Virtual Overlords: A (Mostly) Comedic Take On The Future of Digital Publishing

e-book

By Liberty & Steven Montano

Here’s a glimpse at what the world will look like in 20 years thanks to e-publishing.  Please be warned that while a lot of these ideas are possible (perhaps even probable), we do end up going off the deep end…

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1. Because of Google Glass, people will literally read all of the time, because they’ll have the power to load books directly in front of their eyeballs 24/7. Unfortunately, due to the rewiring of our brains thanks to excessive internet usage, we’ll retain only a fraction of what we actually read.

2. Self-driving cars will allow us to read while commuting. Ironically, texting while driving will still be banned in most states.

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3. Building on the success of the Alzheimer mouse trials, scientists will produce books in pill or gum form for easy consumption.

4. In defiance of e-publishing, the world will see the rise of dangerous paperback gangs who smuggle rare printed books.

5. 3D printed custom book covers will go viral. The book gangs will not be happy.

6. Virtual reality (oculus rift) will lead to holographic novels and new heights of book addiction.

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7. For a short time, all E-Readers will utilize Eye Tribe, and the resulting eye fatigue will increase sales of Google glass.

8. Creating an e-book will become part of school curriculum, and will become an expected skill in the job market.

9. Publishing houses will give way to marketplaces, resulting in the death of bookstores.

10. Overhead displays + “erotic material” will become a problem for law enforcement.  Porn book cafes will replace head shops.

11. Legislation to end book printing will be introduced by environmentalists. The legislature will fail, but the decline in printing continues.

12. The price of e-books will level out. People will reminisce to when a book only cost $.99 $4.99 $7.99.

13. The sale of bookshelves will plummet.  IKEA stock prices will take a hit.

14. The internet will tell you what to read based on a complicated algorithm that determines the “right” book for you. More often than not, the internet will be right.

15. The rise of holographic novels will render book-to-movie adaptations redundant.

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16. Books/media created for pets will hit the virtual shelves. The war over whether dogs or cats are better rages on.

17. Implants will allow a person to completely write a book in their head. Intellectual copyright lawyers find themselves in huge demand.

18. Classic e-books will be upgraded to integrate with Google maps to provide a visual experience, while music appropriate to the setting will be embedded in the e-book data files.

19. Olfactory capability in e-books will lead to disgustingly cliche books being created for tween boys.

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20. Big media houses will perfect bot-written books, which quickly become the junk food of the literary world.

21. Obesity rates will fall as ingesting media becomes more interactive.

22. Elementary schools see a major makeover. Desks become less common, but the dependence on VR decreases interpersonal contact.

23. The human population growth rate slows, maybe even goes negative due to our escaping into VR media.

24. Radio stations broadcast book files instead of music.

25. The weekly release of serial novels becomes incredibly popular. NBC takes command of the book industry.

26. Access to the internet via implants allows for an unprecedented consumption rate of e-books. This also renders notions of traditional learning moot.

27. Implants remove the need for keyboard, televisions, and interpersonal communication.

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28. The increased consumption rate of hard scientific data will increase interest in theoretical knowledge, resulting in a dark era of mad scientists.

29. The third world will have an explosion of tech advances. The so-called first world will go out of fashion and “poor” living will become chic.

30. New mental illnesses tied to digital consumption will run rampant.

31. Implants will allow us to communicate with our pets, and later all forms of animal life. The number of vegetarians will increase exponentially.

32. The internet will become our collective subconsciousness.

33. Computer viruses will become a battlefield weapon, as all soldiers will have tactical implants.

34. Malls will disappear, replaced by virtual shopping. Demolition jobs will be in high demand, until robots take over that field.

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35. Once they take over the construction and demolition fields (and, thanks to big publisher “ingenuity”, writing the books that humans learn from), robots eventually take over the world.

36. A few stalwart humans refuse to accept implants and are driven into hiding. Every young man’s dreams of living in a Terminator-like future become a reality.

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37. E-books ascend to Godhood. Our collective digital consciousness is sucked into data clouds, leaving our bodies free to roam and wander like the primitive nomads we were always meant to be.

 

About the Authors

My wife Lib is pretty awesome. She’s also psychic. And she has pyrokinesis. So you probably don’t want to piss her off.

When she isn’t busy designing book covers, editing my crappy work or maintaining my website and social media presence, Lib ponders the future of E-Publishing, dog training, self-sustained living, and life as we know it.  She’s also the author of Novel Blogging: A Writer’s Guide to Blogging.

As for me, I do accounting and write books.  Learn more at my site, if you dare!

The Challenging and the Challenged

To follow along with associated ideas from my last post where I discussed mental illness in fantasy, I wanted to address the lack of characters in fantasy with physical disabilities, or marginalized characters as some publishers describe them. While losing a limb, having a sense fail them or facing paralysis isn’t as unusual in the science fiction genre where technology exists to overcome such challenges – like prosthetic limbs that work as well or better than the one lost or regeneration tanks exist where one can simply regrow said limb – you don’t see as many major injuries resulting in disability in fantasy. You don’t tend to see many characters who have been disabled since birth in any speculative genre either (Robert J Sawyer’s WWW trilogy is an example of a story that addresses this with excellent characterization and research – the protagonist a blind teenage girl.)

This is unfortunate for a few reasons. Aside from the fact that challenging characters with one more sizable obstacle can make your story that much more interesting, in a fantasy world where technology is low-level or in some cases practically non-existent and the characters find themselves facing danger and potential injury or death on a regular basis, one would expect to see more battles ending with wounds having permanent effects. You are much more likely to see a character die in one of these battles than emerge with a lasting injury. Is that entirely realistic?

One could argue that in many fantasy worlds, magic is available to heal these kinds of injuries, or that a lack of decent medical treatment means these wounds will kill the injured party in the long run. That might be true in some cases, but not all, and what of the costs of any magic involved? Would that magic be readily and immediately available? If not, why aren’t there more battle-hardened veterans with hacked off limbs or lost eyes? Would disabled people always be relegated to the ranks of peasants and beggars?

I love adding these extra challenges to the mix. In my Snowy Barrens Trilogy, the shamans are required to take a physical “mark” as part of their initiation: missing thumbs, feet, eyes and even a split tongue that results in a speech impediment – injuries that cannot be healed or they lose their intended effect. I also have characters with supernatural injuries that cannot be healed properly by any means, including magic. As a result, they are left with a permanent limp, a paralyzed arm and a lack of speech, all the result of the type of dangers they face on a daily basis, dangers that have maimed them but not killed them. How they cope with these disabilities and how they function despite them add dimension to the tale. It even affects their relationships with other characters. Their situation makes them distinct.

In Fervor, the majority of the characters begin the series lacking one of their senses. My protagonist, Sam, is deaf and this proves problematic at times, despite being able to communicate telepathically. Other characters are badly injured later in the series during a nasty skirmish and some of the damage is permanent. Considering circumstances, it would seem pretty miraculous for everyone to escape unscathed, and I’m not big on building miracles into my stories. Just as I take issue with fantasy stories involving multiple lengthy battles where none of the heroes or prominent secondary characters ever die, I feel the same way about a lack of serious injuries.

And finally, there’s the issue of a fresh perspective. Those who are able-bodied have a certain way of looking at the world, but how might that change if you had to tackle obstacles from a different angle because of differing circumstances. Like in my yet-to-be-published dark fantasy short story where my protagonist is hearing impaired:

“The building shivered all around Pierre Belanger, as if winter’s bite had given it chills. He could sense it in his own bones as much as he could feel it in the weathered wood that surrounded him, an ominous tremor that set him on edge. It might not have bothered him quite as much if the scent of death didn’t hang in the air, an unhealthy sourness that he could taste if he breathed too deeply.

He had been trying to rest, but sleep didn’t come very easily. He didn’t have to hear the wind howling outside to know a storm raged there. Everyone took it for granted that such sounds didn’t bother him, but they were wrong. Just because the roars of the wind did not torment his ears, he still was aware they were there.

Pierre was about to roll over and burrow his way deeper into his moth-eaten blankets when a newly arrived light caught his eye. He raised himself up onto his elbows to see who had entered. He could barely make out Phillipe LeTour’s face in the flitting shadows from the candle, but he could see that the man’s expression was grim. He knew that meant only one thing. Matthieu’s condition had worsened.

Phillipe did not need to walk over and tug on Pierre’s sleeve to urge him to follow. Pierre threw off his blankets and struggled into his boots as quickly as he could manage, despite being tormented by fatigue and by the frosty sting to the air. Matthieu was his world at the settlement, both his only friend and his only family on Île Sainte-Croix. If he lost Matthieu, he would be more than just lonely. He would be more isolated than he had ever been before in his life.”

A hearing–impaired protagonist, he looks at the world differently and the writer’s challenge is to do that character’s perspective justice. That means focusing on the things he would be more aware of through his other senses and finding ways to communicate without regular speech.

So I put out my own challenge to other writers…how about giving this type of marginalized characters a chance to carry your story? You could be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Something in the Air

 by Chantal Boudreau

When people think of fiction, they usually think of film or books. Those tend to be the most common forms of media used to tell a tale in modern times, whether they be delivered by more traditional means of TV or print, or the more technologically advanced offerings of the Internet or ebooks.

What people don’t tend to think of as often, but is certainly another method to share a story, is audio. Considering the oral tale-telling tradition predates print, it’s not a surprise it still remains an option. Some authors offer public readings but that’s not a convenient way of connecting with a large audience…unless you are J.K. Rowling and have access to the Sky-Dome. The preferred method of reaching the most people with audio using today’s technology are podcasts.

Just as with print or ebook options, there are a variety of ways to podcast your stories. Similar to books, you can “self-publish” – narrating your own tales and presenting them on your own website or via free venues like podiobooks.com. If you would rather have someone else serve up your story, the Internet seems to be rife with speculative fiction options: Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, Drabblecast, Starship Sofa, Tales to Terrify and many more. Some are the equivalent to the small press options in print, offering minimal payment or nothing other than exposure in exchange for your story and some are pro-rate venues, very particular about what stories they air. Most are free for the listening, although they do solicit donations from listeners to support their efforts.

No matter what option an author chooses, it is a great way to expand your audience and reach people who may have not otherwise gotten a taste of your tales.

I’ve dipped my toe into the podcast water, with a couple of recent releases.  You can find my story “Little Sister” on Tales to Terrify.  I’ve also participated in the Wicked Women Writers competition from Horror Addicts.  Check out this year’s offerings – dark and speculative tales of disaster – and vote for your favourite.