Series: Holo #1
Published by Black Rose Writing on 11/7/2013
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
» Buy on Amazon
» Buy on Barnes & Noble
Life in the hyper-digital age can be rough for an Unregistered American. Refusing connection doesn't just mean opting out of access to the internet-it means opting out of power, communication and, as of January 1st, United States citizenship. By the start of the new year, Federal law will require all residents over the age of ten to agree to the terms and conditions of internet usage; namely, registering a thumbprint signature for personal account verification that will act as a tag for every action and activity. Connected Americans opposed to the Registration Initiative leave in waves for nations with less aggressive access policies. Unconnected Americans, the "Digi-divers" like Henry, Leah and the Lost Boys, will have to overcome both physical and financial impairments as they flee the country on foot, facing the elements, Round-up, and the ever-watchful eyes of the STUA's satellite Video Monitors. The Lost Boys think Austin, Texas is just another stopgap on the road to Matamoros and to freedom, but after Leah falls in with Amos and some kids from the city, her desire to understand the restlessness that can only come from growing up with a world of information at the swipe of a thumb will put all of their lives in mortal danger. The fate of the Lost Boys and the fate of The Unreachable, the anti-Registration publication they've been plastering on the windows of homes along the interstate, will fall squarely in Leah's shaky, seventeen year old hands.
Interview with S.I. Dunbar
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
The Unreachable is a speculative science fiction/ young adult novel set in a future where most all businesses and social functions have moved to the digital sphere. Over 75% of the globe is connected online, and by the start of the new year, the only way to get access to it would be to log-in on a t-sig access system.
The Registration Initiative, a law backed by the Safety Transparency Unanimity Association, has just been signed into law, and when it goes into effect on January 1st, all American citizens over the age of ten will be required to register their thumbprint for online identification purposes, making every message, page view, and online activity able to be tracked, tagged, and regulated. Most Americans have been comfotable using t-sig transactions for years, but there are a few pockets of unconnected people groups–Digi Divers, like Leah and the Lost Boys–who will be forced to choose between Registration and making a new home in a nation with less aggressive access polices.
Unfortunately, Leah and the Lost Boys are also homeless fugitives who can only flee the country by traveling on foot, facing the elements, Round-up, and the ever-watchful eyes of the STUA’s satellite video monitors. Austin, Texas was supposed to be just another stopgap on the road to Matamoros and to freedom, but after Leah falls in with Amos and some kids from the city, the fate of the Lost Boys and the fate of The Unreachable, the anti-Registration publication they’ve been plastering on homes along the interstate, will fall squarely in her shaky, 17 year old hands.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I’ve always been interested in technology and the growing relevance of (and reliance on) the internet–an entity that is, even now, still in its infancy. The world is right on the cusp of some big changes, when it comes to what we can access and how we can access it. While I was writing, I had to do a lot of thinking about what the net might look like twenty or thirty years from now. Luckily, I found a constant stream of inspiration in the events that people were talking about in the year 2013, especially the Snowden trial, the death of Aaron Swartz, and CISPA passing the House vote.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
Nothing is free. If you aren’t paying for a service or product, you (and your valuable personal information) are the product.
How long did it take to write the book?
The entire first draft was written from February 2013 to March 2013, with excerpts posted daily on Wattpad for users to read, vote for, and comment on. The novel was edited from March to September 2013.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
Fin is my absolute favorite character, even though he only makes a brief, tragic appearance in this novel. He’s young, he’s scrappy, and he’s a complete mystery. He’s one of the youngest and most minor characters in the book, but his bright ideas manage to save the day more than once.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I completed the first draft on paper, sitting in a dark, shoe-closet for 4-5 hours a day. Then I would type and edit what I’d written and post it online. I had outlines and character maps from the beginning that were tweaked and revised as I went along. I also relied on the input of the readers to shape the plot a bit. It was a collaborative effort. Posting my work online allowed me to get a lot of great insight I could have never come up with on my own.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would change anything. There are aspects of this work that are very personal to me. I wrote about homelessness because my estranged father (who passed in 2010) had been homeless, and I focused on outcasts and characters with physical impairments because of the things in my time in children’s hospitals. I’m still amazed that Black Rose picked it up for publication. I’m very happy with what the story became.
How did you come up with the cover?
I commissioned some watercolor paintings from Chris Sturtivant, another Wattpad user. He’d read and liked the story and I’d seen some of his incredible sketches, so we decided to team up. I knew I wanted Leah, the main character, to be represented on the cover, but I also wanted it to look ambiguous enough to draw people in. We ended up with a shady figure in a hoodie on the front and Austin’s skyline on the back, all in hues of blues and greens and reds. (And I really love it!)
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve struggled with complications from a unicameral bone cyst for the past 17 years. Ever since I was a child I’ve been in and out of wheelchairs and on crutches and unable to participate in most of the activities people my age enjoyed. Instead of playing on the playground or joining a sports team, I spent my time with a journal open on my lap and a pen in my hand, writing. I think I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do, if I had my choice of of careers. This is what feels the most natural to me.
What are you favorite books and authors?
My favorite essayists and non-fiction authors are Jonathan Franzen and David Sedaris. My favorite fiction is mostly classic sci-fi. I gravitate towards Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently plowing through the first draft of the second book in the series, In the Deep. It’s a prequel to book one that goes back in time to chronicle the relationship between Leah’s mother and a man named Hank Dunlop, the man who designed the first t-sig access system. I’m also writing another round of M/Essays daily and posting them on my blog (mostly to channel my frustration).
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I wrote a short essay titled Five Tips for the Serious Author for my first collection of M/Essays. Here’s the most important point I outline:
You shouldn’t worry someone might hate what you’ve written, you should know someone (at least ONE person) will. The faster you understand there is nothing you could do for your writing to be positively received by the whole of the world, the faster you can release the fear of putting your work out there for the whole of the world to see.
Win one of three ebook copies of The Unreachable by S.I. Dunbar. Prize provided by author. Winners will be notified via email and must respond within 48 hours to claim prize. Ends 12/21/2013.