There are so many angles in which I can take to ‘attack’ this challenge: do I go for a science fiction approach? Or should I go for a more ‘fictional’ approach – that is more grounded to reality? This is certainly some of the problems I seem to encounter so early in the planning stage for the month long writing marathon.
Perhaps I should do a series of short series from this ‘world’ and then try to incorporate them into a greater ‘epic’ storyline? Perhaps, but that demands a lot more planning. What interest me at the moment is cyber-technology in the 21st century – what has been proposed and envisioned in high works like Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell series (manga, anime, movies, TV series, etc.). It is an interesting backdrop of espionage, government intervention, covert operations, ethical dillemmas and all that is common to the ‘cyberpunk’ genre.
But then again, there is an angle that I have not encountered yet – perhaps it is because of my lack of indulgence in the local scene – cyberpunk in my own country; Malaysia. How would that scene look like in the 22nd century? Will we still be a sovereign nation, that is still established on a British governmental system? Would the political scene change? Would the ethnic breakdown in the country be the same? How different would the international scene be? I suspect, for some time now, that there will be a big clash between the two major superpower blocks – which one can argue is led by America and China, or the West against the East. Would that be the time when global issues escalate and ‘correct’ itself in cyberspace? How damaging will it be? With every nook of our economy tied to cyberspace, it is not wrong to make extreme speculation – of mass genocide and displacement of people, especially the identity of people. Imagine, in a time when paper records are nearly extinct, what happens when whole information servers are wiped out? Along with the backups? What about digital money and the function of banks, exchanges in countries? How will this affect individuals and societies? Will anarchy reign? There is another angle as well – religion. In a world that is so fragmented by the issue of religion, how will religion comfort, correct or confront the problems posed in a global cyberwarfare? Is the developed nations prepared for such radical changes? What if the Chinese people that are globally dispersed are coerced somehow to unite against the rest? What if religion unite and seek to overthow the ‘godless’ pagans? Where can we find refuge? Where can we find sanctuary in a world that is physically hostile to a people who had never bothered to care for her?
This is interesting. This requires a lot of research to bring out the issues, and more importantly, the horrible truth of how close we are to such a situation. In the midst of a modern, global warfare (physical and digital), how would a small country that is filled with political, societal and economical problems cope? Will there be liberalisation of the people or a conservative progression? Who will take advantage of the chaos? Who will be the heroes? And if history ever teach humans anything, it is this: heroes are often those who sacrifice what others are unwilling to give up. These are the ones who are forgotten or made into scapegoats after the resolution of the issues. Heroes, true heroes, are never remembered fully for what they have done – but their weaknesses and failings are exploited by the wicked and wolves.
When I posit the context in this way – it is certainly an interesting backdrop for a novel to tackle. I believe pushing the story to the 22nd century makes more sense as the current leaps and development enjoyed by all, can never be sustained, but are confined to certain periods of human history. We have crossed that, after the last half millenium. Things will slow down, and stagnant. What will change is the moral and heart dilemmas – as we have seen in the Renaisance and then the Reformation, so also we will see huge global heart issues that will challenge our very existence, the question of ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what are we here for?’.
Would a ‘budak kampung’, a village boy, survive in a world that is so entrenched in the digital world of the 22nd century? Will this young man in his late teens who has lived his life off-the-grid be able to reclaim his identity that has been stolen by a covert cabal of powerful political individuals to orchestrate the elaborate downfall of the nation’s financial system – and commit political assassination of the top governmental officers. How can this young man fight in a world that is so foreign and alien to him, and not only survive, but thrive against external forces that seek to destroy the last resistance of the newly established empire in the East? Here is an unlikely hero, along with his motley companions, who will learn the pain, trials and failures of fighting against odds in an unknown world; for the sake of a people who will never acknowledge, accept and allign with them.
My tentative title for NaNoWriMo 2018: