present as well as a vision of the future. It’s easy to draw parallels from elements in Central Station, like the Conversation, to some of the social and technological issues we all wrestle with today. What inspired the story? What ideas, questions, or themes did you explore with it?

Gosh, so many. It’s a bit of an optimistic future, really, isn’t it? I wanted to just write about ordinary people against this big science fictional background. To kind of have all those cool things but as scenery, almost. The book comes from a very contemporary place and time (specifically, the central bus station area of Tel Aviv, which is now home to both economic migrants and refugees) and I was inspired to write about it when I was living back in Israel for a while. Also, I do come from an Internet background, so the progression of communication and the way it affects our lives have been on my mind from an early age. It’s a novel about religion, communication, family — I wanted to explore the idea of the big extended family, which you don’t see in Western SF much but is very natural to me. Ultimately, I’d like to think it’s about love.

The story is full of lovingly rendered references to the larger body of SF/F. Who are some of the lesser-known writers that have influenced you? What’s the latest book you fell in love with?

I’d say Cordwainer Smith, most obviously. To me he’s probably one of the three most significant American science fiction writers of the 20th century, but he’s virtually unknown. Simak, too, with his pastoral SF. C.L. Moore. I don’t read that many genre books anymore — the last one I read was Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets, which I liked a lot. The other thing you might notice in Central Station is also a lot of throwaway references to Israeli SF/F and pulps, which, I suspect, is as obscure as it gets! I just write these weird little jokes in to amuse myself, but it’s nice when someone picks up on them from time to time.

Central Station is relatively short as novels go, but it feels sprawling and inclusive, almost like a magic house that’s larger inside than without. What was your creative process like for the book? Did you outline or just start writing?

I worked on it, on and off, for about 6 years! It was my crazy little side project, basically. I’m still amazed it got published! It’s interesting working on it in chunks, because you’re plotting individual stories and then fitting them into the overall narrative — but I wasn’t going for plot much with this, I was taking a very different tack to my more commercial novels, and just exploring people, relationships. I was very much exploring as I went along. And it’s set in a wider universe I’ve been writing about, on and off, for over a decade, so it was easy to fit in a lot of material that, if you follow the thread, will lead to another story entirely.

Many of the chapters of the book were previously released as individual short stories, and were later modified and included in the novel. What structural considerations did you have in mind as you pulled them together? How did you go about weaving them into a narrative whole?

Central Station was always meant to be a single creation, but I was always fascinated by the old science fiction novels that were done as mosaics, that were sold as stories first — mostly it’s a way of getting a bit more money, really! But it’s quite a challenge to do, as I found out. What really happened was that, when I was finished with the sequence, it didn’t quite work, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. It took Tachyon’s support, and great editorial feedback, to help me find it, which I was incredibly grateful for — as I was getting pretty frustrated at that point! It was mostly technical — reordering the stories, I think we dropped one, cut one in half, and then smoothed the transitions, removed redundancies… it really was just normal drafting work, you know. 95% of it is the same. It was actually very soothing, once I knew what I had to do!

Intricate personal and social politics permeate Central Station. Reading it made me reflect on many recurrent news items. Did you have any goals for the story besides crafting a compelling tale? What role does speculative fiction play in our culture?

Well, it’s not for me to say! Obviously one aspires to Say Something, but it’s up to each reader to take from the book what they will (if anything). It occurs to me, as I move away from Central Station, that’s it’s quite a hopeful book in many ways. It’s what happens if humanity doesn’t destroy the planet and each other. One can only hope!


Enjoy this interview? Then you’ll probably like my reading recommendations curating amazing books that explore the intersection of technology and culture.

Reading Recommendation: Flatland

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott was originally published in 1884 and is proof that great stories survive the test of time. It's a mind-bending adventure starring a protagonist that lives in a two-dimensional world. The story is filled with humor, romance, and satire. Flatland is a captivating and delightful invitation to free our thinking from the artificial constraints we constantly impose on it.


Enjoy this tip? Then you’ll probably like my reading recommendations curating amazing books that explore the intersection of technology and culture.

Cumulus is eligible for a 2016 Hugo Award

"Cumulus is your new favorite surveillance-fueled dystopian novel. It's a future we can all recognize - and one that we should all be genuinely afraid of." -Ars Technica

Cumulus is my first science fiction novel, and this is my first Hugo eligibility post. The book went viral on Reddit when it came out in May 2016 and has earned praise from Popular Scienceio9Businessweek, GeekDad, TechCrunch, and the Verge. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist at Glassdoor, says, "Cumulus is a prophetic Bay Area thriller, a Jason-Bourne-meets-Silicon-Valley story of escalating technology, inequality and a crumbling state. When a former CIA-operative-turned-hired-gun joins forces with tech giant Cumulus, cracks in the digital facade emerge, laid bare by a powerful and simple analog alternative. In today's world where intimate personal details are just another row in someone's 'big data,' Cumulus is a stark reminder that data are power--and absolute data corrupt absolutely."

Led by a diverse cast, Cumulus is a dark, gritty rollercoaster ride through a near-future San Francisco Bay Area ravaged by economic inequality and persistent surveillance. To be perfectly honest, the public response to the book took me entirely by surprise. Cumulus is self-published and it's unusual for indie books to get any attention from the press. This is purely my personal speculation, but one reason the story might be resonating is simply that we seem to be living through many of the themes that the characters wrestle with: accelerating technological change, increasing income inequality, stark gentrification, cyber espionage and doxing, power transitioning from the public to the private sector, a new wave of populism, government and corporate surveillance, and making sense of the human experience in the midst of such a maelstrom.

Twenty-sixteen came a little too close to realizing some of the darker aspects of the future Cumulus portrays and I'm extremely proud to report that last month I donated a total of more than $10,000 of proceeds from the novel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chapter 510. EFF fights to protect our civil rights in the digital world and Chapter 510 provides badly-needed literacy programs to underprivileged youth in Oakland. We need real world heroes like the brave staff of these two organizations now more than ever. Hopefully, this will in some small way contribute to the social impact of science fiction.

If you're curious, you can find Cumulus here and information about how to vote in the Hugos here. Google invited me to come give a talk about the book which you can watch here. You can read more about what inspired the book here and what I learned writing it here. If you're a fan, please help spread the word. If you're a WSFS member, I appreciate your consideration!

NPR/BBC blurb on self-driving cars

Cumulus fans know that I spend a lot of time thinking about autonomous vehicles. So it was a fun surprise to be interviewed on NPR/BBC last week about what the future of self-driving cars might look like and how they'll change our lives, cities, and industries. You can listen to the show here: