Knifecycle is a literary thriller set on Mars 150 years in the future. Its roots are The Time Machine (1895), We (1921), Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1948), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Cities in Flight (1955-62), Atlas Shrugged (1957), A Clockwork Orange (1962), Dune (1965), The Lathe of Heaven (1971), Neuromancer (1984) and The Sparrow (1996). Film/game roots would include Thunderbirds (1965), Rollerball (1975), Demolition Man (1993), Gattaca (1997), Second Life (2003-present) and EVE Online (2003-present).
The novel addresses three major themes:
1. Private space exploration. In 2012, the United States transferred much of its space program to private companies. One of those companies, SpaceX, is currently resupplying the International Space Station. The head of the company, Elon Musk, has stated publicly that SpaceX has the money, technology and ambition to place a man on Mars within 20 years. Meanwhile, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover – the largest and most sophisticated vehicle ever placed on another planet – is seeking evidence of water on Mars. All of these efforts mirror the initial exploration of North America by king and company alike. Canada and the United States were founded by private companies.
2. Center versus margin of society. Since 2010, the post-war political-economic paradigm has come into question (the financial crisis, Occupy Wall Street protests, London riots, unsustainable national debt, euro crisis, US political deadlock, failure of the ‘war on drugs’, expanding black markets, government regulation of lifestyle and social behavior, religious fundamentalism and the battle for control/freedom of the internet). The traditional conflict between the conservative center and liberal margin of society is becoming more polarized. Advances in technology are empowering both sides. A paradigm shift seems imminent. Historical examples include the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1914 and the Soviet Union 1989.
3. Schumpeter versus Kurzweil. The Information Revolution is changing the global political economy. Local/personal 3D printing will dismantle the factory system of mass production begun by Henry Ford in 1910; virtual worlds are creating new social geographies with international service economies; advances in physics, neuroscience and genetic engineering are rewriting 2000 years of philosophical debate; and public policy will be formulated increasingly on the basis of statistics/econometrics and media manipulation. Joseph Schumpeter represents the pessimists. He predicted that politics would strangle technology. Raymond Kurzweil represents the optimists. He predicts that technology will eclipse politics. I myself have gone back and forth on this over the past 20 years. Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal with Elon Musk) is similarly undecided.
Knifecycle combines these themes in an epic adventure about opposing conceptions of human society 150 years in the future. Guiding the story is a challenge presented by Aldous Huxley in 1946:
If I were now to rewrite [Brave New World], I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the utopian and the primitive horns of his dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity…. In this community [politics and economics] would be decentralist. Science and technology would be used as though, like the Sabbath, they had been made for man, not (as at the present and still more so in the Brave New World) as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them. Religion would be the conscious and intelligent pursuit of man’s Final End, the unitive knowledge of the immanent Tao or Logos, the transcendent Godhead or Brahman. And the prevailing philosophy of life would be a kind of High Utilitarianism, in which the Greatest Happiness principle would be secondary to the Final End principle – the first question to be asked and answered in every contingency of life being: “How will this thought or action contribute to, or interfere with, the achievement, by me and the greatest possible number of other individuals, of man’s Final End?”