In case, you missed it. Time Burrito is free once again until this Saturday. Now that I got that out of the way, I’d like to share with you some thoughts:
I realized that part of why I write science fiction is because I’m fascinated with technology, and not in the gadget sort of way. Sure, my Christmas tree this year can be lit by saying, “Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree” and my 3-yr-old son will often say, “Alexa, play Street Cleaner.” But tech doesn’t inspire me to write novels. One of the things that gets me writing is fundamental questions about the survival of our species and how technology for better or worse is a part of that equation.
Even though I love and write dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, I don’t stay up at night wondering about when Skynet will awaken to take us all down. While there is a reason for concern, AI taking over the world seems like one of many possibilities. I can easily see a hyper intelligent AI deciding humans are pretty boring and building itself spaceship to go explore the stars, or a nurturing AI that thinks, “Silly humans, if you only knew what’s good for you,” and all the world’s problems being solved.
What if the first hyper intelligent AI after crunching through all of human knowledge decides to take up cross stitching? Seems just as likely as the AI bent on destroying the world. The point is that when it comes to AI and technology, while the fun-to-read narratives are the ones that focus on scary things like Missiles of DOOM!, I think there are far more threating stuff in the world, and I try to have my stories reflect that idea.
That’s why I wrote the Atmospheric Pressure series. The big dystopian threat to the world in those stories was climate change. In the first book, I introduced a place where people were forced to live inside what used to be downtown Minneapolis. I picked that location because I used to work in downtown in what was then the McGladery building (which changed names after I published the first book). Since Minnesotans know how to deal with cold weather and you could theoretically live in the 11 square miles of skyway connected city without ever going outside, it was perfect.
I remember weaving through the buildings on my lunch break, and thinking in terms of three buildings down, past the Starbucks and take the tunnel on the right. I literally could get anywhere through what felt like a maze to me the first time I was there. In fact, I gave my wife a tour of downtown, and she was lost. The funny part was that I was also lost when I went outside the buildings. While I probably could still walk to the Taco John’s from the IDS center today, I couldn’t tell you what street it was on, only what the corridors connecting to it look like.
This was a perfect setting for an idea I had about bacteria changing our atmosphere that was based on an historical event. Deep in Earth’s past, there was a climate catastrophe and a mass extinction. A new critter emerged called cyanobacteria, and they released a byproduct that was poisonous to things living on the planet at the time. That byproduct was oxygen, and hello world we have today.
Which of course if it happened once? Could it happen again? Which got my wheels turning about permafrost melting and releasing bacteria into the environment, and now there’s a recipe for a climate change apocalypse with the same threat level as Missiles of DOOM!
The reality of climate change is that it’s a slow process. The stability of the economy and the health of the world will erode as the hurricanes get worse, the heatwaves last for longer, the droughts are relentless, and the wildfires burn more and more. It won’t be something fun and cataclysmic like a narrative like Skynet. It will be more like heart disease, the system gets withered down until one day it finds itself in the hospital unaware that it was the triple cheese burgers all along!
Hopefully, the Atmospheric Pressure series can be one of the many canaries in the coal mine as people attempt to steer the largest boat in history in a new direction. I’d much rather be sitting in my floating green construction castle (or whatever writers are living in forty years from now), and have someone find a beat up copy of my book in their Dad’s basement and say, “Well, that didn’t happen” then “Holy crap, Aaron predicted the end of the world!”
So it is with great pleasure that I announce, the third and final Atmospheric Pressure book is in progress. You will have an ending. Promise! It’s never too early to reserve your Patreon special edition of Atmospheric Pressure 3.