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Working Title: Death Alley
This is a writing project for which writing actual prose begins in November 2020, having performed some planning and outlining in the previous month(s).
What kind of story is this?
It's a near-future speculative fiction thing dealing with (realistic-ish) AIs, pseudo-literally-underground agitators, government contractors, and the conflict between individual identity and conformist socialization tendencies.
Why this story?
2020 is the Year of Cyberpunk. How do I know? Read all about it:
I read a book by a great cyberpunk author this year, and it was the first book he ever wrote that actually sucked. It inspired me to do better.
I have a theory about cyberpunk and postcyberpunk. Basically, they're two genres taking place in the same world. This provided a lot of inspiration for this story, too:
The above-board, white-market, mainstream, dominant paradigm is that of the postcyberpunk, where people have dayjobs and houses and are both technologically and socially connected. It's high tech, normal life. The technology is consumer and corporate oriented. There are often AIs involved. The postcyberpunk protagonists are normal people with corporate or government jobs, or occasionally independent consultants, typically with some technological savvy but usually not the "elite" of technologist fields. Bad things happen to them, and they get pulled out of their comfortable suburban lives. They have to deal with criminals and agitators, terrorists and corrupt members in otherwise "good guy" jobs (politicians, corporate managers and workers, law enforcement, and so on). Their task is, usually, to overcome the terrible events overtaking them and reclaim their "normal" lives with wives and kids and job security. Sometimes, they have to save the world along the way.
The gritty, sordid, black-market, outcast, hidden underworld is the world of the cyberpunk, where people are criminals either by choice or (more often) by circumstance and misfortune, where people have technical or combative (or, often, both) skills for which there is little need in the postcyberpunk world. They may just be trying to survive, down on their luck, hunted by law enforcement or criminal bosses. It's high tech, low life, to paraphrase Bruce Sterling. The technology is illicit, stolen, makeshift, or top secret military/corporate stuff. There are often AIs involved. The cyberpunk protagonists. The cyberpunk protagonists may be grifters, fixers, criminal middlemen, contract killers, or even revolutionaries trying to overturn the corruption of the dominant order. Bad things are always happening to them, but usually the story is about a time that's especially bad, even if it seems good at first, and they usually start out with a goal of either taking on a hard target or just basically surviving. They have to deal with undercover cops and jackbooted oppressors, mob bosses and the average corrupt politician (because they're all corrupt), corporate managers and their soulless minions, and often duplicitous "friends" and other agents of betrayal. They often lose in the end, or at least fail to achieve their beginning goals; bittersweet endings are not uncommon. Sometimes, they have to save the world along the way, often by tearing down the dominant paradigm.
If you were paying attention, you might have noticed something about these two genres: each includes, in its list of potential antagonists and obstacles, the protagonists of the other genre. The technology in the two genres mostly don't overlap, but seem entirely capable of coexisting in the same world.
To put it another way . . .
Cyberpunk says "They're replacing our souls with advertisements, criminalizing freedom and privacy, and concentrating all political and economic power in the hands of unaccountable psychopaths."
Postcyberpunk says "Yeah, but I got the new iPhone! WOOHOO!"
In either case, inject some action-drama that crosses the boundry between them, and you have a story.
The reason this entire wall of text helps explain how I was inspired to write this story is simple: I'm using elements of both genres in a single story to tie them together as a single world.