Yesterday’s New York Times headline read, nay, screamed:
Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says (NYT, 3/15/18)
… And blew my fictional timeline to bits.
The first Joe Mayfield/Louise Napolitani novel, Fatal Score, turned on the idea that a good technological development (gene sequencing and analysis) is borrowed to shore up a socio-political problem (rising health care cost). And, of course, in a thriller, the good idea is twisted to evil purpose. It also seemed to me, back when I started writing in 2012, that the next front in international confrontation was going to be cyberwar.
It looks like I was right about the cyberwar part … but terribly wrong in timing. I set the first draft of Fatal Score in 2050. I have since pulled the date back to 2026, though the date is only mentioned once in passing. I figured trimming 24 years off the calendar would be adequate. To cut further, would put the first novel right in our laps. Well, here it sits, uncomfortably.
The third novel, tentatively titled Fail Deadly, needs to be set in about 2030 … except it’s about Russian oligarchs hacking into the power grid.
The NYT article notes,
“The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will.
United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict.
They said the strikes accelerated in late 2015, at the same time the Russian interference in the American election was underway. The attackers had compromised some operators in North America and Europe by spring 2017, after President Trump was inaugurated.”
So much for 2050… maybe so much for … yikes! … tomorrow.
Not long ago, a writer friend said, “You’d better get published quickly, or your concept will be part of history.”
He’s right. Back when I got the idea for my first novel, Fatal Score, I thought there would be a future war in cyberspace. I guessed at the time (2011) that it would start with a bang in 2018. I was wrong.
I was wrong because “war” had, in my mind, a definite beginning. Like Richard crossing the Channel in 1066 or Franz Ferdinand being assassinated in Serbia to start World War I.
The foreword to Fatal Scores says that, in the unspecified not far future in which the story takes place, “the world is not dramatically different, but what the media called Cyberwar I has happened. In the wake of fires, floods, power-grid failures and a small nuclear episode, the United States rushed to develop the most secure (and most expensive) data vault in history. They named it, in bureaucratic mumblespeak, the Interagency Communication Channel. The acronym was thus the unpronounceable IACC, which shortly became ‘Yak’ in popular speech.”
Like lots of events in this new world of ours, the whole notion of war is being torqued by technology. It seems as if Cyberwar I has started, perhaps by our attack on Iran’s centrifuges, perhaps earlier. It heated up in the recent election.
One thing almost certain: it will escalate further.
I need an agent. Double quick.
Overhead: That concept they lay on you at the auto dealership when you wonder why it costs $70 per hour to fix your car.
Overhead: A life concept I too often ignore.
I digress today from writing about writing per se to talk about the real-world business of writing. Specifically, is this new age better? Or just different?
Surely, we have resources we never had before. Google maps, Wikipedia, thousands … nay millions … of specialized websites. I said in the last post that I was able to scope out and define a little town in Austria right from my comfortable chair in Minnesota.
Wonderful, but …
- Arriving home from a trip abroad, my good old HP printer doesn’t print. Turns out Apple’s latest update of its OS is probably the problem. That cost three hours and led to a new printer.
- WordPress.com explains that my podcast hasn’t passed through to iTunes, depriving it of 80% of its listeners. Nobody knows quite why. I’m looking into a separate website. Several hours squandered there.
- Audible/ACX, the Amazon audiobook service, hasn’t responded after having told me there’s “electrical noise” in my audition file. Serializing the first novel as a podcast is on hold.
I don’t know about you, but I realize I should allow for all this overhead when I set my expectations about what this wonderful world of technology promises.