Posts Tagged ‘William S Burroughs’

A Wee Worldbuilding Thought Experiment

May 16, 2015

No one has ever asked me where I get my ideas from, or if I’m worried I’ll run out of ideas. But if anyone ever cared to ask, I’d say, “from paying attention,” and, “no, because if I pay attention for five minutes an idea will present itself.”

Case in point (because I’m writing other shit, so I don’t want to tease this one out into a proper story right now) as follows.

Ingredient the first: the rebirth of feudalism. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is disappearing. At some point, it stands to reason, the rich will consolidate the entirety of all the money. Seriously, something like half of the bottom 90% of Americans doesn’t actually possess money. They have so much debt that they live in a perpetual state of net loss.

No, I won’t post a source. You have the fucking internet, so why have you not been paying attention? Besides, this is a world-building thought experiment, so all I really need for a source is “shit I remember reading at some point.”

Also, the rich own politics. They’re nicer about it than when the also basically policed the land they owned as well, but they make the laws. Anyone who’s paying attention knows this.

But, family fortunes tend to be lost after a handful of generations. At some point I read something that said most had been lost after three generations.

This means that our dynastic overlords have an expiry date. Which means that the resources they’ve accumulated will be up for grabs in every hundred years or so. But only the already rich can grab them, because poor people don’t fucking get rich, because, jesus, a million things. The deck is stacked.

So we have rich families rising and falling in fortune, scheming and conniving to usurp each other.

Okay, ingredient the second: Emojis are replacing language, and some of them cost money. There was a NYT article recently about how emojis are causing problems with writing and reading skills. No, I’m not linking it, you have fucking Google.

Maybe it was an NPR article?

Anyway, emojis are replacing language, and some of them cost money. So if some people are very rich, and some people are very poor, it stands to reason that some people will have access to more emojis, and others will have access to fewer emojis.

Remember, if you don’t own the emoji pack, you can’t even read them on your device. All of the emojis you don’t own show up as placeholder symbols. So some people will essentially have access to more language. They will be able to communicate more ideas, and more complex ideas, because they can afford to own that language. The poor will literally have their ability to communicate and, even crazier, think abstractly and critically limited because they just can’t buy the “words.”

I mean, did you read that article about how “blue” wasn’t a concept for a long damn time? How there just wasn’t a word for it, so people probably didn’t even see it? William S Burroughs talked a lot about how language forms thought, and so have quite a few other critics. So what words would the rich keep to themselves? What thoughts do they not want the people below them thinking?

Bam, there’s a fucking world. I wouldn’t even make the main characters super poor; the rich need a consumer class, they’d just prefer it was a consumer class that didn’t have any real resources but credit. Of course, that consumer class can’t afford the more complex language, or they have “better” things on which to spend their debt, but they still have a handful more abstract concepts than the properly poor. The real key to making the story work is choosing what words and concepts the rich keep to themselves, and how lacking those words and concepts influences the way the debt-class thinks and talks.

Throw in a bildungsroman, or a prince-and-the-pauper, or a wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance, or a visitor-from-another-place (like, a place that doesn’t use emojis), or, hell, even a fucking roman à clef about struggling to be a writer, and you’ve got yourself a god damn story.