New Books in Science Fiction podcast interview

I went on the New Books in Science Fiction podcast to talk about how tech influences geopolitics and the future extrapolated in my new novel, Borderless:

https://newbooksnetwork.com/eliot-peper-borderless-47north/

Complement with TechCrunch on the themes explored in Bandwidth, this interview with the Chicago Review of Books on how feeds shape reality, and this Techdirt podcast on how to imagine plausible futures.

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Robert Jackson Bennett uses magic to make sense of how technology shapes our lives

In my latest column for Techdirt, I talk to Robert Jackson Bennett about the political consequences of technology, the power of imagination, and his critically-acclaimed new novel, Foundryside:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20181106/17231941000/robert-jackson-bennett-uses-magic-to-make-sense-how-technology-shapes-our-lives.shtml

Robert and I were on a panel together last month at New York Comic Con and I featured Foundryside in this edition of my reading recommendations newsletter.

Complement with Polygon on the political simulation game I co-designedAnnalee Newitz on science fiction and capitalism, and Ars Technica on the future extrapolated in Borderless.

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Borderless shows us the tech-fueled nightmare that we’ve all created

Ars Technica just ran a wonderful review of my new novel: "Borderless shows us the tech-fueled nightmare that we’ve all created. A matryoshka of a story... Where do you draw the line between who you are and what you want to be?"

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/11/borderless-shows-us-the-tech-fueled-nightmare-that-weve-all-created/

One of my favorite aspects of this review is how its author, Cyrus Farivar, connects so many of the themes in Borderless to experiences and realizations in his own life. Cyrus is a veteran technology journalist whose critically-acclaimed nonfiction book Habeas Data digs deep into the strange history of surveillance law and reveals the hidden rules, questions, and contradictions that define our digital lives. Reading his review reminds me that all literature is one extended conversation about the meaning of life, and that my fiction exists in dialogue with his reporting.

Complement with Ars Technica on Bandwidth and Cumulus, an exclusive excerpt from Borderless, and this behind-the-scenes peek into how I wrote the novel.

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The Most Pernicious Misconception About Democracy Is That We Think We Are Living in One

In my latest column for Medium, I talk to critically-acclaimed novelist and political scientist Malka Older about the hidden forces shaping the future of democracy:

https://medium.com/s/thenewnew/the-most-pernicious-misconception-about-democracy-is-that-we-think-we-are-living-in-one-dd3d9418faa6

We need to be more intentional about creating fair institutions, rather than ceding them to the powerful. In Older's words, "We should never consider our governance system done; we can always work to make it better and more adapted to the moment."

Complement with Cory Doctorow on networks of power and the power of networks in Bandwidth, what The Truman Show can teach us about filter bubbles, and how I make sense of tech and geopolitics. You might also like my reading recommendations.

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What The Truman Show Can Teach Us About the Future of the Internet

On the twentieth anniversary of its release, The Truman Show is more relevant than ever. In my latest column for Tor.com, I explore what one of my favorite movies shows us about the divisive psychology of filter bubbles, and what to do about it:

https://www.tor.com/2018/11/05/what-the-truman-show-can-teach-us-about-the-future-of-the-internet/

Welcome to algorithmic Seahaven Island.

Complement with how digital feeds shape our reality, what my secret agent grandmother taught me about the double-edged power of storytelling, and what we can learn from a Renaissance painter about the dangers of psychological isolation.

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Technology, Politics Collide in Eliot Peper's 'Borderless'

The East Bay Express ran a lovely feature on my new novel, calling it "a sharply rendered, wildly entertaining thriller speaking to the dangerous realities of our present: climate change, the changing shape of power, the very American values that defined Peper's grandparents' post-war lives—themes that are now fraught within our real world as it becomes increasingly globalized and divided."

Read the full story for insights into the issues the book grapples with:

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/technology-politics-collide-in-eliot-pepers-borderless/Content?oid=21998086

Complement with this interview about the story behind Bandwidth, my Google Talk on economic inequality in Cumulus, and this essay on how science fiction helps us challenge assumptions.

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Borderless

My new novel, Borderless, is out today. Get it right here.

Borderless is a speculative thriller about a refugee-turned-rogue-spy navigating a geopolitical labyrinth through a near future where information is power and whoever controls the feed rules the world. Lush, nuanced, and philosophical, the story grapples with the decline of the nation state, the rise of tech platforms, and reconciling sins of the past with dreams of the future. Craig Newmark calls it, “A riveting cautionary tale about how the control of information could lead to new forms of democratic governance, or to accidental empires. Rooted in the current realities of the internet and social media, Borderless explores a near future in which our lives are shaped without our conscious consideration.”

Unlike any other book I’ve written, Borderless had a title before I sat down to draft chapter one. The dismantling of borders is a powerful theme in my life, and I began to recognize it beneath the surface of the headlines. The characters, plot, and world gravitated around this core idea before falling into place as I made my way through the manuscript.

I am a child of immigrants.

My father is from Holland. My Jewish paternal grandfather was one of the only members of his family to survive World War II. He hid in a secret compartment while Nazi patrols searched their cramped apartment. Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, a Protestant, became a secret agent of the Dutch resistance, ferrying information, supplies, and people out of the camps, even as she raised and protected her family. They fled to the United States when they worried that the Cold War might devolve into a third World War.

My mother is from Vancouver. Her family immigrated to Canada from the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, and for them, British Columbia must have felt tropical. I have many fond memories of scrambling over rocks and sneaking through forests on Vancouver Island with my cousins. And, of course, huddling around the monitor’s glow to play Final Fantasy VII while our parents shook their heads in bewilderment.

My wife is from Colombia, and her family escaped the drug violence that plagued Cali by moving to Connecticut. Just before I embarked on Borderless, we volunteered with a local resettlement agency to host a Ugandan refugee in our home in Oakland. The initial commitment was for three months, but Marvin ended up staying for nine months and became a dear friend. We’ve learned an enormous amount from each other, and he continues to find it quite odd that my “job” is writing books.

As I prepared to write this particular book, I couldn’t help but notice how different our world today is from the one my grandparents inhabited. Baby pictures from friends living in a far-off Austrian village greet me when I go online after my morning coffee. A momentary uptick in Sri Lankan tea prices zips through global markets at the impossible speed of high-frequency trading. We can fly halfway around the world only to board an on-demand car service and stay in a stranger’s apartment complete with an unfamiliar toilet and a friendly list of local tips taped to the fridge.

While I worked my way through the rough draft, more modern oddities presented themselves. I used Google Maps to track the trajectory of a character's flight to and from the Arctic. I played around with a research tool that projects the impacts of sea-level rise on specific urban areas. I discovered the beautiful true story of the Golden Record via Maria Popova’s peerless blog, Brainpickings. Just for fun, I backed a Swedish artist’s Kickstarter project and began a collaboration with a designer living in Argentina and an illustrator living in New Zealand. My grandfather spoke Esperanto, but he would never have recognized this weird dimension we insist on calling “reality.”

Cars, telegrams, planes, phones, trains, broadcast media, and container ships made the world smaller. Now the internet is stitching the strange, scary, and wonderful pieces together into a single civilization.

Unfortunately the results aren’t always pretty. As I write this, authoritarian populism is rearing its ugly head, hate-mongers dominate the news cycle, and a country of immigrants is beginning to turn away people like Marvin. This is something my grandparents would recognize in a heartbeat.

Fear at an uncertain future is all too understandable. Technology isn’t just making our national borders more porous; it’s shifting the borders of the twentieth-century social contract and causing a lot of people a lot of suffering. But letting fear get in the way of reason leads to ruin. Civilization is more delicate than it seems, and unlike previous civilizations that were geographically limited, this is the only one we’ve got.

Progress is painful. We use technology to do work we would prefer to avoid, and then need to make up new jobs for ourselves. We enjoy the cheap prices made possible by offshore manufacturing, and then realize we can’t enforce social or environmental regulations across the supply chain. We download entire libraries of pirated music, and then discover we must support artists if we want more of what we love.

Problems beget solutions beget new problems. The snake eats its tail, and we go round and round again. But that doesn’t mean things don’t get better. Child mortality, infectious disease, poverty, and violent death are at all-time lows. Literacy, longevity, and scientific knowledge are at all-time highs. There isn’t a time in all of history I’d rather live in than the present, and there’s nothing more important than doing our part to build a better future.

When I finally reached the end of the rough draft, Diana, the protagonist, had become a close friend. As a quirky and dangerously competent spy, she was enormous fun to write. Chapter by chapter, she developed a stronger and stronger sense of agency until I felt like I was documenting her adventures rather than inventing them. Diana proved herself to be the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from hard truths, who confronts and overcomes her own flaws, who aspires to serve rather than rule others, and who fights through all the madness and pain that life throws her way in order to do what she feels is right.

I have a lot to learn from her. Perhaps we all do.

Thank you for reading. I put everything I have into this story, and if you’re still with me, I can only hope that it will resonate with you. As in so many other arenas of life, the borders delineating the publishing industry are changing fast. But there’s at least one thing that’s as true as ever: writers write manuscripts, but books succeed thanks to the support and enthusiasm of readers. If you enjoy Borderless, please leave a review and tell your friends about it. It may feel insignificant, but nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.

Onward and upward.

Selected praise:

“A sharply rendered, wildly entertaining thriller speaking to the dangerous realities of our present: climate change, the changing shape of power, the very American values that defined Peper's grandparents' post-war lives—themes that are now fraught within our real world as it becomes increasingly globalized and divided.”
-East Bay Express

“William Gibson meets Daniel Suarez. Launching the reader into a world dominated by massive tech companies and struggling nation states, Borderless explores frighteningly plausible scenarios that extrapolate the social implications of privacy, data, and national sovereignty. Diana, a refugee-turned-secret-agent, barrels through Bay Area hipster hangouts and the inner sanctums of geopolitical power on her way to shaping a future that feels like it’s right around the corner. Borderless is fresh, intriguing, and inevitable.”
-John Hanke, CEO at Niantic and creator of Google Maps, Google Earth, and Pokémon Go

"Borderless shows us the tech-fueled nightmare that we’ve all created. A matryoshka of a story... Where do you draw the line between who you are and what you want to be?"
-Ars Technica

"Clock-ticking suspense... Resonates resoundingly with present-day headlines about net neutrality and global dependence on the internet.”
-Publishers Weekly

"If you're looking for fast-paced near-future fiction that grapples with hot-button topics like online disinformation and manipulation, tech monopolies, climate change, and the increasing conflict between global data networks and the sovereignty of the nation-state, Eliot has got you covered."
-Kevin Bankston, director of New America's Open Technology Institute

"Spectacular. Peper just gets better and better with each book. I stayed up way past my bedtime reading it. Riveting, relevant, and wonderful."
-Brad Feld, managing director at Foundry Group

"Every empire builds an information infrastructure. Rome built roads. The British had an imperial telegraph system. What happens when the infrastructure is independent of the empires? That’s the fascinating question explored by Borderless, an entertaining novel of intrigue and action full of troubled heroes and imperfect compromises."
-Peter Cowhey, dean of UC San Diego's School of Global Policy & Strategy and Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Communications and Technology Policy

“Peper does an outstanding job painting futures that are all too plausible.”
-The Geekiverse

"Eliot Peper's Analog trilogy continues the war between the establishment and the future. This is Diana's book: the freelance spy faces down her past and her present, to build a better tomorrow. Peper channels John Perry Barlow and declares independence."
-Simon Le Gros Bisson, technology journalist

"Through exciting twists and turns, Borderless explores how the rise of tech platforms challenges traditional nation states."
-Azeem Azhar's Exponential View

"More action. More suspense. More intrigue. More of everything in the second installment of the Analog Series, Borderless."
-Bernard Jan

"Rising science fiction star Eliot Peper takes us into a near future where everyone, every nation, and everything depends on the feed—an extension of the dominant social media companies that dominate the news today. Compelling action is mixed with thoughtful treatises on the power of information and who should control it, and on the nature of human relationships. Borderless is a timely novel, and a worthy sequel to Bandwidth."
-Glen Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com

"Peper is on top of his game and delivers a stunning look into our future with Borderless. If I had a connection with a TV or movie studio and I was able to pitch one thing to them – it would be this series."
-Brian Krespan

Get yourself a copy of Borderless right here.

Complement with VICE's exclusive excerpt, background on how the feed shapes the future portrayed in the novel, and behind-the-scenes details on the inspirations behind Bandwidth.

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