Cumulus is my first science fiction novel, and this is my first Hugo eligibility post. The book went viral on Reddit when it came out in May 2016 and has earned praise from Popular Science, io9, Businessweek, GeekDad, TechCrunch, and the Verge. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist at Glassdoor, says, “Cumulus is a prophetic Bay Area thriller, a Jason-Bourne-meets-Silicon-Valley story of escalating technology, inequality and a crumbling state. When a former CIA-operative-turned-hired-gun joins forces with tech giant Cumulus, cracks in the digital facade emerge, laid bare by a powerful and simple analog alternative. In today’s world where intimate personal details are just another row in someone’s ‘big data,’ Cumulus is a stark reminder that data are power–and absolute data corrupt absolutely.”
Led by a diverse cast, Cumulus is a dark, gritty rollercoaster ride through a near-future San Francisco Bay Area ravaged by economic inequality and persistent surveillance. To be perfectly honest, the public response to the book took me entirely by surprise. Cumulus is self-published and it’s unusual for indie books to get any attention from the press. This is purely my personal speculation, but one reason the story might be resonating is simply that we seem to be living through many of the themes that the characters wrestle with: accelerating technological change, increasing income inequality, stark gentrification, cyber espionage and doxing, power transitioning from the public to the private sector, a new wave of populism, government and corporate surveillance, and making sense of the human experience in the midst of such a maelstrom.
Twenty-sixteen came a little too close to realizing some of the darker aspects of the future Cumulus portrays and I’m extremely proud to report that last month I donated a total of more than $10,000 of proceeds from the novel to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chapter 510. EFF fights to protect our civil rights in the digital world and Chapter 510 provides badly-needed literacy programs to underprivileged youth in Oakland. We need real world heroes like the brave staff of these two organizations now more than ever. Hopefully, this will in some small way contribute to the social impact of science fiction.
If you’re curious, you can find Cumulus here and information about how to vote in the Hugos here. Google invited me to come give a talk about the book which you can watch here. You can read more about what inspired the book here and what I learned writing it here. If you’re a fan, please help spread the word. If you’re a WSFS member, I appreciate your consideration!