This post is brought to you by Kevin Klehr, author of Social Media Central.
When author r. r. campbell told me about the plot of his new book, Imminent Dawn, one thing struck me straight away—the fact that the software which is implanted into the characters to allow them to communicate in social media style posts is called EMPATHY.
Of course, there’s a lot to say about the science behind this. There are many applications in their early stage of development that allow humans to control a computer, or an attached robotic arm, with a mere thought.
And while the technology behind the premise is intriguing, it’s the idea of empathy in modern science fiction that fascinates me.
We don’t realise it but the world we lived in at the start of this decade is very different to the one we live in now. So much has happened so fast we barely remember what the social norms were in 2010. Hey, most of us didn’t own a smart phone so we had to catch up with friends face to face to hear their news.
In 2015 I began writing a novel titled Social Media Central. Several experiences and some observations prompted this work of fiction.
The first involved a trip to America where a waiter told me he didn’t trust traditional news sources. Instead, he got his news through Facebook. I stated the obvious. Facebook is not a news source. Fast forward a couple of years and the same confusion became apparent back home in Australia. A younger generation couldn’t differentiate the importance of the evening television news to a social media post.
Another influence on my story was the Prime Minister we had at the time. He didn’t actually achieve anything. He clocked on, attacked the opposition, then clocked off. And many voters didn’t care the way they would have only twenty years prior. So in my novel, the Government concentrates on controlling the public narrative, or at least tries to through Social Media Central. What scares me now is that in some First World Countries, including my own, this is normal.
I set my story two generations into the future. When I explained the premise to a friend, he told me that my story is only one generation away from being realised. Six months before the release of the book in 2018, the major plot twist became reality on the world’s political stage.
And while the concept of empathy is not a new one in science fiction, at the tail end of this decade it’s one many of us are battling with. In an age of mass communication, what happened to it?
r. r. campbell’s new work is very much a product of this age. Sensations are recalled and shared, as well as thoughts, between those blessed with the EMPATHY implant. Could this software reinstall human connection? Or could it leave people vulnerable?
As a new decade approaches, campbell’s novel, Imminent Dawn, moves further away from old fashioned concepts of communication. It examines the next stage of its evolution.
But as all good science fiction does, it says something about the age we live in now and warns us about what we stand to lose in the future.
Kevin Klehr is the author of a number of books including the Nate and Cameron Collection and the Actors and Angels series. The third book in this series scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.
Klehr’s latest novel, Social Media Central, explores a future where everyone is addicted to their screens.
Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own “Emerald City,” Sydney.
For more from Kevin, you can find him and his work here.