1DEN10T was a fun book to write since it falls a bit better under my preferred genres than Wrinkles In Reality did. As such, it was a lot faster to put together and edit. The book is also experimental in design from a narrative point of view. It is a hybrid between short storytelling methods (separate stories with their distinct plots) and blending story elements into a single novel-focused plot.
There are types of people which exist in Identity, and I needed to establish each. The primary type was the human-driven Denizen, which is the living mind virtualized as an avatar; I had to delve into the reasons behind why someone would virtualize themselves, as well as how those avatars operated. The second type was the AI-powered Personal Digital Assistant and its role in helping Denizens adapt to virtual life. A third type was what I called lower-order AI; essentially, these are about as capable as AI in current video games, and exist to provide Denizens with interactive populations. The fourth type of character is hinted at more than seen; the Master AIs, which control all the Personal Digital Assistants and the lower-order AIs populating the grid, have a significant history that affects the book’s plot. There are also non-Identity AIs creeping around on the grid, and those needed to be shown/explained. Finally, there are sentient avatars; these are still AI, but they don’t have the same foundation or operating parameters another AI has.
This is where the social science fiction element merges with the science fiction and cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk themes. I have now established five kinds of virtual people, and each has its own experience within Identity – and its own list of priorities and concerns.
- With Denizens, I specifically talk about the transgender experience, sexuality, ethnic identity, and disability as reasons behind the escape to a virtual world; by presenting these topics, I can critique average societies’ and governments’ responses to those issues. This is one of the beauties of science fiction on the whole – you can address real issues by changing the time and even species affected by an issue while still keeping it relatable.
- Personal Digital Assistants and lower-order AI are designed to portray the role of perpetual servitude, analogous to how certain social strata are considered servants – or even slaves – to others. I also designed the lower-order AI to resemble how we look at pets – as thinking beings, but somewhat limited. There is a whole in-story history hinted at, which will be explored in successive books.
- Perhaps the most prominent theme I explore is the freedom of self-determination and how that can sometimes run counter to social, political, theological, and personal concepts. This theme lies at the heart of four of the five types of virtual inhabitants since the lower-order AIs aren’t really capable of such complex thought…we think…
- I expect to be critiqued on how I present my female characters, which comprise just about all the novel’s major characters. Specifically, I expect to hear the comment about how male writers focus on describing a woman’s body. Believe it or not, when I focus on how a character looks, I do it deliberately. First, anyone who has played an MMORPG where you can design how your avatar looks knows that very few people go out of their way to create an unattractive virtual self. Second, the focus is a commentary on how women’s bodies are portrayed in video games in general. So yes, there is a point behind characters’ sexualization, which I balance with their stories’ roles.
- Side note – the guys are almost as equally sexualized. It’s not as noticeable, though, since there are so few major male characters.
These are just a few of the topics I buried in the novel. Though it looks like it supports specific agendas, it doesn’t; it critiques both sides of an argument, depending on how it’s read. Some readers might say it’s up to the author to explain their viewpoint through a narrative, and to a degree, I agree. However, I didn’t write 1DEN10T to push my views; instead, I intended it to be a conversation starter that tells five solid stories that tie together in an unexpected way and sets up the story of the next two books.